Saturday, November 7, 2015

Wishing you a Very Happy Deepavali and a Prosperous New Year - 2015

|| Hari OM ||

Wishing you a Very Happy Deepavali and
A Peaceful New Year - 2015

The Power of Silence (Maun)

Contemplative religions of Indian origin put great emphasis on 'Silence'. It is the best way to express the ultimate state of Self Realization from where eyes and speech return without touching it. 

Silence is not only verbal. Silence means absence of thoughts. More deeply, silence is absence of desires (in mind). If there are no desires in mind, mind will not try to achieve anything that is external. Less the number of desires, more is the peace within. In absence of desires and thoughts, mind will turn towards it source of power which is the ultimate reality known by the wise as 'Brahman'. This Brahman is pure consciousness.

Spiritual journey is to get rid of worldly thoughts, stay detached from external objects and turn mind introvert. Introvert mind then melts into Brahman thereby losing it's individual identity.

Dispassion is another name of silence. Lack of interest in worldly matters keeps mind peaceful and focused on only one tatva – Brahman. Such a mind experiences deep long-lasting peace thought the day. Bliss accompanies peace. Since this peace is a result of absence of desires for external objects, it does not depend upon it. Such peace and bliss is not lost if any external object is lost. Hence peace and bliss resulting from dispassion is long lasting and has deep impact upon us.

As amount of bliss and peace increases, it begins to radiate outwards influencing the environment and all those who are in its vicinity. Calmness touches their hearts relieving them of unwanted thoughts making them mentally free.

Maun or silence has many health and spiritual benefits. Some of them are:
  • Introspection: Reflect on our own Thoughts
  • Ability to discard unwanted thoughts and stay focused on chosen topic by use of will
  • Protecting Relationships
  • Detachment: Feeling of deep peace and bliss and feeling of nearness of God
  • Feeling of comfort throughout the body due to nearness with God and absence of mental agitation.
  • Increase in Awareness i.e. living in presence.
  • Ability to stay peaceful in stressful situations
  • Control over Anger and emotions in general
  • Healthy body due to healthy mind
  • Increased immunity

Listing points would not convey the underlying meaning. Lets discuss some of the benefits in brief.
In our busy life, we do not give time to ourselves. Introspection helps one to have an appointment with ourselves. Introspection helps one to reflect on our own thoughts and actions. Either reflection is done in the morning or in the night before going to sleep. In the morning, reflection is done to strengthen our resolve to achieve our (spiritual) goal, while in the night we reflect on our (physical and mental) actions we have done throughout the day. Many people do not have any definite goal in life and they rarely do the introspection. Hence such people are not in a position to know their mistakes, their short comings and a way to proceed to achieve their goal.
In Jain dharma, there is a word for introspection. It is called as ‘pratikramaa’. Pratikramaa means to attack (yourself) without attacking. Another explanation for the word is to drawback (prati-kramaa) what has been done in excess (ati-kramaa). It is a way to keep a check on ourselves and stay in moderation. Wise say, anything in excess is poison.  

Ability to stay peaceful in stressful situations
Silence helps one to be an observer to our own thoughts and be their witness without reacting or getting involved in them. After regular practice and by grace of Guru and God, a meditator can separate himself from thoughts. With diligent practice, power of thoughts gradually decreases with time and meditator can have control over thoughts. S/he can either ignore them or get involved. Later on, percentage of thoughts decreases and period of silence increases thereby giving all kinds of physical and spiritual benefits. Of course the benefits does not come easily. There is no shortcut and shortcut methods do not last long. One has to live a spiritual life.
Leaving physical body ‘as it is’ without any interference keeps body healthy. During Deep Sleep, there is rejuvenation of body, new cells are created and body is healed when we are not conscious of our body nor are there any thoughts floating in our mind. Similarly in the state of meditation, the connection or feeling of physical body is absent when one is fully aware of silence which is the root of everything. This source is nothing but Brahman. We are often told to chant mantra in order to reach this blissful state. Hence Silence is Meditation. In meditation, we listen to God, we tune ourselves to the supreme power. The only difference between deep Sleep and transcendental state is that in later case, meditator is consciousness of himself.

The most easiest way to control mind is to regulate breath. Breath control is mind control. Later on, as consciousness evolves, mind can be directly controlled without controlling breath. Breath is automatically controlled as mind is controlled.

Benefits come as a byproduct and are not the goal of life. The real goal is Self Realisation.
An example of modern saint living in Silence is Sri Ramana Maharshi. Lord Dakshinamurty is considered as epitome of wisdom, the first guru who teaches by the power of silence. Silence has more power than words, as mind is not involved in expressing the supreme state. When mind and intellect are involved, they create their own thoughts and hence are somewhat disconnected with the supreme. In silence, there is total surrender and merging in Supreme Brahman. Silence is golden and is the best way to express the indescribable state of Self Realisation.
An entire Upanishad Mandukya Upanishad explains three states of mind, waking, dream and deep sleep. It goes beyond deep sleep into turiya, a state of super consciousness via OM

शान्तम् शिवम् अद्वैतम् - माण्डुक्य उपनिशद् -
Shāntam Shivam Advaitam – Māṇḍukya Upanishad – 7

It (Truth) is peace, bliss (auspiciousness) and non-dual.

