Monday, June 29, 2009

04. Jaina ideas in Kural: III

திருக்குறளில் சமண தழுவல்கள் (பாகம்-3)

III. Arguments against Hindu, Buddhist and Jaina influences
There is a general consensus amongst Tirukkuŗal scholars that the work contains statements that are in agreement with every religious philosophy and ethics, and at the same time views that are against the same (Gopalan, 1979; Mohanraj, 1983). This has been one of the reasons why the Kuŗal is often projected as a work containing all religious ideas and therefore belonging to no sect in particular (Srinivasan, 1979, Gopalan, 1979 and Mohanraj, 1983). 

Notable amongst the research works analyzing the claims of different religious groups is the work "Idealism and Universalism of Tiruvalluvar" by Mohanraj (1983) where the author reviews all the claims and disclaims from each sect and concludes that it only goes on to show the Valluvar's all-embracing nature. 

3.1. Arguments against Jaina authorship

As much we have strong claims for Jaina authorship of Thirukkural, there are also equally vehement arguments against such claims. Here we take up for discussion from Mohanraj's work, the major points against Jaina claims: 

"Some of the common arguments against Jaina influence of Tirukkuŗal has been the following: 
  • That Valluvar, contrary to the general Jaina belief, placed the path of the Householder above Ascetic path
  • That Valluvar did not denounce the recitation of Vedas and offerings to gods
  • That Valluvar did not denounce the existence of a creator God and
  • That the third division on "Love" (Kāmā) is totally against the Jaina principle of glorifying Asceticism
    Let us take these points one by one. To begin with, the issue of Householder (Grihastha: இல்வாழ்க்கை) and Asceticism (Sanyāsa: துறவு). If one analyses the couplets in chapters 3 and 5 on "Ascetic greatness" and "Domestic life" carefully, it will be clear that Valluvar has actually glorified the greatness of both Ascetics and Householders. In Couplet 48, he says: "A virtuous householder endures more than the penance of the penance doer. * DZ, DL. But the same Tiruvalluvar says in Chapter 3 on "Greatness of Ascetics": "The world shines on the greatness of those who, knowing both, choose renunciation" * PS.  Why is this apparent contradiction? One may also ask why Valluvar placed "Greatness of Ascetics" (Chapter 3) ahead of Domestic Virtue (Chapter 5), if he had clearly ranked Domestic Virtue over Ascetic Virtue!

Popley (1931) said Valluvar included two chapters (Not killing and Not eating meat) under the subdivision Ascetic Virtue and not under Domestic Virtue. He argued that if Valluvar had been a Jain, he would not have listed these two chapters under Ascetic Virtue, giving an impression that ahimsā and vegetarianism are something to be followed by monks alone. But a cursory look at the organization of different subjects and chapters in Kuŗal will reveal that many chapters of relevance to either groups (householder and monks) have been listed under both subdivisions of Ascetic and Domestic Virtue, and sometimes even under the II Division "Wealth" which according to some scholars are meant for Rulers! Chapter 29 (Thieving: கள்ளாமை) has been placed under "Ascetic virtue" and couplet 283 says "Stolen wealth may seem to swell but in the end will burst" (PS). Ascetics are not supposed to even have a desire for wealth, leave alone accumulating wealth, or for that matter indulge in thieving! In fact most of the couplets in this chapter talk about evils of thieving, a more appropriate more dictum for householders who are occupied in social life and therefore have opportunities to indulge in thieving, corruption and the like! Let us take the other chapter 18 (Covetousness: கயவாமை) placed under "Domestic virtue" and these two couplets: "They will not sin for fleeting pleasures who seek eternal joy"-173 and "Their senses conquered, the clear-eyed cite not their poverty to covet" -174. Clearly these couplets are more appropriate for placement under "Ascetic virtue" than "Domestic virtue". Chapters 13 and 16 (அடக்கமுடைமை and பொறையுடைமை) are placed under "Domestic virtue". Does it mean "self control" and "forbearance" are not demanded from those who follow the ascetic path? Subramanian and Rajalakshmi (1984) who dwelled in some detail about the distribution and sequencing of some chapters in Kuŗal, ask why the chapter 92 on Prostitutes, 93 on Abstinence and 94 on Gambling were not deemed serious enough to merit inclusion in the first division Aŗattuppāl (Virtue)!

