ॐ श्री गणेशाय नमः Védic Dharma (Sanātan Dharma, Mānav Dharma or Hinduism) by Arun J. Mehta Please use this knowledge wisely, for the good of all, and pass it on to anyone who is genuinely interested in learning about Védic Dharma. Please send an e-mail to the author if you would like a hard copy. Available for free download to personal computer from
2009 – 1,000 copies
2011 – 1,000 copies
First Edition edited by Dr. B. V. K. Sastry of International Védic Hindu University,
© 2011 by the author.
Why write a book on ‘Védic Dharma’?
Ayam bandhuhu ayam néti gnāna laghuchetsām
Udāracharitānām tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam
A (spiritually) less evolved person says ‘This is a friend. That one is not.’
To a broad minded (spiritually evolved) person the whole world is a family.
“It is already becoming clear that a chapter that has a Western beginning will
have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in the self-destruction of the
human race...At this supremely dangerous moment in human history, the only
way of salvation is the ancient Hindu way. Here we have the attitude and spirit
that can make it possible for the human race to grow together into a single
Arnold Joseph Toynbee (1889-1975)
For some time I had been sending short e-mails to my friends and relatives about ancient
Indian culture. Now I would like to share this with wider audience through this booklet.
I am not an expert in this field and am grateful to Dr. B. V. K. Sastry of International
Védic Hindu University, Florida, USA for very helpful suggestions. He went over the
draft for accuracy. I also appreciate comments and suggestions by my wife, Lila Mehta
and daughter Angana Shroff. I have tried to present this material in language simple
enough so that a busy high school or university student can understand.
In Védic tradition knowledge is given free to all deserving students interested in learning.
The thoughts presented here have been around for millennia and there is nothing original
in this booklet.
All Sanskrut (Sanskrit) words are in italics. Plural version of Sanskrut words e.g. Védas,
is written with – before ‘s’, like Véda-s. Ā & ā are pronounced as in ‘bark’. é is
pronounced as first ‘e’ in ‘level’ and ń as Devnāgari ण (no equivalent in English).
European spelling of Sanskrut words is written in parenthesis as (Sanskrit). Attempt is
made to spell Sanskrut words as they are spoken in Sanskrut.
Arun J. Mehta
Table of Contents
‘Védic’ ‘Sanātan’ or ‘Mānav’ Dharma
Essence of our Culture
Goals or Purpose in Life
Our Basic Beliefs
How can we preserve our cultural heritage?
Four Stages of Life
Four Pillars of the Society
Different Methods Prescribed for Personal Evolution
Yathā Yogyam Tathā Kuru
Appendix I – Some Interesting Quotes about India
Appendix II – Great Reformers of India – A Timeline
The word “Dharma” has no equivalent word in English. It takes many English words to
describe Dharma. The word ‘religion’ is commonly used but a religion is a specific
system of institutionalized faith or worship. “Sanātan Dharma” or “Mānav Dharma” is
not just a religion but a way of life. Everything we do in life, including eating and
sleeping, are done according to dharma.
The Sanskrut word Dharma is derived from the root word “Dhri” which means to hold
Dharma supports or holds together everyone and everything.
together or support.
Dharma is also described as ‘duty’ - one’s duty towards herself, her family, community,
country, and the world. Knowledge about Dharma - what is right and wrong - will help
guide us through our lives. This knowledge should be taught when a child is very young
and not at the end of life, during retirement or on deathbed. It is too late to know how to
lead a life when we have gone through most of it.
Dharma is the universal code of behavior towards all living creatures and nonliving
things. It is in the best interest of all and includes all the virtues like truth, nobility,
justice, nonviolence, compassion, faith, duty, modesty, steadfastness, control over senses,
loyalty, honesty, etc. Dharma is also absence of negative tendencies like selfishness, lust,
greed, envy, anger, arrogance, etc. A life according to Dharma is necessary for success in
Dharma sustains and supports life in general, and helps to hold the
2. ‘Védic’, ‘Sanātan’ or ‘Mānav’ Dharma
The Sanskrut root word vid means to know and Véda means (sacred) knowledge. There
are four Véda-s: Roog, Yajur, Sāma, and Atharva. Véda-s were revealed to rooshi-s
during meditation thousands of years ago. The knowledge of Véda-s is timeless. The end
(anta) portion of Véda-s is called Vedānta (Ved + anta).
Vedānta is also called
Upanishad. The Upanishad-s are declarations of the highest spiritual truths and a guide
for ‘How to live your life’. Most of us ask our children to read Bhagawad Gitā when we
are on the deathbed. It is like reading the instruction manual for a super computer when
we are ready to throw it in a junk yard. Bhagawad Gitā is the cream of the Upanishad-s.
Pearls of wisdom are also found in Rāmāyan, Mahābhārat, Bhāgavat Purān, etc.
Sanātan and Mānav are also Sanskrut words used for our Dharma.
‘Sanātan = eternal. A Dharma that has been there from the beginning of time or one that
has no beginning or end.
Dharma = code of ethics, code of behavior, religion, virtues, beliefs, moral obligations,
traditions, righteous actions that sustain and support life, and hold a community together.
Saénātan Dharma = Dharma or code of ethics which has always existed.
Mānav = Man (includes woman).
Mānav Dharma = religion or code of ethics, or code of behavior for the mankind.
The original people of India were called Āryan-s or the ‘noble ones’ and the country was
‘Āryāvarta’. The Āryan-s did not come from anywhere but had lived there for millennia
and had developed a well advanced civilization. Other names for their religion were –
Sanātan Dharma (eternal religion), Védic Dharma (religion of the Védas), Ārya Dharma
(religion of the Āryans), or Mānav Dharma (religion of mankind). The name of the
country ‘India’ was also coined by foreigners.
The Indian names for India are
‘Āryāvarta’ (the land of Āryan-s) or ‘Bhāratvarsha’ (the land of king Bharat).
People living along the river Sindhu (Indus) were called ‘Hindus’ by foreigners. River
Sindhu flows from Himalaya Mountain in the North and through North Western part of
what was India. Most of the foreign invaders came to India from the North-West. The
religion followed by people of India was called “Hinduism” by the foreigners. This is
similar to how the original people of North America were called ‘Indians’ by Europeans
who were looking for ‘India’ and when they first arrived in America thought they were in
Dharma has two parts –
1. Sāmānya Dharma – duties that are common to all people.
2. Vishésha Dharma - is special duties of husband, wife, child, student, teacher, farmer,
business person, king, soldier, etc.
All these duties are described in ancient Indian literature.
What happens when “Dharma” is not followed? There are many examples in history of
societies and civilizations that have fallen apart. Even today we can see so many
individuals, communities, and countries wasting their resources after unethical projects
and leading their families & people to disaster.
Culture has been defined in different ways. In “Foundations of Indian Culture”, K. M.
Munshi has defined culture as:
“a characteristic way of life inspired by fundamental values expressed through art,
religion, literature, social institutions and behaviour”.
It may also include education, scientific and technological advances, customs of the
people, and the way in which people interact with each other and live in a society.
He mentions that the ‘Indian’ culture is one of the very few cultures that has continuously
survived for quite a few millennia inspite of multiple invasions, brutal occupations by
foreigners, and systematic attempts to destroy it. Very little of the original Egyptian,
Babylonian, Syrian, Persian, Incas, or Mayan culture is visible now.
How did it survive in India? A system of ‘Gurukula’ schools, strong family traditions,
and the unique system of dividing the society into four classes with assigned duties for
education, defence, trade, and service (Varńāshram) that helped maintain the knowledge
and culture in India.
Knowledge of one’s cultural heritage is important for one’s self-esteem. When people
loose their self-esteem and self- respect, they do not do well in life. It is very important
for the welfare of our future generations that they learn the positive aspects of our culture
4. Essence of our Culture
We can not possibly learn and pass on to our children all that can be included in our
‘culture’. All of us may not agree what is essential and what is not. The choice lies with
Our culture shows us how to live our life whether we are in India or North America or
any where else. It is therefore important to teach our children and grandchildren at the
earliest age about their culture and heritage before their brains are filled with negative
ideas about our ‘culture’. Second reason for preserving cultural heritage is for the
children to grow up having positive self-esteem, a good feeling about thmselves. If
children know that they are coming from a good, strong, and stable background they will
have the confidence to handle any situation and do well in life. If children learn at an
early age that their culture, heritage, ancestors, were of inferior quality or that ‘they will
burn in hell for eternity’ because of their religion then they are likely to have many
“if all the Upanishads and all other scriptures happened all of a sudden to be
reduced to ashes, and if only the first verse in the ‘Ishopanishad’ were left
intact in the memories of Hindus, Hinduism will live for ever”
M. K. Gāndhi, Harijan, 30-1-1937, p. 403-4.
“ॐ Ishāvāsya-idam sarvam yat-kincha jagatyām jagat
Téna tyakténa bhunjithā mā grudah kasyasviddhanam”
God lives in all this (the whole universe).
