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श्री गणेशाय नमः

Védic Dharma

(Sanātan Dharma, Mānav Dharma or Hinduism)

by

Arun J. Mehta

<amehta91326@yahoo.com>

Edited by

Dr. B. V. K. Sastry

International Védic Hindu University, Florida, USA.

Lila Mehta

&

Angana Shroff

ISBN 978-0-9866155-04

© 2011 by the author.

Please use this knowledge wisely, for the good of all, and pass it on to anyone who is genuinely interested in learning. Please send an e-mail to the author if you would like a hard copy.

Preface

Why write a book on „ Védic Dharma‟?

Ayam bandhuhu ayam néti gńāna laghuchetsām

Udāracharitānām tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam

Mahopanishada VI.72

A (spiritually) less evolved person says „This is a friend but that one is not.‟

To a broad minded (spiritually evolved) person the whole world is a family.

“It is already becoming clear that a chapter that has a Western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in the self-destruction of the human race...At this supremely dangerous moment in human history, the only way of salvation is the ancient Hindu way. Here we have the attitude and spirit that can make it possible for the human race to grow together into a single family.”

Arnold Joseph Toynbee (1889-1975)

British historian

For some time I had been sending short e-mails to my friends and relatives about ancient Indian culture. Now I would like to share this with wider audience through this booklet.

I am not an expert in this field and am grateful to Dr. B. V. K. Sastry of International Védic Hindu University, Florida, USA for very helpful suggestions. He went over the draft for accuracy. I also appreciate comments and suggestions by my wife, Lila Mehta and daughter Angana Shroff. I have tried to present this material in language simple enough so that a busy high school or university student can understand.

In Védic tradition knowledge is given free to all deserving students interested in learning.

The thoughts presented here have been around for millennia and there is nothing original in this booklet.

All Sanskrut words are in italics. Plural version of Sanskrut words e.g. Védas, is written with – before „s‟, like Véda-s. Ā & ā are pronounced as in „bark‟. é is pronounced as first „e‟ in „level‟ and ń as Devnāgari ण (no equivalent in English). European spelling of Sanskrut words is written in parenthesis as (Sanskrit). Attempt is made to spell Sanskrut words as they are spoken in Sanskrut.

Table of Contents

1.

Dharma

2.

„Védic‟ „Sanātan‟ or „Mānav‟ Dharma

3.

Origin of word „Hindu‟

4.

Culture

5.

Essence of our Culture

6.

Goals or Purpose in Life

7.

Our Basic Beliefs

8.

Important Values

9.

How can we preserve our cultural heritage?

10.

Vedānta

11.

Four Stages of Life

12.

Four Pillars of the Society

13.

Four Paths

14.

Different Methods Prescribed for Personal Evolution

15.

Three Gunās

16.

Samskāra-s

17.

Vivéka Buddhi

18.

Yathā Yogyam Tathā Kuru

19.

App. I – Some Interesting Quotes about India

20.

App. II – Great Reformers of India – A Timeline

1. Dharma

The word “Dharma” has no equivalent word in English. It takes many English words to describe Dharma. The word „religion‟ is commonly used but a religion is a specific system of institutionalized faith or worship. “Sanātan Dharma” or “Mānav Dharma” is not a religion but a way of life. Everything we do in life, including eating and sleeping, are done according to dharma.

The Sanskrut word Dharma is derived from the root word “Dhri” which means to hold together or support. Dharma supports or holds together everyone and everything.

Dharma is also described as „duty‟ - one‟s duty towards herself, her family, community, country, and the world. Knowledge about Dharma - what is right and wrong - will help guide us through our lives. This knowledge should be taught when a child is very young and not at the end of life, during retirement or on deathbed. It is too late to know how to lead a life when we have gone through most of it.

Dharma is the universal code of behavior towards all living creatures and nonliving things. It is in the best interest of all and includes all the virtues like truth, nobility, justice, nonviolence, compassion, faith, duty, modesty, steadfastness, control over senses, loyalty, honesty, etc. Dharma is also absence of negative tendencies like selfishness, lust, greed, envy, anger, arrogance, etc. A life according to Dharma is necessary for success in meditation. Dharma sustains and supports life in general, and helps to hold the community together.