Saman Suttam, the well known anthology of Jaina principles and teachings, says a householder is one who is free from seven vices (sūtrā 302) such as (i) sex with other's wives, (ii) gambling, (iii) liquor, (iv) hunting, (v) harshness in speech, (vi) harshness in punishment and (vii) misappropriation of wealth. Valluvar has devoted a chapter each to deal with these subjects but all are not under the subdivision Domestic Virtue. Of the seven, only three (i. sex with other's wives, v. harshness in speech and vii. misappropriate of wealth) are under 'Domestic Virtue' (chapters 15, 10, 18 respectively), while the rest are under 'Ascetic Virtue' (iv) or in the second division on "Wealth" (ii, iii and vi). Therefore, it appears that the relevance of any couplet or subject matter to householders and monks cannot be decided based on its placement in Kuŗal. Commenting on the distribution of chapters and couplets in the Kuŗal, Subramanian and Rajalakshmi (1984) concluded that the verses themselves are couched in such general language that it is difficult to say to whom especially they are meant.

As for the recitation of Vedas (134, 560), burnt offerings (259, 413) and special worship to gods (18), we will see in section 4 on "God and gods in Tirukkuŗal" that these are passing references that the author makes to emphasize a moral dictum. The emphasis is not that Vedas should be recited but what would happen if rulers of the land fail to protect his subjects (காவலன் காவான் எனின்: Couplet 560) and Brahmins fail in their conduct (பார்ப்பான் பிறப்பு ஒழுக்கம் குன்றக் கெடும்: Couplet 134). The mention about offerings (yājnās) in couplets 259 and 413 does not mean that the author is suggesting that such ablutions are necessary to satisfy gods or for that matter to achieve mõksha or liberation. In couplet 18, Valluvar says the very gods will lack festival and worship if the heavens dry up. Once again, the emphasize here is on 'rain', and not on 'worship' which is used only as a simile. Moreover, as we see in section 4.3, Jainism also has a large pantheon of gods, godlings, celestials or angels who are divine beings but not divinities or deities (Kalghatgi, 1984; Jain, 1999). It is pertinent to reproduce here what Mohanraj (1983) wrote on the mention of these worships in Tirukkuŗal. "The reference to "pūjās" or worship (18), venerating ancestors (43) and burnt offerings (259, 413) in Tirukkural only goes on to show that Valluvar was aware of these methods of worships that were prevalent amongst the Tamils and Aryans. Notable is the conspicuous absence of such references in the designated first chapter on 'Praise of God'.....".

The next issue we take up for discussion is the reference to Creator God in couplet 1062.

இரந்தும் உயிர் வாழ்தல் வேண்டின் பரந்து
கெடுக உலகு இயற்றியான்.
If some must beg and live, let the Creator of the world
Himself roam and perish!

Here Valluvar's emphasis is on the dreads of begging and the baseness of the wicked, just like in couplet 55 where his emphasize was on the virtues of being an obedient wife. Popley (1931) and Gopalan (1979) maintained that no other couplet in the Kuŗal can be more opposed to the Jaina idea than the couplet 1062 on Creator God. Their contention is that Valluvar believed in a Creator God and therefore he referred to Him as the Creator. No doubt that Jaina dharśana is opposed to Srstivāda (Creation Theory) and it only speaks of a Paramātman or Sarvajña, the Omniscient Being who serves as an ideal to be aimed by man (Jain, 2002a). According to Chakravarti (1953), however, Valluvar here strongly condemns the religious attitude which tries to justify social evils as a result of divine will. The same opinion is expressed by Murugaratnam (1975): "Poverty is not divinely ordained. It is man-made. If anyone says poverty is God-made, let that God who made it himself turn a beggar and taste its bitter pills, so claims Tiruvallluvar". In couplet 1062, Valluvar is thus cursing God if He is the cause for some men to turn beggars! In other words, Valluvar wouldn't have done so had he believed in a God who is just and full of mercy and compassion. In Jainism, which has an extreme position of Law of Karma [*], grief and joy in this life has nothing to do with God but to the consequences of one's deeds in the past alone. Nāladiyār, a Jaina classic beyond doubt, declares:

Nāladiyār 107:
If people, with heart full of grief, beg from door to door and suffer endless misery,
It is the result of their deeds in a former birth.

