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‘Ishaa vasyam idam sarvam’
All that is here, is Isha, Ishvara.
Conscious and inert, Form and formless, Sacred and secular, Defined and undefined…
All that is here is sacred and we are connected to everything.
This is the profound and timeless vision of the Vedas.
But our experience of the world does not quite match the vision.
We see much selfishness and suffering, ancestral property disputes and ugly fights among close family. No one is away from experiencing the impact of climate change.
Our vision or the way we see ourselves, the world and God is shaped by our world view which is further shaped by our history, geography, traditions, climate, ways of living, the dynasties, the relations between tribes etc.
I am going to contrast the Dharma view born of Hinduism, an indigenous religion with the Western Universalism view that is related to Abrahamic religions. This assumes that the norms for aspiration and ways of living should be the same for all people and if indigenous people choose to live any other way, they are inferior and must be reformed. There is no attempt to defame Western universalism. By contrasting the two world views we can see what shapes our world view.
Some of the differences are
Dharma says that both the sacred and secular are one. Western Universalism says that there is a sacred and secular divide.
Dharma emphasises the collective while Western Universalism emphasises the individual
The different systems of knowledge arising from Dharma such as Ayurveda or Yoga are holistic while disciplines of knowledge such as Allopathy in Western Universalism are reductionistic
Knowledge traditions emphasise a guru-shishya Parampara and transmission is oral, visual and written. Western universalism only values written knowledge. If it has not been documented or there is no evidence, it does not exist.
Dharma includes the Veda, the sixth means of knowledge along with perception and inference while Western Universalism largely values perception and inference.
Dharma includes the framework of karma and karma phala and hence punya paapa which modify into situations of sukha and dukkha, happiness and sorrow. Western Universalism recognises actions and consequences but only in this life and cannot explain why bad things happen to good people and vice versa.
Dharma says that all wealth is meant to be shared for collective good while Western Universalism highlights accumulation of wealth because it is never enough
Dharma fosters a culture of reverence and respect for Nature while Western Universalism looks upon nature as a resource for utility.
Dharma looks upon contribution as a sign of success while Western Universalism looks upon consumption as a sign of success
Dharma emphasises gratitude as a way of life while Western Universalism emphasises entitlement.
And so does Dharma or rather the Veda offer us a framework of living that helps us relate with the world?
The TaittiriyaAranyaka says,
-TaittiriyaAranyaka 2.10 “
These five great offerings are called the Pancha maha Yajna-s and they are to be performed on a daily basis. They are deva yajna, pitruyajna, bhutayajna, manushyayajna and brahma yajna”.
Offerings to Devatas (Ishvara and deities),
Offerings to Pitr-s (parents and ancestors),
Offerings to Brahma/rishi (Teachers and Vedic culture)
Offerings to Bhuta (our eco system) and
Offerings to Manushya (our fellow beings).
The word is yajna – not yajna..nya..nasal sound.
Yajna literally means a fire ritual offering to devatas and the meaning is extended to a reverential offering to another.
Hindus have protected, cultivated, nurtured and live this tradition of panchamaha yajna. We recognize our place within the larger scheme of things. Much happiness comes from relating with all beings with dharma, sensitivity, contribution and not taking anything for granted. Hence the Pancha-mahayajna are our five sacred duties – our daily acknowledgement and grateful offering for what we have been blessed with. Based on the principle of reciprocity, we contribute to these relationships because of a rnam, a sacred debt. We contribute as per our understanding and capacity, yatha mati, yatha shakti.
Let us look at them in some detail.
Deva yajna – Actions and offerings for devata-s – Bhagavan in the form of many cosmic forces presides over different phenomena as the devatas or deities. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the sunlight that helps us see, the earth that nourishes us with all the food are all presided over by devatas – Vayu, Varuna, Agni, Bhumi. Creation, sustenance and resolution at the level of a project or at the level of galaxies are sustained by intelligence and material that is Bhagavan. We do not take this for granted but instead acknowledge and make our offerings. These may be in the form of simple thank you every day or prayers, recitation of stotra-s, chanting of mantra-s, performing puja and yajna, going on pilgrimages and so on. If we don’t do any of this will the devatas stop doing things for us? Devatas will do their job anyway. But we honor our connectedness to these devatas, express our gratitude and allow ourselves to be blessed with punya.
Bhagavan Krshna reminds us 3.11
Devaanbhaavayataanena te deva bhaavayantu vah
Parasparam bhaavayantah shreyah paramavaapsyatha
Propitiate the deities with yajna. May the deities too propitiate you. Propitiating one another, you shall gain moksha also.
If one enjoys objects given by devatas without offering to them in return then one indeed is a thief.
Pitra yajna/ Actions and offerings for pitr-s. Our sages recognised that all of us have a pitr rnam, a sacred debt woven by an intricate tapestry of karma across lifetimes, that we must honor. Pitr-s include one ‘s parents whether they are here or if they have moved on, grandparents and other ancestors. We have a deep connectedness to our pitr-s through our:
Our family traditions,
The values imparted – dharmika values of integrity, strength of character, truth, humility, valor, equanimity, commitment, and love.,
The wealth passed on,
The stories that live, long after they have passed on.
And most importantly the thread of gratitude that runs through the rich tapestry of all that our pitr-s have blessed us with.