Over the years, there have been many people who have tried to denigrate the different gods and goddesses. These forms of supreme divinity ensure the devout Hindu has a good day. Our parents taught us to thank god every morning once we wake up and after taking a shower or bath. Whether we liked it or not, we did it. One can call it being afraid of Mom’s yelling or dad’s wrath, but we did go and offer our ablutions to the divine entity of our choice. Some would say, this became a habit. We took a bath and went straight to offer our pranams to the divine. Once done, we could bravely face mom’s question, asked every day “Did you pray”! YES, I DID!!
When we read the different comic books, the Amar Chitra Katha, Panchatantra and other books, we went back in time to relive those days the narrator wants us to relive. When we heard someone criticize one of these divine beings, that was as close to blasphemy as one could get! Aah, the good old days!
We then went through the rebellious questioning phase with questions like “If god really exists, can he change my parents to more tolerable ones”! However, we did come out alive and better! It could be because of divine intervention, because of our hard work or a combination of both, but we are now home free. We now realize there is a power, that is unknown to us, that is inexplicable but plays a role in our everyday life. We all have our quirks, who doesn’t, but all of us grew up in almost similar backgrounds. Now, we are able to decipher right from wrong and good from the bad.
When someone says something as blasphemous as Devdutt Patnaik did, it raises the ire of many devout Hindus. For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, he said “Asuras live underground while the Devas live above the ground. Asuras create wealth (Lakshmi) while the Devas yank her out. This makes Lakshmi, Asura-putri (daughter of an Asura) and Deva-Patni (Wife of the devas).” His logic is that Lakshmi is found underground in the form of gold and other precious metals. He also has called Mahadevi a restless goddess who used to be with Indra but went to become Vishnu’s consort. It may be that his English is not as good and what he really meant to say was Deva-Patni (Wife of A Deva). I’m just trying to see what the reasoning could be for this interpretation!
Each person has an interpretation of the Vedas and the Puranas and that’s the beauty of Sanathana Dharma. There is no right or wrong interpretation. Unlike the Abrahamic religions, Sanathana Dharma allows the reader to interpret the Puranas in a way that allows the person to get closer to divinity. I heard an atheist (Nastik) friend of mine interpret the Pandavas as being the five senses while the Kauravas were the different distractions that one faces in attaining peace. The Mahabharata itself was the way to gain victory over distractions, he opined. I wanted to ask him if he felt Yuyutsu and Vikarna were distractions. After all, Vikarna was as righteous as Yuyutsu, although Vikarna stayed on with the Kauravas, and perished, while Yuyustsu decided to fight alongside the Righteous Pandavas! Yuyutsu, according to some, was the only one of a hundred sons of the blind king Dhritarashtra that survived what is considered the Greatest War of all time! There was no one that could stay unaligned in this war! I didn’t have the heart to shatter my friends’ fallible logic.
The point is, our scriptures allow us to interpret them in a way that suits us. Even Devdutt Patnaik is allowed this luxury.
When one learns about Sanathana Dharma, one learns that this is the most lenient in allowing one to interpret it in as many ways as possible. The one thing that it doesn’t allow is to disrespect the goddesses. When people showed outrage at M F Hussain’s painting of a nude Durga (Forgive me, my divine mother), it clearly crossed a line that the tolerant and, some would say, dormant Hindus woke up to. This outrage was primarily because the divine mother was disrespected and next because he dared to disrespect a woman.
The same outrage is not seen nor experienced when we, knowingly or unknowingly, disrespect the divine. I have seen many a Hindu visit temples wearing shorts. I am not asking you to wear a suit, nor am I asking you to wear a Dhoti, although it would be nice to see men wearing a dhoti, but a pair of jeans and a nice shirt would not hurt! After all, what example are we setting for our children, when we go dressed in shorts? Shouldn’t we be outraged that the very same people, who came to the temple in shorts, are probably going to the church in a suit? We go to the temple as if we are doing the divine a favor by being there! Really? We then have the gall to claim that we go to the temple every weekend! We go, most of the time, to attain peace and a rejuvenating energy to face what may come! That is only possible at a temple!
The same outrage isn’t seen when we, seemingly apologetically, explain to guests, from other faiths, about Hanuman as “The Monkey Faced God” or about Ganesh as “The Elephant Faced God”. We could tell the guests that Sanathana Dharma sees divinity in every living thing! We choose not to, for fear of offending these guests!
Shouldn’t we be outraged that the poor priests live on variable income, totally dependent on us, and devotees condescendingly give them a tip as if they did the priest a favor? Shouldn’t we be offended that the average priest lives a life of near poverty? And we call ourselves human beings and talk about having a heart! How different are we from those that call us Kafirs? At least they have an excuse! They’re from a different faith! What’s our excuse? With friends like us, why would priests need enemies???
Sanathana Dharma has been there, I don’t need to remind you, for over 7000 years and it will survive these tumultuous times too. We may not realize this, but the legacy we are leaving our children and their children is the one that’s going to be tainted. Are we the type of people that care for our legacy or are we the type of people that have the devil-may-care attitude? Only we can decide which of these options we prefer!
ऊँ नमः शिवय। हरे श्रीनिवास:।