by Swami Sivananda
In Mylapore, Madras, there lived about two thousand years ago a born Siddha and born poet by the name of Valluvar, or, as he is more commonly known, Tiruvalluvar. He is regarded as an Avatara of Brahma. He married Vasuki and led the life of a householder to show people the way of leading a divine life, a life of purity and sanctity, while living in the world. All his wise sayings and teachings are now in book-form and is known as Tirukural. These sayings and teachings are in couplets. Here are some of them:
Just as the alphabet ‘A’ is the beginning of all letters, so also God is the beginning for this universe.
Learn the Sastras completely and then act according to their injunctions.
The Anicha flower will fade by smelling but guests are more sensitive if the hosts turn their faces a bit.
Death is like sleeping in the burial ground, birth is like waking in the morning.
These couplets are 1330 in number. They contain the essence of the Vedas, the Upanishads and the six Darshanas. Tirukural is regarded as a universal Bible. It is another Gita, Koran or Zend Avesta.
Some aspirants repaired to Tiruvalluvar and enquired: “O sage, which Ashrama of life is better-Grihastha or Sannyasa?” The sage did not give any answer. He simply kept quiet. He wanted to teach them the glory of Grihastha Ashrama by example. His wife was an ideal, chaste and devoted lady who would never disobey his orders, but would implicitly carry them out. Once Tiruvalluvar was taking cold rice in the morning. He said to her: “O Vasuki, the rice is very hot, bring a fan to cool it.” She was at the time drawing water from the well when he called her. She at once left the rope and ran to him with a fan to cool down the rice. She did not say to her husband: “How can cool rice be hot? Why do you want a fan now?” She simply obeyed his commands. The vessel that contained water was hanging half way in the well fearful of her Pativrata Dharma Sakti. The aspirants noticed this strange phenomenon and the noble conduct of Vasuki, and were struck with amazement.
On another occasion, Valluvar called his wife at 1 p.m. and said: “Bring a lamp immediately, O Vasuki. I am stitching a piece of cloth. I cannot see the eye of the needle. I cannot pass the thread properly.” She did not say: “It is broad daylight now. Why do you want a lamp? You can see the needle properly.” But she implicitly obeyed his word. The aspirants were much inspired by the ideal life of sage Tiruvalluvar and the exalted conduct of his wife. They did not speak a word to the saint. They quietly left the place with profound satisfaction. They were deeply impressed by the practical and exemplary life led by the sage and his wife. They learnt a lesson that the life of an ideal householder is in no way inferior to that of an ideal Sannyasin who is treading the path of Nivritti and austerity in the Himalayan caves, and that each is great in his own place.
Dear reader! Can you find a single devoted wife like Vasuki in these days of modern civilisation and scientific advancement? If the husbands of the present-day behave like Tiruvalluvar, the wives will say: “My husband has become senseless. He wants to fan the rice when it is cold. He wants a light when there is broad daylight.” The wives will rebuke their husbands and fight with them. They will seek separation.
That house wherein the wife serves the husband with sincere devotion and observes Pativrata Dharma, is heaven on earth. That house wherein the wife fights with the husband and disobeys his orders, is a veritable hell on earth. Ladies who practise Pativrata Dharma need not go to temples. They need not practise any Vrata or penance. Service of husband becomes worship. They can realise God through service of their husbands. Husbands also should be ideal persons with noble qualities. Husbands are the Gurus for their wives. Wives need not get any initiation from any Acharya. Glory to such exalted ladies who practise Pativrata Dharma!
2. STORY OF A BANIA
A Bania once approached a Sadhu for initiation. The Sadhu said: “I will initiate you when I meet you next time.” The Bania pressed the Sadhu again and again on several days for quick initiation. The Sadhu totally declined. He returned to the Bania after a couple of years. He placed in his Bhiksha-bowl some mud, hair, urine and excreta and approached the Bania for alms. The Bania brought nice sweet-meats, Kheer, Halwa, etc., for the Sadhu. He prepared nice dishes as he thought he would be initiated this time by the Sadhu. The Sadhu said to the Bania: “Put everything in my bowl.”
The Bania said: “How can I place them, Swamiji, in this dirty bowl. Kindly clean the bowl and bring it to me. I will place all the preparations in it.”
The Sadhu replied: “When such is the case with this bowl how can I place the pure Lord in your heart which is filled with various impurities like lust, anger, pride, greed, etc. How can I initiate you now, when your mind is very dirty like this bowl?”
The Bania got vexed and went away in shame. He purified himself through charity and selfless service and got himself initiated by the same Sadhu after some time. The ground (mind) must be prepared first. Why do you bother much about Upadesha? Purify yourself, and get the moral qualifications, Brahmacharya, etc. The initiation will come by itself.
