HINDUISM HINDU DHARMA SANAATHANA DHARMA (QUESTIONS & ANSWERS) DR. N. GOPALAKRISHNAN, Ph. D., D.Litt.
What is Hinduism ?
The puraanas tell that Himalayam samaarabhya yaavath indu sarovaram tham deva nirmitham desam hindustanam prachakshathey. The nation which starts from Himalayas and ends in Indian ocean and which is created by the god is known as Hindustanam. And those who are living there are Hindus.
How the ‘Hindus’ are defined ?
Aa sindo sindu paryantham yasya bhartha bhoomikam maathru bhoo pitru bhoo schaiva sa vai hindu riti smruthaa: Those who consider and respect the country which extends from Indus valley ( sindu river ) upto Indian ocean as their motherland, father land or holy land, they are the Hindus. ( all those consider Bhratham as their own mother/father/holy land they are the Hindus)
Why it is said that Hinduism is not a religion ?
It is not created by an individual / prophet/ Rishi . So it is not the opinion (matham) or advise of an individual. So it is not a religion. It is the contribution of thousands of Rishies.
Who created Hinduism?
Thousands of Rishies, during the course of thousands of years could formulate a perfect style/way of thinking and practicing various aspects and concepts in the life. Those are codified as the customs and rituals or in short acharas. These acharas combined together form the dharma . Dharma is the way of life. So Hinduism is the way of life.
Why it is known as sanathana dharma?
Sanathana word means ( according to Bhagavath geetha) the one which cannot be destroyed by any method and the one which is ever existing in everything which is immovable and non perishable is the sanaathanam. So this dharma is ever existing and it cannot be destroyed . So it is sanaathanam.
Is it not true that something which has a beginning , has an end also ?
It is true for the one which has a beginning. Sanathana dharma does not have a beginning so it will not have an end also. If it starts decaying someone /avathara will come to protect and energize to bring back the dharma with all its positive results as it is told in Bhagavath Geetha.
What is the meaning of Dharma ?
Dharma is the one which is guiding, protecting, supporting, …you . Dharanaath dharma …the one which is protecting you is dharma.
Can we say Hinduism and sanaathana dharma are the same ?
Yes! They are the same and remember that there is nothing like Hinduism . It is an English word created by the foreigners. There are communism, socialism and capitalism but nothing like Hinduism.
Why some people call it a religion?
When other pathways are known as ‘religion’, like the one based on Jesus, Mohammed and so on, use of a similar word may help others to understand our dharma easily if the word Hinduism is used. Hence people, particularly the British started using the word Hinduism. Now everyone is using the same.
Is the word Indian and Hindu synonym ?
Definitely yes. According to the definition, the word ‘Indian’ is same as Hindu. Majority of the politicians may not agree with that. Because they are full of wrong impressions created during the last 250 years of foreign rule.
Then where the Indian Christians and Muslim will fit in ?
They are also Hindus. They are Hindu Christians and Hindu Muslims. Just like we say American Christian, Pakistani Muslim, etc.
When was Hindu dharma started?
None knows the answer. According the archeological evidence, the Vedas might have got composed sometimes like 6000 – 8000 BC, in the present form. So the dharma might have formed earlier to this. Since it is a way of life, none can trace the beginning point of the dharma. If it would have been a contribution of some individual, we can say from the period of that individual. Here that approach focusing an individual is not possible
What are the archeological evidences on sanathana dharma ?
The archeological studies carried out in Kalibhangan, Bhagavan pura, Mehargarh, etc show that the oldest artifacts available are of the period BC 8250. So we can presume the Hindu civilization or the one something similar to that started blooming during then. There may be difference of opinion for this comment.
Is the Indus valley civilization same as the Hindu dharma civilization?
Definitely all the proofs available say so. Particularly those are available recently. Even though foreigners and the so called Indian intellectuals wanted to distort the true history and wanted to prove wrongly that they are different from Hindu dharma. The conclusion is that both are the same.
But many people said earlier against this conclusion and few still continue to say so. why ?
There was an intentional conspiracy to distort the facts which was spearheaded and created by the British to confuse Indians through the Aryan invasion theory and to create a feeling among Indians that they are also the invaders like the British ( to Indian subcontinent). So they wanted to prove that Indus valley, Harappan civilization, etc are entirely different from the Vedic civilization and Hindu culture . This was fully utilized by our pseudo intellectuals and also the so called secularists for creating a complex in the Indian mind.
Who were/ are the Aryans ?
The word Aryan does not mean any race or a group of people. It only means the scholarly people. You know arya vaidya sala, aryaavartham, aryavepu, aryaputra all meant for ‘scholarly’ meaning. During the last days of Maxmuller , he too commented strongly that, Aryan word has got nothing to do with a race.
Where can we see the use of this word in Vedas?
In Vedas there are a number of places where the Arya word is used as “krunvantho viswam aryam = let us make the world a glorious one. Srunvanthu viswe amruthasya putraa aaye dhamaani divyaani thasthu = the children of immortals, Let us come together and chant the great songs. Here too the message is Arya. Every wife , in olden days, use to call her husband of royal family as aryaputra.
Why some people say the Vedic civilization and Hindu civilization are different ?
Vedic civilization itself is the Hindu civilization and they are not different. There is nothing like Hindu civilization which is different from Vedic culture .
When was the Vedas written or composed ?
Vedas are known as anaadi which means the date of origin is not known. It is also said that it existed from time immemorial. But the Veda Vyasa compiled it in the present form.
What is the real meaning of the word Veda?
Veda was formed from ‘vid’ means knowledge. ( more details will be available when we discuss about Vedas separately)
What the Vedas say about the date of its origin?
