Simplicity or Brevity ~ Deciphering the focus of ArutkuRaL-GnAnappAl (அருட்குறள்-ஞானப்பால்) !
There was a comment from a regular reader of Swamy’s posts, after ArutkuRaL ~ Gnaanappaal #62 was published, as follows.
“குறளின் சிறப்பே அதன் எளிமைதான். அதையே பின் பற்றினால் நல்லது.”
Translation: KuRaL’s noteworthy feature is its simplicity. It would be better if that’s adhered to.
This is the ArutkuRaL, which elicited that comment.
அசையாச் சிவமொடு விசையாம் சக்தியிணைந்
திசைநடம் புரிவதுயிர் மெய்.
அசைவற்ற சமாதி நிலையில் இருப்பது சிவம். அசைவிற்கு ஆதாரமான விசையாக இருந்து அனைத்தையும் இயக்குவது சக்தி. சிவமும், சக்தியும், இசையும் நடனமும்போல், ஒன்றிணைந்து எங்கும் நிறைந்த ஒரு இருப்பாய் விளங்குவதைத் தன்னுள் அனுபவபூர்வமாக உணர்வதே உயிர்மெய் அறிதல் எனும் ஞானோதயம் ஆகும்.
That which remains still in the state of samAdhi is ShivA. That which is the fundamental energy that enables any kind of movement / action is Shakthi. Knowing that ShivA and Shakthi are an inseparable presence like music and dance, everywhere in existence, as an experience (direct perception) within oneself, is self-realisation aka enlightenment.
Hmmm… That’s an interesting assumption 🤔 and you may well know Swamy’s view on assumptions – especially if you were fortunate to have been part of any of his experiential learning programs. 😂
But before responding (a seeker ‘responds’ to situations, never reacts to events or people, remember! 🤘) to that assumption, let’s ponder about these two KuRaLs, written over 2000 years ago.
1 ~ திருவள்ளுவர்
துப்பார்க்கு துப்பாய துப்பாக்கித் துப்பார்க்கு
துப்பாய தூஉம் மழை.
2 ~ ஔவையார்
சத்தியாம் சந்திரனைச் செங்கதிரோன் ஊடுருவில்
முத்திக்கும் மூல மது.
Obviously, Swamy doesn’t consider himself as worthy of even their (Valluvar & AvvaiyAr) கால்தூசு. So, the sole purpose of picking those two random KuRaLs from literally 1000s available is to simply illustrate that neither acclaimed poet chose ‘simplicity’ as their focus. Neither of these two KuRaLs can be comprehended immediately by even native Tamil (தமிழ்) speaking people. While the first one requires extensive knowledge of the vast tamil vocabulary, the second one needs a spiritually oriented mind that has dabbled in or is at least aware of ancient spiritual processes (sAdhanA).
This post is going to be a detailed response – reflection, rather – so, you’re requested to choose a time and place when and where you won’t be distracted from completely reading (and reflecting upon) this… ✍🤘
Disclaimer: ThirukkuRaL is so well known, worldwide, that it doesn’t require a blog from a nondescript writer like Swamy to establish any new facts about it. So, this post certainly isn’t a scholarly attempt by Swamy to decipher KuRaL, but a mere expression of a pov, arising out of his perspective, as a seeker who enjoys learning and pondering a multitude of things about the multi-dimensional Life, sans any boundaries or prejudices.
PraNAm to the reader, who is well-read and known to have tested waters on writing as well, for triggering this thread, which is something a few other readers (Swamy has so far got very few readers only anyway, heh.. heh…) may also have be pondering about this, in private – hopefully – but haven’t expressed anything yet, in public or private. 👍🙏
ThirukkuRaL (திருக்குறள்) is obviously the most popular book written using the poetry form of KuRaL (குறள்). Published over 2000 years ago, there are many amazing facts about this collection of 1330 poems / couplets, including its brevity (which is attributed to the KuRaL poetry format itself), breadth and depth of coverage (in terms of range of topics), wordplay (which many accomplished ancient Tamil poets were capable of) and timeless relevance (it can be practically applied for a better living, as-is, even in this digital era).
While living in this ancient culture, predominantly in alignment with the ‘code of living’ known collectively as Sanatana Dharma (சனாதன தர்மம்), can be categorized under four aspects or dimensions, viz. Dharma (அறம்), Artha (பொருள் [அ] செல்வம்), KAma (இன்பம்) and MOksha (ஞானம் / முக்தி), it’s very interesting to note that VaLLuvar focused only on the first 3 aspects and pretty much entirely skipped the 4th, i.e. MokshA, by not logically or topically grouping any of the 1330 KuRaLs under that ( ஞானம் / முக்தி) explicitly, in his magnum opus.
