Prayaschit: We Can Learn the Purpose of Penance from Hindu Mythology

Penance has to be done with the purpose of the attainment of tranquility and contentment of mind

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Belur, Chennakeshava Temple, Gajasurasamhara, Shiva slaying the demon Gajasura. Wikimedia

New Delhi, August 11, 2017: Scriptures and the Puranas attribute the highest status to both Siva and Vishnu and that both are merely two sides of the same coin, indicated Sri B. Sundarkumar, an eminent exponent of Upanyasam genre in a discussion.

If the Bhagavata Purana highlights the magnanimity of Vishnu, the Siva and the Skanda Puranas relate Siva or Muruga as the highest deity. The killing of demons such as the Gajasura by Siva or Ravana by Rama is symbolic of the Lord’s ways of securing the victory of good over evil and inculcating faith in bracing dharma and righteous living.

The asuras were capable of severe penance and through such effort win shelters from Brahma and other heavenly creatures. However, they lacked the maturity of mind and given to evil inclinations, they opted for temporary ends instead of permanence. Their penance aroused the spirit that generated the pulls of desires. Gajasura did severe penance and obtained longevity, strength, and valor from Brahma. He then indulged in atrocities. When these become unbearable for the world, Siva intervened and killed him.

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Any evil tendency in a person is an indication of asuric character. When one’s aim in life is directed at the enjoyment of the objects of senses, they reflect asuric inclinations. It only exhibits the failure in a majority of human beings to sustain the mind and purge the impurities, so that it is allowed to grow and evolve.

Much can be gained from the universe which provides examples of the natural process of maturing akin to the blooming of a flower from a bud.

Penance has to be done with the purpose of the attainment of tranquility and contentment of mind. The goal is to realize the true value and importance of seeking redemption.


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