Enjoy what He gives you. Do not steal wealth of others.
The first part of the first shloka of ‘Ishopanishada’ tells us that ‘God lives in
everything’ (in this universe). Love and respect all creatures and even inanimate objects.
There is an ‘energy’ that forms the basis of all that exists in the universe, a ‘force’ that
keeps us alive, something that can not be described nor can it be experienced by our
senses (touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste); an ‘entity’ that can be addressed by any
name or imagined to take up any form, and ‘that’ which has no beginning or an end
(definition of God).
Ekam sat vipradā bahudhā vadanti
Truth is one, the wise call It by many names.
People refer to God by various names but ultimately It is the same entity.
5. Goals or Purpose in Life
“Our plans miscarry because they have no aims. When a man does not know
what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.’
Our shāstra-s (sacred texts) mention four goals in life:
1. Kāma (desire) – fulfilling desires to satisfy the senses e.g. thirst, hunger, etc.
These are common to all in the animal kingdom.
2. Artha (wealth) – earning money to buy food, shelter, etc. This goal is considered
higher than Kāma because it is not found in the animal kingdom.
3. Dharma – Kāma and Artha are achieved according to Dharma. It is higher than
both of them.
4. Moksha – liberation from the cycle of birth and death or merging of Ātmā (soul)
with Paramātmā (God). This is the highest goal in life. All activities in the fields
of Kāma and Artha give temporary pleasure.
Moksha is permanent bliss.
According to Védanta all human beings and even animals can achieve this goal.
One does not have to pray to a specific ‘God’ or belong to a specific religious
Pranavah dhanuhu sharah hee ātmā
Brahma tat lakshyam uchyate
Shara-vat tanmayah bhavet.
Pranava (mantra ॐ) is the bow, ātmā (soul) is the arrow
Brahman (God, Paramātmā) is the target (goal)
(With) steady (hands and focused mind) hit (the target)
And like the arrow (ātmā) become one with the target (Brahman).
6. Our Basic Beliefs
Hindus believe in many things – from one all pervading God to many Gods and even no
God. All views are accepted. Everyone has the freedom to choose and nobody is
permanently denied Moksha (salvation). Following beliefs are some of the important
Ātmā (Self, soul, Jivātmā) and Paramātmā (Brahman, God)
The force or energy that keeps us alive is called Ātmā. Our body becomes life-less when
it leaves our body. This energy can not be damaged or destroyed. It is the same in all
living things. Paramātmā is the ocean of life-force from which all Ātmā-s originate.
After a process of evolution, all Āatmā-s merge with Paramātmā (God). God can be
worshiped in any form we wish to give Him or Her, any name he / she wants to call Her /
Him / It. All prayers are heard by one and the same Supreme Reality (God).
Literal meaning of Karma is action.
However, Karma in scriptures includes the
intentions behind the action, the means used in performing the action and the
consequences of that action (Karma-phala). An ‘action’ is good if the intention is
unselfish and methods used are nonviolent (according to Dharma). We do not have any
control over what follows the ‘action’ (the consequences). Every act or even a thought
has similar consequences. ‘Good’ thoughts and ‘good’ actions have ‘good’ consequences.
We have choice only over our intentions and the means used to perform any action. If we
do something for others with good intentions and without expecting anything in return for
ourselves, good things will eventually happen to us. It is essential that we analyze our
intentions continuously, do our best, work hard, perceiver, and leave the results to Him.
Vāsānsi jirnāni yathā vihāya
Navāni gruhńāti naroparāni
Tathā sharirāńi vihāya jirńāni
Anyāni samyāti navāni dehi.
Just as we discard old clothes and
Man takes new (clothes)
In the same way (we) discard old bodies
(And we) obtain new bodies.
Bhagawad Gitā, II. 22.
We believe that the soul leaves the body at the time of death and takes up another body
(reincarnates). We are all evolving spiritually and take many births until we have no
desires and all karma-s resolved.
Then our ātmā (soul) merges with Paramātmā
(Brahman, God) and attain liberation from the cycle of birth and death (Moksha).
Everyone, even an animal, is entitled to moksha.
If at the time of death we have any unfulfilled desire or unresolved karma then we take
birth in a new body. We are born in a family and under circumstances according to our
unresolved karma-s and unfulfilled desires. This gives us the opportunity to progress
7. Important Values
Satya (truth), Ahimsā (nonviolence), and Brahmacharya (discipline, self-control) are
some of the important values for people who follow Mānav Dharma.
Satyén labhyah tapasā hee éshah
Samyak-gnānena brahmacharyéna nityam
(The Self realization) is experienced through constant practice of truth, self-
discipline, and (life according to) the right knowledge (the highest wisdom,
Antah-shariré jyotirmayah hee shubhrah
Yam pashhyanti yatayah kshina-doshaha.
(A person,) who has reduced all his faults (impurities) to the minimum (and
purified himself), sees the luminous Self within himself.
The official seal of India says:
Satyam éva jayaté.
Truth only prevails.
There are three meanings of the word ‘truth’:
a. The dictionary meaning of truth is ‘what is real’.
b. Second meaning of truth is ‘when our speech and actions are the same as our
c. In Véda-s ‘Truth’ means what is real today, what was the same yesterday, a hundred
years ago, and even a billion years ago; what will be the same tomorrow, a hundred
years from today, and even a billion years from now. In other words, some thing that
does not change over time. That ‘Truth’ is changeless, beginning less, endless,
Paramātmā (God, the Supreme Power).
The first two (a and b) are to be practiced. The third one is a goal to be achieved.
Different meanings of ‘Truth’ can be confusing.
Satyam bruyāt, priyam bruyāt, na bruyāt satyam, apriyam.
Priyam cha nānutrum bruyād, ésha dharmah sanātanah.
Speak the truth. Say (use) pleasant (words). Do not tell the truth in
Do not say pleasant but untrue (words). This is the Sanātana Dharma.
Manu Smruti, IV.138
Speak only that which is true, kind, helpful and necessary. If we believe in ‘Ishā vāsya
idam sarvam’ (God lives in all), how can we cheat anyone who has God within him by
‘Ahimsā paramo dharma’
Nonviolence is the supreme dharma.
If we believe in ‘Ishā vāsya idam sarvam’ (God lives in all), how can we hurt anyone?
Nonviolence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution.
Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.
Thomas A. Edison (1847-1931), American inventor
The practice of ahimsā includes not harming anyone in our thoughts, by words, or by our
actions. We can see all over the world that once the cycle of violence is started it is very
difficult to control. Ahimsā and universal love go together. However, the greatest
practitioner of nonviolence, Mahātmā Gāndhi, said that:
“My creed of non-violence is an extremely active force. It has no room for
cowardice or even weakness. There is hope for a violent man to be some day
non-violent, but there is none for a coward. I have, therefore, said more than
once.....that if we do not know how to defend ourselves, our women and our
places of worship by the force of sufferings, i.e., non-violence, we must, if we
are men, be at least able to defend all these by fighting.”
M. K. Gāndhi, Young India, 16 June 1927
‘Ahimsā paramo dharma, dharma himsā cha.’
Nonviolence is the supreme dharma, violence according to (the rules of) dharma (is a
Brahmacharya means search for Brahman or moving towards Brahman, the changeless,
beginning less, endless, God. It can also mean moving around in the field of Brahman or
behavior of some one who wants to attain Brahman.
If even a single one of the senses is uncontrolled, all knowledge
leaves a person just as water drains from a leaking water vessel.
Manu Samhita, II.99
Brahmacharya is learnt during first 25 years of life and practiced all through the life. The
main goal during this stage of life is to learn. To achieve this we give up all the comforts
and pleasures of life and concentrate only on our studies. This training is like a ride in a
hot air balloon. To go up you need to get rid of all unnecessary baggage and just carry
what is absolutely necessary. The student learns to control all his/her senses (taste, smell,
touch, vision and hearing).