Valluvar seems to have only reinforced this idea by saying that the Creator God may himself go begging if He has to be held responsible for some to thrive on begging. The same Valluvar has mentioned elsewhere in the Kuŗal that propriety of conduct is great birth, while impropriety will sink into a mean birth (Kuŗal 133). In couplet 330, he says a deprived life of diseased bodies comes from depriving the life of another (in the previous birth). So too begging, which is a result of one's deeds in the past and not a result of Creator God's will. It is not uncommon to see Valluvar denouncing God and gods and at the same time elevating people to the status of gods. In couplets 50, 388 and 702, he rises earthly humans to the level of heavenly gods and in couplet 1073 brings heavenly gods down to level of the wicked on the earth!  

The phrase in the very first couplet "ஆதி பகவன் முதற்றே உலகு" is sometimes taken to mean God as the cause of the universe. In Jainism the world does not proceed from God because He is not the cause. Most translators take the word “ulaku” in this couplet to mean the physical world but the interpretation differs. The are three renderings: (i) The world begins with God (DZ,VS,GV,KK), (ii) He is the first in the world (MS,GU,DL), and (iii) (rarely) the source, mover or cause of the world (SS). "Ulaku" can also be taken to mean the people who live in the word, as it means in couplet 256. The point to be noted is the simile “all alphabets" (எழுத்து எல்லாம்) which is plural and the word "world" (உலகு), if taken to mean the physical world, is singular. It makes sense if we take the “world” in plural and the only way to do so is to take it as a reference to the people of the world. This issue has been taken up for a detailed discussion in Section 5.1.

The last objection to be taken up for a discussion is the occurrences of the third division on "Love" (Kāmā) in Tirukkuŗal, which many scholars hold against the Jaina principle of glorifying Asceticism. The argument is that Valluvar wrote on Kāmā and therefore he could not have been a Jaina (Veeramani, 2005). We know that Valluvar's kāmathuppāl follows the Tamil literary convention of akam (Internal) love poetry and has nothing to do with any sexual methods or any of that sort like kāmasūtra. There appears to be a widespread notion amongst many native scholars that Jaina writes should have been Ascetics or Āchāryas. No doubt Jainism and Buddhism gave importance to the Ascetic path (and thus called Śramana paths), but they also had laymen or householders without whom the ascetics wouldn't have survived and the Jain community wouldn't have multiplied! Moreover, Valluvar is not the only "Jaina" to have focused on Kāmā
It is also pertinent to mention here that Jains hold Lord Rsabha, the first of all Tirthankaras, to be the harbinger of human civilization (Jain, 1999). Above all, the Kuŗal is not a work on religious philosophy and sundry laws for it to be judged on this criteria. Kāmathuppāl would have definitely looked out of place in a Jaina religious literature, but the Kuŗal is not a work on Jainism but merely an ethical masterpiece. Many known Jaina authors have written love poems of considerable explicit nature than those written by Thiruvalluvar. Svetambara Jain Jayavallabha's Vajjalaggam, which is also based on the Trivarga of Virtue, Wealth and Love, has nearly 50% of its poems written on Love. Even the well known Tamil anthology of Jaina verses Nāladiyār has 10 quatrains on Love. To argue that a Jaina would be least concerned with Kāmā is therefore a weak one. 

