Wednesday January 24, 2018

Practicing dharma through Asteyam

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post-5By Nithin Sridhar

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 5

The Hindu philosophy which is rooted in the Vedas is very vast and diverse. The diversity is not only present with respect to philosophy but also in the practice of those philosophies. There are various darsharnas (world-views) that portray a very different perspective of the Universe; there are different kulas (cults) and paramparas (lineages) that practice different branches of spiritual knowledge; and various schools of philosophy that reveal different aspects of truth and knowledge.

But, what is common to all of these diverse, but complementing and sometimes overlapping traditions is the foundation of dharma. The concept of dharma is fundamental to the Indic traditions and Indian way of life. It is through dharma, that people can attain material success and spiritual solace. Hence, every tradition, every cult, and every school of philosophy that has its origin in India aligns itself with dharma. Therefore, dharma (along with other purusharthas) is the guiding light, the very basis from which Hinduism or as it is rightly called “Sanatana Dharma”(eternal path) derives its unity, its wholesome existence despite of having diverse traditions and practices.

In the previous articles, I took up tenets of dharma like Ahimsa and Satyam. In this article, I wish to write about another important tenet: asteya (non-stealing). Kurma Purana (Uttara-Bhaga11.17) describes asteya as-

paradravyApaharaNam chauryAdatha balena va stEyam tasya anAcharaNAdastEyam dharmasAdhanam ||
Translation: Taking away of objects belonging to others through stealing or by using force is considered as “steyam” and not practicing such stealing etc. is “asteyam” which is a means of practicing dharma.

The verse captures the gist of the practice of asteya. Steya is not just about stealing, it is about taking what does not belong to one, which may be done by stealth, by the use of force, or by employing any other means. Therefore, asteyam constitutes non-hankering for possessing things that does not belong to one. A proper practice of asteyam in action is only possible when it is accompanied by words and thoughts. Therefore, even a thought that is induced out of jealousy and lust for others’ belongings constitute steyam.

It is important to understand that steyam does not just refer to thieves stealing objects from someone’s house or dacoits looting a bank. Even apparently small actions that infringe on other’s rightful ownership of an object, or what prevents others from having what rightfully belongs to them constitutes steyam. Few examples will illustrate:

  1. A person mistakenly gives Rs 70 for an item whose cost was Rs 60. The shopkeeper noticed this, but he pocketed the extra Rs 10 as profit. This is as good as stealing and constitutes steyam. The vice-versa is equally considered to be steyam. If a person pays Rs 100 for a product of Rs 60 and the shopkeeper mistakenly returns Rs 50. If the person does not return the excess Rs 10 given to him, then it becomes steyam.
  1. Bribery is a very good example of steyam. A government servant or any other person in power is already paid salary to do his work. If he asks for a bribe to do his job, then it means he is forcing people to part with their hard earned money which truly belonged to them. Hence, he commits steyam.
  1. Similarly, an auto driver who refuses to put the meter or charges extra than what the meter says is committing steyam.
  1. A son who forgets the “will” of his father to take over his lands, a brother who murders his brother for the sake of property, a student who cheats in exams are all examples of committing steyam.

Therefore, any action, howsoever small or big, if it attempts to unrightfully possess objects that belongs to others, or if infringes the rights of others to possess what rightfully belongs to them constitutes steyam. Avoiding all such actions and being dispassionate towards other’s wealth is the essence of asteyam.

Bu steyam is not just limited to objects. In the verse, the word “dravya” though literally refers to objects; in the given context it can be understood as anything towards which a person has a sense of belonging, an attachment, a personal level of commitment.

For example, a story which a writer creates, an idea that an entrepreneur implements, or a scientific product that a scientist invents. People have sense of belongingness to their own creations and inventions. People consider their own ideas belong to them. It is for this reason that concepts like patents and copyrights have been introduced. Therefore, stealing of an idea, an invention, or a story in whatever manner it may be, constitutes steyam.

The term dravya can be further expanded to include people as well. We all share deep emotional ties with our family. The feelings of belonging, love and attachment exist between family members, be it parents and children or between spouses or friends. Therefore, even acts like kidnapping and trafficking can be considered as steyam wherein the victim is separated from his/her family and both are made to suffer.

