Monday, June 29, 2009

08. Jaina ideas in Kural: Part VI

திருக்குறளில் சமண தழுவல்கள் (பாகம்-6
VI. Jaina claims of Tiruvalluvar and Tirukkuŗal

We have seen how the claims of Jaina authorship by several scholars is indeed based on some internal evidences which indicate that the morality Valluvar outlines in his Kuŗal has its basis on Jaina ethics and that of the Deity or deities he invokes in the first chapter is more relevant to Jaina godheads. In this chapter we look at other claims of these scholars.

6.1. Sri Kundakunda, the author of Kuŗal?

    Some Jaina scholars identify Āchārya Kundakunda (popularly called Elāchārya) with Tiruvalluvar (Chakravarti, 1953, Champakalakshmi, 1994). Kundakunda is said to have occupied the pontiffs throne at Pataliputra or at Mylapore (Subramanyam, 1987). The theory seem to have been put forward since Valluvar's birth place is believed to be Mylapore and his traditional dating falls between first century B.C. to third century A.D, all these coinciding with the dates given for Kundukunda. Though various theories have been put forward, nothing is concrete about Valuvar's period and place of birth (see this article). Moreover Kundukunda was a Jaina ascetic who wrote all his works in Prakrit and it is hard to believe that a Jaina ascetic of his stature would have written a classic in chaste Tamil which also includes the 'Kamathuppaal' that containts 25 chapters on premarital and post-marital love. The Jains also depict Tiruvalluvar as a naked ascetic, quite contrary to the usual depiction of Valluvar with matted hair and long beard. It is difficult to even imagine how a poet who wrote some of the greatest sublime poetries on pre and post-marital love could have lived as a naked ascetic. 

Usual depiction of Valluvar
(Painting by K.R. Venugopal Sarma)
Sri Kundakunda as Valluvar
(Depicted in Subramanyam, 1987)

One way of establishing Āchārya Kundakunda's association to Kuŗal is to compare the contents of his works in Prakrit with the contents in Kuŗal. We take here his work Ashta Pahuda (AP) for comparison. Ashta Pahuda is a small work of eight divisions, with 503 verses in total. It contains some similes similar to those found in the Kuŗal. The metaphor in couplet 1274 "முகை மொக்குள் உள்ளது நாற்றம் போல்" is employed by Kundakunda "as smell is embodied in a flower" (AP, 4:15), though he uses this simile in a different context. At another place the metaphor "வரன் என்னும் வைப்பிற்கு ஓர் வித்து" is reflected in Ashta Pahuda when Kundakunda talks about "the soul becoming a repository of bliss in heaven" (AP, 5:65). Such similarities in similes are of course of minor significance. Given below are five strikingly similar verses between Ashta Pahuda and Thirukkuŗal: 

Ashta Pahuda
What was uttered by the Jina assumed the form of words in vernacular Sūtrās. (AP, 4: 61)
The scriptures of the world proclaim the potent utterance of the great. PS (28)
Before you are overpowered by old age or your body is burnt by fire or disease, you do what is good for the self. (AP, 5:132)
Better commit some good acts before the tongue benumbs and deadly hiccup descends. * KK, SB (335)
Those who bow to the lotus feet of the great Jina with devotion and love, root out the creeper of rebirth. (AP, 5:153)
The ocean of births can be crossed by none other than those who reach the feet of the Lord. * PS (10)
As pure gold is produced by proper treatment, so the self becomes paramatman when helped by time. (AP, 6:24)
As the intense fire makes gold shine, so does the burning austerities relieve pain. NV (267)

From this table, we could establish that there exist some similarity in ideas and wordplay employed by Tiruvalluvar and Kundakunda. However, if we are to take the presence of such verses as a proof of Kundakunda's authorship of Kuŗal, then we will end up giving the authorship of Kuŗal to a great many saints including Chanakya, Chinese sage Confucius, Jewish prophet Solomon, Lord Buddha and even to the Persian Poet Sa'di with whose works the Kuŗal bears many a resemblance (see: Introduction to the Kuŗal and its author and Kuŗal in light of other ancient texts). Furthermore, in many Sūtrās, Kundakunda was unlike Valluvar. He emphasized the need for a Jaina monk to be naked. The highest and the best of the Jinas have declared nudity, said Kundakunda (AP, 2:10). Nudity is the path to emancipation and even a Tirthankarā cannot achieve perfection with clothing (AP, 2:23). Valluvar has devoted two chapters for ascetics (3 and 28) but nowhere has he even implied that nudity is a prerequisite for monks. Valluvar considered clothing as something common to all. 

