Asoka

Posted: 16/07/2013 in Famous people

Asoka,

first of the great ruler of India to emerge, as a historical figure, from the mists of antiquity and legend, pillars and rocks throughout the length and breadth of India. They disclose a lover of justice and piety, of gentleness and humanitarianism,of charity and generosity. Asoka stands alone in history as having ruled a great empire successfully with scarcely a resort to force and with an unwavering respect for the sanctity of human life. The first Buddhist ruler, he impregnated his empire with all that is best in that faith and in doing so assured the spread thereof throughout the Eastern world.A man of deep wisdom, comparison and strength of character, he ranks among the great men of the world,not only by reason of what he did but of what he was.

Indian history in ancient and medieval times moved in a series of startling ups and downs. Great dynasties arose,held away over great parts of India, then rapidly collapsed, to be followed by long periods of uncertain anarchy, of which today we  know little or nothing. The first of these dynasties was the Maurya, the kings of which ruled from their capital, Pataliputra, in the third and part of the second centuries, and the most remarkable of these kings was Asoka.

Alexander the Great conquered North-Western India in 327 B.C and on his death in 323 B.C, that portion of his vast domination was taken over by one of his generals, Seleucus Nicator. His hold was effective, however only in the western fringe of what Alexander had conquered, the rest had reverted to the leading Indian kingdom of Magadha, now ruled by Chandragupta, the first of Mauryas.The origin of Asoka’s grandfather are obscure, but it is likely that he was the natural son of King Magadha by a low caste woman. It is certain anyway that soon after Alexander’s departure, Chandragupta overthrew the reigning dynasty and became himself King of Magadha and equally certain that within twenty years he had made himself master.He was suceeded by his son Bindhusara, who in a reign of about twenty-five years, held all that his father had left to him.

The prabable date of Asoka’s accession is 273 B.C and that of his ceremonial coronation is four years later.From the accounts of Megasthenes, Greek envoy at the court of Chandragupta, we know that Asoka inherited a highly centralized form of government at Pataliputra and an empire divided into the viceroyalties of Taxila in the north and Ujjain in central india.

In the first years of his reign, Asoka behaved much as he was expected of a ruler in those days.He kept splendid court and ruled as an autocrat, untrammelled by advice or probably scruples. His favourite pastimes were hunting, feasting and war. In warfare there was less opportunity, since little of India had been left unconquered by his grandfather, but about the nineth year of his reign he determined to conquer the kingdom of Kalingas, the centre of which the modern province of Orissa.He was successful, but the struggle was fierce, and the slaughter that accompanied it and the desease that followed it were appalling.Asoka records in one of the rock edicts that 100000 were slain and 150000 taken prisoners.

The effect of his slaughter on Asoka’s mind was profound, causing a change of heart only comparable in its suddenness and completeness to that caused in Saul by his vision on the road to Damascus. In the thriteenth Rock Edict he records that : ” His majesty on remorse on account of the conquest of the Kalingas, because during the subjection of a previously unconquered country, slaughter, death and taking of captive people necessarily occur, whereat his majesty feels profound sorrow and regret.”Asokavardhana was probably his full name, though in most of the inscriptions he called Priyadarsin ir the thoroughness with which he acted upon his newly found convictions.

Almost immedietely after the Kalingas was he joined the Buddhist community. For two years he was only a lay brother, and at first it seems that he was not over impressed by what he was taught, but early doubts were rapidly dispelled and around 260 B.C he became a monk, subscribing in full to the vowa of the order, not only that but he went further to impose them also upon the whole of his vast empire.

Buddhism since the days of its founder Gauthama Budha, had existed as branch of Hinduism but at the time of Maurya it rivalled neither Brahminism nor Jainism in the extent to which it was practised.From the rock edicts we can learn what to him dharma meant:

The law of piety  (You may view the Law of Piety that has been linked to Google; finding from another unknown author) to wit obedience to father and mother is good liberality to friends, acquaintance,relatives,and ascetics is good;respect for the sacredness of life is good;avoidance of violence and extravagance and violence of language is good”

Noticeable in this summary are the reference to the sacredness of life and to brahmins and ascetics. In place of the enormous provisions of anumal flesh allowed to the royal kitchens before the Kalinga War, there was now to be permitted only two peacocks and one deer each day. The rock edict dealing with the sacredness of life states:-

“Formaly in the kitchen of his majesty King Priyadarsin,each day many thousands of living creatures were slain to make curries.At the present moment when this pious edict is being written, only these three living creatures,namely two peacocks and one deer, are killed daily, and the deer not invariably.Even these creatures shall not be slaughtered in future”

Later he prohibited not only to himself but all his subjects, the killing of all quadrupeds neither useful nor edible;in fact there was to be no killing that was not purely for sport. In addition, no fish were to be caught on fifty-six special days in each year.This act has caused him to be hailed as a champion of religious tolerance. Perhaps he was, but it should be remembered that in Asoka’s day every sect subscribed fundamentally to the same philosophy of life;there was no such cleavage as later there was to be between Mohammedan and Hindu or even between Protestant and Catholics.

Asoka took practical steps to see that Dharma was inculcated into the minds of all his people, his most important innovations being the creation of Censors of Piety who should see that everywhere dharma was observed.Some little time earlier in his reign,governors of local districts had been ordered to hold assemblies every five or in some cases three years, in which dharma should be discussed and explained.Asoka himself set example by his charitable gifts,and a special royal almoner’s department was set up at Pataliputra to organize their distribution.Asoka was not content that Buddist principles should triumph in his dominions alone;he sent forth missionaries far and wide. They went to the independant Cholas and Pandyas in the far south of India and to Ceylon, Nepal, and Kashmir, whether or not they are part of Asoka’s empire, adopted the  Buddhist faith and Asoka’s emissaries preached dharma as far afield as Syria,Egypt and probably Macedonia and Epirus.

Where Alexander send generals to conquer men’s bodies, Asoka sent monks to conquer men’s mind.Having as his aim conversion rather than repression, he realized the importance of a high standard of behaviour among his provincial officers.He expected his subordinates to act upon the same principles as he laid down for himself.

Asoka reigned for about forty years, the probable date of his death being 232 B.C. Apart from Kalinga War they were years of internal and external peace. There is no record of any attempt at civil war, no hint of trouble with neighbouring states.Neither to the east nor west was there a ruler who could compare in power with the Maurya emporer.Conditions thus favoured Asoka’s great experiment the rule of the Law of Piety. It is unlikely that it would have stood the test of a war, but in peacetime, backed by the personality and the power of the emporer, it took deep hole on large sectionsof the races of the great Indian peninsula.

Asoka we have seen is no more theorist. Not only he appointed censors of Piety, he took practical steps to put into practice the rule that he laid down for himself :

“Work i must for the publict benefit”

He established a wide system of road communications throughout his empire, planting the sides of the roads with shady banyan trees,and establishing free rest houses at frequent intervals; and it seems likely that he instituted hospitals in many district.

Little is known of the emperor’s family life,though there is mention in the edicts of a wife Karuvaki, who is referred to as ‘the second queen’ a son Tivara,and a grandson,Dasaratha.

Wikipedia states :

 M.N. Das, Kaurwaki was a fisherman’s daughter who converted to Buddhism and became a sanyasini. Following Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism, he married her and made her his queen.She had guided her husband, Ashoka, towards his religious leanings.Along with being religious, she took active part in philanthropy and was famous for her charity, and for her interest in Buddhist teachings.Kaurwaki’s religious and charitable donations were greatly admired by her husband, who commanded the Mahamatras (senior officials) that her donations should be regarded by all officials concerned as her act and deed, redounding to her accumulation of merit.Kaurwaki was immortalized in the Queen Edict (one of Ashoka’s many edicts carved on pillars throughout his empire), wherein the Mauryan emperor states that he was changing his lifestyle “on the advise of my queen Kaurwaki.”Ashoka further states that on her advise, he was embarking on a series of welfare measures for the people.The edict also identifies her as mother to their son, Prince Tivala (also referred to as Tivara). The inference being that, Kaurwaki, was the favourite and the mother of the prince who would’ve succeeded his father but who probably predeceased him.She is thus, the only queen of Ashoka, who holds the distinction of being mentioned in his inscriptions and edicts.

Within sixty years of the death of Asoka,the Maurya dynasty had crumbled,the empire has split up and India had re-entered a period of chaotic uncertainty. It was alleged that this was largely due to Asoka’s policy that though himself was great enough to carry it out, his successors were not,and that he had blunted for them the only weapon- autocrat force – that would enable them to hold the empire together.There is probably some truth in this assertion, but on the other hand the rapid fall of an empire in India has always been the rule rather than the exception.In any event it is hard to blame Asoka for having successors less great than himself.

Rather should we remember the extent of his achievement. The sites of the various pillars and rock inscriptions make it certain that he ruled over all the lands from the Hindu Kush mountains in the west to the Bramaputra river in the east, from the foothills of the Himalayas in the north to the line drawn west from  Madras in the south; and he certainly excercise some sort of control over Kashmir and Tibet. Throughout this vast empire (the size of Europe exclude Russia), there was peace and it is safe to say, since no single legend or tradition suggest otherwise, prosperity and contentment.Not even Akhbar or Aurangzeb controlled so much in India, and it is doubtfull whether,800 hundred years later,conditions of life was as good as Asoka’s day. Such was his acheivement in non-religious sphere.

But it is as the establisher of Buddhism that he will remain important for all time; in Buddhist eye he must rank next to Gauthama. Buddhism today is one of the world’s chief faiths. The precepts and commands that Asoka had inscribed on rocks and pillars were as vital to the acheivement of this position as was the pen of St. Paul to Christianity.

~ The End ~

Various sources searched from Wikipedia, Library of Odhams, other usefull resources.

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Drenched by Wanting

Posted: 08/07/2013 in Heaven

“Drenched” –  From Wanting’s full length album ‘Everything In The World’ available NOW:

When minutes become hours
When days become years
And I don’t know where you are
Colors seem so dull without you
Have we lost our minds
What have we done
But it all doesn’t seem to matter anymore

When you kissed me on that street, I kissed you back
You held me in your arms, I held you in mine
You picked me up to lay me down
When I look into your eyes, I can hear you cry
I’m drenched in your love
I’m no longer able to hold it back
Is it too late to ask for love
Is it wrong to feel right
When the world is winding down
Thoughts of you linger around

Have we lost our minds
What have we done
But it all doesn’t seem to matter anymore

When you kissed me on that street, I kissed you back
You held me in your arms, I held you in mine
You picked me up to lay me down
When I look into your eyes
I can hear you cry for a little bit more of you and I
I’m drenched in your love
I’m no longer able to hold it back

When you kissed me on that street, I kissed you back
You held me in your arms, I held you in mine
You picked me up to lay me down
When I look into your eyes
I can hear you cry for a little bit more of you and I
I’m drenched in your love
I’m no longer able to hold it back

What is death penalty ? 

