Monday May 21, 2018

Treat others as God: Taittiriya Upanishad

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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.

 

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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.

More in this segment:

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 1

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Right of Nature: Are Rivers Living Beings?

Should rivers be considered Living Entities?

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Right of Nature
Many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

By Dr. Bharti Raizada, Chicago

Science says that water bodies are not living entities, as water does not need food, does not grow, and reproduce. Water is required for life, but in itself it is nonliving.

However, many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

The Maori tribe in New Zealand considers the Whanganui River as their ancestor and the Maori people fought to get it a legal status as a living being. In 2017, a court in New Zealand gave this river the status of living being and same rights as humans, to protect it from pollution. Thus, now if someone pollutes in it then it is considered equivalent to harming a human.

ALSO READ: Worshiping mother nature part of our tradition: Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Right of Nature
Rivers are sacred in many religions, including Hinduism. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

Rivers are sacred in Hinduism also. Hindus believe that the Ganga descended from heaven and call her Ganga Maa. A few days after New Zealand’s court decision, Uttarakhand high court in India gave the Ganga and Yamuna rivers and their tributaries the status of living human entities. The Court-appointed three officials as legal custodians. However, the court did not clarify many aspects related to this decision.

After this verdict some of the questions, which naturally came to mind, were:

Can Hindus still do rituals of flowing ashes, leaves, flowers, diyas in river or no? Can a dam be built on the river after this judgment? If some damage, to a person, animal, plants, or property, occurs because of river e.g. overflow, hurricanes, flooding etc., how the river will pay the liabilities? What if all rivers, oceans, ponds etc. are given the status of living beings? Will drinking water from river become a crime? What about taking water and using it for routine needs,  agriculture or building structures? Will it be illegal? If a child throws a stone in water, will it be a criminal act? Will fishing be considered stealing? What about boating? If someone is using heat near water and water evaporates, is it equal to taking the body part of a human being? What about taking a bath in the river?

Right of Nature
If the river gets a living status, as human, then we cannot use it for anything without its permission, so everyone has to stop touching the water. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: Decoding supernatural: What is the nature of entities and gods who influence human behavior

Other queries, which arise, are:

Will animals and plants get the same status? What if you kill an ant or a chicken etc. or cut a tree? Will all animals and plants get a legal custodian?

Where is all the waste supposed to go? It has to go somewhere back in nature, right?

Uttrakhand state government challenged the judgement in Supreme Court and the latter reversed the judgment.

Right of Nature
So where do we stand? In my opinion, granting living status to nature is a different thing than giving protected status or preserving nature. Image by Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: How nature destroys the negative tendencies in a positive manner

Ecuador’s constitution recognized the Right of Nature to exist, specifically Vilcabamba river, in 2008.

Then Bolivia passed the law of the right of mother earth and granted Nature equal rights as humans.

Many communities in the U.S.A. passed the Right of Nature law.

These laws are creating a dilemma or quandary also, as people need to use these resources. We cannot live without using natural resources. However, there is a difference between using natural resources and afflicting or destroying these. So, please use natural resources very diligently. Try not to vitiate nature.

On World Water Day (March 22), please start taking care of rivers, so that there is no need for future celebrations. It should not be a one-day celebration anyway, we should scrupulously look out for nature all the time.

Dr. Raizada is a practicing anesthesiologist.