Brihaspati prathamam jaayamaanam thishyam nakshatram abhisambhaboova . The delta cancri (thishyam) star when got occulted by Jupiter planet, and when the planet moved forward, it looked as the star was born newly..
This is an astronomical phenomenon. The computer simulation studies on the movement of the celestial bodies, showed that this occulting might have taken place almost during BC 4275 or so. If this Vedic line might have written after seeing this celestial phenomenon, then this line (which is in the last part of Rig Veda) might have been composed about 6250 years ago. So the last part of Rig Veda might have composed during this period. If this is true the first part might have got composed about 2 to 3 thousand more years ago. The last part of Vedas are composed of modern Sanskrit and the first part with vedic Sanskrit. So the Vedas may be more than 7 – 8 thousand years old.
Is this observation agree with other scholars’ opinion ?
No ! This is not agreeing with Indian scholars Opinion. Indian scholars like Balagangadhara Thilak, Jnanaanda Saraswati, Dayananda Sarawati, and so on fix the period of Vedas 20 to 50 thousand years ago. Some other ‘scholars’ fix the period around 1000 BC or so, like their western or Russian gurus.
Does it agree with foreign scholars?
Some of the foreign scholars started rethinking and proving that this period ( 6 – 8 thousand years old) may be correct. Some of them even conclude that Vedas are of 2 to 3 thousands old only. Now a rethinking is picking up fast. Some of them also fix the period as ‘many thousand years’ ago.
Does it mean that Hindu dharma is the oldest religion ?
If you want to label Hindu dharma as a religion , it is the oldest religion. If you want to consider it as the way of life then also Hindu dharma is the oldest codified systematic way of life in the world and Rig Veda is the oldest literature.
How the message of Hinduism spread from generation to generation?
This dharma spread from place to place and generation to generation through the practice of acharas ( seen and heard) from the parents, books, illustrations, etc. The messages also got transferred from mouth to ear by oral traditions
Did Hindu dharma spread outside Indian continent ?
Yes ! It spread through out the world, including African continent, American continents and so on. Many archeological proofs are available now.
What are the Acharas ( customs and rituals) in Hindu dharma ?
Acharas are those practices of our day to day life . Or it is the life style by itself. In India the acharas are practiced for the following purposes and benefits
Acharath labhathe hi ayu: acharath dhanamakshayam acharath
labhathe suprajaa: aachaaro ahanthya lakshanam
Acharas are practiced for the psychological and physiological benefits and for a long healthy life; acharas are followed for prosperity and wealth; acharas are followed for strong family and social bondage. By following the acharas, one gets a fine personality and dharmic vision. Says our dharma saastra books and the acharyas.
Why the people should practice the acharas ?
In India, everyone practiced his/her dharma through these acharas. They could get the psychological, physiological, family relation based, social bondage and national integration based benefits. One should understand scientifically, rationally and logically the meaning and message of every achara, practice and teach the messages to others.
Who created these acharas ?
Thousands of Rishies created these acharas based on their experiences. They taught them to their students. Some of these acharas were written in books. Some were passed to generations through oral tradition of chanting the Sanskrit lines which give the message of the acharas.
How the acharas used to get refined?
It is said that acharyaath paadam aadatthey paadam sishya swamedhaya paadam sa brahmachaaribhya sesham kalakramena cha. One quarter of the acharas is to be learned from the teacher and one quarter by the student himself, one quarter by discussing with others and the last part during the process of living ( by addition, deletion, modification and correction).
When these acharas were created/ written ?
These acharas were not written in one day nor within a period of a decade nor a century. They were written during the course of thousands of years. The addition, deletion. Modification and corrections were done continuously. Still the refining is going on. In fact it is a process of updating which continues even today.
Where these acharas were written?
Majority of the acharas were written in kalpasastra, puraanas, itihasas and some in Vedangas and so on.
Are these acharas written by Brahmins?
These acharas were written by Rishies from all castes and from different parts of India. They are also written in different languages. During the period when acharas were written, none of the Rishies was known in their caste name. The present type of caste system never existed during then..
Is it compulsory that every Hindu should follow these acharas ?
It is left to his/her discretion whether to practice or not to do so. It is said that Swagrame pooranmacharas anya graame thadarkhakam pattane tu thath paadam yaatre balaath acharatheth. If you are living in your own village, follow all the acharas. If you are living in other villages, follow one half of the acharas. And if you are in a city /town one quarter of the acharas are to be practiced. But in en tour, acharas need not be followed like a child.
From whom should we learn the acharas or its clarifications ?
The dharma sastra tells you that : Achinoti cha sastrarthan sishyaan sadhayathey syudhi swayam acharati chaiva sa acharya it smrutha.
He who knows the scientific meaning of the acharas, teach the acharas simple ways with examples and demonstrate it by self practice, is known as the aachaarya. Take one quarter from this aachaarya.
Why Hindu dharma is also known as sanaathana dharma ?
Acharas are the foundations of Sanathana dharma. All the acharas together make dharma. ( aachara prabhavo dharma). So Hindu dharma is correct.
How can we connect the acharas and dharma ?
Say for example the acharas to be performed by the mother is known as Maathru dharma; by the father is known as Pitru dharma ; by the son is putra dharma; by the husband Bhartru dharma and by the wife patnee dharma….and so on . Even for the citizens we have Poura dharma, for teachers, the acharya dharma, for the kings Rajadharma ……. and so on ! Now, the Sanaathana dharma can be defined thus: The maathru dharma + pitru dharma + putra dharma + putree dharma + bhartru dharma +……+ raja dharma = sanathana dharma. The sanathana dharma has the following meaning also Sanaathana = chira puratana (older than the oldest) + nitya noothana ( ever novel). Dharma = dhaaranaath dharma = the one which is guiding you is dharma. So sanathana dharma is the one which is very old and ever existing and the one which is protecting you and that is practiced by one and all in bharath.
