The Role and Relevance of the ‘Family’ Concept in the Indian and Western Culture
Whenever we refer to ‘Indian’ (Bharatiya) culture, most people tend to understand that it relates to certain modes of worship, poojas (offering of flowers etc), wearing ochre clothes and sporting a religious mark on the forehead. However, the ‘Indian’ culture is actually based on the ‘family’ system and concept, established by our ancestors.
In the Indian ‘family’ concept, a married couple live as husband and wife throughout their lifetime. The principle enshrined in the epic ‘Ramayana’, “one man- one wife”, ie monogamy, is followed even today. When a married couple beget children, they are brought up and finally married to establish their individual families. This tradition is continued in India, even today, for ages.
Many of us do not understand the greatness of this traditional family concept. To appreciate this, we have to examine how the people in the West live as families.
In the West, unlike India, many couples have a ‘live- in’ arrangement, at the premarital stage. They may even have children from this relationship. After a few years, they may seperate, and get married to different partners. What happens to the child born out of their wedlock? The child ends up in an orphanage. This is the case with many families in the West. Under the Indian culture, such instances are unlikely to arise.
For a moment, assume that an unwed mother gets a daughter. The mother may wish to bring up this child. But as she grows up she comes to know that her mother’s present husband is not her biological father. This is the case with many families in the West. Under these circumstances, a grown up girl leaves the house not through a marriage as in India. She leaves the house, when she feels that she is not safe in her mother’s house. This is also true in the case of boys born through wedlock. Often such children, seperated from their families, live together even without getting married. The marriages in the West are not arranged marriages. These are decided by the boys and girls, as a matter of convenience.
In an Indian family, the parents undergo a lot of troubles and sacrifices in bringing up their children. In the West many parents are not bothered about their child’s welfare. They are concerned only with their own comforts and pleasures. In such an enviornment can you expect the children to take care of their aged parents? As a result, old-age homes have become a necessity to take care of the old people in the West.
In a family system prevelent in the West as explained earlier, who will be responsible for the education of the children? In India, the parents support the children through their school, college and even upto their doctorate level. In the West, in many cases the children have to fend for themselves. Most of them become independent at the age of 15 and live seperately. Therefore, these children cannot compete with their Indian counterpart. This type of freedom, often misused, affects the education of the children.
The Indian culture does not permit premarital sex (Avyabhichara). It is considered as adultery. A celibate (Brahmachari-student) cannot have carnal desires. A recluse or ascetic should not succumb to sexual urges. Even a householder cannot have any extramarital relationships. Such a concept keeps the Indian family system safe and undisturbed.
We usually come across many people who praise the Western culture. Those who advocate the adoption of Western culture, and method of living, will be bringing into this country the culture of premarital relationships, and the freedom to indulge in such pleasures. Along with this they also bring in diseases like AIDS. If one lives a righteous life, as prescribed in the Indian culture (Dharma), is there a need to fear AIDS?
The Indian Christians and Muslims follow the Indian culture, because at one time they were Hindus. Therefore they are really Hindu-Christians and Hindu-Muslims. The Christians in the West do not consider the Indian converts as ‘real’ Christians. Similerly, in Saudi Arabia, the Indian Muslims are not considered as ‘real’ Muslims. Even after conversion, many of them follow, the age old Indian way of life.
The traditional Indian culture, does not permit divorce and remarrige. This is what is taught from the time of Ramayana to what is taught under Sree Narayana Dharma. This is what constitute the ‘real’ Indian culture. If people live like animals, without preserving the sanctity of a marriage, can we call that a civilised society? Therefore the use of the word ‘culture’ to describe Western family life is inappropriate.
The Path of Dharma and Health
The ancient sages have proclaimed that our life is a pilgrimage towards liberation (Moksha). They have prescribed two paths to achieve this: (1) Jnanamarga (the path of contemplation) and (2) Karmamarga (the path of worshipful action). Jnanamarga is more suited to a person who has renounced this world and all worldly attachments. For the ordinary householder Karmamarga is more appropriate.
In the Karmamarga four Purusharthas (human values) have been specified, viz; Dharma (ethical value) artha (wealth or possession) kama (instinctual desire) and moksha (liberation). Dharma is the bedrock of Indian philosophical thought.
Indian philosophy teaches us that Dharma is the path, which when followed religiously, takes us towards Moksha.
Artha and kama are introduced as the spectacles (sights) on either side of the path of Dharma. Artha and kama should be enjoyed only by using Dharmic principles and in no way affecting Dharma. One who eschews the path of Dharma and follows either artha or kama, is likely to end up with loss of health and honour. At times, it may even lead to unexpected death.
Moksha or liberation from this world is not death. ‘You are Truth, Knoledge, Bliss’ has been said in Daiva-dasakam, which is a personification of the Supreme Being, who is the embodiment of Awareness. This has been said also in the Atmopadesa-satakam stanza 4.
nnarivumoradi mahassu mathramakum;
(Knowledge, the object known, and the knowledge of the knower, together make one primal glory. Within the radiance of that great omnipresent Awareness, one should merge and become that alone.)
Even after attainment of Jnana (knowledge of the Supreme) some continue to live in this world. Great souls like Gurudeva come under this group. This state is called Jeevanmuktha (liberated while living). A Jeevanmuktha can continue to live as a householder or as a recluse. Sages like Vasista and Agasthya are such holy men who have lived as householders after attaining Jnana.
Of the four human values, artha and kama relate to worldly goals in life, and the other two to spiritual values or goals. When the ancient sages advised that worldly pursuits for possessions and to satisfy desires, should be done within the ambit of Dharma, they had synergized both the worldly and spiritual values in life. The new generation which apes the western culture does not understand the significance of this. That is the sad state of affairs today.
Man must be able to discriminate between right and wrong. We learn from the Dharmasastras (religious law books written about the codes of conduct. eg: Sreenarayana-dharmam) to enable us to do this. In other words, we must do what is expected of us as duties, and avoid such deeds which are prohibited by religious codes. This also applies to what we see, hear and speak, ie. discriminate between right and wrong.When it comes to food, we should consume only those items which are permitted (sattvic food) and keep away from bad or forbidden foods.
The Gurudeva has clarified in Atmopadesa-satakam stanzas 24 and 25 when an action gets considered as good or bad, from the dharmic angle.
‘What each performs for the happiness of the self, should be conducive to the happiness of others’.
nnavayaparannu sukhathinay varenam.)
That means, it should be for the benefit or welfare of the consumer. For example, a teacher tutors his students. Many of them study and pass with flying colours. Some of them may even become high ranking officers far above the level of the teacher. Here, what a person (a teacher) performs for his happy living, provides comfortable living to others. Such an action is right, and it is Dharma.
In stanza 25 the Gurudeva says:
Remember an action good for one person and brings misery to another is opposed to the Self’.
(oruvanu nallatum anyanallalum che-
When a person makes and sell hallucinogenic drugs, he makes (easy) money. But the person who consumes such products ends up in misery, ie. the consumer is destroyed by this action. Such a profession or deed is adharma (transgresses the divine law). ‘Atma-virodhi’ means that which is an enemy of humanity or that which leads to utter disaster of the soul. This is also true of manufacturers of illicit liquor, poppy cultivation, drug peddlers. After this the Guru continues by saying:
‘Those who give great suffering to another will fall in the burning sea of hell and perish’.
reri narakabdhiyil veenerinjidunnu.)
What a man sows, he reaps. One who sows sorrow (misery) reaps sorrow. One who sows hatred reaps the same. One who sows joy reaps joy. This is the immutable Law of Karma. This cannot be violated.
In this context, the followers of the Gurudeva have to understand one crucial point. If we sow hatred we reap hatred. If we wish to get respect we can obtain it only if we show respect to others. The sooner this fact is recognized by those who wage wars in the name of castes, the better it is for their good.
