About Hinduism and India

Posts tagged ‘Moksha’

Splashes – 45/72 – Melodiously mystifying Music

Right from celestial beings to humans, every Hindu is individually attached to music in some form. Hindu’s and life without music is considered hellish. The arts of vocal singing, instrumental performance and dance are wrapped within the definition and scope of Music.

Ancient Texts on Music

Indian system of music is the oldest in the world as a written science. Sama Veda deals with the subject of music in addition to religion and philosophy. Musical notes and intervals were analyzed and mathematically calculated in the Indian treatises on music. Instrumental music was a part of music from very early days and Hindus had a variety of percussion, wind and stringed instruments.

Musical instruments have been associated with Gods and goddesses. Shiva danced Tandava to the beats of his own Damroo while Saraswati, the goddess of learning is depicted playing a Veena. Krishana played flute that inspired gopies (milk-maids) to dance. Sage Narda, Ravana and Pandva prince Arjuna are also associated with Veena while Arjuna was well versed in tutering dance also. Apasaras and Gandharvas are considered to be exponents in music and are celestial performers.

Apart from Sama Veda, Bhart Muni’s Natya Shastra is comprehensive treatise on music and drama. It is a fore runner of opera and provides a detailed account of stagecraft and theory of music. There is also a very detailed discussion of the musical instruments. The second part of Narada Purana deals primarily about the art of music. The theory explained there in is the foundation of Indian music. The formation of seven note scales (swara- saptaks), Low, middle and higher octaves (Mandra, Madhya and Taar Sthanas), modes (moorchhanas), natural and complex movements (shuddha, and koota taanas) have been explained. It is noteworthy to contrast that till first century, western music had only five notes in vogue and there was no theory at all till Aristotle provided some format.

Development of Musical Art

Worship of sound (Nada-upasana) is thought to be an important means for attaining Moksha (total contentment).The highest musical experience is the divine bliss (ananda). This devotional approach to music is a significant feature of Indian culture. The art of Vedic chant was an essential element of Vedic rituals. The references in Vedic literature, the epics, and other scriptures, show that it was a highly developed secular art centuries before the Christian era.

The Vedic hymns, like all Hindu poetry, were sung. Those travelled from temples to royal courts and to common folk being integral part of festivals. The form of music also changed accordingly from mystic to classical and thereafter as folk music that is called popular music or pop music. Chandogya Upanishada helped the priests to sing the Samans properly for the pleasure of Gods. The Samans could either be sung or played on the Veena. That became the basis of later Bhakti movements, where all other rituals and sacrifices were given up to be replaced by simple Bhakti expressed through devotional music. Music developed as a means of pleasure in the courts later, during Muslim period.

Besides generation of concepts, later to be known as Binary figures and Pascal Triangle during third century BC; Pingala was the first to introduce an important concept in the field of music also. According to his view, Shruti was to be the shortest unit of the musical sound (Nada) that could be imitated or reproduced. Shruties are capable of generating vibrations in the air that are conducive to be used in music. Today, in the musical jargon shruties are placed between micro-tones and semi-tones, though the equation is not exact. Two or more shruties create Swara (Natural Musical Notes). Indians were the first to identify musical notes. In Indian Music all notes are not made of equal number of shruties, while in Western music all natural notes have two semitones except F and B notes.

The development of Western music also followed more or less similar pattern. It started with choral chants in Church, traveled to Royal Chambers and reached the masses through Operas and Public performances during its Classical age in seventeenth Century. The origin of Western music theory is attributed to Aristotle and Pythagoras in third century BC.

The first millennium provides us with several texts that show the evolution of Indian music. The Brihaddeshi written by Matanga Rishi (700 A.D.) is very important.  It is in this work that we first find the word ‘Raag’ mentioned.  Another important text is the ‘Sangeet Ratnakar’ by Sharangdeva.  This work, written around the thirteenth century, gives extensive commentaries about numerous musical styles that existed at that time.

Scales and Ragas 

Indian music is based upon a system of Ragas that are derived from scales (Thaata) and reflect a particular mood. The term Raga is derived from Sanskrit root – ranj or raj, literally meaning to color, but figuratively meaning to tinge with emotion and are assigned a specific time for performance. Musical notes of every Raaga, are selected with extreme care to maintain the mood and purity of the Swara-mala of Raaga. It is upon this basic structure that a musician or singer improvises according to his feeling within the strict rules of musical grammar, and the precision of timing given by the accompanying percussionist. Structural melody is the most fundamental characteristic of Indian music. As compared to India there is no time theory in Western music, and entire range of western scales can be compressed just in 5 scales of Indian music. Indian music has seventy two scales out of those 10 scales, Bilaval, Kalyana, Khamaj, Bhairava, Bhairavi, Kafi, Pooravi, Asavari, Marva and Todi are presently in vogue. Indian music is melody dominant while in Western music many often harmony and melody have equal share.

