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Shrimad Bhagavad Gita on Right way of living - (Part-2: Dr.A.Sreekumar Menon)

Dr.A.Sreekumar Menon Published on 10 March, 2014
Shrimad Bhagavad Gita on Right way of living - (Part-2: Dr.A.Sreekumar Menon)
7 Sacrifice

This term sacrifice is commonly understood as religious ritual/ worship of offering milk, ghee, grains, curd etc to God Agni or Fire, supposed to be divine messenger who carries the offerings to Gods. This is done with the belief that it would ward off natural disasters like earth quake, droughts, volcano, epidemics and so on,  on the one hand and to bring about prosperity  through timely rains, good crops and so on . while oblation of fire, ‘Mantras’ or incantations or sounds  from Vedas are recited. We don’t know whether these practices bring out the desired results and if so how?. Apart from such belief, we can interpret the practice in other ways .1It helps to have faith in Almighty who look after human welfare and which gives sense of security. 2 The things we love most such as milk, ghee, curd, grains etc are offered to fire. This symbolically means that we give up things which we like to possess or giving up selfishness. Giving up selfishness in action or be of service to others , even if amounts to undergoing difficulties and sufferings or extending help to the needy, asked or unasked, without bothering about personal convenience or inconvenience  is the real meaning of sacrifice . It is forgoing one’s own interest for the sake of duty or for the wellbeing of others. It is renouncing one’s interest in favor of that of others. It is acting with less concern for us than for the success of common activity. It is forgoing pleasures and comforts or  even facing hardships and risking one’s life even to save others .In day to life, we can see several instances of self-sacrifice .Parents looking after their children, putting up  with all sufferings , Soldiers  who are posted on our  borders keeping vigil day and night , inspite of hard conditions to protect our  country from foreign invasion ,  A person who rescues another person in danger such drowning , caught in the fire etc.  Great people like Gandhiji,, Nelson Mandela and others who devoted their lives against foreign rule and apartheid or racial discrimination, Mother Teresa, who devoted her life for caring the sick and down trodden, Scientists who spent their life time forgoing personal comforts and came out with discoveries for the welfare of humanity, caring the old and sick are all examples of personal sacrifice. Children who act daringly to save those in danger risking their own lives are honored with Gallantry awards by Government of India on Republic day celebrations.
As Society nurtures us, we also should give back to society by rendering some free services.  There are several opportunities to render voluntary services. Volunteering to serve in the regular army, as home guards, participating in Health and sanitation campaigns, volunteering service in Hospitals, old age homes and homes for disabled, participating in self-help community projects and so on. Being courteous to all rather than being indifferent or harsh and concern for fellow beings are prerequisites for showing spirit of self-sacrifice.

We find the word sacrifice is also used to refer sacrifice of animals as a part of the ritual in ancient times. Probably it does not mean killing of hapless animals for getting favor from God .It probably meant shunning of our animal qualities and instincts and cultivating noble tendencies.  There is another possible interpretation. In old village/ Agrarian communities, cattle are most precious possessions, because they contribute to agricultural prosperity. . During Makara Sankranti festivals, cows and bulls are worshipped in many parts of India. Hence, it could mean sacrificing thing precious to us or doing away with our selfishness and becoming altruistic.  Our ancient rites, rituals and other religious practices are all highly symbolic, in the sense, we should not go by literal meaning, but should go by their inner meaning. When we say that a devotee should bathe twice in the morning and evening, it actually means that he should keep his body clean. If he does not bathe properly, the act of bathing does not serve the end it presupposes.  . Thus we should understand the purpose behind every action and that is called inner/true meaning.

