Dharma Bee 2020 – Discover Your Hindu Heritage
Week #7, Elementary School
Section 1 – Main Reading
As we have seen so far, Hindu society is very diverse. We have different modes of worship, different names of gods, different languages, different religious practices, yet, we all have some common values to live by. Let us explore some of these.
So if we understand that we are children of Mother Earth, it is easy to say that we are all part of one large family. We might look different, have different interests and skills, and live in different parts of the world, but we should care for each other. When one organ is hurt in the body, another organ tries to complement it; we should do the same when one of our other family members needs something without any kind of discrimination.
HINDU DHARMA AND NATURE/ENVIRONMENT
The idea of “entire world is my family” is not just for humans. It for everything around us, living and non-living, such as animals, plants, rivers, mountains, trees, sand, etc. We have deep respect for nature.
“This earth is my mother and I am the son of this earth” – Atharva Veda, 12-1-12
Hindus have raised the status of mother to the level of Goddess. The first value that a child learns from his or her family is respect for the mother. And when we say Earth is my mother, we should respect it similarly.
We also learnt the idea that God is everywhere and in everything. That includes earth and everything on the earth. So how can we mistreat anyone? We should care for people and resources around us.
We eat crops grown in the field, animals provide manure (fertilizer) for that, rivers provide water, mice eat some insects to preserve our crops (or sometimes they eat that away too) and snakes eat mice to ensure proper supply of crops for us. So, as we can see all have some role to play. As described in Ramayana, Ram formed an army of soldiers and animals to concur demon king, Ravana. And even a small squirrel did its part to help build the Ram Setu (bridge) by transporting little bit of sand on its back.
How do you feel if you are living in concrete jungle and not hearing chirping of birds, don’t see different birds filling up skies in morning and evening, don’t come across colorful flora and fauna, or don’t have mountains, rivers or other natural scenery? In Hindu Dharma, we have incorporated the love and respect for nature through various daily practices. (More in additional reading.) And this way we are very well connected with nature because that is what created us in the first place.
Section 2 – Additional Reading
Additional Reading #1
Story of Four Friends
This story shows us that it is important to stand by our friends in the time of need. The four animals are very different from each other. They look different, they are of different sizes and colors, and they have different abilities and skills. But when we come together as one family, we help each other to live a better life.
Additional Reading #2
Hindu Dharma and Nature/Environment
Why do we regard trees and plants as sacred?
The God, the life in us, pervades all living beings, be they plants or animals. Hence, they are all regarded as sacred. Human life on earth depends on plants and trees. They give us the vital factors that makes life possible on earth: food, oxygen, clothing, shelter, medicines etc.
Hence, in Bharat, we are taught to regard trees and plants as sacred. Hindu scriptures tell us to plant ten trees if, for any reason, we have to cut one. We are advised to use parts of trees and plants only as much as is needed for food, fuel, shelter etc. we are also urged to apologize to a plant or tree before cutting it.
Certain trees and plants like tulasi, peepal etc. which have tremendous beneficial qualities, are worshipped till today. It is believed that divine beings manifest as trees and plants, and many people worship them to fulfill their desires or to please the God.
Love and respect for nature in our daily practices
Hindu dharma has very deeply understood and described our relationship to nature. When we say the entire world is one family, it is not just about humans and animals. What about the trees, the rivers and lakes, the mountains, and everything else around us? They are all part of our eco system. They all have huge part to play to maintain natural balance in the world.
When we say the entire Earth, we mean literally everything on Earth is like a family. We always respect our family. And when we think of the entire Earth as a family, we develop that respect for everything around us. Including the nature and environment.
Let us think of some ways Hindu culture helps us bring this reverence or respect to nature and animals…
- Certain trees are symbolically worshipped such as peepal and banyan
- We have many Gods and Goddesses whose vehicles are various animals
- We worship and respect rivers, our main source of water
- We hold many hills and mountains with respect whether it is Venkateshwara temple on Tirumala hill or the Himalayas. Some people do Govardhan Pooja during Diwali as we learned in the Festivals chapter.
- The Sun gives us light and energy and is the giver of all life. Without sun, there would be no life on Earth. This is why our ancestors recognized the role of nature, especially sun, and called him Surya Bhagavan. There is a temple dedicated to just Sun god, called Konark Temple in Orissa, India.
- Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) clearly covers the role the Sun plays in nurturing our body and keeping us healthy. By making that part of our daily routine while being physically strong we also realize the value this natural source of energy plays in Health for Humanity.
- As we learnt in a previous chapter, in ancient times sages/rishis ran Gurukuls in remote areas close to nature where children used to study while being very well connected to it
- Can you think of more?