Even the incarnations of God have been subjected to the law of Karma. If we read the Puranas, this can be verified. As the Bhaktakavi Poomthanam sang: ‘It is certain that not even Brahma (the creator) can break away from the shackles of Karma’ (Jnanapana). The Dharmasastras have proclaimed:- Don’t sow sins and reap sins; don’t sow violence and beget violence; but sow Dharma (righteous actions) and reap the same.
How one should observe the basic (general) rules of conduct has been introduced by Gurudeva in two parts: Dharma-panchakam (the five tenets of Dharma) and Sudhi-panchakam (the five tenets of purity), as part of Sreenarayana-dharma. The five codes (creeds) of Dharma are: ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth), astheya (non-stealing), avyabhichara (un-adultery), and madyavarjana (abstemiousness).
Ahimsa refers to non-injury to all creatures, through thoughts, speech or deed. Even killing without actual taking away life is a form of slaughter. Those who indulge in killing will ultimately get killed themselves (One who lives by the sword, shall die by the sword). This is the law of Karma. Therefore if you value your life avoid killing. This is why the Gurudeva has recommended Ahimsa-dharmam (the code of non-violence to others). There is no logic in saying ‘I only eat (what is killed by others) but don’t kill’. It is the consumer who motivates (prompts) the killer in his action (consumption of meat promotes and sustains slaughterhouses). The gurudeva has clarified this in Jeeva-karunya-panchakam. ‘The non-killing vow is great indeed,
And, greater still, not-eating to observe’.
Even subjecting one’s mind and body to discomfort and abuse, is also a form of violence. If one destroys himself gradually like a melting candle, he is violating the principle of Ahimsa. But if one stands like an oil lamp and spreads light (goodness/benefit), it gets well with the principle of Ahimsa. In martyrdom, one really violates the code of Ahimsa.
There are fools and ignorant people who put forward hollow arguments to justify their sins. ‘When you eat what is killed, your sins are atoned’ or ‘If you make confessions (admit your wrong doings) you are forgiven’. These are lame excuses, because even the Bible says ‘As you sow, so shall you reap’. The Ramayana says: ‘Whatever deeds you do repeatedly, you will have to bear the consequences of such actions. There is no escape from this’.
(thanthan nirantharam cheyyunna karmangal, thanthananubhavicheedukenne varoo)
Truth means the Supreme Truth. The poet Pomthanam wrote the same as: ‘Truth is nothing but Brahman (Awareness). This is believed by the noble ones’. The Dharmasastras exhorts, ‘Satyam vada, Dharmam chara’ (speak the Truth; practice righteousness).
Astheyam means non-stealing or coveting the possession of others, ie. what does not belong to you rightfully. When one acquires wealth or objects of his desire, it should be done without violating the principles of Dharma. When Sitadevi wished to possess the golden deer, it lead to her misery.
In order to earn money (wealth) by any means people in their youth often overdo this, at the cost of their health. In order to recoup the lost health, they have to spend a lot of money later. Finally they end up losing both money and health. These are real examples seen in our daily lives.
If one looks (peers) at a women with lust in mind, or flirts with them, or has illicit relationships, then he is committing adultery in one form or the other. By such acts he may lose his name, fame, status, money, his discriminating power, good conduct, his ancestral image or glory, and perhaps, even his life, prematurely. Desire should be for intellectual satisfaction and for spiritual unity. It should not be mad infatuation. This is the basis of Indian philosophy and tenets.
The story of Ahalya in Ramayana shows that though she was a virtuous woman unwittingly deceived and seduced by Indra, her immoral conduct led to her fall. Her husband sage Gautama cursed her to become a stone. She was restored to her original form by Rama. Shurpanakha a demoness under the influence of her uncontrollable infatuation lost her nose and breasts.
Unbridled sexual desire, which does not fall under Dharma has created its progeny in the form of the monster AIDS. Even today this monster taunts and teases scientists who are trying to deal with AIDS. In excess, anything, even ambrosia is not good. There is no need to explain the consequences of uncontrolled sexual desires and relationships, any further.
Abstemiousness includes avoiding the use of items like liquor, opium, marijuana and tobacco. All these are mood elevators giving a false sense of pleasure (euphoria). An inebriated person abuses and harms both his mind and body. When he goes out of control, she starts abusing and harassing others. When one consumes liquor what he gets is not pleasure but mental imbalance. It is a temporary loss of sanity. It is a waste of time to advise such a person about righteousness, when he is not in his senses.
Today drugs have turned out to be far more fatal intoxicants or mood elevators than liquor. Those who have become slave to this habit through addiction do not hesitate to stoop down to any level to get money to buy drugs. (men will do any menial jobs, and women sell their body).
When a group of drunkards meet their topic of discussion will be liquor or liquor related subjects. This is true of others involved in similar addictions. Factual knowledge or reality is never a subject of importance to them. In this context, the company of virtuous people plays a significant role in reforming them. When Ratnakara, the hunter, had the good fortune to meet the Sapta Rishis (seven sages), he turned a new leaf in his life and became the reformed sage Valmiki. Many great souls who had the good fortune to live and work with the Gurudeva became immortal. There are also instances of people who were fortunate to meet the Gurudeva at least once in their life time and thus get over their unending sorrows. All these examples prove the greatness of sat-sang (the company or proximity to spiritually awakened people).
The four codes of conduct mentioned in Dharma-panchakam, namely, honesty, non-stealing, un-adultery and abstemiousness (temperance) fall under non-violence. In other words, falsehood hunts someone or other. Adultery is an indirect violence against morality or against one’s spouse. Consumption of liquor tantamount to abusing or injuring one’s body and mind. Hence the Dharma-sastra exhorts, ‘Ahimsa Paramo Dharma’ (Non-violence is the greatest Dharma). In order to clarify the concept of Ahimsa, the Gurudeva has taken the trouble to compose Jeeva-karunya-panchakam (The five verses of compassion towards living creatures) and Anukamba-dasakam (The ten verses on sympathy).
Kaala is the Lord of Dharma. Kaala means ‘Time’ and therefore the god Kaala is the cause of and ruler of all things and thus gives form to time, which otherwise is eternal and unlimited. There is a limit to which adharma is permissible for all. When the pot of sins becomes full with commitment of actions violating moral codes of conduct, premature death occurs. To avoid such a predicament, one has to remain steadfast on the path of Dharma.
Sudhi-panchakam deals with purity of the body, mind, speech, sense organs and the home. The Gita treats body as a temple (B.G. 13.1). When the temple gets desecrated, the inmate (Kshetrajna ie. the soul) leaves the body. That is called death. If you kill and eat, it is violation of Dharma. One who is prone to killing ultimately meets with his own death. Hence it is appropriate to turn to natural foods, which does not cause loss of lives or killing animals.
The purity of body means external and internal purity. Internal purity means purity of food and drinks.
The body is made of five basic elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether). Gurudeva has dealt with this beautifully in Pindanandi stanza 2.
(The earth, water, fire, air and ether, You combined these in specific proportions, put in an enclosed room, alit the fire, protected me from the tormenting Goddess by giving the nectar and reared me from a lump of flesh).
(mannum jalam kanalum ambaramodu kaattu
dannppeduthumoru devatayinkal ninnen
pindathinannamrutu nalki valartha sambho!)
The first line of the stanza refers to the five elements. The body which is composed of these five elements has, the same five elements as its food, but in different forms. Fasting is equivalent to consumption of ether. Normal breathing and pranayama (controlled breathing) involves the consumption of air. Sun baths and Surya-namaskar (prostration to the sun god) are forms of consuming fire (heat). Drinking water, water therapy and bathing in water amount to consumption of water. The fifth element earth gets into the human system as solid foods or as medicines.
