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A 'mArgazhi' diary: some reflections - 5.3

From: sampath kumar (
Date: Mon Dec 27 1999 - 11:37:54 PST

Dear bhakti-list members,

Today (27 Dec) adiyen again looks at Standard No:2 of
Kamban's "Benchmarks of Poetic Excellence" i.e. "Anra
porul taral".

According to this standard of Kamban a work of Tamil
poery must comprehensively deal with the subject of
"purushArthA-s" which are  4 in number:
(1) "aram" (virtue of charity) (2) "porul" (wealth)
(3) "inbam" (pleasure) and (4) "viDu" (spiritual

According to pundits and the "AchAryA-s", Goda's
tiruppAvai treats the subject of "purushArthA-s" in a
way that meets and far exceeds the above Kamban

All of us, at some time or other, find ourselves
smitten by the pensive mood when silently we pose the
question to ourselves "What am I living my life for?".

This is indeed a very difficult question to answer
with any degree of honesty or objectivity at any time
in our lives. But the Vedic religion gives us a very
simple and clear answer to the question. It says that
all of us live on earth only to fulfill 4 principal
objectives viz. (1)"kAma" (2) "arthA" (3) "dharmA" and
(4) "mOksha" which are the same as the Tamil "inbam",
"poruL", "aram" and "veeDu".

The fulfilment of desire ("kAmA") to derive pure
pleasure ("inbam") is one of the principal ends of
human existence. From the moment of birth as a baby
until the time it goes to death as an old man, the
soul is ceaselessly engaged in the search for
There is no doubt about this fact of life.  

Unfortunately, in the course of life, man's appetite
for Pleasure ("inbam") never remains constant. It
varies in nature and in intensity. It waxes and wanes.
At one time man hungers for objects of pleasure
belonging to the realms of the  "flesh" viz. wealth,
fame or power (i.e. "arthA" or "porul") or sensual
pleasures ("ulpa-kAma") i.e. wine, women and creature
comforts. At other times, however, man hankers after
the Pleasures belonging to the realm of the "spirit"
--- knowledge, ideas, social achievement, intellectual
fulfilment, emotional bliss or simple familial

In the course of thus having to pursue and attain the
objects ("arthA"/"porul") of the Pleasure-Principle of
life ("kAma"/"inbam"), Man employs "dharmA" --- those
modes of conduct needed to achieve the desired goals.

"Dharma" is essentially the sum of all the right
efforts Man expends in order to realize "purushArthA",
his goals in life. When such modes of conduct are
inspired by high purpose they are called "dharmA".
When inspired by ignoble ideals and low ethics they
are called "a-dharmA". 

Thus, within this ever-dynamic matrix of 4 principal
Vedantic "purushArthA-s", every man lives and strives
ceaselessly  to enrich his existential condition and
make it meaningful.

The power of "arthA" or "porul" to satiate "kAma" or
desire is extremely limited. Human appetite for the
pleasures of the "flesh" or "spirit" is voracious but
not insatiable. A point is reached in life when the
"inbam" of "acquisition" ceases. When that happens Man
begins to gradually savour instead the "inbam" or
pleasure of "giving" or "charity". A wealthy man who
did nothing but amass wealth all his life will
suddenly turn to giving it all away in philanthrophy.
He will set up innumerable trusts and foundations of
charity in the hope they will be his living monuments
after death. A man famed for some branch of learning
or  performing art will suddenly find "inbam" in
"giving back" to society his knowledge, his skills or
his acumen instead of trying to profit from it. He
will probably suddenly at the end of his career put
his heart and soul into teaching students, doing
honorary work, community service etc. Such "giving
away" of "porul" is called "aram"(charity). Conduct
that is charitable in nature is said to conform to
"dAna-dharmA" or ("ara-kattalai" in Tamil).
Now, there are some men however who (due to the Grace
of God or "purva-janma-visEsha-karma" or both) achieve
in life a rare awareness of the unique possibilities
of "purushArthA-s". Such men are known to easily tire
of the "inbam" that "arthA" and "aram" affords. They
see the small Pleasures yielded by worldly life as
erratic, inconstant and unworthy. Such souls are
variously called "gnyAni-s", "mumukshu-s", "seekers of
truth" etc.

"gnyAni-s" do not reject the world of "flesh" and
"spirit" but they do not embrace it either like other
ordinary men do. The mental constitution of "gnyAni-s"
is such that they are naturally led to seek that
"inbam" which is not at all of this world but of an
altogether different "Order" existing beyond the
boundaries of temporality and corporeality. (The
"purusha-suktam" picturesquely describes this "Order
Beyond" as "athyaTishta- dasAm-gulam"... "that world
which is at least 10 feet beyond the reach of this

Such exalted souls or "gnyAni-s" have no time for
anything else in life but the pursuit of "mOksha-
inbam" of "mOksha" or "veeDu" which the Upanishads
also describe as "mOkshAnanda" -- the pleasure derived
when freedom from the shackles of  bodily destiny
("prakriti-sambandham") is attained forever. This the
4th "purushArthA". 

"MokshA" is also known to be a state of existence 
which is beyond the pale of the "purushArthA-s". This
in SriVaishnava faith is called the state of the
"dAsa-bhuthan"... the state of eternal and blissful
servitude to the Supreme One in His Celestial Abode
("parama-padam"). Swami Desikan in his poem
"paramArtha-stuthi" spoke of this very aspiration of
the "gnyAni" for "parama-padam" in simple but
soul-stirring lines: (Verse 7)
     avadheerya chaturvidham pumartham
       Bhava-dhartE viniyukta-jeevitah: sann I
    labhatE Bhavatah: falAni jantuh:
       nikhilAn-yatra nidarshanam jatAyuh: II

(Any living being that transcends the 4-fold
"purushArthA-s" of life and dedicates itself wholly to
You, O Almighty One... such a soul does easily reaps
all the fruits of Thy World of Bliss which Jatayu (of
the Ramayana) too earned!"). 
     **********      ************     *********     
Now, it is not at all easy to comprehend and ingest
the Vedantic concepts of the 4-fold "purushArthA-s"
and/or to be able to put them to good use in living
out our lives. It demands a great deal of
self-knowledge ("atma-svarupa- gnyAna") and knowledge
of our relationship to this world and to the Almighty.

But the chief purpose of life, according to Vedanta,
is to understand and trancend the "purushArthA-s".
Once we do attain an intuitive understanding of the
principles of "aram", "porul", "inbam" and "mOksa" we
are said to be on the certain road to Godhead.

Andal's "tiruppAvai", scholars and "achAryA-s" remind
us, actually teems with several scintillating
references to this great Vedantic matrix of
"purushArthA-s" described above.

adiyen will study them in the next page of this
"mArgazhi diary".



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