Capital punishment, also dubbed the “death penalty,” is the pre-meditated and planned taking of a human life by a government in response to a crime committed by that legally convicted person. (Taken from wikipedia and cross refer to various subject.)

What is the ultimate purpose of death penalty ? if only we can answer this questions correctly

Is it to take vengeance on behalf of the victim or to remove someone who causes harm to society or to remove someone who is not capable of rehabilitation or to punish criminals or to stop others from commiting murder. Clearly we don’t have an understanding on the purpose of the penalty.

Why it should be abolished ?

* Amnesty International(taken from one of the article) believes that “The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice. It violates the right to life…It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. There can never be any justification for torture or for cruel treatment.” On the other end Catholic Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, writes “…the death penalty diminishes all of us, increases disrespect for human life, and offers the tragic illusion that we can teach that killing is wrong by killing.”

*  The case of Stanley William “Tookie” illustrates nothing better on moral complexities of the death penalty . I think that he shouldn’t have been put to death. He did kill those people and for that he deserved his punishment. But what he did while in prison was to admit his folly and to reconcile his ways. The penalty is made for dangerous people who are a threat to society. He was a threat until he changed and was sorrowful for what he did. He was at no risk to re-offend and should have been pardoned as such. Granted he may have made some bad choices in his past, but he turned his life around and gave great contributions to prevent others from following his same footsteps. I think everyone makes mistakes and deserves a second chance. The decision to execute him may discourage others to change there lives around. They may feel like it’s pointless to change if they are going to keep being punished for their past mistakes. I personally feel no human should have that much control over someone’s life ie “Thou shall not kill.” Furthermore we don’t have the say so to determine whether or not he should of died. Rehabilitation is not served with death . Who are we to judge this man of his crimes? Put him in jail and let him do his time. Death is not rehabilitation.Not because of his Nobel Peace Prize nominations. Because putting anyone to death is just state sanctioned murder. It does not rehabilitate (he was already rehabilitated) anyone, nor deter others. People confuse vengeance and justice. You cannot bring back those that have been kllled, so why kill someone else?

* Death constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment,” which is against the 8th amendment to the US Constitution.

* The death penalty is used disproportionately against the poor, who cannot afford expensive legal counsel, as well as against racial, ethnic and religious minorities hence the death penalty is applied arbitrarily and inconsistently.

* Killing human life is morally wrong under all circumstances. Some faith groups, such as the Roman Catholic Church, oppose the death penalty as not being “pro-life.”

* A miscarriage of justice primarily is the conviction and punishment of a person for a crime they did not commit.

  • As the pace of DNA exonerations has grown across the country in recent years, wrongful convictions have revealed disturbing fissures and trends in our criminal justice system. Together, these cases show us how the criminal justice system is broken – and how urgently it needs to be fixed.We should learn from the system’s failures. In each case where DNA has proven innocence beyond doubt, an overlapping array of causes has emerged – from mistakes to misconduct to factors of race and class.Those exonerated by DNA testing aren’t the only people who have been wrongfully convicted in recent decades. For every case that involves DNA, there are hundreds that do not.Only a fraction of criminal cases involve biological evidence that can be subjected to DNA testing, and even when such evidence exists, it is often lost or destroyed after a conviction. Since they don’t have access to a definitive test like DNA, many wrongfully convicted people have a slim chance of ever proving their innocence.
  • Here you will find further information about seven of the most common causes of wrongful convictions:
  1. Eyewitness Misidentification
  2. Unvalidated or Improper Forensic Science
  3. False Confessions / Admissions
  4. Government Misconduct
  5. Informants or Snitches
  6. Bad Lawyering
  • These factors are not the only causes of wrongful conviction. Each case is unique and many include a combination of the above issues. Review our case profiles to learn how the common causes of wrongful convictions have affected real cases and how these injustices could have been prevented.To stop these wrongful convictions from continuing, we must fix the criminal justice system.

In my opinion, i suggest that perhaps the death penalty to be abolished while it can be subdued to life in prison, to safeguard the ultimate rule

“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer” (Sir William Blackstone 1765)

Positive Discipline

Posted: 08/07/2013 in Routine part 2

Disputes, worldly associations and quarrels should be avoided. Not even spiritual disputations should be indulged in, whether good or bad. Jealousy, slander, pomp, passion, envy, love, anger, fear and misery should all disappear gradually and entirely.

The Bane Of Battering

The whole world is reevaluating how we treat women, children, the aged and infirm. Ways of behaving toward our fellow human beings that were normal and acceptable a hundred years ago are no longer acceptable. We now comprehend, as never before, the tragedy of a battered wife or an abused infant. Shamefully, we do not always live up to the Hindu ideal in these areas.

What is that ideal? It is this: Never injure others. Hindu children are always treated with great respect and awe, for one does not always know who they are. They may be incarnations of a grandmother, grandfather, aunt or uncle, dearly beloved mother, sister, brother, respected father, a yogi or rishi returned to flesh to help mankind spiritually. We must ask, “Who are these souls? What is their destiny in this life? How can I help?”

Parents love their children, or at least they should, and the principle of ahimsa, nonviolence and nonhurtfulness — physically, mentally or emotionally — does apply in the parent-child relationship, as well as in the husband-wife relationship. Children must be nurtured prenatally without being hurt in the process. Children must be allowed to develop physically, emotionally and mentally without being hurt in the process. We know they are sometimes mischievous and can get on your nerves, but the religious parents who are avowed to ahimsa are in truth more mature than their children and are able to handle situations as they come up without recourse to pinching, hitting or verbal abuse. Only in an ahimsa home can we bring children from one stage of physical, emotional, mental growth to another and still nurture spiritual qualities.

To hurt a child in any way is to drive that child into fear and cause the development of anger and resentment at an early age. Parents are supposed to lift their offspring into the higher nature, of love, forgiveness, friendliness and security, not to drive them into the lower nature, of hate, mistrust, resentment, offishness and insecurity. Obedience through fear is not a desirable obedience.

Psychologically, parents breed guilt by telling their children they sacrificed everything for them, gave them so much, saying, “Look what we are getting in return. You are worthless and ungrateful.” Guilty people are not creative, often not reasonable and are lacking willpower, for their inspiration has been destroyed. Their self-image is at the bottom of the bottom, like rust on the soul. “I’m nobody, I’m nothing. She is right. I don’t appreciate anything, I’m worthless.” These are the thoughts of those who live in this state of mind. True, this is the Kali Yuga in which mothers give birth and then destroy their young. They do it through beating them when they are young and later through defamation of character through cutting insults to keep them “in their place.”

Conformity through threats does not build a loving family or a strong society. To bribe children into submission with sweets or promises that are never meant to be fulfilled is to engender in them an eventual mistrust of their parents and foster rebelliousness coupled with selfish expectations about life. To anger a child at an early age is to place him on the path of retribution toward others later in life. To strike or pinch a child may seem expedient in the confusion of the moment. It may provide a short-term solution. But never forget the long-term karmic price that must be paid. The “I own you, you owe me” attitude is no longer acceptable, and is being replaced by “I love you, you love me,” in the homes of righteous Hindu families who realize that the hurtful methods do not bring positive results.


The Sad Truth Of Hurtfulness

I have been asked, “Should parents never spank a child?” Of course, one should never spank children, ever. Those who are spanked are taught to later punish their children, and this is a vicious cycle. Have you ever seen an animal in its natural habitat abuse its offspring? Does a lion cause blood to flow from its cub, a bird brutally peck its own chick, a cow trample its calf, a whale beach a disobedient calf? How about a dolphin, a dog, a butterfly, a cat? It is only humans who become angered by and hurtfully, sometimes lethally, aggressive toward their offspring.

The wife-husband relationship is where it all begins. The mother and father are karmically responsible for the tenor of society that follows them. An ahimsa couple produces the protectors of the race. Himsa, hurtful, couples produce the destroyers of the race. They are a shame upon humanity. It’s as simple as that. It’s so crucial that it needs to be said more than once. “Himsa, hurtful, couples produce the destroyers of the race. They are a shame upon humanity.”

A five-foot-ten-inch adult beating on a tiny child — what cowardliness. A muscular man slapping a woman who cannot fight back. What cowardliness! Yet another kind of cowardliness belongs to those who stand by, doing nothing to stop known instances of harm and injury in their community. Such crimes, even if the law does not punish, earn a lifetime of imprisonment in the criminal’s karma, because they always know that they watched or knew and said nothing. This sin earns lifetime imprisonment in their own mind. Beating a child destroys his or her faith. It destroys faith in humanity and therefore in religion and in God. If their father and mother beat them, whom are they going to trust throughout their whole life? Child beating is very destructive.

Innocent children who see their father beating their mother or their mother spitefully scratching their father’s body after she emotionally shattered his manhood by provocative insinuations, threats and tongue lashing have at those very moments been given permission to do the same. Of course, we can excuse all of this as being simply karma — the karma of the parents as taught by their parents and the karma of the children born into the family who abuses them. But the divine law of karma cannot be used as permission or an opportunity to be hurtful. Simply speaking, if hurtfulness has been done to you, this does not give you permission to perform the same act upon another. It is dharma that controls karma. It is not the other way around. In Hinduism, the parents are to be the spiritual leaders of their children, not the mental, emotional and physical abusers of their children.

Those sensitive children who see their mother and father working out their differences in mature discussion or in the shrine room through prayer and meditation are at that moment given permission to do the same in their own life when they are older. They become the elite of society, the pillars of strength to the community during times of stress and hardship. These children, when older, will surely uphold the principles of dharma and will not succumb to the temptations of the lower mind.


Instilling No Fear

There is no greater good than a child. Children are entrusted to their parents to be loved, guided and protected, for they are the future of the future. However, children can be a challenge to raise up into good citizenship. There are many positive ways to guide them, such as hugging, kindness, time spent explaining, giving wise direction and setting the example of what you want them to become. Most children were adults not so many years ago, in previous births. The mind they worked to develop through the great school of experience is still there, as are the results of their accomplishments and failures. They have been reborn to continue to know, to understand and to improve themselves and the community they are born into. Parents can help or inhibit this process of evolution. They have a choice.

There are six chakras, or centers of consciousness, above the muladhara chakra, which is the center of memory, at the base of the spine. Above the muladhara lies the chakra of reason. Above that is willpower. There are seven chakras below the muladhara, the first being fear, below it anger and below that jealousy. The choice of each individual parent is to discipline the child to advance him or her upward into reason, willpower, profound understanding and divine love, or downward into fear, anger, distrust, jealousy and selfishness — personal preservation without regard for the welfare of others.