All the resources from the mother Earth are shared resources and we should only get hold of that only as necessary instead of collecting more than what we need. We should not abuse what we get from Earth but take and use as much as needed. What does this mean? A lot of things we use every day can be limited. Not wasting water when we brush, when we shower, not getting over excited about new clothes, toys, new electronic gadgets all the time, not wasting food, keeping your home and neighborhood tidy, reuse and recycle, the list can go on… These days we are all concerned about pollution and global warming and the amount of trash that is being created every minute. Forests are being destroyed for our needs and that hurts the wildlife. If we really respect nature like our mother, then we have to try to limit and reduce such things.
If everyone starts thinking of the entire world – humans, animals, trees and plants, every life form, rivers and mountains, every element – as a family, then we will respect and protect that. Then the world will certainly be a better place and we will realize our vision of Vishwa (World) Shanti (Peace).
By incorporating the nature in our daily rituals, we realize its importance and develop a sense of awareness about the part we can play to preserve and protect the nature. Hindu Dharma is all about – Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah – another important Hindu value – If we fulfill our Dharma, our duties, then it will automatically take care of us. Similarly, if we protect the nature and its resources, then nature will take care of us.
Why do we worship tulasi?
Either in the front, back, or central courtyard of most Hindu homes there is a Tulasi-Madam, also called as “Tulasi Kota” – an alter bearing a tulasi plant. In the present day apartments too, many Hindus maintain a potted tulasi plant. The lady of the house lights a lamp, water the plant, worships and circumambulates (pradakshina) it. The stem, leaves, seeds, and even the soil, which provides it a base, are considered holy. A tulasi leaf is always placed in the food offered to the Bhagawan. It is also offered to the Bhagawan during poojas, especially to Bhagawan Vishnu and his incarnations.
In Samskritam, meaning of tulasi can be expanded as follows:
Yasya Tulanaa naasti athaiva tulasi
That which is incomparable (in its qualities) is the tulasi. For Hindus it is one of the most sacred plants. In fact it is known to be the only thing used in worship which, once used, can be washed and reused in pooja – as it is regarded so self-purifying.
As one story goes, Tulasi was the devoted wife of Shankhachuda, a celestial being. Seeing her devotion and adherence to righteousness, Krishna blessed her saying that she would become the worshipped plant, tulasi that would adorn his head. Also that all offerings would be incomplete without the tulasi leaf-hence the worship of tulasi.
She also symbolizes Sri Lakshmi, the consort of Bhagawan Vishnu. Those who wish to be righteous and have a happy family life worship the tulasi. Tulasi is married to Bhagawan with all pomp and show as in any wedding. This is because according to another legend, Bhagawan blessed her to be his consort.
Satyabhama once weighed Krishna against all her wealth. The scales did not balance till a single tulasi leaf was placed along with the wealth on the scale by Rukmini with devotion. Thus the tulasi played the vital role of demonstrating to the world that even a small object offered with devotion means more to Bhagawan than all the wealth in the world.
The tulasi leaf has great medicinal value and is used to cure various ailments, including the common cold.
yanmūle sarvatīrthāni yanmadhye sarvadevatāh |
yadagre sarvavedāśca tulasī tvām namāmyaham ||
Meaning: My pranams to the Holy mother Tulasi, at whose roots (Yan Moole) all sources of holy waters resides, at whose stems (Yan Madhye) all Gods reside and at whose leafy tips
(Yad Agre) all the Vedas are present.
Section 3 – Take Away and Questions
Take Away for this week:
- Some Hindu values help us appreciate everyone and everything around us making us feel the oneness.
- Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – entire world is my family – is one such value. This attitude helps us remove the differences and respect everyone.
- Nature also hold a special place for Hindus. Many aspects of nature are worshipped and treated as mother or Goddess. This helps us respect and not abuse the resources around us.
- THINK: Can everyone really be your family? Can you make them your family? How does change your perspective towards others?
- MY ROUTINE: What is it that you will do to show your respect to nature? Can you make any changes to your routine to be more environment friendly?
1. God is ____________
a. nowhere b. everywhere c. elsewhere d. none of these
2. Hindus believe that the entire world is my ______________.
a. family b. God c. Goddess d. None of these
3. Nature is treated as ______________.
a. father b. son c. daughter d. mother
4. What does vasudhaiva kutumbakam mean?
5. How will you respect nature? (Do not have to write but say)
6. Tulasi is worshipped as ___________________-
a. Lakshmi b. Saraswati c. Parvati d. None of these
7. What does Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah mean?
8. Give some examples of daily practices in Hindu Dharma that develops a sense of love and respect for nature.