Indians were original and far ahead of Western musicians. They subdivided the octave in 22 Shruties, while the latter have only 12 Semitones in an octave. Further by taking the initial letter of the Notes Indians improvised Swaramalika that can be sung as – Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni. The Persians also borrowed these notes. During eleventh century Guido d’ Arezzo introduced them in Europe in the form of Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti. Subsequently different notation systems prevalent in European Countries were standardized and first seven Alphabets of English language were picked up to identify seven musical notes. These notes cannot be vocalized and have to be substituted with musical phonetics such as Yo yo, la la or something else convenient to the singer. There are several other disparities and handicaps but those are beyond the scope at present.

Indian concepts in the West

Of late western composers are experimenting Micro tonality to have 24 sub-divisions within an octave. However their newly designed keyboard having one black and one white keys is yet to gain acceptance. In contrast the Indian micro tonality of 22 shruties within octave is a well-known nuance of expert Indian vocalists.  This can also be demonstrated on Sarangi that is a fretless bowed instrument to accompany vocalists.

The Minimalism is another new trend wherein a simple melodic motif is repeated over and over with prolonged chords in harmony. It is like repetition of cosmic sound OM using three notes harmonized against the prolonged vibration of similar sound emanating from the revolution of other heavenly bodies.

Development of Opera took place during Gupta Period from 4th to the 6th century AD. This was the classic period of Sanskrit literature, culminating in the drama of Kalidasa and his other contemporaries. Same time is assigned to the amalgamation of music and drama to entertain aristocracy. During Bhakti movement Kirtan was a popular format of devotional music. The same format has now been adopted in Disco, wrap and Rock style for the purpose of entertainment often under the influence of drugs. 

The contribution of Film music directors deserves to be mentioned for blending classical music with folk music and carrying the same to masses in the form of popular (Pop) music. In this field of compositions, maestro Naushad has towered his contemporaries with several successful experimentations. Indian film music is more popular all over the world.

Indian Dance

India has a proud history of dance dating back to 5000 BC. The earliest available ‘evidence’ of dance in India is the figurine of the ‘dancing girl’ found at the Harappa excavation in IndusValley.

According to Natya Shastra, Nritta, Nrithya and Natya are the three aspects of dance.

  • Nritta means pure and simple dance. This involves movements of the body and limbs, for a decorative effect, without conveying any meaning.
  • Nrithya lays emphasis of expressions, to convey the meaning of the rendering. Nrithya involves facial expressions, gestures and symbolic poses.
  • Natya includes drama through the use of spoken word, apart from Nritta and Nrithya.

According to Natya Shastra dance originated when sage Bharata approached Lord Shiva with a request to give the world an art form through which the essence of the Vedas could be propagated to everybody. Hence Shiva took parts from the four Vedas to create Panchama Veda of Natya. He took Nada from Rig Veda, swara from Samaveda, acting from Atharvaveda and chanting from Yajurveda. On Shiva’s request Parvati performed the elegant Lasya style of dance. She taught this to the Asura princess Usha who eventually propagated it in the western parts of present India. Shiva (in the form of Nataraja) is the presiding deity of dance.

Vishnu in the form of Mohini is said to have danced with Bhasmasura. Krishna is also said to have danced over the head of the deadly snake Kaliya. He is well-known to have danced the Raas with the Gopies of Vrindavan.

The other form of Dance originated by Shiva is Tandava that is most energetic and known as dance of cosmic destruction.

There are several dance styles out of which Bharat Natyam, Kathaka, Katha-Kali, Kuchipudi, and Manipuri are the most popular classical forms. In addition there are several folk dances representing India’s diverse culture. Most of the folk dances fall under the basic category of Tandava or Lasya. Bhangra dance from Punjab and Garba dance from Gujarat are conspicuous examples.

A Living Paradise

Volumes can be written to explain the variety of Music and Dances of India for the inquisitive mind. Folk music and folk dances have been part and parcel of Hindu society in every shade of life. The colorful life style of Indians have remained a big attraction for other nations of the world.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 46/72 – Origin of Political Thought )

Splashes – 41/72 – Prosperous Social Living

At the time when people of developed countries were clad in animal skins, ate taste-less food and lived in dug-holes, ancient India was a heaven on Earth, and a military power too. People lived a luxurious, contented and refined social life. To Aristotle conquest of India implied conquest over world. Till eighteenth century no Indian desired to go abroad, but people from other countries desired to reach India.

