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Concepts in Hindu Dharma

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Concepts in Hindu Dharma

Dharma Bee 2020 – Discover Your Hindu Heritage

Week #5, Elementary School




Section 1 – Main Reading

We have learned in previous lessons that Hindu Dharma is very vast with lots of values, beliefs, and practices which are essential to lead a good life. Let us learn a couple of basic concepts relevant to us today.



Why don’t we start with the concept of “Guru” which you all are familiar with?


The “Guru” is a very important figure in our Hindu Dharma. Guru means, the one who removes the darkness and takes towards the light. It has a deeper meaning but in a simple definition, Guru means a teacher. Guru is often referred as “Acharya” or “Shikshak”. Guru is considered a giver of knowledge. Guru teaches his “Shishyas” (students, who seek the knowledge) everything that he knows. Guru treats everyone equally no matter whether a student is a poor or a rich or a royal or a common person. In essence, Guru is one who molds the student’s personality. 

The words of a guru are treated like the words of God by students. Paying respects to a guru, touching the feet of a guru, serving and taking care of a guru, seeking the blessings of a guru, remembering and meditating on the name of a guru is part of Hindu tradition.




Karma means ‘action’. What we do now can impact us later. What we did in the past, can impact us now. Let us read this story first.



Moral of the story: What goes around, comes around. How you act, what you do, matters. If you do good and the correct actions, good things will happen to you as well. If you do wrong, it might be the same to you as well. This is karma – how our actions impact us. So always do good karma.



Section 2 – Additional Reading

Additional Reading #1

More on Guru

Gurukul and Guru-Shishya “Parampara” (tradition) 


Gurukul is the central part of the ancient Hindu education system. Gurukul is a type of school which is residential in nature where both Guru and Shishyas live together. Shishyas (including royal princess or kings) would stay there as a family member of Guru and get education. They would not only get education but also help Guru and Gurukul in day-to-day activities including cooking, washing clothes, chores, etc. All shishyas irrespective of their social or economic status would get equal treatment. The life of Shishyas in Gurukul would be completely disciplined. They would have to adhere to all the rules of Gurukul such as getting up early in the morning, physical exercise, giving up material things, complete their studies within a given time, etc. This type of disciplined life would help Shishyas to fully concentrate on education. It would also inculcate, dedication, sense of duty, sacrifice, social equality, and compassion. Gurukul system existed in Bhaarat from the Vedic period to until the colonial era (British rule) but gradually vanished over time.



Gurudakshina means something valuable that the shishya gives to the guru as a token of gratitude. Such tokens can be as simple as a fruit or as big as money or wealth depending upon the ability of Shishyas. Sometimes Guru also expects (desires) something from his Shishyas as a gurudakshina for a bigger cause. However, the best gurudakshina is to stick to the values learned from the Guru and make the best use of the knowledge and wisdom for the betterment of the society.


Guru in present times 

As we learned, in Gurukul system of education, the focus was equally given on materialistic as well as spiritual development of shishyas. In today’s world, spiritual development and materialistic development of an individual are separated. Education system is completely focused towards knowledge of materialistic development which makes an individual capable of working to earn money but may not necessarily teach good values. Majority of the schools are not residential anymore. 

These days, we learn good values from parents, family, books, mandirs etc. One way, we can say that all these sources where we get knowledge and good values are our Gurus. That is the reason, in the Shakha, we organize Guru Vandana program every year to honor our school teachers. In shakha, we also consider our Bhagwa Dwaj (Saffron Flag) as our Guru which represents sacrifice and gives us the inspiration to work for the society.


Let us learn more about Guru-Shishya “Parampara” with a simple story. During Mahabharata there was an ashram of Dhoumya Rushi (Sage). Aruni was one of the disciples taking education there. One cold winter day, while carrying the firewood Aruni noticed a breach in soil barrier that was holding water in the field. That breach can get bigger if not stopped in time and may ruin fields and flood nearby homes. He informed rushi Dhoumya about this and rushed back to stop it. Teacher was pleased with the responsible disciple.


It was already dark and Aruni tried all possible ways to stop the leakage. But because of heavy pressure all his efforts proved unsuccessful. It was late at night and all the disciples returned to Ashram. But everyone found that Aruni was missing. They searched him all over the Ashram. Then Gurudev and all the disciples went to the farm to search for him. To their surprise, they found Aruni himself lying flat on the breach in the barrier to prevent water from coming in. When nothing else had worked, he had used his own body to stop the flow. They quickly pulled Aruni out of the freezing water. Gurudev took Aruni near him and patted his head lovingly. The Sage then blessed Aruni, “You shall be renowned forever, for your unmatched devotion and obedience to your Guru.”

Aruni learned from the Guru in the Gurukul that, helping the community if bigger than self. When he saw that nearby homes and fields can flood, he used his body to stop the breach. He thought, that is the best Gurudakshina.





Additional Reading #2

More on Karma 


If you have heard about “karma”, then most likely you know that karma is “action”. 

Let us try to see what it means. We can say that karma is:

– Action that we are currently doing

– Actions we did in the past have an impact on what we are currently doing or what we have.

– What we are currently doing will have an impact on actions we do in the future somewhere some time.

Action doesn’t have to be physical activity; it can be thinking/desire/feeling. Even ‘no-action’ is also karma. 

It has a lot of meaning, isn’t it? In simple terms, whatever you think, say or do is karma and has consequences. Let us take an example – if you say some good things to your friend, then your friend may feel better and can help each other later. If you say bad words, your friend never forgets and your friend’s thinking or behavior towards you may not be good. Let’s take another example – To do homework, first, you must feel the urge of duty/responsibility (do you remember, this is the Dharma), that leads to another action i.e. actually doing the homework. Consequence of that will be the gain of knowledge and good grades and happy feeling. If you choose no-action on homework, that will end up negative consequences. We can summarize the Karma with two thoughts: 

– Your thoughts become your words; your words become your actions; your actions become your habits; your habits make your character; your character becomes your destiny. Whatever you want to become in life (doctor, scientist, teacher, or engineer) it must start from your thoughts and become into your actions. 

