Cut to COVID-19: You hear advises like maintain healthy social distancing; wash your hands frequently; don’t shake hands, say Namaste of India; do yoga and meditation to build immunity. Statista (a business data company) recently, based on WIN/ Gallup International survey, published where Europeans wash (and don’t wash) their hands after using the toilets. Not washing the hands after using toilet has been unimaginable in India. These practices are great and will surely benefit to deal with COVID- 19 pandemic. But let me today share with you something more fundamental of Hinduism- The Hindu Way of Life, it’s 4x4x4 Pillars.
Hinduism is the oldest, better say, mother civilization of the World. Don’t believe! Please watch ‘The story of India- Episode 1’ produced by BBC, narrated by historian Michael Wood. It is free of cost, 27×7, available on youtube.
The story says the first human being was born in Africa and migrated to the south of India. It is supported by DNA testing. Then, much of human civilization developed in the Indus valley. The Indus valley mainly comprised today’s Kashmir of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Hindukush. The residents of Indus valley came to be known as Hindus.
Interestingly, that way of life of Hindus have still survived over thousands of year. Fashions and fads come and go. We all know, it is only the logic and logical that survive.
I wish to share with you the 4x4x4 pillars of the Hindu Way of Life or say Hinduism, because those ways of life are as much as, or perhaps more, relevant in the 21st Century as they were then. Hindus today live in all parts of the World and are liked everywhere, as visitors, residents, citizens, workers, owners and professionals. Why? The reason is that Hindus continue to follow, by and large, those 4x4x4 ways of life.
The First 4 are four ‘purasarthas’. The Second 4 are the four ‘Varnas’. The Third 4 are the four ‘ashramas’. These are Sanskrit words. We will provide translation in the following:
Purasartha is motivations of human efforts and action. Maslow talked of 5 motives or needs motivating human effort, namely, Physiological Needs, Safety Needs, Love and Belonging Needs, Esteem Needs and Self- actualization Needs.
In the Hindu Way of Life, many generations before Maslow, the four purasarthas or motivations for human effort were stated as Dharma, Artha, Kaam and Mokasha. Dharma is sense of duty (Integrity in conduct and action); Artha is generating income and wealth by Dharma; Kaam is using Artha for self, family and social good; and Moksha is relinquishing the cravings of this world. A human being who conducted himself or herself guided by these motives would be definitely valued as a productive member of the society.
These motives have been, long ago, very concisely summed up as ‘ atmano mokshanarathye, jagat hitey ch.’ The ultimate goal of life is detaching from this world, while doing good to the society. The important to note is ‘and’. It is not or. Hindu way of life is aimed to live with austerity, do good to the society, and finally detach from this world. Think for a moment, if people overcome cravings for this world, the fear of loss and death will be less, people will be psychologically strong, the load on the medical system will be less; there will more resources for healthy living of the society.
The four Vernas are Brahman, Kshatria, Vaishya and Shudra. Brahman is one who engages in knowledge creation and knowledge sharing; Kshatriya is one who engages in security of the members and resources of the society; Vaishya is one who engages in trade and commerce; and Shudra is one who engages in the service to other classes. To put it in modern lexicon, these four classes are intellectuals, Military and Police, Businessmen and Service class. The most important element to know is that every member, of the society, irrespective of gender, has full freedom to choose and pursue the occupation he or she likes. This classification is not by birth. It is by occupation. And there is complete freedom and choice to move from one to the other.
The four Ashramas are Brahamcharya, Grihasth, Vanprasath and Sanyas. These four Ashramas can be translated into four phases of life of every human being, irrespective of gender. Brahamcharya is education and training to prepare for life. Grihasth is becoming a householder. Vanprastha is reducing your worldly wants and cravings and preparing for Sanyas. Sanyas is relinquishing worldly wants and cravings, reflecting on previous three phases of life and sharing experience-based knowledge and wisdom with the next generation for the benefit of the society. Each Ashrama was about 25 years of life.
The hallmark of Hindu way of Life is individual freedom and choice. You are the master of your destiny.
Dr Sat Parashar, PhD is a Professor and Financial Advisor. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org