Man should eat to live and not live to eat. Once a person crosses thirty years in age, he has to inevitably control his diet. The opulent make a grave mistake in this matter. Therefore they are prone to diseases like diabetes, hypertension and to premature death. A body, in which air does not enter (eating too much), is like a house without ventilation. When the poor die of starvation, the rich die from over eating. People who eat meat after killing animals, or harass humans (another form of killing) die from diseases like heart attack, prematurely. One may go to the extent of interpreting this as what is said in Dharmasastra ‘The killer will get killed ultimately’.
There is a belief among Hindus, that if a corpse enters a temple, the temple gets desecrated. From the same angle, can a person who eats meat or fish (corpses of animals) enter a temple? Does not eating meat amount to desecrating the ‘temple’ of the human body?
The basis of all actions is the thoughts behind them. If the mind and thoughts are good or noble, everything will turn out to be good. Upasanamarga is prescribed for the purity of the mind, with this in view.
If one does not control his speech, at times it may bring bodily harm. Those who have the habit of spreading false rumours or scandals must know this. Dharmasastra exhorts: ‘One should say only what pleases others. Even if something is true, but it hurts someone, it must not be uttered. This is the rule of eternal Dharma’. The Gurudeva has said: ‘If a word has to be pure, it must be true, beneficial to others and with equal attitude towards all people’.
Indriyasudhi (purity of organs of sense and actions) means that the organs must function within the code of conduct prescribed by Dharma. This includes avoiding prohibited or obscene sights, and not listening to what should not be heard. This also includes those actions which create scare (fear) in others. ‘The organs should not be abused or pampered. One should keep away from what is not normally appropriate’. The Gurudeva said that the above actions purify the sense and action organs.
The kitchen is as important to a home, as heart is to man. If the kitchen is unhygienic, it will not provide health to the inmates of the house. We should understand that Grihasudhi (cleanliness of the home) means cleanliness of the internal and external environment in a home. This includes availability of pure air and clean water. The kitchen is mentioned specifically, only as an example to carry home the point. ‘The inside of the house should be accessible to sunlight and good ventilation. All rotten and rancid materials should be discarded and the house and its environs must be kept spotlessly clean. One should not commit nuisance in the vicinity of the house. It is good to burn incense sticks or other perfumery in the evening around dusk’. This is what the Gurudeva has said on ‘Grihasudhi’.
The Gurudeva has further mentioned that those who observe and follow this Sudhipanchakam which provides health, long life, and joy and is beneficial to the soul (mental peace), will become energetic, famous, healthy and lead a long life.
The path of Dharma is the same as the path of good health. In other words acquiring wealth and objects of desires should be done without being detrimental to one’s health. Therefore those who are concerned (or think about being healthy) should first think about righteous way of living following the codes of conduct of Dharma. Where Dharma-panchakam and Sudhi-panchakam does not exist, it is impossible to have health. During the time of Mahabali, it is said, ‘There were no sorrows or diseases and no infant mortality.’ (aadhikal vyadhikalonnumilla, balamaranangal kelpanilla.) The reason is simple, Dharma flourished in those times.
Today the sick are increasing in number. The main reason for this is the deterioration of Dharmic way of life. Science has provided man with all types of comforts. But, to what effect? They are not really beneficial to him since there is violation of Dharma. The West are looking towards the East to remedy this situation. But the Indians are aping the west!
If a patient thinks that the doctor will take care of everything regarding health, so long as he takes the medicines as prescribed. This wrong notion needs to be corrected. We say often, ‘If I do my half, the other half God will do’. This is also true of a doctor’s treatment of a patient. The patient should think, ‘I shall do my part, and the doctor take care of the rest’. At this juncture it worth remembering the concept of pathiyam (dietary regimen or restrictions). Ayurveda says, ‘Without medicines but with proper dietary control it is possible to cure diseases, but without proper dietarycontroleven hundred doctors are of no use to cure a disease’.
Without Dharma, science is a demon, and the scientist is a devilish intellect. The biggest handicap of allopathy lies in that it is not based on Dharma. Therefore, such doctors can overcome this shortcoming by studying Sreenarayana-dharma. In fact one must study Dharma first, and then medical science.
In the 8th chapter the Gurudeva has included the actions required to make amends for errors and omissions resulting from wrongdoings while observing Dharma-panchakam and Sudhi-panchakam. These are in the form of 5 yajnas ( yajna means worship or sacrifice, and also homage). There is an old adage, ‘The sins committed in various births will come as diseases or suffering’. Here it is mentioned that one can find remedial solutions to his past sins and recoup his health. The five yajnas are: Brahmayajnam, Devayajnam, Pitruyajnam, Manushayajnam and Bhootayajnam.
Brahmayajnam (Homage to sages). This is learning and teaching Brahmavidya (the knowledge of Brahman, the ultimate Truth). At the individual level it means the daily study of sacred scriptures and sharing this knowledge with others. This includes chanting of holy names or mantras (japa). Even a woman in her periods can chant these mantras. Without japa life is like a gruel without salt (seasoning). (It will be bland and tasteless and hence not enjoyable.)
Devayajnam (Homage to Gods). This is to please Gods. This includes rites prescribed in the Vedic texts, like homa (sacrificial fire). Those who cannot perform homam my light agarbathis (incense sticks), camphor etc. This homage is to recognize the powers that guide the world and the evolutions of man and his world.
Pitruyajna (Homage to ancestors). This is offering libations and the like to one’s forefathers regularly, as prescribed. This includes offering of rice balls (pinda) and water (tharpanam) to the family line and to progenitors of mankind (also called shraddha).
Manushayajna (Homage to humans) This includes feeding of guests, the poor, servants, needy students and all forms of philanthropy or whatever is done for the welfare of mankind. The Gurudeva’s words like ‘What each performs for the happiness of the self, should be conducive to the happiness of others’ (Atmopadesa-satakam-24) and ‘Helping others is virtuous (punya)’ describe such actions. In Manushayajna the most important aspect is charity (danam). Of charitable actions, offering of food (annadanam) is considered supreme. The uniqueness of annadanam lies in the fact that you are able to give (feed) a person to his full satisfaction and contentment.
Bhootayajna (Homage to beings) Giving foods to crows, fish, insects and animals is called Bhootayajna. When Pitruyajna is performed it is customary to offer rice balls to crows or fishes. The practice of feeding fish in some temples (meenoottu) is a form of Bhootayajna.
In Sreenarayana-dharma (189,190) the following is said: ‘Those who do not perform the 5 yajnas are sure to suffer (misery). Those who eat the food left from yajna are not touched (affected) by sins’. ‘One who does not share with Gods and ancestors, even a part of what he has inherited from them, becomes an eternal betrayer’. Every devotee should reflect to know why the Gurudeva has used such strong language to emphasize this point.
To recover from a disease the sick has to take medicines himself. To appease one’s hunger one has to eat himself. Thinking on these lines, observance of the 5 yajnas oneself must be considered nobler than making offerings in temples. In temples importance is given to tantric solutions. What Gurudeva has recommended here is a spiritual solution which is eternal in nature.
The Sreenarayana culture or value system is the culture of those who live according to Sreenarayana-dharma. Those who call themselves (pride themselves) as followers of the Guru without observing his code of conduct or value system, are literally harming (disrespecting) the Gurudeva. Sreenarayana-dharma is the dharma of entire humanity. Earlier proponents of Dharma divided people in to various castes and gave separate Dharma for each caste. The relevance of such divisions has lost its significance today. The Dharma that is most relevant today is Sreenarayana-dharma. There is no need to burn Manusmriti. The Gurudeva has already rectified it by including what is relevant and excluding what is not relevant today.