8.Study of Scriptures

Scriptures are ancient writings prescribing the right paths or guides to life. Our Bharath is a treasure house of ancient scriptures of wisdom, which our ancient mendicants brought out through their long meditation and resulting intuitive knowledge. They are also called spiritual texts. Upanishads, Puranas, Ithihasas are the texts of wisdom guiding humanity to fulfill the purpose of human life. They are written in Sanskrit language. Mahabharata and Ramayana two important epics belong to the category of Ithihasas. Mahabharata contains  one lakh verses, which  is the longest ever written  by greatest saint Vyasa meaning  eminent  scholar .Ramayana  which again  is written as verse by the great saint Valmiki .Bhagavad Gita , which is  holy text of Hindus  is  from   Bheeshma parva of Mahabharata . It is wise counsel given by Lord Sri Krishna to his bosom friend and disciple Arjuna to recover from despondency and also about conduct, behavior and personality of wholesome man. Though it is addressed to Arjuna, Arjuna stands for the whole humanity who  is struggling in the materialistic world, like ship which lost  direction in rough high seas trining to find its way. It is a text of ethics or moral values which we have to follow to lead a balanced material life or use the materialistic advantages for our healthy life and rescue us from self destruction. Those texts strengthen our inner strength to direct our lives from inside   with reason rather than with impulses.
One can read dharma literature, or listen to philosophic lectures. For instance, one may read or recite Bhagavad Gita daily, as Gandhiji and his father are used to do or listen to lectures on Bhagavad Gita delivered by scholars.  Gandhiji  considered Gita as a guide to him in his life .  It is not enough if we simply read or recite or listen .We should reflect on what we read or hear and   understand  meaning or contents of verses,  which  speak  of ideals and should try to internalize  or    practice them in our daily life  Those steps are called shravana in Sanskrit  or listening , Manana or analyzing  and Swadhyaya  meaning   internalizing.Reading or listening to noble ideas helps us to eschew   evil qualities we possess and cultivate virtues in their places.  In Biographies of great people, we find discussion of their unique qualities which made them great. Reading Biographies of great people and emulating their values would also help to shape up our character. Being in the company of  virtuous people  would  also help us to become virtuous, if we mix with them  with that goal in mind .Noble people will entertain only good ideas, which they pass on to others, who show interest . All habits whether good or bad are learned and not inborn, hence we can unlearn our bad habits and learn new good habits at any stage in our lives provided we have the will to do so. Of course, habits become rigid over time .Hence, it is easy to mend the habits at early age than later. One should make good habits as part of one’s personality, which will carry him through life smoothly.

9. Practicing Austerities

Practicing austerities means leading a frugal or simple or modest or Spartan life rather than leading an opulent or rich or luxurious life. With richness, ugly expression of ego comes about .The person who leads a luxurious life may have an air of superiority over others .He may flaunt his riches. He may seek name, fame and influence and may be addicted to those and may try to amass wealth   by following unlawful ways. He may lord over others and may show condescending attitude towards others .He might feel that others are to serve him. He may be arrogant and merciless. With richness, earned through unfair means, he may indulge in unhealthy habits and may turn to be enemy to the community. Those who earn wealth by fair means would understand the limitations of wealth and may plough it back to the society   for higher causes.

We are attracted by fancy things; we see in the outside world day in and day out and chase them using our time and energy. It needs constant and deliberate attempt to check this tendency, practice austerity and lead a functional life .All Religions advocate austerity to win God’s blessings .In Hinduism, four ideals such as Dharma or righteousness, Artha or material wealth, Kama or fulfillment of sensuous desires  and Moksha or  liberation from the bondage of sensuous desires have been advocated. .Here we find Dharma or acceptable ways comes first. Wealth and comforts, which are second and third, should be acquired by following acceptable ways. Artha and Kama should be sought by following dharma .The last one is Moksha or liberation or complete freedom from worldly shackles. A person who leads reasonably comfortable life during early and middle ages should gradually give  up comforts and should lead a life absolute necessities as  he moves on  to his advancing years, so that he would not cling to this world, when time comes  to shed the mortal coil .  This is the remedy our Sastras have proclaimed to   experience peaceful death.  Austerity is minimizing our efforts to take care of our body or lessening our body consciousness or to get on with absolute necessities or to decrease  more and more our dependency on  outside things  or Our ability to forgo  what we are habituated to, which we call physical support or comforts. It increases our mental strength.  Only if we are devoid of our body –consciousness, we can serve others. Mahatma Gandhi pointed out this fact and practiced it. He gave up creature comforts and lived like a poor man while in South Africa where he fought for democratic rights of Indians and others under white rule. He gave up the use of even slippers. He walked on bare foot. His Spartan life strengthened his moral strength to brave against powerful white regime and brought the regime in equal footing with him. Production and distribution of goods and services however much it could be cannot solve the poverty of people .Only frugal and austere living is the answer to poverty .Religions prescribes practices of austerity. For instance, people go on fasting during Religious festivals. They deprive themselves from taking normal food and forsake comforts, they were used to. For example, those who go to Sabarimala, famous place of pilgrimage situated in Kerala State, India.  observe austerity in all matters for 41 days prior to their visit to Sabarimala .Such austerities practiced during such Religious occasions when they are forced to practice, should be made their life style. In other words, they should lead Spartan life, even if they can afford luxuries not only during those occasions, but should practice in their day to day life.

10 .Straightforwardness

Straight forwardness is a fine quality. It literally means consistency in the activities of the mind, speech and action or congruity between thoughts, words and action. This characteristic may find expressions in different ways in the conduct and behavior of people .We should speak what is in our mind and do what we say.   Some people do not tell openly what they feel, to win favor from others.  What they say is distorted, pleasing to others and tailored to serve some personal interest, which is not a desirable trait .Although it may have temporary gain, it may have lasting disastrous consequences. Such deviant personalities are called as hypocrites. Even if we try to hide our feelings and motives, one may detect it sooner or later. When this happens lack of trust is developed towards that person. Trust keeps mind pure and sustains social bond.