Children have an abundance of energy, and sometimes it can make them rather wild, and this can be extreme if they are consuming too much sugar. How should this be controlled by the parents? When children run around excitedly, refer to their energy as Siva’s prana within them. Congratulate them each time they exercise control over it, but don’t punish them when they don’t. Instead, explain that it is important that they learn to control and use their energies in positive ways. Have them sit with you and breathe deeply. Teach them to feel energy. Go into the shrine room and sit with them until their pranas become quiet, and then help them observe the difference. To hit them or to yell at them when they are rowdy is only sending more aggravated prana into them from you. Another technique is to withdraw your prana from them and tell them you are retiring to another room until they calm down.

Beating, spanking, pinching, slapping children and inflicting upon their astral bodies the vibration of angry words are all sinfully destructive to their spiritual unfoldment and their future. Parents who thus force their child to fear and hate them have lost their chance to make him or her a better person by talking, because they have closed the child’s ears. Those who beat or pinch or hurt or slap or whip their children are the enemies to religion, because they are pushing the next generation into lower consciousness. Is that religious society? No! Such behavior is not even common in the animal kingdom. It’s below the animal kingdom. But that is what we face in the world today. That helps explain why there are so many problems in this modern age.

Sadly, in this day and age, beating the kids is just a way of life in many families. Nearly everyone was beaten as a child, so they beat their kids, and their kids will beat their kids, and those kids will beat their kids. Older brothers will beat younger brothers. Brothers will beat sisters. You can see what families are creating in this endless cycle of violence: little warriors. One day a war will come up, and it will be easy for a young person who has been beaten without mercy to pick up a gun and kill somebody without conscience, and even take pleasure in doing so. What kind of society do we have? In the US today, a murder is committed every thirty-three minutes, an assault every five seconds, a rape every ninety seconds. A man beats his wife every fifty-one seconds. A woman beats her husband every five and a half minutes. A 12- to 15-year-old child is assaulted every thirty-one seconds, and one is raped every eight minutes. Will the violence ever stop? No. It can’t, unless a radical change is made. We must stop the war in the home. It is as simple as that.

I recently attended a ceremony in which criminals being released from the Kauai jail gave testimony before leaders of the community that they would not repeat their crime. With tears in their eyes, all said they had been beaten by their family in early life, driven out of the home, into drugs, excessive alcohol and into crime and finally jail. Each one had the same sad story to tell.

I instruct the lay missionaries of my international Hindu church: “Talk to the children. Ask if their parents beat them, and then talk to the parents. At first they will say, ‘Oh, once or twice,’ but if you persist, you may find it’s much worse than that.” Think about it, even if a child is only hit once a month, that adds up to nearly two hundred beatings over fifteen years. I challenge child-beaters, “Would you beat somebody your same weight and your same height with the same readiness?” They would say no, because that’s against the law. It’s called assault. But hitting a little kid, is that also not against the law? More and more, it is.


Laws Against Child-Beating

In England, in 1996, a twelve-year-old boy who had been caned by his stepfather made headlines in a human rights court by challenging British laws that permit parents to “use corporal punishment, but only to the extent of reasonable chastisement.” Hundreds of children marched through central London on April 15, 2000, to demand an end to smacking. They ended their protest at 10 Downing Street, the residence of the Prime Minister, where they handed in a letter urging him to ban all physical punishment of children.

Smacking children under any circumstance has been banned in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Finland, Croatia, Latvia, Italy, Israel, Cyprus and Germany. Progress toward legal reforms are underway elsewhere: in the UK, Switzerland, Poland, Spain, Scotland, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Mexico, Namibia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, the Republic of Ireland and Belgium. In India battering is widely considered perfectly acceptable and is encouraged in homes, as well as in schools, ashramas and gurukulas, among all castes and classes. However, the Supreme Court of Delhi has recently banned physical punishment of children in the state. In the US, all states except Minnesota permit parents to use “reasonable” corporal punishment on children, and the law for schools, institutions, foster care and day care facilities varies from state to state, with even caning still allowed in some.

In schools, happily, the trend is away from corporal punishment. Almost every industrialized country in the world, and many pre-industrial countries as well, now prohibit it in school. See http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org for an up-to-date list. In the US, twenty-seven states plus the District of Columbia have bans, with legislation underway in many more. The national newspaper USA Today wrote in 1990, “As millions of children across the USA prepare to go back to school, teachers are laying down their weapons — the paddles they use to dole out corporal punishment. A teacher does best armed only with knowledge. Corporal punishment is a cruel and obsolete weapon.” In Canada, only the provinces of British Columbia, New Brunswick and the Territory of Yukon have banned corporal punishment in schools.

In London, in response to a move to reinstitute beating, public school teachers said they would not cane even if lobbying by conservative members of parliament was successful, while Christian bishops and priests are trying very hard to reinstitute beating in their schools. Abolition of corporal punishment in African schools is also quickly spreading. A high-level Zambian court declared corporal punishment in schools to be unconstitutional, and the Kenyan Minister of Education, in March, 2001, discarded sections of the law that permitted corporal punishment. Laws, however, are no guarantee of protection. Consider the nation of Mauritius, where laws have prohibited battering of children since 1957 but have never been enforced, and children are mercilessly abused in schools to this very day.

I’ve had Hindus tell me, “Slapping or caning children to make them obey is just part of our culture.” I don’t think so. Hindu culture is a culture of kindness. Hindu culture teaches ahimsa, noninjury, physically, mentally and emotionally. It preaches against himsa, hurtfulness. It may be British Christian culture — which for 150 years taught Hindus in India the Biblical adage “To spare the rod is to spoil the child” — but it’s not Hindu culture to beat the light out of the eyes of children, to beat the trust out of them, to beat the intelligence out of them and force them to go along with everything in a mindless way and wind up doing a routine, uncreative job the rest of their life, then take their built-up anger out on their children and beat that generation down to nothingness. This is certainly not the culture of an intelligent future.

Nor is an overly permissive approach. A senior sadhu from the Swaminarayan Fellowship’s 654-member order of sadhus, who visited us recently echoed our thoughts on child-beating and emphasized the need for firm, even stern, correction and teaching right from wrong. “Parents these days fail to impart what is good and what is not good,” he said. “As a result, a very crude society is being developed.”

I advise parents: if you are guilty of beating your children, apologize to them, show remorse and perform the child-beating penance, bala tadayati prayashchitta, to atone. Gain their friendship back, open their heart and never hit them again. Open channels of communication, show affection. Even if you never beat your children, be alert in your community to those who do and bring them to your understanding that a happy, secure family is free from violence.


Penance and Reconciliation

Those who have been physically abused are as much in need of penance to mitigate the experience as are those who abused them. The penance, or prayashchitta, for abusees is called the flower penance, or pushpa prayashchitta. It has been successfully performed by many children and adults to mitigate the hate, fear, resentment and dislike toward the parents, teachers or other adults who beat them, by hitting, pinching, slapping, caning, spanking or other methods of corporal punishment. This penance is very simple to perform, but often very difficult to carry out. Each person — child or adult — who has been beaten at any time, no matter how long ago, is enjoined to put up in the shrine room a picture of the person or persons by whom they were beaten, be it a father, mother or teacher. Then, every day for thirty-one consecutive days, without missing a single day, he or she must place a flower in front of each picture, and sincerely forgive the person in heart and mind. If no picture is available, then some symbol or possession can be substituted, or even a paper with his or her name written on it.

When it becomes difficult to offer the flower of forgiveness, because hurtful memories come up from the subconscious mind, the abused individual must perform the vasana daha tantra, writing down the hurtful memories and burning the paper in a trash can. This tantra releases the deep emotions within the individual who finds that he or she does not like or deeply resents the parent or other relative, school teacher or principal. After writing about these experiences, expressing in words the emotions felt on many pieces of paper, the area of the subconscious mind holding the suppressed anger and resentment gradually disappears as the papers are seen burning to ashes in a garbage can.

Upon recognizing and admitting their fear or hatred of their abuser, they must deal with the pangs of pain that arise each day by mystically turning the slap, beating or spanking into a beautiful flow of prana by placing a flower before the picture with a heart full of love. Each day while performing the “flowers of forgiveness prayashchitta,” the individual should mentally approach the tormentor — the person or persons who beat him or her — and say, “I forgive you. I don’t hold anything against you, for I know that you gave back to me the karma that I set in motion by committing similar misdeeds at a prior time.” If possible, this act of verbal forgiveness should be done in person at least once during the thirty-one days, ideally face to face, but at least by phone, if the person is still on this Earth plane.

Of course, for most it’s much easier to pass on the slap or beating to someone else. Parents often hit their own child, or abuse another person in order to “get it out of their system.” That slap has to go someplace, and turning it into a flower is very, very difficult. This prayashchitta brings up all those awful memories. This discipline brings up all the pain. It brings all the injustice to the surface of the mind. Nevertheless, this tantra, or method, has been a great help to many. It is difficult to forgive, and some had to work very diligently within themselves to face up to being able to place that little flower lovingly before the picture of a parent or a teacher. Many have tried and failed again and again when deep-seated resentment emerged, but finally succeeded in true forgiveness, whose byproduct is forgetfulness. They all feel so much better today. Now they are responsive, creative and happy inside. Yes, hitting people is wrong — and children are people, too.
In Defense Of Battering!

There is an old saying in Tamil that is often recited before or after slapping or beating a child: Adium uthaium uthavu vathu pol annan thambi uthava maddar. It means, “Even the help of one’s younger and older brothers cannot compare to the benefit of being kicked and beaten.” It seems this proverb, printed in certain school books, is taught to students.

This makes me ask the Hindu community worldwide: What fearful expectations are we nurturing in young minds by repeating such a cruel, stupid edict? Study until midnight to avoid a plastic rod across the back? Obey the teacher or get hit with a strap or cane, then slapped in the face at home for getting beaten in school? Are there more shlokas promoting himsa, violence, in the home, more guidelines for corporal punishment? Is it our intention to pass this despicable attitude from generation to generation? Unfortunately it seems to be so. My young Asian monks can recite the above verse from childhood memories. Parents seeking to defend corporal punishment of children will also quote a saying from Manu Dharma Shastra (7.198), “Sama, dana, bheda, danda,” which means “using kind words (or negotiation), bribery, sowing dissension, and punishment (or striking).” These are the four successive steps in achieving success against an enemy of the realm. It is advice for kings, not parents. I, for one, hope the rules will change in this nuclear-family age, for there are more seeming reasons to hit and fewer places where a beaten child can find solace and love, without the presence of grandma, auntie and others.

The working mother slaps her children at home because they add stress to her already stressed-out nerve system. Father has a tough day on the job and takes it out on his son’s back or face with the hand, strap or cane. Does it give a sadistic joy to hear young children cry in pain and humiliation? Does it enhance the feeling of “I’m in charge here; you are not!”?

