Are our homes transforming into mere places of relaxation and entertainment?
When we look back a couple of centuries of our own lineage, the world was very different from what we live in today. Hundreds of years of incessant invasion and living under hostile rulers had dented the economic prosperity and social harmony of the country. Much against all odds, our ancestors held our culture together. The principles and traditions that formed the basis of our culture were preserved through practices that intertwined into day-to-day living. Without a central authority that directed these, every home and every family continued the traditions and practices, since, धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः - dharma protects those who uphold or protect dharma, was one of the central beliefs.
Every home was a centre of dharma - every community had a responsibility towards serving the society. They cared for their responsibilities more than their rights. Every aspect of living was connected to the basic tenets or the philosophical foundations of the civilisation that thrived in Bharata.
Art and aesthetics were an integral part of home and living - the design of homes, decorations of the walls, elaborate dresses and turbans they wore, decking up their gods, rangoli that marked their houses everyday, are all indicators of refined living.
Literature was an invaluable and irreplaceable aspect of day-to-day living. Literature of puranas and itihasa of the land were passed on as oral tradition of singing and chanting through generations. Every region and every linguistic group or community developed their own literature that not only represented the basic tenets of life, but connected those to every day-to-day activity. Hence, songs set into music, called through various names such as tatva, pada etc, were abound and associated with every routine and auspicious activities. singing while cooking, doing pooja, cleaning, attending to children and putting them to sleep, ploughing or even while walking a distance was in practice.
Festivals played an important role of strengthening beliefs and values, connecting with nature, integrating art, aesthetics, music and literature in celebrating the good in everything.
Learning was central to the lives of our ancestors. Defined milestones of learning in one’s life were celebrated - अक्षराभ्यास, उपनयन etc. Primary education happened completely at home including education related to specific skills and trades required for living. Going to a school/गुरुकुल was optional as many homes were capable of catering to all the educational needs. Education included experiencing and practicing everything - art, music, literature, acquiring specialised knowledge and living for the society. Education would provide both संस्कार and ज्ञान - the refinement of the mind to be a good human being with the right value system, and the specialised and tactical knowledge to make a living.
Everyday life of ancestors were governed by rules to ensure consistency and continuity of sanatana dharma.
सुखार्था: सर्वभूतानां मता: सर्वा: प्रवृत्तय: । सुखं च न विना धर्मात् तस्मात् धर्मपरो भवेत् ।। All beings seek happiness. Happiness cannot be attained without righteous conduct. Righteous conduct is essential. नास्ति विद्या समं चक्षु नास्ति सत्य समं तप:। नास्ति राग समं दुखं नास्ति त्याग समं सुखं || There is no sight better than knowledge as it gives the vision to see the not so obvious. There is no better ardor than truth (satya). There is no greater sorrow than desire, and there is no higher happiness than renunciation (tyaga).
Right thoughts, right conduct and pursuing higher goals for an individual's life was the natural order.
The British rule not only brought economic hardships, but also perpetrated systematic assault on the refined living of our ancestors. English education that was thrust on our society deliberately denigrated the beliefs, traditions and practices to infuse an inferiority complex amongst us. They succeeded in their machivations, or maybe even a little more that they aspired for. The practices, traditions, beliefs and awareness of the philosophical tenets of sanatana dharma started waning and in fact accelerated in the last couple of generations.
Today, we live in a very different world. Today’s economic situation allows us to afford acquisition of material for comfort and luxury. We have access to and can acquire degrees in universities, travel the world and acquire the best of material from any part of the world.
As for education, which is of importance to our discussions, today we believe school is the place for education. We feel providing resources required for our children’s education is our job and hold the school, tuition centre etc responsible for our children’s education, against the fee we pay. As for our homes, we furnish and equip with material and services, live a life which teaches our children to experience the sensory pleasures that money can buy.
Wholesome living where art, music, literature, living for the society, learning and pursuit of higher goals are seamlessly and inextricably intertwined into daily practices seem to be vanishing. Vanity, focus on self and indulgence in materialistic pursuits seem to become the norm.
Change is both essential and inevitable. Change for the better needs to be promoted and pursued. Change leading to dilution of human character and values needs to be prevented and reversed.
Can we use the favorable economic situations, access to information and facilities today’s world to our advantage while we reclaim our heritage? Our homes which are fast becoming mere centres for relaxation of enjoyment should once again become sacred places of refined living - learning for life and pursuit of higher goals.