Importance of Married Life

According to Hinduism individual goal of life is attainment of total satisfaction. Moksha can be enjoyed any time after the stage of Brahmcharya (studentship).  However one is not required to betray obligation towards others while pursuing his individual total satisfaction through Moksha.

Those who fail to discharge their obligations or desire to enjoy at the expense of others cannot attain Moksha. They live discontented life. An issue-less person is not appreciated in Hindu society, because duties towards continuity of creation are not performed. Donning Sanyas, skipping duties of Grahastha Ashrma is not desirable.

House holders sustain studentship, Vanaprastha and Sanyas ashram. Thus they play a pivotal role in generation of resources. Similarly they maintain continuity of creation. Therefore any person who hops towards Vanaprastha or Sanyas is viewed as escapism; barring few out-standing exceptions.

Person deprived of sensory pleasures due to forced circumstances, shall always be attracted towards his unfulfilled desires. It is significant that all Hindu sages entered in Sanyas Ashrama voluntarily along with their spouses after saturating their desires.

Enjoyment cannot be without income and resources. Even a hermit would require about fifty items for his personal use even in forest. Therefore he ought to have lived an active life to earn some living through righteous means.

Recently coined living in relationships also cannot lead to satisfaction in life. These are escape routes from discharging obligations towards society and future generation. Institution of marriage is the only proper forum to enjoy sensory pleasures and attainment of total satisfaction by discharging obligations.

Kamasutra

Hinduism allowed indulgences and enjoyment of all worldly pleasure but within Dharma and Grahastha Ashrama. In contrast to the Puritanical view that the sole purpose of sex is procreation, Hindus believe three purposes of life – Dharma, Artha, and Kama. The erotic is regarded as the seat of earthly beauty. The pursuit of sexual pleasure is revered as a religious quest.

Tantra is a sub-sect of Hinduism that has several rituals associated with coupling as part of religious practice, besides other practices based on Tantrik philosophy. However it must be clarified that Tantra is at the extreme in indulgence and certainly not the life style of Hindus in main stream.

Kamasutra by Rishi Vatsayana is world’s first comprehensive guide to living erotically. The classic has fascinated imagination of the western world as much as Indian philosophy, science and Yoga. Over and above, the theme of this treatise has inspired the sculpture of thirty temples at Khajuroho where tourists flock from all over the globe to watch the beautiful stone carvings depicting all the possible fantasies of the erotic mind.

Practical towards Sensuousness

There is no Taalibani type moral policing in Hinduism, but one is expected to abide by the decency of Dharma. Sometimes foreign couples display sensuality at public places. When protested by locals, either they cite the example of Khajuroho sculptures as precedence, or call the Indians hypocrites and conservative.  The fact is that foreigners do not understand the depth of Hindu philosophy at all. For the sake of argument alone it can be said, that European pornographers have nothing to match even the eroticism that Hindus carved in stone more than ten centuries ago!

Kama is not only confined to mere satisfaction of biological sex desires, but its scope covers all the pleasures related to human senses like hearing, smell, tasting and touching. It includes enjoyment of music, fine arts, delicious food, perfumes, sports and all aesthetic material and comforts. In this pursuit the observance of Dharma and availability of resources owned by efforts are the limits.

Valmiki Ramayana depicts several situations of materialistic pleasures. There is a vivid description of protocol and etiquette when King Dasrath is awakened from his sleep. The feast arranged by Rishi Bhardwaja to welcome prince Bharat and his army on way to Chitrakoot, would pale the luxuries of any state banquet organized today. Hanuman‘s searching peep for Sita in Ravana’s bed chambers is another pictorial depiction of the luxuries of the time. But whatever the sage has described is within the limits of decency and aesthetic quality.

Eating Options

Health and Hygiene have always been given paramount importance in Hindu living. Food is classified in to Satvik, Rajsik and Tamsik categories, keeping in view the physical activity of the individual. The classification perfectly matches recommendations of dietitians of our times. Individuals have the choice to pick any food packet according to the desire, affordability, occupation, and appetite.

Comprehensive instructions have also been documented in Manusamriti regarding service and consumption of food; right to the last activity of cleaning of teeth. These kind of written procedures are in vogue today in most of the manufacturing organizations certified according to the standards of quality control.

Hinduism does not approve wanton killing of animals for food but Hindus have the choice of eating vegetarian or non-vegetarian diet. Procurement of meat by hunting is commended for non-vegetarians. There is a difference in attitude of Hindus preferring vegetarian food than that of others. While in other faiths individuals turned vegetarians for their personal considerations of health, Hindus stay vegetarians for compassion towards animals.

