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THIRUVALLUVAR ON YOGA

By Yoga Chemmal MEENA RAMANATHAN,


Co-Ordinator, Yoga Dept., Pondicherry Community College, Pondicherry.

Man is not immortal, but he alone is capable of creating things that are immortal. Many poems
and literary marvels were created 2000 years ago. The Masterpiece among them is
Thirukkural authored by the greatest Saintly poet and Philosopher named Thiruvalluvar.
He belonged to the peasant community of South India. More specifically, he was a weaver by
profession who lived in Mylapore an orthodox place famous for its Temples in Chennai.
Thiru is the prefix that has been given both to this creator (Valluvar) and his creation (Kural) as
a mark of respect and sanctity. Its immortality and universality is unquestionable. This text
contains certain ethics and values which are eternal but are applicable to all the people of all the
ages and at all the times. These fundamental values may be expressed in three simple and
beautiful words Sathyam, Shivam and Sundaram meaning truth, love and beauty
respectively
(inspiration got from Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani). Thirukkural is an epitome of such
eternal and never-changing values. Hence it is also considered equal to the Vedas of the Hindu
Scriptures.
This secular Tamil literature book consists of 1330 verses or couplets noted for its briefness
and rich meaning. These couplets are broadly classified under 3 main headings Arathupal,
Porutpal and Kamathupal. The 3 parts are presented further in 13 sub-parts called Iyal
and.133 chapters called Athikaram. Each Athikaram or Chapter consists of 10 couplets.
Contemporary poets have compared each couplet to a tiny mustard seed which has seven seas
of knowledge inlaid in it. The interpretation given for each song is general and accounts for all
the changes that may take place in human progress. This fact has contributed to the Kural
transcending the limitations of space and time, is still relevant even Centuries after if was written.
(Records say that Kural was written around first century BC roughly two millennia ago).
Man is not an individual. He is a social being. There are corresponding duties for him.
Thirukkural defines the pathways for Man to tread on, to reach the human goals.
Valluvars Kural deals with what may be called the Art of Living, involving day to day duties
and responsibilities. I am no scholar in Tamil. I cannot claim to have studied the Thirukural
comprehensively or in depth (which is my weakness). A knowledge of ones weakness is a
strength in itself (I remember reading this some where). Hence this attempt. I am just trying to
explore Thirukural and explain some of the yogic concepts through the eyes of Thiruvalluvar.
From being a book confined to scholars and classrooms, it has slowly emerged as a book that
offers lessons for the future, applicable to all ages, all religions, all countries and all times.
I start my task quoting Valluvar. In his Kural no 611, he says,
Yield not to the feebleness which says, this task is too difficult and far above my competence.
The attempt to do the task itself will give the greatness (of mind) necessary.
The greatness of your goal lends you greatness and you become as great as your objectives.
The yogic concept of Chatur Purusharthas or Human Pursuits, namely,
Dharma - righteousness
Artha - worldly success or material prosperity,
Kama - sensory fulfillment or emotional prosperity
Moksha - spiritual fulfillment or spiritual prosperity.

The Thirukkural consists of three parts dealing with these aspects of human pursuits Aram,
Porul , and Inbam. (Dharma equated to Aram, Artha to Porul and Kama to Inbam).
Indian tradition refers to Dharma, Artha and Kama as Thrivarga the inseparable group of
three leading to the fourth Purushartha, i.e., Moksha. Valluvar does not deal with Moksha
(Veedu in Tamil). According to him the first three Purusharthas when accomplished
thoroughly, will automatically lead one into the fourth stage. Traditionally speaking Dharma
means religion, rituals, duty, alms, righteousness, ethical values both individual and social.
Thiruvalluvar has explained the meaning of Dharma as righteousness or ethical values. Hence
the similarity.
In Kural No. 39, Valluvar has said that
True happiness is derived from the joy that right conduct gives, other pleasures end in
sorrow and disgrace or shame.
In this context, Rajaji has said that the key to purity of action is purity of thought. The
attainment of the mind free from evil thoughts is the aim of religious life and this is a silent
process.

Kural No.35, Avoidance of four things namely envy, craving for pleasure, anger, and
harsh speech is the true Dharma.

Man passes through four stages in life, the Chatur Ashramas, according to our
Indian tradition :
Brahmacharya -- birth to 27 years of age
Grihasta -- 27 to 54 years
Vanaprastha -- 54 to 81 years
Sanyasa -- above 81 years
The last Ashrama, Sanyasa is confined to a very small minority and more related to the fourth
Purushartha Moksha.
According to Thiruvalluvar, it is the Grihasta who sustains the first three Purusharthas Dharma,
Artha and Kama. It is not given to any other Ashrama - the task of creating, acquiring wealth
and enjoying the fruits of Dharma. It is the Grihastas duty and privilege to maintain the
Brahmacharis (i.e. the students), the Vanaprasthas (the modern pensioners) and the Sanyasis.
Valluvar has explained about Ahamkara or ego. He says in his couplet no. 346
He who destroys the pride which says I and Mine will enter a World which
is difficult even for the Gods to attain.

Next on the Law of Karma. This chapter is of great importance to understand Life as a whole.
The core of Sanathana Dharma lies in the theory of Karma reincarnation and immortality of
the Soul. The Law of Karma is the only tenable explanation to all that a man enjoys or suffers
throughout his life. Fate is nothing extraneous to him but only the sum total of the results of his
past actions. As God is but the dispenser of the fruits of action, fate, representing those fruits, is
not His creation but only the Mans. Valluvar brings out beautifully in this Chapter the effect of
past karma. (verses 370 to 380).
Is there anything mightier than fate even as its victims plan to overcome it, it forestalls the
thought itself. (380).

Tridoshas : These are the three humors of the body namely Vatha (Wind), Pitta (Bile) and
Kapha (Phlegm). Valluvar has explained this concept in his Kural 941.
If the three things i.e Vatha, Pitta and Kapha are in excess or deficient, they will
cause disease in our body.
There are many other Yogic Concepts which Valluvar has extensively discussed. What I have
given here is very few of them. There is a famous aphorism which says What We know is as
little as a handful of earth and What We do not know is as large as the World. This fact was
true yesterday, is true today, will remain true tomorrow. When we find an answer to one
question. it will give rise to nine more and Valluvar explains this in his Kural No. 1110.
The more you learn, the more you realise the extent of your ignorance.
In this context, I am reminded of what Swami Gitananda Giri has said Awareness
of awareness itself and Awareness of how unaware we are. If we look at Life in this World
dispassionately, we realise that it consist of both the medium and the maker. Our own life is the
stone and we are the sculptors. Valluvar confines his treatment to enquiring how best we can do
it and presents his design and the tools. What we make out of it is our choice. He bridges what
has always been considered as two different Worlds. Standing in this World of reason and logic
and using the language and grammar of this World, he tries to understand and interpret the paths
to Spiritualism (which is the goal of Yoga). The kind of approach that Valluvar chose to adopt
nearly two millennia ago is some what amazing and refreshing. He has examined all aspects of
Life, analysed its details and complexities, considered those that are enduring and endeavored to
extract the essence. May be this is the basis for Thirukkurals immortality and Universal appeal.