In the past century we’ve had two world wars and hundreds of smaller ones. Killers come from among those who have been beaten. The slap and pinch, the sting of the paddle, the lash of the strap, the blows of a cane must manifest through those who receive them into the lives of others. But there is a price to pay. The abuser one day becomes the abused. This is a law of life seen manifesting every day. It is called karma. Action gives an equal or more intense reaction, depending on the intent and the emotion behind it. Corporal punishment is arguably a prelude to gangs on the streets, those who will riot on call, and others who suffer in silence and hide behind a desk or in a routine profession, fearing reprimand and punishment, never talking back or offering an opinion.
Time Out And Time In

Is there a covert consciousness that accounts for the fact that for forty-eight years, until early 1996, I didn’t even know that children of my international congregation were being beaten? Perhaps. Hindus know it’s wrong in their heart of hearts, but are blindly obeying the cultural attitude expressed in this himsa, violent, senseless proverb, and thoughtlessly reacting to their own stress and anger. They don’t even look for a better way. Well, there is a better way.

It has been over fifty years since my ministry started, way back in 1949. Now, in its maturity, there are uncounted encounters to rely upon, much experience to guide the fellowship and much energy to march into the future of futures. Among the concerns, one has become crucial to parents, who ask, “Are there better ways to raise our children? We are entirely dedicated to ahimsa, noninjury, physically, emotionally and mentally. But how is this lofty ideal possible to follow when troubled by emotions that are too easily released by taking them out, in the fire of the moment, on those we love? How can misdeeds that happen in the home be absolved, and examples set that prevent their repetition generation after generation?”

For parents seeking effective nonviolent alternatives, they are readily available today in excellent books. One strategy educators recommend is called time out, one minute for each year of the child’s age; hence ten minutes for a ten-year-old. This tells the child that if he doesn’t behave in a reasonable way, he will be separated from other people. Time out, sitting quietly in a room, works best in conjunction with its opposite, time in. Time in is quality time spent with the child in an activity he enjoys, and just being together. Time in includes letting children share their feelings, positive or negative, with parents lending a receptive, understanding ear.

There are new methods and new principles, such as in Nandinatha Sutra 138: “Siva’s followers never govern youth through fear. They are forbidden to spank or hit them, use harsh or angry words, neglect or abuse them. They know you can’t make children do better by making them feel worse.” This goes along with the innovative approach being taken by psychologists, sociologists and educators, in consideration of the turmoil that engulfs today’s world. The truth is being accepted that methods that rely on what experts call “punishment power” — scolding, taking away privileges, spanking — do not elicit more desirable behavior in children or adults. Rather, they produce hostility, resentment and the desire for retaliation. In communities around the world, our family missionaries are conducting study groups on Dr. Jane Nelsen’s Positive Discipline as a public service to help parents raise their children without violence.

Raising Children

Posted: 08/07/2013 in Routine part 2

I will utter a prayer for such concord among family members as binds together the Gods, among whom is no hatred. Be courteous, planning and working in harness together. Approach, conversing pleasantly, like-minded, united.


Be Patient And Caring

There is an old saying: “If you can’t beat them, join them,” and this is wise in certain respects. We are thinking of the young adults who will not follow the traditional family patterns of their well-raised Hindu parents. Admittedly, they can be made to fear their parents and be forced to obey for a time. The problem with such an approach is that it usually ends up with the sons or daughters losing respect for them and leaving home as soon as they are able. Often parents take the authoritarian approach, not realizing there are alternatives, well-proven techniques of a more positive discipline. In actual practice, it is more useful to work with children little by little as they grow and mature. They can be reasoned with and will be very open if the parents show a definite interest in their cross-cultural way of life and their natural inclinations, one of which is to keep in with their peers. To lament the modern young adult’s behavior, to merely criticize it, is not going to help, and may cause, in the case of sensitive children, irreparable damage.

My advice to parents has always been to stay close to their children, but at the same time give them some space to grow and mature in today’s world. Today’s world is not all that bad. But children must be taught how to live in it — what to be wary of, whom to trust, whom to befriend and marry, how to proceed in business, social life, education, career upscaling, religious life and on into the raising of their own family. So, keep the communication lines open.

True, today’s world has its challenges, its temptations and definite drawbacks, but it is today’s world and the world of tomorrow. We can’t ignore that fact. We cannot recreate yesterday’s world or wish for the return of olden days. We have to move forward and teach the children to move the forces of the outside world for a better world in the tomorrows that are to come. So, be wise and pass your deeply profound Hindu culture and wisdom along to the children so they can make proper decisions for themselves. This is what they will do anyway, make their own decisions, so they might as well be trained early on how to do it right. Who better to teach them this than their own parents? True, times have changed, and things may never be as they were, but the religious and cultural traditions of the former generation are still valid and must be passed on gently yet firmly to the modern children, educated to think for themselves rather than simply carry out orders from elders. Don’t close the doors on them. This will not help society or the family unit. Nor will it fulfill the dharma of parenthood.

Parents of all ages and all cultures have always worried about their teenagers, so take heart. Don’t give up on them. They are the future. Some must learn by their own mistakes, while others, more sensitive, thoughtful and loving, who are polite enough to at least listen, can learn by the mistakes and successes of their parents. So, communicate your wisdom to them; whether they listen or not makes no difference for the time being. Your message, given with conviction but without anger or resentment, sinks deep into their subconscious mind, making a positive samskara. To accomplish this best, give it just before bedtime, when they are more open and less defensive. It will be their last thought before sleep. Don’t rant and rail during the day. That will simply sow the seeds of long-lasting animosity and create division within the family. At night before sleep — this is the key to getting your message through. Also, before sleep, all differences must be resolved, lest they become unwanted vasanas to be worked through later in this life or the next.


Training in Energy Use

Another way to communicate is when mom serves her children meals. While they are eating their favorite food served by their favorite person, she gently speaks some loving advice for their deportment, or a gentle correction, in the right ear, not the left. These timely suggestions, well implanted at that very human psychological moment, are absorbed in the subconscious as the meal digests. Five decades ago in Sri Lanka, I learned of this shrewd Hindu ingenuity by which women have been known to turn an election by whispering in their husband’s ear whom he should vote for, just as he is putting into his mouth his favorite morsels of food. This wisdom is one of the positive laws behind Nandinatha Sutra 99, which requires the wife to serve her husband food, enjoying her own meal only after he and the children have been well satisfied. Politicking? Well, yes! of the highest womanly order. She has her ways. Yes, the clever wife is indeed the queen of her castle. The rishis tell us there are eighty-four ways a woman can influence her man and keep him on — or lead him off — the path of dharma. Some call these wiles; others know them as the feminine siddhis.

It is the parents’ duty to provide a sound education in the use and misuse of the life forces, the sexual energies, and teach their children how to control them as they grow into adulthood. Only in this way will they have the knowledge required to face the challenges of their own instinctive/intellectual nature.

There are two main areas that parents can feel free to speak about with their boys and girls as they are growing up from a very young age. These are prana and the chakras. Once your children have a clear idea of what prana actually is and what the chakras actually are, they will be confident in lifting up the sexual pranas into the higher chakras when puberty is upon them.

You who are parents know that this prana will increase within your physical body until you are about forty years of age. After that, the prana increases in power within the mental body until you are about the age of seventy. Then the prana continues to increase within the spiritual body of the soul. Carefully explain time and time again to your children that it is up to them to control their prana, their life force, which is the total energy of their body. Until forty years of age, this is done through education, exercise and hard work. After forty until seventy, this is done through study, caring for those younger than themselves, community service and additional education. After seventy this is done through worship, sadhana, tapas and deep meditation.

When explaining the chakras to your children, refer to these force centers as lovely flowers within them that need to be fed by their vital energies. Teach them to breathe deeply and lift the sexual energy from the lower chakras to the higher ones and hold it there, as if to feed and water these flowers. Teach them that chakras are also rooms of consciousness, and the energy we put into the chakras awakens this consciousness and makes us very alert and intelligent.

In other words, as soon as your children can understand, you can begin teaching them about their energies. In this way, you give them the tools to handle their sexual nature so that their forces do not run away with their mind during puberty. In this way, you will open channels to talk freely with them about sex when the time comes. Many parents give absolutely no guidance in this area to their children, who then have to learn from other children or from the Internet, alone in a room, about this natural function of their life. So, be a wise parent and begin early. Remember, there are only two basic areas to cover: prana and chakras. Your own intuition will guide you as to how to proceed.


Be Firm But Kind

Children respond well to correction, discipline, talking and explaining, and being treated like the intelligent beings that they are. Many parents these days are afraid of their children and dance around them, as if they were things to be avoided. They bribe them with toys and sweets, bow before their every whim and appoint them, by default, the head of the house. Truly, children these days like to be told what to do, but also to be told the reasons why.

The “Obey me because I said so” stance will not work anymore for the Western-educated child. What will work is, “Obey me because this is what our family needs and wants you to do, because we love you and want you to remain a member of this family, and these are the reasons why….” This approach even a truant kid will accept, because he or she still needs to eat, still wants a roof over head, clothes to wear and, in the future, maybe a paid-for education. Less obstinate children will conform because they love their family and intuitively know how to fit in when they are urged to and have been given clear directions, explanations and expectations. Yes, there are children in the Western world who do not throw temper tantrums at home, who are still nice to their elders, who will turn off the TV when asked and even show appreciation for all that their parents have done for them.

Who are the mentors of the home, the kids or the parents? Children raised on bribery or raised in fear will in their future bribe others, subjugate others by instilling fear of their wrath and unruly ways. If you are ambivalent and insecure, your children will not listen to you. This may be embarrassing, but nonetheless true. It is not necessary to let your children go headlong into Western ways. It is not necessary or even helpful to leave them alone to find their own values in life, from the streets, from peers, from people more confused than they are. What is most helpful is for you to share with them the Eternal Path, with all of its values, all of its insight into humanity and Divinity. What is most helpful is for you to spend lots of time with your children. Many parents these days minimize the hours they spend with their kids and don’t even have time for an in-depth conversation anymore. Just “Hello” and “Good-bye” and “Why did you get a low grade on your report card?” Kids need more, more of you, more of your time, more direction and more guidance. Don’t be afraid to give to them what they need most — all of you, not just a token part. Teach them traditional religious and cultural values at an early age. Don’t be afraid that they will be different from the other children. They are already different. They are Hindus, inheritors of India’s fountainhead of mystery and Truth.

An all-pervasive mental disease has come to the planet. It started in the West and is spreading worldwide. It is the modern way that parents talk to their children, by stating a question when actually giving direction or instruction, such as, “Why don’t we all get in the car now?” “Why don’t you put on your coat?” “Don’t you think it’s time for you children to turn off the TV and go to bed?” These kinds of phrases are used in the family homes and in offices throughout the modern world. Children given the choice “Why don’t you?” before the instruction of what to do are disadvantaged. They are forced to make a yes-or-no decision before complying with the request, and sometimes it might be “no.” When undecided, children comply reluctantly. Giving these kinds of choices to young people, which is being done today even at the five-year-old level and younger, is a new way of raising them which puts parents at a disadvantage. They become beholden to their child’s every mood, thought and preference.