Multiplicity of Food Items

European learnt growing pumpkins from Red Indians after reaching America in seventeenth century. Even today pulses are not an item on their table and they get proteins from animals. But ancient texts reveal that Hindus were proficient in the field of agriculture and cultivated variety of cereals, pulses and fruit. Cultivation of Rice, wheat, maize and corns was known. They owned fruit orchards to produce mangoes, bananas, coconut, and melons. Holding of cow herds was a symbol of prosperity. Cow milk, butter, ghee, curd, and cottage cheese were items of daily use in homes.

Art of Cooking

Cooking was considered an art, out of 64 art forms. Indians could prepare food in many ways such as baked, grilled, steamed, dried or fried. The medicinal properties of spices were known to house-wives and the same were included in daily diet. To ensure a perfect and balanced diet plan, every meal included at least one item to taste sweat, salty, sour, astringent pungent and bitter. Offering of Tambul Patra (Beatle nut) was sophistication at the end of food. There were no restrictions on consumption of wine and other intoxicants while in Grahastha Ashram as long as the individual could afford and hold.

India invented sugar

Sugar from sugar cane was pre-eminently an Indian discovery. Rest of the world derived equivalent of sugar from the Indian Sakara or Shakkar. The origin of the word can be traced to Arabic Shakar, Latin Sacharum, French Sucere German Zucker, and English sugar. Hindus prefer sweats and regard them Satvik food. Prasada offered at temples is generally sweat. Rice cooked in sweetened milk as Kheer (payasam) is considered most pious, and a most soothing pudding in all respects. There is an endless variety of sweat dishes handed down to generations since times immemorial.

Textiles and Costumes

India is the original home of cotton. Indians were the first to perfect the art of weaving. The discovery of several spindles, and a piece of cotton stuck to a silver vase, revealed that cotton-spinning and weaving was practiced in Harappa. References to weaving are found in the Vedic literature also.

The variety in Indian fabrics ranges from homespun Khadi to complex brocades flaming with gold, from picturesque pajamas to the invisibly seamed shawls of Kashmir. Every garment woven in India had a beauty that came only of a very ancient and instinctive art.

Indian Textile Trade

The foundations of the Indian textile trade with other countries were laid as early as the second century BC. Soldiers of Alexander carried cotton to Europe as a curiosity in the 4th century BC. Egyptian mummies were wrapped in Indian muslin 2000 years ago. Hordes of block printed, resist-dyed fabrics of Gujarati origin, found in the tombs of Fostat in Egypt prove Indian export of cotton textiles to Egypt in medieval times.

Indian artisans created such fine fabrics that British characterized them as ‘the work of fairies or insects rather than of men.’ Bengali weavers produced delicate cotton muslin so sheer that they were named ‘running water’ and ‘evening dew’. Silk brocades from Benares in northern India glittered with threads of gold and silver.  In Kashmir, enormous shawls – so finely woven that they could be passed through a ring – were made from the inner fleece of a rare mountain goat, which left its hairs behind while rubbing against shrubs on Himalayan peaks.

European nations had initially been drawn to India by the spice trade, textiles and gold. In matters of taste and refinement, Hindu females were equated with Apasra, the heavenly beauties. That is enough to prove that India was a heaven on Earth.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 42/72 – Etiquette and Social Norms)

Splashes – 24/72 – Status of Women in Hindu Society

The importance and respect accorded to women in Hindu society can be gauged from Hindu icons that all Hindu gods have their spouse besides them on the same pedestal as theirs. They enjoy the same reverence as that of the God and are not mere objects of pleasure. Verses have been composed in the scriptures in praise of goddesses, and they are equally empowered to grant as much blessings and inflict curses as their spouse!

Individual Freedom

Since nomadic period, all over the world, by and large, females continued to look after indoor responsibilities, while males managed the external environment, but in Hindu society women had plenty of indoor as well as out-door freedom, since the Vedic and Epic age.

Females in Hindu society had equal opportunities and scope for individual development, especially in the field of religious, spiritual, social and artistic activities. They could study Vedas, become teachers or even ascetics if they wished. They could pursue study of subjects such as medicine, mathematics, astronomy, or achieve expertise in performing arts like music, dance and drama. They could learn even martial arts and could accompany the males in battlefield. One noteworthy reference is available in Ramayana, when Queen Kaikeyi protected her wounded husband King Dasrath on battlefield, who made two standing promises to her. Even during Sanyasa Ashrama Sages and Rishis were accompanied by their wives. Arundhati, Gargi, Savitri, and Anusooya are few names of learned women mentioned as samples of feminine wisdom.