‘Dharma alone is the transcendental God.
Dharma alone is infinite wealth.
Dharma alone becomes victorious
Let Dharma lead to the prosperity of all
Let such noble words of the Gurudeva lead everyone to good health and prosperity. This is my prayer.
(Stage of Householder Life)
Some of the essential things that a householder should know have been reproduced here from Sreenarayana-dharma. It is advisable to have a copy of the book (in full) handy.
Bringing up (tending) Infants.
112. A lady who brings up child must be healthy, compassionate, humble, pleasant, well mannered and conversant with the rules of ethical living.
113. The interior of the house must be decorated aesthetically with hygienic articles. The child should be put on a bed with clean and soft sheets.
114. Improper words, articles, narrating unpleasant incidents, disrespectful behaviour and anger, should not be uttered or displayed before the child.
115. Up to 5 years of age, the mother should rear the child. She should fondle him; motivate him, and look after his likes. She should narrate stories of great men (to instill similar good qualities in the child). Should pronounce words correctly and clearly. The child should be brought up giving great attention to hygienic food, and by putting on clean and attractive attire.
Initiating the Child’s Education.
117. A child, who has been brought up in the above manner, should be initiated into basic education, with the assistance of a learned and spiritually oriented teacher.
118. The person who initiates the child in to the 3 R’s (reading, writing, arithmetic), should be learned and devoted. He should have a compassionate heart, and a good moral conduct.
119. The child should be given a clean bath and made to sit facing the preceptor (teacher/guru). Then the sacred mantra should be written on the child’s tongue with a piece of gold (usually a golden ring).
120. After prostrating, the child should be asked to chant (repeat) the words pronounced by the guru. Then, he should be blessed with a pleasant feeling and smiling face, by the parents and teacher.
(Laws of each order (stage) of life)
124. The ancient teachers, who are highly respected, have prescribed four stages (order) in life, namely, (1) Brahmacharya (stage of celibacy and seeking spiritual and material knowledge), (2) Grihasthasramam (stage of householder), (3) Vanaprastham (elderly who retires to forest life) and (4) Sanyasam (religious recluse or solitaire).
125. Yet, the intelligent and faithful ones, in today context 3 ashramas (order of life) are enough. This has been proclaimed even in Vedic times.
126. In my opinion, these are Brahacharyam, Grihastasramam and Sanyasa. At the outset, let me tell about their basic attributes.
127. For a male, the period of Brahmacharya (studentship) is from the time of initiation in to learning to the age of 24. For a female, this is up to the age of 16.
128. When the prescribed period of Brahmacharya ends, if a person desires to become a householder, he can terminate his Brahmacharya. Otherwise he should not do so.
131. Having performed one’s duties as a householder, a person can withdraw from it. At the age 60, one should, on his own will (volition), renounce the world to become a recluse.
132. One who departs this world after observing the period of Brahmacharya, and the duties of a householder, according to the rules laid down in the code of conduct, such wise one is called a Rishi (seer).
[Brahmacharya and Grihasthasram, are pravritti-marga in life going towards the world and therefore of ambition and desire. Renunciation is nivritti-marga moving avay from the world.]
136. Just as the work done in the day provides comfort at the night, and the work done in the first 8 months of the year brings joy in the next four months of rain, the good deeds of the childhood become useful to provide comforts (benefits) in adult life.
137. What is done in adulthood serves for the comforts of old age. Whatever deeds a man does in his lifetime (till death) becomes useful in his next birth.
The Householder’s Duties
171. Now on, I shall relate the code of conduct prescribed for a householder. May I have your ears (attention). The householder life is the seat of the triad, Dharma, artha and kama. That is also the way that opens the door to liberation (Moksha).
172. After studying all the scriptures scrupulously as instructed by the guru, one should enter the stage of a householder with a pure mind, after taking permission from one’s parents and teachers.
173. One should get betrothed to a girl with a good family background, who follows the right codes of conduct, who is well-mannered, and endowed with pleasant physical features (beauty). She must be acceptable to both parents and teachers.
174. While entering into sexual union with wife, one should follow the rules of moral conduct. Life is to observe righteous deeds and householder’s discipline is for proclamation.
175. The wealth accumulated during Grihasthasramam is for giving away in charity (so that it becomes beneficial to humanity). Food should be prepared to share with the guests and destitute, and not just for one’s own consumption.
176. The following are the qualities of a householder:- (i) love towards all beings. (ii) a compassionate heart. (iii) equality in one’s attitude (behaviour) towards others.
178. The bride and bridegroom should be selected from within the same spiritual community. That duty has to be performed by a competent person in a gurukulam or in a temple.
179-180. The parents of the bride, the parents of the groom, a colleague each of the bride and the bridegroom, a relative of the bride and of the bridegroom, a teacher and a priest totaling to ten people should be present in a wedding ceremony. To have less than that does not seem appropriate for the welfare of the community or group.
181. The practice of taking and giving dowry has been condemned by all ethical minded people. Taking and giving dowry amounts to selling one’s children (it becomes a commercial transaction instead of a spiritual union).
182. Once a girl has been promised in marriage to a person even verbally, she should not be married off to another person. If there is a slip in this matter, it amounts to violation of Dharma.
183. Those who suffer from diseases like leprosy, tuberculosis, breathing problems, asthma or cardiac diseases or from poverty should not get married. (AIDS can be added to this list today).
184. If after marriage anyone of the couple is affected by a communicable disease, they should avoid sexual union in the larger interest of the community.
191. The house, in which a couple live with undivided love to each other, will become sanctified and be full of prosperity.
193. A person who shares his food in order to avoid committing a sin (or as a virtuous act) will never be childless or lose his children.
194. An undaunting householder, who proceeds steadfast in his principles of Dharma and is always engrossed in dharmic deeds, will become the foremost among all ascetics.
195. One who leads others through the path of Dharma, and himself does not waver in its observance, is called a supreme (noble) observer of Dharma.
196. If it is beneficial to all, then the Grihasthasrama-dharma is the best form of Dharma. But if it harms others, it is adharma (sin).
199. A girl who attains puberty (gets her first monthly period), becomes purified when she takes the (ritual) bath after 7 days, and the house is cleaned with holy water and homam (sacrificial fire). Later when she gets her monthly periods, she becomes pure after bath and performance of homam.
201. All the household materials used by the woman during her periods should be washed in water and made clean by drying.
202. After the menstrual bath (4 days after the onset of periods), for the next twelve day the husband should lovingly approach the wife for sexual union. In this context parvas (certain prohibited days) should be avoided. These include Ashtami (the 8th day of full/new moon), Chathurdasi (14th day after full/new moon), Amavasya (the New-moon day), eclipses, religious festivals, the days when sun crosses the equator (Samkramams).
203. Since these twelve days are the most appropriate and apt for conception, one who desires a child should approach his wife. Other times are considered a taboo.
204. From the time of conception to the time the child is weaned (ie. not on breast milk), the parents should live with spiritual restraint, avoiding sexual union.
205. There is a reason for this. If the above restrictions are not observed, then the mother and child may get diseases, have chances of premature death, and suffer from loss vital energy. The breast milk may also become impure.
206. A pregnant woman should consume milk-based food products regularly. Remaining chaste, she should listen to stories about virtuous people, and remain happy all the time.
207. She should not suffer unhappiness for any reason, whatsoever, she should avoid unpleasant thoughts.
208. The pregnant lady should pray for an easy and painless labour, and that she begets a child with all good qualities.
209. The householder should display interest in serving all, from a child in the womb to a person in the death bed.
212. The power of the state (ruler), the status of Dharma, and the condition of the world depends on the code of conduct followed by the householders, as citizens. Therefore the householder is the support for everything in a country. (A nation is as good as its citizens.)