The “Why Don’t You” Approach

It does not take long for even very young children raised in the “why don’t you” method to catch on and understand that they are permitted, indeed expected, to make a personal choice in all that happens in family life. An aggressive few of these children will take over the home and begin giving orders to the parents, unkindly, abusively. Most often, when choices are given, they take the opposite point of view. When you ask a child, “Why don’t we turn off the TV?” he may answer, “No, I’m not turning off the television, because the program I’m watching has not ended yet.” When you suggest, “Shall we all get into the car?” he will respond, “I am not getting in the car. You all go. I’m staying home.” If you then force him to change his decision after asking him to make a choice, you are considered unreasonable. When this happens, respect is lost and is hard to regain.

Is the child being disobedient? Well, yes! And well, no. Yes, by responding in opposition to the expected answers, and no because the question itself invites them to decide, and one possible response is to refuse. Such questions from adults tell the child that each one in the household is an independent entity, free to go his or her own way. The child is being taught how to do this by the parents themselves, by the way they phrase their directions. Some parents want their kids out of the home, on their own, supporting themselves. Others don’t.

There are only two ways: teach dependence or teach independence. Independence should be taught when the child has become an adult and is educated well enough to make it on his own, not before. Then he is responsible and will do right by his parents when they are older, because he understands dharma, duty, because he depended upon and flourished under their direction, their love and their wisdom for oh-so-many years. Don’t let them leave home too early and then continue to learn by their own mistakes. What a sad and often painful way to learn. Don’t let them face up to this. Protect them while you can. Simply don’t give choices. They will never notice the change in your approach and will appreciate the security of positive direction: “Let’s all get into the car. Come along.” “It is time now to turn off the TV. We are all going to bed.” Keep affirming that “Our family is a team. We move together. We are loyal to each other and tell each other everything, keeping no secrets. We will always stay together and care for one another.” This should come up at every opportunity, at least three times a week.

What is the binding force that keeps youths in the home? Love. If you love your children completely, they won’t want to leave. You won’t be able to force them out of the house, even if you try. You are bound together by bands of steel made of love. Within this loving relationship, you can guide them and watch over them and help them to live a good life without getting into trouble. Three hugs a day keeps trouble away. How can you apparently practice Hindu bhakti, which is love of God, Gods and guru, and not have enough love in your heart for your son or daughter to make them want to be close to you? If you don’t love your children, they will find someone else to love them.


Financial Independence

In summary, Hindu parents should make decisions for their children and refrain from giving them choices until they are educated and about to leave the home. Offering children freedom with money has similar problems. By giving adolescents financial independence too soon, parents breach the protective atmosphere of the home and invite exploration of who knows what in the world. It begins with an allowance that they can squander any way they want. They soon learn that by putting heavy demands upon parents they can get more. Then parents add gifts for good behavior, a form of bribery not recommended. In training adolescents, any money they handle should be accounted for and the change returned to and counted by the caring parents. This teaches honesty, accuracy and cooperation with the core group, the parents.

Many times I have seen an allowance lead to a desire for a summer job or to work after school, more independence, more time away from home and family. The summer job taxes the child when he or she should be playing, resting, going to school or doing wholesome extracurricular reading. The early-morning paper route or the job after school takes precious time away from education. Adolescents should not be allowed to handle their own money or to earn an income until their high school education is nearly complete. Then any money earned, the full amount, should be given to the parents, and all spending money accounted for. This will mold the young adult into a frugal, income-producing person.

One choice young people can and must participate in is their profession. A jyotisha shastri, Vedic astrologer, will help in this. In principle, the karma of the child is to accept the profession of the parent. He had a choice and could have been born into another family. He chose you. So, don’t compromise him or her, and be sure that you have unanimous agreement with all members of the family when the choice of profession or occupation is made. The ideal, of course, is for the children to work in the family business and develop the wealth that can be passed along to others in the family, generation after generation. This is the way Hinduism has persisted through trial and tribulation, siege and battle, oppression and subjugation for the past 10,000 years. Let’s not allow it to stop now. It is all up to you, the mom and dad, and how you phrase your direction, how you discipline with love and patience as their growing-up process continues. Raise your children right, and you will be rewarded by the justly fair law of karma when you are on the other side of life, about to experience moksha. Don’t raise your children correctly, and you will be born again into an unwholesome, adharmic household and learn by feeling how they felt under your neglect.


Responsible Chaperoning

I described the importance of chaperoning in Nandinatha Sutra 149: “Siva’s followers accept the serious responsibility of guiding the private and social life of their children. They chaperone and monitor friendships to help ensure that young ones grow up safe and celibate.” An Indian lady once told me what she considered to be her most important duty in life: that she would never, ever let her daughter out of her sight until she was married and well settled. Someone asked, “Don’t you trust her?” The lady’s answer was, “No.”

Why do swamis of traditional orders like ours go out only in pairs? Is it because we don’t trust them? We trust the soul and we trust them individually, but we don’t trust worldly people they might encounter who would love nothing more than to deter them from their dharma. We follow the ancient traditions so that problems don’t arise.

Many parents are faced with the dilemma of sending children off to college for a higher education at the risk of their exposure to undesirable influences. I tell my devotees, if you want your son and daughter to attend the university, you should, if at all possible, move into a home near that campus so you can be close to them and keep them from getting into trouble, share meals with them, monitor their friendships. You will be investing a lot of money to put them through school, and if you are not there, you will be investing a lot of worry.

If sending them to a far-off school is unavoidable, and you cannot move to a home nearby, remind them to at least perform simple puja every day and tune into a picture of you, and of the family guru and the Gods of our beautiful religion. The object of going to college, you can explain, is to learn what they need to learn and come out the other side as a professional, able to make their way in the world. So, explain to them that they are not going to college to make friends, to join sororities or fraternities, or to get side-tracked in any way by the temptations of the world as it is today. Encourage them to treat everyone the same, with a happy smile, to not take sides, to not like one person more than another.

There is a wonderful lady from the Tamilian community who sent her two sons off to the University of California, and every day, to stay close, she cooked a meal for them, packaged that meal and sent it by courier to their apartment 400 miles away. Another pattern that has worked in our congregation is for young people to marry and then, as a married couple, move near a university for the husband to attend school. Then he is naturally chaperoned by his wife as they grow up together.

Many children don’t follow their parents’ religion, don’t want to be sheltered or restricted and want to leave home in their teens and go off on their own. I say that if you have really made the religious teachings a part of your life, you will naturally be able to convince your family and friends of those wonderful truths. Your youth will see the wisdom of not going out without a chaperone, be it an adult or a trusted peer. If you can’t convince your family of the teachings, that shows that they are just intellectual thoughts that in practice don’t mean anything to you.

I watch for those in my international congregation who can do this, who are deeply involved, active and committed members who can bring others along the path that they themselves have trod. And I watch for those, indifferent and apathetic, who can’t and are just hanging on because of the social benefits or the mystique.


Our Young Missionaries

All of the young people here today, each and every one of you, must be proud that you are living the Saiva Dharma. You must be proud to be Saivites, proud that you know this great God personally. Now, this is not an egotistical kind of pride which sets you apart from everyone. It is a pride of humility which makes you very compassionate toward all. Stand strong for Saivism. It is your duty to help spread the Saiva Dharma throughout the world, to let each one hear about Siva, about the great Mahadeva Ganesha, about the great Mahadeva Murugan. Let them accept or reject, as they choose, but first they must hear your message. You are all the young missionaries of our religion, the young missionaries of Saivite Hinduism. You must study this religion most diligently. Study hard so that you can turn the minds of others towards goodness, towards selflessness, toward Godliness. You must study very, very hard, very diligently, committing the Saiva Dharma to memory so that when you are asked questions about your religion you have a ready and convincing answer and can give forth that answer with confidence. You must be strong, for there are many more temptations in the world today than when your parents and grandparents were raised. Those who are young nowadays face far more temptations than ever before, especially from the Western world.

Proceed with confidence and with courage, and your life will be a strength to others who are waiting and longing for your message. I ask each of you young adults and children here tonight to grow up tall and proud of our Saivite religion. How do you do this? Through discipline and obedience. Nothing was ever accomplished on this Earth without these two qualities. Be self-disciplined, cultivate self-control. Obey your gurus. Obey your mothers. Obey your fathers. Obey your elders. Obey your Saivite teachers. Don’t be influenced by Western ways. Western ways are based on a Christian belief structure. If you do all of this, you will become the leaders of the Saivite Hindu temple tradition.

Religious learning is the greatest learning, the only permanent learning. All else is transitory and changing. Religion is the knowledge of the soul. God Siva created your soul. Your mother and father created your body, brought you into this world. But you create your own experiences in this life from the sum total of experiences in your past lives. You came to this Earth for one purpose: to learn of your religion. You are on this Earth for the evolution of your soul. You are not here to earn money. You are not here to gratify yourself through excesses. You are not here to fight with each other. You are not here to accumulate material conveniences. You are here to learn of and then to fulfill your religion. It is knowledge of religion in your life that makes the soul evolve. So, learn your religion fully, properly, intelligently, and it will guide you through this life into a better birth or on into moksha, liberation from earthly existence.

Divorce

Posted: 08/07/2013 in Routine part 2
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Dwell in this home; never be parted! Enjoy the full duration of your days, with sons and grandsons playing to the end, rejoicing in your home to your heart’s content.


Marriage Is Forever

There is a breakdown that has been under way among all of us some time all over the world. Complaints as well as suggestions come in daily to my publisher’s desk. These are some of the typical problems: mothers are no longer teaching righteousness, Vedic Dharma, worship and puja to their children, for fear their little ones won’t fit into the alien cultures in which they are living. That’s one. Fathers are no longer taking their sons into the family business or profession, but giving them choices of their own, for fear of being regarded as the “dominant” parent figure and not fitting in with the society in which they are living. That’s another. There are more.

Children are orphaned in their own homes because the minds of both mother and father are in the work-a-day world in which the children play no part. Kids content themselves within the asuric realms of video arcades and TV. Families have given up dharma and even the hope of moksha, liberation from rebirth. Instead, they are immersed in the insatiable search for artha (wealth) and kama (enjoyment) and the many other magnetic pulls, so that they, too, are able to blend into modern society.

Hindu people, we are told in many e-mails, have almost all become passive followers, with few active leaders among them. No one wants to stand out over another, lest he be harshly criticized and put down. Many moderners fear openly affirming the dharma if it conflicts with modern society. Society as we know it today is the doctrine of materialism governed by anarchy. Lay down a rule, and someone will break it, no matter what it is. Are we in the Kali Yuga?