It does not mean that later on in life, we do not enjoy good food or relationship between
husband and wife but we try not to become slaves of these enjoyments and forget our
duties or the ultimate goal in life. The training during Brahmacharyāshram helps adults
to control all their senses and set a good example for their children.
“Brahmacharya...means not suppression of one or more senses but complete
mastery over them all.....Conquest means using them as my slaves.”
M. K. Gāndhi in Bapu’s Letters to Mira: p.257
In computer jargon, it is ‘garbage in, garbage out’. If we put in wrong data, the computer
will give us wrong results. We cannot expect anything good to come out of our mouths
and in our actions if we put a lot of ‘garbage’ in our minds through our eyes and ears
(watching certain movies, listening to certain music, or reading trashy books, etc).
“Brahmacharya.....is purity not merely of body (actions) but of both speech
and thought also.”
M. K. Gāndhi in Harijan: February 29, 1936
Following Védic values are also recommended:
Abhayam, sattva-shamshuddhihi, gnāna yoga vyavasthitihi;
Dānam, damah, cha yagnah, cha svādhyāyah, tapah, ārjavam.
Ahimsā, satyam, akrodhah, tyāgah, shāntihi, apaishunam;
Dayā bhuteshu, aloluptvam, mārdavam, hri, achapalam.
Tejah, kshamā, dhrutihi, shaucham, adhrohah, na atimānita;
Bhavanti sampadam daivim abhijātasya Bharata.
Bhagavad Gita, XVI. 1, 2,& 3.
Life according to these values and virtues are useful for our progress on the evolutionary
path of experiencing the ‘Devine’ or ‘Self Realization’.
1. Fearlessness (Abhayam). Fear interferes with good decision making.
2. Purity of thoughts (Satva-shamshuddhi). Removal of impurities of the mind as listed
3. Yoga of knowledge (Gnāna yoga vyavasthiti). Decisions and actions are based on
the knowledge of morals & ethics, and right & wrong.
4. Charity (Dāna). People and institutions doing work for the good of the society are
supported by generous donations of money and time.
5. Mastery over all senses (Dama, Brahmacharya). If our senses take control over our
actions then we do not have time for worthwhile projects and our energies are diverted
towards ‘fun’ activities. (Same as # 3 above)
6. Personal sacrifice (Yagna). Desires for personal pleasures, power, prestige,
possessions, etc. are given up for the good of the family, community & country.
7. Study of scriptures (Svādhāya). Regular study of scriptures is necessary for our
spiritual development and to keep us on the right track.
8. Disciplined effort (Tapa) towards a selfless cause.
9. Honesty (Ārjava).
10. Nonviolence (Ahimsā). (Same as # 2 above).
11. Truth (Satya). (Same as # 1 above).
12. Absence of Anger (Akrodha). Good decisions can not be made under the influence
of anger. Actions undertaken in the moment of anger may lead to disaster.
13. Renunciation (Tyāga) of fruits of all activities. Not insisting on any particular
result, or becoming very anxious about the result or becoming paralyzed after failure.
14. Peace of mind (Shānti) is necessary for good decisions and behavior.
15. Straight forward nature, truthful & pleasant speech (Apaishunam).
16. Love and tenderness towards all (Dayā).
17. Refrain from excessive indulgence in activities for personal pleasure (Aloluptvam).
18. Gentle and mild behavior (Mārdavam).
19. Modesty in all speech and actions. Remorse for any inappropriate actions, speech
or thoughts (Hri).
20. A steady mind and deliberate decision making (Achapalam) before any action.
21. Person with divine qualities has a special ‘glow’ on her face and has lots of energy
for selfless service (Tejah).
22. Forgiveness (Kshamā).
23. Steadfast (Dhruti), a quality to maintain a steady course of action once a decision is
24. Purity (Shaucha) of thoughts and cleanliness of the body.
25. Absence of any desire to harm anyone or cheat (Adhrohah).
26. Devoid of excessive pride (Na-atimānita).
Bhagavad Gita (Chap. XVI.4) also recommends removal of following impurities or
weaknesses of the mind:
Dumbhah, darpah, abhimānah, cha krodhah, pārushyam, eva cha
Agnānan cha abhijātasya Pārtha sampadam āsurim.
1. Hypocrisy (Dambha), pretending to be better than one really is.
2. Arrogance (Darpa) of knowledge, colour of the skin, family, wealth, physical strength,
3. False or excessive pride, hostile intention (Abhiman).
4. Anger (Krodha).
5. Bullying nature (Pārushyam).
6. Ignorance (Agnānam) about one’s place in the universe and relationship with other
creatures, someone who thinks he is the most important person in the world.
These six are considered as devilish (Āsuric) characteristics or impurities of the mind.
Everyone has to try and remove these from their personality.
8. How can we preserve our cultural heritage?
“Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have
never failed to imitate them.”
a. Learn, Practice, and Teach. We, adults, have to set a good example by learning about
our heritage and culture and put it in practice.
b. Enroll children in Balvihar classes (Sunday schools that teach our languages,
heritage, and culture).
c. Pray or recite shloka-s in the early morning, evening and before meals.
d. Read Indian classics like Rāmāyana, Mahābharat, Bhagawad Gitā, etc. to children.
e. Speak to children in at least one Indian language.
f. There are many CDs of devotional music available. Expose children to these at home
or while driving to school or on trips. Teach children to sing classical or devotional
g. Bhāratnātyam dance is based on our heritage.
Encourage children to learn
h. Perform simple Puja at home and explain the meaning of the ceremony. Celebrate
festivals and observe various Samskāra-s. Visit a local temple.
i. Select healthy recipes, cook and eat nutritious Indian food. Most of our spices in
moderation and our dishes are being accepted as healthy alternatives to Western diet.
j. Raise children with love and open lines of communication. Treat little children with
lots of love. Get them to help in household chores from age three and as long as they
are living with you, and when they are 16 years old treat them like a friend.
9. Four Stages of Life
Fortunately for us our wise sages of ancient times had come up with a master plan for the
whole life so that people will not loose sight of what they were supposed to do through
different stages of life. There was no reason to have midlife crisis on 40th or 50th
birthday or when children leave home for the University. Life was divided in four stages
or Āshram-s and definite duties ascribed to each stage.
The first stage of life is called Brahmacharyāshram. It is up to the age of 25 years. The
main goal of this stage is to gain knowledge and practice self-discipline (Tapa). All
pleasures derived from our senses (taste, touch, smell, hearing, & seeing) are given up so
that the student can concentrate on his/her studies. This is called Pratyāhār in Sanskrut.
A wise person withdraws all his senses from objects that give pleasure - just like a
tortoise withdraws all his limbs.
Bhagavad Gita 2:58
Everyone devotes her/his time and energies to studying. In the olden days, young
children (boys and girls) used to live with their Guru or teacher. The guru and his wife
would look after them, feed them, and teach them - treat them same as their own children.
The students had to memorize all the knowledge taught by the guru and recite it when
asked. There were no books, no fancy libraries, TV, or computers with CD-ROM and
internet. This period was devoted to learning scriptures, literature, arts, math, and
Duties of a Student
The students respected their guru and gurupatni (guru’s wife) and followed all their
instructions. The guru, his family, and all the students lived a very simple life without
any complaints. The students helped in various chores including feeding and cleaning
guru’s cows. They all worked hard, ate simple food, lived a very simple life, and
concentrated on their studies. Even princes and sons of rich people were treated the same
as other students. They gave up pleasures of all sense organs (taste, touch, smell, etc.).
There was great emphasis on developing noble character (becoming an Āryan). This
helped the student lead a life of self-discipline. There was no time to think about boy
friend or girl friend, or worry about ‘who will go with me on the Prom night’.
Duties of a Teacher
The guru’s responsibility was to guide his/her students with love, kindness and affection
1000 times more than a father. He had the patience to remove all doubts even if he had to
answer the same question a hundred times. The teacher lived by the highest moral,
ethical, cultural, and spiritual values and the students learnt these by listening,
observation, and practicing them in their own life. In Védantic tradition the teacher did
not ask for any money for his services. The king and voluntary contributions by the
wealthy in the community supported the guru.
Atha yat tapo dānam ārjavam ahimsā,
Satyavachanam iti tā asya dakshinā.
The practice of disciplined effort, charity, ethical behavior, nonviolence, and
speaking the truth (by the graduates is the best) guru dakshinā (payment to
Today some studies go on well beyond the age of 25 years, e.g. Medicine. If you decide
to enter the next stage of life – Gruhasthāshram – before finishing your studies, then you
may have to think about all the consequences. One needs to consider his/her individual
circumstances and decide. If you look around you may see 18 or 20 year olds getting
married. Talk to them and see how difficult it becomes to study. Rarely a supportive
husband or wife can make a lot of difference. Usually people are distracted from their
studies because of increased responsibilities of family life.