213. In view of this, the philosophic thinkers, and the wise laud the stage in life as a householder, as the foremost (greatest) among all the four asramas.
214. Whichever community (or nation) disgraces or degrades the codes of conduct to be observed by the householder, will suffer a decline and fall in its splendour, greatness and progress.
218. In life one should not consider marriage as a means for enjoyment; or as a part of one’s right to obtain pleasure.
219. Therefore, those who wish to enter Grihasthasrama should think and consider well before embarking on a married life.
220. If there be compatibility (between couples) in educational level, wealth, age, looks and manners, it results in development of mutual love, which becomes strong bound in a married life.
221-22. A man is born, and dies only once in a lifetime. A person who lives an indiscipline life is liable to be born again and again. Similarly, a coward dies a hundred times (the brave but once). These two types of people are not suited to married life.
223. A man’s love for a woman should be for his life time, when he marries her. Therefore a person should marry only once in his life.
226. A second marriage may be performed once. Not again and again. A person who marries a number of times loses the benefit of his virtuous deeds.
227-28. Both health and marital love deserve equal importance. Therefore a couple should have a medical examination to ascertain their state of health and their ability to procreate children. This can prevent another marriage and the need to go for tests again and again.
229. A medical examination is appreciated and advised for the birth of healthy children. The parents of the bride should function as advisors on the codes of conduct expected of a newly wed couple.
230. The well-wishers of the couple should behave lovingly towards the newly wed couple. Without restraining their freedom they should prevent their indiscretions.
231. The householder should avoid taking advantage of (benefit from) the numerous things that are available in his in-law’s house, which can lead to mutual misunderstanding and mental anguish (later).
234-35. The couple should share equally all their joys and sorrows. In the performance of their respective duties, they should be cooperative so as to avoid fault finding. They should not adopt ways that destroy their love and trust. They should examine together and clarify any mistakes or misunderstandings. These are the attributes of Dharma.
236. A wife deserves praise, when she behaves in a well-bred manner, and has qualities matching those of her husband, and spends money according to the income, and remains untainted.
237. If the housewife is not virtuous, even the most respectable family will become devoid of good qualities (virtues). By and by the family will perish.
238. If she has noble qualities (virtues), even an ordinary family, will, in course of time, slowly acquire those noble qualities.
239. A virtuous and chaste wife is the priceless and the most important possession of a man in his life.
240. A chaste woman who is spiritually oriented, who looks after her husband’s needs, and who ensures that no harm comes to her or her family, is considered the noblest.
241. One who guards her honour, even outside of her protective environment at home, is considered a noble wife.
242. A housewife, who is an embodiment of good qualities, and a noble lady, is like a lamp that does not flicker even in a storm. She is the personification of the godess of wealth, Lakshmi.
243. A husband, living with such a wife, should observe the codes and perform his duties of a householder, constantly and without any hindrance.
244. A person who observes his duties as a householder, and becomes the source of eternally auspicious deeds, will, after fulfillment of what is expected of him, attain the state of Bliss (Moksha).
THE VALUE SYSTEM ENSHRINED IN RAMAYANA
The ancient sages have proclaimed that life is a pilgrimage towards salvation (liberation from the cycle of births and deaths). They have prescribed two paths to achieve this liberation (Moksha).
1. Jnanamarga (the path of knowledge or contemplation)
2. Karmamarga (the path of worshipful action)
Jnanamarga is more suited to a recluse, who has renounced this world and all worldly attachments. For a common house holder, Karmamarga is more suitable and appropriate. In the Karmamarga the four Purusharthas (Goals) have been specified. These are; Dharma (Ethical value) Artha (wealth or possession), Kama (instinctual desire) and Moksha (Salvation or Liberation) Ramayana is the epic that deals with the Karmamarga.
No other epic has attracted such attention of Indians as Ramayana. The Sage, Valmiki has covered the life story of Sri Rama, who lived in the Tretayuga (the second of the four Yugas). In order to fulfil the promise given by his father, King Dasharadha to his Second wife Kaikeyi, Rama went into exile in the forest for fourteen years, along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana.
During this period Rama destroyed those who acted contrary to what was right and lawful and established Dharma (righteousness). In the end he killed the demon king Ravana, and returned to Ayodhya, to take up the responsibility as the king. Thus the Epic Ramayana is the chronicle of Rama’s journey across India from North to South.
Though, at the first sight, Ramayana may appear to be a story that can be enjoyed even by the common man, it also teaches the reader how to lead a noble life. When Rama and his brothers stood for righteous and selfless action (the basic principles of Karmamarga), Ravana and his followers chose the path of Artha (possession) and Kama (satisfaction of desires) eschewing the path of Dharma. Thus Ramayana teaches that those who pursue the path of acquiring possession and wealth, and satisfying their carnal desires, will meet with the same fate as Ravana. Though Ravana possessed ten heads and twenty hands he could not hold against current created in the path of Karma Marga. However strong (twenty hands) and intelligent (ten heads) one may be, it is imperative that one has to follow the path of righteousness. This is the message (lesson) that emerges from Ramayana.
Dharma is the bed-rock on which Indian Philosophical thinking in firmly fixed. The Bharatiya (Indian), philosophy teaches that the path of Dharma is available to all and through this path they can attain salvation. It is the distracting views on the both sides of this path that attracts one to go after wealth and carnal desires. The most important part in Ramayana is that actions in pursuit of wealth or to satisfy desires should not be against the tenets of Dharma.
Dharma has many interpretation (1) it is a path to attain salvation (2) it defines what is right and what is wrong (action). (3) Protecting Dharma is the basic duty and responsibility of one and all. Therefore in the sphere of one’s actions, one should do only what is right and avoid all wrong actions. Man reaps what he sows. One who sows goodness reaps goodness. One who sows hatred reaps hatred. The supreme principle that Ramayana upholds is simple “Sow Dharma and reap Dharma”
Ahalya, the wife of sage Gauthama, was seduced by Devendra. She went astray from the path of Dharma by falling into a temporary infatuation for another man. The Rishi cursed her, and she was turned into a stone. After hundreds of years Rama restored her to her natural form, when he stepped on the stone. Thus she was purified by Rama, an Avatar of Vishnu.
Shoorpanakha was intoxicated by her infatuation for Rama and made advances to him. This was repelled by Rama and later Lakshmana. When she went to kill Sita, Lakshmana disfigured her by cutting off her nose and ears. Thus she lost her facial and feminine beauty.
Ravana carried off the Pushpaka Vimana (a divine aerial car which was given to Kubera asa boon by Lord Brahma). This was an act against Dharma (Adharma). The abduction of Sita was another one. Thus his wrong deeds caused his destruction eventually. Even today, people like Ravana, kidnap women. Their sinful acts result in loss of wealth, health, respect and even untimely death.
To end up in a miserable existence full of sorrow, it is not necessary to be fully involved in action in pursuit of wealth or to satisfy one’s desires. Even though, Sita had to lead a difficult life in the forest, she was not unhappy. But in a weak moment, her mind went in the wrong direction, to posses the golden deer. This was a sensual desire. From that incident, Sita had to suffer sorrow in her whole life. Even in the case of Ahalya, it was her indiscrete act that resulted in her misery. All these stories teaches us that one need not go too far to make one’s life sorrowful, if one goes after acquiring possession satisfying one’s unwanted desires.
