Indian Culture and Traditions - 33

Question 21. What Is Vedanta? Are there different schools in it? If so, what is the essential teaching of each school? 

Meaning of the word anta is end or essence. Since the Upanishads form the end portions of the Vedas and contain their essence, they have been termed as Vedanta. The Brahmasutras (of the sage Badarayana) which try to systematize the teachings of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita which has been described as the milk from the cows of the Upanishads, as also all other works based on these, have been included under the term Vedanta. All these works generally deal with four topics: Brahman (God the Absolute), Jivatman (the individual self), creation of the world and Moksha, (liberation), the final goal of human life. 
Different interpretations of the fundamental texts of Vedanta have given rise to three main schools: Advaita, Visishtadvaita and Dvaita. The three well known Acharyas Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva are the chief exponents of these three schools.  According to the Advaita system, Brahman alone is the reality, the one without a second. This world has emanated from It, is established in It and will return to It at the end of creation. In effect, this world is only an appearance on Brahman and is Brahman Itself in reality even as the illusory snake that appears in a rope is actually the rope itself.
The Jivas, (the individual souls) are also, in the ultimate analysis, Brahman, The difference and Separation between them is only apparent, brought about by Ajnana or nescience. Since the Atman, the real nature of the Jiva, is identical with Brahman, experience of the Atman is the same as experience of Brahman. That itself is Moksha.  The Vishistadvaita recognizes multiplicity of Jivas, which are identical with one another, though separate from one another and from Brahman, also called Isvara.
This world, which is a modification of the insentient Prakriti (nature) is different from Brahman and from the Jivas. However, the Jivas and Prakriti exist in Brahman or Isvara  as a part of Him and are fully under His control. But Brahman is beyond both. Visishtadvaita considers the triune of Isvara, Jivas and Prakriti as one reality. Devotion to Isvara is the primary means of obtaining Moksha. It is only by His grace that Moksha can be secured.  The Dvaita system is similar to Visishtadvaita. However, it carries the differences still further and states that the Jivas differ from one another; so also do the various things of the world. 

Question 22. What is the meaning of Yoga, a word which we hear so often? How many Yogas are there? How do we practise yoga? 

Yoga is that which unites (yuj to yoke) the Jivatman (the individual soul) with the Paramatman (the Supreme Self or God). Any path of spiritual discipline which help achieve this union is Yoga. Yogas are generally considered four in number: Jnanayoga, Bhaktiyoga, Rajayoga and Karmayoga. The path of Vedanta already described under question 20, is called Jnanayoga.
In Bhakti yoga, cultivation of love of God, meditation on His form and repeating His name form the primary disciplines. Rajayoga prescribes meditation on the Atman by the following eight steps: Yama (restraint), Niyama (observances), Asana (posture), Pranayama (regulation of breath), Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana  (meditation) and Samadhi (trance experience).
Karmayoga advocates the purification of mind by performing one's duties in a detached way and as a service to the world. This purity of mind will ultimately result in the experience of the Atman who is within everyone of us. Health and purity of body, and moral rectitude are basic disciplines common to all the four Yogas. 

Question 23. In this connection one is reminded of such terms as Guru (teacher), Sishya (disciple), Ishtadevata (the favourite deity for contemplation), Mantra (divine mm or the spiritual formula), Pranava (the syllable Om), Diksha (initiation), Dhyana (contemplation) and Japa (repetition of divine name or spiritual formula). What do they mm? 

Guru is one who dispels the darkness of ignorance and bestows the light of knowledge. Spiritual life is. impossible without the guidance of a Guru. As regards his qualification, he is expected to know the essence of scriptures and be established in God. He should have infinite compassion and sympathy towards the disciple.

A Sishya is one who is fit to be trained and disciplined. His chief qualification is an intense desire to learn the spiritual truths. Willingness to undergo any amount of hardship in the process, great faith in and devotion to the Guru and humility  are other essential qualities he should possess. 
Ishtadevata is that aspect of God which a follower of Bhaktiyoga chooses for worship and contemplation. Once chosen either willingly by oneself or at the. behest of the Guru it should not be changed.   The name of the Ishtadevata is 'Mantra'. The Mantra usually includes Pranava (Om) and  often has additional letters called Bija (seed letters) also. These Bijaletters are different for different deities. 
Pranava or the syllable `Om' comprising the three basic sounds a, u and m is considered as the origin of all sounds and all words, and hence of all created objects, by Our scriptures. That is why it has been given the status of the, highest or best symbol of God.  Apart from Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism also have accorded it a special place. The Mantra concerning the Ishtadevata has to be received by the disciple from the Guru is a ceremonial way,  the rite itself being known as Diksha.