The graduation speech by the guru outlines the duties of the next stage of life, the
Graduation speech from Taittiriya Upanishad, is as follows:
Practice what is right. (Live according to Dharma.)
Study the scriptures and teach them too.
Live up to the ideals learnt in the boarding school (Gurukula). Let the speech and actions
be the same as the ideals accepted by the mind & intellect.
Personal sacrifice and disciplined effort are required of the householder.
The householder has complete control over his senses.
He works for peace and prosperity of the family and the community.
Fire signifies knowledge. Fire in the kitchen is necessary for preparing food. The
householder works so that there is food in the house and knowledge in the family and the
Daily puja (worship) is performed by the family as a reminder of the Dharma.
Guests are welcomed with warmth and treated generously.
Take care of the needs of the community, country, and the world.
Having children and bringing them up is a major time consuming duty of the husband &
Protection of women, the weak, the elderly, and the country is also the duty of able-
After the age of 25, men and women get married, have children and earn money to
support the family and the community. This stage of life is called “Gruhasthāshram”. It
is a time for selfless service (Yagna). Needs of the family are taken care of first and then
it is extended to friends, community, and the country. The husband and wife are expected
to love and respect each other. Their major responsibility is to bring up children who
have noble (Āryan) characteristics and who in turn will become good citizens.
Yatra Nāryastu pujyante ramante tatra devatāhā
Yatraitāstu na pujyante sarvāstatrāphalāhā kriyāha
Gods rejoice where women are respected.
Nothing succeeds where women are not respected.
Manu Smruti, 3.56
Wealth is acquired and spent according to Dharma. Support of children, elderly, and the
community is also the duty of people in this stage of life. Teachers are given the greatest
respect and supported by generous contributions. Deserving poor are supported by
charity (Dāna). Free time is spent in study of scriptures (Abhyāsa) and in keeping good
The next stage of life is “Vānprasthāshram”. This starts at the age of 50 years and goes
up to 75. Main goal of this stage is Svādhyāya or serious study of scriptures and
preparing for the ultimate goal in life - which is union (Yog) with God or Brahman. One
begins to devote more time for community service - again without expecting anything
(money, prestige, position, or power) in return for the services. Gradually all unnecessary
material things and activities are reduced, life is simplified, and most time is devoted to
sevā or service of community.
The last stage of life is called “Sanyāsāshram” - when we give up all desires and live like
a homeless monk. Any one can enter this stage at any time in life - like Gautam Buddha
did during Gruhasthāshram. He left his wife, son, palace, and kingdom to find the real
meaning of life. Sanyāsi-s live under a tree on the outskirts of a town or in a temple, or in
a jungle, and meditate. They do not participate in activities of the family or society. The
main goal is to practice Tyāga or renunciation.
A lot of people are afraid of dying and do not even want to think or talk about it.
“Death is certain for all those who are born and rebirth is certain for all those
Bhagawad Gita: Chap. 2:27
Védic Dharma not only teaches us how to lead life but also what to do at the time of
death. Since death is inevitable for all, it is better to accept it and know what happens at
the time of death. This does not mean we have to fold our arms, sit down, and do nothing
when we are sick or old.
As we attain certain age, or if we are suffering from certain disease, we can start
preparing for the final transition – ‘death’. Contact all friends and relatives to ‘thank’
them for all that they have done for you and beg for forgiveness and forgive them all for
any pain or suffering caused during the life time. Pay off all financial debts and update
legal documents like ‘will’, ‘living will’, ‘power of attorney’, etc. Start distributing the
wealth and possessions among relatives and charitable organizations. Assign duties to
close relatives about what they should do after we are gone.
Breathing techniques (Prānāyām) and meditation are worth learning and practicing
regularly when we are in good health. To overcome the fear of death, repetition of
following Mahāmrutyunjaya (victory over fear of death) Mantra is recommended:
ॐ Tryambakam yajāmahé sughandhim pushtivardhanam
Urvārukameeva bandhanāt mrutyormukshiya māmrutāta
Om. O Lord Shiva, who is full of sweetness and who supports all life
liberate me from (fear of) death, just as a ripe cucumber is (painlessly) separated
from its bondage (to the vine).
The process of dying is “Mahāprasthāna” or a ‘great journey’. Dying is like ‘going off
to sleep and waking up in a different environment’. At the time of death, the soul
(Jivātmā) leaves the physical body. It experiences incomparable peace and love, a
feeling of being immortal, indestructible and perfect in every way. The soul (Jivātmā)
carries all the unresolved fruits of actions (Karma), desires and impressions of
experiences (Vāsanā-s) that the body had in life. These determine the circumstances for
the next birth. We are born again in a family and circumstances to fulfill our desires and
resolve our Karma-s.
10. Four Pillars of the Society – the Caste System
The ancient society in India was divided in to four groups according to their capabilities,
aptitudes, education, personal effort (sādhanā), and function they performed in the
society. These were like the four pillars in four corners of a building supporting a roof
overhead. All four groups were equally important and none was respected more than the
other. People were able to move freely amongst the four groups according to their
qualities. Everyone was expected to live according to the dharma of their category.
This system was called Varnāshram. Varna in Sanskrut means to describe. It means
attributes like color, form, or quality that describe something. When used for humans it
may mean the person’s physical and mental ability and the function performed in the
society. Since there were four categories, this system of classification is also called
Chatur (four) Varna.
Brāhmana-kshatriya-visham shudrānām cha Parantap
Karmāni pravibhaktani svabhāva-prabhaivah gunaihi
O Parantap (Arjun), the responsibilities (duties) of brāhmanas, kshatriyas,
vaishyas, and shudras are assigned according to the qualities they are born
Bhagavad Gitā, XVIII.41
Shamah, damah, tapah, shaucham, kshāntihi, ārjavam, eva cha
Gnānam, vignānam, āstikyam, brahmakarma svabhāvajam
Those with calmness, self-control, disciplined effort, purity of mind and body,
forgiveness, righteousness, knowledge, supreme knowledge (about Brahman),
and faith in God are fit for the duties of a brāhman (brāhmin).
Bhagavad Gitā, XVIII.42
Brāhman-s were the intellectuals who became teachers and preachers. They learnt the
scriptures and other arts and sciences, spent their lives running residential schools and
performing religious ceremonies (yagna).
Preservation of Védic traditions and
knowledge was their duty. Brāhmana-s were very spiritual and lived a simple life
following the highest moral and ethical principles to set good example for the rest of the
society. They were supported by the king, the wealthy, and the parents of students. There
was no demand for any fees for their services. Some selected few would seat in the court
of the king to advise him on moral and ethical issues.
Shauryam, tejah, dhrutihi, dākshyam yuddhe cha api apalāyanam
Dānam, ishvaryabhāvah cha kshātram karma svabhāvjam
Kshatriya-s are brave, (have) powerful personality, (can) make firm decisions,
(have) ability to fight in war, (do) not withdraw from battle field, generous,
and of royal behavior.
Bhagavad Gitā, XVIII.43
Kshatriya-s were physically strong, well trained in the art of warfare, and use of
weapons. One of them would become the king. In the days of king Bharat, the ruler was
selected on the basis of his knowledge and capabilities. The king’s primary responsibility
was to protect the population, provide for necessities of life like food, water, schools,
roads, etc. Other Kshatriya-s would be in the army.
3 &4. Vaishya-s & Shudra-s
Krushi-gaurakshya-vanijyam vaishya-karma svabhāvajam
Parichayrātmakam karma shudrasyāpi svabhāvjam
Agriculture, taking care of cows, and trade are the responsibilities of
Service is the duty of Shudra-s.
Bhagavad Gitā, XVIII.44
The third category was Vaishya-s who were farmers, businessmen, and other trades
people. The financial welfare of the society depended on them.
"There is no Vedic scriptural sanction for any act of cruelty or oppression or
unfair discrimination based on anyone’s birth. Birth-based discrimination and
cruel treatment of individuals and families which developed in Hindu society over
time as socially sanctioned practices are in gross violation of ancient Hindu
teachings and philosophy. Many people that revere and owe allegiance to our
ancient Dharmic teachings and philosophy have suffered over the years as a
result of such discriminatory practices. Such suffering continues even today,
despite the law of the land and enlightened social and religious leaders having
continued to make, over the centuries, major and effective contributions to
diminish the depth and extent of these discriminatory practices, which have
nothing to do with Hindu Dharma."