Similarly, adultery which is nothing but cheating on one’s spouse/partner constitutes steyam.

If one were to analyze human activities from a holistic perspective, most human actions constitute steyam in one way or the other. Various human activities like mining, deforestation etc. have led to the death of many animals and birds and made many others bereft of their homes. Similarly, we have contaminated the air and water as well that has deprived access to clean air and water to many organisms.

Therefore, if people ought to practice dharma, they must embrace asteyam and integrate it into their lifestyle, into their speech, thoughts, and words. For this reason, the practice of “asteyam” is the means for practicing dharma.

Glossary:

Dharma: It means “that which upholds” i.e. the essence. In various contexts, it may refer to different things. With respect to human actions, it means duties and righteousness, as they alone uphold human life. Therefore, Sanatana Dharma means “Eternal Dharma” or the traditions and religions that are rooted in these eternal principles of Dharma which are always valid.

Purusharthas: It refers to the four goals of human life as propounded in Hindu scriptures. The four goals are: Dharma, Kama (desires), Artha (wealth) and Moksha (liberation).

More in this segment:

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 1

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 2

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 3

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 4

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12 Interesting Facts About Somnath Temple Probably You Didn’t Know

The Somnath Temple is popular due to various legends connected to it. The place is an important pilgrimage and tourist spot.

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Somnath Temple is located in Veraval on the western coast of Gujarat, India. Wikimedia Commons
Somnath Temple is located in Veraval on the western coast of Gujarat, India. Wikimedia Commons
  • Somnath Temple is believed to be the place where Lord Krishna ended his Lila and thereafter left for heavenly abode
  • The first Siva temple at Somanath is believed to have been built at some unknown time in the past
  • Gujarat was raided by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1024, plundering the Somnath temple and breaking its sacred jyotirlinga

Somnath Temple is a specimen of fine architecture of one of the 12 Jyotirlingas Shrines of Shiva. This place is believed to be the place where Lord Krishna ended his Lila and thereafter left for heavenly abode, therefore it is dubbed as Eternal Shrine. This legendary temple has been vandalized numerous times in the history but with the help of some Hindu Kings, the temple was reshaped each time.

Somnath Temple is located in Veraval on the western coast of Gujarat, India. The temple is popular due to various legends connected to it. The place is an important pilgrimage and tourist spot. Lord Shiva has a strong connection here and also known as shrine eternal.

Somnath Temple History

According to popular tradition, the first Siva temple at Somanath is believed to have been built at some unknown time in the past. The second temple has been built at the same site by the “Yadava kings” of Vallabhi around 649 CE. In 725 CE, Al-Junayd, the Arab governor of Sindh destroyed the second temple as part of his invasions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. In 815 CE, the Gurjara-Pratihara king Nagabhata II constructed the third temple, a huge structure of red sandstone.

Also Read: Top 10 Famous Hindu Temples of Tamil Nadu

The Chaulukya (Solanki) king Mularaja possibly built the first temple at the site sometime before 997 CE, even though some historians believe that he may have renovated a smaller earlier temple.

Somnath Temple Attacks

Gujarat was raided by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1024, plundering the Somnath temple and breaking its sacred jyotirlinga. Ghazni took away the wealth of almost 20 million dinars. As per historical records, the damage to the temple by was quite negligible because there are records of pilgrimages to the temple in 1038, which has no much mention of any damage to the temple.

In14th century, Gujarati Muslim pilgrims were noted by Amir Khusrow to stop at that temple to pay their respects before departing for the Hajj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons
In14th century, Gujarati Muslim pilgrims were noted by Amir Khusrow to stop at that temple to pay their respects before departing for the Hajj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons

But claims are there that Mahmud had killed 50,000 devotees who tried to defend the temple. The temple at the time of Ghazni’s attack appears to have been a wooden structure, which is said to have decayed in time.

According to an inscription of 1169, Kumarapala rebuilt it in “excellent stone and studded it with jewels,”

Also Read: Angkor Wat: History behind Cambodian Hindu temple

Then in 1299, the Somnath Temple was invaded by Alauddin Khalji’s army, led by Ulugh Khan. They defeated the Vaghela king Karna and sacked the Somnath temple. Legends state that the Jalore ruler Kanhadadeva later recovered the Somnath idol and freed the Hindu prisoners, after an attack on the Delhi army near Jalore. However, some other sources state that the idol was taken to Delhi, where it was thrown to be trampled under the feet of Muslims.