2. ‘Védic’, ‘Sanātan’ or ‘Mānav’ Dharma

The Sanskrut root word vid means to know and Véda means (sacred) knowledge. There are four Véda-s: Roog, Yajur, Sāma, and Atharva. Véda- s were revealed to rooshi-s during meditation thousands of years ago. The knowledge of Véda-s is timeless. The end ( anta) portion of Véda- s is called Vedānta (Ved + anta). Vedānta is also called Upanishad. The Upanishad-s are declarations of the highest spiritual truths and a guide for „How to live your life‟. Most of us ask our children to read Bhagawad Gitā when we are on the deathbed. It is like reading the instruction manual for a super computer when we are ready to throw it in a junk yard. Bhagawad Gitā is the cream of the Upanishad- s.

Pearls of wisdom are also found in Rāmāyan, Mahābhārat, Bhāgavat Purān, etc.

Sanātan and Mānav are also Sanskrut words used for our Dharma.

Sanātan = eternal. A Dharma that has been there from the beginning of time or one that has no beginning or end.

Dharma = code of ethics, code of behavior, religion, virtues, beliefs, moral obligations, traditions, righteous actions that sustain and support life, and hold a community together.

Sanātan Dharma = Dharma or code of ethics which has always existed.

Mānav = Man (includes woman).

Mānav Dharma = religion or code of ethics, or code of behavior for the mankind.

Dharma has two parts –

1. Sāmānya Dharma – duties that are common to all people.

2. Vishesha Dharma - is special duties of husband, wife, child, student, teacher, farmer, business person, king, soldier, etc.

All these duties are described in ancient Indian literature.

What happens when “Dharma” is not followed? There are many examples in history of societies and civilizations that have fallen apart. Even today we can see so many individuals, communities, countries wasting their resources after unethical projects and leading their families & people to disaster.

3. Origin of word ‘Hindu’

The word „Hindu‟ is not found in the Véda-s, the ancient scriptures of India. People living along the river Sindhu were called „Hindus‟ by foreigners. River Sindhu flows from Himalaya Mountain in the North and through North Western part of what was India.

Most of the foreign invaders came to India from the North-West. The religion followed by people of India was called “Hinduism” by the foreigners. This is similar to how the original people of North America were called „Indians‟ by Europeans who were looking for „India‟ and when they first arrived in America thought they were in India.

The original people of India were called Āryan-s or the „noble ones‟ and the country was

Āryāvarta‟. The Āryan-s did not come from anywhere but had lived there for millennia and had developed a well advanced civilization. Other names for their religion were –

Sanātan Dharma (eternal religion), Védic Dharma (religion of the Védas), Ārya Dharma (religion of the Āryans), or Mānav Dharma (religion of mankind). The name of the country „India‟ was also coined by foreigners. The Indian names for India are

Āryāvarta‟ (the land of Āryan-s) or „ Bhāratvarsha‟ (the land of king Bharat).

4. Culture

Culture has been defined in different ways. In “Foundations of Indian Culture”, K. M.

Munshi has defined culture as:

“a characteristic way of life inspired by fundamental values expressed through art, religion, literature, social institutions and behaviour”.

It may also include education, scientific and technological advances, customs of the people, and the way in which people interact with each other and live in a society.

He mentions that the „Indian‟ culture is one of the very few cultures that has continuously survived for quite a few millennia inspite of multiple invasions, brutal occupations by foreigners, and systematic attempts to destroy it. Very little of the original Egyptian, Babylonian, Syrian, Persian, Incas, or Mayan culture is visible now.

How did it survive in India? A system of „ Gurukula‟ schools, strong family traditions, and the unique system of dividing the society into four classes with assigned duties for education, defence, trade, and service ( Varnāshram) that helped maintain the knowledge and culture in India.

Knowledge of one‟s cultural heritage is important for one‟s self-esteem. When people loose their self-esteem and self- respect, they do not do well in life. It is very important for the welfare of our future generations that they learn the positive aspects of our culture and heritage.

