By Nithin Sridhar
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 2
Upanishads are considered as the highest authority in Hindu religion. Its principles are eternal, and its teachings universal. There are hundreds of Upanishads available. One among them is called as Taittiriya Upanishad and it occurs in Krishna Yajurveda.
devapitrkAryAbhyAm na pramaditavyaM |
mAtridEvo bhava | pitridEvo bhava | achAryadEvO bhava | atithidEvO bhava |
yAnyanavadyAni karmANi tAni sEvitavyAni | nO itarANi |
yAnyasmAkam sucharitAni | tAni tvayOpAsyani ||
(Taittiriya Upanishad 1.11.2)
Translation: There should be no errors in your duties to the gods and the Manes. Treat your mother as God. Treat your father as God. Treat your teacher as God. Treat your guest as God. Whatever deeds are faultless, those alone are to be performed and not others. Whatever good conduct is present in us, only those should be adopted by you and not others.
This mantra (hymn) captures the gist of ideal human conduct. The Upanishad is instructing people to be righteous in their conduct and practice their duties sincerely.
The mantra starts by reminding people1 that they have certain duties towards the gods and the forefathers. The gods are various cosmic principles that also manifest as the internal principles dwelling inside a person. The practice of devotion towards gods results in mental purification, detachment and one-pointed concentration. It further helps a person attain devaloka (realm of the gods) upon death. Therefore, the duty of a person towards gods is to practice devotion to attain spiritual good.
Similarly, the Pitr's refers to the manes or forefathers from whom we have inherited this body and the family. Showing reverence to them helps to induce humility and pay karmic debts and become free from certain desires of the mind. It further helps to attain pitrloka (realm of the manes) upon death. Therefore, the duty towards manes involves practicing faith and reverence towards them.
After instructing people about the duty that one has towards gods and manes, the Upanishad speaks about how a person should conduct his life and should respect other people. Further, it tells that the mother, the father, the teacher, and even the guests are to be treated as God.
In other words, one must treat every person with love, respect and reverence. Today, we witness many children insulting parents, many students abusing teachers and people behaving rudely with the guests and vice versa. The Upanishad considers these rude, coarse and violent behaviors as adharma i.e. unrighteous actions that lead to sorrow. Therefore, for one's own good, one must try to be polite and respectful in their interactions with others.
Now a question may arise here that whether treating others as God imply that one should accept what others are saying as truth and practice them even if they appear unrighteous?
In answer to this, the teacher in the Upanishad clarifies that one should inculcate from others only those actions which are righteous and disregard the rest. It further stresses that only those actions which are of "good conduct" should be imbibed and practiced and not the others.
Knowing this, if one were to adhere to these principles, he or she will attain great success, satisfaction, and spiritual merit.
In a nutshell, the Upanishad teaches the secret to meritorious and fulfilling life.
1 In the context of the Upanishad, the audience is the students who have finished their studies and are about to take up worldly duties.
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