But VaLLuvar isn’t the only தமிழ் poet to have demonstrated mastery over this mesmerising poetry form. There was Avvaiyar (ஔவையார்), his contemporary, who is also said to have been instrumental in getting Thirukkural published (there was a stringent publishing process of any literary work in the Sangam period and Avvaiyar must have been a highly respected poet with connections at the highest levels of ruling kingdom of that time, to have made this happen), has also written a collection of verses in the KuRaL format, known simply as AvvaiKural (ஔவைக்குறள்), exclusively focusing on the MokshA (ஞானம் / முக்தி) aspect of life, including specific sadhana (spiritual practices) such as PraNAyAma (பிராணாயாமம்).
The fact that Thirukkural is more widely known and read, while AvvaiKural remains virtually unknown, has nothing to do with the simplicity of the format (otherwise, both would have been equally popular). It’s most likely connected to the relevance of the message to a larger segment of population, considering Avvaiyar’s Aaththi Choodi (ஆத்திச்சூடி) which is even more brief in its format than KuRaL, is equally or even more popular than Thirukkural.
Both ஆத்திச்சூடி and திருக்குறள் deal with living in the survival-focused world, which is what most people are immersed in, even today. It’s relevant to the commoner’s (and even the well-healed ones’, for that matter) travails and instantly makes sense to anyone looking for life insights and living guidance (apparently self-help books must have been bestsellers, even then, when millions of trees were spared from being felled for paper, because papyrus was yet to be invented). And it is brief and to the point (time management believers rejoice… hurray). That’s why Swamy chose to call his #thinkopposite interpretation of Thirukkural as “2000 Years Old Tweets,” with emphasis on brevity of the format, and not simplicity.
2000 Years Old Tweets – Swamy’s #ThinkOpposite interpretation of ThirukkuRaL ~ திருக்குறள் (and NhAladiyAr ~ நாலடியார்) can be enjoyed here…
Moreover, expression of anything in poetry form was the norm of the day, when these two KuRaL collections were written. There’s no mention anywhere – to my limited knowledge, at least – of any long-form prose at that time. So, when the only form of expression of ideas and viewpoints and experiences (and praise of the powerful – necessary for the poet’s not-so-wealthy livelihood) was in poetry format, even the common person – unlettered and educated alike – would have gained exposure to such work, because s/he would’ve heard about it, in a multitude of conversations, since social media of that time was actual face-to-face social interaction, with plenty of conversations, daily!
In order for something to go viral, it has to be brief and precise, not necessarily easy to comprehend. If in doubt, go to a nearby பெட்டிக்கடை (petty shop) and surf the headlines of newspapers and covers of popular magazines. Invariably all of them will be brief and to-the-point, written to grab eyeballs, but not necessarily that simple to immediately understand.
There was a hilarious story about a newspaper headline that screamed “ராஜாஜிக்கி கல்யாணம்,” (Rajaji aka Chakravarththi RAjagOpAlAchAri’s Wedding) making everyone curious with its brevity, but it obviously wasn’t that simple to comprehend. It was the wedding announcement of the popular playback singer duo of that time – Raja & Jikki, that has got nothing to do with Rajaji, a reverred politician and writer, who also happens to be the first Indian Governor-General of free India. So, unless one actually reads that article or gets a colourful version of it from someone who has either read or heard about it, one will be left with a sense bewilderment.
In order to ensure the emphasis on brevity is understood clearly, let’s revisit those two example KuRaLs.
1 ~ திருவள்ளுவர்
துப்பார்க்கு துப்பாய துப்பாக்கித் துப்பார்க்கு
துப்பாய தூஉம் மழை.
For those who consume food, it helps in growing / cultivating such food (grains, vegetables, etc). Apart from that, it itself is a form of food. That’s the nature of Rain.
This is essentially praising the bountiful virtues of rain, or nature – in the larger perspective, which is purposefully positioned as the 2nd chapter, next only to praise of God / Creator / Divine.
2 ~ ஔவையார்
சத்தியாம் சந்திரனைச் செங்கதிரோன் ஊடுருவில்
முத்திக்கும் மூல மது.
When IdA (NhAdi or prANic pathway on the left side of a being), which is Shakthi or (cool like) moon, and PingaLA (prANic pathway on the right side of a being), which is ShivA or (warm like) sun, combine and flow via SushumnA (central prANic pathway, along the spinal cord), that’s a path to Mukthi (ultimate liberation from the repetitive birth-death lifecycle).
