Published first on Rightlog.in -A Guide for Every Hindu Who wants to Practice Sanatan Dharma But Doesn’t Know Where To Begin
Disclaimer: This article is not a sanctimonious lecture, nor is it must do prescription. Over the past several months, the same theme came in discussions as to what one can do as a Hindu. This is merely a compilation to serve as a memory jogger for everyone considering themselves a Hindus. It is not meant to be comprehensive or complete, but to provoke one’s thoughts towards our precious roots.
We live in interesting times. At the flick of a button we have access to a steady stream of books, audio and video spiritual talks, discourses, pravachans, bhajans from a myriad gurus and paramparas. The Guru market is ever flooded with one too many Gurus. Every follower has become a sincere PR extension in the Guru market and this is evident with every aspirant’s experience. They are constantly being marketed by the different Guru’s prescriptions – some alive and some from the past. Are these the panacea to what ails the modern Hindu society? Still many of the Hindus are not clear what they can do to protect or practice Sanatana Dharma. Let us dive in.
To understand what one can do as a Hindu, one must start with the self as with our actions are limited. We must understand that our actions can collectively have an impact on the society and generations, yet it begins with the individual and ends right there. If we have a proper insight into this personal responsibility we all share, each one of us has the potential to create this marvelous transformation. Instead of waiting for Kalki Avatar’s appearance or some other avatar, we can be busy creating the groundwork for their arrival. Are we even worth being redeemed by Avatars or are we so disconnected from Dharma that they need not bother?
Are we the Adhikari? The most important question we must ponder is what I can do. Sanatana Dharma has always insisted on being an Adhikari to perform a task optimally. First Adhikara we must all have is to an intense desire to be a TRUTHSEEKER and realize that the wisdom of the rishis. Our scriptures are laden with layers of wisdom which any individual can keep mining for thousands of janmas. To understand the value, we must familiarize ourselves with one. The best starting point for most aspirants is the Bhagavad Gita. Depending on our vasana baggage, we may find ourselves drawn to different commentaries. (Read BMI as teaching aid to identify your spiritual proclivities) Despite our affinities, we must try to meditate upon the original sloka and try to lead our lives.
It is very important to become the ideals we are after. Again Bhagwan Krishna has laid the super highway for us in Bhagavad Gita. Try to identify and cultivate these qualities as it will not only raise us spiritually but also benefit our daily lives – (Part I, Part II and Part III).
Before rushing to fix the worldly problems or wonder about spiritual growth, the solution is to begin gathering these adhikararas. Then and only then we can be effective
Taking a dharmic stance begins and ends with each individual self. Work on a rigorous character improving program which involves svadhyaya and introspection.
It must be emphasized that most Hindu scriptures are filled with lots of practical applications and are not just for the elderly, communal, overly religious, fringe elements. These are for all human beings. Unlike other religions that center on their God or some stories, most of the scriptures hold deep thoughts that can elevate anyone who can absorb and are not religious. They revolve on helping deepen our understanding on Atma and Paramatma and help us self-actualize and self realize the subtle truths behind our very existence.
Awareness and action: One must definitely raise the awareness of what is going around. We see how love jihad is happening, yet do not have a conversation with people around. So also when desperate Christian missionaries copy our spiritual wealth, be it our books, temples, architecture, ideology or mannerisms like wearing Saffron clothes of a fake sadhu, we keep quiet. We think it as amusing without understanding the impact to our ecosystem.
Being ignorant is as worse as not taking action despite knowing. This Tamas is the number one enemy of the Hindu society. Why not bring such topics for discussion with friends and family, however inconvenient, instead of Cricket score or politics or movie stars. Can we do some Dharma Chintana periodically?
If at all, one must overcome Tamas for the larger cause, now is the time. Understand that our Tamas is a double whammy on the Hindu value ecosystem as it directly aids the Adharmic forces.
Heritage: It is fashionable, especially in South India, to call oneself as a cultural Hindu. Though such a thing is really absurd by definition, these self-certified buddhijeevis would like to create this wedge. If someone, would like to be in such a category, they must get increasingly exposed to the invaluable literature and philosophy of the land. This will not only make them deeply spiritual, but at least make them less ridiculous in their arguments and stance.
Even if not deeply spiritual, get involved in taking a dharmic stand. Many Indians delude themselves that being secular is being hinduphobic. Worse is the misunderstanding that being Hindu is communal. We go at length to justify other religion’s practices, yet mothball all our Sanatana Dharma practices as superstitious. This duplicity can never be overcome without realizing the heritage we have inherited and some introspection.
Try to understand the wisdom of our traditions. Just because it is not apparent to our wisdom or because we have not trained our minds to think deeper, it does not mean they are wrong. At the same time just because it is a tradition it need not be the sole reason to follow. For instance, we have highly politicized caste (mis)interpretations making us serious bigots. (Read – Varnas – journey to its roots) Look deeper within and realize that it is the same Atma in all and we have a responsibility to each other. Stop the evil practices that have crept in and focus on the values core to our Sanatana Dharma.