When the mind is able to flow in a constant and continuous stream like the oil that is being poured from one vessel into another towards the Ishtadevata, it is called Dhayana.  Japa is the repetition of the divine name or sacred formula, received  from the Guru through Diksha. However, this repetition should be done with full faith and knowledge ,of the Mantra. 

Question 24. Is there rebirth for human beings? If so, what causes it?

There is rebirth for human beings and it is Karma that causes it. It is common experience that an injury.caused by a few seconds' exposure to fire will take several days (=3Dmillions of seconds!) to heal up. On the same analogy, for reaping the fruits of aft our actions, both good and bad, done in a lifetime we need several lives. This will be possible only if we admit future lives. During the recent decades, a lot of investigation has been carried out in the field of rebirth, or reincarnation, as it is More commonly called, resulting in the publication of several good books.
There seems to be a much greater acceptance of the  reincarnation theory than before, The varieties and mutual differences found among human beings do not seem to be directly related to their present circumstances. For instance, children being born with defective limbs, or the differences in the mental make up of even identical twins, are cases to the point. Hence, it is more reasonable  to concede that these are the results of one's past Karma or actions. Since Hinduism accepts that the Atman or the soul is immortal, the theory of Karma and reincarnation fits admirably into that  framework. Jainism and Buddhism also believe in this theory. 

Question 25. Can the theory of Kama stand the test of reason? Can we not say that this theory has retarded the progress of the Hindu society? 

The theory of Karma is just an extension of the well known maxim: 'As you sow, so you reap', to the inner world of moral values. If there is an effect, there must be a cause for it. If the experiences of this life good or bad cannot be traced to tangible causes of this life, the causes must have existed in a previous life. This is the logic behind the theory of Karma. One is bound to reap the results of one's actions at a future time if not today. This is unavoidable.
Our present life is the result of our past actions. Our future life will be the result of our present actions. This is the gist of the Karma theory.  if the theory of Karma and reincarnation is not accepted, it will be difficult to explain logically, our happy or unhappy experiences which apparently have no causes that can be attributed to this life time.
One has to accept that either God is partial or is a heartless tyrant, or that there is no guiding power like God at all and that things take place without any rhyme or reason! This standpoint, of course, is not acceptable to any intelligent being. Hence one has to accept that the theory of Karma offers the most plausible explanation for the various incongruities we come across in life. 

If the theory of Karma is comprehended properly, Hindu society will progress faster and not regress as alleged. If our present deterioration is the result of our past neglect and mistakes, we can make our future brighter and better, by putting forth the necessary effort now. This should be our philosophy of life. And, this is a philosophy of hope that places a great emphasis on self effort! That the Hindu society has sometimes blocked its own progress through fatalism is the direct result of perverted understanding of the theory of Karma. 

Question 26. The world we live in, the universe we see and observe how were they created? Have the Hindu scriptures attempted any explanation of this phenomenon? Can their explanations stand the scrutiny of science? 

The secret behind the creation of this world as also the process of creation the mystery surrounding the phenomena of birth and death, the problem of good and evil, the ultimate goal of human life and other questions akin to these, have been taxing the human intelligence from time immemorial, ever eluding any intelligible solutions. Our Rishis have offered their solutions to these, based on their own mystic experiences as also the dictates of the Vedas. The 'Shad darsanas' or the six systems of philosophy are a direct result of their experiences and researches. In them we find several explanations regarding creation. 
The Nyaya system of Gautama and the Vaishesika system of Kanada envisage creation by Paramatman (God) out of anus (atoms) which are eternal. The  shape of things is directly related to the Adrishta (the unseen deserts) of the Jivas (individual souls) left over unredeemed, from the previous cycle of creation. Combination of these atoms causes creation and their disintegration results in dissolution of this universe. 
The Samkhya system of Kapila and the Yoga system of Patanjali advance the theory that Prakriti (the fundamental matrix of matter) evolves into this universe in the presence of the Purushas (or individual souls) who act as catalytic agents. In fact, the whole process of creation is for the benefit of the Purushas, for their spiritual unfoldment resulting finally in their  emancipation. The five elements like earth and water, sense organs like the eyes and ears as also mind all these are evaluates of Prakriti only. The universe is a permutation and combination of these. Though essentially detached from Prakriti, if any Purusha feels an attachment towards Prakriti and its products he becomes involved in bondage leading to repeated transmigration. If he can successfully detach himself through discrimination and wisdom, he will be emancipated. 

