Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Taking a vow is both a spiritual and moral commitment. But without having any moral conviction and commitment, when we take any vow, then it becomes worse than a ritual and sheer hypocrisy.

Taking a vow is called ‘sankalp’ in our land. However, in a worldview where pluralism and relativism are dominant, these sankalpas also could be violated according to the need—based on time and place. Well my point here is not to discuss the merits and demerits of such vows, but to point out the need to take them seriously. Almost every religious cum social sanskar (ritual) has its own sankalpa to make. But as those vows are chanted by the priests (mostly) in Sanskrit and people only need to say ‘tatastu’ to it, people performing those sanskars neither know the meaning nor take it seriously, as it too has become part of the ritual. For example, almost in every marriage a kind of vow is taken both the by the boy and girl. But none know what they took. However, suddenly in the post-Independence India, taking vows in public become part of our social activity. Nowadays we have many vows, particularly taken on the death anniversaries of some popular political leaders (like Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi etc.) I don’t remember if people ever take any vow on the birth and death anniversary of great leaders like Gandhiji and Nehruji.   However as Gandhiji Jayanti is celebrated as International Ahmisa day, definitely there too will be some kind of oath ceremony, as no birth or death anniversary of leaders in India is ever complete without such a ‘vow’ ritual.1

Well, added to such politicized vows, nowadays taking other kinds of vows in public also has become part of our social need. For example, almost every year, several hundred couples gather in a particular ashram to take vows—that too holding their hands together and repeating what is read out for all. It is an encouraging sign and shows some kind of maturity and progress showing the affection and commitment in marriage publicly. In a land, where holding the hand of a wife in public place is not considered proper, these kinds of activities definitely show a great change in the mindset of the people. However, if this is done to imitate other kinds of vows or values, then this too will become a kind of social entertainment for publicity.

The sad fact in our Indian societies is that without making a personal moral commitment we take several vows. For example, school and college students take vow against the use of plastic and polythene bags and covers. But in real life, they rarely remember to strictly implement it. So what is the best way to help our people to remember and implement any vow? Let me return back to the same marriage vow (sankalp). Without knowing the meaning of the sankalp which they took in their marriage, almost all the couples keep their commitment to each other till the end of their lives. Exceptions are there, but thankfully they never decide the general rule. The main reason for this is that marriage commitment is not verbally expressed in our land but implemented strictly, as it is related with our sentiment. This is one good value on which we Indians can take pride. Our relationship with each other—of every kind, is mostly based on sentiment, and it helps us to commit to each other without any need to repeat or remind ourselves of the bond through any vow or celebrating those relationship as an event (like Father’s day; Mother’s day, Valentine's day etc.) This is well said by some one: Marriage is an entertainment in France, commitment in England, agreement in America and SENTIMENT in India. Our literature, dramas and even many cinemas demonstrate this well. And most of the (Tamil) films are based on this sentiment. Implementing this sentiment not only in our relationship with people but also with nature can better equip our young generation to take the vows seriously rather than merely make it as another public entertainment.

Dayanand Bharati, Gurukulam, September 10, 2009. Notes
1. In this context I remember a famous joke (which was shared by many).  In a big institute when any dignitary visits, they will ask him to plant a tree seedling to celebrate the event as well as a grow a tree remembering his visit.  But each time a dignitary visits, they will plant another seedling again in the same place.  When someone questioned about it, the response came with a satire, ‘it is a lucky place’.  This means that they never take the visit seriously or the event seriously but it has become part of a public ritual, like our public vows.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Call in Life

People have different calls in their lives--to live as a family man or
a sannyasi (or single in modern context). Though one can learn from
another, yet it is wrong to take one as the example for another to
live his/her life.   One T.V. speaker (Tenkasi Swaminathan, Sun T.V.
in July 2009) proved this by telling a story of a sannyasi.   Before
I share further, I have to acknowledge that he is a very good speaker
sharing more practical teachings on various subjects.
One time a sannyasi went and stayed with a king for few days.   And he
received the best hospitality even enjoying the food, dress and
ornaments and other facilities of the palace.   After a few days the
king came with confusion and asked a question, 'While we both are
enjoying the same food etc., why do I always feel sad whereas you
always remain happy?'    The sannyasi replied that he was waiting for
such a question and promised to give an answer after a few days.
Finally one day the sannyasi told the king that he wanted to go and
asked the king to come along with him for a distance.   When both
reached the border of the kingdom, the sannyasi said to the king, 'Now
I am going to leave everything that you gave.   And if you want to be
happy, leave everything and come after me.'  For this the king said,
'How can I leave behind my family, kingdom and responsibility?'   Then
the sannyasi said, 'This is the secret of my happiness.  Though I
enjoy all your hospitality, yet I am ready to abandon everything and
walk freely, as I am not attached to it.  Whereas though you too enjoy
it, as you are attached to it, you feel the burden more than the joy
you get from it'.
And the moral of the story, according to Swaminathan, is that while we
enjoy the things of this world, like that sannyasi we should not have
attachment with them.  And like that sannyasi, we too should be ready
to give up everything and walk away freely.
Certain illustrations, though they are good in themselves, still
cannot convey the correct teaching that is relevant for every
situation.  It is wrong to say that sannyasis don't have any
attachment.  In fact some 35 years before I wrote a song in which I
said, ' "Renounce the world," says a sannyasi, but he too renounced
the world with a DESIRE for mukti (moksha)' (ulahai turandu nee
vazhunduvidu yendru turanda jnanee solipponan; anda turanda jnanim
veedu petreya virumbiye turavu kondan).  What a sannyasi gave up is
his responsibility towards a family (but not to the society).  Here
too, he has some kind of responsibility towards his mother.  Whereas
for a family wo/man 'responsibility' comes before her/his legitimate
rights to enjoy the pleasure of life.  And those who tactfully manage
to keep a balance between 'responsibility' and 'privilege' can even
enjoy that 'responsibility' joyfully rather than treating it as a
burden.  Whether a sannyasi or a family man, no one can run away from
responsibility.  But a sannyasi could never be a best model for a
family man to understand and accept his responsibility.  King Janaka
of Mitila should be the model for a family man and not any sannyasi,
however great they might be.
Here I have to share my personal view as a sub point.  The so called
'nishkamyakarma': 'Do your duty but never seek its fruits' often
consoles a person who failed after sincere efforts in any endeavor.
Though the context of the sloka in Gita (2:47) is different, yet it is
often used out of frustration than with a true spirit of
nishkamyakarma.1.   One can have the spirit of renunciation but none
can give up responsibility which accompanies like a shadow every stage
in life.
Notes. 1.  I am not an expert on Gita.  However the main context of
this sloka in Gita (karmanyevaadhikaaraste maa phalesu kadaacana; maa
karma phala hetur bhuuma te sangostvakarmani. Your right is to perform
your duty only, but never lay claim to its fruit. Let not the fruit of
action be your object, nor let your attachment be to inaction'—Gita
Press, Gorakpur) is based on the doctrine of 'karma' which binds every
one.  As the fruit of karma binds one, better do your duty but never
seeks its fruit.  But this word 'nishkamyakarma' (which is not in
Gita) has often become a scape goat for all our frustration in life.
If I remember correctly, N.T. Ramarao (the late C.M. of Andhra) when
he lost his elections, then quoted this word and even the Gita sloka.
Whereas the best attitude to accept failures and defeat should be 'At
least I tried; though I failed'.  This will help one to learn some
good lessons from that failure and defeat than any frustration in
Gurukulam, July 21, 2009.