We all must strive to control our mind, not become slaves of technology and not dance to the tunes of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. We should keep a check on ourselves and limit the use of cell phones. Instead of playing games and sending WhatsApp messages, better try to stay with nature and give an appointment to yourself.
A healthy mind gives a healthy body. A healthy mind gives healthy thoughts. Constructive mind helps build family, society and nation. Sadly, no university teaches how to control our mind, especially in this age when people demand their right to express themselves. Universities do not teach us to tame the untamed mind. Modern liberal thinking allows mind to go loose. Mind without bridle keep running without any direction. This is not a good sign. Nothing is harmful if done in moderation. Anything in excess is poison. It does more harm than help.
Let’s pray to Haimāvatī Mā Pārvatī or (Laxmī mātā) who represents ātma-vidyā. Spiritual wealth is chitta-shuddhi and atma-jnāna. Let’s pray to Umā-Maheshvara for our spiritual progress. 

Let this year we give an appointment to ourselves.
Let’s begin contemplative life from this year.

|| Hari OM ||

Friday, July 24, 2015

Eight Types of Marriages in Hindu Dharma


|| Hari OM ||

|| ShrI guru sharaNam ||

Note: This article is an extraction of longer article, 'Hindu Dharma - the most organized, integrated spiritual and practical way of life'. The below title is the 24th article. To maintain similarity, here too we are starting the article with number 24 and not 1. The links of full article are:

Not all links are updated to latest version. Editable Doc is the main article which is updated.

NOTE: This article attempts to present Traditional Overview of Marriage in sanAtana dharma

24. Types of Marriages in Hindu Dharma

Note: This article is a reproduction of original article said by Kanchi Paramacharya Sri Chandrashekharendra Saraswati Mahaswamigal. This article can be found here. Author’s Comments are in Italics marked as a ‘Note’

The article is not written in transliteration.

The dharmasastras, including the Manusmrti, mention eight forms of marriage.

prajapatya-statha 'surah
Gandharvo raksasascaiva
Paisavastamah smrtah
----Manusmrti, 3. 21

The eight types are: brahma, daiva, arsa, prajapatya, asura, gandharva, raksasa and paisaca.

1. brahma

After the student bachelor has completed his gurukulavasa, his parents approach the parents of a girl belonging to a good family and ask them to give away their daughter in marriage to their son--to make a gift of their daughter (kanyadana) to him. A marriage arranged like this is brahma. In it this girl's family does not give any dowry or jewellery to the boy's family. There is no "commercial transaction" and the goal of a brahma marriage is the dharmic advancement of two families. Of the eight forms of marriage the dharmasastras regard this as the highest.

Note: After marriage, both groom and bride do not sleep together, nor does the bride stays in her husband’s house. Both sleep in separate rooms or with their parents and return home to continue their studies. Grooms is still a brahmachari and will remain so until he has completed learning veda-s. Until then, the age of groom (and bride) might be around 22-25 years. There is no communication between them. After completing the studies and visiting holy places like Gaya Groom now rightfully asks for his bride and his In-Laws happily hand her over them him as now he is considered capable to handle family responsibilities

In later period when gurukul culture collapsed, still bride-groom did not stay together and had few communications that too on religious occasions.

Child Bride is not handed over to in-laws immediately after the beginning of menstrual period. Beginning of Menstrual Cycle (MC)  is surely a sign of maturity, but beginning of  MC does not mean that a girl is fully matured and capable of conception. It is just beginning of transformation in girl’s body. It takes years to complete this transformation like opening or widening of vaginal track, proper development of Mammary glands and breasts, etc. According to Modern Medical Science, once ovulation and menstruation begin, the maturing of the breasts begins with the formation of secretory glands at the end of the milk ducts. The breasts and duct system continue to grow and mature, with the development of many glands and lobules. The rate at which breasts grow varies greatly and is different for each young woman (source). Hence it is erroneous to immediately hand over bride to In-Laws. Nor does a 12 year old bride has emotional and mental maturity to be able to handle family responsibility. Even after collapse of Gurukul system, generally bride is handed over to in-laws after 17-18 years.

Pre-mature sex and conception (fertilisation) is one of the main reasons of death of young girls of 13-14 years during sex or while giving birth to her child.