Swami Dayananda Saraswati
The fourth division was called Shudra-s. They did all the hard jobs requiring unskilled
labor and some very unpleasant ones. They disposed off dead animals and removed
garbage. Gradually they became the untouchables because of the type of work they did
and were dominated by other castes. Many reformers have tried to improve their lot and
now it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of caste in India. One of the presidents of
India was a Shudra.
11. Four Paths
“Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within
by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work (Karma
yog), or worship (Bhakti yog), or psychic control (Raj yog), or philosophy
(Gnān yog) - by one, or more, or all of these - and be free. This is the whole
religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are
but secondary details.”
The main goal of life is to experience the divinity within. To achieve this union or Yog
with the supreme four major paths are prescribed. We have the choice of selecting a path
depending on our physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual development, aptitude,
opportunities in life, etc. One can follow any one or a combination of more than one
ways to achieve our goal. Ultimately all paths end up in the same place. The values
described in Ch. 8 are common to all the paths.
The four paths are:
Bhakti Yog – path of devotion
Karma Yog – path of action
Gnāna Yog – path of knowledge
Rāj Yog – path of Meditation
One may meditate in the morning, go to work in the afternoon, stop over for a bhajan
(devotional song) session in the evening, and read scriptures before going to bed, all in
1. Bhakti Yog
Is the path of love and devotion for a personal God.
Mind and emotions play
predominant role in bhakti. This is the path of total surrender to God. God can be
imagined as a mother, father, friend, child, wife, or husband. Mirabai, a queen, gave up
her family, a life of luxury, and got completely immersed in devotion to Shri Krushna as
if He was her husband. In the end she was prepared to take poison rather than give up her
devotion to Krushna.
Nine varieties of devotional activities are described in Bhāgavat Purāna:
1. Shravana - listening to scriptures, bhajans, etc.
2. Kirtana - singing bhajans, shlokas, etc.
3. Smarana – remembering and recalling holy names e.g. Vishnusahastranām
(thousand names of God)
4. Pāda sévana – service at the feet of God in a temple
5. Archanā – ritual puja
6. Vandanā – complete surrender (prostration) in front of a murti
7. Dāsya – being a servant of God
8. Sākhya – intimate friendship with God.
9. Ātma-nivédana – total and continuous surrender to God or Samādhi merging with
2. Karma Yog
The literal meaning of Karma is action. Scriptural meaning of Karma also includes what
precedes the action (intentions behind the action), the act – how it is performed and what
means are used; and what follows the action (consequences of that action). Every
thought, word, and act has ripple effect. All good thoughts, words, and actions have good
outcomes. This is the law of Karma. We may not get the result that we were expecting
or at the time when we were expecting it. That is beyond our control. We only have
control over our thoughts, speech, and action – not on the result. Karma (action)
becomes Karma Yog when the action is performed without any desire for selfish gain, the
action is performed according to Dharma, without anxiety for the result, and all credit for
the outcome is give to God (Paramātmā) in all humility.
The most frequently quoted shloka on Karma Yog from Bhagavad Gitā says:
Karmānyéva adhikārah té mā phaléshu kadāchana
Mā karma-phala-hetur-bhuhu mā té sangah astu akarmani
Performance of action is (your) only right. (You) may not get the fruits
(results that you expected or when you expected).
Do not work for the fruits of action. Do not keep company of inaction (not
doing anything is not an option).
Bhagavad Gitā Chap. II.47
Other shloka-s on Karma Yog are:
Yah tu indriyāni manasā niyamya ārbhaté, Arjun
Karméndriyaihi karmayogam asaktah vishishyaté
Whoever initiates actions after controlling all his sense organs with his mind
(getting over his likes and dislikes, and selfish desires) and without (selfish)
attachment (to the results), succeeds.
Bhagavad Gitā, III.7
Niyatam kuru karma tvamkarma jyāyo hee akarmanah
Sharirayātrā api cha té na prasiddhyét akarmanah
Always perform (your) prescribed duty. Action is better than inaction.
Even maintenance of (physical) body is not possible without action.
Bhagavad Gitā, III.8
Evaluate every action. Consider your own intentions behind the action and the means
used in performing the action. ‘Action’ is good if the intention is unselfish and methods
used do not harm others. We have a choice in selection of our thoughts and actions. We
do not have any control over what follows the ‘action’ (the consequences). Every act or
even thought has similar consequences. ‘Good’ thoughts and ‘good’ actions have ‘good’
consequences. If we do something for others with good intentions and without expecting
anything in return, good things will eventually happen to us too. We do not have any
control over when or what the consequences will be. It is essential that we analyze our
intentions continuously, do our best, work hard, perceiver, and leave the results to Him.
“In regard to every action one must know the result expected to follow, the
means there to, and the capacity for it. He who, being thus equipped, is
without desire for the result and is yet wholly engrossed in the due fulfillment
of the task before him, is said to have renounced the fruits of his action.”
M. K. Gāndhi
Atho khalvāhuhu kāmamaya evāyam purusha eeti sa yathākrāmo bhavati
tatkraturbhavati tatkarma kurutépatkarma kuruté tad-abhisampadhyaté.
Our strong desire is the basis for our decisions and driving force behind our
actions. We get results according to our actions. Thus our desires and actions
determine our destiny.
Bruhadāranyaka IV. 4.5
Karma yog is a way of life. It purifies the mind by removing strong, deep desires
(vāsanā-s) and helps improve concentration in meditation.
"Truth is high, higher still is truthful living!"
3. Gnāna (knowledge) Yog
Is the path of intellectual inquiry. The root word gna means ‘to know’. Gnāna means
knowledge. Vignāna is used for special knowledge - something more than ordinary
knowledge. In scriptures Vignāna is used for the spiritual wisdom or knowledge about
Like all other paths the person following this path has to practice all the moral values
first. Taking this path of Gnāna Yog without the moral values can be very misleading and
We can deny the existence of everything and everyone but we can not deny the existence
of our own self. The intellectual inquiry starts with the question about “Who am I?”,
“Am I my body, mind, or intellect?”, “What is consciousness?”, “What makes me aware
of the world around me?” etc.
There are three steps in acquiring this special knowledge:
Shravana – listening to a guru and reading scriptures.
2. Manana – contemplation on what guru and scriptures have taught and on
questions like “What is the ‘Truth’?’, “Why am I here?”, “What is the ultimate
goal in life?”, “How should I lead my life?”, “What is ‘soul’?”, “What happens
after death?” etc. The knowledge gained from this self-analysis may ultimately
lead to ‘Self-realization’.
Nididhyāsana – the contemplation on above questions leads to deeper and
deeper understanding of mind, ego, and the divine reality (Brahman).
Ultimately it may lead to the destruction of individual ego and union with
Brahman (the universal force).
4. Rāj Yog
is also known as Astānga Yog or Kriya Yog. The goal of Rāj Yoga is to destroy the ego
and develop intense concentration. In the twelfth chapter of Bhagawad Gita, Arjun asks
Shri Krushna “Who is better – a devotee who worships a God with a physical form or one
who meditates on the formless, absolute God? Shri Krushna explains that those who can
contemplate on a formless, indestructible, changeless God; should follow that path.
Those who prefer to worship God as an icon or form (Murti) will also experience the
same God ultimately. Both these paths lead to the same result in the end if followers live
according to highest moral and ethical principles. None is better than the other.
Patanjali has described eight steps in this yog which include:
Yama-s (restraints) – are nonviolence (ahimsā), truthfulness (satya), control
over all senses (brahmacharya), not taking anything that belongs to others
Niyama-s (rules or practices) – are cleanliness of body and mind (soucha),
contentment (santosha), disciplined effort (tapa), study of scriptures
(svādhyāya), search for God or surrender to God as the top priority (Ishwara
The first two steps (yama-s & niyama-s) are common requirements for all
paths – Bhakti, Karma, Gnāna, & Raj yog.
Āsana-s – yoga postures that are now being taught all over the world is a part
of this yog.
Prānāyāma – control of breathing by various exercises and techniques.
Pratyāhāra – is control of senses or reducing input from all sense organs and
thoughts about external objects.
Dhārana – is preliminary stage of meditation when the mind is trained to
withdraw from all senses and concentrate on an idea or object you want to
attain. Intense concentration is achieved for a short period of time.
