Monday, June 29, 2009

09. Jaina ideas in Kural: Part VII

VII. Conclusions

We began this elaborate exercise to find answers to the following questions:

(i) If the morals taught by Valluvar in Kuŗal is based on Jaina dharma
(ii) If the Deity praised by Valluvar in his first chapter could refer to Jaina Godhead
(iii) If the answer is 'yes' to the above questions, are the internal evidences sufficient enough to show Valluvar as a Jaina.

In the beginning of this article, we compared the principal teachings of Valluvar to the then philosophical traditions that prevailed during the times of Valluvar. Then we compared the contents of the Kuŗal with some ethical treatises in Brahminic Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. We also looked at Valluvar's references to "God and gods" in light of the concept of god in Jainism. And finally, we made a detailed investigation of every couplet of the first chapter and tried to relate the names and attributes employed by Valluvar to deities in Buddhism, Christianity, Jainism, Vaishnavism and Saivism. 

Based on all these analyses, we have to come to a conclusion that the Kuŗal's principal teachings of Not-killing and Not-lying has its basis from Jaina ethics and the morality the author reiterates is closer to Jaina ethics than that of any other system. Next to Jainism, it is only to Buddhism that the Kuŗal shows plenty of affinity, more with the ethical values than with the "divine attributes" mentioned in chapter 1. The Kuŗal was written during early periods of the Christian era, a time when Buddhism and Jainism were at the peak of their zenith. This could also be the time when Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism had not diverged from each other and therefore had a common or overlapping protocols of ethics for householders, ascetics or both. According to Swami Vivekananda "Modern Hinduism, modern Jainism and Buddhism branched off at the same time" (Complete Works, VI.120.6). We have seen how the five Buddhist moral percepts and the "Ten Perceptions" show surprising similarity to some of the chapters listed in Kuŗal. Jainism is quite similar to Buddhism in many of its teachings and there are a number of scholarly works, attempting to compare and contrast the two (e.g. Prasad, 1932; *; *; *). However, based on some of the fundamental differences like the concept of soul in Jainism and the concept of anātta in Buddhism, and the emphasis on a Middle path in Buddhism instead of the two extremes of Self-mortification and Self-indulgence, it is not difficult to differentiate a Jaina philosophical treatise from a Buddhist one. The task becomes more difficult in the case of an ethical work like Kuŗal where the emphasis is not on philosophical matters but morality. Quite naturally, there is hardly any moral dictum found in the Kuŗal that is not shared by these two non-Vedic paths.

It appears that most of the objections to Jaina claims come because most lay and even scholars are little informed of Jainism. Even the common objection of Kāmathuppāl being a part of a Jaina work has been shown a baseless argument in Section 3.1. One cannot reject or accept the claims of religious affiliation of a book based on the mere presence of one or two verses in support or against a particular faith. Evidences have to be rather consistent and distributed throughout the work. No doubt the Kuŗal has many references to Vaishnava, Jaina, Buddhist and perhaps even Saiva beliefs. However, such passing references cannot be taken as indication of the author's affiliation or inclination to any particular faith because such references have been found across literary works of known affiliation to all the three religious systems of Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism. Thus, neither the reference to palli (பள்ளி) could be taken as a proof for Valluvar's Jaina or Buddhist origin, nor does the reference to adi aļandān (அடி அளந்தான்) be taken as an evidence to show Valluvar's inclination towards Vaishnavism. Or the references to "Goddesses of fortune and misfortune" (செய்யவள், தவ்வை) and "Brahmins" (பார்ப்பான்) be taken as evidence to show that the author of the Kuŗal was a Hindu. 

It is clear from the first chapter "Praise of God" that its contents are independent of other chapters in Kuŗal. Chapter 1 is Jaina in character, while remaining chapters have ideas of all faiths, with the ethic of non-violence being the fulcrum. It is only in the first chapter that the author lets himself free of all restrictions he imposed on himself while writing the other chapters. 

