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Tirukkural: The Book of Wisdom

Ancient Text on Virtue, Wealth & Love

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Tirukkural: The Book of Wisdom

The Tirukural in English

Translated by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami
Tirukkural, the great poetic work by saint Tiru Valluvar, embodies values that are ever relevant and unchanging. The greatest classic of the Tamil language, it dates back anywhere between 2 BC and 8 AD. It comprises two parts, 'Tiru' and 'Kural': 'Tiru' can mean sacred, as well as beautiful, and 'Kural' means concise. Brevity is the charm of this scriptural text with its terse and forcible verses like sutras or aphorisms.

About the Author - Tiru Valluvar

Tiru Valluvar stands on a high moral pedestal along with Patanjali, Shankara and Buddha. He lived about 2000 years ago in Tamil Nadu, and worked as a weaver to earn his living. According to legends, he was a man of intense cognizance, enlightment, free spirit and hard work.

Universal Ethical Content

The greatest value of Kural is its universal ethical content. The scripture is divided into three books: Virtue, Wealth and Love - consisting of 1330 couplets clustered in 133 chapters elucidating different aspects of human virtues or vices. In the first chapter of Virtue, God is portrayed as Universal in content transcending the marginal line of God being Hindu, Jain, Muslim or Christian. Kural's primary concern is with the whole world and according to Tiru Valluvar a man's prosperity and adversity, heaven and hell, and his present and his future are products of his own actions.

On Virtue

"Rage, Envy, Greed and Harsh words
Avoided is virtue." ~ Kural: 35

Tiru Valluvar sing the praises of affability, gratitude, self-control, right conduct and faithfulness in the first section of Virtue. Extolling the significance of vegetarianism Valluvar explains:

"How can one be kindly?
If he fattens on other's fat?" ~ Kural: 251

On the Importance of Wealth

Tiru Valluvar knew that even though virtue is supremely important, without wealth it was seldom practicable:

"Will that hunger return?
Which nearly killed me yesterday?" ~ Kural: 1048

At the same time, Tiruvalluvar criticizes useless wealth:

"He is poor though a millionaire
Who neither gives nor spends." ~ Kural: 1005

On Politics & Governance

Valluvar has spoken words of wisdom on state administration by lucidly explaining the relationship between the king, his ministers and subjects. He has subtly put forward the importance of learning, friends, agriculture and social service, while condemning corruption and nepotism, the scourge of modern day politics as evil and unwise.

"Punish a sinner by paling him
With a good deed, and forget." ~ Kural: 314

Love and Emotion

The last section of Kural is entirely devoted to love and Valluvar speaks in mystic beauty about this prime emotive feeling of human beings. It is a paean to youthful love and its trials and tribulations.

"A Goddess? A peacock? Or a woman
Decked in jewels? Asks my heart amazed?" ~ Kural: 1081

Spiritual Liberation through Knowledge

Tiru Valluvar speaks in length about virtue, wealth and love with righteousness and touch the lives of many generations with his eloquent poetry and innate wisdom.

Valluvar believes that with this knowledge of virtue, wealth and love one can lead the soul to nirvana and salvation. In effect, the fourth and final objective of human existence - 'moksha' or spiritual liberation is left to speak for itself.

Valluvar's valuable writings in the Tirukkural guide our actions and thoughts, with a perfect blend of personal character, social conduct and the state's responsibility to build a prosperous and thriving society.

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