Dhyāna – is second stage. The mind is still aware of its separate existence
from the object of meditation (Brahman).
Samādhi – is the final goal of meditation in Rāj Yog. In the final state of
meditation the individual looses her individual ego and feels one with
12. Different Methods Prescribed for Personal Evolution
If we look at our traditions we can find many ways by which we can transform our lives
and evolve. Our choice depends on our aptitude, knowledge, background, circumstances,
etc. We can select one or more of the following:
1. Āshrama-s (stages of life) – Performing duties prescribed for each stage of life.
Āshramas teach us:
III. Abhyāsa more detailed study of scriptures in Vānaprasthāshram – 50 to
Tapa (disciplined effort) in Brahmacharyāshram – first 25 years of life.
Yagna (selfless service) in Gruhasthāshram – age 25 to 50.
IV. Sanyāsa is tyāga or renunciation of all attachments to worldly things &
people in Sanyāsāshram – last stage of life.
Bhakti Yog – Path of Devotion
Four Paths - following one or combination of two or more paths
II. Karma Yog – Path of Action
III. Gnāna Yog – Path of Knowledge
IV. Rāj Yog – Path of Meditation
3. Gunā-s – (basic characteristics of each individual) trying to evolve from tamas
to rajas to sattva (Chapter 14).
Samskāra-s – there are some forty milestones throughout our life that we can
celebrate. They remind us of our duties as we progress from conception to
death (Chapter 15).
5. Deva-s (deities) – each of our deity has some characteristics that we can
emulate. Depending on our weakness we can select appropriate deity. For
example if we need strength we can worship Hanumanji or Durgamātā and
work towards the goal of getting strong and brave.
6. Festivals – there is a meaning or reason for celebrating a festival. Learning
about this can show us a path to further evolution.
7. Vrata – is resolution. Some resolve to ‘not eat salt’, or ‘fast’ or ‘not speak’ on
certain days. This practice improves our will power.
Satsanga – keeping good company and learning from each other.
8. Abhyāsa – study of Bhagavad Gitā, Rāmāyana, etc. and learning from them.
10. Japa – repetition of a mantra or holy name.
11. Dhyāna - Meditation
l2. Yātrā – visiting holy places. Holy places have an effect of making us more
13. Rituals – Most of us have observed or participated in religious ceremonies or
rituals performed by priests in temples or at home. In the Vedic period, fire was
worshiped as a symbol of God. Fire gives heat and light. Light represents
knowledge and knowledge destroys the darkness of ignorance about God. Heat
and knowledge symbolically destroy all our sins (like selfishness, anger,
arrogance, etc.) and purify us.
It is very hard for most of us to imagine or worship a God who is without a
physical existence, a shape or form. We need something more concrete to relate
to or accept. Icons or Murties are created so that we can relate to indescribable
God. We can relate to the unknown through what we know or can experience - a
form or shape or a picture. A Murti is like a mathematical symbol for infinity
(∞). The symbol represents something very hard to explain in words. There is
nothing wrong about worshiping a Murti or to be ashamed of. This is only an
intermediate step to understand and focus on the indescribable and ultimately to
realize or experience the Devine. Later, Icons were created to show super
human powers attributed to different Gods. Rituals are performed to invoke
specific powers and/or obtain special results.
Rituals are often performed without understanding the meaning of the Shloka-s
recited or the reasons for different steps of the puja (worship). Some rituals are
performed to celebrate an occasion like a wedding or birth or death.
Others perform them to fulfill a selfish desire e.g. to obtain more wealth or get
over an illness. The most important reason is to develop an intense devotion
and focus on the ultimate reality - God.
Rituals are performed as a worship of a deity, Icon in the form of a Murti, a
sacred fire, or a drawing. All these represent the formless, invisible,
indescribable God - the universal energy, creator of all. The rituals help us
focus and communicate with the Supreme. Using these aids is not a sin. They
are used in the same way we use mathematical signs like + or =.
It is always better to know the meaning of all Sanskrit Shlokas and the steps of
the puja (worship) ritual. It is quite reasonable to ask the priest reasons for
using a coconut, or water, or leaves, etc. in a puja and 'what do they represent?'
If rituals are performed without proper understanding and only for selfish
reasons they do not help in achieving the ultimate goal of 'Self-realization' or
13. Three Gunā-s
There are three main characteristics or qualities (guna-s) to describe all our thoughts,
speech, and actions. They are called Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. There are no equivalent
They may be very roughly translated as good (Deva, god-like),
passionate (Rākshasa), and bad (Asura). They are like three primary colors – when they
are mixed in different proportions they can make all the other colors. All three gunā-s
exist in all of us in different proportions and create millions of different individual and
The other meaning of gunā is rope, a rope that binds our ātmā down to our body, mind,
intellect, and our sense of ego. The spirit (ātmā), the unlimited power, begins to feel the
pain and limitations of the physical body because of this bondage.
Knowledge about gunā-s help us analyze our own personality, determine our own
weaknesses, and take corrective action so that each individual characteristic changes from
tāmasic to rājsic to sātvic gunā. This can be a road map for our evolutionary path to
Self-realization or Moksha. All of us are capable of improving ourselves. All of us have
all three gunā-s in different proportions in our thoughts, speech, and actions. No one is
perfect and everyone is changing all the time.
Water buffalo, who spends most of its time soaking in mud, is a good example for this
category. There is a lot of inertia, little interest in any activity, no ambition, dull and
sleepy all the time. All of us are tāmasic when we are born, spending all the time in
sleeping, eating, and excreting.
People with this tendency are ignorant of spiritual knowledge or higher values. This is
described as total darkness in the mind. They arrive at wrong decisions in life because of
this ignorance (avidyā) and disorganized thinking. Tāmasic vrutti (tendency) includes
laziness, carelessness, fear, hostility towards all, and uncaring attitude. It also includes
criminal thoughts of breaking laws or rules and violent actions. The color for tamas is
A rājasic person has lots of selfish desires for acquiring worldly goods, ambition for
wealth, power, and lot of energy for activities. He is always busy trying to earn money,
buy things, hoard and protect his possessions, and enjoy. She has very strong likes and
dislikes, and a strong sense of ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘mine’ (ego). He is also prone to some
negative qualities like anger, arrogance, greed, jealousy, and passion. He may employ
unethical means to achieve his goals. Her mood fluctuates and has hard time deciding.
He is not focused, worries a lot, and gets agitated. The color for rajas is red.
A sāttvic person has great desire for spiritual knowledge, has love in heart for everyone,
kindness, compassion, and faith in God. She has clear goals, knows what is right and
wrong, and what her duty is. He works hard to help others without expecting anything in
return. There is great control over all speech and actions. There is absence of all
negative characteristics like anger, greed, arrogance, jealousy, selfish desires, etc. She is
described as ‘pure’ & ‘luminous’. A sāttvic person is anxious for peace and happiness for
all and desire for true knowledge and wisdom. This desire, however noble, still creates
attachment. For salvation (Moksha) one has to go beyond this attachment of sattva to
happiness & knowledge.
Evolve from Tamas to Rajas to Sattva
All of us are working under one of the guna which is predominant and others are dormant
at any moment. Védic Dharma suggests that we evaluate ourselves (not others), find our
weaknesses, make necessary changes, and evolve from tamas to rajas and then to sattva
in all our activities. This gives us a road map of a path for personal evolution.
1. The first step is to realize the need for change.
2. Then we make a decision (sankalpa) to change and find ways about how to
change. Initially we try to change everyone other than ourselves. That does not
work. Then we decide to change ourselves.
3. Next step is to observe our daily activities, even our thoughts objectively, as if we
are somebody else. Find one or two characteristics which are of tāmasic variety
and work on them to change to rājasic to sāttvic.
Activities according to Gunā-s
1. Long term goals:
Tāmasic - Long term goals are to sleep, eat, & destroy others.
Rājasic - Long term goals are for personal pleasure, prestige, power, & prosperity.
Sāttvic - Long term goals are for unity, love, & welfare of all.
2. Attachment to:
Tāmasic – food and sleep.
Rājasic – is attached to action and desire to acquire worldly objects.
Sāttvic – would like happiness & ‘True’ knowledge for all.
Tāmasic – performs actions without due thought about the results, or how actions
are carried out. He denies all responsibility and may get involved in
criminal or violent activities to harm others or himself.
He has no
humility and often procrastinates.