There is one institution that there is still hope in saving. It has been cherished in scripture, in living cultures, in all the major religions for thousands of years. It is the precious institution of marriage. It is the binding, contractual agreement between a man and woman who have come together to take on the responsibility of birthing, raising and educating a new generation. How are we going to have a brave new world, a new world order, a new age, based on anarchy within the family itself?

Yet, here, too, Hindus are taking their examples from those who do not understand or observe dharma; they are seeing divorce as a solution instead of a problem.

When the institution of marriage breaks down, everyone suffers. We see this happening all around us. A husband and wife bound by holy sacraments are psychically attached to each other. To separate for a month, a week or even for a day can be painful on the part of one or both. They reach out to one another during the time of physical absence in dreams and longing. How painful then is their permanent separation? How much anguish does it bring to their beloved children, whose wounds never really heal? And how is it that only the priest, a person who invokes God and the Gods, can sanctify a marriage, and that a court judge, a man of the world, can cancel that divine contractual agreement? Impossible. Only in the Kali Yuga.

A long and joyous life is theirs who remain firmly on the faultless path of the control of the five senses. There are still a few elders left today who speak out, whether listened to or not. Their fire of righteous indignation, their love for dharma, is making an impression upon the younger generation and their parents alike. We appeal to these elders to take courage and proclaim the ancient values, whether their children and grandchildren listen to them or not. Some part of them will be hearing. Preach the dharma. There is little to lose and much to gain. We appeal to elders to speak against divorce, to patiently work to harmonize matrimonial tensions and diffuse difficult family situations.


Drawbacks Of Divorce

Divorce only begins new problems. Is a divorce similar to going out of business? Or bankruptcy? Yes, because in both cases everyone is the loser. The employees are losers, the children are losers, the suppliers are losers; everyone is a loser, and everyone takes sides. In the case of the failing business, the employees take sides, the partnership breaks up, the partners take sides, and their friends take sides. In case of a marriage, the friends of a husband take his side, the friends of a wife take her side, and there is a permanent division. Sometimes the courts take the side of the children, and the children are divided. It is the breakdown of the community, it is the breakdown of society, and it is the creation of a lot of kukarma that has to be worked out in this or probably in a future life. There’s another great loss in the case of a marriage that breaks up or a business that breaks up, and the loss is trust in the individuals concerned. They lose their ability to trust each other, to trust themselves; and, of course, no one trusts them.

Couples have been taught to look to psychiatrists, psychologists, family counselors and attorneys for solutions to marital problems. But who can give better solutions than our qualified elders who know the karmas, who know the adharma involved in divorce? Their experience has great value. Find a swami, sadhu, guru, a jyotisha shastri, someone who can help tighten the bonds of family love and trust and make this person an integral part of your family. Every family needs its spiritual preceptor to strengthen the support group, who in turn hold the family together when hard times come. The plea is to hang on to one thing: the family life. Marriage is forever.

Indian culture has within it all the solutions to maintain proper relationships of a man being manly and a woman being womanly. Today men are confronted by women who have, often out of necessity, nurtured their masculine qualities. Naturally, such couples will fight, compete and suffer. In my life-long ministry, those who are not getting along well in marriage come occasionally for advice. We work it out according to ancient shastric principles that transcend the immediate problems. Marriage is like a voyage by ship. Sometimes the going is easy and sunny, and sometimes there is bad weather to endure. But at all times it’s advisable to stay with the ship and not jump overboard. My experience is that the bad karmas, or kukarmas, as well as harsh astrology and difficult attitudes, are always finally overcome, so long as no one gives up the hope and the effort. The marriage continues. The word divorce is never uttered or seen as a solution in the hundreds of extended families who look to me as preceptor.

Those who don’t take such advice are overwhelmed by the tugs and pulls of pranic forces between them stimulated by hatred and confusion, tears, remorse, unresolvable misunderstandings which have gone on unattended for fifteen or twenty years. Couples who did not listen to my advice to not end their marriage ten years ago still speak to me today of their separation as though it all happened a week ago. They admit that divorce was no solution, only a postponement of problems that still linger, which could have been solved and still have to be. Those who have gone through the experience know that divorce and remarriage is just trading one set of problems for another. We have seen that divorcees remarry others with the same traits, temperament, faults, failings and even looks as their previous spouse. No one, however clever they may be, can run away from their birth karmas. No, divorce is no solution. Separation, though better, is still not the solution. Both are only the beginning of new problems.


Unofficial Divorce

In Hinduism marriage is still highly respected, and so divorce is a sign of failure, because life is a spiritual journey and failing to fulfill that journey is a weakness. In a sense, it is a crime against one’s own karma and dharma in this life. It is like saying, “I can’t do what I came here to do.” Divorce brings loss of social position and respect in the community. By getting divorced, one betrays a sacred covenant, a betrayal that weakens the whole of society.

There is divorce, and there is divorce. I have observed through the years that a modern form of Hindu divorce has become a part of Indian culture. It is a clever way to not hurt the feelings of elders, parents and relatives, or to avoid incurring the community stigma of divorce. A modern form of Hindu divorce, it seems, has cleverly been conceived in the following way. The husband is under great stress, a stress that is not natural for a human being, a stress based on living up to materialistic expectations. He comes home psychically wounded, tired, worried. If things do not go well at home, he may verbally or even physically abuse his wife and family, blaming her for everything bad that happens to him. Sensing his failure to cope with all of this, he secretly wishes he did not have to face his weakness.

He learns from compatriots that the Big Solution to the marriage problem is to get away from the wife and the kids. He is advised to accept a job in another part of the world, knowing that his association with his family will become distant and tenuous, and he will no longer have to confront his wife, who has become his conscience. He knows he will hardly have to speak with her, rarely visit her and will be able to avoid, most of the time, the challenges the marriage has brought to him which he is unwittingly unable or unwilling to resolve. He knows, too, that he won’t have to face the community’s disdain that a formal divorce would bring, and that he can avoid the financial pains of alimony.

After reorganizing his professional life, the husband takes a job in a far-off land. He returns home for brief periods and only occasionally, thus effecting a separation without the expensive inconvenience and social stigma of formal divorce proceedings. He assures everyone, mostly himself, that this is the right thing to do, since he is making more money. Of course, money will never make up for his absence, never buy the children their childhood back. Lacking in fatherly guidance, the children, are running wild, turning promiscuous, later to repeat the example of neglect that dad is teaching them. No one wins.

Husband and wife should always be together. If there is an unavoidable separation, he should call her daily, ask how her day was, inquire about the children. After all, it is the harmonizing of their pranas that will create through their children a brave new world, a new world order and a new age.


Whom to Hold Responsible?

HINDUISM TODAY ran a quiz about divorce on the women’s page. The subject struck a nerve among readers. Here’s a question that a young Hindu asked about coping with divorce.

Question: My mother and father got a divorce, and I really resent it. It happened seven years ago when I was sixteen, and almost every day I regret what I missed by not having my mom and dad together in a loving home. How can I deal with the resentment, Gurudeva?

Answer: It’s not easy experiencing the separation and divorce of one’s mom and dad, at any age — six, sixteen or thirty-one. There is a feeling of emptiness; something is lost, never to be regained. The feelings and thoughts of blame grow, they do not diminish, as the years go by. But look at it this way. Any marriage, yours maybe, needs a loving, strong support group that wants to help the young couple, or the older couple, work out their problems rather than avoid them through separation and finally divorce. Basically, when there are children involved as a result of a marriage, there really is no divorce — only separation. Every marriage is truly irrevocable, carved in the akashic records when the first child’s umbilical cord is cut. Thereafter, there can be no separation without a great deal of pain and unforeseen karmic repercussions.

Upon whom should the children put the blame? Put it where it truly belongs. Put it on the support groups — the mothers, the grandmothers, the grandfathers, the aunts, the uncles, the cousins, the next-door neighbors, the business partners and friends of the family. Everyone in the community shares the tragedy of the home’s breaking up — the members of the temple society, the marriage counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, the hairdresser, the gym instructor and the attorney were all responsible to become part of the solution rather than part of the dissolution of the marriage. Put the blame on them, not on your mom and dad.

An extended family that loves one another and looks out for the good of all, a religious group of loving souls who pride themselves on low percentage of divorce in their community or congregation — these and more are all the people who can or should see the tension growing between husband and wife and who have the ability to diffuse it at the early stages. Don’t blame your mother and father. If blame is to be cast, blame all those people that surrounded your family who were not alert enough, good souls that they may be, to help diffuse the tension between your parents.

Obviously, the support group has failed their marriage. You must admit that failure, lest it drag you down to its own depth. Be part of the solution. Don’t perpetuate the problem. Don’t make them feel guilty. For your own peace of mind, transfer the blame, the hurt feelings, the pain and resentment over to the relatives, the community and national value system. Become an agent of goodwill. Have kind words to say about dad to mom and kind words to say about mom to dad. Resist the impulse to criticize one to the other and cause an even greater separation within the family. They are not to blame. Society is.

If you take sides, you are creating bad karma, kukarma, for yourself, to be faced later. So treat each one the same. Don’t make deals, don’t deceive them or keep secrets from them, lest you psychically alienate yourself from the home. Maybe, just maybe, you can help them to understand and reconcile their differences if you follow this advice. Maybe, just maybe, time and the forces of nature will all come to your aid, and your parents will remarry and you will all become a family again. Don’t perpetuate the problem. Be part of the solution. Work with it. You, their child, may be their very best hope.


Support at Crucial Times

When the tensions of the burdens of life begin to build, if friends, relatives and community begin to pull away rather than come forward to help, mom and dad are rendered helpless, absolutely helpless. Certain crises are predictable in the course of a marriage. When the first child is born, everything changes. This is the first crisis in their life. He lost his sweetheart and lover when she gave birth to her first child and became a mother. She lost her lover, too, when he became a father. Their roles first began to change during the time of her pregnancy. He had to watch very closely his thoughts toward other women, while feeling neglect because she was thinking about their baby soon to be born more than she was thinking about him. She used to think only of him.

Moving into another home is another crisis time. It’s easy for dad because he is involved in new employment and new friends, but hard for mom because she has to adjust to the change of her entire environment. Is this a time for her to be emotionally upset? Yes it is.

At middle age, around forty, mom goes through menopause — another big crisis. Dad doesn’t admit it — no man ever does — but he goes through a corresponding change at that time, too. At that time they both begin to think how it would have been if they had married somebody else. Dad, maybe, especially is ready for one last fling. They both have a desire to return to the surroundings of their youth. This is another intense crisis time. If dad reaches fortyish first and mom later, then they experience two crisis times instead of one. When their daughter entered puberty, another crisis time occurred for the family. They didn’t know what she was going to do next, and they often blamed themselves and each other for her erratic and sometimes erotic behavior. Another crisis time.