5. Essence of our Culture

We can not possibly learn and pass on to our children all that can be included in our

„culture‟. All of us may not agree what is essential and what is not. The choice lies with the individual.

Our culture shows us how to live our life whether we are in India or North America or any where else. It is therefore important to teach our children and grandchildren at the earliest age about their culture and heritage before their brains are filled with negative ideas about our „culture‟. Second reason for preserving cultural heritage is for the children to grow up having positive self-esteem, a good feeling about thmselves. If children know that they are coming from a good, strong, and stable background they will have the confidence to handle any situation and do well in life. If children learn at an early age that their culture, heritage, ancestors, were of inferior quality or that „they will burn in hell for eternity‟ because of their religion then they are likely to have many problems.

“if all the Upanishads and all other scriptures happened all of a sudden to be reduced to ashes, and if only the first verse in the „ Ishopanishad‟ were left intact in the memories of Hindus, Hinduism will live for ever”

M. K. Gāndhi, Harijan, 30-1-1937, p. 403-4.

“ॐ Ishāvāsya-idam sarvam yat-kincha jagatyām jagat Tena tyaktena bhunjithā mā grudah kasyasviddhanam

God lives in all this, the universe.

Enjoy what He gives you. Do not steal wealth of others.

The first part of the first shloka of „ Ishopanishada‟ tells us that „God lives in everything‟

(in this universe). Love and respect all creatures and even inanimate objects. There is an

„energy‟ that forms the basis of all that exists in the universe, a „force‟ that keeps us alive, something that can not be described nor can it be experienced by our senses (touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste); an „entity‟ that can be addressed by any name or imagined to take up any form, and „that‟ which has no beginning or an end (definition of God).

6. Goals or Purpose in Life

“Our plans miscarry because they have no aims. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.‟

Seneca.

Our shāstra- s (sacred texts) mention four goals in life: 1. Kāma (desire) – fulfilling desires to satisfy senses e.g. thirst, hunger, etc. These are common to all in the animal kingdom.

2. Artha (wealth) – earning money to buy food, shelter, etc. This goal is considered higher than Kāma because it is not found in animal kingdom.

3. DharmaKāma and Artha are achieved according to Dharma. It is higher than both of them.

4. Moksha – liberation from the cycle of birth and death or merging of Ātmā (soul) with Paramātmā (God). This is the highest goal in life. All activities in the fields of Kāma and Artha give temporary pleasure. Moksha is permanent bliss.

According to Védanta all human beings and even animals can achieve this goal.

One does not have to pray to a specific „God‟ or belong to a specific religious sect.

Pranavah dhanuhu sharah hee ātmā

Brahma tat lakshyam uchyate

Apramattena veddhavyam

Shara-vat tanmayah bhavet.

Mundakopnishad II.ii.4

Pranava ( mantra ॐ) is the bow, ātmā (soul) is the arrow Brahman (God, Paramātmā) is the target (goal)

(With) steady (hand and focused mind) hit (the target) And like the arrow ( ātmā) become one with the target ( Brahman).

7. Our Basic Beliefs

Hindus believe in many things – from one all pervading God to many Gods and even no God. All views are accepted. Everyone has the freedom to choose and nobody is permanently denied Moksha (salvation). Following beliefs are some of the important ones:

a.

Ātmā (Self, soul, Jivātmā) and Paramātmā ( Brahman, God) The force or energy that keeps us alive is called Ātmā. Our body becomes life-less when it leaves our body. This energy can not be damaged or destroyed. It is the same in all living things. Paramātmā is the ocean of life-force from which all Ātmā- s originate.

After a process of evolution, all Āatmā- s merge with Paramātmā (God). God can be worshiped in any form we wish to give Him or Her, any name he / she wants to call Her /

Him / It. All prayers are heard by one and the same Supreme Reality (God).

b.

Karma

Literal meaning of Karma is action. However, Karma in scriptures includes the intentions behind the action, the means used in performing the action and the consequences of that action ( Karma-phala). An „action‟ is good if the intention is unselfish and methods used are nonviolent (according to Dharama). We do not have any control over what follows the „action‟ (the consequences). Every act or even a thought has similar consequences. „Good‟ thoughts and „good‟ actions have „good‟

consequences. We have choice only over our intentions and the means used to perform any action. If we do something for others with good intentions and without expecting anything in return for ourselves, good things will eventually happen to us. It is essential that we analyze our intentions continuously, do our best, work hard, perceiver, and leave the results to Him.

c.