The story of the golden deer shows us how a person falls into the web of infatuation. Today, while we go out, we can see many things along the way that trigger our desire; - the sweets that kept in the confectionary, new clothes displayed in textile showrooms, electronic goods like TV, Computers and so on. A common man’s life is always swayed to posses whatever catches his fancy. The desire for wordily objects can lead a person to a sorrowful life, as evident from the story of the golden deer. Therefore Sages have shown objects of possession and desires as distracting sights on both sides on the path of Dharma. It means you cannot avoid them but only see them. But it should not generate a particular attachment towards objects or persons. On seeing these, the trend of thought goes like this: - This looks good; why not I possess it. If a person cannot get what he want by fare means, thinks about other dubious means to get what he longs to possess. Thus caught in the web of desire for objects of enjoyment, man falls into the abyss of self destruction.
One of the principles advocated in Ramayana is that the wife should be like a shadow to her husband. Therefore, the house holder (man) moves along the path of Dharma towards salvation jointly with his wife. That is why the wife is often referred to as Sahadharmini (Companion in the observations of Dharma).
At the same time, Ramayana also brings out clearly, the tribulations that king Dasharadha had to undergo, due to his polygamous life. Rama’s principle was-‘one man, one-wife’. In the case of Dasharadha he took three wives when he could not get a progeny. Later, he got four sons, through his three wives. Finally when the time came for coronation of the eldest as the crown prince, everything went awry. The coronation did not take place. But that was not all. Rama, Sita and Lakshmana had to go into exile in the forest for fourteen years. King Dasharadha died consumed by the sorrow of these events. Had Dasharadha only one wife, perhaps, he may not have met with such a painful end.
The killing of the demoness Tataka should be viewed in the context of advice given by elders when the children leave home to stay away for the first time. One should not go in the wrong path like Tataka, who was symbol of sex (Kamaroopini). Such people won’t live long. They meet with immature death, loss of wealth, health and honour. This was the story of Tataka. Why did King Dasharadha allow such a demoness to roam free creating havoc in the province of Ayodhya. Was it because the king was not aware of his duty towards his subjects?
There is an opinion prevalent in some quarters that though Ravana abducted Sita, and kept her captive, he did not harass or molest her, because he was a good person. In a sense, it is true. Compared to Ravanas in modern Kaliyuga, Ravana of Tretayuga, stands head above others in his behaviour towards women. But Ravana had also limitations. He was a king. What will his subjects think if he brings home another man’s wife and treats her cruelly? Further, his brothers Vibheeshana , Kumbhakarna and the demon Malyavan told Ravana that what he was doing was wrong. At the same time Sita warned him that he cannot get her alive to be his wife. Under these circumstances, Ravana had no option but to wait for the opportunity for a change in Sita’s mind.
Many may hold the opinion that some of the descriptions in Ramayana, like Sita was got from a furrow (ploughed field), that Ravana had ten heads and twenty hands, and that Hanuman could fly carrying a huge hillock with medicinal herbs from the Himalayas, are figments of imagination. These are just exaggeration with poetic liberty. But, above all, there are many hidden messages behind these descriptions or events. Valmiki describes Ravana as an example to show that even if a person with enormous physical strength and intelligence, goes astray from the path of Dharma in search of carnal pleasures, he gets destroyed by his sinful actions.
Hanuman was a confirmed celibate (Nitya Brahmachari) and bestowed with eternal youth. Valmiki has brought out the super human powers attainable through celibacy through the story of Hanuman.
Even the story of origin from the furrow also conveys some truth. In the scriptures wife is considered as the field (Kshetram). It is an age old Indian concept. Man ploughs the field, sows seed, and harvests the produce. The story of Janaka getting a girl child from the furrow is to bring out the universal truth in a veiled form. Thinkers understand these, and enjoy reading the epic. The concept of Mother Earth contains certain facts. When a child is in the mother’s womb, it gets food, water and nourishment from the mother. After birth, whatever food the child requires is provided by the Earth. Thus the Earth is not only Mother to Sita but to all living things, and is called as Mother Earth.
There is a widespread criticism that it was not fair for Rama to kill Vali, by shooting him hiding. In the Tretayuga there was an accepted convention that the younger brother’s wife should be seen as one’s own daughter. But Vali coveted his brother’s wife. In Rama’s view this was an act against Dharma,and so Vali deserved death. Rama and Sugreeva, Vali’s brother, had entered into an alliance and thus become soul mates. One has to treat a friend’s enemy as one’s enemy. In Kaliyuga , the treachery of manipulating one’s friend’s enemy to kill one’s friend is not uncommon. But this practice was not prevalent in Treteyuga. Therefore, as Sugriva’s close friend, to kill Vali, was the duty of Rama. Rama could not kill Vali in an open combat, because Vali wore a divine garland given by Indra which made him invincible. If Rama killed Vali in a face-to-face combat, it would have been an insult to Indra.
In Uttara Ramayana (the later part or section of Ramayana), the killing of Sambuka is another debatable issue. On the complaint made by a Brahmin to Rama that the penance performed by a Sudra (Lower caste) sage was responsible for the death of the Brahmin’s son, Rama killed Sambuka. This story is diametrically opposite to the principles of Karma, which Ramayana upholds all the time. This principle is mentioned in Ayodhya Khandam (Valmikiasrama prevesanam)-ie, The chapter on Ayodhya, and in section-Entry into the hermitage of Valmiki-
“The fruits of one’s daily actions are consumed by the doer and no one else. Whatever Karma (action-good and bad), one does continuously; one has no choice, but to suffer to consequences”
Based on this principle of Karma, the death of the Brahmin’s son is the result of his own sinful actions, in this birth or in earlier births. The Brahmin also suffers the sorrow caused by the death of his son, due to his own wrong action. To interpret this in any other way is against the principles enshrined in the Ramayana. Therefore it appears that the episode of Sambuka’s killing has been included by same one who is ignorant of the principles of Karma.
The banishment of Sita to the hermitage of Valmiki, as described in the Uttara Ramayana, is also a subject open to criticism and debate. In this context, we have to view Rama as a king who upholds Rajadharma, beyond his attachments to his possessions or love for his wife. The principles of Dharma prevalent in Tretayuga may not be acceptable to people in Kaliyuga. Since the concept of Dharma changes with time, one cannot decry what Rama did and brand it as an act of cruelty. The reader has just to understand that Rama followed principles of Tretayuga as dictated by his conscience.
Another noble message in Ramayana is related to Sat-Sang (Company of holy and virtues people). It was the good fortune of the highway robber Ratnakara that he accidently met the Seven Sages (Sapta rishis), which transformed him into Sage Valmiki. Similarly, when Rama and Lakshmana spend a few days with Rishi Vishwamitra, they could learn many invaluable and sacred mantras, obtain divine weapons, enter into marriage alliances and attain fame. Ahalya and others were released from their curses, due to contact with Rama. Those who were slain by Rama attained salvation. All these incidents enhance our belief in the value of keeping company of virtuous peoples or coming in contact with them, for whatever means, good or bad.
The role of Ramayana in teaching Indians the tenets of Dharma and transforming them into Dharmic (righteous) souls is immeasurable and invaluable. Years of foreign rule, looting of our treasures, slaughter of people, rape and molestation of women did not destroy the will of the Indians, because of their hold on the principles and values enshrined in the great epic, Ramayana. During the struggle for India’s independence, Mahatma Gandhi revived the concept of Ramarajya (a nation that stands for Dharma) and preached the divine mantra on Rama
(Guide to Funeral Rites)
248. When a woman, child, youth or old person dies, their bodies have to be cremated to maintain environmental hygiene. There is no other religious injunction/code.
249. It is proposed that the relatives should observe ten days of seclusion due to the impurity arising from death in the family. On the eleventh day, Homa (sacrificial offering to the Fire God) should be performed, and the house and environment purified with holy water.
250. On the last day, purification is achieved by the ritual bath, as prescribed. No other rituals have to be observed for the departed soul.