Bhagawad Gitā, XVIII.25, 28
Rājasic – performs activities with arrogance, pomp & show; for selfish reasons to
gain personal possessions, prestige, power, and wealth. These activities
create anxieties, agitation, bitterness, conflict, & anger. Later they may
lead to sorrow & depression.
Bhagawad Gitā, XVIII.24, 27
Sāttvic – actions are performed without likes & dislikes for the action or the
people involved, or insistence on a particular result. Activities are carried
out according to dharma and for peace and welfare of all. Sāttvic person
remains calm in success or failure.
Bhagawad Gitā, XVIII.23, 26
Tāmasic – person does not carry out his duties because of ignorance or laziness.
Rājasic – individual does not perform his duties because of fear of outcome of the
action or if the task is unpleasant or difficult.
Sāttvic – persons carry out all their duties without selfish desire for personal gain
and without fear or difficulty of the task.
Bhagawad Gitā XVIII.9-10.
5. Food (Bhagawad Gitā XVII.7-10)
Type of food
Tāmasic – person eats stale, tasteless, decomposed, or polluted food.
Rājasic – prefers spicy, bitter, sour, salty, or very hot food.
Sāttvic – person eats nutritious food that increases life and strength and
promotes purity of thoughts.
Feelings of the cook
Tāmasic – cook has negative feelings of anger, hate, etc.
Rājasic – thinks about ‘What will I get out of this activity?’
Sāttvic – cook has love in her heart and wants to share the food with all.
Tāmasic – person eats in bar filled with smoke.
Rājasic – person likes fancy restaurant.
Sāttvic – person prefers to eat at home or in temple.
Tāmasic – consumes a lot of food.
Rājasic – eats a lot only if he likes the food.
Sāttvic – person will eat just enough to maintain healthy body.
Tāmasic – eats at irregular hours or eats lying down.
Rājasic – eats while working or walking.
Sāttvic - eats quietly, slowly, regularly.
Tāmasic – individual takes recreational drugs and drinks alcoholic beverages.
Rājasic – drinks excitable caffeinated beverages.
Sāttvic – prefers water, fruit juice, etc.
Tāmasic – person sleeps during the day or while at work.
Rājasic – has difficulty sleeping and has excitable dreams.
Sāttvic – enjoys restful, sound sleep.
Tāmasic – individual talks without thinking, tells lies, complains about
everything, criticizes, and uses obscene language.
Rājasic - talks about ‘I, me, & mine’ all the time.
Sāttvic – person thinks & then tells the truth (satyam) in pleasant words (priyam),
and what is beneficial to all (hitam). Her speech is encouraging and
8. Intellect (Buddhi):
Tāmasic - has false beliefs and delusions. Thinks that which is morally and
ethically ‘right’ is ‘wrong’ & what is ‘wrong’ is ‘right’.
Rājasic – is confused about what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’. He cannot decide
what to do when there is moral dilemma.
Sāttvic – person knows ‘right’ from ‘wrong’, what is according to dharma, and
what is good for all and which brings long-term security.
Bhagawad Gitā XVIII.30-32
9. Pleasure is derived from:
Tāmasic – person feels happy after getting up late in the morning, after getting
intoxicating drinks, doing harm to others, and destruction of property.
Rājasic – individual feels happy during activities that give pleasure from sense
gratification. Activity feels like fun in the beginning but ends up in grief
Sāttvic – person is involved in activities that are good for all. These activities
may be difficult in the beginning but brings long lasting pleasure &
peace to all (Shréyas).
Bhagawad Gitā XVIII.37-39
10. Keeps company of:
Tāmasic – people prefer the company of criminals.
Rājasic – individuals keep company of people who will help him achieve his
selfish goals to become rich & famous.
Sāttvic – keep company of good people (satsang) who live according to Dharma.
11. Reading, listening to music, watching movies
Tāmasic – like trashy, vulgar, and violent entertainment.
Rājasic – prefers exciting literature and movies.
Sāttvic – read, listen, and watch value based entertainment.
12. Rituals (Yagna):
Tāmasic – performs religious ceremony without faith and knowledge about
meaning of mantras or rituals, to gain power over others, harm others,
get strength or wealth to destroy others, to torture his own body, and
without giving gift (dakshinā) to priest (Brahmin).
Rājasic – individual performs rituals to gain personal prestige, profit, or power.
Gift (Dakshinā) is given to priest (Brahmana-s) to show off wealth.
Sāttvic – person performs obligatory rituals with proper understanding of the
meaning of mantras, without expecting anything in return, and with a
resolve to practice all values mentioned in the ritual. Generous gift
(dakshinā) is given to the priest with love and respect.
13. Charity (Dāna):
Tāmasic – individual does not believe in giving any charity or it is given to
unworthy cause or without love and respect.
Rājasic – person regrets when he has to give charity (dāna) or gives to gain
something in return.
Sāttvic - gives willingly, with faith and humility, to the right cause with full
knowledge about the results of his action, as a sense of duty, and without
expectation of getting anything in return.
Bhagawad Gitā XVII.20-22
Tāmasic – person does not have any understanding of the ‘Truth’ (God).
Rājasic – individual can not discriminate ‘right’ from ‘wrong’. He feels that all
life forms as separate from each other and different from himself. Other
life forms are created for his pleasure.
Sāttvic – person feels the same ‘Paramātmā’ (life force) living in the whole
universe, all humans, animals, and even the inanimate objects.
Bhagawad Gitā XVIII.20-22
15. Three characters (brothers) from Rāmāyana:
Tāmasic – character is Kumbhakarna who slept for six months, ate for six months
and fought against Rāma.
Rājasic – brother is Rāvana. He was very intelligent, knowledgeable, strong, and
brave but had weakness for Sita who was married to Rāma.
Sāttvic – brother is Vibhishana. He left Rāvana and joined forces with Rāma to
fight with his brother Rāvana, who had abducted Sita.
16. Tapa (Disciplined effort):
Tāmasic – individual performs tapa with the goal of doing harm to others or for
torturing his self.
Rājasic – person performs tapa for gaining respect, power, or wealth.
Sāttvic – person performs tapa to worship devas with faith and unselfish motive.
Bhagawad Gitā XVII.14-16
Tāmasic – individual is lethargic and vengeful.
Rājasic – is restless and ambitious.
Sāttvic – is calm and focused.
Tāmasic – worship ghosts.
Rājasic – Yaksha-s and Rākshasa-s
Sāttvic – worship Devā-s
Bhagawad Gitā XVII.4
Life is a sacred journey.
So each milestone is celebrated by performing a sacred
ceremony. Family and friends get together, lending support, advice and encouragement.
Samskāra-s are sacraments or holy rites that guide us and remind us about our
responsibilities in life, inspire family togetherness and invoke God’s blessings. There are
40 Sanskāra-s for different milestones in life from conception to the last rites.
Some of the important Sanskāra-s are:
Simantonayana is performed between the sixth and eighth month of pregnancy. Family
takes special care of expectant mother during pregnancy since physical and mental
development of the fetus is dependant on mother’s health. Simant ceremony is performed
to invoke God’s grace for a healthy baby and to remind the family to take good care of
the expectant mother. The mother is advised to eat fresh, wholesome, nutritious food,
read inspiring books, listen to good music and have good, positive thoughts. She is
encouraged to avoid negative feelings of anger, hatred, jealousy, violence, etc. What she
eats, drinks, thinks, watches, hears, reads, will affect the baby.
When the baby is between 6 – 11 days old, the father whispers the baby’s name in the
right ear. Baby’s aunt (father’s sister) has the honor to cradle the baby and announce the
baby’s name. Family and friends give gifts to the baby. The aunt receives special gifts
from baby’s parents for this ceremony.
Personal names have meanings or special
significance. The child is named after a mythological hero or a God’s name. The
selection of a name for a child is very important because the child will emulate the
characteristics of the mythological hero or heroine he/she is named after. The hero or
heroine becomes an inspiration for the rest of his/her life. Every child should know the
meaning of his/her name and the legend behind it. People living outside of India should
select names that are easy to pronounce for the local people.
The sacred thread ceremony is also known as Yagnopaveet. The sacred thread has three
strands to remind the child of his/her responsibilities towards the Guru, parents, and the
community or nation. This ceremony is performed at the age 7 or 8 years when the child
is ready to learn the scriptures (Védas) and the child is introduced to
Brahmacharyāshram. He is given a sacred thread, and taught Gāyatri Mantra.
