A new dawn, today
Today is Ugadi/Gudi Padwa; the Hindu new year. Let's hope that this year brings a new awakening. As the scriptures say, there is dusk before dawn. While we wait for the tide to turn, we can turn to more ancient wisdom, for solace.
If we think for a moment, this whole world ( planet earth) is a mere spec in the entire cosmos. The entire solar system is such a tiny part of the Milky Way Galaxy. Could it be that our beliefs were wrong, that we thought we are a lot more important than we actually are? This is perhaps nature's way of showing humans, that, inspite of all our fancy gadgets, missiles and whatnots, we are actually powerless in the face of nature.
So, what is the way forward? We can turn to Hinduism for answers. Although it is important to note that Hinduism does not urge conversions.
Let me clarify first, i am not trying to convert anyone to being Hindu. Hindus respect all religions, and people are free to choose one or more of the Hindu principles, but do not need to convert. To understand better, the Hindu way of life-
Hinduism believes that there are 8.4 million forms of birth, ( species), and based on a person's karma, the soul is reborn in a new body. Of all the species, the human birth is the most valuable birth, for it is the only one that enables a person to think, and move to the next level of existence- Moksha. Once moksha is attained, there is no more rebirth. The soul becomes part of heaven, or eternal bliss.
Moksha frees one from the circle of birth and death, and hence every human should aspire to reach that level. The human birth is very hard to achieve, for it comes after many cycles of births and deaths of animals/insects ( in which we are helpless), and this is the only birth that gives the power to break that cycle.
The next question, how does one reach Moksha, which should be the ultimate aspiration of life?
Ashrama in Hinduism is one of four age-based life stages discussed in Indian texts . The four ashramas are: Brahmacharya (student), Grihastha (householder), Vanaprastha (retired) and Sannyasa (renunciate). It is combined with four proper goals of human life (Purusartha), for fulfilment, happiness and spiritual liberation.
During the student phase- focus on learning from elders
Householder phase- focus on work and family
Retired phase- focus on prayer
Renunciation phase- leave all attachments to this world, and renounce desires, even while alive.
In the ancient days, it was commonplace that, in the last phase ( vanaprasthashram- vana means a jungle and prastha means to enter); people left all material possessions, and retreated to the jungles, where they even sacrificed their bodies to wild animals as food.
Contrast that with today, where life seems to be a continuum of accumulation of material possessions and desires, to the extent that a person is reluctant to give up anything; regardless of their age. Whether it is Covid-19 or any other harbinger of death, everyone is afraid. The fact is that we need to be prepared for anything, for life is unpredictable at all times. Perhaps, going back to old age Indian wisdom might help us cope mentally, and be prepared for different stages of life, rather than panic.
Finally, best wishes for a safe and happy Ugadi ( Hindu new year)!
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