Should we blindly follow the aacharas of Hindu dharma ?
You can critically follow or blindly follow. You can accept or reject the messages of dharma. You have the freedom for doing both. Nothing in this dharma is strict.
What is meant by the freedom of the Individual ?
In sanathana dharma the followers have the freedom for criticizing the negatives, evaluating the merits, correcting the superstitions and mistakes, modifying the ideas based on desa ( place), kaala (time) and the condition of the practitioner. Adding any novel ideas beneficial for human beings, deleting which are irrelevant and obsolete , accepting anything good for the benefit of individuals/family/society/nation, from anywhere or rejecting any outdated practices are the main principles of the freedom.
Can the Hindus change the contents of religious books ?
They can make their own recensions and sakhas of any book. The old will remain the same. New one created will be known in the name of the composer. Any of the Hindu beliefs, thoughts, books, faiths, rituals, customs, concepts, can be subjected to the above process of refining through addition, deletion, correction and modification.
Why sanathana dharma is not rigid ?
Because of the above freedom, Hindus have as many as 1280 basic dharmic books (matha granthas with thousands of commentaries- there may be a different version for this number ) where as the other religions have only one book each. Something rigid or strict, followed without refining and questioning, cannot exist in the world for a long period. As long as you have the freedom to think, the flexibility is inevitable and progress is the part of it.
Why this oldest religion still survives?
Because of the great freedom given by our Rishies for taking good from everywhere and rejecting bad at any time. Hindu dharma still remains strong even after more than a thousand years of foreign aggression and massacre, in India.
Who is the final authority in Hindu dharma, like the pope for Christians?
There is no final authority for Hindus whose words are final. You know other civilizations like Mesopotamia, Greek, Egyptians, Babylonia,, ,,,,etc got wiped out from the surface of the globe Earth. Bharatheeya dharma did not die. It is giving light to billions of people world over. Its contributions are becoming great subject for learning and practicing, world over. This is because everyone has the freedom to add, subtract, delete, correct and modify the ideas and practices. None is labeled as the final authority to direct or impose the rule.
Why do the Hindus have many religious books ?
Our forefathers knew that, all the knowledge required for the progress of the human beings cannot be included in one book, nor one saint can contribute for that. Hence our forefathers wrote hundreds of books for the benefit of the human beings world over.
How the Hindu acharas are explained in books ?
Our Acharas are explained in these books in many ways like: presented as stories, historical facts, rituals, customs, directives, guidelines, etc.
What are the rules to be followed while performing the acharas?
You know that there are three factors for modern physics, the time, the space and the perceiver or the observer. In the same way there are three factors in the Hindu acharas also, the time and place/space of performing the acharas and the person who perform it. Hence one should select good time, sacred place and cleanliness/suddhi of the body and mind. All the acharas are based on these three factors.
In which book (s) Hindu acharas are explained ?
The acharas are explained in Puraanaas, Itihasaas, Dharmasastras, Gruhyasootraas, Sroutha sootraas, Upanishads, Vedangas, Upavedas, and Darsanaas. Different acharas are written in different books which we will discuss in detail later part of this book.
Will the acharas remain the same without any change ?
Continuous refinement of each achara has taken place in the course of time with the help of acharyas. The Gurus are the reformers of Sanathana dharma.
Each acharya or guru can refine these acharas in the course of time and place, depending upon the requirements /needs of the individual and the society.
Should we follow the acharas and the acharyas strictly/ blindly ?
Everyone has the freedom to refine the acharas by addition, deletion, modification and correction, depending upon the time, place and other parameters like country, where these acharas are performed. However refining the acharas is done without loosing the spirit and message of the acharas. There is nothing like ‘strictly following’ the acharas or acharyas.
How the Hindu acharas differ from those of other religion ?
Majority of the Hindu acharas are not part of Vedas. They are separately compiled in dharma sastras. Each achara is formulated in such a way that science and spirituality integrate in it. The merits of the science and that of the value based scientific spirituality are integrated for personal/ family/social and national progress.
What are the prime aims of the acharas ?.
Prime aim of acharas is not going to heaven or nearer to gods. But many people think so. It is also not for getting the benefit during facing the final verdict of god. It is for making our life comfortable, heavenly and divine, with as much values added to it as possible.
Where the acharas to be performed by the family members are written?
Acharas to be performed by the family members are known as gruhastha acharas. They are written in many books coming under the kalpasastra , which is the fifth Vedanga . The part where this type of acharas are written is known as gruhya sutra. Many gruhasta acharas are given in puranas also. Gruhastha means family members.
Where can we read the acharas for mahayaagaas and yajnaas ?
The rituals connected with the performance of yagas are described in sroutha sutra part of Kalpasaastra. Kalpasastra / Kalpasutra is the fifth vedanga.
In which part of kalpasootra, the acharas to be performed by the King, Queen, citizens, professors, business men, etc are written?
This part is known as dharma sutra part of kalpasootra. Each and every aspect connected with rules and regulation of the country, the fundamental principles, directives for citizens, etc are written under dharma sastra or dharma sutra.
Are the dharma saastra and dharma sutra, same ?
Saastra word means what is giving you the instruction and guidance, The dharma sastra is the one which is giving you guidance. Sutra means thread / small set of words giving a great message. Hence dharma sutra is the same as dharma saastra, which can give you message in few words or one or two lines known as sutras
Where can we details of after death acharas and rituals ?
The after death ceremonies and during death ceremonies /rituals are known as anthyeshti. They are also known as pithru medha karma. This is available in the fourth part of Kalpa saastra known as pithrumedha sutra.
How to compensate the mistakes in performing the acharas ?
For all the mistakes and omissions, we have prayaschitta. The word prayaschitta means the acharas of repentance. It is also a part of kalpa saastra.
