Swami Vivekananda reminded India that the purpose of India was not only for herself but she has to guide the world with her knowledge which she has nurtured for thousands of years and a way of life based on the Vision of Oneness. He said, each nation has a message to deliver, a destiny to fulfil, a mission to accomplish. So, what has been the destiny of India? The destiny of India has been the spiritual evolution of man. India sees the whole existence as interconnected, interrelated and interdependent. India sees man as potentially divine and the aim of human life is for the manifestation of that divinity by contributing for the harmony of the collectives like family, society, nation and the whole creation.
The philosophy of India thus helps humanity to live in tune with nature; to accept the latest researches of the science and to make man evolve spiritually. The Hindu civilization is based on eternal laws of existence. As told by Swami Vivekananda, India has become immortal as the nature of the soul because it is here that the Rishi-s discovered the immortality of the soul. It is here that the way of life was developed which is based on eternal principles of existence which guide man to manifest the divinity within and also to behave with others, interact with others with the feeling of Oneness and to live harmoniously with the collectives like family, society, nation and the whole creation. The way of life needed for a man to manifest the divinity was termed as Dharma. Dharma is not religion. Dharma is not just limited to certain religious activities like worship, fasting, japa etc. In Bhagavad Geeta, in the last shloka of the 12th chapter, Bhagavan Shri Krishna calls this Dharma as Amrita Dharma that is immortal Dharma.
India has faced maximum invasions and the rules of adharmic forces which led to the exploitation and destruction of its various systems like village, temple, education, commerce etc. We see in the history of the world that those countries which had to face such barbaric invasions or which had faced colonial rule lost their identity, their culture but we see that India has survived; her tradition has survived. How was it possible? The reason is that though the various systems were broken, one system could continue and that was family system. The Amrita Dharma was nurtured in the Amrita Family and therefore India survived most barbarous invasions including the fleecing colonial rule.
Family is the basic unit of a society, therefore, if in the family the thoughts which build and nourish the nation are nurtured then the nation functions vibrantly. Hence, our Rishi-s had said Dhanyo Grihastha Aashram – Blessed is the Grihastha Aashrama. Why? Because if families are taken care of, then the society, nation also are taken care of. If Grihastha Aashram is moulded properly, then the other Aashram-s also would be vibrant. Today, when we see challenging situations in our country, our focus should be to promote nourishing of Amrit Dharma in the families.
Vivekananda Kendra is working with the objectives of Man making and Nation building. Generally, the man making efforts in Vivekananda Kendra are focused on the individuals through the Vargas in the Karyapaddhati. But if the families are imbued with national consciousness then at least few generations are taken care of. Therefore, since few years the discussions on Hindu griha were conducted in various Kendra Meetings. The basis of Indian Culture is Oneness. For a family to be strong and socially caring, the Oneness is to be nurtured in the family. Geeta is the best spiritual wisdom to nurture the Oneness. Therefore, it was decided, that the Geeta Jayanti should become the festival for the families as participants. Because, it was felt that Geeta is to be understood, studied and lived from the childhood. So, a family is the best place to study, understand, practice and live Geeta. Since few years, Vivekananda Kendra started celebrating Geeta Jayanti by organizing the family workshops, family get togethers, Kutumba Sammelanam on GeetaJayanti.
But seeing the current various cultural attacks, the need is felt for the sustained work among the families so that they are aware and able to protect the Sanatana Dharma, the Amrita Dharma of our nation. Only by holding on to it, the families would be able to face the cultural attacks and disintegration that comes with excessive materialism and extreme individualism. And that is how Amrita Parivar work is taken up by Vivekananda Kendra since last year.
We can see that there are many tangible and intangible invasions on family like materialism, individualism, modernity which means irreverence to everything, self-centeredness, narrow focus on one’s own happiness and disregard to the higher and larger aspects of collective life, etc. These thought currents are changing the ambience of the family. The change in ambience of the family is seen in many fields such as food habits, living habits, the uprightness about earning money by right means, the use of electric gadgets, the insistence on marks and certificates alone and not the character. All this have affected capacity of the family to mould the children. Just to give one example the traditional festivals were occasions to come together and to worship and enjoy the homemade sweets; but today on the festival days hoteling, sending cards has become a common sight. The guests were happily welcomed in the families. The rooms were not marked as bedrooms for different persons in the family. The whole house belonged to all. But today that is not the case. At times family members feel that their space gets invaded when guests come and the guests also get feeling as if they are invading the space of the family members and so are un-welcomed. ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ may become only the saying and not remain a practice.