Kuŗal 1012: Food, clothing and the rest are common to all.
Distinction comes from sensitivity to shame.
* PS

Like Nāladiyār, Kundakunda considered body as something despicable as it is a smelling case of flesh, bones, semen, blood, bile, intestines, pus etc. (AP, 5:42). All Valluvar had to say about the body was this:

Kuŗal 345: When the body itself is a burden on the way to liberation,
Why carry other attachments?
* PS

Kundakunda regarded women low. Being a staunch ascetic, he promulgated annihilation from sexuality. At one place he asks "Has any one seen dogs, donkeys, cows and other cattle or women attain Nirvana?" (AP, 8:29). Nowhere in the Kuŗal would one see such a partisan teaching against women. It is therefore difficult to comprehend Chakravarti's view that the author of the Kuŗal was none other than the Jaina ascetic Sri Kundakunda.

6.2. Kuŗal is not a work on Jaina philosophy

The author of Kuŗal might have built his moral percepts based on Jaina ethics, but was careful enough to avoid his work being categorized as a work on Jainism. He seem to have deliberately avoided typical Jaina terms that would have forced modern scholars to list the Kuŗal also along with many other Jaina works like Nāladiyār, Cívakacintāmani, Nílakéci etc. 

Let us also compare the Kuŗal with the Jaina classic Nāladiyār which is often considered an amplified version of Kuŗal (Ramachandran, 2000). No other work than Nāladiyār in Tamil comes so close to Kuŗal in similarity. The quatrains in Nāladiyār are strikingly similar in content to the Kuŗal, besides being organized the same way as the Kuŗal. In spite of such similarities, the Kuŗal is not considered a work on Jainism because it differs from Nāladiyār in many respects. 

While Kuŗal is life-affirming, Nāladiyār like any other Jaina work is life-denying. Unlike typical Jaina works, the Kuŗal does not harp on the transitory nature of life. Valluvar does talk about "Impermanence" (நிலையாமை) and at one place (Kuŗal 345) even asks why carry other attachments when the very body itself is a burden on the way to liberation [PS], but he does not go overboard and indulge in statements that are typical of a Jaina work. Emphasizing on the transient nature of youth, Nāladiyār asks not to cherish the love for woman whose beauty will soon disappear when she is old (Nāladiyār 17). But Valluvar on the contrary, in the third division "Love" (காமத்துப்பால்),  wondered if heaven can be sweeter than slumbering on the soft shoulders of the women you love (Kuŗal 1103). 

At another place Nāladiyār says: "See how they remove the corpse while kinsfolk gather around and carry it to crematory. Yet he marries and fondly imagines there is happiness in this world". But Valluvar said in couplet 61 that there is nothing worth than begetting intelligent children. Nāladiyār repeatedly despises the body throughout the work. It refers the body unstable (29), impure (43) and valueless (120). And not surprisingly, like in Kundakunda's Ashta Pahuda (AP, 5:42), Nāladiyār also states that the entrails of the body are nothing but marrow, blood, bone, tendons, flesh and fat (Quatrain 46). One would never see such statements in the Kuŗal. While the Kuŗal has an entire chapter on "Cherishing the Kindred" (Chapter 53), Nāladiyār would say that only fools forget the aims of life and continue to live because of the joy they find in domestic relations (182)! 

Let us take another Jaina classic, this time Saman Suttam for comparison. Chapter 29 Saman Suttam is about percepts of Meditation but Valluvar never indulged in technicalities of pathways to liberation. Valluvar has only dealt with Realization of Truth (மெய்யுணர்தல்) which is unfalteringly applicable to all faiths. Unlike we see in Saman Suttam, Valluvar has not devoted any chapter to describe the fundamental truths of Jaina philosophy. For instance, Valluvar describes soul as something distinct from the body (Kuŗal 338, 340) but does not go into details of the nature of soul. Being a Jaina ethico-metaphysical anthology, Saman Suttam describes soul as consciousness, something eternal, formless and enjoyer of Karmas (23:592). It also differentiates Soul as ajiva and jiva (593, 594) but the Kuŗal makes no such distinctions. Saman Suttam says "Birth is painful, old ages is painful, disease and death are painful, worldly existence where living beings suffer afflictions is also painful" (55). While Valluvar would only state that excessive eating would lead to unlimited ills (couplet 947), Saman Suttam would state that taking delicious dishes in excessive quantity would simulate lust in a person (293).  It is only these differences that prove to be a decisive factor in categorizing the Kuŗal as non-sectarian work, preventing scholars from regarding it a classic on Janism. Still Valluvar's morals are based on the foundation of Jaina ethics as we have seen in sections 1 and 2 of this article. Even though the very foundation of Valluvar's moral prescriptions is Jaina-based, he does not go overboard and indulge in statements that are life negating.  

Before we conclude, let us revert back to Nílakési's Jaina commentator Vamana Munivar's reference to the Kuŗal as the scripture of Jains. Firstly, the Kuŗal is not a scripture and is very unlike works like Tirumandiram or even Nālatiyār in that respect. Secondly, there is no evidence to show that the Kuŗal was written for any particular community. The author addresses humanity at large, his sole objective being to raise every man to the level sānrõr and live with fame.

Next Section VII. Conclusions

No comments:

Post a Comment