Question 27. The caste system has taken roots firmly and deeply in the Hindu Society. Mutual hatred based on castes and consequent conflicts are also raising their ugly head. There is a widespread belief that the Varna system is directly responsible for this state of affairs. How far is it true? How did the caste system originate and what is its mature? 

The early Vedic society seems to have been divided into two broad groups: the 'Dvijas' ('twice born') who were capable of thinking and acting independently, and the Non Dvijas, also called Sudras, who could not do so. In course of time, as the society expanded, divisions became inevitable. This  division took place in accordance with the Guna and Svabhava (qualities and nature) of people, which again were the determining factors with regard to the vocations chosen by them.
In the earliest period of evolution of the Varna system, the Brahmanas and others had the full freedom to choose or change their vocations. However, due to the practical difficulties encountered in a fast growing society, it was not possible to determine one's calling based on one's Guna  and Svabhava. Hence the much easier method of fixing it on a hereditary basis was adopted.
At this point of its evolution Varna and Jati (caste) practically got fused. Again, the number of castes went on multiplying gradually as a result of admixture of the various groups as also the development and specialization of more trades and skills. Thus castes came to be determined by birth and hereditary occupations.  The very fact that the caste system has survived for millennia shows that there must be something worthwhile and useful in it.
 Any person born in a particular caste feels a sense of belonging to that group of society which gives him psychological security. It also helps him to learn the hereditary trade natural to his caste and practise it without unhealthy competition. Endogamous marriage system unites the members of the caste into a well knit group who can come to one another's rescue in times of need. 

Question 28. Allied to this problem, two more questions can be raised: Do the Hindu scriptures Prohibit inter dining, which pre supposes transcending the caste barrier? Does inter marriage have their sanction? 

Many of the Dharmasastras permit even the Brahmanas to accept food from persons who are of pure character, whatever be their caste. Hence the Hindu scriptures do not certainly come in the way of inter dining. Perhaps, in the present day Hindu society this may go a long way in integrating its various warring groups. The same Dharmasastras have accepted 'Anuloma vivaha', according to which men of higher caste groups could marry women of the lower caste groups. 'Pratiloma vivaha', the converse of the rule, was also prevalent even from ancient times. Hence it is to be conceded that inter caste marriage has not been prohibited by the Hindu religious works. 
However, even in the present day society. inter caste marriages give rise to adverse reactions. Since it is a sensitive issue, the solution should be evolved out of consensus and not by coercion. Whenever parents and elders of the couple concerned, concur with their wards, both the caste groups should co operate in bringing about the marriage. When such concurrence is not there, the respective elders can try to dissuade their wards by impressing upon them the repercussions of their step. If they do not succeed, then, it is better to leave the solution  to the couple concerned. It is enough if they lead  a Dharmic life.   However, it is advisable or even necessary that the various sub  castes and groups under each Varna at least, should gradually merge into one unit. 
The best solution to this vexed problem is the one suggested by Swami Vivekananda' He envisaged and envisioned a casteless society by a levelling up of the society through proper education which contributes towards economic, cultural and spiritual upliftment. Till  such time, the forward sections of the society need to give a helping hand to the backward sections to move up rather than exploit them, even as elder brothers and sisters lovingly care for their handicapped younger brothers or sisters. 

Question 29. All thoughtful people are agreed that untouchability is a blot on the Hindu Society. Is there any authority for such discrimination in the Sastras? If not, how did this practice develop? What steps have been taken by the Hindu reformers to eradicate this evil? 

