Comparison of Sankara’s Viveka Cudamani and Tiruvalluvar’s Tirukkural (Post No.5444)

Written by London Swaminathan

Date: 18  September 2018


Time uploaded in London – 8-57 am (British Summer Time)


Post No. 5444

Pictures shown here are taken from various sources including google, Wikipedia, Facebook friends and newspapers. This is a non- commercial blog.


Adi Sankara, one of the greatest Hindu philosophers, has beautifully explained the Advaita (Non Dualism) Philosophy in his masterly work, Viveka Cuudaamani, ‘Crest Jewel of Discrimination’. It has got 580 couplets in Sanskrit.


Tiruvalluvar, the greatest Tamil poet has dealt with 133 subjects of moral importance in his work Tirukkural. The 133 chapters have got 1330 couplets on ethics in Tamil.

It is said that ‘Great men think Alike’, which is amply illustrated in the following comparisons of the two great geniuses.

If we couldn’t get access tomorrow to important Hindu scriptures such as Bhagavad Gita or the Vedas we don’t need to worry. Tiruvalluvar has given the gist of Hinduism in fifty or so couplets.

In his first chapter on God, Valluvar says
‘None but those who have meditated constantly on the feet of god can cross the oceans of birth’- Kural 10
‘Ocean of birth and death’ is known to every learned Hindu as ‘Samsara Saagaram .

Sankara says in Viveka Cudamani (VC),
‘Having attained the Yogaruda state one should recover oneself, immersed in the sea of birth and death, by means of devotion to right of discrimination’- VC 9

Yogaruda state is when onr is attached neither to sense objects nor to actions, and has given up all desires.


Shankara continues,
‘Therefore, a man of learning should strive for his best for liberation, having renounced his desire for pleasures from external objects, duly approaching a good and generous preceptor, and fixing his mind on the truth inculcated by him’–VC 8

Valluvar says,
‘Of what avail is a man s learning if he does not pray to god’- Kural 2

Can wealth help you to reach heaven?
‘There’s no hope of immortality by means of riches- such indeed is the declaration of Vedas. Hence it is clear that works/karma cannot be the cause of liberation’ –VC 7

Valluvar also says it, but indirectly,

‘As those without riches can have no enjoyments in this world so also are those without compassion denied the belongings of the world above’.

Here Valluvar clearly associates wealth with the human world and compassion with the heaven.


Desire and Egoism

‘Let the wise and erudite man, having commenced the practice of realisation of the Atman give up all works/ Karma, and try to cut lose the bonds of birth and death’-VC10
A child plays with its toys forgetting hunger and bodily pains ; exactly so does the man of realisation take pleasure in the Reality, without ideas of I and Mine and is happy—537 Viveka Cudamani
He who renounces the egoism of I and mine shall attain the highest heavenly bliss rare of attainment even by the gods– Kural 346

Only when one renounces the two -fold desires can one overcome births. Other wise one will be subject to the rotation of births and deaths caused by desires–Kural 349



Time and Place
Though Shankara wrote a religious manual and Valluvar an ethical manual certain things are common for one who wants to achieve something or to reach a goal.

Shankara says,
Success depends essentially on a qualified aspirant; time, place and other such means are but auxiliaries in this regard’– VC14

Valluvar also acknowledges it,
‘Consider these five before deciding on an action: finance, instrument, time, proper place and the nature of action’- Kural 675


Use of certain similes such as ‘tiger and cow’, ‘actors’ etc show that Hindu geniuses think in the same way. There is a possibility ofone influencing the other as well as both are from South India. Both of them might have spoken Tamil at home.

Tiger Simile


The pretentious conduct of a man who has not the firmness of mind to direct him in the path of true ascetism is likened to a cow grazing clothed in tigers skin– Kural 273

O Master, you have awakened me from sleep and saved me . I was wandering in the forest of illusion, troubled by the tiger of egoism–
VC 518

The arrow which is shot at an object with the idea that it is a tiger, does not, when the object perceived to be a cow, check itself, but pierce s the object with full force –VC452.

Actor Simile
‘Fortune coming to one and its departure are likened to the assembling of a crowd to witness a drama and its dispersal respectively’- Kural 332

‘As an actor, when he puts on the dress of his role or when he does not, is always a man. So the perfect knower of Brahman is always Brahman and nothing else’– VC 555



When can you tell a lie? Adi Shankara’s Advice


By London Swaminathan
Post No. 838 Date. 13-02-2014

Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar and India’s greatest philosopher Adi Shankara give us guidelines about lying. Both of them allow us to tell lies if they can bring immense good. We have some anecdotes in Mahabharata where in there was a dilemma to tell the truth or not.

