Every living being wants to live. No one wants to die. On this count there is no difference between humans and animals, but humans let others also live. Commitment to the concept of ‘let live’ is the foundation of Hindu Dharma.
Following one’s Dharma in the face of odds, distinguishes man form a savage. Spiritual life is impossible for a Hindu without a moral and ethical life. The process of individual development for Hindu child starts from home environment and continues lifelong.
Hinduism has integrated value system in day-to-day activities of individuals. Noble values are aimed to be absorbed as reflex actions. Mothers and grand-parents are the first teachers of the child who narrate stories to inculcate empathy for birds and animal. Children are told about the deeds of mythological heroes and suggested as role models in life.
Hindu sages have condensed the whole gamut of ethical and moral principles in two simple words: Yama and Niyama. These are desired to be observed from childhood as a first step towards foundation for self-discipline.
Yamas are five abstract principles. If these are practiced from the very beginning most of the problems would not arise in life. There will be no stress or strain of any sort. Therefore a Hindu child is desired to adopt the following attitudes as natural habits:
- Non-Violence (Ahimsa) – It implies not to harm any living being by thought, word or deed. No one should be forced to act against his will. But one must not abdicate personal duties behind the cover of non-violence. Necessary violence within the charter of individual duties is no sin.
- Truth (Satya) – It implies remaining truthful in words, action, and heart while in conversation, action or thought. Children are taught to refrain from lying and betraying promises. A truthful person has no fears.
- Non misappropriation (Asteya) – One should live within his own means and should not desire belongings of others. It certainly does not imply that we may let our resources be usurped by others. It does not mean that we evade hard work for generating more resources when necessary.
- Celibacy (Brahmacharya) – Celibacy implies observing control over passions through purity in thought, word, and deed throughout in life. All such objects, persons, actions are to be avoided that distract performance of our chartered duties. One should enjoy sensory pleasures within the limits of one’s obligations towards others.
- Detachment (Aparigraha) – It means exercising control over desires and remaining contented with whatever is available and is absolutely necessary for sustenance. It implies simple and natural living with least dependence on other persons and materialistic things.
These subtle principals appear simple at glance, but if adopted sincerely in thought and action, these are sure and effective remedies for all our stresses, tensions, and frustrations in individual life.
Niyamas suggest techniques to inculcate Yamas in routine of life style. Observance of regular Niyamas leads to attainment of Yamas. These following golden rules are Niyamas that regulate our individual habits and actions:-
- Cleanliness (Shaucha) – It implies keeping mind, body, living and work environment neat and clean. Purity in Body, Mind and Speech leads to purity in thoughts, actions and re-actions. In absence of cleanliness, life turns polluted.
- Contentment (Santosha) – It implies control over desires and expectations. Desires and needs are to be satisfied within the competence and capability of the individual. It does not imply remaining inactive and allow events to overtake. One must act, but leave the rewards to the choice of Almighty.
- Austerity (Tapa) – Exercising control over senses and repeating action to attain perfection in performance is called Tapa. It implies practicing control over speech, mind, and passions by voluntarily accepting hardships in life. One should not shy away from hard work and difficulties while pursuing goals in life.
- Self-Study (Svadhyaya) – It implies self-study, keeping company with the learned and remaining inquisitive, and being a self-starter in action.
- Subduing of Ego (Ishvara-pranidhana) – It implies surrendering to the Supreme Being for actions and their fruits.
Refinances in Individual Traits
There would have been no suicidal deaths among the students and cases of psychic disorders on account of depression among grown-ups if they had adopted Yama and Niyamas as personal life style. By observing Yamas and Niyamas, the individual automatically develops the following traits that are essential to live a contented life:
- Steadfastness, (Dhriti) – This helps to achieve goals in life.
- Compassion, (Daya) – This develops empathy for others and noble qualities.
- Honesty, (Arjava) – This frees from corrupt habits.
- Moderate appetite, (Mitahara) – This keeps a person bodily fit and smart.
- Remorse, (Hri). – This helps self-improvement and learning from mistakes.
- Generosity, (Dana) – This inculcates attitude to help others.
- Faith, (Astikya) – This helps a person from frustration in life and building confidence.
- Cognition, (Mati) – This breed rational thinking.
- Resolute, (Vrata) – This builds up determination against odds.
- Recitation, (Japa) – This is technique to master factual knowledge.
- Patience, (Dhairya) – This trains the mind to keep cool under difficulties.
- Forgiveness (Khshama) – This saves from getting into the habit of revengeful.
Along with physiology, a person also inherits the Sanskars of the parents in the form of intellect and traits. After the age of five children were went to residential school, called Gurukul, funded by the state. Their resources were supplemented through interior economy and voluntary donations. Gurus (teachers) used to be sages of highest order and were respected. Education was regarded a blessing from the Guru and not a commodity sold by the teacher on money back guarantee like today.
The curriculum of teaching aimed at attaining self-sufficiency in every respect. Aiming at healthy mind in a healthy body, Yoga formed a part of daily routine combined with diet control, discipline, and a simple living. There was no room for adopting a luxurious life style. Since the children were already initiated by parents to Yamas and Niyamas before being sent for schooling, they were to practice correct postures for body parts through various simple asnas (poses). They also formed healthy eating habits, and society manners.
At Gurukul students were taught factual knowledge and its application in daily life. The training included military subjects, weaponry, vocational training and proficiency in various skills. Vestibule model of training on job was adopted. Periodically, pupils were required to undergo proficiency tests also.
Higher learning was open only to those who possessed the necessary aptitude and traits. All over the world, the same system of aptitude testing is being followed even today for admission to institutes of higher education and professional courses. Political Science was also included in the curriculum, but it was aimed to make pupils aware of the political environment and working of system. They were not ushered in to politics as student leaders at the cost of their studies.
Once pupils completed their Shikhsha (Studies), Dikhsha also followed as the convocation ceremony. Sacred threads were given by the Guru to successful students only. The Guru would call upon the pupils to take vow to use the knowledge for the well-being of the society and impart the same to the deserving only. There are several references in the epics where Guru subsequently nullified the knowledge acquired by a student through deceit, or was found abusing the same for sinister purpose. Education system of Hindus thus was as modern in concept as it is being followed all over the world except the Madrassa education.
Unfortunately, the environment of present day schools is contaminated by violence, drugs, and attitude of students to agitate for an unrestrained life style having sex education and luxuries at an early stage of life. Even today, the remedy lies in resorting to the principles of old Hindu system.
Chand K Sharma
(Next: Splashes – 19/72 – Goals in Individual Life)