Today, the electric gadgets which are supposed to bring the world nearer or connect the persons have actually increased the distance between the family members. Each one is busy with his own mobile, laptop or tablet etc. Before things go out of the hand, it is necessary that the focus should be brought on the family, and the purpose of the married life be imbibed and fulfilled. In what all dimensions the family should grow, evolve, develop, that also needs to be seen. And to achieve that, various meaningful practices are to be consciously followed in the family. Family is the basic unit of the society, so the thoughts which are nurtured in the families, gradually, become the nature of the society and the nature of the Nation.
There was a time when family ambience was such that automatically children would grow up with values, with an uprightness of character, with the knowledge about one’s own culture and tradition. It was possible because apart from the parents, there would be grandparents, uncles and aunts in the family and so the value of caring and sharing was naturally nurtured. It was easier or we can say effortlessly the children would learn to live with restraint because so many members would be in the family that anything and everything was needed to be shared. But today, with nuclear family and with deliberate invasions through medias, this value of caring and sharing needs to be instilled consciously. As both the parents are working and children are just one or two, instead of instilling values, the parents unconsciously pamper the children. To compensate the time that they do not give to the children, they shower the children with various material objects as and when demanded by them. Instead of character-building, the children grow in ‘entitled’ mode. This spoils their future life, relationships etc. and that in ultimate run impacts the society, nation and families. Old age homes, destitute homes, orphanages are signs of declined families, failed society and of ungrateful generation. Thus, we need to go to the roots of the topic.
The vision of Oneness which is the basis of our culture is to be inculcated by the repeated Swadhyaya of books like Gita, Upanishads, Sant literature etc. in the family. Unless the Oneness is inculcated, the practice of values would not be sustained. These books are not to be studied at the fag end of life but they are to be studied for knowing clearly the purpose and principles of life and to practice it in life. For that reason, as one grows, since childhood, such books are to be studied. There cannot be a better place than family for learning this. Family is not just kutumba comprised of the closely related members of the family but it is also a parivar, which includes our clan, community, locality, society, pet animals, nature, etc. Focus should therefore be on Parivar. When the Oneness is inculcated well in the Parivar, then the whole world becomes Kutumba – Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
Geeta tells us to understand the total picture and in that whatever be our role, it is to be fulfilled as our duty. Geeta inspires man to do his duty. It is in the family, that child learns from the elders to do one's duty sincerely. But what are our duties to the family members, to the society, to the nation, to the whole creation can be understood only if our vision about the existence is clear.
Bhagavad Geeta gives that vision. Geeta says –
“Atmaupamyenasarvatra samampashyatiyo0rjuna.”(VI.32). Look at everything as the expression of the Self. ‘Prajapati created the mankind and along with that Yagna, so that man could prosper and all the desires of the man would be fulfilled (III.10). Then, he told that, “With this Yagna you nourish the Gods (the bigger collectives of the Self like family, society, nation, nature and Inner being) and may those Gods nourish you; thus nourishing one another, you shall, attain the Highest Good.” (III.11)
What does Yagna mean? Yagna is any self-sacrificing work, undertaken in the spirit of self-dedication for the well-being of all. Yagna is any action for oneself, family, community, society, nation, creation into which individual is ready to pour himself entirely in the spirit of service and dedication. Yagna is nurturing and strengthening the expanding layers of existence of the Self like family, community, society, nation, the whole creation and the Divine Inner Being.
Yagna- the spirit of self-dedicated activities, the link with the Virat is seen everywhere: The Sun shines, the moon gleams, the sea throbs, the earth bears, trees flower and bear fruits – all in a spirit of sacrifice and self-dedicated motherly love with never even a trace of attachment or any kind of self-arrogating motives. The whole world of cosmic powers and nature’s phenomena function instinctively in the service of all. When human life is developed and multiplied at all levels; we can easily recognise different degrees of Yagna-activities, which keep up the harmonious growth of existence. Thus, Yagna implies that any achievement is possible if a person knows how to act in the discipline of co-operation with larger collectives.