There are no two opinions about the urgent need for eradication of untouchability which is universally considered as a blot on the Hindu society. Neither in the Vedas nor in the Dharmasastras do we find any sanction for this abominable practice. While describing the need to maintain physical cleanliness and ceremonial purity on certain occasions, a kind of untouchability has been advocated by our scriptures. However, this untouchability has nothing to do with the brand which the Hindu society has been stupid enough to enforce during the last few centuries.
To clarify: The following persons have been declared as untouchable and coming into contact with them will oblige one to take a bath: those in the Sutaka and Asaucha (observing ceremonial impurity brought about by birth or death in the family), a woman in her monthly courses, those who have not washed their hands after food, those engaged in trades which soil the body and clothes like butchery or removing night soil, those who have forsaken their duties as enjoined in the Varna Ashrama Dharma, sinners and criminals and so on.
It is interesting to note that the same scriptures have shown immense wisdom in ordaining that  even such untouchability, need not be observed in holy places and on holy occasions like a Rathotsava (temple car festival) or during national emergencies. Some of the Dharmasastras go to the extent of permitting even the lowest of the castes and sections of the society (whom we call Harijans today) to  enter into temples. Hence it can be safely asserted that the untouchability current in our society is the handiwork of selfish people with a myopic vision.

Question 30. What is the Varna Ashrama system? Are these institutions sill in vogue today?

According to the Value system propounded by Hinduism, Moksha or spiritual emancipation is the ultimate goal of life. However,  emotional weaknesses like
attachment and aversion or lust, greed, and anger always raise their ugly heads to thwart man's spiritual progress. With an uncanny insight into human psychology our ancient Rishis (sages) have prescribed a way of life which affords enough scope and opportunity for the fulfilment of all legitimate desires and instincts, while keeping them under a healthy check.
The concept of the four Purusharthas, when looked at from this angle, is a unique contribution. 'Earn well. Enjoy heartily, all the good things of life. But do it within the framework of Dharma (righteousness)' this is their invaluable message. If and when this principle is put into practice meticulously, all emotional weaknesses and disturbances will gradually get reduced and disappear, making one fit for Moksha.
In order to attain this Moksha, each individual is required to pass through four Ashramas or stages of life: Brahmacharya, Grahasthya, Vanaprastha and Sannyasa. Acquisition of knowledge both secular and spiritual as also self control are the primary objectives in Brahmacharya. In Grahasthya, the second stage, he is permitted to earn and enjoy legitimate pleasures of life within the perimeters of Dharma. He is, also required to practise Dana (giving gifts) to deserving persons.

Question 31. What is Samskara? How many Samskaras have been listed in out scriptures? Why should they be undertaken? What are the Samskaras that are still extant and applicable to all sections of Hindus society? 

Our life can be compared to a Yajna, a sacrifice. Even as the implements of a sacrifice are cleaned and purified, every Hindu is expected to cleanse and purify his body and mind through certain rites. These rites prescribed for such purification, are termed Samskaras (sacraments). Though these are religious rites, they have a social dimension too. The Samskaras are usually listed as sixteen. Out of them Jatakarma, Namakarana, Annaprasana, Upanayana, Vivaha and Antyeshti are considered more important. 
Jatakarma, as its very name indicates, is the rite which is performed as soon as the baby is born. Medhajanana (uttering a mantra in the car of the baby, by the father, to generate the power of intelligence and memory), prayers for longevity and good health are the chief features of this Samskara. However, this is not in vogue now.  Namakarana is the act of christening the child on the 10th or 12th day after birth. The name chosen is usually that of a god or goddess or of a saint.   Feeding the child with solid food for the first time is Annaprasana. The food  should be consecrated by ceremonially offering it to the family deity before feeding the child.  With Upanayana begins a period of Vedic studies and spiritual discipline.
Hence it is considered to be extremely important. Literally, the word means leading to the Guru for education (upa=3D near, nayana leading). If physical birth is the first  birth, this rite gives a spiritual birth, which is the second. Hence, one who has undergone this Samskara is called a dvija (twice born). Acceptance of the loin cord and loin cloth, wearing the Yajnopavita (the sacred thread), initiation into the Gayatri Mantra (also called Savitri) and begging the food these are the chief steps of this rite. 
The loin cloth signifies the beginning of a life of continence and self control. The symbolism of Yajnopavita is that from the day it is worn, life becomes a Yajna, a sacrifice, for the good of the society. The repetition of Gayatri Mantra engenders wisdom and memory, and is a great aid in the path of spiritual evolution. Begging for food impresses the novice of his indebtedness to society. He is  expected to serve the society all his life and to the best of his ability in order to repay the debt. 

