Great poets give us messages that are bound to be valuable in life. But sometimes it seems to us as if one poet says one thing and another poet says something that is totally contradictory. That leaves us confused, and we wonder which of them is right.

Poets like Thiruvalluvar, who wrote Thirukkural, were great philosophers. Otherwise they could not have come up with verses which touch upon so many aspects of life and teach us so much that we find useful in life. Naladiyar is a collection of verses written by Jain monks and it has many messages.

There is a verse in the Thirukkural, which lays stress on the importance of keeping good company. He who falls into bad company will soon imbibe the bad habits of his friends, and reforming him will not be easy. But Naladiyar says the company a person keeps will not affect him. Now which of the two is right? Will bad company ruin a man? Or will it not? Both the observations are right, said D. Gnanasundaram, in a discourse.

It is obvious to anyone that even a good person, with impeccable habits and moral uprightness, changes over a period of time, when he begins to associate himself with amoral people. A person may be good, to start with, but in course of time, the people he has chosen to be friends with will influence him, and in a few years, he will be unrecognisable as the person he once was. So Thiruvalluvar was right when he said bad company could tarnish even one with a good heart.

But this does not mean that the Naladiyar verse was wrong. Thiruvalluvar was talking about the average man. A person with spiritual powers, one who is out of the ordinary, is not affected by the practices of those around him. No matter what the nature of the people around him, he still remains upright and virtuous. Raw bananas are made to ripen, by packing them in neem leaves. Do the bananas therefore taste bitter, upon ripening? Likewise, the man of moral uprightness may be thrown in the company of wicked people, but will still not be affected by their ways. So the Thirukkural was talking of the average man and Naladiyar of the extraordinary man, and both were right in their observations.