Punarjanma (Rebirth)

Vāsānsi jirnāni yathā vihāya

Navāni gruhnāti naroparāni

Tathā sharirāni vihāya jirnāni

Anyāni samyāti navāni dehi.

Bhagawad Gitā, II. 22.

Just as we discard old clothes and

Man takes new (clothes)

In the same way (we) discard old bodies

(And we) obtain new bodies.

We believe that the soul leaves the body at the time of death and takes up another body (reincarnates). We are all evolving spiritually and take many births until we have no desires and all karma- s resolved. Then our ātmā (soul) merges with Paramātmā

( Brahman, God) and attain liberation from the cycle of birth and death ( Moksha).

Everyone, even an animal, is entitled to moksha.

If at the time of death we have any unfulfilled desire or unresolved karma then we take birth in a new body. We are born in a family and under circumstances according to our unresolved karma-s and unfulfilled desires. This gives us the opportunity to progress spiritually.

8. Important Values

Satya (truth), Ahimsā (nonviolence), and Brahmacharya (discipline, self-control) are some of the important values for people who follow Mānav Dharma.

Satyén labhyah tapasā hee éshah

Samyak-gnānena brahmacharyéna nityam

(The Self realization) is experienced through constant practice of truth, self-discipline, and (life according to) the right knowledge (the highest wisdom, Dharma)

Antah- s hariré jyotirmayah hee shubhrah

Yam pashhyanti yatayah kshina-doshaha.

(A person,) who has reduced all his faults (impurities) to the minimum (and purified himself), sees the luminous Self within himself.

Mundakopnishad, III.i.5

1.

Truth ( Satya)

The official seal of India says:

Satyam éva jayate.

Truth only prevails.

There are three meanings of the word „truth‟:

a. The dictionary meaning of truth is „what is real‟.

b. Second meaning of truth is „when our speech and actions are the same as our thoughts‟.

c. In Véda-s „Truth‟ means what is real today, what was the same yesterday, a hundred years ago, and even a billion years ago; what will be the same tomorrow, a hundred years from today, and even a billion years from now. In other words, some thing that does not change over time. That „Truth‟ is changeless, beginning less, endless, Paramātmā (God, the Supreme Power).

The first two (a and b) are to be practiced. The third one is a goal to be achieved.

Different meanings of „Truth‟ can be confusing.

Satyam bruyāt, priyam bruyāt, na bruyāt satyam, apriyam.

Priyam cha nānutrum bruyād, ésha dharmah sanātanah.

Manu Smruti, IV.138

Speak the truth. Say (use) pleasant (words). Do not tell the truth in unpleasant words.

Do not say pleasant but untrue (words). This is the Sanātana Dharma.

Speak only that which is true, kind, helpful and necessary. If we believe in „ Ishā vāsya idam sarvam‟ (God lives in all), how can we cheat anyone who has God within him by telling untruth?

2.

Nonviolence ( Ahimsā)

Ahimsā paramo dharma’

Nonviolence is the supreme dharma.

If we believe in „ Ishā vāsya idam sarvam‟ (God lives in all), how can we hurt anyone?

Nonviolence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution.

Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.

Thomas A. Edison (1847-1931), American inventor

The practice of ahimsā includes not harming anyone in our thoughts, by words, or by our actions. We can see all over the world that once the cycle of violence is started it is very difficult to control. Ahimsā and universal love go together. However, the greatest practitioner of nonviolence, Mahātmā Gāndhi, said that:

“My creed of non-violence is an extremely active force. It has no room for cowardice or even weakness. There is hope for a violent man to be some day non-violent, but there is none for a coward. I have, therefore, said more than once.....that if we do not know how to defend ourselves, our women and our places of worship by the force of sufferings, i.e., non-violence, we must, if we are men, be at least able to defend all these by fighting.”