Individual gets nurtured in family; hence, his expansion of consciousness to bigger collectives is possible primarily in the family. Family is an expanded and organic existence of an individual. Similarly, the expanded form of family is community and so family works in harmony with the community. Expanded form of community is society therefore, community works to nurture the society. The enlarged form of society is nation and therefore, the purpose of society is to re-build and develop the nation. The purpose of existence of the nation is to contribute for theadvancement of whole creation, because nation is the part of the world. The whole creation is the expression of the Self or Paramatman. Therefore, the real development and expansion of an individual is ultimately realising one’s real nature as Paramatman.
The goal of human life is to be one with the Paramatman which has manifested in all these collectives and is also beyond all this. Living a life and striving to be one with this all –pervading divinity is Yoga. The way to do it, is Yagna. A person with a vision of Oneness can appreciate the Oneness underlying all the diversities and therefore cherish the diversities and does not denounce it. Similarly, the Yagna way or Yoga way of life alone can add to the harmony and prosperity of the existence. India has to give to the world this message of Oneness of the existence. Today we see that India is facing many dangers from outside and from within. The ‘national will’ needs to be strengthened in facing these difficulties. The awareness about the purpose of our country and also the problems that we are facing needs to be built up in the families. In the context of this whole philosophy of Ekatma Darshan, it is evident that the family is not just the collection of individuals but it is the basic unit of the society with three objectives.
The purpose of family is striving for Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha.
Family is meant for the propagation of Sanatana Dharma means for social well-being based on Oneness.
Family is for Prajanana that is prakarshena Janana means contributing a generation which is physically, mentally, intellectually, culturally and spiritually better than the earlier generation.
In short, family is a basic unit where man-making and nation-building is possible.
Aashrama means striving entirely for the Objectives. The meaning of Grihasthashrama is - a stage of married life - where man exerts to achieve the above three objectives. If we focus on our families to actualize these three objectives, then we can very easily face the cultural invasion. A Parivar where the tradition of immortal (Amrit) culture and Dharma is practiced is Amrit Parivar. A family that is striving to work for the three objectives can be seen in these five dimensions. The Amrit Parivar should be five dimensional – Panchamukhi as given below (5-S)
1. Sukhi – Happy, contented. The basis of family is love for each other, feeling of Oneness with all where each is for all and all are for each. Only such a family would be a happy family. When we stay together, naturally there are some collisions, disagreements, discords. But if love is there, we accept our people as they are and interpersonal relationship is healthy. That acceptance and affection for all, makes the family in a real sense happy.
2. Swastha – Healthy. Proper eating habits, the practices of regular exercises, regular physical work, work culture, cleanliness, inclusive and positive attitude for all etc. would keep all the members in the family healthy. Even if someone falls sick that sickness is not seen as a burden but the love and care of the family cures the person. Apart from this physical understanding of Swastha, another higher and subtler dimension is the family is rooted in ‘Swa’ in one’s tradition and culture and in Oneness.
3. Sampanna- Not lacking economically. All financial needs are fulfilled. Sampanna is not necessarily rich. Sampanna is where you do not feel you are lacking (Vipanna) something. You are contented in earning money through right means and do not hanker for more and more through wrong means. Very rich persons also could be Vipanna and not Sampanna if they are not satisfied with what they have. Apollonius Tyanaeus, a Greek Philosopher in the first century had said that, ‘In India I found a race of mortals living on the Earth, but not adhering to it, inhabiting cities but not being fixed to it, possessing everything but possessed by nothing.’ Thus, Sampanna is one which is affluent but not addicted to wealth.
4. Samskar-ksham – Able to mould children with proper values of life. One of the main purposes of family is to contribute better children for the society. For that the atmosphere in the family should be such that children inculcate proper values. It was said that Prajatantu ma Vyavatchesi – The family line should be continued and should not be broken. The modern science says that to keep population stable, the fertility rate should be 2.1 children. China had adopted one child policy for the sake of material development. But today it stands at the fear of decline of the population and ageing population even though they have withdrawn the one child policy and are encouraging to have more children. The Jananam that is giving birth to children is important but still important is the family should be able to mould the children properly. The practices, festivals, interaction in the family should be such that the children are properly moulded to carry forward the Amrit tradition.