This is essentially highlighting th virtues of PrANAyAma, the ancient yogic breathing technique, as a method / tool for transcendence. 100% unadulterated spirituality!
By now, it would be amply clear to anyone that without the help of an explanation, by an expert – in language, culture, spirituality, et al – it’s practically impossible for even a native Tamil speaker to comprehend either of thee KuRaLs. With that let’s draw the curtains on the ‘brevity vs simplicity’ bout, shall we… puhleeeeeeeze.
Now on to ‘ArutkuRaL ~ Gnaanappaal,’ (அருட்குறள் ~ ஞானப்பால்), which is entirely Swamy’s creation, purely based on the knowledge, information and wisdom (all three are very different in nature, though connected, but that’s a topic for an entire book!) he has gained over the vast quantum of time (still being) spent on all things Spiritual, including ancient literature such as KuRaL (both Valluvar and AvvaiyAr’s).
Swamy’s ‘intro’ note, while publishing the first ArutkuRaL, which wasn’t that long ago…
நானா ரென்றுளே தேடியொளி யறிவர்நடக்
கோனார் பதம்பணி பவர்.
Only those seekers who surrender at the lotus feet of the Dancing Lord Nhataraaja (தாண்டவக் கோனாகிய நடராஜப் பெருமான்) shall comprehend the answer to the eternal question “Who am I?” (நான் யாா்?) and realise the light of Truth, within themselves.
அருட்குறள் ~ ஞானப்பால் பற்றி…
மானிட வாழ்வின் நான்கு முக்கிய அம்சங்களாகிய தர்மம், அர்த்தம், காமம், மோக்ஷம் ஆகியவற்றில், திருவள்ளுவர் முதல் மூன்றைப் பற்றி மட்டுமே (அறம், பொருள், இன்பம்) தனது அற்புதமான நூலாகிய திருக்குறளில் விரிவாக எழுதியிருப்பது, தமிழ் ஆர்வலர்களை வியப்பில் ஆழ்த்துவது இன்றளவும் உண்மை. அவரது மற்றொரு நூலாகக் கருதப்படும் “ஞான வெட்டியான்” முழுமையாக ஞானம் பற்றியதாக இருந்தாலும், குறள் வடிவிலேயே ஞானம் பற்றி அவர் திருக்குறளின் நான்காம் பாகத்தை எழுதியிருந்தால் எவ்வாறு இருக்கும் என்ற வியப்பின் விளைவே “அருட்குறள் ~ ஞானப்பால்.” இதனை எழுதும் ஸ்வாமி ஒரு தகுதிபெற்ற தமிழ்ப் புலவர் அல்ல என்பதால், தமிழ் மொழி வல்லுநர்கள் குறள் வடிவத்தில் இருக்கூடிய பிழைகளைக் கருணையோடு பொறுத்து, ஒரு ஆன்மீக ஆர்வலரின் தேடலின் வெளிப்பாடாகிய பொருளை மட்டும் ரசித்து மகிழ வேண்டும். ஷம்போ.
About ArutkuRaL ~ Gnaanappaal
In the four key aspects of human existence, viz. Dharma, Artha, Kaama & Moksha, Thiruvalluvar has elaborated only about the first three (ARam, PoruL, Imbam), in his eponymous Thirukkural. Though the other tome that’s attributed to him, i.e. “Gnaana Vettiyaan” is all about the Moksha aspect, any true thamizh lover couldn’t help but wonder what if Valluvar had written about Gnaana too, as the fourth part of Thirukkural. ArutkuRaL ~ Gnaanappaal is an expression of that wonder, by a seeker who isn’t even a formally qualified poet. So, any possible errors in format (of the kuRaL couplets) may kindly be forgiven by the learned ones, in the interest of the purity of purpose of this amateur attempt. Shambho.
As has been explained with the publication of the very first KuRaL, ‘ArutkuRaL ~ Gnaanappaal‘ isn’t being written to demonstrate either Swamy’s linguistic prowess (he has clearly articulated that he isn’t a qualified poet at all, time and time again) or his spiritual wisdom (still a seeker, very much looking forward to self-realisation, after a decade of spiritual yAtrA). It’s merely an expression of a seeker, using the KuRaL poetry format, that started out of the sheer curiosity on why Thiruvalluvar chose to keep the entire Moksha (or GnAna) aspect of living aside, while writing his magnum opus.