Special status granted to women in Hindu society can be gauged from the following verse of Sage Manu, the law giver: 

यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवताः। यत्रैतास्तु न पूज्यन्ते सर्वास्तत्राफलाः क्रियाः।।

– (मनु स्मृति 3-56)

(Meaning – Gods reside in the abode where women are respected, but where women are insulted, all noble deeds and knowledge get destroyed)

Status of women in Hindu Society can be compared in contrast with some other faiths where women are nothing but confined to harems for the purpose of pleasure, and cannot be relied upon as a witness to testify an atrocity alleged against a man. They cannot join the men-folk even in prayers at public places. They are debarred from education also in certain faiths.

The Institution of Marriage

Nowhere women were sold, or forced into marriage in Hindu society.  Unlike other societies, physical love and attraction do not form the basis of husband – wife relationship, but it the duty of each partner to love and care for the person one is married to. This is the stark difference in Hindu marriage and that in other societies. There was no divorce. Hindu marriage is not an act of contract, but a bond of perpetual relationship expanding the span of several lives of the couple.

In Hindu families, wife is called Dharampatni, since she is a spiritual partner of her husband.  No religious ritual is complete without her participation. Hinduism considers Moksha as the ultimate goal of human life including women. The paths prescribed for the attainment of Moksha is identical for males and females. Purity, self-control, devotion and austerity are as much necessary for women as for men.

Mostly parents arranged the marriages for their sons and daughters, but Hindu women had right to choose their life partner through Swaymvar also. However, in Hindu society, a shameless woman is considered to be a Sarupnakha, despite her physical charms and family status. Women violating the norms of their society and family suffer, and the same has been well depicted in Ramayana. Sita, the ideal home-maker also had to suffer when she stepped out of the limits of the house-hold dictate, even for giving alms to Ravana in disguise as a hermit. She had to undergo Agni-parikhsha for making re-entry to the household.

Since ancient times, Hindu society was liberal enough to have recognized Gandharva Vivah, implying marriage without formal rituals, but there is no sanction for living in kind of relationship even today.

Inter-caste marriages

There are instances of inter-caste marriages also in Hindu scriptures. Maharishi Ved Vyasa, the compiler of Vedas was a love-child of Rishi Prashara and Satyawati, the daughter of a fisherman. Satyawati was subsequently married to King Shantanu, on the condition that the eldest son born to the couple shall succeed Shantnu on throne, instead of Shantanu’s previous son Bheeshama. In another incidents, Demon Guru Shukracharya’s daughter Devyayani was married to Kshatriya king Yayati; and Rishi Kanva’s adopted daughter Shakuntala was also married to King Dushyanta through Gandharva Vivah. Similarly Pandava princes Bheema was married to Rakshasa girl Hidamba, and Arjuna was married to Naga princess Ulupi.

Role of Homemaker

Hinduism does not shut its eyes to the differences that do exist between men and women, biological as well as temperamental. In reality women differ profoundly from men. Every one of her body cells bears the mark of her sex. Thus Hindu society has divided the areas of activity between males and females, depending upon their physical characteristics resulting in slightly different modes of life and discipline.

As per Hinduism the family sustains the strength of every society, and women play the pivotal role in the family. The role model placed before the Hindu women is that of the ideal Home Maker (Grihini), who is expected to be an ideal wife, an ideal friend, and an ideal mother – all rolled into one. Role models for Hindu womanhood are of Sita, Savitri, Damayanti and Gandhari, and not the likes of Helen, Juliet or Laila. Women can mould themselves as Lakshami, as a householder, as Sarsawati in the form of learned, and Durga as social reformer and defender of the oppressed.

There are several incidents in Purana as well as in history, where women such as Shakuntala, and Jijabai raised their sons against odds, when separated from the husband.

Conflict with Western Culture 

The impact of western civilization has caused confusion on the role of women today. Some women seem to be getting discontented with their role of child-bearing and home making. They wish to devote to some other outdoor activity. Consequently, hotels are slowly replacing homes. In the name of economic independence, life is tending to become more and more hectic, irregular, and even vagrant. Children are being brought up in child caring centers and thus being deprived the affection of caring mothers.

Modern Hindu woman is coming into conflict with her own inner nature. One can look around in his neighborhood to assess for himself that the upbringing of children is better organized where wife has donned the role of home maker, in comparison to the couple in external competition.

Companion, not Competitor

The division of duties all over the world followed a pattern that while males generated resources, females conserved and put them to optimal use of the family. However, of late some activists propagating gender equality between males and females are misleading Hindu society towards aping of Westernized identity for the role of women. Thus instead of being companions, women are being put up as competitors to men.

The irony is that every ‘liberated woman’ also desires to have a husband who is ‘superior to her’ in all attributes. This reality proves the point!

