Limits to traditions


We feel very proud to listen to people saying “Hindu religion is one of the oldest religion that has survived today.” But the important question is “Has it really survived?”. This is not only the important question in our religion but this applies to most of the religion that exits today. These thoughts popped into my mind after watching Mahabharat. The views expressed here might be misguided but I wanted to try to express what I learned from Bhagawat Gita and Mahabharat.

I will start with a couple of examples from Hindu tradition and try to make a point.

Take an example of “Sati Pratha“. In ancient time, the tradition of “Sati Pratha” might make sense (still it doesn’t make sense to me). If you don’t know “Sati Pratha“, then it is “an ancient Hindu tradition where wife gives up her life on the funeral pyre along with her dead husband.” The women going to Sati as explained in holy books were among the elites (princess or wife of a sage or a respected figure). Most of them were not forced but respected this tradition and were willing to be a “Sati” to show their love and respect towards their husband. They thought the world is not the same without their loved ones and in despair decided to give up their life on the funeral pyre along with their beloved ones. In those ancient days of Gods, Maya and Magic, people knew forsure that Heaven exits. The courageous act to be “Sati” was a path to the Heaven. Its a myth in the modern world to witness that much love and respect for his/her spouse.

70 years back, in Nepal and some parts of India, “Sati Pratha” was still prevalent. Some might be amazed on how the tradition from the days of Gods, Maya and Magic survived till this age of Science and Technology. No need be amazed it did survive. But only the tradition survived but the holy environment and society didn’t make it. The women going to “Sati” in this modern age were mostly a) poor and belonged to so-called “low-cast” b) victim of early and child marriage c) illiterate d) evil in-laws e) forced by so-called “novel society”. “Sati” was not a choice to these women but a forced outcome. There was nothing to prove to the god by forcing those poor children of god to “Sati“. The society and the holy environment of the era of god no longer exist so as a society we failed by carrying the tradition of “Sati” until this era. Then why did this “Sati” tradition lasted this long?

Now, let’s take an example which still happens today. Many women are forced to live a miserable life during their mensuration cycle in many rural parts of Nepal. During menstruation cycle, they are forced out of their home to live with cows and other domestic animals. They are given even less respect than those animals. Many women die because of the harsh conditions they have to cope with. I don’t have the source of how this tradition of disdain towards the woman came from. Why are they treated so badly? I don’t think there is holy text which says to behave rudely towards women in their menstruation. So if it’s not written in the holy book where did this tradition came to life? I think, one of the source this should have originated in the society who couldn’t afford proper sanitary methods and cleanliness techniques. So for cleanliness purposes, these women might have been asked to stay away from the kitchen and other important places where cleanliness is very important. Then, other people started followed this blindly without knowing the actual purpose. I believe the purpose of forbidding the women to important places during her period was for cleanliness reason in the old ages where there were scarce resources for sanitation. But why are we still following this awful tradition in this modern age where she has many ways to be clean and pristine during her period?

Now, let’s take an example “forced arrange marriages” which is currently destroying many lives. No matter how educated the family is, most of them force their daughter to marry a person who they seem fit for her. In one perceptive, this is not bad at all. As the parents only wish best for her daughter they will only try to get a match who can keep her happy and prosperous for all her life. They search the match keeping all status: financial, social and education in mind. From their point of view, the parents are only trying to accomplish their duty of finding the best match for their invaluable daughter. It doesn’t matter how good a match the parents find for their daughter, it is her fate, courage, choices, belief, patience, diligence, commitment, and karma that will make her married life happy and prosperous. In many cases, the parents force their daughter to give her current love relationship so that they can marry their daughter to whom they deem fit. If we look into the Hindu tradition, the girl has the right to choose her own husband. We can take examples of princess Kunti, Gandhari, Draupadi, Rukmani and much more who had exercised their rights to choose their husband. In some cases, they rebelled where this right was suppressed. In short, this important right of girls was very much respected in ancient time. There are lots of wars that broke because some girl was deprived of this birthright. But why this good Hindu tradition of letting the girl choose her future husband which was even obeyed by gods themselves is being violated in this modern era?

I gave three different examples of Hindu tradition which were being followed from ancient time till now. The first two examples were somehow relevant in the ancient age but are strictly irrelevant in this modern age as the environment, situation, economics, and society structure have gone tremendous change. The last example was valid during the ancient age and is still valid today. But why are we following the tradition that only brings misery to people and violating the tradition that has the possibility of giving a new life? There could be many answers to this question. My description might not provide satisfactory answer still I will try. In my view, the traditions were established by people in power like Queens, Kings, Princess, Prince, High Priest and council members of the kingdom in ancient time for the benefit of all the people. These traditions and laws were enforced to all people by motivating them that this path leads to self-awareness and heaven. As time passed, the era of god was over and came the era of humans where all the magic and maya disappeared. Taking advantage of this, human in power started to bend the knobs of the culture, moral value, traditions, rituals, and religion to suit their needs. These egocentric people changed the meaning and story behind the traditions to benefit their own needs neglecting the common people in the society. As hundreds of years passed on, these tinkered traditions were being followed without knowing their original significance and without questioning the validity of the ritual and traditions.

I don’t think the people suffering from the first (“Sati”) and second, (“mensuration”) problem have access to this blog. But for the people suffering from the third problem (“forced arrange marriage”), I have some teachings to share. You are women who is very respectable and is the genesis of every new life on earth. You have the right to choose your future husband. Your parents love you very much and always want you to be happy but that doesn’t mean you have to let go of the person whom you love and marry the perfect person your parents have searched for you. Gather courage to say “no” to the proposal you don’t like. Take control of your life in your own hands. You have the power to choose. It’s not only up to you to make your future prosperous, so just make the choices without expectation of any results. Exercise the right that was given to you from the ancient age. The match found by your parents might be better in every quality (financial, personal and educational) than the person you love but the choice is always your.

We should all respect our religion and all the religion that exits in this world. Religion is a force that has blinded human for large-scale cooperation and survival. But respecting doesn’t mean following it without questioning. Question the validity or the purity of the ritual or tradition you are following. If you get confused, read the holy books, epics, and veds. If you can’t read it, ask a novel priest to sort out your confusion. Don’t be the prisoner of centuries-old rituals and tradition. Always believe in yourself. Always know that both good and bad resides inside you. In Bhagwat Gita, Lord Shree Krishna said, “Fate (Bhagya) does exist. Somethings are meant to happen. But your choices can change what is already written. I don’t do bookkeeping of your good and bad deeds. I don’t interfere with your future. Your past choices define who you are right now. You are the only one to blame for your deeds. You had different choices to choose from. Your particular choices of action have brought you where you now. Only what to choose is in your control. You don’t have control to the results of your choice or action. The results of your action are intertwined between the choices of millions of other living beings. Don’t worry about the results of the action you do. Just do your duty or karma without any expectation of any results.” No one is perfect.  Everyone is fighting a battle between good and bad inside themselves. You have the power to bring the shade of goodness or darkness in other persons life. Choose wisely.

“Nishkam Karmayog”

“If you don’t fight for what you want, then don’t cry for what you lost.”


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