M. K. Gāndhi, Young India, 16 June 1927

Ahimsā paramo dharma, dharma himsā cha.’

Nonviolence is the supreme dharma, violence according to (the rules of) dharma (is a duty) too.

3.

Self-discipline ( Brahmacharya) Brahmacharya means search for Brahman or moving towards Brahman, the changeless, beginning less, endless, God. It can also mean moving around in the field of Brahman or behavior of some one who wants to attain Brahman.

Brahmacharya is learnt during first 25 years of life and practiced all through the life.

The main goal during this stage of life is to learn. To achieve this we give up all the comforts and pleasures of life and concentrate only on our studies. This training is like a ride in a hot air balloon. To go up you need to get rid of all unnecessary baggage and just carry what is absolutely necessary. The student learns to control all his/her senses (taste, smell, touch, vision and hearing).

It does not mean that later on in life, we do not enjoy good food or relationship between husband and wife but we try not to become slaves of these enjoyments and forget our duties or the ultimate goal in life. The training during Brahmacharyāshram helps adults to control all their senses and set a good example for their children.

“Brahmacharya...means not suppression of one or more senses but complete mastery over them all.....Conquest means using them as my slaves.”

M. K. Gāndhi in Bapu‟s Letters to Mira: p.257

In computer jargon, it is „garbage in, garbage out‟. If we put in wrong data, the computer will give us wrong results. We cannot expect anything good to come out of our mouths and in our actions if we put a lot of „garbage‟ in our minds through our eyes and ears (watching certain movies, listening to certain music, or reading trashy books, etc).

“Brahmacharya.....is purity not merely of body but of both speech and thought also.”

M. K. Gāndhi in Harijan: February 29, 1936

Following Védic values are also recommended:

Abhayam, sattva-shamshuddhihi, jnāna yoga vyavasthitihi; Dānam, damah, cha yagnah, cha svādhyāyah, tapah, ārjavam.

Ahimsā, satyam, akrodhah, tyāgah, shāntihi, apaishunam; Dayā bhuteshu, aloluptvam, mārdavam, hri, achapalam.

Tejah, kshamā, dhrutihi, shaucham, adhrohah, na atimānita; Bhavanti sampadam daivim abhijātasya Bharata.

Bhagavad Gita, XVI. 1, 2,& 3.

Life according to these values and virtues are useful for our progress on the evolutionary path to experiencing the „Devine‟ or „Self Realization‟.

4. Fearlessness ( Abhayam). Fear interferes with good decision making.

5 . Purity of thoughts ( Satva-shamshuddhi). Removal of impurities listed below.

6. Yoga of knowledge ( Jnāna yoga vyavasthiti). Decisions and actions are based on the knowledge of morals & ethics, and right & wrong.

7. Charity ( Dāna). People and institutions doing work for the good of the society are supported by generous donations of money and time.

9. Mastery over all senses ( Dama, Brahmacharya). If our senses take control over our actions then we do not have time for worthwhile projects and our energies are diverted towards „fun‟ activities. (Same as # 3 above)

10. Personal sacrifice ( Yagna). Desires for personal pleasures, power, prestige, possessions, etc. are given up for the good of the family, community & country.

11. Study of scriptures ( Svādhāya). Regular study of scriptures is necessary for our spiritual development and to keep us on the right track.

12. Disciplined effort ( Tapa) towards a selfless cause.

13. Honesty ( Ārjava).

14. Nonviolence ( Ahimsā). (Same as # 2 above).

15. Truth ( Satya). (Same as # 1 above).

16. Absence of Anger ( Akrodha). Good decisions can not be made under the influence of anger. Actions undertaken in the moment of anger may lead to disaster.

17. Renunciation ( Tyāga) of fruits of all activities. Not insisting on any particular result, or becoming very anxious about the result or becoming paralyzed after failure.