The remedy lies in resorting to the kind of female education with natural role of women as its center. All other training should be secondary to this role that nature has prescribed for their gender. In Hindu household freedom for development was available to Women in India since Vedic age. Such facility was not available to women in other parts of the world till beginning of twentieth century. Today Indian women can contest for all the seats in Parliament and can enjoy total empowerment.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 25/72 –Sati and Female Infanticide)

Splashes – 20/72 Stages in Human Life

Hinduism suggests a balanced life style to be lived. It requires every individual to pass through four stages called ‘Ashrams’. Each stage consists of twenty five years. The division of stages is natural and visible.

During first stage, body and mind develop with inquisitiveness, strength and enthusiasm. It is followed by second stage, when awareness of gender consciousness and development of reproductive organs is conspicuous to signal time for marriage partnership. Thereafter, during third stage, the individual desires to share his experiences with younger generation. The maturity in age shows up through grey hair, and patience in behavior. Finally the last stage is reached with wrinkles, gradual loss of senses, stamina and enthusiasm and signal proximity to death in waiting. It is then time for voluntary renunciation.

This division of four stages is universal all the world over. Humans fear death if they did not enjoy life, but those who discharged their obligations remain composed till last. The state of Moksha is always experienced before death and not afterwards.

The four Ashramas in life

Sages of Hinduism have thus divided life span in four Ashramas (phases) as Brahmacharya, Grahastha, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa Ashramas.

Learning Stage (Brahmacharya Ashram)

The first 25 years are earmarked for celibacy during student hood. This stage begins with awareness and observation of environment around, and responding to stories from parents. Formally this stage begins with entry to school at an early age and continues till education is completed. The goal is to acquire knowledge, build character and learn to shoulder responsibilities. This is the stage of learning skills, forming right habits, and developing sound mind in healthy body. As success of future life depends upon the foundation laid during first phase of life, strict discipline is desired through self-control. Character building and adoption of value based rational personality are the essential features of this stage in which individuals are expected to:-

  • Live a simple life close to nature, in respect of diet, clothes and luxuries.
  • Develop an inquisitive attitude; gain knowledge and perfection in as many fields as possible.
  • Mold personality by adopting strong value based habits in dealings.
  • Adopt healthy physical habits to have sound mind in healthy body.
  • Abstain from indulging in intoxicants and all kinds of sensual pleasures.
  • Abstaining form negative, vulgar and unethical thoughts and activities.
  • Develop respectful attitude towards teachers, elders, and compassion for fellow beings.
  • Attain proficiency in the knowledge and skill for adopting profession for livelihood.

House Holder Stage (Grahastha Ashram)

Next 25 years mark the second stage of Grahastha Ashram. Individuals are suggested to get married and live the life of house holders. Hinduism does not regard the birth of a person as a result of any ‘sin’ or ‘disobedience to the command of God’, but birth in human form is regarded as a reward for having done good deeds in the previous life. Hindus are not obsessed with the feeling of guilt, or sin having been committed by their parents. On the contrary, an issue less person is considered as having lived an incomplete and unnatural life.

It is only the house holders like Rama and Krishna, who are remembered and worshiped. Individuals are expected to make to the system of reproduction continuing by having as many children they are capable to produce, feed, educate and bring up. Further, it is the duty of every individual to strive for acquisition, and multiplication of material wealth to cater the just needs of self, family and society; within the framework of Dharma.

The foundation of Hindu society has been laid on Grahastha Ashram and all other Ashrams remain supported by it. Hinduism calls upon house holders to share the fruits of their activities with society, and environment, rather living a self-centered secluded life. While rest of the world has recently started dedicating one day in a year to symbolically discharge these obligations, Hindu house-holders are required to perform five Yagnas daily, towards the well-being of environment and society. The five yagnas are as follows:-

  • For Environment (Deva-Yagnas) – This obligation implies protection and preservation of environment for the benefit of all living beings. In contrast to watering plants once a year on International Environment day, house holders are expected to replace and restore whatever is used from the environment on day to day basis, such as planting more trees, if any were cut for some purpose.
  • For Ancestors (Pitri -Yagnas) – This obligation is towards elder generation. Whatever exists today is due to the efforts of previous generations. It is a sort of daily ‘thanks giving’ to the elders. Respecting age has been a fundamental part of Hindu culture.
  • For Institutes of Learning (Brahma-Yagnas) – Offering respect to teachers is also the foundation of Hindu culture. In ancient India, expertise and experience were not sold by the teachers, but deserving students were provided training free of cost. In return students used to offer expertise gratitude gift (Guru Dakshina) voluntarily to the teacher and their institute of learning. Thus it is the duty of every house holder to contribute resources towards propagation of knowledge and skills for the generations to come. This was not regarded as charity but an obligation. Unfortunately when practice of Guru Dakshina waned out, deformed version came up in the form of ‘under hand donation fee’ to educational institutions at the time of admission.
  •  For Society (Nri-Yagnas) – It implies obligation towards fellow beings, society, community, the country, and entire humanity. It is like observing ‘Social Service Day’ on daily basis. It inspires the feelings of patriotism in every householder to remain concerned about the country, community, family and lastly for self. Contrary to this spirit now a days people have left the fate of society and country in the hands of few corrupt politicians and the adverse consequences of indifference are visible everywhere.
  • For Birds and Animals (Bhuta-Yagna) – It implied protection and preservation of ecology by feeding animals, and non-interference with their natural habitat. It included taking care of sick birds and animals also.  It is similar to Wild life Day. While people in India still can be seen feeding ants and birds, in most of the developed countries, wild life is being destroyed recklessly.

