The Hindu, August 4, 2016
Qualities of great men
Great men are distinguished by many qualities, foremost among them being humility. Thayumanavar was no exception. Saints always speak disparagingly about themselves and do not trumpet their virtues, said D. Gnanasundaram in a discourse.
Thayumanavar says that he lacks intelligence and does not have patience; he claims he lacks the capacity to feel sympathetic towards others. “This heart of mine, is it made of iron? Is it made of stone?” Thayumanavar asks. Sympathy for others, humility and patience are greatly valued. Thirukkural says that in order to keep one’s honour intact, one should have patience. It says that when one is prosperous, one should be humble, and should one lose one’s wealth, one should remain dignified even in poverty. Pointing out the need for humility, Saint Sivaprakasar in his Prabhulinga Leelai drew attention to high walls which prided themselves on their height, but were humbled when they could not reach the sky. But the moat, kept telling itself that it did not enjoy an exalted status like the wall, but the moat was blessed to touch the head of Nagaraja — the snake king of the netherworld.
Thirukkural says that one must be patient like the Earth. It bears those who dig it up. Likewise, we must be forbearing even towards those who speak ill of us. There are three ways in which we can help others — through the mind, through words and through deeds. We can serve others by having good thoughts. Speaking sweetly is service through words. Good words must be followed by good deeds. Thiruvalluvar talks of three kinds of help — that which is rendered to those we do not know very well; help given to those whose status is the same as ours; and help given to the poor.


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