It is a tribute to the universality of the spirit of the Kural that at various times different religions and sects—Jainism, Buddhism, Vaishnavaism, Saivaism—have claimed the author as their own. Some Christian scholars, who have studied and translated the Kural, find in it the echo of the "Sermon on the Mount." In the Kural there are echoes of the finest principles of various religions. "What is revealed in the Vedas is brought out clearly in the Kural," said the great poet Arisilkizhar at the Madurai Sangham—the Taxila of the South—when the book was submitted by the writer for examination. Kalladar praised it as "the only book which harmonizes with all the religions of the world without condemning any of them." Several poets in the course of the last centuries have taken him as their beacon light. Father Beschi, who came to South India in the early 18th century, learnt from the Kural and recommended it to Europeans. "Nothing in the whole compass of human language," it has been claimed, "can equal the force and wisdom of the sententious distichs of the Kural." The book has been translated into Latin, German, English, Hindi and Marathi. We can only conclude that the book is a synthesis and that when he wrote it, Valluvar's mind and vision had outgrown geographical and racial boundaries and had risen above all distinctions.
Kural is the poet's great and only work, which consists of 133 chapters, each containing 10 couplets; and thus numbers 1330 couplets or 2660 lines. Kural means "anything short" and this is the shortest species of stanza in the Tamil language. Though short, in value it far outweighs the whole of the remaining Tamil literature.
The Kural is in three parts, dealing with the threefold objects of life, namely, Arram, Porul, Inbam, corresponding, respectively, to Dharma, Artha, Kama, i.e., Virtue, Wealth and Happiness. The fourth object of life, namely, Moksha or final release, comes naturally as the result of perfection in the first three. The plan of the book reflects Truth in all its aspects and proportions; and the divisions into chapters and sections is based on a perfect logical sequence. Valluvar's approach to moral doctrine is marked by a very thorough knowledge of human psychology and a desire to help imperfect men in their struggle against evil by giving them practical hints. Throughout we can see how the poet brings everything down to the level of practicality without losing hold of the ideal.
The First Book consists of 38 chapters; chapters 5 to 24 deal with the "Householder's duties" and chapters 25 to 38 deal with "Asceticism" (Illaram and Turavaram in Tamil).
The Second Book consists of 70 chapters dealing with policy in worldly affairs, including statecraft, full of interest for the scholars, historians and politicians of our day. The principles of conduct contained in these are not meant only for princes and those around them but for all engaged in secular affairs.
The Third Book deals with Kama or Love. This section is not properly understood by many, but mistaken as sexual love. What is Kama in its pure and original meaning? Says H.P.B. in The Theosophical Glossary under Kamadeva:
This section of the Kural is an allegory exhibiting the play (lila) of the Divine Spirit with the embodied Soul, a theme not uncommon in Indian literature.
The chapters of the Kural dealing with the "Grihastha Ashrama" must be studied in the light of Divine Wisdom—THEOSOPHIA.
The basis and the foundation on which the whole philosophy of Theosophy rests is the "three fundamental proposition of The Secret Doctrine," which deal with GOD-LAW-BEING. Valluvar brings out these great Ideas in his Kural.
God or Deity is the source of all things; It is beginninless and endless, eternal and omnipresent; IT is the origin of all; all things proceed from IT. The First chapter of the Kural is headed "In Praise of God" and the very first verse runs thus: " 'A' is the origin of all letters; likewise God is the origin of the world." Doesn't Shri Krishna say in enumerating his Divine Vibhutis Universal Divine Perfections): "Among letters I am the vowel 'A'"? "A" is the first of all letters by eminence and afinity. Valluvar points out that the idea of the Supreme is the first impression the world produces on the reflecting mind. H.P.B. writes of the letter "A":
Also, in the following verse we get a clue to Valluvar's conception of God. He says: "Of what avail is learning, if due reverence is not paid to Him who is Immaculate Wisdom?" Describing the state of those who have reached the goal of evolution he says: "Those who find refuge at the Great feet (of Him) who lives in the lotus of the heart (of the devotee) live eternally in heaven." Says The Voice of the Silence:
In the subsequent verses the poet points out that good and evil spring from the darkness of the mind and that those who still the five senses and walk in Truth will ever live in happiness.
In The Voice of the Silence we are asked to mistrust the senses; to brush away the dust of our illusions by the gentle breezes of Soul-Wisdom and to look inward.
The Gita says: "The man who restraineth the senses and organs and hath faith obtaineth spiritual knowledge, and having obtained it he soon reacheth supreme tranquility." (Chapter IV)
In the seventh verse Valluvar describes God as the peerless, whom none resembles—the Eternal Adorable One, whom no symbol can express and no form confine—"Be-ness" in terms of the First Fundamental Proposition of The Secret Doctrine. He calls God a sea of virtue or of righteousness; the word he uses is "arravayhiantanan"—"virtue's sea, the fair and loving one." Only those who have taken refuge in the Lord who is the sea of righteousness can safely complete the whole round of existence. "Poor wanderers of a stormy day—from wave to wave we're driven." wrote the poet Moore.
In the next verse he describes God as "Lord of eight attributes," and says that the head that does not bow down and worship in spirit and in truth "the Lord of eight attributes" is like the palsied limbs. What are the eight attributes that the poet had in mind, it is difficult to say. One of the commentators enumerates thus: Essential purity; Intuitive wisdom; Infinite intelligence; Essential freedom; Infinite grace; Omnipotence; and Infinite Love. As this is the ninth verse, we may conclude that the poet sums up the qualities referred to in the previous verses. If that be correct, then the eight attributes could well be: Eternity; Omnipresence; Happiness; Freedom from the pairs of opposites; Purity, Incomparability and Love.
He closes the first chapter by stating that only those who cling to the feet of God can cross the widespread ocean of mortal birth and be absorbed into the Divine Essence. This is the doctrine of metempsychosis and in the language of The Secret Doctrine: "The obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul...through the Cycle of Incarnation or 'Necessity' in accordance with Cyclic and Karmic law, during the whole term."
The language in which the poet expresses the mental attitude of the true worshipper is worthy of our consideration. In verses 2 to 10, the same idea is expressed—that of drawing near to or worshipping at the feet of God, the idea being that of profoundest, most loving and clinging humility. We see in Valluvar a noble, truth loving and devout man. The eclectic poet has selected the choicest epithets existing in the language.
(To be continued)