We are taught by the Vedas ‘satyam vatha’=speak the truth. That is the first command. The emblem of Government of India and the Government of Tamil Nadu has the Upanishad dictate ‘Satyameve Jayate’= truth alone triumphs. There is no contradiction in it when we say we are allowed to tell lies for the good of the humanity. Bhagavad Gita and other Hindu scriptures lists Honesty and Truth as very important qualities.

Upanishads has a beautiful story about a boy named ‘Truth Seeker’ =Satyakaman. When he came to Gautama for learning the Vedas he asked his caste and clan. He said that his mother’s name was Jabala. He asked him to go back to his mum to find the name of his father. She plainly told him that she did not know it. He went straight to Gautama and told what his mum said to him. Immediately he accepted him as a student saying this was the quality of a Brahmana. The meaning is whoever speaks truth, he is a Brahmana.

In spite of these high moral standards, Shankara and Valluvar allow us to tell a lie if it can do some good. In Tamil, there is a proverb that ‘one can do a marriage by telling one thousand lies’. We can easily read between the lines. Uniting two people in marriage is a good thing. So ignore minor things. Very often they ask ‘Is the boy handsome? The answer we get is ‘Yes he is very handsome’ Is the girl beautiful? Yes the girl is very beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty in body is different form beauty in behaviour. So what they say is true.

Story of Kausika

Sometimes truth may be worse than a lie. There is a beautiful story in the greatest and the longest epic in the world Mahabaharata. Kaushika was a Brahmana who made a vow of always speaking the truth. One day robbers were chasing a group of travellers in the forest. When they passed by Kaushika, he also noticed them. The robbers came to Kaushika and asked him whether he had seen the travellers. He told them where the travellers were hiding. The robbers went there, tortured and robbed the travellers. Kaushika had to go to hell for speaking the truth.

That is why Valluvar puts a sub clause when he said ‘yes, lying is allowed’:
Even untruth might attain the value of truth, if it is productive of UNMIXED GOOD, without the least blemish (Tirukkural 392)

Valluvar probably knew the story of Kaushika in Mahabharata. So he makes it clear in one of the verses:
“If one’s speech does not wrong any living creature, while being factually correct, that is truthfulness (291)”

Shankara’s View

Adi Shankara in the Prasna Uttara Ratna Malika (Gem Garland of Questions and Answers) hymn says
There are 67 verses in question and answer format. In the 46th verse he puts one question ‘Who is not to be trusted?’ The answer is ‘one who as a rule utters lies’.
In the next verse (47), one of the questions is ‘on what occasions even a lie is sinless?’ ‘That which is uttered for the sake of protecting righteousness (Dharma)’.
One should not harm anyone while telling a truth and one can tell a lie if it can bring some good to someone.

Plato’s View

SM Diaz in his commentary on Tirukkural adds:
“The eminent Greek philosopher Plato, of a date prior to Thiruvalluvar , has discussed in his Republic, the concept of the Noble Lie, which statesmen may use under certain circumstances as an instrument of state-craft or education. G.C.Field who discusses this matter in his book entitled The Philosophy of Plato quotes as example, Mr Churchill’s ‘ terminological inexactitudes’, used during World War II, as a means of deceiving the enemy, in the national interest.”
“ In the Mahabharata, Dharmaputra’s true statement, drowned in noise and made to appear false, in order to produce a certain good result, was also considered to come under this category. In Tamil Nadu the proverb that Even a thousand lies would be worthwhile to bring about a marriage, is based on the same principle of Plato’s Noble Lie.”

“Shakespeare projected an allied thought when he wrote,
If I do lie and do

No harm by it, though the Gods hear, I hope they will pardon it.
But this does not satisfy Valluvar’s acid test. Only truth should be accompanied by harmlessness; untruth should be productive of positive good to qualify for being classed with truth. Untruth which is just harmless may be fun but not truth.”

Aswaththama Hatha: Narova Kunjarova: (Aswaththama dead; whether man or elephant)
Krishna had arranged to have an elephant named Aswatthma sacrificed in the battle. Yudhistra confirmed that Aswatthma had been killed adding in a lower tone Aswaththama ‘the elephant’ or man which had been killed. This news shattered Aswatthma ‘s father Drona who threw down his arms in despair. Un armed Drona was killed by Dhristadymna . Like story of Kausika, this is also from the Mahabharata.

Pictures are taken from Wikipedia and different sites;thanks.