What is Kalpasutra /kalpasastra?
Kalpasutra is a series of voluminous books written by many Rishies each of the book is known with the name of the corresponding Rishies. The major kalpasutras are Boudhaayana kalpasutra, Aapasthamba kalpasutra, Kaatyaayana kalpasutra and Maanava kalpa sutra. Each of the kalpasutra may have more than five to ten thousand pages.
How these kalpasastras are divided for different acharas ?
Division of Kalpa saastra is done as Gruhyasutra, Dharma sutra, Sroutha sutra, Pitrumedha sutra, Sulbasutra and Prayaschitta part. Some of the Kalpasutra may have one or more chapters dealing with some other subjects also.
Why the acharas differ among Hindus ?
This is because different opinions are presented on the method of performance in different Kalpasutras. All the Kalpasutra do not give the same procedure for each achara. The explanations differ, hence the difference seen in those who are following that kalpasutra.
Can you give example for such differences ?
Some people celebrate Sivaratri on a particular day another group may celebrate in a different day. For one group, on the ekadasi day the srardha can be performed for another group srardha should be performed on that day. This difference is not serious. One should understand that the opinions of the Rishies vary and it is permitted.
Can we see this type of variations in other religion also?
Do not try to compare our acharas with those of others. Their acharas are explained in their prime text and connected with god or religion. Our acharas may not have any direct link to religion or spirituality. Remember that this type of variation is there in other religion also. Ramadan falls in different days in different places. For many, the Christmas is on 6th January. Some Christians do not worship Cross at all. These are all variations.
Are there descriptions of acharas in puranas ?
Many stories/ discussions /advise written in puranas are aimed at informing the merits of the acharas. The acharas mentioned in puranic stories have more spirituality in it. Particularly vrathas, pilgrimage, bhakti, pooja , performance, etc.
How the stories are used in puranas to convey the message of acharas?
In puranas, different stories of following the acharas are narrated. The stories convey the merits of performing the acharas which motivates people to follow the acharas. Focus is given through spirituality in puranas.
How the contents of itihasas (Epics) carry the acharas ?
The itihasas indirectly convey the merits and the messages of following the acharas. It is easy to remember the stories and hence easy to remember the merits of acharas also. This is also given as the Rishies advising Dhasaratha
Kaikeyee/ Dharmaputra/ Rama/ Arjuna and to many others as dialogue/dis ussion. The message gets into our mind like from that of a drama.
How many acharas are mentioned in Vedas?
Vedas give only ultimate truths, messages and facts of life. But in Yajurveda, Yaga based acharas are mentioned. In sama Veda acharas connected with chanting the sama gana are given indirectly . For achieving the target of many of the great messages of Vedas the dharma sastras give the guidance through acharas.
Does the Upanishad carry the explanations of acharas ?
There are more than 108 Upanishads and many acharas are explained in Upanishads. The acharas connected with poojas, yoga, araadhana, bhakti, manthra, thanthra, yanthra, etc. are also described in some Upanishads. In the major 18 Upanishads, you may not see the description of acharas.
How many types of acharas are followed by people ?
One cannot classify the acharas in types. There are acharas which are performed for spiritual benefits known as Mokaha acharas. There are acharas performed for prosperity and happiness which are known as kaamya acharas. The former has high level of spirituality in it.
Can we explain the merits of acharas in a nut shell ?
The acharas do have many merits which can be classified under FIVE categories. Acharas beneficial for mind, body, family, society and nation.
How psychology/ mind is involved in acharas?
Each individual is a combination of physical body and mind. The mind is the most important factor guiding the man/ family/ society and nation. Hence many acharas are formulated to make the mind perfect and healthy. Either in individual or as group.
What are the psychological benefits of acharas ?
Examples of psychologically beneficial Acharas : Chanting a mantra/ keerthan/ naama /etc. Faith in divine power and even the concept of god are created for mental or psychological benefits. The faith or sraddha or bhakti in god is for psychological benefits.
Do you mean to say that fear of god is good ?
We, Indians never say ‘ god fearing’ but we are god loving – Eeswara Bhakti is what is required and not Daiva bhayam. Hence the bhakti has psychological benefit.
What are the acharas for psychological benifit ?
Taking the blessing from elders, listening to the puranic and related stories, taking food with family members, visiting friends and relatives, doing yoga, sharing the problems with friends and family members………are all psychologically beneficial acharas.
What are the physiological benefits of acharas ?
Any acharas which can contribute to better health fall under this category of acharas. It is told that sareeram adhyam khalu dharma sadhanam. Body is the
first tool for performing the dharma. Hence health is very important factor for maintaining a dharmic life.
What are the examples of such type of acharas ?
Examples of physiologically beneficial acharas are: doing soorya namaskara ( Sun salutation) which is an ideal exercise for all the movable skeletal joints. The soorya namaksara is composed of seven yogaasanas. Each of which can contribute the best possible way to smoothen the movement of skeletal joints. Hence soorya namaskara is known as the king of the exercises.
How many more such acharas can be named?
There are thousands of such acharas practiced in India. Few more such acharas are mentioned here: morning prayer at the time of waking up (chanting karaagre vasathe lakshmi…) for balancing blood pumping pressure of the heart, touching the floor as bhoo vandanam ( samudra vasane devi…) for releasing bio static electricity from the body through fingers, taking morning bath for cleansing external body, prayer before taking food ( for activating salivary glands and digestive enzyme glands) avoid keeping head towards north while sleeping to keep the body position non-parallel to earth’s magnetic field for facilitating the smooth blood flow to the brain, taking vegetarian food, putting chandan/ kumkum/ bhasma/ on the forehead, keeping tulasi ( sacred basil) in the back of the ear, cleaning the legs/hands and face after a long walk outside,…. ( you can find out many more examples)
What will be the sin if the acharas are not practiced ?
