My Letter Series- Dear Reader, Sanathana Dharma At It’s Best! People, Not So Much!

Each person has an interpretation of the Vedas and the Puranas and that’s the beauty of Sanathana Dharma. There is no right or wrong interpretation.

Each person has an interpretation of the Vedas and the Puranas and that’s the beauty of Sanathana Dharma. There is no right or wrong interpretation.
Each person has an interpretation of the Vedas and the Puranas and that’s the beauty of Sanathana Dharma. There is no right or wrong interpretation.

Sanathana Dharma doesn’t teach to disrespect God

Over the years, there have been many people who have tried to denigrate the different gods and goddesses. Starting from E V Ramaswami (EVR), who hit Lord Ram’s idol with slippers and then garlanded the idol with slippers, people have always utilized their “freedom of expression” to go after Hindu deities[1]. What the man didn’t understand was that he was not disrespecting Lord Ram but was disrespecting his own upbringing. Sanathana Dharma doesn’t teach us to disrespect god or goddess. It teaches to respect every god and goddess.

These forms of supreme divinity ensure the devout Hindu has a good day. Our parents taught us to thank god every morning once we wake up and after taking a shower or a bath. Whether we liked it or not, we did it. One can call it being afraid of Mom’s yelling or dad’s wrath, but we did go and offer our pranams and respect to the divine entity of our choice. Some would say, this became a habit. We took a bath and went straight to offer our pranams to the divine. Once done, we could bravely face mom’s question, asked every day, “Did you pray”!? YES, I DID!!

Unlike the Abrahamic religions, Sanathana Dharma allows the reader to interpret the Puranas in a way that allows the person to get closer to divinity.

When we read the different comic books, the Amar Chitra Katha, Panchatantra and other books, we went back in time to relive those days the narrator wants us to relive. When we heard someone criticize one of these divine beings, that was as close to blasphemy as one could get! Aah, the good old days!

We then went through the rebellious questioning phase with questions like “If God really exists, can he change my parents to more tolerable ones”! However, we did come out alive and better! It could be because of divine intervention, because of our hard work or a combination of both, but we are now home free. We now realize there is a power, that is unknown to us, that is inexplicable but plays a role in our everyday life. We all have our quirks, who doesn’t, but all of us grew up in almost similar backgrounds. Now, we are able to decipher right from wrong and good from the bad.

When someone says something blasphemous as Devdutt Patnaik did, it raises the ire of many devout Hindus. For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, he said “Asuras live underground while the Devas live above the ground. Asuras create wealth (Lakshmi) while the Devas yank her out. This makes Lakshmi, Asura-Putri (daughter of an Asura) and Deva-Patni (Wife of the devas).” His logic is that Lakshmi is found underground in the form of gold and other precious metals. He also has called Mahadevi a restless goddess who used to be with Indra but went on to become Vishnu’s consort. It may be that his English is not as good and what he really meant to say was Deva-Patni (Wife of A Deva). A subtle difference of changing it from plural to singular! I’m just trying to see what the reasoning could be for this interpretation!

Each person has an interpretation of the Vedas and the Puranas and that’s the beauty of Sanathana Dharma. There is no right or wrong interpretation. Unlike the Abrahamic religions, Sanathana Dharma allows the reader to interpret the Puranas in a way that allows the person to get closer to divinity. I heard an atheist (Nastik) friend of mine interpret the Pandavas as being the five senses while the Kauravas were the different distractions that one faces in attaining peace. The Mahabharata itself was the way to gain victory over distractions, he opined. I wanted to ask him if he felt Yuyutsu and Vikarna were distractions. After all, Vikarna was as righteous as Yuyutsu, although Vikarna stayed on with the Kauravas, and perished, while Yuyustsu decided to fight alongside the Righteous Pandavas! Yuyutsu, according to some, was the only one of a hundred sons of the blind king Dhritarashtra that survived what is considered the Greatest War of all time! There was no one that could stay unaligned in this war! I didn’t have the heart to shatter my friends’ fallible logic.

The same outrage isn’t seen when we, seemingly apologetically, explain to guests, from other faiths, about Hanuman as “The Monkey Faced God” or about Ganesh as “The Elephant Faced God”.

The point is, our scriptures allow us to interpret them in a way that suits us. Even Devdutt Patnaik is allowed this luxury.

When one learns about Sanathana Dharma, one learns that this is the most lenient in allowing one to interpret it in as many ways as possible. The one thing that it doesn’t allow is to disrespect the goddesses. When people showed outrage at M F Hussain’s painting of a nude Durga (Forgive me, my divine mother), it clearly crossed a line that the tolerant and, some would say, dormant, till then, Hindus woke up to[2]. This outrage was primarily because the divine mother was disrespected and next because he dared to disrespect a woman.

The same outrage is not seen nor experienced when we, knowingly or unknowingly, disrespect the divine. I have seen many Hindu visit temples wearing shorts. I am not suggesting one wear a suit, nor am I asking you to wear a Dhoti, although it would be nice to see men wearing a Dhoti, but, a pair of jeans and a nice shirt would not hurt! After all, what example are we setting for our children, when we go dressed in shorts? Shouldn’t we be outraged that the very same people, who came to the temple in shorts, are probably going to the church, to attend some white people’s wedding, in a suit? We go to the temple as if we are doing the divine a favor by being there! Really? We then have the gall to claim that we go to the temple every weekend! We go, most of the time, to attain peace and rejuvenating energy to face what may come! That is only possible at a temple!

The same outrage isn’t seen when we, seemingly apologetically, explain to guests, from other faiths, about Hanuman as “The Monkey Faced God” or about Ganesh as “The Elephant Faced God”. We could tell the guests that Sanathana Dharma sees divinity in every living thing! We choose not to, for fear of offending these guests!

Shouldn’t we be outraged that the poor Hindu priests live on a variable income, totally dependent on us, and devotees condescendingly give them a tip as if they did the priest a favor? Shouldn’t we be offended that the average priest lives a life of near poverty? And we call ourselves human beings and talk about having a heart! How different are we from those that call us Kafirs? At least they have an excuse! They’re from a different faith! What’s our excuse? With friends like us, why would priests need enemies???

Sanathana Dharma has been there, I don’t need to remind you, for over 7000 years and it will survive these tumultuous times too. We may not realize this, but the legacy we are leaving our children and their children, and the generations to come, is the one that’s going to be tainted. Are we the type of people that care for our legacy or are we the type of people that have the devil-may-care attitude? Only we can decide which of these options we prefer!

ऊँ नमः शिवय। हरे श्रीनिवास।

God Bless The USA

Note:
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

References:

[1] What happened at Periyar’s Salem rally in 1971: The many versionsJan 22, 2020, News Minute

[2] M.F. Husain’s 20-year-old painting of nude deity raises questions about artistic freedomOct 31, 1996, India Today

Kumar Sridhar is a full time IT professional who is also a blogger,columnist and an avid sports fan! He lives with his family in New Jersey, USA.

1 COMMENT

  1. sanatana Dharma is more flexible and changes according to times. There is no restrictions how one can practice. while travelling one can recite slokas. some friends tell me that the brahmins are pillars of carrying out the sanatana dharma. the brahmin kids while growing are taught to recite slokas and do pujas,while many hindu kids do not know the basics . I feel proud to say I am a brahmin.

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