COVID-19 and Rituals

“I couldn’t perform some rituals due to COVID-19. Usually, I come to India every year to perform rites of my parents and then perform some poojas at my family temple. I was not able to do it for the last two years year.

Yesterday, my son suddenly fell sick with stomach pain and serious virus flu and was admitted to the hospital. I am scared that God is angry with me. Can you please tell me Uday sir, what kind of Prayachitha (atonement, penance) should I perform?” a message from a subscriber of WhatsApp Broadcast List.

There are three types of rituals for Hindus: Vedokta (Vedic) and Puraṇokta (Puranas) and Laukikam (local customs and usage of various communities).

Shodasha Samskāras (the sixteen rites to mark the passage of life) and many Yajnas and Homa (Havan) come under Vedokta. We use the medium of fire (Agni) for Vedic rituals. It has nothing to do with belief in God.

“Ok, puraṇokta is related to Puranas, right?”

“Here the medium is Puranic Gods. We worship those Gods in temples and at home. We use Vigrahas or portraits, images to perform these rituals.”

“Uday sir, yes, we do both. There are many characters in Puranas that we worship as Gods. How would we choose?”

“Characters like Rama and Krishna were born as humans and were raised to the status of avatars. On the contrary, characters like Durga and Ganesha are concepts of Gods. Simply put, we see the presence of God in everything – animate or inanimate. In real as well as in Sankalp. These Gods have a mysterious power of the will (Sankalpa-Sakthi). As a Hindu, you have a choice – you can worship the God in any form.”

“Ok, you said the third type of ritual is called Laukikam”

“Yes, most of Laukikam rituals are performed as per local or community-based traditional or precedence. For instance, a house warming ceremony – can also be a combination of all three. You may perform Homam (Vedokta), Bhagavathi Seva (purāṇokta), and other local celebrations. The Shashti Poorti, or Shashtiabdha Poorthi, which is celebrated on completion of 60 years of age, also comes under this category.”

“So, you mean to say, God won’t punish us…”
“God is not a punisher. All Acharas (rituals), especially Vedic, 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.”

“So, No God will punish you if you don’t perform any rituals, right? ” he reiterated.
“Not at all. For, you’re doing all those Achars for yourself, and not for Gods. God doesn’t need anything from you. And God doesn’t take vengeance or curse you – at least they don’t have such human “qualities”. So, if you didn’t perform any ritual in time, there is no need to worry. You can do it later. The priests and astrologers may be upset – not doing rituals could hurt their income. Other than that, I don’t think there will be any curse or anger from God. God knows, right?”

“In short, we don’t really have to follow any of these rituals?”

“Sanatana Dharma rituals are an important part of our tradition and culture. Our privilege. Our pride. It defines us. Our rituals are logical, scientific, and rationale – rich and inclusive. If we don’t follow us, who else will be? If we don’t follow, tomorrow our children will end up in superstitious religions that have a motto: ‘live and let die’. That is either follow the kiddish orders of their God or die. Those religions teach you to kill or die for their God. On the contrary, our Dharma provides light to the world with the motto: ‘live and let live’ – with happiness, non-violence, and peace. So, for the greater wellness of the world, it is our duty and responsibility to follow Dharma rituals. But, not out of fear. As Hindus, we are the torchbearers to keep the light for the well-being of our next generation, and the world at large.”

“I understand Uday sir, we have to follow those rituals with love and not with fear. But what about my son?”

“Ah, with regarding your son, better talk to the doctor, not to the priest. God is present in viruses, the human body, medicine, prescription paper, the pen, and the doctor. When you’re sick, God comes in the form of a Doctor and medicine. However, the same God cannot do any injustice to the virus too. So God lets the nature law takes in own course. You have to take care of your son’s health and let God provide you the energy to do that.”

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