14. Peace of mind ( Shānti) is necessary for good decisions and behavior.

15. Apaishunam (straight forward nature, truthful & pleasant speech).

16. Dayā (love and tenderness towards all).

17. Refrain from excessive indulgence in activities for personal pleasure ( Aloluptvam).

18. Gentle and mild behavior ( Mārdavam).

19. Modesty in all speech and actions. Remorse for any inappropriate actions, speech or thoughts ( Hri).

20. A steady mind and deliberate decision making ( Achapalam) before any action.

21. Person with divine qualities has a special „glow‟ on her face and has lots of energy for selfless service ( Tejah).

22. Forgiveness ( Kshamā).

23. Steadfast ( Dhruti), a quality to maintain a course of action once decision is made.

24. Purity ( Shaucha) of thoughts and cleanliness of the body.

25. Without any desire to harm anyone or cheat ( Adhrohah).

26. Devoid of excessive pride ( Na-atimānita).

Bhagavad Gita (Chap. XVI.4) also recommends removal of following impurities or weaknesses of the mind:

Dumbhah, darpah, abhimānah, cha krodhah, pārushyam, eva cha Agnānan cha abhijātasya Pārtha sampadam āsurim.

1. Hypocrisy ( Dambha), pretending to be better than one really is.

2. Arrogance ( Darpa) of knowledge, colour of the skin, family, wealth, physical strength, etc..

3. False or excessive pride, hostile intention ( Abhiman).

4. Anger ( Krodha).

5. Bullying nature ( Pārushyam).

6. Ignorance ( Agnānam) about one‟s place in the universe and relationship with other creatures, someone who thinks he is the most important person in the world.

These six are considered as devilish ( Āsuric) characteristics or impurities in the mind of a person. Everyone has to try and remove these from their personality.

9. How can we preserve our cultural heritage?

“Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”

James Baldwin

a. Learn, Practice, and Teach. We, adults, have to set a good example by learning about our heritage and culture and put it in practice.

b. Enroll children in Balvihar classes (Sunday schools that teach our languages, heritage, and culture).

c. Pray or recite shloka- s in the early morning, evening and before meals.

d. Read Indian classics like Rāmāyana, Mahābharat, Bhagawad Gitā, etc. to children.

e. Speak to children in at least one Indian language.

f. There are many CDs of devotional music available. Expose children to these at home or while driving to school or on trips. Teach children to sing classical or devotional Indian music.

g. Bhāratnātyam dance is based on our heritage. Encourage children to learn Bhāratnātyam.

h. Perform simple Puja at home and explain the meaning of the ceremony. Celebrate festivals and observe various Samskāra- s . Visit a local temple.

i. Select healthy recipes, cook and eat nutritious Indian food. Most of our spices in moderation and our dishes are being accepted as healthy alternatives to Western diet.

j. Raise children with love and open lines of communication. Treat little children with lots of love. Get them to help in household chores from age three and as long as they are living with you, and when they are 16 years old treat them like a friend.

10. Four Stages of Life

Fortunately for us our wise sages of ancient times had come up with a master plan for the whole life so that people will not loose sight of what they were supposed to do through different stages of life. There was no reason to have midlife crisis on 40th or 50th birthday or when children leave home for University. Life was divided in four stages or Āshram- s and definite duties ascribed to each stage .

1.

Brahmacharyāshram

The first stage of life is called Brahmacharyāshram. It is up to the age of 25 years. The main goal of this stage is to gain knowledge and practice self-discipline ( Tapa).

Everyone devotes her/his time and energies to studying. In the olden days, young children (boys and girls) used to live with their Guru or teacher. The guru and his wife would look after them, feed them, and teach them - treat them same as their own children.

The students had to memorize all the knowledge taught by the guru and recite it when asked. There were no books, no fancy libraries, TV, or computers with CD-ROM and internet. This period was devoted to learning scriptures, literature, arts, math, and sciences.

Duties of a Student

The students respected their guru and gurupatni (guru‟s wife) and followed all their instructions. The guru, his family, and all the students lived a very simple life without any complaints. The students helped in various chores including feeding and cleaning guru‟s cows. They all worked hard, ate simple food, lived a very simple life, and concentrated on their studies. Even princes and sons of rich people were treated the same as other students. They gave up pleasures of all sense organs (taste, touch, smell, etc.).

There was great emphasis on developing noble character (becoming an Āryan). This helped the student lead a life of self-discipline. There was no time to think about boy friend or girl friend, or worry about „who will go with me on the Prom night‟.