VaLLuvar is said to have written an entire book on this aspect, known as ‘GnaanaVettiyaan,’ (ஞான வெட்டியான்), which isn’t in the KuRaL format. While AvvaiyAr did write exclusively about various aspects spirituality, that too in KuRaL format. But neither the so-called Tamil scholars nor the many Spiritual Masters of Tamil origin, ever refer to the latter, even in a passing manner.
For a native Tamil speaking Seeker such as Swamy, who cherishes (and writes + publishes – socially, of course) classical poetry, this was too much of a conundrum, ultimately leading him to start writing that unwritten 4th part of Thirukkural (left out for whatever reason – even if it’s only imaginary) as “Gnaanappaal ~ ஞானப்பால்,” and the collection itself (64 and counting… ) as “ArutkuRaL ~ ஞானப்பால்,” emphasising its focus area, i.e. Spirituality. While brevity is inevitable (it’s the format, silly!), simplicity was never the intended focus.
In fact, Swamy doesn’t really write anything to be comprehended by a herd of fan readers, which is, quite possibly, one of the – or the only – reasons for him not being a popular writer of the masses, yet! 😉
But even for a long-term writer like Swamy (writing something or other from childhood, if his memory serves him well, which it selectively does well, occasionally), writing ArutkuRaL (அருட்குறள்) is a vastly different experience from writing down ‘Dhinam Oru Padhigam‘ (தினம் ஒரு பதிகம்) hymns. While the ‘flow’ happens in the case of ArutkuRaL as well, there’s a lot of ‘thinking’ too, to cherry pick the right words to convey the meaning and to an extent even the appropriate rhyme (எதுகை, மோனை and the like).
In case of DOP Hymns, Swamy is purely an instrument – for the hymn part, that is (explanation needs thinking anyway, both before and during writing). Even for the recently published (after a conscious ‘pause’ phase) ‘Kumaran KundRa Kumaran’ (குமரன் குன்றக் குமரன்) aka Dhinam Oru Padhigam #239, that’s how the experience was. Here’s a phrase in point…
“மிகப்பெரிய தவத்தலைவி மடத்தலைவன் குறித்தகிரிமேல்...” was a phrase that just came out of nowhere and fitted itself in, while trying to highlight the historic fact (ஸ்தல வரலாறு) about the temple.
But that isn’t entirely the case with all the ArutkuRaL couplets. Some are literally chiselled to perfection by Swamy, including finding and fitting apt words. An example would be…
புலரிவர எழும்புலமு மடங்குமந்தி வடிவுடலும்
அலரியென விழுந்திடுமுன் விழி.
விடியலில் ஆதவன் உதித்ததும் விழித்தெழுந்து பரபரப்பாக இயங்கத் தொடங்கும் உலகமானது, சூரியன் மறையும் அந்தி வேளையில் அடங்கிவிடும். அத்தகைய ஒரு தினத்தின் காலையில் மலர்ந்த மலர் மாலையில் உதிர்ந்து விடுவதுபோல், அழகாகத் தோன்றும் தனது உடலானது இறந்து விடும் என்ற உண்மையை உணர்ந்து, அதற்கு முன்பாகவே உயிர்மெய் அறிய விழைவோர் (சக்கரம் போல் சுற்றும் வாழ்வின் சுழற்சியிலிருந்து விடுபட) விழித்துக் கொள்ள வேண்டும்.
As the sun rises, the world will wake up and get busy. Similarly, it’ll wind-up at dusk. On any such day, just as a flower that blooms in the morning will wither and fall off in the evening, the beautiful body of a(ny) person too can perish. Those who seek to realise the Truth must realise this fact and wake up (from the routine existence).
In the aforementioned KuRaL, the spark came from the fallen flowers (from the two flowering plants) in the balcony of SwamyHome. Then the idea got crystalized, almost immediately. But the word அலரி (meaning ‘flower’) was a deliberate choice, chosen after research, for ensuring the rhyme ~ புலரி & அலரி ~ while keeping the conveyed meaning intact.
Whereas, when the very first KuRaL was written, the Dancing Lord’s boundless Grace ensured he got an entirely out-of-the-blue new name in NadakkOnaar ~ நடக்கோனார், for which another reader who is quite conversant with Tamil literature, including Swamy’s hymns (the one who first pointed out the resonance between Swamy’s hymns and the great ArunagirinAdhar’s famous Thiruppugazh hymns, which Swamy himself was unaware of, initially), has actually requested an explanation! In fact, it’s that request that triggered Swamy’s initiative to include an explanation – both Tamil and English – for each KuRaL.
Here’s that very first ArutkuRaL…
நானா ரென்றுளே தேடியொளி யறிவர்நடக்
கோனார் பதம்பணி பவர்.