Acharas are not for purifying from papa nor for getting punya. It is purely for our earthly life and health. Hence, if you are not performing acharas, it will never create any sin. It is not the god’s responsibility to punish you. God is not sitting for punishing us. These type of explanations are childish . But the merits expected from the acharas may not be available, if they are not practiced.
How the fasting on a particular day benefits the health ?
Change in daily food gives an opportunity to balance the nutrition requirement of the body. Fasting for few days purify the blood . Deposited fat gets partly decomposed too. If enough water is taken blood purification takes place quickly due to continuous filtration through kidney.
Why ekadasi vratha is followed?
It is mainly for changing the food once in 15 days. This change in food either from rice to wheat or vice versa, gives the opportunity to fill the gap of the nutritional lapses in our day to food intake. Ekadasi word has only one meaning: the 11th day from New moon or full moon day.
Can an achara solve the iron deficiency in our body ?
In Kerala, there is an achara of preparing a semi dried food item ( known in Malayalam as mezhukkupuratti ) on every Saturday, in wrought iron vessel known as Cheena chatty. The iron content of this food will compensate the deficiency of the iron. The iron needed for a week can be stored in our body. Making one food item in this vessel once in a week is enough to meet the iron deficiency.
How sareera suddhi is effected through acharas?
There are five types of bathing explained in dharma sastra for the external body cleaning. The Keralites and all those who are living in tropical climate should take water bath. It should be done till their body gets cooled.
Why oil bath is taken ?
Oil bath compensates the natural oil layer on the surface skin of the human body by the oil smeared . This oil protects the lipoprotein layer of our skin.
How blood can be purified ? is there anything mentioned in our acharas?
Very specifically it is mentioned in dharma saastra. Take two or three ( some doctors even advise 6 – 9 glass ) glass water in the morning. This will definitely purify the blood as you know it happens through filtration of blood by the kidneys, during blood circulation.
How can one get more information about this type of acharas?
Think about each and every achara rationally, scientifically and logically. Discus with good doctors and come to a conclusion. Never be biased and never justify the superstitions in any of the achara.
How to understand the acharas practiced for physiological merits?
Think and analyze each and every one of the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly acharas one by one. You will get numerous such acharas which have variety of physiological benefits.
How the acharas strengthen family bondage ?
All the shodasa (sixteen) acharas like, naamakaranam, annapraasanam, nishkramanam, upanayanam, vivaaham,…..etc fall under this category. The concept of maathru devo bhava, pitru devo bhava, etc., the acharas connected with pitrukarma/ anthyeshti, the gruhya acharas to be performed by the (married) couples, ……..etc. are all examples for this type of acharas.
How scientific is the family bondage strengthening acharas?
There is sociology, psychology, etc in performing these acharas which strengthen the family bondage, between wife and husband, children and parents, brothers, sisters, grand parents and children, and so on.
How the wedding rituals strengthen the family relation ?
Tying the (knots) thali, putting the garland, holding the right hands (paani grahana), doing the pradakshina and exchanging the rings are all symbolically bringing a man and woman together giving the feeling that we are going to be united from this particular day of marriage onwards.
Can we know more acharas under this category ?
Temple visit of the family members , taking food together, wife serving the food to husband, mother serving food to children, praying together, celebrating the wedding anniversary, celebrating the birth day, parents’ blessing the children, fixing the date for earth breaking ceremony for new building a home, gruha pravesa, etc., are all directly or indirectly connected for strengthening family relations.
How a mother can strengthen family relations ?
Mother and wife have major roles in strengthening the family bondage by performing their respective maathru dharma and patnee dharma. Try to discuss about this to grand parents and old people. You will get lot of information.
Can we go deep into more of these acharas?
If you are scanning the gruhastha acharas you will know that there are hundreds of such acharas which we were thinking superstitions. These acharas were formulated hundreds of years ago for strengthening the family relations.
How social bondage gets strengthened through acharas ?
The acharas which give the opportunity to bring everyone together without ego clashes are classified under this category. These acharas will result in strengthening the social bondage in the society.
Can you site few examples of such acharas?
There are hundreds of social bondage strengthening acharas: Celebrating the festivals, like sivaratri, navaratri, janmashtami, onam, etc. are social acharas. Inviting family members, relatives and friends for attending family ceremonies, etc are the acharas strengthening the social bondage and relationships.
Why do we invite people for the marriage ?
This is a very important achara in which the happiness of the family is shared by the members of the society.
Why people gather during the death in a family?
When someone passes away many people come to share the sorrow of the family. Social bondage strengthening takes place when the happiness and sorrow are shared with others. particularly among the relatives and friends. During the days of happiness and unhappiness the people share the feelings which results in strengthening the social bondage.
How the national integration and acharas are linked ?
Any achara which is performed in which the name of our motherland, culture, or part of the nation, like seas, mountains, cities, great men, heroes, etc come that will give a reminder for the national pride. This directly will result in the national integration.
Can you site few examples in which the acharas help national integration?
Acharas for national integration can be narrated like this: Doing prathasmarana by chanting the mantras in which the names of holy mountains, rivers, cities, heroes, etc., are mentioned. Reading Ramayana and Mahabharatha can fetch benefits of National integration because Sri Rama traveled from Ayodhya to Kerala and then to Rameswaram and back. Similarly Pandavas traveled all the way from Hastinapura (present Delhi) to Palakkad district of Kerala. This narration itself will result in the national integration. It can also be achieved through national languages, Sanskrit, cultural traits on dress, food, Vedic and puranic messages, pilgrimage, etc. these are all part of Indian heritage and achara.
How can we classify all these acharas for removing the superstition ?
