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Thirukkural-On Virtue-Not Causing Injury-Kural 314

Innasey thaarai oruthal avarnaana Nannayam seydhu vidal.

Rajaji's translation is given below:

The best punishment for those who do evil to you,Is to shame them by returning good for evil.

The expression, 'To put a person to shame' is not used here in the sense of disgracing him; on the contrary, the idea is to awaken his sensitiveness. The pain felt by the wrong-doer in such a context is greater than any that anger, or a resulting vengeful act, could inflict on him.

Lao Tse, the Sage of China, has enjoined 'Requite injury with kindness'.

Biblical parallels are found in the following passages -

'Whoever strikes thee on the right cheek,

turn to him the other also.'

(Matt: 5, 39)


'If thine enemy hunger, feed him;

if he thirst give him a drin; for

in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head'.

(Proverbs: 25,21) modified in (Paul – Romans 12:20)

The last line here brings out the idea of “Avar naana"

The Holy Koran too has laid down

'Keep to forgiveness (o, Mohammad) and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant'.

Valluvar's advice in this Kural is complete, consummate and practical. A man who cannot rise above an injury is surely beneath the standard of a worthy man. The last word 'Vidal' f this couplet, is also typical of Valluvar, for he says, having done a good turn in return for the injury, forget it. The implication is that no particular result need be expected. It shall be a disinterested action of the Gita standard, as it were.

In the context of this Kural, I am reminded of J R Lowell's poem, 'Youssouf' in which the great and generous Sheik of the desert avenged the killing of his first born son by speeding the murderer to safety with enough gold and a speed horse. In his heart, Youssouf felt that in doing thus he was acting 'as one lamp lights another, nor grows less, so nobleness enkindleth nobleness.'

Youssouf's conduct in this connection went one step ahead of just forgiveness. It is in line with Seneca's view that 'the mark of true greatness is not to notice that you have received a blow' – that a wrong has been done to you.

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Story first published: Thursday, December 3, 2009, 12:17 [IST]