Authenticity and Hypocrisy

Many have quarreled about religion that never practised it.
– Ben Franklin

Authenticity is touted as a key leadership skill in management. True leaders are those who are authentic – humble in accepting their flaws and staying true to their roots and beliefs. But that is easier said than done – thus hypocrisy is born!

Hypocrisy is often the other side of belief; it is extremely hard to do one without the other. Belief is normally born out of insecurity – we believe in something because we want stability in the middle of uncertainty.

The sense of security we get due to our beliefs extends naturally to the thinking that our beliefs are better than those of others because we are more secure, not necessarily realizing that others maybe reaching the same conclusion. This in turn leads us to question the beliefs of others, leading to hypocrisy and strife. This fallacy in thought is most apparent in the context of religion, which at the end of the day, is primarily structured belief.

Those who attain self-realization become aware of this eventual hypocrisy brought about by blind faith in one’s adherence to their beliefs and provide caution. Of course, one may ask if that itself is not hypocritic, but let’s not go there!

சிவவாக்கியர் (Sivavaakkiar), one of the 18 famed siddhars, seemed to have lived around the time when blind faith seemed to have a upper hand than a spiritual quest in understanding the unknown.

அறிவிலே பிறந்திருந்து ஆகமங்கள் ஓது நீர்
நெறியிலே மயங்குகின்ற நேர்மை ஒன்று அறிகிலீர்
உறியிலே தயிர் இருக்க ஊர் புகுந்து வெண்ணெய் தேடும்
அறிவிலாத மாந்தரோடு அணுகுமாறதெங்ஙனே

Transliteration
aRivilE piRandhirundhu aagamangal Odhu neer
neRiyilE mayangugindRa nErmai ondru aRigileer
uRiyilE thayir irukka oor pugundhu veNNei thEdum
aRivilaadha maandharOdu aNugumaaRa thennganE

Translation
You feel you are learned by reading all the scriptures and memorizing them.
But you don’t have the tenacity to follow them in your life (you just pay lip service).
Not realizing that the butter is inside the yogurt and can come out if churned,
You instead go around looking for it elsewhere – how foolish are your deeds!

Sivavaakkiar strikes at the heart of hypocrisy with his words! A person does not gain wisdom by simply reading books and reciting them. Internalization is more critical than retention of information. If we are not able to internalize what we have learned, we will simply be buying butter in the store and pouring the yogurt we already have, down the drain!

It is often easier to fight for your principles than to live up to them.
– Adlai E Stevenson

No one is born a hypocrite – it normally comes out of convenience. It is far more convenient to preach our beliefs than to actually execute on them. It is even less convenient to live up to them constantly.

Sivavaakkiar puts this hypocrisy eloquently.

நட்ட கல்லை தெய்வம் என்று நாலு புட்பம் சாத்தியே
சுற்றி வந்து மொணமொண என்று சொல்லும் மந்திரம் ஏதடா
நட்ட கல்லும் பேசுமோ நாதன் உள் இருக்கையில்
சுட்ட சட்டி சட்டுவம் கறிச்சுவை அறியுமோ

Transliteration
natta kallai deivam endRu naalu putpam saathiyE
sutRi vandhu moNamoNa endRu sollum mandiram Edhadaa
natta kallum pEsumO naadhan uL irukkaiyil
sutta satti sattuvam kaRichuvai aRiyumO

Translation
You pray to the idol in the temple by putting four flowers and going around it while muttering some mantras.
Why go looking for God in the idol when he is already inside you?
Like how a ladle and the pot wouldn’t know the taste of the food that they handle, neither are you realizing the One who is inside you.

This is a classic from Sivavaakkiar in his inimitable style – providing profound thoughts in a way that resonates with the common man!

Self realization is a far more difficult activity to do than the more convenient action of simply repeating a bunch of slokas that one has been taught. Though his poems mainly criticize pseudo-religionists, they equally apply to many other pseudo-ists – pseudo-scholars, pseudo-patriots, pseudo-linguaphiles, and what have you!

We have seen many instances of this in recent times.

  • Politicians who complain about fake news don’t seem to have an issue in distorting truth themselves and newsmen who complain about trivial obsessions of politicians seem oblivious to their own incessant coverage of unconfirmed details.
  • We complain about imposition of Hindi and how it kills Thamizh but don’t bother to say zha (ழ), la (ல), and La (ள) correctly.
  • We are angered by promotion of fairness creams in Tamilnadu but want to import fairer Punjabi / Kerala girls as heroines in Thamizh movies.

One may protest that raising awareness is a virtue by itself – after all, not everyone may be in a position to take action for a cause, but they can at least support them, surely? We may not have the knowledge and wisdom to learn scriptures, but shouldn’t we at least do our bit in passing them onto the next generation, even if we may not understand them?

Surely, there is value in such noble thoughts, but it can be a double-edged sword. The same argument of passing something without understanding can be made by the person who does that with their WhatsApp message! We don’t appreciate those in the same capacity, do we?!

Maybe the measure lies within the words of Sivavaakkiar – what matters is not what we do but how well we attempt to realize the value of what we do. Such a quest to value realization may guide us in the right direction. The sentiment reminds us of the wise words of Thiruvalluvar.

எப்பொருள் யார் யார் வாய் கேட்பினும்
அப்பொருள் மெய்ப்பொருள் காண்பது அறிவு

epporuL yaar yaar vaai kEtpinum
apporuL meipporuL kaaNbadhu aRivu.

Wisdom is paying importance to the meaning of the words uttered than to who uttered them.

In the current context of fake news and alternate facts, these words from ages back seem to shine ever so brightly!

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