Book: Hindu Dharma, Written by Swami Chandrashekarendra
People are caught between two groups holding opposing views. On the
one side they feel the pull of individuals like us who maintain that
must take to the path shown by the sastras; on the other they find
themselves drawn in the opposite direction by the reformers who want
these sastras to be changed. From a youthful age people nowadays are
used to reading reports extolling the changes that go by the name of
reforms. It is all due to the influence of modern education. All this
notwithstanding, people have not altogether given up the old customs. A
fraction of the dharmas laid down in the sastras and followed for ages
still to be seen in our domestic and social life. On the one hand, there
the habit formed by custom and, on the other, the habit now being
learned through the new system of education.
It is universally recognised that contentment is lacking in the modern
of life. People don't dispute the fact that the peace that once existed
the previous generations no longer obtains today. They have more money
now -or that at any rate is the belief. But are they yet free from
The claim is made that everything is in abundance, that we grow more
food than what is needed. Yet there is anxiety everywhere about the
supply of essentials.
In the place of the old thatched hut or modest titled house now stands a
multistorey building. Then we had just four or five utensils to cook, a
basket made of palm-fronds, containers made of gourd shells. Now the
house is crammed with all sorts of articles and gadgets that are part of
today's "civilized" life. People enjoy new comforts and make new
acquisitions, yet they are not as happy and contented as were their
Even now there are people who at heart long for a life of peace lived
according to the old tradition. But they do not have the courage to give
up either the trammels of modern life or the feeling of pride in the
changes effected under the reformist movement. They are in an awkward
predicament because they are not fully committed either to the
traditional way of life or to the new. Let me tell you how people cannot
decide for themselves-how they are neither here nor there. In most
homes you will see Gandhiji's portrait and mine. Now Gandhiji advocated
widow marriage-and I ask people to wear a sikha. Those who respect
Gandhiji do not, however, have the courage to marry widows nor do they
have the courage to wear a sikha. Poor people, they have no moorings
and keep swinging between one set of beliefs and another. We must have
the courage of our convictions and unflinching faith in the sastras.
If we start making small compromises in our adherence to the sastras, it
will eventually mean following only such scriptural practices as we find
convenient in our everyday life. Some people tell me with all good
intentions: "The dharmasastras are the creation of rsis. You are like a
You must make changes in the sastras in keeping with the times. “Their
view is that just as we remove weeds from the fields we must change our
customs and duties according to our times. If I take out some rites and
observances from sastras now, thinking them to be "weeds", later
another man will turn up and remove for the same reason. At this rate, a
time will come when we will not be able to distinguish the weed from the
crop and the entire field will become barren.
It is important to realise that if we are to remain true to the sastras
not because they represent the views of the seers but because they
contain the rules founded on the Vedas which are nothing but what
Isvara has ordained. That is the reason why we must follow them. It is
duty to see that the sastras are preserved as they are. I have no
to change them.
We must not give up the sastric way of life thinking it to be difficult
follow. If we are not carried away by the glitter of modern mundane
if we reduce our wants and do not run after money, there will be no need
to abandon the customs and rites laid down by our canonical texts. If we
are not obsessed with making money there will be plenty of time to think
of the Lord. And peace, contentment and happiness will reign.
Money is not essential to the performance of the rites enjoyed by the
sastras, nor is pomp and circumstance essential to worship. Even dried
tulasi and bilva leaves are enough to perform puja. The rice we cook for
ourselves will do as the naivedya. "Marriage is also a sastric ceremony.
We spend a lot of money on it. What about such expenses? " it is asked.
All the lavish display we see at weddings today are unnecessary and do
not have the sanction of the scriptures. Specifically, the dowry that
such a substantial part of the marriage expenses has no scriptural
sanction at all. If money were important to the performance of the rites
enjoyed by our canonical texts it would mean that our religion is meant
for rich people. In truth it is not so.
Of the four aims of life - dharma, material acquisitions, desire and
liberation - we seek gratification of kama alone (in the form of
love, etc.). And to have our desires satisfied we keep struggling to
material things. Our efforts must be directed towards obtaining
through the practice of dharma. All that we need to do for this ideal is
resolve to live a simple life. There should then be no compulsion to run
after money and other material goods and other. It would naturally
become easier for us to practice dharma and reap the ultimate fruit that
is eternal bliss.