5. Samaj Dharana– Working and contributing for the well-being of the society with national consciousness without expecting anything in return. As the expanding form of the family is society, a family should contribute physically, monetarily and psychologically for the well-being of the society. To do that decidedly family would have to curtail its own needs with respect to time and money but that has to be done as in the well-being of the society lies the well-being of the family.
A family cannot say that it would have only some dimensions like say Sukhi and Sampanna and not others. It cannot be. All five dimensions are interlinked with each other. Therefore, Amrit Parivar should be striving for all these five dimensions simultaneously. The vision of Oneness and the values are inculcated only through the proper practices that are followed in the family and not through lectures. Family needs to strengthen the practices that help in achieving this five-fold development of the family. It also needs to contemplate on the practices that need to be adopted newly so that the it can be Amrit Parivar, nurturing the Amrit tradition.
To trigger the thinking on what all practices in which all areas are to be looked into, Sri Vijay Kaushalji Maharaj has given six ‘Bha’ to be focussed upon in the family to protect our culture. These are:
Bhasha – Language. What language do we use in the home? Are our children proficient in our languages? Is our language courteous, soft, cultured? Are the children in our house culturally literate enough to understand the cultural anecdotes, proverbs? Do we also have at least a workable knowledge of Sanskrit?
Bhusha – Dressing. How do the persons in the family dress inside the house and also outside? It is said that ‘bathe for oneself and dress for others.’ For festivals are we particular about dressing traditionally? Can frequency of traditional dressing be increased if every day it is not worn? Is the dressing reflecting our values or is more getting in the trap of branded clothing, exposure or attention-seeking? Are our clothes more ostentatious or decent?
Bhajan – Relating oneself with Ishvara. Does the family have weekly bhajans? Is there a practice to get up before stipulated time, complete bath before stipulated time by all and pray to Ishvara either together or individually as each one’s timings in the morning to go for schools, colleges or offices may not align? For us, even India represents Devi Durga. So, the bhajan does not mean only singling some Bhajans but it also means revering our nation and knowing and relating to her culture. So, how is the knowledge of the family members about India, her Culture? What practices are adopted so that on regular basis the knowledge is enhanced and so the family members do not fall prey to the cultural invasions. Can in a family, all members sit together at least once a week and discuss and understand about our culture and the invasions on it and the ways not to fall prey to it?
Bhojan – Food. The way it is cooked and eaten. The type and amount of food eaten is directly related to diseases. Is our family gradually falling into the habit of frequent hoteling and getting hotel food delivered at home? It is noticed that these foods contribute to obesity, diabetics, hyper-tension, heart-attacks and many more diseases. Food even impacts our thinking. What corrective measures can a family take to minimize such eating? If wife is also a working woman, then what help all other family members including her husband are rendering her so that home-cooked food is staple food in the family?
Bhavan – Home. The ambience of the home. Are there inspiring portraits on the walls? What magazines come to our homes? What are the practices of the family that are followed regularly? Is there a place where one can pray, meditate or do swadhyaya? How is the family atmosphere and the interactions of the family members specially the old, are they taken care of properly and do they or any member in the family feel neglected
Bhraman – Outings. What places do we visit? What are the places do we frequent? Do we go to temple at least once a week? Do we take the children to visit the places of great heroes, places where good service is rendered etc.? Are there practices like visiting every year some place of pilgrimage including the places where good works are undertaken? Is the love for nature inculcated in children by visiting such places and contributing for its upkeep through physical work? Does family go for sight seeing or pilgrimage?
Thus Amrit Parivar is one where all these dimensions are understood and practices decided and developed to achieve the three objectives of Grihastha Aashrama. As family is connected with the society, therefore, the next step is, such Amrit Parivar should strive to reach out to at least 5 to 10 other families to make them Amrit Parivar. It helps in many ways. If a group/ sankul of 10 Parivars thus become very close knit, it helps the children to experience the extended family. It creates a safe and secure locality for the children to grow.
When situations deteriorate instead of blaming others it is wise to start from where we are and that is why let us start from our families. Step by step in the direction of the goal and each moment spent in nurturing Amrit Parivar would surely take us to awakened and capable Bharat which can guide the world spiritually.
- Mananeeya Nivedita Raghunath Bhide