There are three types of acharas. The acharas not relevant for 21st century are known as anacharas. The acharas which produce negative results are
duracharas. The acharas which produce good and positive results /effects are sadacharas.
What are the sadacharas ?
Acharas which can produce good effects and which are already described in detail in many pages above are known as sadacharas. The beneficial effects means the effects for individuals, family, society and nation.
Can you give few examples for anacharas ?
Some say that Vedas should not be heard by women, Vedas should not be chanted by lower caste people, one should not touch the lower caste, should not visit a patient on a particular date. These are all anacharas if not properly described. Few more anachaas are hanging Chinese music instruments fingshui for vaastu based benefits and for solving family problems, blindly following ‘This week/month for you’ type of astrological predictions appearing in magazines, astrological prediction that Mr. X will become the prime minister, changing the position of windows or the position of kitchen, based on the advise of the so called vastu experts, etc are anacharas.
What are duracharas in Hindu dharma ? How to eradicate them ?
There are hundreds of sadacharas in Hindu dharma. Unfortunately there are few duracharas also. These create problems, if we do not analyze them properly, rationally, scientifically and logically. Almost all these duracharas crept into the our culture at a later period. Majority of them are only decades old, and some are centuries old and none is millennia old. None of them is the part of Vedic acharas. Duracharas are those customs and rituals which can create permanent negatives and bad effects for any one or more than one individuals(s)..
Can we give examples of some more duracharas ?
Cursing somebody, chanting mantras for negatives, sacrificing chicken, goat, camels and any other animals in the name of gods or demons, offering liquor as a part of religious rituals, misinterpreting the acharas for negatives .etc are duracharas.
Can we site examples on misinterpretation of a sadachara to durachara ?
One of the serious duracharas is dropping half burnt human dead body in the holy rivers like Ganga .Yet another durachara is the belief that if someone dies in dhanishta panchaka ( dhanishta to revati five days) there can be five more deaths in that house.
Are these duracharas superstitions ?
Remember, there are a number of good information in vaastu and astrology which should not be misinterpreted or misutilized. They create superstitions about silly things. One has to take the benefits from Vaastu and astrology instead of practicing the non-senses advised by quack astrologers and ‘vaastu experts’.
How to identify the truths and facts on these acharas ?
Analyze and classify all the acharas under Sadacharas, duracharas and anacharas. Select and use the best after refining them based on the scientific principles, rational thinking and logical analyses.
How to improve ourselves ?
Use your ears /eyes /tongue /thoughts /work positively to improve yourself. Acharas are only one among many methods for improving ourselves. According to Lord Krishna the aims and pathways for a better life is ( Bhagavath Geetha) Uddhareth atmanaatmaanam na aatmaanam avassadhayeth aathmaivahi athmanobhandhu: athmaiva ripuraathmana: The ultimate aim oflife is elevating/ raising/ uddharanam of ourselves and never belittling ourselves . We ourselves are our best friends and we ourselves are our worst enemies. (This upadesa has been given in the 6th chapter 5th line of Bhagavath Geetha). So let us elevate and improve ourselves, our family, our society and our motherland. Let us never denigrate ourselves, our family, our society, our culture and our motherland.
How to use science in our day to beliefs and acharas?
Lord Krishna has given another message for improving ourselves jnaanam vijnaana sahitham yath jnaathwaa mokshyase asubhaath. Every bit of spiritual knowledge and achara / vichara / sankalapa /… should be analyzed and practiced scientifically for avoiding the superstitions.
How much acharas are to be performed in our life ?
Lord Krishna’s third message for improving ourselves is: swalpam apyasya dharmassya thraayathe mahato bhayaaath: Follow at least some dharmic values as acharas. It will protect us from many serious negatives in the life.
If others are not following the acharas how to influence them ?
Whatever we are doing (or not doing) are factors connected with us. Nobody has given us the responsibility to examine / investigate what others are doing (or not doing). Worry not too much about others . If possible inform them the merits of practicing the acharas. Never try to argue and convince anyone.
Should we practice acharas the meaning is not known ?
If you find practicing the acharas can produce good results, even if you do not know the meaning follow them with faith.
Can we follow the acharas without analysing ?
Na hi kalyaana krith kaschith durgathim thaatha gacchathi: If you do good and follow good achara, the results will definitely be good.
If someone is ignorant about his dharma how to proceed ?
Inform them the facts and truths. Never argue nor try to win over him. You duty is over the moment you inform him the benefits and facts.
What is god ?
The omnipotent omnipresent power controlling / guiding an atom and also the universe and also the power which is existing in each and every living being is the god.
What is the size, shape, colour, etc. of god ?
There is no size, shape, or colour for god. It is for the sake of common man we make the pictures. Like we make a globe for teaching about the earth.
Does the god have the names ?
The god does not have any name. For quick memory and recollection we call different names to different natural phenomenon. After all nature is the direct manifestation of god and that itself is god.
Why do we give so many names to god?
Each name has a meaning. The names convey a great meaning so we give the names. Lekshmi means glory and prosperity. Saraswati means the one whichis flowing. Parvathy means the torrential force or energy. Ganesa means the one which is controlling everything in group. Krishna means black and attracting. Rama means which gives you happiness. And so on
Can we see god with our naked eyes ?
Unless you reach that level it is impossible to see even seeing through inner eyes. Many things which we cannot see are existing like atoms, electrons, air, billions and billions of galaxies.
Why to worship god ?
It is not necessary if you feel it is not worth. To know that human beings have limitations and what all taking place in the world are almost beyond the control of human brain, we have to know that divine power. For knowing that divine power we should remember it frequently. For this purpose we are using the method worship.
Will the god get angry if we are not worshipping ?