ஆடல்வல்லானாகிய தில்லையம்பலக்கூத்தன் நடராஜப் பெருமானின் திருவடியைச் சரணடைந்தவர்கள் மட்டுமே “நான் யார்” என்ற வினாவிற்கான விடையைத் தன்னுள்ளேயே தேடி மெய்ஞானம் என்ற ஒளியை அறிந்துணரும் திறனுடையவர்கள்.
Only those seekers who surrender at the lotus feet of the Dancing Lord Nhataraaja shall comprehend the answer to the eternal question “Who am I?” and realise the light of Truth, within themselves.
That brings us to the logical (seriously, Mr. Seeker!) conclusion of this really loooooong post – that too to offer an explanation…
Do writers – especially of the literary kind, such as classical poetry – write anything for easy comprehension by readers (of different kinds – in terms of ability, focus, interest, knowledge, etc) or simply to express a moment of experience or piece of wisdom, and then leave it to the reader to interpret what’s written, in their own way, simply because each reader will have her/his own limitations (of knowledge) and thresholds (of awareness)!
In other words, a(ny) writing of serious intent (content could even be comical, like this… https://prakashswamy.blogspot.com/2015/11/53-selfies.html), should let the reader to find her/his own ‘aha’ moment (like this… http://prakashswamy.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/whats-your-emm/, irrespective of whether that moment happens while reading, or afterwards.
The exasperation of a seeker in this success obsessed society stuck in the spiral of survival, that’s expressed in ArutkuRaL #51, is relevant for writers as well, as they literally hope (pray, even) for at least a few readers to really comprehend what’s written by them.
கல்லாதார் நடுநின்ற கற்றார்போ லுயிர்மெய்காண்
நல்லார்தம் பிழைப்பின் நிலை.
பிழைப்பு சார்ந்த உலகில் வாழும், உயிர்மெய் கண்டுணர்ந்த [அ] அதற்கான தேடலில் உள்ள ஆன்மீக அன்பர்களின் நிலையானது, கல்வியறிவற்ற [அ] அறியாமை நிறைந்த ஒரு கூட்டத்தின் நடுவில் மாட்டிக் கொண்டு தவிக்கும் கல்வி, கேள்விகளில் சிறந்த அறிவாளியின் நிலையை ஒத்தது.
In this survival focused world, the situation of an enlightened being or a seeker who is on the spiritual path towards self-realisation is similar that of a scholar stuck amidst a crowd of uneducated / ignorant beings.
Swamy is grateful for having readers – however minuscule the readership may be (all his writing, shared with just a few hundreds, on multiple social media platforms, is probably read by just a dozen or less, is Swamy’s guesstimate 🤣) – who take time to not only reflect on his writings, but also strive to respond, even if only occasionally. No amount of fame or wealth will ever be equivalent to the reflection (and response) of at least a single reader, to even a writer like Swamy, who doesn’t give a damn about fame, wealth and other such survival traps. PraNAm (and sAshtAnga nhamaskAram, with abhivAdhayE). 🙏
As both an avid reader and regular writer (certainly not a published / acclaimed author – at least not yet anyway!), Swamy’s experience (and preference, needless to say) would be the latter, i.e. offer only the essence of experience or a drop of wisdom, with an explanation as necessary, and leave it to the reader for comprehension and realisation, based on their own ability, exposure and interest. As a reader who reads a wide variety of subjects – not just Spirituality – Swamy wouldn’t have it any other way.
How about you… Dear Reader!
P. S.: The entire ArutkuRaL ~ Gnaanappaal (அருட்குறள் ~ ஞானப்பால்) collection of couplets, in KuRaL format, can be enjoyed – with Explanation, of course – at
The Dhinam Oru Padhigam (தினம் ஒரு பதிகம்) hymns are available at present on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ (to be shut by Google in April – one less platform to publish and maintain ;). They will soon get their home, i.e. URL – stay tuned…
Dhinam Oru Padhigam hymns on Facebook ~ https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10209199712060600&type=1&l=8503138195
Oh btw, both ArutkuRaL (அருட்குறள்) and Dhinam Oru Padhigam (தினம் ஒரு பதிகம்)… and SwamyQuote & உயிர்மெய் மேற்கோள்கள் and Swamy’s blogs (English & தமிழ்) are shared on WhatsApp as well, but only with a very small group of enthusiasts. If you like to be a member of that select group of readers, do ping Swamy on WhatsApp, for inclusion.
Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer… And, feel free to reflect on this post & ArutkuRaL ~ Gnaanappaal + share your pov as comments.