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The Tirukural on Virtue, Love and Charity

The Tirukural is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago. Technology has changed; mankind hasn't. The tendency to strongly react to qualities in others means it's in us. Refrain from backbiting. "Meditation only comes when the subconscious mind has been released of all repressions."

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning. Nice to be back.

One of our events was in Singapore; we presented the Tirukural. For about a 3 and 1/2 hour presentation with a tea break in the middle. Long presentation, very interesting group. The Hindu Center sponsored the event, Hindu Center Singapore and they wanted a small group of 50. So they limited the group to 50 and charged a small fee. So we were in a room that just held about 55 people so it was a nice compact group. And it was interesting, you know, when you get, made me realize when you have people spread out in a larger place it's harder to get interaction going with them. Whereas, when you're in a smaller space works better. So we were had a very interactive time, lots of laughter. Told more jokes than usual I guess.

So we, the Tirukural presentation, I mentioned I think before I left, the idea of the four introductory chapters was the first part. And then after that we pulled two themes out of the householder chapters on virtue. The two dominant themes that are there. The first is: Expressing Love in the Home. And the second is: Acts of Charity, particularly charity expressed through hospitality and giving to the poor was what he focuses on.

So to show how it relates to Gurudeva's teachings, we related expressing love to the Positive Discipline approach and gave some of the ideas there. And I think many of those present were surprised that positive discipline approach to raising children fits right into the Tirukural. They hadn't really thought about that before. But, it's very strong. You know, it's about expressing love not just to the family but you're supposed to express affection to all. That's the goal. And even has one that says: "It must be to be united again with love that the soul unites with the body." Something like that I think is the verse. So, it's definitely a strong theme.

So we went through that and then we went through, we grouped the rest of the material into what I called: Self Control. Because a lot of the chapter are about controlling anger, controlling violence, not being envious and so forth. All of that's there. So, to give it structure because it's hard to organize in a way that flows smoothly, we categorize the chapters according to the yama. So we took the ten yamas and then put one or more chapters into each yama. And then presented them in that way and that seemed to work out very well.

The theme of it all was the relevance of, I mean the topic was called: Tirukural Relevance for the Modern Day. It's very interesting; Gurudeva focuses right on that very point in the introduction. We didn't, they chose the topic and they, I'm sure they didn't know it was in Gurudeva's introduction. But Gurudeva spends a couple of pages explaining why the Tirukural is relevant and it's basically that human nature hasn't changed. A lot has changed in two thousand years. You know, how we get around. Used to get around in walking and bullock carts two thousand years ago and now we use airplanes, fast going cars. We used to communicate in a very simple way. Not that much communication took place. Now we have the Internet and other things that link us in a very different way than we were two thousand years ago. So our technology has drastically changed but our human nature hasn't. We still have the same ambitions and the same weaknesses, the same problems to overcome, the same spiritual ambitions to achieve. So, in that sense it shows why the Tirukural is quite relevant because though technology has changed, mankind hasn't.

So one of the faults that Tiruvalluvar explains quite nicely, I like the way he puts it, he throws some humor in, and is backbiting. Which is Chapter 18, Avoidance of Backbiting. So, part of my commentary in the keynote, it goes like this, it says:

"Finding faults in others and sharing this finding..." (sorry) "Finding faults in others and sharing this finding with others is a hobby many enjoy. Have you noticed that it is so much easier to look for faults in others and complain about them than to see the same faults in yourself and change them." That's the point of course, right? It is a lot easier; I can vouch for that.

Of course, on the spiritual path this approach entirely misses the point. The goal is to focus on our own improvement and not be concerned about the progress or faults of others. So, Tirukural has three verses. The first one strikes me as being humorous.

"If men are disposed to spread the faults of friends, what deadly harm might they do to strangers?" Well, I think that's great.