2. daiva

Marrying a girl to a rtvik (priest) during a sacrifice is called "daiva". The parents, in this type, after waiting in vain for a young man to turn up and ask for their daughter's hand, go looking for a groom for her in a place where a sacrifice is being conducted. This type of marriage is considered inferior to brahma. In the sastras womanhood is elevated in that it is the groom's family that has to seeking bride for their son.

3. arsa

The third form, "arsa" suggests that it is concerned with the rsis, sages. It seems the marriage of Sukanya to Cyavana Maharsi was of this type. But from the dharmasastras we learn that in arsa the bride is given in exchange for two cows received from the groom. If the term is taken to mean "giving away a girl in marriage to a rsi", we must take it that the girl is married off to an old sage because the parents could not celebrate her marriage according to the brahma rite at the right time. The fact that cows are taken in exchange for the bride shows that the groom does not possess any remarkable qualities. According to the sastras, in marriages of noble kind there is no place for money or anything smacking of a business transaction.

4. prajapatya

In prajapatya there is no trading and kanyadana is a part of it as in the brahma ceremony. But from the name prajapatya it must be inferred that the bride's menarche is imminent and that a child must be begotten soon after the marriage. For this reason the bride's father goes in search of a groom, unlike in the brahma type. The brahma type is a better type of marriage than prajapatya since, in it, the groom's people go seeking a bride who is to be the Grahalaksmi of their household.

5. asura

In the asura type the groom is in no way a match for the girl, but her father or her relatives receive a good deal of money from the man who forces them to marry her to him. In arsa in which cows are given in exchange for the bride there is no compulsion. Nor is the groom wealthy or powerful like his counterpart in the asura type. Many rich men must have taken a second wife according to the asura type of marriage.

6. gandharva

The next is gandharva. The very mention of it calls to mind Sakuntala and Dusyanta. The gandharva type is the "love marriage" that has such enthusiastic support these days.

7. rakshasa

In the raksasa form the groom battles with the girl's family, overcomes them and carries her away. It was in this manner that krsna Paramatman married Rukmini.

8. paisaca

The eighth and last is paisaca. In asura even though the girl's willingness to marry the man is of no consequence, at least her people are given money. In raksasa, though violence is done to the girl's family, the marriage itself is not against her wish. Rukmini loved Krsna, did she not? In paisaca the girl's wish does not count, nor is any money or material given to her parents. She is seized against her wish and her family antagonised.

24.1. Why 8 types of marriages

We have the brahma type at one end and the paisaca at the other. There cannot be the same system or the same arrangement for everybody. Our sastras have taken into account the differences in temperament and attitude among various sections of people and it is in keeping with the same that they have assigned them different rites, vocations, etc. All our present trouble arises from the failure on the part of men, who advocate the same system for all, to recognise this fact.
There are tribals living in the forests who look fierce and have a harsh way of life. But at heart they may be more cultured than townspeople, not to speak of the fact that they are useful to society in many ways. They have frequent family feuds. In consideration of this raksasa and paisava marriages may have to be permitted in their case. After the marriage, they are likely to forget their quarrels and live in peace with each other. Ksatriyas who are physically strong and are used to material pleasure are allowed the gandharva form of marriage and their girls have even the right to choose their husbands as in the svayamvara ceremony.

It is for these reasons that the dharmasastras, which are based on the Vedas and which constitute Hindu law, permit eight forms of marriage. In all these eight, the bride and groom have the right to be united in wedlock with the chanting of mantras. But brahma is the highest of the eight forms. In it the bride must not have attained puberty. "Pradanam prak rtoh": -- this statement is in the dharmasastras themselves. A girl's marriage, which has same significance for her that the upanayana has for a boy, must be performed when she is seven years old (or eight years from conception)

Unfortunately, in the case of some girls, a groom does not turn up in time for a brahma marriage to be performed. Meanwhile, they grow old and their marriage is conducted in the arsa, daiva, or prajapatya way. Only these types are permitted for Brahmins. But for the rest other types are also allowed. They may marry a girl who has come of age either in the gandharva way or in a svayamvara.

24.2. On Marriage Mantras and right age of marriage

The marriage mantras are intended for all the eight forms. It means that they are employed even in the marriage rite of girls who have attained puberty. The two mantras quoted above are recited in all the eight types of marriage. They are addressed by the groom to the bride who comes to him after she has attained puberty and after she has been under the guardianship successively of Soma, gandharva and Agni. The mantras are chanted not only in brahma marriages but also in all other forms. The same are addressed by the groom to his child bride also. Though his marriage is being solemnised to the child bride now, he will start living with her only after she comes of age, after she becomes a young woman. He will bring her home to live with him only after she has come successively under Soma, gandharva and Agni. So he chants the mantras in advance.