3.2. Arguments against Saiva, Vainava and Buddhist authorships

Mohanraj (1983) also reviews arguments put forward by many scholars, especially those by Srinivasan (1979), against Saiva authorship of Tirukkuŗal. Some of the common arguments against the influence of Saivism in Tirukkuŗal are:
  • That Valluvar has not clearly said anything on cosmology and theory of creation
  • That there is no reference to the Triune in Saiva Siddhanta, Pati-Pasu-Pāsam (God-Soul-World)
  • That there is no reference to māyā, which as Vivekananda (Complete Works, III 419.3) describes is the combination of the three ideas namely space, time, and causation.
  • That there is no mention of the liberated souls attaining bliss in union with Shiva
  • That there is no reference to Saiva rituals and ways of worship
  • That there is no explicit references to Lord Shiva Himself
No doubt these are some of the common references found in classical works of Tamil Saiva Siddhanta, but as reiterated elsewhere in this document, it is not correct to arrive at the religious inclination of Valluvar by looking for the presence of such religio-philosophical ideas simply because the Kuŗal is only an ethical treatise and not a religious work like Tirumandiram, Devaram or Nilakési. 

Another argument against Saiva authorship is the absence of any reference to Shiva and that Saivism came into existence only after Valluvar's period (Veeramani, 2005).  These arguments do not make sense since Valluvar has not explicitly mentioned any deity by name in his work. Moreover, though Saivism as a distinct religious sect might have come into existence after the period of Valluvar, the cult of Shiva worship is as old as Yajur Veda (Tagare, 1996). We also see references to attributes of Shiva in Tamil works that predate Thirukkural (see Puranānūru - 1, 55, 90).

Mohanraj (1983) also reviews some of the arguments against Vaishnava authorship of Tirukkuŗal. The three references in Kuŗal which are often quoted in support of Vaishnava background of Valluvar are these: (i) The presence of the phrase "அறவாழி அந்தணன்" in chapter 1 which is construed as a reference to  wheel of Vishnu (Vishnuchakra), (ii) couplet 610 containing the phrase "அடி அளந்தான்" which is also construed as a reference to Tirumāl (Lord Vishnu) measuring the Earth, Heaven and Bali's head in three steps, and (iii) another phrase "தாமரைக் கண்ணான்" in couplet 1103 which is understood as a reference to the lotus-eyed Vishnu. If the word "ஆழி" in couplet 8 is taken a reference to "wheel", then "அறவாழி" would actually mean "wheel of virtue" and not a weapon as ‘Vishnuchakra’ is projected. It is more relevant to Lord Buddha and Jaina Arhat. The next two references namely "அடி அளந்தான்" and "தாமரைக் கண்ணான்" could well be references to Lord Vishnu Himself, but these are passing references as similes to emphasize the ills of indolence and compare the charms in the lover's arms. The emphasis here is on indolence and charms of arms, not the on Lord Vishnu, his legend and his heavenly abode. Thus Valluvar seem to have only used some of these beliefs which prevailed during his period to emphasize a moral point. A close look at these verses would also reveal that they have more often being used for rhyming or poetical reasons. For "மடி இலா" Valluvar uses "அடி அளந்தான்" and for "தாம் வீழ்வார்" he employs "தாமரைக் கண்ணான்". As Srinivasan (1979) says we cannot consider Valluvar a Vaishnavite simply based on the usage of these phrases, which are used only as similar. In Nāladiyār, a Jaina work beyond doubt, there is a reference to Lord Vishnu (அங்கண் விசும்பின் அமரர் தொழப்படுஞ் செங்கண்மா லாயினும் ஆகமன்/Even if the visitor be Lord Vishnu Himself, adored by the celestials-373), but that does make it qualify to be called a work of Vaishnavite affiliation. As Marudanayagam (2005) said Valluvar the minimum use of Indian mythology only when it is required to explain some idea forcefully. 

Mohanraj (1983) has not provided the arguments against the claims of Buddhist inclination of Valluvar. Gopalan (1979), while investigating the possible affiliation of the Kuŗal to Buddhist philosophical tradition, took five characteristics of Buddhism namely anātma (no soul), atheism, nihilism, pessimism and renunciation and compared these with the ideas found in Kuŗal. Since there is no evidence of nihilism or pessimism in the Kuŗal, he concluded that it cannot be considered a work of Buddhist influence. However, as reiterated earlier in this section and in section 1.1. on Brahminical Hinduism, the religious affiliation of an ethical treatise like Tirukkuŗal cannot be established by looking for the presence of religio-philosophical ideas alone.