Then there's some logic for refraining. As you'll recall, I think I explained it, Tiruvalluvar gives three rationale for doing something. This is the most common one; he uses reason. He reasons you into the understanding the benefits or the benefits of not doing it. And then the other two methods he uses are: it's just the right thing to do; this is what high minded people do. Uses that one sometimes. And then the third one is he used a scare tactic. Says: You're going to suffer a long time if you do that. Those who are motivated by fear, you know. So he gets those who are motivated by fear, those who are motivated by reason and those who are motivated by high minded thinking. He addresses all three groups.

So, this one is the logical approach: "If a man spreads tales of others faults, his own worst faults will be exposed and spread. " That's a very good reason to refrain from backbiting. You don't want your own worst faults out there.

And then, this is again the humorous. "If men perceived their own faults as they do the faults of others, could misfortune ever come to them?" Meaning, you know, we're so picky in the faults of others. If we were that aware of our own tendencies we couldn't help but succeed. But, we tend to focus that perceptiveness on someone else rather than ourselves.

So, Gurudeva has a lot of material on backbiting in the Trilogy. And one of the reasons, an interesting reason that Gurudeva points out that we normally wouldn't think about -- that we backbite -- is we have a strong reaction to qualities in another person. And of course, if we have a strong reaction to qualities that are in another person, not just a mild reaction but a strong reaction, it means that the qualities are in us but we aren't seeing them, they're hidden or repressed. That's the only reason we react strongly to qualities in another person. Otherwise we just say: Oh, that's the way he is or that's the way she is. But if we strongly react, we just really get irked by something in someone else, it means it's in us and we're hiding it from ourselves; it's repressed.

So, Gurudeva explains:

"A repression is a desire that is only found when an emotional reaction..." (Oh here, here let me start at the beginning.)

So this is Cognizantability which stretches the mind but we'll give it a try here. This is Aphorism 8:

"Some say they meditate while working or riding on the bus. This is a wrong concept of the word, a sign of emotional desire for attention, for meditation only comes when the subconscious mind has been released of all repressions.

"A repression is a desire that is only found when an emotional reaction takes place in the conscious and subconscious mind, such as dislikes, hates or fears. (Then the key point.) For we only react to that in others of what is locked in a corner of our own subconscious mind in the form of an experience we have yet to go through, either physically or mentally."

So that's the reason we react strongly. Gurudeva continues. He says:

"The subconscious mind analyzes a problem two ways: first from the plane of reason; second from the plane of intuition. Intuition works through but it does not use the process of reason. Intuition is more direct than reason, and far more accurate. The conscious mind builds us into a personality, desirable or undesirable. We can readily change this personality by releasing hidden repressions.?

"Repressions are unfulfilled suppressed desires, like those that lurk in the corners of the mind and pop out at psychological moments until they are suppressed again by the conscious mind. This is the problem we face before we can unlock the superconscious realm of the mind. This problem can be totally impossible, or it can be made easy, depending upon the approach."

Meaning: If we use our intuition it's easy. That's what Gurudeva means there.

"It is a well-known fact that when the mind releases tendencies that have long been suppressed, reaction occurs. This reaction is what we must anticipate and take into consideration at all times. It is the cause of new repressions if allowed to dominate the consciousness."

And then I say: For more details see Aphorism 8. Keeps going, gives examples and everything. But it's an interesting reason that we may be backbiting is we're reacting to something in someone and not realizing that that quality is in ourselves. Either in terms of a personality trait in ourselves or personality trait from someone else such as a parent that we haven't fully accepted or resolved. We're still reacting to it. So, when we see that quality in someone else we react to it because it's in our own mind in an unresolved way.

So that's the key is, you know: If you have a strong reaction to someone else think twice. What is in me that I see in them that I haven't fully understood?

Wonderful week.

Aum Nama Sivaya

[End of transcript.]

Photo of  Gurudeva
Rishis proclaim that we are not our body, mind or emotions. We are divine souls on a wondrous journey. We came from God, live in God and are evolving into oneness with God. We are, in truth, the Truth we seek. Aum.