Thiruvalluvar : Truthfulness

The Tamil poet and philosopher Thiruvalluvar is the author of a highly revered text, the “Tirukkural,” composed of over a thousand couplets on ethics, political craft and love. Although it is a treasured work in Tamil literature, almost nothing can be said with certainty about the author. Neither his birthplace nor his dates are known – Madras is often suggested but not confirmed, and estimates for his date of birth span nearly a thousand years. He is traditionally said to have been of lower caste, perhaps a weaver like Kabir Das, but there is no evidence to support this, and his religion is uncertain; scholars suggest he might have been Hindu or Jain, but Buddhism and Christianity have also been proposed. Even the title of his work is not sure.

Truthfulness may be described as utterance
Wholly devoid of ill.

Even a lie is truthful
If it does unsullied good.

Lie not against your conscience
Lest it burn you.

Not false to one’s own conscience one will reign
In all the world’s consciousness.

Truthfulness in thought and word
Outweighs penance and charity.

Nothing can equal truthfulness
In getting fame and other virtues.

To be unfailingly true
Is to be unfailing in other virtues.

Water ensures external purity
And truthfulness shows the internal.

All lights are not lights: to the wise
The only light is truth.

In all the gospels we have read we have found
Nothing held higher than truthfulness.

Translation P. S. Sundaram

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