Hindu Rituals Are NOT for Gods
“Uday, your Hinduism propagates ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ (I am God) and, Tatvamasi (That you are), I am Divine, etc, then why would you perform rituals for the sake of God?,” a question from John Tan, my ex-colleague in Hong Kong.
“Good question. Sanatana Dharma is founded upon truth, where as religions are founded upon beliefs. Belief is an optional part of Hinduism. Hindu ancestors focus on Dharma and Karma, not God.”
“But that doesn’t answer my question,” he said.
“I am coming to that. Hindu rituals (Acharas) are NOT done for the sake of God or to reach heaven! God doesn’t need anything from us. There is NO external heaven and hell. We are doing all rituals for ourselves, family, and society. However, for ordinary people like me, who are believers, these rituals are packed in God’s name. So that we perform it either to please God or seek blessings…”
“So, you mean to say, fundamentally rituals are NOT for God…”
“Acharas are performed for your Ayur-Arogya-Soukhya (longevity, health, and happiness). It should have at least a few or all of these eight benefits: 1. Psychological, 2. Physiological, 3. Family bondage, 4. Social bondage, 5. Community health, 6. National Integration, 7.Material benefits and 8. Environmental Protection and sustainable healthy living.”
“Oh, really? Uday, can you explain the healthy aspects first?”
“Take for instance, ‘Ganapathy Homam’ (Gana Havan) in which we burn three parts of coconuts in clay platform – the fibrous part of the husk (coir) produces moderate sulfur oxides (Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and sulfur trioxide (SO3)), the coconut Shell, when burned produce phenol and when you burn coconut with ghee, it produces pyrazine (a heterocyclic aromatic organic compound). As you know these chemicals can prevent viruses, bacteria, and germs… It is Antimicrobial. The ritual of burning medicinal plants is to produce ‘purifying’ smoke.”
“That’s a great wow! I have read that they use a lot of other materials in such rituals…”
“Yes, we call it Havan Samagri (a mixture of various dried herbal, roots, and leaves). The burning of wood and odoriferous and medicinal herbs during the rituals can effectively reduce pathogens in the air. Each item of the ritual material is significant. These materials are offered in the fire after completion of every mantra chant. It is supposedly the sacred food for the deities. But we know deities won’t eat it. So it affects only on us and our surroundings.”
“Right. The mixture of various dried herbal, roots, and leaves is offered in the ablaze fire disseminates in microform, in the air, to purify the environment besides activating the air as a disinfectant germicidal agent. We use something like that in ancient Chinese villages too. Yes, it is anti-bacterial. Tell me, Uday, how does this ritual effect us psychologically and physiologically?”
“While performing the ritual, you are sitting in a yoga posture for some time with a different set of mind. You are experiencing three types of energies – light (fire), heat (fire), and sound (mantra) that would sync with your sight, touch, and hearing. It invokes your smell (burning of materials). Tasty prasadam satisfies your taste buds too. All five senses are happy. You know what changes occur then.”
“Okay, Uday. I understand other few aspects of ritual-like family bondage and social bondage, as it is, in effect, a get-together, sharing the joy and food. I also understand the rituals support environmental protection and sustainable healthy living. But how does the national integration come into force…”
“From time immemorial there was a concept of Bharata Khanda (Indian subcontinent). Check on the source points of Havan Samagri. The materials are sourced or produced from every part of Bharata Khanda. The raw materials are not in one location. They have to come from various parts of India. The rituals make sure that these locations are bonded together. When you follow the rituals, you are making sure that Bharata Khanda remains intact. This is a sort of embedded national integration…”
“Way to go. I am a Buddhist converted Christian. Can I perform those rituals?”
“Yes, These rituals are for humanity. Anyone can perform.”
“All are rituals scientific like this?”
“Most of the Vedic rituals are. There are three types of rituals and traditions – (1) Vaidikam (Vedic customs and traditions through the medium of fire or Agni), (2) Pauranikam (based on Puranas, using the medium as an Idol or a Lamp) and (3) Loukikam (rituals with local flavor, like housewarming, Shashti Poorthi (60th birthday), Birthday celebrations, etc). There are elements of beliefs and superstitions in many.”
“Uday, you said you are a believer. Do you follow all these rituals?”
“Not regularly. Our Achars are NOT rigid. Aacharas are NOT mandatory. Why? Acharas are mentioned in Dharma Sastra, which comes under Smriti – it changes from time to time. Kala (time) and Desa (location) are important in Sanatan Dharma.”
“So, as you said in your book Why Am I a Hindu, you are really a free bird.”
“There is no hard and fast rule for any rituals. Hinduism is not a Do’s and Don’ts religion. And there is NO punisher God. Hindu God understands your situation better than you understand yourself. A Hindu God will not curse you if you don’t follow any sacred scriptures. There is no Judgment Day to send you to heaven or hell.”
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