Gajalakshmi Paramasivam – 30 January 2015
The Tamil Mind
Last night, before retiring to bed here in Thunaivi, Sri Lanka, I checked my emails one last time. There was one from Sri Venkateswara Temple, Sydney – regarding Thai Poosam celebrations – on 03 February 2015. Thai Poosam is a special day dedicated to the Tamil Hindu deity Murugan. There was mail from Christopher Pulle – the Lead-Coordinator of one of my forums. Chris forwarded a message from Dr. Frank Sebestianpillai, with the following message:
‘Of interest to Gaja Param and others as well?’
The subject matter was Tamil and is very relevant to Sri Lanka. The Communication dated 11 April 2000 is appended below.
To my mind, it was no coincidence that this email of April 2000 arrived last night along with the email regarding Thai Poosam. Yesterday I was happy to learn about the appointment of Justice Sripavan as the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka. I felt part of the appointment due to my own contribution to the Sri Lankan system of law and order including through the Courts.
Lord Muruga is known as the General of the Thevar / gods who successfully defeated Soorapathman – the Asura / the physically driven. Thai Poosam is related to this victory. Both – the gods and the Asuras are within us. The higher order of mind helps us enjoy higher happiness beyond the physical. I felt that the message from Dr. Sebestianpillai was from Muruga Himself. I identified with the higher mind of the author due to my belief in Muruga.
I felt overawed by the depth demonstrated in the communication. To me it is about the mind of those persons who wrote their experiences. If we are able to appreciate the work that must have gone into such outcomes – we are connecting to those minds. The more we live through our higher mind, the more independent we become. That is the life of gods.
Then there is the animal in us – living off physical powers. They are the Asuras.
Both – the higher mind that has transcended the physical – as well as the primary level mind that is driven by the physical – take different forms to the observer. In the case of the latter, the Asuran in us – is not able to raise the mind to the higher level – even when the person is an intellectual/academic. One expects the primary level voter driven by personal benefits – to change the form of the leader – as has happened in Sri Lanka – not merely because of the current President and his allies – but also because of the voter looking for physical power. Mr. Rajapaksa was that leader due to his armed victory over the LTTE. Now it is more about economic benefits. We have the parallels in the Tamil Community also.
Soorapathman – the Asura in the Hindu legend – takes many forms – including that of an elephant. Elephant is known to have the strongest intellectual power in the animal kingdom. But when intellectual power is used without paying our respects to those who made the discoveries that serve and support us today – it is also a physical power known as hearsay. The mind order of such persons drops to the lowest levels when due status is not allocated to the original discoverers. LTTE fell due to this and Mr. Rajapaksa also fell due to his failure to raise his mind order to the higher level.
Professor Hart states ‘To qualify as a classical tradition, a language must fit several criteria: it should be ancient, it should be an independent tradition that arose mostly on its own not as an offshoot of another tradition, and it must have a large and extremely rich body of ancient literature. Unlike the other modern languages of India, Tamil meets each of these requirements. It is extremely old (as old as Latin and older than Arabic); it arose as an entirely independent tradition, with almost no influence from Sanskrit or other languages; and its ancient literature is indescribably vast and rich.’
All of the above criteria would fit also self-governance:
(1) The practice ought to be ancient
(2) It should stand on its own merit and not be an offshoot of another government structure
(3) It must demonstrate strong connection to ancestral values.
Thesawalamai Law in terms of marriage and inheritance is a strong confirmation of self-governance by Tamils. But those who produced physical victories through use of arms – as an early option – failed to demonstrate their connection to such ancestry.
In 2009 – I wrote an open letter to LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran to surrender to Nallur Murugan. I doubt that Prabhakaran would have seen it. But the LTTE in my mind was influenced by it. Once we surrender to the Higher Power – we would become Observers. From then on – I became an observer of anyone who claimed to be LTTE. My mind was no longer influenced by them and v.v. Those who sacrifice earned benefits to help others – become common system – even when the others do not know it. One who claims to be of such higher mind would be able to accept such surrender.
If as reported through the ‘White Flag’ matter – LTTE leaders did try to surrender – but were killed in the process – then to my mind, that is confirmation that the Government Leaders on the other side – did not have the higher mind to accept that surrender. One who sacrifices earned benefits, develops the higher mind to bless when the junior surrenders. One who seeks to win through competitive action at the same level – would not see value in blessing the junior. They would prefer the physically visible victory over the other. They are more like Soorapathmans than like Murugan when they take positions above the higher minds that sacrificed earned benefits.
