Not Killing

Not killing


Partha Desikan


This saintly, wise poet lived in the Tamil speaking region of our country, approximately two thousand years ago. His profession was weaving, but his chief preoccupation was thoughtful writing. The only work available to his name today was probably the only one of consequence that he wrote. He did not need any other to become immortal.


Tiruvalluvar’s Tirukkural consists of 133 chapters, each containing 10 verses, in a kind of seven-phrase haiku format, two lines to each verse, the second shorter than the first. The book concerns itself with the three major objectives of man, the purusharthas of Dharma, Artha and Kama, assigned respectively 39, 69 and 25 chapters.  The 33rd chapter (In the Dharma genre) has the title ‘Not Killing’. This subject was obviously significant enough for the poet to devote one entire chapter to it. During his time, Tamil language was in its prime. Sanskrit was also studied in the region. Vedic rituals, study of the upanishads, Tamil martial arts and sports and the exceptional poetry, music, dancing and sculpture of the Tamils were all in evidence, all in equilibrium. Jainism and Buddhism had also spread in the region, the first more than the second. There was considerable emphasis given, notably in academic circles and spiritual debates, to non-violence in general and non-killing in particular.


The 33rd chapter has this to say:

  • Dharmic life is only that which avoids killing of any kind, for any purpose
  • Of Dharmas spoken of in scriptures, the greatest is the sustenance of lives other than one’s own, by sharing what is available to one equitably.
  • Not killing is the greatest of Dharmas. Not speaking untruth only follows it.
  • The scriptures proclaim that a life led without any killing is alone a life of Dharma.
  • Householders who stay in samsara and strictly avoid killing of any living being, are more meritorious than ascetics who give up a householder’s life out of fear of life’s hazards.
  • Death does not stalk a householder, whose basic Dharma is non-killing.
  • Rare merit consists in desisting from killing even to save one’s own life.
  • Fools regard the advantages arising from any killing as significant. The wise despise such gains.
  • Persons who understand the meanness involved in killing may consider those who kill as outcastes.
  • Diseases and poverty visit a man in the present, if he had killed frequently in the past.


Does the Tamil sage need elaborate comments? He does not seem to mince words.



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