The song below is a translation of an old Tamil song (at least 2000 years old) by “G U Pope” an European Tamil scholar. The Tamil song (or rather the first line “Yaadhum Oore Yaavarum Kelir”) is famous. A Simple explanation – this line is treated as the Tamil equivalent of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. As per the Hindu dated Oct 27, 2006 these words are supposed to be inscribed at the UN headquarters.
To us all towns are one, all men our kin,
Life’s good comes not from others’ gifts, nor ill,
Man’s pains and pain’s relief are from within,
Death’s no new thing, nor do our blossoms thrill
When joyous life seems like a luscious draught.
When grieved, we patient suffer; for, we deem
This much-praised life of ours a fragile raft
Borne down the waters of some mountain stream
That o’er huge boulders roaring seeks the plain
Tho’ storms with lightning’s flash from darkened skies.
Descend, the raft goes on as fates ordain.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !
We marvel not at the greatness of the great;
Still less despise we men of low estate.
Kaniyan Poongundran, Purananuru – 192
(Translated by G.U.Pope, 1906)
But one thing has been jarring to me. The first line ‘To us all towns are one, all men our kin’ is taken to mean that we are at home everywhere in the world and all humans are our kith and kin. But it hardly gels with the rest of the line. The next two lines are “Life’s good comes not from others’ gifts, nor ill, Man’s pains and pain’s relief are from within”. The contrast is obvious. On the other hand if we take the first line to mean “We are indifferent to the place and to our fellow humans” the lines gel.
Once I read those lines in original (tamil) with these thoughts in mind the whole thing seemed to unravel and the immediate link was to the slokas 54 – 62 of Chapter 2 of the Gita dealing with “Sthithaprajna”.
Gita, chapter 2.
54. What, O Krishna, is the description of him who has steady wisdom and is merged in the state of Sthitaprajna? How does one of steady wisdom speak? How does he sit? How does he walk?
55. When a man completely casts off, O Arjuna, all the desires of the mind and is satisfied in the Self by the Self, then is he said to be one of steady wisdom!
56. He whose mind is not shaken by adversity, who does not hanker after pleasures, and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady wisdom.
57. He who is everywhere without attachment, on meeting with anything good or bad, who neither rejoices nor hates, his wisdom is fixed.
58. When, like the tortoise which withdraws its limbs on all sides, he withdraws his senses from the sense-objects, then his wisdom becomes steady.
59. The objects of the senses turn away from the abstinent man, leaving the longing (behind); but his longing also turns away on seeing the Supreme.
60. The turbulent senses, O Arjuna, do violently carry away the mind of a wise man though he be striving (to control them)!
61. Having restrained them all he should sit steadfast, intent on Me; his wisdom is steady whose senses are under control.
62. When a man thinks of the objects, attachment to them arises; from attachment desire is born; from desire anger arises.
For those interested in the origin of the tamil song the Wikipedia entry on the anthology that contains this song
Purananuru (Tamil: புறநானூறு) is a Tamil poetic work in the Pathinenmaelkanakku anthology of Tamil literature, belonging to the Sangam period corresponding to between 200 BCE – 100 CE. Purananuru is part of the Ettuthokai anthology which is the oldest available collection of poems of Sangam literature in Tamil. Purananuru contains 400 poems of varying lengths in the Akaval meter. More than 150 poets wrote the poems. It is not known when or who collected these poems into these anthologies.
Purananuru is an excellent source of information on the political and social history of pre-historic Tamil Nadu. There is a wealth of information on the various rulers who ruled the Tamil country before and during the Sangam era (200 BCE – 100 CE).
Although there have been attempts at dating the poems of Purananuru based on the mention of the Mahabharata war, a more reliable source for the period of these poems is based on the mentions one finds on the foreign trade and presence of Greek and Roman merchants in the port of Musiri (poem 343) give us a date of between 200 BCE to 150 CE for the period of these poems. This is further strengthened by the mention of Maurya in poem 175 and a reference to Ramayana in poem 378.