Question 32. Granting that a Person is purified by these Samskaras what are the factors that pollute him? 

The Sastras declare that an individual is polluted by physical impurities while residing in the mother's womb and by Ajnana or ignorance in later life.
Samskaras like Jatakarma remove the former impurity whereas Upanayana and Vedic studies dispel the latter. 

Question 33. In this context, can the concepts of Papa (sin, evil) and Punya (virtue, merit, good) be clarified and explained? Also, are there moral and ethical principles universally applicable to all sections of Hindu society? 

The concepts of good and evil, sin and virtue, exist practically in all religions. There is an oft quoted saying that defines Punya (virtue or good) as doing good to others and Papa (sin, evil) as harming others. Sin is acquired when one does prohibited actions or forsakes the ordained duties. This retards one's spiritual progress and Positively harms the society as well.
For instance: The injunction goes that one should never tell lies, but speak the truth always. Sin is accumulated if one gives up truth and tells lies. Similarly, Performing one's duties and actions ordained by the Sastras will earn one, Punya or merit. Hindu scriptures do give universal moral and ethical principles applicable to all sections of society.
Designated as Samanya Dharma or common virtues, the list comprises Ahimsa (non violence), Satya (speaking the truth), Asteya (non stealing), Daya (compassion), Dana (giving gifts), Titiksha (forbearance), Vinaya (humility), Indriyanigraha (restraining the senses), Santi (keeping the mind at peace), Saucha (purity of body), Tapas (austerity) and Bhakti (devotion to God). If every one sincerely tries to cultivate these virtues in his personal fife, there is no doubt that the whole society Will be uplifted to greater levels of peace and joy. 

Question 34. What is the status accorded to woman in Hindu Society? Does she have equality with man? How much does she enjoy?

Hinduism has looked at the status and position of woman from two standpoints. As a soul in bondage, the goal of her life also, like man's, is Moksha. Hence all the moral and spiritual disciplines like purity of mind, self control, devotion to God and austerities, prescribed as   means thereof, apply to her too. Thus, in this respect she enjoys equal freedom with man.

However, the fact that she differs from man both biologically and psychologically, has not been overlooked. Accordingly, she has been entrusted with certain special duties and responsibilities and given some privileges. Her role as the chief guiding force in running the family and in the internal management of the  home, has  amply been recognized. The well known adage that a griha (home or house) is no Griha by itself and that it is the Grihini (the mistress of the house) that really constitutes the Griha, proves this point.
The perfect housewife is the ideal presented before the Hindu woman. She is the personification of the ideal wife, friend and mother, all rolled into one. Thus, she complements man. But, at home, she plays the major role. During the period of the Vedas and the two epics, women enjoyed equal freedom with men. They had equal opportunities in the religious and spiritual fields. They could undergo Upanayana, study the Vedas and even take to monastic life.
But when the Hindu society was subjected to unprecedented pressures due to foreign invasions by alien hordes, this freedom had got to be curtailed. Now, after political independence, enough  opportunities have been afforded them to uplift themselves. However, it should be acknowledged by all concerned that man and woman are not competitors but complementary in the field of life. 

35. When we observe the evolution of Hinduism through the ages and recognize that it is still a powerful living faith in spite of the various vicissitudes it had to pass through, we are obliged to concede that there must be some basic enduring quality. Do the various reform movements in Hinduism have a hand in shaping it? 