Grandma, Grandpa, great aunts and uncles, the neighbor next door, even the deliveryman, can help in times of crisis. The temple community, the church congregation, the priest, the minister, friends, Rotary Club members, executive at the office, if they don’t help, are all negligent. We can blame them for the failure. Don’t blame mom and dad. They are helpless. Do we blame somebody who is sick for being ill? Of course not. Do we blame a person who is emotionally distraught for being emotional distraught? Of course not. We try to understand. We try to help. If the help is offered or is not offered, we blame those who do not help.

Therefore, I tell troubled youth, for your own peace of mind, dear child, love your mother and your father. Keep them as one in your mind. Don’t separate them in your mind. You yourself are the greatest marriage counselor. It is only you who at this juncture can become a binding force for the family. Rise above the accepted standards of the nonculture of today, which advise divorce to solve the problem. Remember, don’t take sides.


The Dreadful First Slap

Though divorce is not an acceptable solution to family problems according to Hindu Dharma, there is one regrettable exception to maintaining a divine union, and that is in the case of domestic violence. We’ve encountered much talk lately in Time, Newsweek, Hinduism Today and on TV about the taboo subjects of wife beating, date rape and even sexual abuse of children. Things once not even whispered about behind closed doors are now out in the open. No more secrets.

Of course, domestic violence never was much of a secret, for all those involved knew: husbands and wives, their friends, the kids, close relatives and neighbors. Knew but said nothing. If the neighbors are making too much noise at a party, no one hesitates to complain. But if that same neighbor is beating his wife and she is screaming and crying, nothing is done. No knock on the door. No call to authorities. We never allow a fist fight in a public place, but we do permit, by our silence, such heinous violence in the home.

In the spirit of standing for ahimsa and not permitting violence, when you see a man slapping his wife or a parent hitting his child, call the police! Don’t protect the wrongdoer. Don’t be a party to the crime by remaining passive. Don’t think that no karma is attached to inaction. It is no longer acceptable to turn up the TV to drown out the screams and sobs of a wife being beaten.

Recently, the California case of O.J. Simpson released an immense outpouring of sympathy for abused women. It took a world-famous athlete to bring forward an infamous worldly behavior. It is an admirable trait that an uncensored press can come forward to awaken a nation’s conscience. In a way, the images and stories that are appearing are not unlike Indian epics or Greek stage plays that seek to establish morals by depicting tragic happenings, or Italian operas which conceal morals in melodrama. All in all, the world has not changed that much.

As hard as it is to discuss wife abuse and why it happens, people are discussing it openly and without shame. We see graphic, real-life pictures of this violence and battered wives speaking out in magazines and on television. The big question is, will it ever end? Maybe not, but we can end the cultural sanction of the sport where father and mother watch their son slap down his wife and then drag her across the room by her hair.

A man who strikes his wife in an effort to make her cower, to control her, actually karmically does the opposite. His brutality turns against him, becomes his disadvantage. Her love and dependence weaken, and her psychic bonds to him unravel. After that, she has the spiritual upper hand, is more free from him than ever, less under his control than before that first slap. Yes, it all begins with the first slap.

It does not matter as much when they fight with words — the name-calling, insinuations, insults and arguments. That’s all part of the play of married life and may be fairly intense when their astrological compatibility is not as perfect as it might be. But that first slap changes everything! It is that first slap that brings dire kukarma, that degrades and demeans, that makes her his enemy and not his friend. This is not acceptable. Kids cannot accept it. Wives will never forgive it. Families should not endure it, even to defend beloved sons. It is not less violent just because it happens behind closed doors, just because we know the people so well. All who know of this crime and who do not speak up for dharma, for ahimsa, are accomplices. Like a thief or rapist, they are enemies of a stable society.
What Can Be Done?

“What can I do about domestic violence?” you may ask. You can refuse to remain silent. You can object, as I did recently upon finding in my own community three cases of wife abuse. Imagine, if devotees performing sadhana can succumb, how easy it must be for others. There is help available. Peer pressure, elders, police, counselors and shelters are there, and much more. It’s like the olden days when people first started objecting to slavery. Everyone knew in their heart it was wrong, but no one dared go against the conventional wisdom that it was “necessary.” Finally, mankind came to its senses and stopped it. It was no longer acceptable. In that same way, we are now coming to our senses about spouse abuse and child abuse.

What is the difference between beating a woman and raping her? Not much, really. Violent harm is done. Her body has been violated, moved by his body against her will. A sin has been committed, equally as psychologically serious. Kukarma for the man, bad consequences, results from that first slap. Prayashchitta, penance, must be performed to mitigate the backlash of his actions, lest they seriously affect his next birth.

The first push, bruised wrist, pinch without mercy, slap or bleeding lip tells her nerve system that “this is no place for me to be.” Her fear takes over, and the process of breaking up the family nest begins. His future is jeopardized as she instinctively withdraws her shakti. Perhaps he struck her to show that he’s the boss and that she cannot control him. But, in fact, he thereby appointed her as another boss that may well torment his consciousness the rest of his life and bring to him sorrows to equal her own, now or in his next birth.

Of course, it is the birth dharma of Hindu elders to rule society with a firm hand and demand of their younger male generation that they never defile themselves by giving that first slap. When a domestic situation is brought before me that involves violence, my immediate response is to advise the wife to run for safety. Unless counseling, if ever accepted, brings about an actual change in the offender, and there are actual apologies, remorse and genuine efforts to mend ways and transform that are acceptable to relatives and the congregation at large, I know it is my responsibility to step in and advise separation. Yes, this may lead to divorce, unless, of course, a deeply sincere correction has taken place and a new marriage covenant has been written by the couple. Continued physical violence is the singular justification for divorce in modern Hindu culture — a regrettable exception to the life-long covenant of marriage. This is comparable to an abortion performed to save the life of the mother, which is dharmically permissible because it is an even worse kukarma for a child to kill his mother. All concerned will accept the wisdom of these exceptions, both of which save the life of the mother.

Matchmakers

Posted: 06/07/2013 in Routine part 2

May the suitor, O Agni, win our friendship by choosing this maiden and bringing us good luck. Liked by the wooers, lovely in assemblies, may she have good fortune with her husband.

Arranged Marriages

Marriage is a union not only of a boy and girl, but of their families as well. Not leaving such crucial matters to chance, all family members participate in finding the most suitable spouse for the son or daughter and thereafter commit hearts and minds to assist in times of need. Marriage is a sacred covenant which all relatives take up the responsibility to care for and protect. It is one of the most sacred events of life. Through the homa rite at the marriage ceremony, the priest invokes the Gods. The elders, the priests, the Gods, the devas, the planets and even cows witness the couple vow themselves to holy, harmonious matrimony for the rest of their lives. Thus, divorce or annulment are considered out of the question. The Rig Veda intones: “United your resolve, united your hearts, may your spirits be one, that you may long together dwell in unity and concord” (10.191.4. VE, P. 863).

While not all marriages must be arranged, there is wisdom in arranged marriages, which have always been an important part of Hindu culture. Their success lies in the families’ judgment to base the union on pragmatic matters which will outlast the sweetest infatuation and endure through the years. Compatibility of culture and education is also taken into consideration. A spouse is generally sought from within the same religious community. The man and woman should at least be of the same religious sect for long life and a happy marriage. This may not seem important if both are not religiously active, but conditions will tend to change in future years, especially after children are born, and the disparity can lead to separation and divorce. Most families begin early in finding the proper mate for their children among families they know and esteem for the kinship bonds the marriage would bring. Those involved ponder whether the two families can blend into a one family harmoniously with benefits to both. Stability is enhanced if the groom has completed his education, established earnings in a profession and is at least three years older than the bride.


Seeking the Best Match

In arranging a marriage, the families consult astrologers regularly until a match is found. Sometimes the boy and girl are allowed to get to know each other long before they are aware that a marriage is being arranged for them. Of course, if they do not get along well, the matter is dropped and the search is on again. If one match is not agreeable, another is sought. The inner-world devas also help to arrange the best matches. Most traditional astrologers have one or more devas assisting them to provide knowledge from the akashic records and insight into the planetary powers that impel karmas.

Astrological compatibility is also sought for and acquired between the girl and her prospective mother-in-law. The results are taken especially seriously if they will be living in the same home, because in this case the bride will be under the guidance of the mother-in-law and may spend more time with her than with her own husband. In marrying the son, she becomes the daughter of his mother.

Once a potential spouse is selected, discreet, informal inquiries are made by a relative or friend. If the response is encouraging, the girl’s father meets with and presents a proposal to the boy’s father. In some communities it is the boy’s father who presents the proposal. In these modern times, with the worldwide diaspora of Hindus from India and other countries, the fathers must take an aggressive role in helping their sons and daughters become well settled in life. If fathers do not fulfill this obligation, it becomes the duty of the mothers. This pattern differs from the tradition of well-settled village communities where only the father of the girl makes the overtures. In today’s widely dispersed global Hindu village, it becomes everyone’s duty to help in the task of matchmaking for the next generation.

Once the union has been tentatively agreed upon, the families gather at the girl’s home to get further acquainted and allow them to meet and discuss their potential life together. Of course, mutual attraction and full consent of the couple are crucial. After all the input from the community is in place, it is the couple themselves who must make the final decision whether to spend their life together, based on their own personal sensibilities and judgments. They do have the right to say no. In recent years, we have found that an excellent way for a young prospective couple to gradually get to know each other before committing to marriage is through correspondence by e-mail over a period of several months. The first and the last important factor for a good match is that the boy and girl must be happy and comfortable in each other’s company.


Pledges and Blessings

Love marriages that are not arranged by the parents are also fully acceptable if the astrology is excellent, the parents on both sides agree and the young lady and the young man are of the same religious denomination. Of course, these ideals cannot always be met, and if not, more support will be needed from family and friends to make the marriage a success.

Before the wedding, the bride and groom each writes out a covenant by hand, pledging loyalty to one another and formalizing their promises, ideals, expectations and love. The couple share and discuss these documents together, read them carefully and make necessary revisions until 100 percent agreement is achieved. Like a ship’s chart, these detailed vows can be referred to if the relationship gets off course. Each of the two families makes a written pledge as well, signed by the mother and father of the groom and the mother and father of the bride, stating what they promise to do and give toward supporting this marriage in the areas of artha, kama, dharma and moksha. Also most welcome are written testimonies in support of the marriage from grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles and aunts, sisters and brothers, as well as from other members of the religious community. This is also a time when anyone among family and friends may, in deepest confidence, even anonymously, share with the family preceptor any obstacles to this marriage that should be known and understood. A full, honest disclosure of the boy’s life and the girl’s life, including sexual experiences, should be made to both families and to the kulaguru.

