tirukkuRaL and Buddhism

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Sat Nov 8 18:16:36 UTC 1997

tiruvaLLuvar, the author of tirukkuRaL, has been claimed to belong to
different religions. Recently, my research on the significance of the
potter's wheel led to a possible new interpretation of a tirukkuRaL which
seems to show some Buddhist influence.

In the first  chapter which is conventionally called Salutation to God, there
is a couplet,

aRavAzi antaNan2 tALcErnTArkku allAl
piRavAzi nIntal aritu.

Norman Cutler translates this as, "Only people who reach the feet of the
compassionate lord, the ocean of virtue, can cross those other oceans." This
is the traditional interpretation. I do not know if any Buddhistic
interpretation has been already given to this. But, it seems to me, that the
correct interpretation of "aRavAzi" is "wheel of the law (Rta or dharma)" and
not "ocean of virtue". It seems that vaLLuvar is punning on the word "Azi"
which could mean either "wheel" or "ocean".  Compare the following  usage in
tiruvAymozi, "aRavan2ai AzippaTai antaNan2ai" referring to "the one of aRam,
the antaNan2 who has the wheel/disc weapon".  Even though nammAzvAr refers to
viSNu here, the use of the three words aRam, Azi, and antaNan2 strongly
suggest he has modelled this on the usage in tirukkuRaL. Accordingly, aRavAzi
in tirukkuRaL s(1.8) should be interpreted as wheel of the law/dharma. So the
translation of the couplet should be revised to " Only people who reach the
feet of the compassionate lord of the wheel of the law/dharma, can cross
those other oceans."

vaLLuvar's treatment of "Uz" has been said to be based on the Ajivika concept
of niyati. Some of his other couplets are suggested to be Jain in character.
Is the concept of "wheel of dharma" in any other religion besides Buddhism?
Thanks in advance.


S. Palaniappan

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