Undoubtedly. Hinduism has an enduring trait which has been shaped. sustained and strengthened by the various reform movements over the ages. Otherwise it would not have shown such resilience, like the centre of gravitydoll. People of alien faiths and cultures in spite of their barbaric invasions spread over centuries, did not succeed in uprooting Hindu religion and culture from its native soil.
On the other hand, once the shock waves passed off, these aliens were quietly absorbed into the general. fabric of our society. The basic reason for this trait is the appearance of great religion cultural leaders at such critical periods of our  history, who imparted the necessary light, wisdom and dynamism to the Hindu society.   Any society worth the name, if it is interested in being healthy and  strong, should give ample scope and opportunity to its members for self introspection and constructive criticism.
This will enable it to spot out its weak spots and eliminate them. It will also help it to recognize its strong points, to strengthen them further. There is no gainsaying the fact that for centuries, Hindu society has given such freedom and opportunity for dissent and constructive criticism to its constituent groups as also individuals. This is the greatest single factor that has kept it alive and dynamic. However, this freedom should not be abused, creating internal enemies, as it has, sometimes, been happening. 

Question 36. What were these principal reform movements? 

The sages of the Upanishadic age, were the forerunners of all the reform movements. The religion of the Rigveda which was simple and elegant, had by the period of the Brahmanas, deteriorated into a bewildering maze of sacrifices, which the common people could not understand, let alone perform. so, these  sages rejected them and advocated meditation on and knowledge of the Atman as the essence of our religion and thus saved it. Lord Sri Krishna heralded the second reform movement. He set at rest all disputes regarding the relative superiority of Jnana, Karma or Bhakti over one another and brought about a balance and harmony among these various forms of spiritual disciplines.
His greatest contribution, however, is his unambiguous  declaration that one must perform one's duty for duty's sake and contribute to the social well being. His continuously active life itself is a glorious demonstration of his philosophy.  The third reform movement was initiated by Mahavira and Buddha who banished dry and useless logic from the field of religion and substituted it with simple, but life giving moral and ethical principles which can give peace and joy here and now.  However, when in course of time, their teachings were misunderstood and misapplied, resulting in the desertion of. Vedic religion by large numbers, Sankaracharya appeared on the scene to resuscitate and re-establish it.
His was the fourth reform movement. Then came a series of  invasions by savage tribes, the impact of which was felt both at the  social and at the religious levels. It was at this most critical period of our history that a series of great religious and spiritual leaders like Ramanuja, Madhva, Vallabha, Chaitanya, Sankaradeva, Basava, Ramananda, Kabir, Tulasidas, Mira, Tukaram, Purandaradasa and scors of others descended on our soil and protected our religion, culture and society from the onslaughts of these alien hordes. But for these great and noble souls who initiated the Bhakti movements, Hinduism  might have all but disappeared from its own land. This was the fifth reform movement. 
 When we lost our freedom to the British during the nineteenth century, a different kind of problem was created by the planned import of cultural and religious ideas from the West. As a reaction to this came the sixth  reform movement aiming at Hindu renaissance. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Dayananda Sarasvati, Mahadeva Govinda Ranade, Annie Besant, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Swami Vivekananda were the important leaders of this movement. As a  result of their ceaseless, and even  aggressive efforts, Sanatana Dharma, not only recovered its balance but made inroads into the bastions of Western culture and civilization. The movement has  gained further strength through the lives and work of Ramana Maharshi, Sri Aurobindo and a series of spirituo cultural organizations. 

Question 37. Have our Mathas (monastic seats) and the several religious institutions been participating in this movement? Somehow they do not seem to hold forth much promise as instruments of reform. How can these institutions he rejuvenated and reactivated? 

Some of the modern Mathas and religious institutions are a direct outcome of this latest reform movement. For instance: Brahma Samaj, Arya Samaj and the
Ramakrishna Mission. As regards the traditional and orthodox Mathas, though the part played by them, during the last thousand years, is significant, it is to be conceded that they could have done more. Even now, barring a few exceptions, most of them are not active to the degree that is expected of them, especially by the modern resurgent Hindu society.
These Mathas which were once the guiding lights of our society because of the austere lives of their pontiffs as well as their learning, gradually elapsed into inaction as they paid more attention to pelf and power. Often they limited their service to their particular castes or cults. All these contributed, even though indirectly, to a general decadence of our society. It is in the best interest of the Hindu society as a whole and in their own interest that these Mathas reform their attitudes in response to the changes in the social fabric. 
Our traditional Mathas can and should play a more effective role in the following fields: dissemination of the essential aspects of our religion and culture, simplifying the various religious rites and ceremonies as well as Samskaras which all Hindus can put into practice, evolving a code of  conduct that embraces both the personal and social life of every Hindu, vigorous campaigning and efforts to eliminate not only untouchability but also caste  conflicts.
Starting good educational institutions in which our spiritual values can be imparted effectively along with secular education, is another suggestion which they should consider seriously. Signs of such trends and revival on the part of these Mathas, seen of late, are quite encouraging. It is to be fervently hoped that our society reaps these benefits soon.  