251. The son is the most eligible person to offer Pinda (small rice balls) to his departed father. In the absence of a son, the grandson (son’s son) can perform this ceremony. If this is not feasible, a brother or his son may be assigned this job.
252. In the absence of all the above persons, let the son of the sister offer the Pinda. Or else, a living spouse can offer Pinda to the departed soul.
253-54. A person, with mental reservation that all the purification rites for the departed person are meaningless and are display of ignorance, is under no compulsion to follow these injunctions. These injunctions are meant only for the others (believers).
256. Those who believe in the need for religious rites should follow the instructions recommended by the priest in accordance with and suitable the times and place.
259. A person who has attained inner peace after observing the prescribed duties at the various stages in life, as a celibate in childhood and later as a householder, is eligible to adopt an ascetic life, that is become a monk.
260. A woman who has achieved spiritual disciplines like inner peace, and the discriminative knowledge between the eternal and transient and who is detached from worldly things and desires, is entitled to become an ascetic, as much as a man.
261. If a celibate or a householder desiring to become an ascetic due to his aversion or dispassion towards worldly life, and consequent spiritual awakening, requests a guru to initiate him into the life of a recluse, the guru should do so without waiting for an appropriate time to do so.
262. Without the consent of a guru, an ignorant person should not unilaterally choose the life of an ascetic, due to his impatience.
263. Those without detachment to the material world, aversion to worldly life and without control over their mind, do not merit renunciation. They are like a seed that has lost its power to sprout.
264. An ascetic should not have more affection/attachment towards his own family and friends. Whatever love he has for his fellow beings, the same he displays towards them.
265. A Parivrajaka (a wandering mendicant) with a pure antakarana (the inner faculty consisting of the mind, intellect and ego) should not love (get attached to) just one thing, place, or person. To an ascetic all living beings are his brethren.
266-67. Having first obtained the Guru’s consent, an aspirant of sanyas should tonsure his head and get inner purification and greatness with the performance of Homa (sacrificial offering to Fire God), he should circumambulate the Guru and prostrate fully with the whole body touching the ground. Then he should accept ochre robes (Kashaya vastra) and a Kamandalu (holy vessel or water jar, which symbolizes an ascetic’s simple and self-contained life).
268. A person who has conquered his senses should perform japa (recitation of sacred mantras or chants), meditate, worship the Supreme, observe purity in thought, word and deed, and control his life breath through inner discipline, on the lines advised by the Guru.
269-70. The body of a dead ascetic should not be confined to flames (cremated). A pit of proper dimension should be dug to place the body erect, and covered with soil. Over this pit, saplings of trees like peepul, wood apple (Bilva or bael) or mango should be planted. There is no need for any purification rites when an ascetic departs this world.
271-72. An ascetic with a renounced state of mind can, on hi volition, live in a monastery, temple, public lodging, cave, river bank, seashore, or the house of a celibate. He should avoid other places since they can be detrimental to his spiritual and detached way of living.
273. Under unavoidable and dangerous circumstances, an enlightened ascetic may live in the home of a householder for three days, but not beyond that period.
274. Ascetics who are free from sins should be a member of a cenobite (a convent or religious community who live and serve together.) This will enhance the upliftment of all who have the same principles of spiritual life.
275. The highest spiritual way for an ascetic to attain his release from this world (of births and re-berths) is the acquisition of spiritual wisdom. If he desires to follow the path advised by his Guru, then his greatest aim in life should be to attain Samadhi (total absorption in the object of meditation, which is the Supreme.)
276. A dispassionate ascetic should perform his duties for the benefit of others. Through this he will attain peace of mind and, in due course, spiritual wisdom.
277. The assets of a dead ascetic will go to his Guru. Otherwise, it may go to the monastery or to his disciples. By no means it will belong to any one else.
278. An ascetic should acquire spiritual knowledge by serving his Guru everyday by being near him, learn Vedas (scriptures), and by constantly reflecting on what is learnt to know the Truth.
279. To the extent an ascetic practices sacrifice (unselfish actions); to that level he attains bliss through contentment. Therefore, to earn Supreme Bliss he must make the greatest sacrifices.
280. No living being is afraid of dispassionate (egoless) ascetic. Similarly the ascetic has no fear of any creature.
281. An ascetic should not glorify either life or death. Just as a servant awaits his master’s orders he should wait for his time while leading his life.
282. It is true that an ascetic should lead a life of selfless sacrifice. But he should not completely give up the desire to acquire knowledge, the great virtues like shama and cleanliness.
[The six great virtues (Shatkasampatti), shama (inner control, especially of the mind) dama (control of the organs of sense), uparama (fulfiment of one’s duties or Dharma), titiksha (the patient endurance of all pairs of opposites), shradha (faith in the holy scriptures and the trust in the Guru), and samaadhaana (the faculty of concentration and contemplation alone on the vedic texts and the words of the Guru].
283. An ascetic should not show his ire towards a person who is angry with him. He should not scold a person who upbraids him. He should talk to him full of love.
284. An ascetic should not use his knowledge of priestly functions, astrology, medicine, logic or law, grammar (linguistic skills) and similar expertise, as a means to earn a livelihood, even under difficult circumstances.
285. He should consume food only to keep himself alive. Not more than that. Overeating leads to passions/desires, hatred/aversions, and to diseases.
286. With moderation in food and solitude he should practice meditation in the most appropriate way.
287. After taking bath in the morning and evening, he should perform Pranayama (control of vital breath) followed by chanting of 108 OM (Pranava mantra), without any distraction.
288. An ascetic should sit comfortably with a composed mind that is not affected by opposites like, attraction or repulsion towards objects, but practice meditation which is his highest duty.
289-90. For a human being the highest level of self-actualization is renunciation. The truth being so, after becoming an ascetic if a person indulges in ignoble acts due to his lack of concentration/discretion, he will become a subject of ridicule/criticism and thus bring his downfall. Therefore, he should never allow any interruption to his duties as an ascetic.
291. If an ascetic is forced to return to the householder life where he is not able to carry out his sacred duties, he does not deserve to be an ascetic any more.
292. All the disciples of a senior Guru should congregate in one place during Chaturmasya. [Chaturmasya is a period starting from one full moon day (Poornima) and ending with the fourth full moon following it.]
293. An ascetic, as the guardian of Dharma, should never vilify another person. Such vilification results in loss of his spiritual power, austerity, and intellectual abilities.
294. An ascetic should disseminate spiritual wisdom and good code of conduct and behaviour to others for the benefit of mankind without lethargy. This is the role of a person who has renounced the worldly life.
295. An ascetic should attain a state of dispassion and provide all help to others without hindrance to his righteous way of life and spiritual commitment to moral discipline.
(The Code of Conduct for a wife)
Gurudeva’s this composition is a translation of Thiruvalluvar’s Thirukkural. Thirukkural is a famous Tamil text of social codes that is worshipfully studied even today.
llavalai varavil samam
vyayavum cheyyukil thante
A wife who spends in accordance with her husband’s income, becomes a solace to him.
If the lady of the house does not possess good qualities, every thing is lost. The family will not have good qualities and ultimately the family will deteriorate and get destroyed.
If a house wife has good qualities, what does she lack? If she doesn’t have, what does she have at all? Thus there will be nothing.
If a man acquires a virtuous wife, he has nothing to achieve greater than that.
cholleedil mazha peythidum
A wife who pays her respect to her husband when she wakes up, even before she prays to God, can even bring showers (rains) at her will.
thane rakshichu than prana-
nadhane peni, perine
Only a woman who protects herself (from ill-fame) and looks after her husband without tarnishing his name or image is worth to be called a naari (a woman worth her name).
naarimar kaakkanam swatma-
There is no meaning in protecting women within a house. The ladies should guard themselves, with their virtues (chastity). That is really great (noble).