The god is not bothered about anything like you worship or criticize. God is not bothered about your flower, nivedyam, lamp, manthra, pooja or temple. The worship of the god, prayer, manthra, pooja, etc., are all for ourselves.
What is the relation between the god and human beings ?
Since we got birth on this earth from our parents, our relation with our parents is divine. Like that we are here because of the god, the omnipotent omnipresent power which gave us this shape size, and all what is inside and outside our body.. So our relation with god is divine. It is just like human relation, we have relation with god or divine power.
Why should we worship at all ?
We have three debts according to Hindu dharma. The debt towards god is known as Deva runa, that towards parents and our forefathers is known as Pitru runa and the last one is Rushi runa towards the Rushies who created the sanathana dharma.
How to get rid of these runas ?
These three runas are permanent and we cannot get mukti from this runa. Hence we always remember and worship god. We remember our parents even after their death by performing the pitru srardha. Before chanting any manthra we remember the name of the Rushi who composed them. Thus we repeatedly offer our homage to all the three. Thus arose the worship of god, according to Indian customs.
Does it mean that we worship god for offering our thanks ?
Yes! definitely it is for the same. And also to know that something beyond our capacity is existing and it is guiding us. So many negatives from our mind can be wiped out.
Is the concept of god in all religion same?
No ! In Semitic religion it differs significantly from that of the Indian religion or sanathana dharma. Even though people say that it is the same, it varies significantly. And in no way it can be compared too. The qualities described for Semitic god are almost opposite to Hindu gods.
Can we point out one major difference?
One of the most crucial differences is that in Semitic religion, the people are god fearing people. In our case we are god loving.. The feeling of fear is negative where as the feeling of love and bhakti is positive.
What is meant by bhakti ?
Bhakti is devotion and love with respect. It is the sharing of the feeling. Bhaktham means dividing. Dividing between yourselves and god. Every feeling is an interrelation between god and human beings. This bhakti is at an ordinary man’s level only. When you get immersed in the realization of divine power, all the terms will vanish.
How the human relation can be extrapolated to that of god?
We have friendship, brotherly relation, relation between lovers, parental relations, etc. This is extrapolated towards divine – human relations.
How many types of bhakti can be explained?
As I told you bhakti is the feeling between the bhakta and the divine power. There are five positive and one negative (sixthe) type of bhakti in sanathana dharma.
Can we explain these six bhakties in a common man’s language ?
I shall try to do so with examples. There are saantha bhava bhakti which means the relation is silent, neither asking for something nor expecting anything from the god. Here the devotee is enjoying the feeling that I am with god. Vidura and Bishma had this type of bhakti towards Lord Krishna
What is the second bhakti bhava ?
The second bhakti bhava is the daasya bhava, where the god is the manager or master and you feel that you want to become the servant. This relation between god the master and you the servant is daasya bhava. Bhakti that Hanuman had towards Rama was dasya bhava bhakti.
How can we explain the third bhava ?
The third bhava is sakhya bhava. Which is like the relation between two friends. God is my friend and we stay and walk together and discuss each other about everything. The relation between Arjuna and Krishna was sakhya bhava bhakti. To some extent the relation between sudhama and Krishna was also like this.
What is the fourth bhava bhakti ?
The fourth bhava bhakti is the maadhurya bhava bhakti. The relation between the 18 –20 years old Gopikas and 10 –11 years old Krishna was narrated as madhurya bhava bhakti. Same bhakti could be seen for Bhakta Meera towards Lord Krishna. The sweet feeling in the mind.
What is the fifth bhava bhakti?
The Vaalsalya bhava bhatkti is the fifth bhava in which the god and yourself are like the parent and child. You as the parent and god as the child. Thygaraja swamigal had the this type of relation with Lord Rama. Many ladies used to chant keerthans about Krishna as though Krishna of childhood (infant Krishna) and their relation with Krishna is like towards a small child in the hands of the mother.
Should we remember all the five bhavas bhakti in the order ?
Not at all required. There is no order. It is only the relation according to which you have to explain.
What is the last one or sixth bhava Bhakti which is said to be negative ?
It is known in many names like. Satru Bhava Bhakti or dwesha bhava bhakti or dweshya bhava bhakti etc. In this bhava you feel that god is your strong enemy. Kaamsa felt so with Krishna. Ravana felt so with Rama. Hiranyakasipu also felt so. Their mind was filled with hatred and enmity towards god or divine power. Many atheists fall under this category of negative bahakti.
What is the relation between puranic dwesha bhakti and atheism ?
It is simple. Anyone who hate the god or would like to go on criticize the divinity, their mind is always filled with the eeswara smarana (memory) which is required (even though negative) and that smarana is same as the bhakti.
What is the punishment given to dwesha bhava bhakthaas by god ?
Remember that the dwesha bhava bhakti is said to be the best form of bhakti. This is repeatedly mentioned in Bhagavatha purana. In this bhava you always remember the god as your satru. You know we remember our enemies more than our friends.
Is there any science in Bhakti ?
Definitely ! Bhakti has a powerful part in psychology. Faith is the basis of bhakti and every feeling of the mind can be guided and controlled by bhakti. This is particularly applicable to fear, failures, worries, complexes, tension, anger, etc., which are negative feeling in our mind.
What is the use of bhakti ?
It gives us lot of support during crisis in our life. It gives us relief, happiness, consolation, motivation, during failures and confusions
How to use bhakti in our day to day life and demonstrate it ?
Bhakti is demonstrated through different type of worship. Worship is as a result of bhakti.
Is bhakti for demonstration to the public.?
Bhakti is also for demonstration and social acceptance. Bhakti cannot be directly demonstrated because it is the feeling that you posses. Worship is the method through which you demonstrate the bhakti. Demonstration is an important part of spirituality , particularly applied spirituality.
Then what is the real spirituality ?