Duties of a Teacher

The guru‟s responsibility was to guide his/her students with love, kindness and affection 1000 times more than a father. He had the patience to remove all doubts even if he had to answer the same question a hundred times. The teacher lived by the highest moral, ethical, cultural, and spiritual values and the students learnt these by listening, observation, and practicing them in their own life. In Védantic tradition the teacher did not ask for any money for his services. The king and voluntary contributions by the wealthy in the community supported the guru.

Atha yat tapo dānam ārjavam ahimsā,

Satyavachanam iti tā asya dakshinā.

Chhāndogya Upanishad

The practice of disciplined effort, charity, ethical behavior, nonviolence, and speaking the truth (by the graduates is the best) guru dakshinā (payment to teachers).

Today some studies go on well beyond the age of 25 years, e.g. Medicine. If you decide to enter the next stage of life – Gruhasthāshram – before finishing your studies, then you may have to think about all the consequences. One needs to consider his/her individual circumstances and decide. If you look around you may see 18 or 20 year olds getting married. Talk to them and see how difficult it becomes to study. Rarely a supportive husband or wife can make a lot of difference. Usually people are distracted from their studies because of increased responsibilities of family life.

Graduation Speech

The graduation speech by the guru outlines the duties of the next stage of life

Gruhasthāshram (the householder).

Graduation speech from Taittiriya Upanishad, is as follows:

Practice what is right. (Live according to Dharma.)

Study the scriptures and teach them too.

Live up to the ideals learnt in Gurukula (boarding school). Let the speech and actions be the same as the ideals accepted by the mind & intellect.

Personal sacrifice and disciplined effort are required of the householder.

The householder has complete control over his senses.

He works for peace and prosperity of the family and the community.

Fire signifies knowledge. Fire in the kitchen is necessary for preparing food. The householder works so that there is food in the house and knowledge in the family and community.

Daily puja (worship) is performed by the family as a reminder of the Dharma.

Guests are welcomed with warmth and treated generously.

Take care of the needs of the community, country, and the world.

Having children and bringing them up is a major time consuming duty of the husband & wife.

Protection of women, the weak, the elderly, and the country is also the duty of able-bodied adults.

2.

Gruhasthāshram

After the age of 25, men and women get married, have children and earn money to support the family and the community. This stage of life is called “Gruhasthāshram”. It is a time for selfless service ( Yagna). Needs of the family are taken care of first and then it is extended to friends, community, and the country. The husband and wife are expected to love and respect each other. Their major responsibility is to bring up children who have noble ( Āryan) characteristics and who in turn will become good citizens.

Yatra Nāryastu pujyante ramante tatra devatāhā

Yatraitāstu na pujyante sarvāstatrāphalāhā kriyāha Gods rejoice where women are respected.

Nothing succeeds where women are not respected.

Manu Smruti, 3.56

Wealth is acquired and spent according to Dharma. Support of children, elderly, and the community is also the duty of people in this stage of life. Teachers are given the greatest respect and supported by generous contributions. Dāna (charity) is given to deserving poor. Free time is spent in keeping up Abhyāsa (study) of scriptures and Satsanga (good company).

3.

Vānaprasthāshram

The next stage of life is “Vānprasthāshram”. This starts at the age of 50 years and goes up to 75. Main goal of this stage is Svādhyāya or serious study of scriptures and preparing for the ultimate goal in life - which is union ( Yog) with God or Brahman. One begins to devote more time for community service - again without expecting anything (money, prestige, position, or power) in return for the services. Gradually all unnecessary material things and activities are reduced, life is simplified, and most time is devoted to sevā or service of community.

4

Sanyāsāshram

The last stage of life is called “Sanyāsāshram” - when we give up all desires and live like a homeless monk. Any one can enter this stage at any time in life - like Gautam Buddha did during Gruhasthāshram. He left his wife, son, palace, and kingdom to find the real meaning of life. Sanyāsi- s live under a tree on the outskirts of a town or in a temple, or in a jungle, and meditate. They do not participate in activities of the family or society. The main goal is to practice Tyāga or renunciation.