Retirement Stage (Vanaprastha Ashram)

The next 25 years of life is the third stage. It is generally called a retired life. One entered this ashram after discharging responsibilities of Grahastha ashram. This is known as Vanaprastha stage of life. One begins devoting more time to study of scriptures, contemplation and meditation. This is the occasion when elder generation delegates authority to younger generation at home as well as in the society. The older thereafter indulged in introspection and meditation. This institution is the most important link between past, present and future generation of mankind, during which Individuals are expected to:-

  • Share the experiences of life with younger generation by giving counseling and help when asked.
  • Help to bring up grand children through infusing right thoughts (sanskars), and healthy habits.
  • Control personal ego and tempers against provocations.
  • Gradual reduction of personal needs, physical comforts and luxuries.
  • Aim for total control over passions of sex, anger, greed, attachment, and ego.
  • Supplementing house holders in the performance of their daily five Yagnas by volunteering physical service and guidance.

Renunciation Stage (Sanyas Ashram)

This last stage used to be the acme of life. This is the final stage in which an individual mentally renounced all worldly ties, spent time in meditation to ponder over the mysteries of life. In ancient times one would part company with family and lived as hermit. They obliterated past identities, ego, achievements, and social attachments by adopting a new name. They were to shed their titles, degrees and all worldly possessions. To deflate their ego, they were advised to abstain from gazing their own image through the mirror. However today the least individuals are expected to:

  • Attain freedom from social obligations towards others as well as any expectations in return.
  • Live at least mentally away from relations to overcome attachments.
  • Possess no personal property or at least desires for more.
  • Live a kind of natural life with least of man-made gadgetry.

It does not however prescribe that everyone need to acquire a settlement in forests, hill resorts, or on pavements. One can attain a mental state of Sanyas while living with the family also. Detachment is a state of mind and not a physical condition.

Flexibility in the System

Every rule has an exception. The ascent from Brahmacharya to Sannyas need not always be gradual. The scriptures allowed double or even triple skipping to qualified aspirants. One could embrace Grahastha, Vanaprashtha or Sanyas from any stage. At the same time these stages can overlap due to the peculiar circumstances of individuals, geographical conditions, or when the situation is beyond control. But to live a balanced life one must pass all stages. Under exceptional circumstances individuals may slide back from their stages.

Hinduism has not made any water-tight compartments in social life of the individual and sufficient flexibility is provided in the system. The catchword is that while passing through one stage of life, individual should aim at preparing and moving to the next higher stage and not reverting to previous stage.

This kind of division in life is suitable for every society all over the world to bridge gap in transfer of value system, authority and responsibilities. Social problems and individual anxieties are multiplying in today because of non-adherence to  Ashrama System.

Chand K Sharma 

Next: Splashes – 21/ 72- Making of Universal Personality)

Splashes – 19/ 72- Goals in Individual Life

Hinduism does not preach denouncement of worldly life and its pleasures. Desires and passions do exist in every person. Hinduism is alive to the reality that it is not easy to get rid of desires overnight. Thus individuals are encouraged to follow Purushartha – active life. It tells individuals to make efforts, earn, and then enjoy the material comforts, not only for self and family, but share the same with other members of society.

Individuals are encouraged to attain contentment so that no desires are left. The only restriction is Dharma, that the charter of duties towards the concept of “let others also live” within the constraints of local environment are not violated. According to Hinduism, attainment of ‘Moksha’ (total satisfaction) through Dharma is the ultimate goal of life for every individual.

Activism towards goals

There is no moral sin in Hinduism.  No fruit is forbidden. Each person is free to experience as much sensory pleasure and accumulate as much wealth as he or she desires, provided no hurt is caused to anyone in the process.  Only after satisfying desires a person can finally liberate from material wants.

Thus individuals should pursue following four objectives in life through their own efforts:-

  • Dharma – discharging obligations towards Environment and others,
  • Artha – Generation and replenishment of resource,
  • Kama – Sharing sensory pleasure, and
  • Moksha – Reaching absolute contentment.