LTTE would have resorted to war as the last option if it had genuinely felt connected to Tamil minds of ancient times. In the Hindu epic of Mahabharatham – Lord Krishna’s blessings were sought by the higher minds of the minority side. In contrast, LTTE disconnected itself by punishing Tamil Political elders. At least from then on LTTE was no longer leading its followers towards self-governance. Physical level freedom is the best benefit for their followers. Separation and isolation is necessary to maintain physical freedom in a hierarchical society. This often happens through obsolete caste system also.
I observe that majority folks who live around me in Thunaivi – feel ‘free’ to express themselves at the emotional level. This to a degree was expected – given their low status in the caste system. But along with them the Vellalar/Farmers who practiced the caste system beyond functional purposes also separated themselves from these groups. Likewise Tamils and Sinhalese intellectuals from each other. They may call themselves nationalists – but self-governance is an essential feature of nationhood. One who depends on the ‘other side’ to blame – is falling short of this qualification. Any government formed by either side with such quality – would therefore be an offshoot of the other.
I am not an expert in Tamil language. But I fully believe in Murugan – the Tamil Form of God. I am a deep believer in Hindu pathway to the Higher mind. When I submit and pray to Murugan I believe I connect to those ancient Tamil minds. Then I live independently – even when I am in prison. Those who use hearsay above the voice of experience – are likely to pay lip service to Tamil while claiming to be leaders in the path of self-governance. This includes intellectuals who fail to attribute to their ancestors. Many such academics ‘trade’ information. Such academics in Australia sent me to prison for confirming my mind connection with those who were not physically with me.
The objective pathway to practice democracy does require us to ‘produce’ independent outcomes. This is in recognition of the younger participants not being able to comprehend the whole issue due to not having had the deeper experience. The outcomes produced by such young participants – need to be separated from the main and managed on ‘project basis’ – so juniors would be able to see the effects to know the values.
Where such independent outcomes are produced, the producer needs to stay at that level and not take up position above higher minds than hers/his. When they do take the higher position and this is accepted by their community – the standard of the whole goes down and majority are not able to think beyond their immediate circles. Tamils who attack such higher minds are damaging their own connection to the root – the Truth discovered by those who gave us Muruga – the General of gods.
Ultimately – we live off our minds when the body is weak and diseased. The higher mind would live at the higher level while the lower mind would look for lower and lower opportunities through which to enjoy physically. Likewise in a community like Sri Lankan Tamil community – the higher mind connected to ancient traditions – would be independent whilst the lower mind would keep demanding more and more benefits to become the offshoot of another system – possibly Indian Tamil system. When the mind we connect to is older than our generation – we develop the higher mind. The deeper the root that supports the outcomes we produce, the taller our mind.
Soorapthman surrendered to Muruga and Muruga split him into two and used his head to propagate. Hence the rooster in Muruga’s flag. The body of the Sooran became the peacock on which Muruga travels to have independent global view. Pride in ancestry needs to be used as the vehicle on which one travels to become wholesome and formless.
Statement on the Status of Tamil as a Classical Languageby George Hart
April 11, 2000
Professor Maraimalai has asked me to write regarding the position of Tamil as a classical language, and I am delighted to respond to his request.
I have been a Professor of Tamil at the University of California, Berkeley, since 1975 and am currently holder of the Tamil Chair at that institution. My degree, which I received in 1970, is in Sanskrit, from Harvard, and my first employment was as a Sanskrit professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1969. Besides Tamil and Sanskrit, I know the classical languages of Latin and Greek and have read extensively in their literatures in the original. I am also well-acquainted with comparative linguistics and the literatures of modern Europe (I know Russian, German, and French and have read extensively in those languages) as well as the literatures of modern India, which, with the exception of Tamil and some Malayalam, I have read in translation. I have spent much time discussing Telugu literature and its tradition with V. Narayanarao, one of the greatest living Telugu scholars, and so I know that tradition especially well. As a long-standing member of a South Asian Studies department, I have also been exposed to the richness of both Hindi literature, and I have read in detail about Mahadevi Varma, Tulsi, and Kabir.