11. Four Pillars of the Society – the Caste System

The ancient society in India was divided in to four groups according to their capabilities, aptitudes, education, personal effort ( sādhanā), and function they performed in the society. These were like the four pillars in four corners of a building supporting a roof overhead. All four groups were equally important and none was respected more than the other. People were able to move freely amongst the four groups according to their qualities. Everyone was expected to live according to the dharma of their category.

This system was called Varnāshram. Varna in Sanskrut means to describe. It means attributes like color, form, or quality that describe something. When used for humans it may mean the person‟s physical and mental ability and the function performed in the society. Since there were four categories, this system of classification is also called Chatur (four) Varna.

Brāhmana-kshatriya-visham shudrānām cha Parantap

Karmāni pravibhaktani svabhāva-prabhaivah gunaihi

O Parantap (Arjun), the responsibilities (duties) of brāhmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas, and shudras are distributed according to qualities they are born with.

Bhagavad Gitā, XVIII.41

1.

Brāhmana-s (Brahmins)

Shamah, damah, tapah, shaucham, kshāntihi, ārjavam, eva cha Gnānam, vignānam, āstikyam, brahmakarma svabhāvajam Those with calmness, self-control, disciplined effort, purity of mind and body, forgiveness, righteousness, knowledge, supreme knowledge (about Brahman), and faith in God are fit for the duties of a brāhman (brāhmin).

Bhagavad Gitā, XVIII.42

Brāhman-s were the intellectuals who became teachers and preachers. They learnt the scriptures and other arts and sciences, spent their lives running residential schools and performing religious ceremonies ( yagna). Preservation of Védic traditions and knowledge was their duty. Brāhmana- s were very spiritual and lived a simple life following the highest moral and ethical principles to set good example for the rest of the society. They were supported by the king, the wealthy, and the parents of students.

There was no demand for any fees for their services. Some selected few would seat in the court of the king to advise him on moral and ethical issues.

2.

Kshatriya-s

Shauryam, tejah, dhrutihi, dākshyam yuddhe cha api apalāyanam Dānam, ishvaryabhāvah cha kshātram karma svabhāvjam Kshatriyas are brave, (have) powerful personality, (can) make firm decisions, (have) ability to fight in war, (do) not withdraw from battle field, generous, and of royal behavior.

Bhagavad Gitā, XVIII.43

Kshatriya-s were physically strong, well trained in the art of warfare, and use of weapons. One of them would become the king. In the days of king Bharat, the ruler was selected on the basis of his knowledge and capabilities. The king‟s primary responsibility was to protect the population, provide for necessities of life like food, water, schools, roads, etc. Other Kshatriya-s would be in the army.

3 &4 . Vaishya-s & Shudra-s

Krushi-gaurakshya-vanijyam vaishya-karma svabhāvajam Parichayrātmakam karma shudrasyāpi svabhāvjam

Agriculture, taking care of cows, and trade are the responsibilities of Vaishya-s.

Service is the duty of Shudra-s.

Bhagavad Gitā, XVIII.44

The third category was Vaishya- s who were farmers, businessmen, and other trades people. The financial welfare of the society depended on them.

The fourth division was called Shudra- s. They did all the hard jobs requiring unskilled labor and some very unpleasant ones. They disposed off dead animals and removed garbage. Gradually they became the untouchables because of the type of work they did and were dominated by other castes. Many reformers have tried to improve their lot and now it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of caste in India. One of the presidents of India was a Shudra.

12. Four Paths

“Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work (Karma yog), or worship (Bhakti yog), or psychic control (Raj yog), or philosophy (Gnān yog) - by one, or more, or all of these - and be free. This is the whole religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details.”

Swami Vivékananda

The main goal of life is to experience the divinity within. To achieve this union or Yog with the supreme , four major paths are prescribed. We have the choice of selecting a path depending on our physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual development, aptitude, opportunities in life, etc. One can follow any one or a combination of more than one ways to achieve our goal. Ultimately all paths end up in the same place. The values described in Ch. 8 are common to all the paths.

The four paths are:

1.

Bhakti Yog – path of devotion

2.