What makes Kuŗal Jaina in character is the combination of all these:

  • An Invocation in the very beginning that is consistent with the terminologies and beliefs employed for praising of Jaina godheads
  • Valluvar’s repeated emphasize on Not-killing and Not hurting even outside the chapters on Not-killing (கொல்லாமை) and Not-hurting (இன்னா செய்யாமை).
  • Valluvar’s definition of Not-killing as virtue (அறம்), grace (அருள்), perfect path (நல்லாறு), characteristic of penance (தவத்திற்கு உரு), and as the topmost code ever written (தொகுத்தவற்றுள் எல்லாம் தலை)
  • The chapter headings of the first division Virtue (அறத்துப்பால்), very much in line with the spirit of the Jaina tradition.
  • Ethical philosophy that matches with the Jaina spirit of ethical philosophy outlined in Jaina texts like Saman Suttam
  • His definition of truthfulness as something that should not cause any harm to others.
  • His decision to place Not-killing as the first vratā above’Truthfulness (II vratā)

In a state like Tamil Nadu dominated by the majority Hindus and with a tradition of four of the five great commentators of Kuŗal (Pariperumaal, Parithiar, Parimelazhagar and Kalingar) interpreting the first chapter in Hindu non-Jaina terms, it is nothing but natural that Jaina renderings have taken a back seat. Zvelebil (1975), citing M. Irakava Iyenkar's reference to an inscription of 1272 in Sri Varadaraja Temple in Kanchi that refers to a Jaina commentator, mentions that many of the Jaina commentaries of Kuŗal were suppressed by the commentary of the 13th century Parimelazhagar. 

While the majority are ignorant of the Jaina terminologies, the Jains who are supposed to know them are unfortunately a marginal minority. No wonder their voices are never heard. One is left to wonder, what would have been the recognition given to the Kuŗal had the state of Tamil Nadu been a Jaina majority. The Jains have every right to say that the author of the Kuŗal was inclined towards Jaina ideals than any other faith. But they do not have the right to claim the Kuŗal as their scripture for the simple reason that the Kuŗal was not written for any particular sect.  

Before we end this article let us now revisit what Rajaji said: "It is claimed by many that Tiru-Valluvar was a Jain. I do not accept this theory". But Rajaji didn't explain why he denied such claims. He only said "Tiru-Valluvar was one of those rare and great men whose catholic spirit rose above all denominations and whose vision was not clouded by dogma or prejudice of any kind". Even those who claim Valluvar to be a Jain say so. They also declare that in spite of being a Jain, Valluvar's Kuŗal is a non-sectarian composition, with the author making no attempt or whatsoever to impart the doctrines of his own religion on others.

Thirukkuŗal is not a book on Jainism or Jaina philosophy but a book written by someone who must have been either a Jain or someone who was impressed by Jaina ideals of life. As Kamil Zvelebil (1973) said, if there is at all any reflection of a particular doctrine in the work, it is rather the Jaina terminology and the Jaina atmosphere which we find in the work. Subramaniyam (1987) echoed the same when he said that Valluvar made great use of ideas that came his way, be it from Hinduism or Buddhism, but the greater part of his familiarity was with Jainism. 
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Key to the initials of different translators:
CR - C. Rajagopalachari
KS - Kasthuri Sreenivasan
SI - K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar
DL -W.H. Drew and  J. Lazarus
KV - K. Krishnaswamy & Vijaya Ramkumar
SM -S. Maharajan
DZ - S.M. Diaz
MS - M.S. Poornalingam Pillai
SS - Satguru  Subramuniyaswami
EL - F.W. Ellis
NC - Norman Cutler
TD - S. Thandapani Desikar
GU - G.U. Pope
NV - N.V.K. Ashraf
TK - T.K. Chidambaranatha Mudaliar
GV - G. Vanmikanathan
PS - P.S. Sundaram
VC - V.C. Kulandai Swamy
JN - J. Narayanaswamy
SB - Shuddhananda Bharatiar
VR  - V. Ramasamy
KK - K. Kannan
SD - S.D. Rajendran
VS - V.V.S. Aiyar
KN - K.N. Subramanyam
SG - G. Siromoney, S. Govindaraju & M. Chandrasekaran,

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