The Somnath Temple was rebuilt by Mahipala I, the Chudasama king of Saurashtra in 1308 and the lingam was installed by his son Khengara sometime between 1331 and 1351.

In14th century, Gujarati Muslim pilgrims were noted by Amir Khusrow to stop at that temple to pay their respects before departing for the Hajj pilgrimage.

In 1395, the temple was again destroyed for the third time by Zafar Khan, the last governor of Gujarat under the Delhi Sultanate and later founder of Gujarat Sultanate.

In 1546, the Portuguese who were based in Goa attacked ports and towns in Gujarat including Somnath Temple and destroyed several of its structures.

Somnath temple to Dwarka

Dwarka is an ancient city in the Indian state of Gujarat. It is very near to Somnath temple and due to its relevance to Hindu pilgrimage; people do tend to visit this place also.

Also Read: The Temple of Death: The Abode of Yamraj

The magnificent Temple of Dwarka has an elaborately tiered main shrine, a carved entrance and a black-marble idol of Lord Krishna.

Somnath Temple said to have been safely hiding the famous Syamantak Mani within the hollowness of Shivalinga. Wikimedia Commons
Somnath Temple said to have been safely hiding the famous Syamantak Mani within the hollowness of Shivalinga. Wikimedia Commons

The road distance between Dwarka and Somnath is 231 km and the aerial distance from Dwarka to Somnath is 210 km. One can also cover the distance through train which is almost 398km distant.

Here are some facts that are attached to this sacred and architecturally marvellous temple.

  1. The present-day Somnath Temple was built in five years, from 1947 to 1951 and was inaugurated by then President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad.
  2. Somnath Temple said to have been safely hiding the famous Syamantak Mani within the hollowness of Shivalinga, the Philosopher’s stone, which is associated with Lord Krishna. The stone is said to be magical, which was capable of producing gold. It is also believed that stone had alchemic and radioactive properties and thus it remains floating above the ground.
  3. The temple finds its reference in the sacred texts of Hindus like Shreemad Bhagavat, Skandpuran, Shivpuran and Rig-Veda. This signifies the importance of this temple as one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in India.
  4. According to records, the site of Somnath has been a pilgrimage site from ancient times as it was said to be the junction of three rivers, Kapila, Hiran and the mythical Saraswati. The meeting point was called as Triveni Sangam and is believed to be the place where Soma, the Moon-god bathed and regained his lustre.
  5. According to Swami Gajanand Saraswati (a Hindu scholar), the first temple was built 7, 99, 25,105 years ago as derived from the traditions of Prabhas Khand of Skanda Puran.
  6. The temple is said to be located at such a place that there is no straight-line land between Somnath seashore till Antarctica continent. In a Sanskrit inscription, found on the Arrow-Pillar called Baan-Stambh is stated that the temple stands at a point on the Indian piece of land, which happens to be the first point on land in the north to the south-pole on that particular longitude.

    The saga of Somnath temple is related to moon god and curse of his father in law Daksha Prajapati. Wikimedia Commons
    The saga of Somnath temple is related to moon god and curse of his father in law Daksha Prajapati. Wikimedia Commons
  7. According to the text of Skanda Purana, the name of Somnath Temple will change every time the world is reconstructed. It is believed when Lord Brahma will create a new world after ending the one we are living, Somnath will acquire a new name of Pran Nath Temple.
  8. On the walls of Somnath Temple, the sculptures of Lord Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu can be seen.
  9. According to another reference in the Skanda Purana, there are about 6 Brahmas. This is the era of 7thBrahma who is called Shatanand.
  10. The flag mast on the peak of Somnath Temple is 37 feet long and it changes 3 times a day.
  11. The saga of Somnath temple is related to moon god and curse of his father in law Daksha Prajapati.
  12. Non-Hindus doesn’t require any special permission to visit Somnath Temple. The decision was taken in view of security issues.Now, pack your bags and begin your journey to one of the most the sacred places of India.