Paying the dues: One of the dues we all have, every individual must pay is the one we all owe to the society; this includes people and all living beings. Currently we all act that these can be safely outsourced to Abrahamic religions outreach program. We think if any Hindu outlook person volunteers it must be branded communal, that is why RSS despite decades of service still wears this label given by ignorant masses.
Step up and realize that someone else cannot pay for your dues like imported messed up ideas. Only we must. Realize that we must expand our consciousness beyond I/Me/Myself or my immediate family or community. Take time to serve others. Practice radical kindness with a nishkamya bhava. This cleanses our manas of various types of malas and renders it fit for more elevated thinking.
Reach out to serving others selflessly.
Case in point, look at how western billionaires commit to philanthrophy and see how many of our Indian kanjoos maharaj hide behind secularism to not pay their dues to the roots. But before we wag our fingers at them, can we look at the mirror and raise our standards and lead by example. If we cannot personally do a lot of service, can we at least support some legacy vedapatashalas, gaushalas, ashramas.
One of the most important dues we all have is to realize the SELF. Trot on that path tirelessly at a slightly improved pace than now, without compromising our responsibilities to the society.
As a Parent: This is an area where we have been failing horribly for the past few generations. Unless we raise ourselves, we cannot expect our next generation to raise their standards. Conversely we have been aggressively on a downward slump on the personal compliance level. How can one expect the next generation to suddenly pick the values of Satyam, Dharma, Ahimsa, Saucham, Daya etc when parents themselves are ignorant or do not be a good role model? If westernized TV and media are the only role models, the children are naturally going to be raised perverted.
The so called secular ideas are all found in our own heritage in a more concentrated form with a proper organic philosophy connecting them. Do we need pseudo feminism when we are trained to look at the Antaratma and look at the oneness of all? Do we need artificial environmentalism when saucham, daya, sarva bhoota hita, ahimsa are part of the tapestry of what we must practice?
If we want our kids and next generation to adhere to a better value model, then we must be the role model. We may be far from perfect, but if we commit to a continuous self improvement process, study scriptures ourselves, talk highly of our legacy, do kids have any option to do otherwise? Learn about the people who impacted Abdul Kalam in his childhood and their value systems, that is why we had such a wonderful man around.
We can begin with more non spiritual ideas before even wading deeper. Can we refrain from smoking, drinking, talking ill about others, reduce junk media time? Can we commit to a daily self improvement program beginning with little introspection every night and watching for time wasters? Can we commit to reading some scriptures or listen to some spiritual talks preferably from traditional sources? Can we add more fruits and vegetables in our diet instead of following a western model? Can we explore what our ancestors ate 4-5 generations before? Can we reduce or eliminate meat consumption? Can we focus on cleanliness – both within and without?
Suggestions to implement:
These suggestions are not in any particular order of preference and are merely provided to stimulate your mind in this direction.
- Read Gita and other scriptures regularly. Take time to do Sadhana of your type.
- Begin with the parampara closest to you and if you have none, start with your family’s traditional one before you wade deeper.
- Understand that different Sanatana Dharma paramparas seem mutually conflicting but talk of the same Brahman, so respect all Paramaparas. This is not the same as all religion is same kind of artificial idea.
- Make sure your kids read Amar Chitra Katha rather than comics. Do not let TV teach them scriptures. Definitely not some mythologist. Learn from traditional authentic sources and ensure they are practitioners.
- Do nishkamya seva to the society.
- Support heritage institutions that are under massive attack like vedapatashalas, gaushalas, clean some abandoned temples.
- Support the downtrodden Hindu brethren; do not use the bigoted, myopic caste lens.
- Do not hide under the false pretense of secularism and let hinduphobic ideas to take root or sprout around you.
- Challenge the aggressive Abrahamic conversion tactics, not merely their process, but by understanding the loopholes in their ideology.
- Reach out to others in the Hindu society – be it socio-economically distressed or someone who needs a mere hand around them.
- Stay in touch with the existing spiritual institutions, practice family traditions with fervor.
- Get rid of alcohol and minimize or eliminate meat if you want to fast track your spiritual growth. No need to evangelize or pontificate. Let your character be the message.
- Practice fasting on ekadasi. If you cannot do a complete fast, eat only once a day and stick to milk and fruits not tiffin.
Watch whom you hang out with – be it media, friends, social circle or your own thoughts. This is going to determine the direction of spiritual growth or muddling. This also determines the trajectory of the family. It takes only one person to get rooted in Dharma to influence not just the family and surroundings, but multiple generations. We are each individually responsible for the proper preservation and practice of Sanatana Dharma and let us rise up to the challenges it faces.
ॐ तत् सत्