If a woman gets the opportunity to worship (serve) her husband faithfully, she will get a fame much greater than what is available in the abode of Gods.
peru rekshikkunna nalla,
gouravam thannil vannida
If a man does not have a woman who guards his good name from being tainted, then he will not be able to go out with his head held high (he will lose respect).
A woman’s virtue enhances the fame of the house. If she begets a virtuous son, he becomes an apt adornment to that house.
DHARMA AND MANAGEMENT
Management experts are now in a great haste to give shape to a new concept of management, having realized that both capitalism and communism have failed all over the world. With this in view they are earnestly looking towards India. Their aim is to develop a Management Science founded on Dharma (righteousness)- Dharmic Way of Management. In order to give shape to such a concept of Management, let us consider what contribution can be had from Sree Narayana Guru’s teachings.
Though at the time of the French Revolution, the slogans, Equality, Liberty and Fraternity echoed across the world, the capitalist countries are now witnessing everyday, a departure from these principles. The nations which hoped to create a beautiful world of equality, through Communism have given up that dream. Even there, the people could see the existence of dictatorship of the labour leaders, which could put even Hitler to shame. The need or expectations of the people was not dictatorship. Therefore they detested communism. Now they are in hunt for a new philosophy based on which they can develop new tenets of Management.
When one turns towards the teachings of Gurudeva, we can see that he had a vision. This vision is Advaita (nonduality). There is also Dharma (righteous actions) shaped from this vision. This Dharma is known as Sree Narayana Dharma. We may call this Dharma as the Guru’s Humanism.
Though, Adisankara, wrote commentaries extensively on Advaita, he did not propound, a Dharma-sastra (code of conduct for righteous living). But the Gurudeva not only give life and form to the Truth of Advaita, but also advice; how one should conduct hi life according to this Truth, and for that purpose, codify a Dharma-sastra (code of conduct and behaviour). Only with this, the principles of Advaita started to percolate down to a practical level. In other words Sree Narayana Dharma is a collection of practical codes for social conduct of the common man.
On the basis of the Dharma-sastra, each one has his actions to perform or duties to fulfill. You should lead a life understanding one’s Dharma (duties). Karma-marga (the path of worshipful action) teaches this. Since one of the noble aims of life is liberation (from births and deaths) all actions should be selfless in nature. This is what the scriptures proclaim.
According to Sree Narayana Guru, all people are brothers-in-Atman. Grouping or classifying people on the basis of caste, religion, political leanings and wealth is against Dharma. Since all are soul-brothers, the Guru advices that one should live performing actions such that ‘what each performs for the happiness of the Self, should be conducive to the happiness of others’.
The class distinction between workers and owners does not exist in Guru’s Dharma, According to Gurudeva all are striving to make a living. This concept is explained in Atmopadesa-satakam (stanza-49).
‘Every man makes effort in everyway, all the time, for the happiness of the Self. Therefore in this world, know this as one faith. Understanding thus and without becoming subjected to sin, the inner self should be merged’
In other words a management theory based on Sree Narayana Dharma, does not have two classes namely, workers and entrepreneurs Therefore, there is no need for class rivalry. Both workers and owners belong to the ‘worker’ family. Some of them do physical work and others work with their brains. An institution or industry can flourish only with the joint efforts of these people. If people form groups and fight with each other, the organization will have to close down. Destroying each other or an organization, by class wars can never be termed as Dharma. Sanjay’s observation in Gita (18-78) is worth recalling at this juncture:
‘Wherever, Partha (Arjuna), the wielder of the bow (representing physical prowess), and wherever Lord Krishna (the Lord of Yoga-representing brain power) exist together, there, prosperity, victory, expansion and sound policies are assured’.
A person in search of a job, needs someone who can offer him one. Similarly, a person who is willing to invest money in a commercial venture, requires skilled workers. When both need and depend on each other, how can there be class wars or enemity. It is here the relevance and role of Dharma. Every citizen, whether he be a worker or an owner, needs to have a sense of responsibility. Further, they should be able to discriminate between right and wrong, and avoid wrong actions.
In a Management theory or science, based on Dharmic principles there is no room for exploitation because a righteous mind never thinks of exploiting anyone. Only crooked minds exploit others. Such minds are a curse on the society. Ultimately they turn in to dacoits, thieves and murderers. It is the duty of the ruling authorities to identify such individuals and punish them according to the law of the land.
From a Dharmic view, a worker who does not perform his duties, has no right to wages. Today, in many government organizations and Public Sector Units, people earn their wages, without performing his allotted duties. It is an exploitation of the person who provides him the wages. In a democratic country like India, many government staff get their salaries from the taxes levied on the public, some of who cannot even afford to buy their rations. Every officer or staff member, who receives his remuneration without properly carrying out his duties, is an exploiter of the starving workers, in our poverty-ridden country.
Exploitation is not part of the Indian view of life. The Indian ethos teaches Dohanam (like milking a cow after properly feeding the cow and it’s calf) instead of exploitation. It is like feeding the cow, it’s calf, and then taking the milk for personal use. If the cow is not fed well, and the calf is not allowed to feed from it’s mother, and all the milk is taken by the owner, it is exploitation. At first, the calf dies; then the cow. Finally the owner may also die, having no means to support. In Dohanam, there is no thought of exploitation. Therefore, he prospers. After three years the calf also becomes a cow. Surely, Dohanam is the only way for progress and prosperity.
Although selfless action is recommended for those whose goal is ultimate Liberation (Moksha), the common man does not live only with liberation as his aim in life. Therefore selfless actions may not be suitable for him. It is desirable for such people to perform lawful actions and duties, and receive lawfully entitled wages. Further, other religious groups, and those who do not accept the Indian view of Dharma, are likely to exploit such people who are willing to work without expecting rewards. Therefore, in the case of householder, to act with a mental attitude that he is not performing actions and not expecting rewards, is required only after he completes his duties as a householder, and decides to become a recluse. In order to fulfill his duties as a householder, he requires money. Therefore he has to progress on the basis of the dharmic principle, which says ’earn lawful wages doing lawful actions (duties)’.
Whether, it is a worker or owner, both are bound to make their living based on Dharma. A worker’s dharma is to perform his lawful duties without cheating, and with a sincere heart. A worker or owner, who does not perform his Dharma, will suffer loss of his wealth and good name, over a period of time. The Gurudeva has said that Dharma is God.
‘Dharma alone is the transcendental God.
Dharma alone is infinite wealth.
Dharma alone becomes victorious
Let Dharma lead to the prosperity of all
Man reaps what he sows. If he sows ‘good’ he can reap ‘good’. One who sows virtues will reap virtues and one who sows non-mutable activities reaps non-mutable results. This is the Law of Karma, and the Law is immutable. This is a concept, generally accepted by all religions. Every thought, word and action of man must be Dharmic in nature. He is also bound to obtain the rewards there of. On examination of the sacred scriptures (puranas or epics), we can see that even the incarnations of God were subjected to the consequences of their actions. Therefore every citizen has to ensure that he sows the righteous actions and not wrong actions. The result of bad deeds is one’s destruction. This has been clarified by the Gurudeva in Atmopadesa-satakam (stanza-25.)
‘Remember an action good for one person and brings misery to another is opposed to the Self. Those who give great suffering to another will fall in to the burning sea of hell and perish’.
A system of management based on Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truth), Astheya (non-stealing), Avyabhichara (unadultery) and Madya-varjana (abstinence from intoxicants) will surely be laudable and prosperous. That will lead individuals, families and the country towards greater progress. Where people who are prepared to live by doing the right things and avoid wrong deeds, that place will become a Dharma Rajayam (Rama Rajyam)- or a country of Righteousness.