You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : May 1998

PART I-Sec. 1-Into.-4 0f 4

From: Nutech (
Date: Fri May 01 1998 - 08:01:49 PDT

Dear Bhagavatas,
With this posting,we conclude Section 1-Introduction in Part I on MYTHS.

Some anecdotes from our Scriptures with comments will follow in the
subsequent posts before we start on 'MIRACLES' and 'MYSTICISM'. After
the completion of the series, you may raise any queries and offer any
constructive comments to improve the quality of this presentation.

Anbil Ramaswamy
In the following pages, we allude to episodes randomly selected from our
scriptures. We hasten to assure you that it is not our intention to
explain the inexplicable or to defend the indefensible or justifying the
unjustifiable. All we seek is to figure out whether and if so what moral
values these episodes hold for us and whether and if so, how far they
are still relevent to the modern times. 

It should, however, be noted that the inexplicability or indefensibility
or unjustifiability stem from the social mileu of the times when the
events occured which we from such a distant period of time are unable to
comprehend, much less appreciate. It is difficult for people of one age
to judge the customs and moral mores of another age so far removed from
their own times. It requires a good amount of imagination and
flexibility of mind even to understand and then to assess the merits and
defects of systems with which we are not familiar. For example, let us
take the conversation between Rama and Bharata, otherwise known as

Bharata comes to the forest to plead with his elder brother, Rama to
return and take over the reigns of Ayodhya that rightly belonged to him
by virtue of the law of primogeniture. He advances several arguments
which Rama is not able to refute. But, finally Rama explodes a bombshell
saying "It was our parents' wish that I be banished for 14 years. How
can we transgress this wish?
" Matha Pitubhyaam uktoham,Katham Anyath Samachare?
(Valmiki Ramayana Ayodhyakaanda104-22)   
On hearing this, Bharata becomes speechless and had nothing further to
plead against. This was because implicit obedience to the parents was
the accepted inalienable norm of behavior for children and even the
thought of disregarding them would never cross the minds of children in
the Ramayana days.

Times have changed so much now that even consideration let alone respect
for elders and parents have become not only non-existent but also that
positive insult and elder abuse if not injury have become the hallmark
of the pseudo culture of modern society. In this background, the very
essence of the debate culminating  on the note of obedience to the wish
of parents cannot be countenanced or digested now. The redeeming
feature, however, is that today's youths also get old much sooner than
they imagine and would realize their folly when their own progenies pay
them back in their own coin by a repeat performance towards them.

Apart from the yawning time-divide, the space-divide also plays an
important role in altering attitudes. For example, In the holy place of
Badarikaashramam on the lap of Himalayas flows river Alaknanda whose
water is so bitterly cold that as you dip your finger in the water, the
finger loses its sensibility. Adjacent to Alaknanda is a hot water
spring called Taptakunda (meaning a boiling cauldron) the water of which
is always at a boiling point with a liberal dose of sulphur that on
being dipped, raw rice can get cooked. Nearby lies a rocky surface
called Brahma Kapaalam 
(literally meaning the skull of Brahma). Orthodox Hindus trekking from
far south take bath in a mixture of the two waters, reach up to the
Brahma Kapaalam for offering obsequies to 14 generations of their dead
ancestors. At this time,they are expected to wear only a dhothy wrapped
around their waist leaving the chest uncovered and shivering in the
spine-chilling  cold and gusty winds at that altitude. But, the priest
who is the master of ceremonies is fully clad from head to foot with a
closed woolen coat neatly buttoned up. What is worse is that even while
uttering the holy mantras, he never stops puffing up smoke from his
cigar. Smoking is taboo even normally, more so in a religious rite.
Nevertheless, the only priest available at the dizzy and cold heights of
the mountain range is condoned even by the devout- since they deem it as
'Desa Aachara'- (the local custom). While the tourists come and go, the
priest remains day and night thoughout the year exposed to the incessant
cold. To keep himself warm to be serviceable enough, he has to resort to
the clothing and the smoking.

When even in Bharatavarsha known as Karma Bhumi ( place of action), such
a deviation from the strict codes of attire and habit find relaxed
dictated by circumstances, it is no wonder that the rigidity of the
codes get much diluted in far off places with similar climatic
conditions like in the U.S.A which is euphemistically called 'Bhoga
Bhumi'( Place of enjoyment)

It should be remembered that 'Exceptions prove the rule'. Just because
solitary instances like the above do occur cannot be made an excuse for
deliberately indulging in deviate behavior. Our tendency, however, is to
make the exception  - the rule! But, even today, we find quite a handful
of orthodox Hindus who refuse to compromise and consciously strive to
live up to the norms prescribed in th Sastras giving the lie direct to
the claim of some that it is not possible nor necessary to stick to the
rules in the so called "Bhoga Bhoomi"

Therefore, we seek to highlight the value systems that governed the day
to day life of our forebears as revealed in the mythological episodes -
values which are as valid today as they were at the time they
flourished. We may benefit by following them, of course, mutatis
mutandis. to suit the compulsions of modern times and climes but without
eroding the values themselves.
(Introduction Concluded)