I have spent many years — most of my life (since 1963) — studying Sanskrit. I have read in the original all of Kalidasa, Magha, and parts of Bharavi and Sri Harsa. I have also read in the original the fifth book of the Rig Veda as well as many other sections, many of the Upanisads, most of the Mahabharata, the Kathasaritsagara, Adi Sankara’s works, and many other works in Sanskrit.
I say this not because I wish to show my erudition, but rather to establish my fitness for judging whether a literature is classical. Let me state unequivocally that, by any criteria one may choose, Tamil is one of the great classical literatures and traditions of the world.
The reasons for this are many; let me consider them one by one.
First, Tamil is of considerable antiquity. It predates the literatures of other modern Indian languages by more than a thousand years. Its oldest work, the Tolkappiyam,, contains parts that, judging from the earliest Tamil inscriptions, date back to about 200 BCE. The greatest works of ancient Tamil, the Sangam anthologies and the Pattuppattu, date to the first two centuries of the current era. They are the first great secular body of poetry written in India, predating Kalidasa’s works by two hundred years.
Second, Tamil constitutes the only literary tradition indigenous to India that is not derived from Sanskrit. Indeed, its literature arose before the influence of Sanskrit in the South became strong and so is qualitatively different from anything we have in Sanskrit or other Indian languages. It has its own poetic theory, its own grammatical tradition, its own esthetics, and, above all, a large body of literature that is quite unique. It shows a sort of Indian sensibility that is quite different from anything in Sanskrit or other Indian languages, and it contains its own extremely rich and vast intellectual tradition.
Third, the quality of classical Tamil literature is such that it is fit to stand beside the great literatures of Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Chinese, Persian and Arabic. The subtlety and profundity of its works, their varied scope (Tamil is the only premodern Indian literature to treat the subaltern extensively), and their universality qualify Tamil to stand as one of the great classical traditions and literatures of the world. Everyone knows the Tirukkural, one of the world’s greatest works on ethics; but this is merely one of a myriad of major and extremely varied works that comprise the Tamil classical tradition. There is not a facet of human existence that is not explored and illuminated by this great literature.
Finally, Tamil is one of the primary independent sources of modern Indian culture and tradition. I have written extensively on the influence of a Southern tradition on the Sanskrit poetic tradition. But equally important, the great sacred works of Tamil Hinduism, beginning with the Sangam Anthologies, have undergirded the development of modern Hinduism. Their ideas were taken into the Bhagavata Purana and other texts (in Telugu and Kannada as well as Sanskrit), whence they spread all over India. Tamil has its own works that are considered to be as sacred as the Vedas and that are recited alongside Vedic mantras in the great Vaisnava temples of South India (such as Tirupati). And just as Sanskrit is the source of the modern Indo-Aryan languages, classical Tamil is the source language of modern Tamil and Malayalam. As Sanskrit is the most conservative and least changed of the Indo-Aryan languages, Tamil is the most conservative of the Dravidian languages, the touchstone that linguists must consult to understand the nature and development of Dravidian.
In trying to discern why Tamil has not been recognized as a classical language, I can see only a political reason: there is a fear that if Tamil is selected as a classical language, other Indian languages may claim similar status. This is an unnecessary worry. I am well aware of the richness of the modern Indian languages — I know that they are among the most fecund and productive languages on earth, each having begotten a modern (and often medieval) literature that can stand with any of the major literatures of the world. Yet none of them is a classical language. Like English and the other modern languages of Europe (with the exception of Greek), they rose on preexisting traditions rather late and developed in the second millennium. The fact that Greek is universally recognized as a classical language in Europe does not lead the French or the English to claim classical status for their languages.
To qualify as a classical tradition, a language must fit several criteria: it should be ancient, it should be an independent tradition that arose mostly on its own not as an offshoot of another tradition, and it must have a large and extremely rich body of ancient literature. Unlike the other modern languages of India, Tamil meets each of these requirements. It is extremely old (as old as Latin and older than Arabic); it arose as an entirely independent tradition, with almost no influence from Sanskrit or other languages; and its ancient literature is indescribably vast and rich.
It seems strange to me that I should have to write an essay such as this claiming that Tamil is a classical literature — it is akin to claiming that India is a great country or Hinduism is one of the world’s great religions. The status of Tamil as one of the great classical languages of the world is something that is patently obvious to anyone who knows the subject. To deny that Tamil is a classical language is to deny a vital and central part of the greatness and richness of Indian culture.
George L. Hart
Professor of Tamil
Chair in Tamil Studies
Professor of Tamil
Chair in Tamil Studies