The knowledge about the ultimate truth, fact and essence of everything in the universe, is known as the true spirituality or spirituality. That is the knowledge of real spirit behind everything. It is the same as Jeevaathma, Paramaathama and Brahma chaitanya.
What is the applied spirituality ?
Just like we have chemistry and applied chemistry, physics and applied physics, mathematics and applied mathematics , we in India also have spirituality and applied spirituality. Spirituality has two pathways. One on the knowledge that each and everything has the omnipotent omnipresent divine power. Hence love all serve all hurt none. Keep all the positive feeling in our mind and no hatred to anyone. This give the people the message to co exist, respect each other, serve all living beings, help and support everyone. This is the major part of the applied spirituality. There is a minor part of applied spirituality for our own benefit. That one is the worship of divine power through temples, yaagas, yajnaas, etc.
What is the benefit derived out of worship ?
The benefit is for ourselves, family, society and nation. And it can even go to the whole mankind. Through worship many acharas are incorporated into our day to day life to achieve the benefits, which is also applied spirituality.
What is meant by worship ?
Adopting a series of rituals and customs while creating a relation with god. Adopting these acharas for human welfare through worship is aimed. Practical aspects are undertaken in this spirituality and god.
Is the worship connected with apologizing to god for mistakes ?
In the end of every ritual we may use one or two lines towards that also. But worship is not repentance or apologizing. Worship is for building faith in ourselves.
How many types of worship are there in Hindu dharma ?
There are very specifically two branches of worship. One the ancient Vedic method of worship through offering to fire as Havana or homa. All the yagas, gana homas, mruthyunjaya homas, etc are all part of the Vedic rituals. Veda mantras are used for this branch of worship. The second may be named as pournaic branch of worship where idol worship is the main path way.
Why Vedic method is not common now ?
Minor form of Vedic methods are also adopted now . But major yaagas etc needs money, time, Vedic knowledge etc. Where as in puranic method an idol is enough and the method is simple.
What are the basic principles of puranic methods ?
Idol is consecrated and it is considered as the prathima or prathibimbam or vigraha. Temple is built in the shape of yaaga saala, sanctum sanctorum is like uttara vedi in yaaga sala and idol stands in the center place of fire in the uttaravedi of yaga sala.
What is the role of temple ?
The temple is built with general Vedic geometry pattern like a yaga sala. And the vigraha is the main point of attraction and worship. In vigraha worship, a series of manthra, thanthra and yanthra based procedures are adopted.
What are these vigrahas made of ?
Vigrahas can be made of granite, marble, clay/ laterite, wood, metal/ pancha loha, lamp, pictures and manorupam (any imaginary form)
How the vigraha worship is done and what is the science in it ?
There are eight types of worship according to sanaathana dharma saastra.. Every Indian should know what is meant by the Indian method of worship. Different books and acharyas may give different explanations but they are never contradictory. They may give complimentary explanations, even though prima face you may feel they are contradictory. The eight methods are given below.
Sravanam : The worship method adopted using the ears/sruthi. Listening to good keerthans, mantras, prayer, naama japa, stories of puraanaas .
What is the science behind the sravanam ?
Listening to mantras give neurolinguistic effects and many types of hormones are produced in the brain. This will directly influence the brain chemistry. It balances the brain waves, heart performance, blood pressure, adrenalin level and also the cholesterol level.
What should we listen during worship ?
Melodious mantras from Vedas, keertans and melodious bhajans are excellent. But listening to the songs carrying the negatives and painful feelings may not give the pleasant experience.
What is the difference between the keerthans and mantras in sravanam ?
While listening the Veda mantras one need not understand the meaning, where as while chanting the keerthans knowing the meaning and messages ais important.
Is sravanam advised in modern medical system ?
Yes!, It is very much advised in modern health system also for psychosomatic diseases and also to relieve the tension, in our day to day life which may be called as manthra therapy.
What is the second method of worship ?
Darsanam is the second method of worship. Getting the vision/darsanam and seeing the pleasant image/picture of divine power. It can be the picture of nature, living and non living beings with the realization that the divine power exist in each and every living and non living beings.
How ‘darsanam’ is beneficial in our day to day life ?
Watching a good picture and happy pleasant faces give happiness to all of us. This is the simple meaning and aim of darsanam. Seeing a good idol, picture, beautiful color, colorful image with correct size and shape to give pleasant feeling of darsanam
Can we give examples of the benefit of darsanam ?
Pilgrimage to temples, visiting great scholars and great avathaaras who have devoted their life for human welfare and also seeing all the divine people who came to the earth for serving all the god’s creations. Every pleasant site gives happiness and every unpleasant site gives worry and unpleasant feelings also.
What is the third method of worship ?
Keerthanam is the third method and it is the melodious way of chanting the manthra or sloka . Under keerthanam comes chanting mantras, keerthanas, naama, telling stories, giving upadesas, guiding people, appreciating good actions and satkarmaas. These are all known as keerthanas .
How keerthans effect us ?
Chanting manthra gives the same effect as listening manthra. For chanting Veda manthra you need the training in the sruthi. If sruthi is not maintained properly, it may result in the negatives. Hence it is advised not to chant Veda manthra without proper training.
When manthras and keerthans should be chanted ?
In three sandhyas the Veda manthras or keerthans can be chanted. It is more appropriate in early morning and late evening.
What are the factors to be monitored while chanting mantras ?
Cleanliness of body, mind, words, food and work . In short sareera , mana, ahara, vaak, and karma suddhi are the minimum criteria plus the knowledge to chant the Vedas with clarity.
Can anyone chant veda mantras ?
Anyone can chant puraana and itihasa mantras. Veda manthra can also be chanted by anyone provided he/ she has the training for chanting with swara known as veda jnaanam.