Next Section IV. God and gods in Kuŗal


  1. Thanks. Interesting read but not very well researched. The arguments against saiva orientation are easily refuted. It's strange that there is no mention of parimehl aZHagar, considered to be the most celebrated commentator of thirukkuRaL, stating that the description of God having 8 Natures in couplet 9, I think, is in accordance with saiva aagamaas, even with him being a vaiNavar. God is spoken of, which is padhi, humans and celestials are spoken of which pasu, the world is maayay, karma is blatant, and ignorance is spoken of referring to aaNavam so padhi, pasu and paasam is found throughout. Last verse speaks of worshiping the Foot that saves us from the great ocean of birth and death, which, if one studies basic sithaandham, will know refers to souls being merged with the Feet of God which is liberation in saivam. If I'm not mistaken, this description of liberation unique to sithaandham. That last couplet in the first chapter makes reference to paasam neekum and siva pehru, the two two fold process of liberation where maRayppu sathi/gangay ammay/neermagaL (Power of Obsuration), upon spiritual maturity of a soul becomes aruTchathi/ummay ammay/malaymagaL (Power of Grace) and removes the soul from the world, and transports it to sivaperumaan merging the soul with His Feet and thus, it becomes one together with Him. In this couplet itself, there is more than one reference to padhi pasu and paasam. Furthermore, with regards to thiruvaLLuvar's 'criticising' of God, we have Saints like sundharamoorthi naayanaar Who used the phrase 'yehy yem perumaan' -- does this mean that He, a Saiva Saint known as thampiraan thohZHan (Friend of the Master/God), is criticising God? If one goes into Saiva works, this form of reverence where a seeming disgrace or negative is hurled against God, is done out of Love and is thus accepted as worship. We find this playfulness among loved ones even in this world. The ideas in general Hinduism and saivam is fairly different. For example, the trinity of brahma, vishNu and rudhran is not considered to be a trinity of God, in sithaandham, but rather, considered to be souls put in such positions by God sivan, and which is common in every world structure meaning, as there are millions of worlds spoken of, the are millions of sets of trinities; there is also a distinction made between Sivan and rudhran of the trinity where rudhran only destroys but Sivan performs all 5 acts of creation, preservation, disolution, obscuration and liberation. Saivam thus considers the trinity and other celestials, not to be Gods or Forms of, but rather souls therefore, he does not bring God down to the level of people but rather, celestials and, in saiva tradition, Saints are considered superior to celestials. If we're going to say that thiruvaLLuvar 'cursed' God to be a beggar, guess what? This can also be reference to piTchaadhanaar, the 'Begger' Form of sivaperumaan. For His Devotees, sivan Himself has such sympathy that He will make Himself into a Begger, as with the case with sundharamoorthi naayanaar, the same Saint Who supposedly cussed at Sivan. This is off the cuff and I'm not even a saiva student. Imagine those who are can retaliate.

  2. Kalan, your point that I have missed out Parimelazhagar's view of Kural 9 (எண் குணத்தான்) is not correct. Please refer to Section 5b of this essay (, where under Heading "5.8. Who is the one with eight qualities?" I have clearly said.....

    (v) According to Parimel Azhagar, the most of well known of all Kuŗal commentators, eight qualities attributed to Siva are: Self existence, Pure essence, Innate wisdom, Self realized, Habitually detached, Boundless grace, Inexhaustible nature, Infinite blissfulness. Rajasigham (1987) provides his own list of eight attributes of Lord Siva that appear to have no scriptural basis from Saivism.

  3. In the list of eight qualities Parimelazhagar has given, "Boundless grace" (பேரருளுடைமை) is worth looking at. No where in the Kural we see Valluvar describing god (or God) as பேரருளாளன். When Saiva work Thirumandiram says "எண்குணன்" (554), it is not a reference to any deity but to a human being who does not kill, lie, steal or drink.