Nowadays we sometimes perform a number of samskaras together long after they are due according to the sastras. For example, we perform the jatakarma if a son as well as his namakarana and caula during his upanayana when he is 20 or 22 years old and not long before his marriage. Similarly, instead of such postponement of the rites, in the brahma marriage the mantras mentioned above are chanted in advance.

I will give you an example in this context. When the brahmacarin performs the samidadhana he prays before Agni to grant him good children. How absurd would it be for our reformers to argue, on the basis of this prayer, that a young boy must have children when he is yet a celibate-student and that he may become a householder only later. The point to note is that the boy prays on advance for good children. The Vedic mantras cited by reformers must be seen in the same light.

The mantras [quoted by reformers] are appropriate for the marriage of a girl who has come of age also.

This is our reply to the school of opinion represented by the Rt Hon'ble Srinivasa Sastri. If the mantras in question are chanted at the time of the marriage of girls who have come of age, it does not mean that all marriages are to be celebrated after the girls have attained puberty. According to the brahma form of marriage, the girl must not have had her menarche. There is incontrovertible proof for this in the Vedic mantra chanted at the end of the marriage rite.

I told that a girl is under the sway of a gandharva between the time she is able to wear her clothes without anybody's help and her menarche. His name is Visvavasu. The mantra I referred to is chanted by the groom addressing this demigod. "o Visvasu, " it says, " I bow to you. Leave this girl and go. Go to another girl child. Have I not become the husband of this girl? So give her over to me and go to another girl who is not married and lives with her father. " During the wedding the groom performs a puja to this gandharva and prays to him to free the girl from his control. Here is proof that the bride is not under Agni and has not had her menarche.

The question now is about the verse (from the Manusmrti) cited by the reformists. According to it, a girl may wait three years after her menarche and then seek her husband on her own.

There is an answer to this. The general rule according to the dharmasastras is that a girl must be married before she attains puberty: "Pradanam prak rtoh. " What happens if this injunction is not followed? If groom does not come on his own, seeking the girl's hand, her father or brother must look for a groom and marry her off. But if they turn out to be irresponsible or otherwise fail to find a groom? Or if the girl has no guardian, no one to care for her? The lines quoted by the reformers from the Manusmrti apply to such a girl. She may look for a husband on her if none of her relatives, neighbours or well-wishers take the trouble of finding her a groom even after she has attained puberty.

Though the reformists quote from the Vedas and sastras in support of their view, they fail to take into account the context in which the relevant passages occur. They see them in isolation. That is why they keep arguing that the customs followed by people steeped in our traditions are contrary to the sastras.

In the Chandogya Upanisad there is mention of a sage called Cakrayana Usasti whose wife had not come of age. The reformists do not examine such references in our ancient texts with a cool head but are carried away by their emotions.

In the past the common people did not know how to counter the arguments of the reformists. Even so they did not accept their views thinking it best to follow the practices of their elders, of great men. That is why the bill brought twice by the Rt Hon'ble Srinivasa sastri before the legislative council to amend the marriage act (with reference to the age of marriage) did not receive enough support. Later (Harbilas) Sarda introduced the bill which [on its passage] came to be called the Sarda Act. Many people (in the South) think Sarda was a women and call the law named after him the "Sarda Act". The Central legislative assembly was equally divided on the bill -- 50 percent for and 50 per cent against. Then the British asked one of the nominated members to vote in favour of the bill; and thus the minimum age of marriage for girls was raised by a legal enactment. The bill was passed not on the strength of public opinion but because if the government's intervention. The mind of our British rulers worked thus: "The Congress has been demanding svaraj but we have refused to grant it. Let us give it some satisfaction by being of help in inflicting an injury on the (Hindu) religion. "

Now things have changed. There is no respect any longer for old customs and traditions. When the Sarda Act came into force in British India, some Sanskrit scholars returned the "Mahamahopadhyaya" title conferred on them by the government. Among them were Pancanana Tarkaratna Bhattacarya of Bengal and Laksmana Sastri Dravid. The latter was settled in Kasi and had the "Dravid" tagged on to his name to make it known that he belonged to the land of the Tamils. How many people today are inspired to rise in protest against the changes introduced by our government in our sastric observances.

Our children must be taught the substance and meaning of the sastras in a comprehensive manner. To speak to them about one aspect here and another there will lead to a haphazard and confused view. The half-baked research carried on in the Vedas has given rise to the opinion that the scriptures favour love marriage. The canonical texts must be seen in their entirety. When a subject is examined, its underlying meaning and purpose must be grasped. Also they must be seen in the light of other relevant passages occurring elsewhere. A conclusion must be arrived at only after a thorough inquiry into all points.

The brahma marriage is for all castes. Other forms of marriage are also permitted for non-Brahmins, also post-puberty marriage. If the idea is to give importance to carnal pleasure these other forms may be permitted. But brahma is the best if the purpose of the marriage samskara is the advancement of the Self.

|| Hari OM ||