Qualities of great men

Great men are distinguished by many qualities, foremost

among them being humility. Thayumanavar was no

exception. Saints always speak disparagingly about

themselves and do not trumpet their virtues, said D.

Gnanasundaram in a discourse.

Thayumanavar says that he lacks intelligence and does not

have patience; he claims he lacks the capacity to feel

sympathetic towards others. “This heart of mine, is it made

of iron? Is it made of stone?” Thayumanavar asks. Sympathy

for others, humility and patience are greatly valued.

Thirukkural says that in order to keep one’s honour intact,

one should have patience. It says that when one is

prosperous, one should be humble, and should one lose one’s wealth, one should remain dignified even in poverty.

Pointing out the need for humility, Saint Sivaprakasar in his

Prabhulinga Leelai drew attention to high walls which

prided themselves on their height, but were humbled when

they could not reach the sky. But the moat, kept telling itself

that it did not enjoy an exalted status like the wall, but the

moat was blessed to touch the head of Nagaraja — the snake king of the netherworld.

Thirukkural says that one must be patient like the Earth. It

bears those who dig it up. Likewise, we must be forbearing

even towards those who speak ill of us. There are three ways

in which we can help others — through the mind, through

words and through deeds. We can serve others by having

good thoughts. Speaking sweetly is service through words.

Good words must be followed by good deeds. Thiruvalluvar

talks of three kinds of help — that which is rendered to those

we do not know very well; help given to those whose status

is the same as ours; and help given to the poor.