– Treat others the same way you would like them to treat you.

Isn’t it amazing that all this is explained in our Hindu scriptures thousands of years back? Not only Karma but Vedas also explained one more important concept which is the basis for the Karma: Atman



Additional Reading #3

More Concepts 



The fundamental teaching of Hindu Dharma is that a human being’s basic nature is not confined to the body or the mind. Beyond both is the spirit or the spark of the Brahman that is inside us and that called the Atman (or Aatma, loosely translated to the soul). We have learned the previous lesson that God (Bhagawan) is Antaryami, living in everyone and serves as an inner witness to the things that one does. This Atman is not just within me or you but within everything we see. This is the spirit with which human beings are connected to each other and to nature. Karma is a natural extension of Atman. Once we believe, everyone is the same we treat everyone (including nature) with respect and do our action with devotion.




A Hindu mandir is a place where one can approach Bhagawan and realize the divine knowledge. Mandirs are places of focus for all aspects of life – religious, cultural, educational and social. Mandir priests are called Pujari or Purohit

Steps to follow while visiting the mandir:

  1. Wash yourself before visiting the mandir since its spiritual place
  2. Dress properly for the mandir. This indicates respect for the sacred place.
  3. Prepare your mind by thinking about God. Focus on your spiritual purpose.
  4. Take flowers or leaves to offer to God
  5. First worship to tower of the mandir (Shikhara)
  6. If Ganesha murti is present in the mandir, first worship him as he is the foremost God for any auspicious activity in Hinduism
  7. During pooja focus on the acts of worship, rather than letting your mind wander.
  8. Do not waste prasadams offered in mandirs even if it’s the sacred ash, kumkum or any eatables.

Once you completed your prayers, prostrate yourself in front of the dwajasthambam if present. 


Mandir structure and components

Just like so many languages and cultural differences across Bhaarat, mandir architecture also varies from place to place and depends on many factors. Most of the bigger mandirs have following architecture:




  • Ardhamandapa : half hall at each entrance, usually the reception area that connects to the mandapa
  • Mandapa: This is the main gathering place for pilgrims to rest or to wait during prayers.
  • Sikhara: this is a rising tower above the sanctum and stretched towards the sky. This is the most prominent and visible part of the mandir.
  • Amalaka: A stone disk that sits on Shikhara and supports Kalasa.
  • Kalasa: the pinnacle element of a mandir
  • Garbhagriya : This is where the main murti (idol) is placed.











Section 3 – Take Away and Questions

Take Away from this week:

  • Guru is one who molds the student’s personality. The words of a guru are treated like the words of God by students. Paying respects to a guru, remembering and meditating on the name of a guru are part of Hindu tradition.
  • One’s thoughts, actions and consequences of those actions are Karma. Always be cautious about what you see, think and do. Your thoughts become your words; your words become your actions; your actions become your habits; your habits make your character; your character becomes your destiny. 
  • Treat others the same way you would like them to treat you.
  • Human being’s basic nature is not confined to the body or the mind but spark of the Bhagwan and that is Atman.
  • Mandir is a place where one can approach Bhagwan and realize the divine knowledge.


  • THINK: Can you think of an action and subsequent reaction (Karma) in your daily life?
  • THINK: My dance teacher is a Guru too? What about my amma/mother?
  • THINK: If Atman is the essence of an individual, then what is Brahman? Watch this video: Relationship between Brahman and Atman /Jay Lakhani by Hindu Academy
  • THINK: What is the difference between the Puja room at my home and Mandir?


  1. Circle the words that are considered Guru
  2. Teacher (b) Amma/mother (c) Dwaj in shakha (d) Father
  3. Determine if following statements are True or False by marking in the correct column
# Statements True False
1 Don’t wash yourself when before entering the mandir.
2 Wear proper cloths while entering the mandir.
3 Take flowers or leave to offer to God inside mandir.
4 Don’t waste parasadam offered in mandir
5 During pooja make lot of noise.


Circle all correct answers.

  1. Gurudakshina
    1. Token of gratitude from Shishya to Guru
    2. Can be simple as offering flowers
    3. All Shishyas should offer same Gurudakshina
    4. Guru cannot ask Gurudaskshina
  2. Guru should treat all Shishyas
          1. Equal
          2. As per the wealth each Shishya has
  3. Shishya should

Respect Guru

Treat words of a guru like the words of God

Pay respects to a guru

  1. What does gurukul mean?
  2. What did Aruni do to stop water leakage?
  3. How do the Shishyas pay fees to Gurukul?
  4. Determine if following statements are True or False by marking in the correct column
Karma is True False
1 Any action that we do
2 Any thought/desire that comes to mind
3 Consequence or result of an action
4 No-action
5 Consequence can be immediate or in future


5. What is Atman? (Write one or two sentences)

6. What is the name for priest in Mandirs?

7. Match mandir component images with names


8. Match the mandir components with its descriptions by arrow

Description Component
A stone disk that sits on Shikhara and supports Kalasa Shikhara
The main gathering place for pilgrims Ardhamandapa
This is a rising tower above the sanctum Kalasa
The pinnacle element of a mandir Amalaka
Half hall at each entrance Mandapa


9. Match the word with the definitions

Definition Word
A place where Shishyas stay and learn from Guru Guru-Dakhshina
Students who take education at Gurukul Gurukul
The way shishya’s give offerings to gurukul at end of education Guru
Teacher who teaches Shishya’s at Gurukul Shishya