From the time of inquiry into a match, several months should be allowed for the jyotisha acharyas and shastris to assess compatibility. The whole process of arranging a proper match for a son or daughter often takes two or more years. There should never be a sense of urgency for this or any other lifetime commitment. As Jnanaguru Siva Yogaswami so wisely said, “No hurry. No worry. No sorry.” Nor should the arrangements ever be forced on the boy or girl. They remain free to cancel the process at any time if the match does not seem suitable to them.

When all agreements have been reached, the boy’s mother adorns her new daughter with a gold necklace. Generous gifts are exchanged between the members of both families to bind the two families together in love and loyalty. Rejoicing begins with the formal engagement party, when the boy and girl exchange gifts, such as engagement rings. Later, they read their pledges to each other in the presence of elders. All arrangements and ceremonies culminate on the wedding day, when members of both families join to wish the couple a righteous, prosperous, happy life leading to the ultimate goal of enlightenment. During weddings or related ceremonies, the vegetarian diet should in no way be compromised. Meat and other nonvegetarian foods should not be served, even to please guests of other religions or communities. All Hindus attending should be requested to dress in formal Hindu attire.


Supporting The Marriage

Once a marriage has occurred, both families are relied upon to hold it together through the years. It is the duty especially of the husband’s parents to support and make the marriage work and to offer a home to their new daughter. But it is unacceptable in modern Hindu society, and especially in our fellowship, to follow the oppressive tradition in which the girl becomes the total charge of the boy’s family and is seldom allowed to see her family of birth. It is the duty of the bride’s parents to monitor her protection and observe the couple’s abilities to dwell in unity and concord, while allowing them freedom to work things out together in their new home.

If she is abused physically, they must open their doors to receive her back, to be sheltered, comforted and consoled. It then becomes their duty and that of all shishyas in the community to try to patch things up, restore harmony and obtain trustworthy promises from the husband that this will never happen again. The bride should receive no blame for her husband’s violence, for it is he who has broken his promise to adore her and protect her from harm.

The blending of the two families as a one family gives both the son and daughter two families to support them in good times and bad. It is the responsibility of both families to work toward assuring an endearingly enduring marriage, as well as to guide the raising of the progeny, so that they may become good, productive, dharma-aware citizens, contributing to society at large. If the two families fail in this mutual effort, society fails.

To build solid marriages, some Hindu institutions provide a family evening for fellowship and discussion with a trained counselor. Once a year during the holy time of Pancha Ganapati, the couple take out their marriage agreement and together study where they have been lax or derelict. They trace back in their minds to incidents that are still vibrating as negative samskaras, and apologize humbly and seek forgiveness and total resolution. They renew their commitment to each other. This is a wonderful key for setting the tone for the coming year — of harmony and peace, which leads to abundance and happiness. We call this anahata yoga, cleansing the heart chakra, bringing up that true love for one another. It is the process of bringing up all those things that were not settled before going to sleep, to retrieve those seeds before they get ploughed under and produce another crop of sorrow in the coming years. It is bringing up little things that each one said or did that hurt the other and were not resolved. It is bringing up incidents of anger, any physical violence, which should never be but may have been. It is time to extend apologies, talk with your kulaguru, and make promises and New Year’s resolutions to set the course of the future on the path of dharma, which is based on ahimsa.


Cross-National Marriages

Many are the cross-national marriages happening today, marriages between members of different nations, religions, cultures or races. Times have changed. It is communication that has done it. With no communication, there is no change. When information flows freely, independent thinking is the result, and change is inevitable. Yes, inevitable, and that is what we are seeing today. The younger generation are thinking for themselves, no longer relying on elders to advise. This is unfortunate, for now they will have to learn from their own mistakes. What a way to learn! But this is what is happening, and it is happening faster than we would like to see. Much faster.

Any kind of marriage can survive if true love is there as its glue. True love is the kind of love that gives the couple the ability to give and take from each other without serious conflict, to go through the ups and downs together in trust, to support each other without fail and to reign as benign king and queen strong enough to bind all members of the family together. Even the rishis said that when true love is there, any kind of astrology is good and the marriage will be lasting. Love overrides all bad influences and softens incompatibilities. Love is the sum of the law. But how would a young couple know if theirs is true love or magnetic love? By giving the love a test. That is how. Test it with time. Magnetic love weakens and all but disappears over time. True love grows stronger, much stronger, with time. True love mellows through the years.

Cross-national marriages are essential to the Hindu thought that avant-garde thinkers are sharing today, “All the world is one family,” Vasudhaiva kutumbakam. Citizens of the world bound in love can survive the torrents of the upheavals that naturally come as lives are lived through together and individuals grow ever closer and closer in body, mind and spirit.

Every marriage needs a support of some kind or another built into it. True love is the best support of all, but support from the parents on both sides is a necessary help, too, especially for couples who were drawn together only by magnetism. It is when the magnetic love fades away, and all that’s left are the children, that support from parents and friends is essential for the marriage to last without violent outbursts of released stress which was once undying passion.

Shall we have a look into the future? Since cross-national marriages have happened, are happening, and will continue to happen, there must be some sensible way for them to happen without undue strain on the families of the couple. Wisdom is supposed to fix things, heal conditions, and settle problems. But first we have to admit that there is a problem. And, yes, cross-national marriages are a problem to many people of the old school. The old school only became old just ten years ago. Before then it was a school sharing standards of how things should be to maintain a growing and stable society.


When It’s Too Late to Say No

When an Asian girl marries a black boy, should she be banished from the kingdom? Yes, according to the old school, the old standard. No, according to the new school, the new standard. The banishment method of parental punishment is outdated and bizarre today. Today’s girls think. They understand. They do not intend to be the ill-treated servants of the mother-in-law. The days of Cinderella have long since passed when the mean old stepmother made her cringe beneath her wrath. Boys, too, think for themselves. They read, they listen and evaluate. Theirs is an ever-changing world ahead. They are busy preparing for it. But then along comes love, of one kind or another, to complicate their lives.

When Karen falls in love with Shan and elopes to his country, go visit them and bring her home in your heart. “I love you, therefore, I love whom you love.” That should be the attitude. When Kumar announces his undying love for Carmen, his lover from Mexico, and informs you that her father has a place for him as senior partner in his business, accept it. Enjoy Mexico City. It is a great place, because Kumar and Carmen are there.

Yes, hands across the ocean are loving hands. Hands across the ocean are binding continents to continents, businesses to businesses. This and more is what all Hindu elders are seeing happening around them today. Today’s world is a happening world. Cross-national marriages are inevitable as the peoples of the world become more and more a global village. This is the real, earthy expression of our belief in one God and one world. The soul has nothing to do with nationalism, social restrictions, ethnic taboos or restrictive, prejudicial upbringing. Two souls joining in dharmic matrimony transcend all such boundaries.

My advice has always been that families should arrange marriages for their children. That’s part of their purusha and stri dharma. This is a process they should begin early on. But if they don’t do that, obviously their young people will start arranging their own marriages. And very often when they do arrange a marriage for themselves, the family objects. They have no right to object, because they didn’t perform their duty in the first place.

The dilemma is that matches are not being arranged, and yet parents also want strict control over their youth, and youths are going to find partners, one way or another. Girls especially should be chaperoned. It’s very easy in today’s world to meet the wrong kind of people. As one solution, though not the ideal, I recommend in such cases that mature young ladies double-date and chaperone each other. Then they can talk together about the young men they are dating, and bypass the families who’ve neglected their duties, and arrange a good marriage for themselves that will be lasting, and in the future raise the next generation by doing their duty by arranging a marriage according to tradition for their own children early on.

We cannot stand in front of progress, lest we get run over by it. But we can sit by the side of progress and guide it so it doesn’t run off the track. This cannot be done when we break off communications and refuse to talk to the youth when they don’t obey the old standard. It is communication that is catalyzing the changes in the first place, so we all must guide the young by keeping the channels of communication open. Don’t let them go. Go with them. Love them and gently guide them.
Interfaith Marriages

I tell young ladies, if you are planning on getting married, do not do what the average mother might tell you, “Get the husband under your thumb right at the beginning. Otherwise you might have a terrible time, because it’s harder to do it later on.” Don’t do that. Go into your marriage for better or for worse and live up to your vow. Be to your husband like melted butter is on toast; it is absorbed. Be one. You will have a very happy old age.

It might be rough at the start, but don’t hold divorce over his head to force him into various preconceived ideas that your girlfriend has put into your mind, as so many do, or that you’ve seen on television or in the movies. You have seen the results that Hollywood marriages have played upon the lives of those who have had them as they have gotten older through the years. They are not happy people, though they are advertised as glamorously as they make their living. That is not the way. The way is, when you take your vow, think about it first, and then stick to it for better or for worse.

I tell young men, Gentlemen, if you are thinking about getting married, do not marry a young lady who won’t be one with you in your religion, who will not be willing to stay at home and take care of and raise your family, one who doesn’t respect you as a man and starts, right off the bat, by telling you what to do. Don’t do that, because if you do you will be miserable and you will lose your manhood and be nothing but a puppet on the strings of your wife. And you will both be unhappy, but she especially, in older age. Rather, choose a girl who will blend with you for better or for worse. And whether you are successful or not, she will be happy to eat what you eat and go where you go. A Roman ideal pronounced by the bride at weddings was “Where you are, there I will be.” It might be difficult in the beginning years, but it will be much better later.

A seeker wrote to me saying, “I’m in love with a Christian girl but she wants me to give up my religion and accept Jesus Christ. How can I explain to her that Hinduism is my path and I want to stay with it, but I love her very much? What should I do, Gurudeva?” I responded that you have to think of the children and how you want to raise them. Obviously you want to raise them to be good Hindu children. Since there is very little connection between Hinduism and Christianity — because Christianity does not accept karma or reincarnation, the existence of an all-pervasive God or our temples and ceremonies — there will be serious problems. If she remains a Christian and you remain a Hindu, the children are going to be very confused. If your beloved doesn’t want to go along with you intellectually and spiritually, maybe your love is only physical; that is called carnal love — love of the flesh. That is a very limited type of love, and it is not long lasting. Don’t be guided by your carnal, instinctive emotions. Be guided by your spiritual intellect, or by my good advice. Go shopping. Find a good Hindu girl, or let your parents find one for you, so you can raise a good new generation of high souls.

I’ve seen many cases of Hindus marrying outside of their own religion, and I’ve seen the young couple be very happy for a while. But after the children come and the sensuality of the marriage has cooled off, then there arises a tension between the husband and wife. Generally one becomes more religious than the other. The non-Hindu spouse argues, “You should be religious in my religion,” and the Hindu insists, “You should be religious in my religion.” The victims of this conflict, which generally goes on throughout life, are the children. It is a couple’s shared allegiance to a religious tradition that is the most important common ground.