Dharma

Dharma implies discharging duties and obligations towards others through rightful thoughts, means and actions. Actions should be moral, ethical and conducive to harmonious environment in the society.

Humans and animals are alike to live for themselves. All living beings comply with their individual charter of duties ‘to live,’ but when humans pledge to let others also live, they are said to be observing Dharma.

Humans are superior species committed to additional obligation of ‘let others also live’, and therefore, observance of Dharma is primarily a human responsibility.               

            आहार निद्राभय मैथुन सामान्यमेतस शाभिर्वरीणम्

                 धर्मो ही तेषामधिसो धर्मेणहीनाः पशुभिसमाना ।।

The above verse from Hitopdesha explains that instincts of hunger, sleep, fear and sex are alike in animals and humans. Only Dharma is distinct in humans. A person without Dharma is also an animal.

Certain codes have been evolved by humans to facilitate the concept of ‘let live.’ A prominent feature of this code is to preserve the environment in its natural form and replenishing the resources that have been consumed or destroyed. Dharma ensures humans and animals follow live and let live.

The package of Dharma contains obligations to be discharged towards family, society, country and local environment. Those obligations have been evolved over passage of time through experience, experiments and updating done by ancestors, and handed down to following generations through scriptures, custom and traditions.  They have to be observed even in the face of personal difficulties. No one should be allowed to violate codes of Dharma as long as he enjoyed the fruit of environment and society. Dharma is supreme goal as it can generate feeling of total satisfaction, even when Artha and Kama had been absent in the life of an individual. Selfless performance of duties is most satisfying goal.

Artha

Artha means material wealth, but that is not an end in itself. One must earn enough wealth in order to raise a family and maintain basic necessities of the household. Wealth must not be for hoarding, but for sharing with those, who are poor, needy, handicapped or less fortunate. Dharma and Artha must be coordinated, in order to earn decent living. Regarding material wealth, Hinduism commends – earn with hundred hands but donate with thousand hands.

                                             शत हस्त समोहरा सहस्त्र हस्त संकिरा 

Hinduism sounds a word of caution also that whenever limits of Dharma are crossed in pursuits of these objectives, disastrous consequences are bound to follow, and therefore, over indulgence in everything is bad. 

Kama

Kama is satisfaction of sensuous and sexual desires. It includes satisfaction of genuine human aesthetic desires such as enjoyment through art, music, savory food, sports, conjugal love, filial affections, clothes, and jewelry. Pleasures are necessary to add purpose and zest to life. In Hinduism desires are not to be suppressed, but must be satisfied in a controlled fashion, within the constraints of Dharma.

Freedom from sensual desires and passion is necessary for attaining total satisfaction. But there must be proper coordination of Dharma, Artha, and Kama. For any reasons if coordination is not possible then it will be wiser to abandon first Kama, since people with meager resources can also live fully contented life. Many times, after the death of spouse, even resourceful persons do not seek another spouse simply for the reason to discharge obligations towards off springs. They live a happy and contented life. Thus under no circumstances Dharma is to be abandoned.

Moksha

Moksha is the ultimate state of total contentment and satisfaction, when no desires are left unsatisfied. No efforts are required for this. The state of Moksha is the ultimate result of individual’s thoughts, dealings and actions in life. Attainment of Moksha certifies a successful life. Only few lucky people reach this state in life time. Most often people end up chasing only the first three goals and deviate from Dharma. By and large atheists, pessimists, discontented, jealous, cruel, diseased, sensual, edicts, measure-less and practicing unnatural life style cannot attain Moksha.

Balanced Approach

It is pertinent to state that Dharma, Artha, and Kama are to be pursued through individual efforts. Service, charity, and enjoyment at the expense of others seldom brought peace to anyone. On the contrary it often resulted in disgrace.

Excess of everything is bad and it applied to goals also. Unfortunately most of the people remain in the pursuit of Artha and Kama all through their life and instead of Moksha they end up in frustration and ignominy.

A person is always guided by his inner personality, to set the proportion of above said ingredients to work out a personal menu of his goals, but the duty towards others should never be crossed. Pursing Artha and Kama without observance of Dharma is sin and crime leading to disastrous consequences.  Dharma (discharging own duties under every circumstances) alone is capable to lead a person to Moksha (total satisfaction in life). Artha and Kama are to be pursued within limits of the environment where the individual resides.

It is noteworthy that almost all the ascetics and Rishies had lived a happy life with families even while they lived at their Ashrams in the forest. They never indulged in escapism. The gods and goddesses are always viewed in happy state with their spouse and have plenty of resources. Hinduism is neither puritan in nature nor practicing any moral policing. It offers a practical approach to life for the betterment of the individual as well as society where he lives in.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 20 / 72 – Stages in Human Life)

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: