Those who have read Shakespeare often quote his words about the world being a stage, and all of us being actors in life. Why are we said to merely play roles in life? That is because just as a drama ends and the curtains come down, so does life end, and we are soon forgotten, even by our dear ones, for they are busy playing their own roles in life.

Life being impermanent, it is important for us to make the best use of our lives. We should make sure that our short lives on this earth are of use to others. One who helps others may hope for kindness from God. But one who is indifferent to the sufferings of others, or worse, goes out of his way to harm others, will not have peace of mind. When we look in a mirror, we see an image of ourselves. The reflection in the mirror laughs if we laugh; it cries, if we cry. In the same way, if our acts are good, our experiences in life will also be good, Sarala Rajagopalan said in a lecture. If our acts are bad, we cannot expect our experiences in life to be pleasant.

In Tamil literature, we come across instances in which poets offer wise advice to kings on the importance of helping others. In Purananooru, the poet Mangudi Marudanar praises the King and sings of the impermanence of life.

He advises the king that he should properly use the wealth he has accumulated, using it for the welfare of others.

In Silappadikaram, the advice given to King Cheran Senguttuvan is also similar. Senguttuvan has been fortunate enough to be born in a royal family in this birth. So a lot of wealth is available to him. He is aging, and yet his thoughts are only on warfare and military conquests. Instead of thinking about war, he should spend his time thinking of ways to use his wealth for the welfare of others. Who knows how much longer he will be alive?

The soul is like a dancer, never remaining in one place for long. It inhabits a king’s body in this birth. In the next it could be born an animal. So, the poet advises Senguttuvan to use his wealth and his position as king not to wage wars, but to serve others.

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