How we can benefit from adhering to the foundational religious principles of our lives
BY VAIDYANATHAN SUBRAMANIAM
OUR SHASTRAS DECLARE that of the millions of living species, only humans have the inherent capability of performing their dharma as a means to attain moksha. It is indeed a rare opportunity to be born as a human being, and it is even rarer to have the drive to adhere to one’s natural path.
Dharma stems from the Sanskrit root dhru, which means “that which is upheld,” meaning the universal law. This law is eternal; hence, the way of life that follows this law as laid down by Vedic literature is called Sanatana Dharma, the eternal path. The word dharma is so esoteric in nature that a truly equivalent anglicized word does not exist. Is dharma only about doing one’s duty to one’s self, family and society, or is the meaning even deeper? How can Hindus ensure that dharmic values are instilled and propagated in our communities, thereby helping to create harmony between people and with other species?
A good way to start fulfilling dharma is by visiting a temple regularly to interface with the Gods. Lord Ganesha is especially good at helping people understand their role in life. Many temples offer more than just worship, also serving as a center for our sacred arts—their very construction having been guided by our Agamas. Such temples imbue the aura of visitors with positive energy.
But it isn’t enough that we simply visit temples to enjoy their inner peace and bliss. We must also contribute to their welfare. We Hindus have an innate responsibility to proactively maintain our temples. Devotees have many options. They can form groups to take up various facets of upkeep, such as cleaning and washing the premises, ensuring that required articles for the day’s puja are available, making donations to the temple kitchens and other such programs, organizing bhajans and prayer groups, etc. Willingly contributing one’s services to the temple fosters dharmic responsibility and the sense of belonging to a community.
An important but often ignored religious aspect among Hindus is the wearing of kumkum on the forehead, between the eyebrows. This mark confers important spiritual benefits. It is the point where the ajna chakra resides. This chakra is the seat of wisdom, and applying kumkum on this chakra helps us to channel our cosmic energies and ward off unwanted thoughts and distractions. Wearing a tilak, or forehead mark, also proclaims one’s beliefs. Children should be taught the importance of the tilak, and parents and elders should emphasize that it is a mark of distinction. Even in school or at work, it should be worn with pride, knowing that our peers will always respect us if we respect ourselves.
It is paramount that children be taught the tenets of dharma right from a young age, as it will help them blossom into responsible adults. Our scriptures should be present in every household, and at least one sh loka taught to children before they begin each day. This will go a long way in creating leaders of tomorrow and good human beings.
These and other dharmic practices have esoteric and practical relevance. The more one seeks to understand them, the more they reveal. Today our traditions seem to be taking a back seat. However, we should remember that our Vedic path is eternal. With no beginning or end, it only culminates in the Supreme. Our challenge is not so much from hostile external forces as it is from ourselves, who must awaken and arise to realize the greatness of our religion and what it has taught the world. As Swami Vivekananda said, “It is the duty of all to support and side with dharma.” Let us strive to awaken ourselves spiritually and continue to carry the bastion of Vedic knowledge and hand it over with utmost care to the next generation.
VAIDYANATHAN SUBRAMANIAM, 30, is a cellular and molecular biologist living in Bengaluru, India, with a penchant for understanding and propagating Vedic dharma. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org