Wedding ceremony teaches responsibility towards husband, wife, children, community,
and the country. The groom holds hand of the bride and makes a promise that his wife
will be the queen of his home and goddess of his prosperity. He also promises to be firm
like a rock in his love and affection for her. It is very important to learn about the vows
and Sapta padi (seven steps) ceremony before getting married.
Is the last samskāra, a farewell to the departed ātmā (soul).
15. Vivéka Buddhi
Is the ability to discriminate between good and bad, merit and demerit, moral and
immoral, ethical and unethical. It also helps us distinguish between the Self (Ātmā,
indestructible, or permanent) and the non-Self (perishable). No book or teacher can tell
us ‘what to do’ under all circumstances and hence we need to develop our own ‘Vivék
Buddhi’. Some time teachers and books may give us conflicting advice. That is the time
when our own vivéka buddhi helps.
The interaction between body, mind, intellect, and conscience are compared with prince
Arjun sitting in a chariot with five horses driven by Shri Krushna. The horses are our
five senses. If we do not have any control over our senses, we can be driven off a cliff.
Our mind is the reins that control the senses (horses). The reins are in the hands of Shri
Krushna or our vivéka buddhi or conscience. He guides the senses through our mind.
We all can develop this vivék buddhi. It takes in to consideration past experiences and a
long-term view of possible outcomes of any action. What looks like a pleasant (préyas)
and easy path may not be in the best interest of all (shréyas).
Some of the factors that interfere with vivék buddhi are:
Strong likes and dislikes for people and things.
Negative feelings like fear, anger, hate, jealousy, greed, selfish desires, and
Inability to see the ‘big’ picture or the final goal.
How to develop ‘vivék buddhi’? (Bhagawad Gitā, II.62, 63; III.40 – 43).
Have a vision – where do you want to be at the end of the journey.
Give up personal likes & dislikes for people and things. (Bhagawad Gitā, II.
Remove mental impurities mentioned in # 2 above because they interfere with
good decisions. This can be achieved at:
Intellectual level - by study of scriptures and accepting the concept
that Ātmā (soul) is part of Paramātma (God). It is the same in all
living beings and it is indestructible. Ayam ātmā Brahm (My soul is
the Universal Consciousness). Contemplation and meditation on this
Emotional level – by developing love and faith in the Supreme (Bhakti
Physical level – by selfless service (Sewa).
Know your duties for your stage and station in life.
Perform actions for the welfare of all (Bhagawad Gitā III.19, 20), according
to dharma, and with an attitude of service. If the goal is to help only your self
without any consideration for the family, community, country or the world
then it is selfish and against Dharma. Wider the circle of inclusion; more
moral, ethical, or dharmic the decision will be.
Accept results as blessings from God (prasād), give credit to and dedicate
them to the Lord (Bhagawad Gitā, IX.27).
Analyze all thoughts, words, and deeds – why, how, what next, etc.
16. Yathā Yogyam Tathā Kuru
In the end do what you think is appropriate.
Uddharet ātmanā ātmānam na ātmānam avasādyet
Ātmā eva hee ātmanah bandhu ātmā eva ripuhu ātmanah
You can lift yourself up (but) do not degrade yourself.
You only are your (true) friend and you are your enemy.
Bhagawad Gitā, VI.5
In the last chapter Shri Krushna in Bhagawad Gitā tells Arjun:
“Vimrushya etat asheshana yathā icchasi tathā kuru”
Think (about) all that (I have said) and then do as you please. (The choice is yours.)
Bhagawad Gitā, XVIII.63
“Do not accept what I have said because it has been so said in the past;
Do not accept it because it has been handed down by tradition;
Do not accept it thinking it may be so;
Do not accept it because it is in Holy Scriptures;
Do not accept it because it can be proven by inference;
Do not accept it thinking it is worldly wisdom;
Do not accept it because it seems to be plausible;
Do not accept it because it is said by a famous or holy monk;
But if you find that it appeals to your sense of discrimination and conscience as
being conducive to the benefit and happiness of all; then accept it and live up to
Best wishes for a very fruitful and enlightening journey.
ॐ Shantihi Shantihi Shantihi.
Appendix I. Some Interesting Quotes about India
“In India I found a race of mortals living upon the Earth but not adhering to it, inhabiting
cities but not being fixed in them, possessing everything but possessed by nothing.”
Appolonius Tyanaeus (1st Century CE)
Greek thinker and traveler
“Whenever I have read any part of the Védas, I have felt that some unearthly and
unknown light illuminated me. In the greatest teachings of the Védas, there is no touch of
sectarianism. It is of all ages, climes and nationalities and the royal road for the
attainment of the Great Knowledge.”
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
American naturalist, philosopher and writer
"India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe's languages:
she was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the Arabs, of much of our
mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother,
through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in
many ways the mother of us all"
Will Durant (1885 – 1981)
“The ancient civilization of India differs from those of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Greece,
in that its traditions have been preserved without breakdown to present day.”
Arthur Basham (1914 – 1986)
"India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of
history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most
valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India
Mark Twain (1835 – 1910)
"The Bhagavad-Gita is the most systematic statement of spiritual evolution of endowing
value to mankind. It is one of the most clear and comprehensive summaries of perennial
philosophy ever revealed; hence its enduring value is subject not only to India but to all
Aldous Huxley (1894 – 1963)
"India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to
send a single soldier across her border."
Former Ambassador of China to USA
Appendix II. Great Reformers of India – A Timeline
Véda-s are timeless scriptures that were revealed to Rooshi-s (sages) and passed on from
one generation to the next by repetition and memorizing. Great Rooshi-s did not leave
their names or claimed copyright. Research scholars have developed new chronologies
based on position of stars as described in Véda-s and Purana-s. For example, a Roog
Védic verse describes winter solstice at Aries that correlates to around 6500 BCE (8,500
years ago). Scholars, from East and West, now believe the Roog Véda people who called
themselves Āryan were indigenous to India, and there never was an Āryan invasion.
There is evidence of travel, trade, and exchange of knowledge between China, Persia,
South East Asian, Eastern Mediterranean countries and India since prehistoric times.
5000 BCE – Well planned cities developed along Sindhu and Saraswati rivers
3100 BCE - Mahābhārat war – Dharma is taught by Shri Krushna to Arjun and recorded
by Véd Vyās as Bhagawad Gitā. People were performing rituals to obtain wealth and
power for themselves. Some pandits were wasting time on philosophical and religious
discussions. Bhagawad Gitā emphasizes ‘selfless service’ for the benefit of the society
and ‘performance of one’s own duty without expecting anything in return’. It becomes a
handbook on how to live one’s life.
2600 – 2000 BCE - Sindu-Saraswati river civilization reaches its peak.
2000 BCE - Saraswati river dries up and people migrate.
600 BCE - A unified Bhāratiya culture has developed. Sushruta develops complex
surgical techniques like reconstruction of nose.
599 to 527 BCE - Mahāvir Swami is born in a Hindu family. He emphasized Ahimsā,
Moksha, and Bhrahmacharya to address weaknesses in the society such as violence and
sensuous pleasure oriented activities.
563 to 483 BCE - Gautam Buddha is born in a Hindu family. He also addressed
weaknesses in the society like violence, reliance on rituals to gain wealth & power,
endless intellectual discussions on religious practices, etc. and suggested ‘eight fold path’
consisting of right thought, right speech, right action etc.
321 BCE - Maurya dynasty rules over whole of India. Great advances in the fields of art,
science, economy, music, dance, architecture, astronomy, etc. are achieved.
200 BCE - Tiruvalluvar writes ‘Tirukural’ – a treatise on ethics.
320 CE - Gupta dynasty rules over all of India.
800 CE – Shri Ādi Shankarāchārya revives Hinduism.
1469 CE - Guru Nānak is born in a Hindu family. Hindus were divided by caste etc. and
were being persecuted by Muslims. He taught equality of all and his followers later
advocated carrying Kirpan for self-defense.
1825 to 1883 – Swami Dayānanda Saraswati emphasized life according to original
teachings from Véda-s, devotion to one God, universal love, justice, equality of men and
women, disciplined living, and service of mankind.
1863 to 1902 - Swami Vivekānanda introduced Europe and USA to Védānta and Yoga
and spoke at The Parliament of World’s Religions in Chicago (1893). He later started
1869 to 1948 – Mahātma Gāndhi - for the first time in the history of the world mighty
British and other European empires are destroyed by civil disobedience movement,
started by Mahātmā Gāndhi, based on truth and nonviolence. He lived according to the
teachings of Bhagawad Gitā.
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