NRIs and Hindu Rituals
I have been getting messages from non resident Indians (NRIs) form various part of world saying that they were not able to perform Aachara (rites, rituals and samskars) in their respective country. What to do in such situation? Some of them sound scared about God’s wrath? When they face hurdles and issues in life or from growing kids or job place, they relate it with ignoring rituals.
So the question is that – “What would I do when I am not able to perform a ritual in time?”
Yes, the Aachara is the way, custom, and practice of the follower of Hindu Dharma. Aacharas is the name given to those principles of conduct which regulate people in their relations to each other. Rituals are most important aspect of our Dharma.
Our scriptures say it loud and clear: “Aacharaha paramo dharmaha, aacharaha paramam tapah, aacharaha paramam gnanam, aacharat kim na sadhyate.” For every Hindu Aachara is the most important as those are his/her Dharma. He/she MUST follow it.
To follow an Aachara we need to understand what is it and why should we follow. Unfortunately most of us do not understand even the difference between Aachara and precedence, ceremony or tradition.
Acharas are those which written in Shastra (Sutras) – dharma, Grihya , Śrauta, Pitrumedha , Prayaschitta etc (altogether Kalpa Sastra). All other things we follow are just traditions, functions or precedence. For instance, going to temple and offering pooja is a tradition. The last rites of a person are Aachara.
Hindu 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.
“Acharas are performed for your Ayur-Arogya-Soukhya (longevity, health and happiness). It should have at least 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.” (See “Why Should You Question Hindu Rituals in http://udaypai.in/why-should-you-question-hindu-rituals/ )
Sixteen Sacraments (Shodasha Samskar) are performed for the well-being of us as well as the entire world. Those rituals are universal and nothing to do with God.
In short, a follower of Sanatan Dharma has some Aachars to perform.
Good News – 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.
“Swagruhe poornam aacharam, Anyagruhe thdardhakam, Pattanethu thad paadam, Yathre-balaad aachharastheth” You should perform the complete rituals at your home. When you go to other’s house, you should perform at least half of it. However, in cities you may perform one-quarter of acharas. During travels you need NOT perform any Aacharas.
This clearly states that everything should change according to time and location, right?
Obviously, 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.
“Can we ask any priests or temple to perform the ritual for us?”
It is just waste of your money and time. A ritual must qualify the eight benefits mentioned above. And it has to be done earnestly inside your house along with your family. If you want to send money, it is really a good gesture as the priest or temple management will get the fund. But it won’t translate into the benefit of Aachara.
“So, if you are not able to do a ritual or pooja or whatever, what’s the way out?”
There is a way out.
“Aachara Prabhavo Dharmo Dharmasya Pradhu-Rachyutah” – says Vishnu Sahasranama which means what really is Dharma is not what we think it to be, it is what the Lord thinks it.
So, the easiest way out it. “Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja,” says Bhagavad-Gītā 18.66. Abandon all varieties of Dharmas and simply surrender unto me alone.
Here, “Lord” and “Me” doesn’t mean any personal God. It’s about the cosmic consciousness. Once you are in sync with the cosmic consciousness, it will guide you. You don’t have to perform any rituals in life. (Please read the word God, Hari, Madhav, Narayan, Vishnu etc as cosmic consciousness. I am using these words for ease of understanding).
If you continue your life with a totally surrendered mind (no ego), you would be happy. For instance, if you are surrendered to Hari (Vishnu), whatever happens, you will take it as Hari Krupa or Hari Itccha.
But surrendering 24/7 is easier said than done. It is the toughest challenge – it is almost impossible given today’s circumstances. We cannot constantly guard against our ego. Our ego will pop up and own-up the role of doer. In surrendering, you are an instrument of God and not the doer. In a doer-ship, you have ego. Hence, surrendering is also almost ruled out in modern times.
Then what to do?
It is said: “Manav Seva is Madhav Seva” or “Nara Seva is Narayana Seva” (Service to man is service to God). The entire cosmos is manifestation of Vishnu. The Earth is your mother, it is also considered as wife of Vishnu. So when you treat animals kindly, give comfort to animals, plant trees and support other human beings, you are not just doing a Seva but becoming part of Narayana. That’s how God will work through you.
Again, it is not just about donating money to charity which claims to do services. How will you make sure that your money is not used for violence? We know that followers of many religions donate money to overcome their “Sin” – but that money goes to the hands of the terrorists. So, in effect, by donating you are sharing (and becoming indirectly responsibile to) further hurt, pain and violence. Whatever you donate should reach to the hand of the deserved and needy. Otherwise, it will have serious backlash.
In short, following our Dharma (duty, responsibility, right and privilege) earnestly and serving Narayana together is an alternative for rituals.
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