Question 38. What should be the ideal daily routine for a Hindu?

An ideal daily routine for a Hindu could perhaps be suggested as follows: Rising from bed before sunrise, obeisance to the family deity and to the Ishtadevata, ablutions and bath, personal prayers, meditation and recitation from scriptures, breakfast after offering the same to the family deity, activities pertaining to one's profession and maintenance of the family without transgressing Dharma, group prayers in the evening in the family shrine along with all the members of the family followed by supper, short prayers or obeisance to the family deity before retiring to bed.

In addition to this daily routine, it is also advisable to visit the nearest Hindu temple once in a while (preferably once in a week regularly), observe a few at least of the several important Hindu festivals with due reverence and solemnity organize occasional visits with family to a few well known places of pilgrimage following the usual customs, as well as give gifts according to one's capacity to deserving people and institutions. More than everything else, one who aspires to be an ideal Hindu should scrupulously follow the path of moral rectitude both in personal and social life. 

Question 39. It seems that the Hindu society is now at the crossroads of history. What should we do to build up a new Hindu society based on the eternal values of Hinduism?

Firstly: We have to lead a good life as suggested in the foregoing section. This can generate the power necessary for rebuilding our society. 
Secondly: We have to develop strength physical, intellectual and spiritual and harmonize these aspects of strength into one strength, that of character. Transcending all the internal differences to achieve unity in spite of diversity is the need of the hour. Establishing. Vyayamasalas (gymnasia), conducting study groups to disseminate our religion among our own people, holding group prayers in the chief temples of the village or town at least once in a week these three activities can help in the development of the three aspects of strength indicated above. 
Thirdly: The more developed sections of our society, whether in respect of education or culture or wealth, should make special efforts to bring the backward sections also to the same level of progress they themselves have achieved. They must cultivate the attitude that the whole society is like a family and that it is their duty to help others even as the elders in a family help the youngsters with affection. Otherwise, there is the grim prospect of the weaker sections, exploited and oppressed over centuries, leaving us for good. The responsibility for this would squarely rest on the shoulders of the advanced sections. 
Fourthly: Those who had left the Hindu fold either due to ignorance or our ill treatment should be welcomed back into the fold, with love and affection, and given, due recognition, status and protection.  In rebuilding the new Hindu society, the leaders of all castes, cults and groups have a great obligation to fulfil.
They must urgently evolve a few simple Samskaras common to all the Hindus, which can make every Hindu feel he is a Hindu and belongs to a great brotherhood. It is interesting to note here that Swami Vivekananda once declared that there were no Sudras in the Hindu society. The so called Sudras and others were all Vratyas, those who had lost their Dvija hood due to lack of the proper Samskaras. He advocated Dvijikarana (making into Dvijas) for all of them. This is a programme that deserves serious consideration and implementation by an concerned. 

Question 40. And lastly What should be the attitude of a Hindu towards other religions? 

An ideal Hindu believes that different religions are like the different radii of a circle, each leading to the self same centre, the centre being God experience. Sri
Ramakrishna stretches it still further in his unique saying, Jato mat, tato path' (As many people, so many paths') thus indicating that ultimately every human being has his own religion, religion here being understood as the road to the realization of God.

Even then, a Hindu also believes that his path is best suited to him just as the other religions are best suited to the votaries of those religions. Yours for you and mine for me is his attitude. If everyone understands his religion properly and practises it sincerely, the kingdom of God will be established here and now. So he prays for the early dawn of such a day in the history of mankind.

Om Tat Sat

(My humble salutations to H H Sri Swamy Harshananda ji  com  for the collection)


Shakumbhari said...

Great post! I believe that everything about Indian culture is amazing and powerful. Be it Indian Traditional Dresses or Indian food or Ayurveda or anything that is based on India ethnicity is certainly influential.

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