We should mean what we say; in the sense we should be faithful to our words and should act as per our words. In other words, if we promise to do some help, that should be done. It is commitment to words. Those who are not committed to their words are not dependable or trust worthy.  Not that a person would be able to fulfill all his promises, always, inspite of his best efforts, he may fail. Under such circumstances, he should intimate the person to whom he has given promise. One should assess whether , he can fulfill  a particular need of others, before promising help .Once, something is promised, one  should try sincerely to carry it out .One can always say ‘no’ in a pleasant manner, explaining the position he faces with. The other person will not mistake him and credibility towards him will not go down .There are some people who  simply promise to help without meaning it as human relation’s tactics or as sales gimmicks, which is contrary to straight forward behavior . . This shows lack of straight forwardness .They may appear puritans or those who practice only virtues in public, but they may lead a private life in just opposite way. They keep double standards one for private life and just the contrary for public life. Then there are the worst people who appear to be gentle and benevolent to others, with a nefarious motive of harming or exploiting or hoodwinking or cheating them. They may pose as friendly, caring etc just to trap the other person. They are the worst enemies of society. In Mahabharata, we know the story of palace made of lacquer. Beautiful palace was built by Kouravas with lacquer, highly inflammable material,  for Pandavas to stay during their exile in forest, with the idea burning  them alive . We find  sons making their aged parents  sign documents for transfer of properly to their names, assuring them that they would   look after and neglect them. We find many such cases of hoodwinking. Posing as benefactors, people harm others for personal benefits, even engage criminal acts. Such behaviors are contrary to straight forwardness. Gods display only qualities of straight forwardness, where as Demons always indulge in anti--social and sinful behavior. Gods and Demons, which our Religious texts speak off are none other than people like us who do noble and ignoble acts. Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that humans, to be proud of their birth should indulge only in ethical behaviors fueled by noble quality of straightforwardness, and never be crooked .We should not cheat any one, particularly those who have trust in us. If we do it, it amounts to double crime. Straight forwardness has good effects on our personality. It wards off mental conflicts and helps us to enjoy peace of mind, to have positive image of ourselves and enhances our self confidence and free us from sense of insecurity.

Some people are simply secretive. In other words, they withhold information rather than sharing with others. They are closed rather than open to others .They tend to be secretive, thinking that they would have personal advantage over others. But it is not true. We are happy only when we are free with others without unnecessary inhibitions and reservations and share our ideas, feelings and emotions with others. That to happen, we should be straightforward.

Thus we find this personal quality of being straight forward manifests in different ways in our daily life and that it should be practiced.

11.  Harmlessness or Non-violence

There is a great saying ’Ahimsa paramo dharma ‘meaning not harming others is a supreme virtue. Non-violence is not harming others by thoughts, words or deeds .Thinking ill of others, unhealthy criticism leveled against others, insulting others, wounding other’s feelings by acts such as discriminating them based on caste, Religion and so on, denying justice to a person by favoring another person, speaking harshly to others and manhandling or assaulting a person are all acts of violence.  All the acts done with nefarious motives constitute violence opposite of harmlessness. Non-violence means refraining from doing harm not only to human beings, but to all the beings in the universe, which are the creations of God.  There are two types of causing harm to other living beings viz 1 willfully or with a motive of doing harm or for self interest and 2 inadvertently or harming without our awareness.  For instance, daily we may be killing so many small organisms without intention .In other words, no one can live free from doing any harm. Doing harm deliberately constitutes violation of the principle of Ahimsa. We should not return harm even to those who harm us. We should not show vengeance or vendetta. We know Gandhiji asked to leave free his assassin. Gandhi refused to give evidence against persons who tortured him in South Africa, when they were prosecuted .He was Apostle of non-violence. Though he suffered torture under British rule in India, he showed no bitterness towards Britishers .The Satyagraha movement or civil disobedience, he shaped was based on the principle of non-violence. Unruly laws were defied. But when Britishers tortured freedom fighters, they did not torture them in return .Nelson Mandela, who won freedom from Apartheid for South African people was kept in prison by white rulers for 27 long years. But after his relief, he did not show bitterness towards them and formed a democratic nation by giving equal rights to blacks and whites, alienating the fear of whites. They are the Apostles of peace. Their acts were highest acts of non-violence, which paid off in debilitating whites and forcing them to give independence for self-rule.

(To be Continued)
Shrimad Bhagavad Gita on Right way of living - (Part-2: Dr.A.Sreekumar Menon)
മലയാളത്തില്‍ ടൈപ്പ് ചെയ്യാന്‍ ഇവിടെ ക്ലിക്ക് ചെയ്യുക