3. RAJA GOPICHAND
Minavaty, mother of Raja Gopichand, gave four instructions to her son: 1. Eat nectar-food. 2. Sleep on a bed of flowers (Pushpa Shayana). 3. Live within the iron fort 4. Enjoy with the most beautiful woman (Param Sundari).
The Adhyatmic meaning or esoteric significance of these instructions is this. 1. When you are really hungry, eat your food. It will be digested well. It will be palatable like nectar. Hunger is the best sauce. 2. When you become really sleepy, lie down; you will get sound sleep even though you lie down on a bed of stones. 3. Live in the company of dispassionate Yogis, Sannyasins and Mahatmas. This is the iron fort. No temptations will allure you. 4. Meditate and raise the Brahmakara-Vritti and enjoy with Brahman. This is enjoyment with the most beautiful woman.
4. STORY OF A PANDIT
Once a learned Khatha-Sastri, a Brahmin Pandit and a Chandala were crossing the river Ravi in a boat in Lahore. The boat capsized owing to the fierce wind. Both the Pandit and the outcaste were about to be drowned. They were drinking water again and again. The arrogant and audacious Pandit told the Chandala: “Do not drink the same water from the upper surface of the river which I am drinking. You are polluting me, O Chandala! Drink only the water from the lower portion of the river.” Look at the petty-mindedness of the learned Pandit! The Chandala is at the point of death. His life is trembling in the balance and yet the Pandit sees so much difference and entertains the idea of Brahmin-superiority! Do you think that the Brahmin Pandit will feel his oneness with all even after millions of births? What is the earthly use of his Khatha-Sastra, learning and knowledge? Fie on those miserable wretched Brahmin Pandits who are petty-minded and narrow-hearted! Glory to large-hearted Pandits!
5. THE JOLLY ANT
Once an ant that was living in a mountain of sugar met another ant living in a mountain of salt and asked: “Hallo, my dear friend! How do you do?” It replied: “I am not as jolly as you are. My mouth is always saltish as I am living in a mountain of salt.” The jolly ant said: “Come along now to my abode. I shall make you jolly. I live in a huge mountain of sugar. I shall make your tongue always sweet.” The unhappy ant followed the jolly ant to the mountain of sugar and lived there for a week. The jolly ant asked his friend: “How do you fare now, my amiable comrade. It replied: “Still the same as my lot, my good friend. “Wash your mouth well with this saccharine solution. Rub your tongue well with this sugar soap. Your tongue needs good brushing up. You were living for several years in a mountain of salt.” It followed the instructions of the jolly ant. From the eighth day its mouth became sweet. It also became very jolly.
Some aspirants keep within themselves some hidden subtle desires, greed, Moha and pride. These Doshas cling to their minds just as the old salt dung to the tongue of the miserable ant. They complain like the ant of the salt mountain: “We have no spiritual progress. We have no Self-realisation. We are not enjoying spiritual bliss.”
Rub your mind and the heart with the soap of Japa and selfless service. Eradicate all the desires and impurities of the mind. You will enjoy the supreme bliss of Paramatman.
6. RAJA JANAKA
Raja Janaka once commanded a Brahmin who committed a serious crime to leave his dominion at once. The Brahmin said: “O Rajan, kindly tell me the extent of your dominion. Then I will leave your state and settle down in the dominion of another Rajan”. Janaka did not say anything in reply. He sobbed heavily. He reflected seriously. Then he swooned suddenly. He came back to his senses after fifteen minutes. He then said: “I have inherited the state of my father. It is under my control, but nothing belongs to me exclusively. I cannot find my exclusive dominion anywhere, not even in Mithila and in my own progeny. Now real wisdom has dawned in me. I am now under the impression that either I have no dominion at all or all is my dominion. Either this body is not mine or the whole world is mine, and similarly that of others too. O best of the twice-born! This is my firm conviction. Stay in my dominion as long as you like and enjoy.”
The Brahmin asked: “O king! What has made you regard this kingdom as not yours or all as yours? How have you renounced the feeling of ‘mine-ness’ in this kingdom of your ancestors, which you are ruling?” Janaka replied: “Everything is perishable on the physical plane. Life is evanescent. Everything passes away. I could lay my finger on nothing which I could call as mine. I remembered the Vedic text: ‘It was anybody’s property.’ I reflected in this manner and so I have given up the idea of ‘mine-ness’. Hearken carefully now as to how I see my dominion everywhere. I have no desire for the objects that give good smell: so I have conquered the earth. I have no desire for tasty things, beautiful forms, soft cushions or beds, or music: therefore I have conquered water, fire, air and ether. I do not desire anything for the mind, it is therefore under my perfect control. I do actions for the Devas, ancestors, for all beings and for those who come to my door.”
Then the Brahmin smiled and said: “O king! I am Dharma in disguise. I have come to learn something about you. You are the only person to turn this wheel, the name of which is Brahman, the spoke of which is reason, which never turns back and which is kept to its course by the quality of goodness as its circumference.” (Anugita: Ch. 17).