Showing posts with label Vanaprastha. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vanaprastha. Show all posts

Hinduism On Service, Stewardship, And Healing

     







    Modern Hinduism's Care, Healing, And Well-being.


    Due to socio-political and other religious influences, Hinduism and Hindu societies have seen different changes and advancements. 

    Not only have believers followed the goals of Hindu samskaras, purushartha, and panchamahayajnas throughout history, but many of the teachings and religious rituals have been reinterpreted and altered to meet the needs of changing times. 

    In 'renascent Hinduism,' there is a renewal of caring, healing, and well-being. 

    Despite all of the ideas of care and well-being, a significant portion of India's population lives in horrible circumstances. 

    The caste system establishes a hierarchical society that retains benefits for the higher varna castes while denying the rights of India's poor Dalits, indigenous peoples, and Adivasis


    Hinduism has been reduced to a ceremonial and otherworldly spiritual entity throughout its history, according to the Brahminic system. 


    The vitality of Hinduism was renewed, leading to the formation of a renascent Hinduism, thanks to the effect of English education, the advent of modern science, orientalist intellectuals, and Christian missionary operations (Sarma 2000: 60-63). 



    Hindu believers were encouraged to transfer their attention from the otherworldly to life on Earth as a result of these nineteenth- and twentieth-century events. 


    For example, for millennia, the dominant traditional Vedanta philosophy concentrated primarily on an individual's connection with God/Ultimate Reality, with a misplaced emphasis on devotion to God alone. 

    However, the Renaissance ushered in flourishing Neo-Vedanta and Guru movements that aid mankind in realizing the inherent divinity in each individual, emphasizing the concept of 'service to humanity as service to god.' 

    Renascent Hinduism (Sarma 1966) set the ground for a slew of neo-Hindu groups and Guru movements to spring up over the globe. 


    Traditional, ethnic Hinduism from the subcontinent gradually become a worldwide religion, attracting followers from all over the globe. 

    They participate in charitable activities to provide care, healing, and well-being to people, particularly the most vulnerable members of Indian society. 


    • The Sri Ramakrishna Mission, established by Swami Vivekananda, is one of these neo-Hindu groups (Sarma 2000: 143-145 ; 155-156). 

    Sri Sathya Sai Baba formed the Sri Sathya Sai International Organization (Sri Sa thy a 2021 ). 

    Brahma Kumaris, a spiritual group formed by Prajapita Brahma Baba and headed by women. 

    Mata Amritanandamayi's other educational and humanitarian institutes 


    These are only a few of the numerous neo-Hindu groups that are now serving mankind and cutting across all gender, racial, and national lines. 

    These renascent Hindu organizations' educational institutions, well-equipped hospitals, relief works during natural catastrophes, scholarship and feeding programs, and several other charitable activities are witnesses to the promotion and humanization of caring, healing, and well-being. 




    Gods and goddesses as healers and well-being sources. 



    Hinduism is recognized for its many gods and goddesses who accompany humans. 


    Classical Hinduism recognizes Brahman as the 'Supreme Reality,' as well as Trimurthi (the 'Hindu Triad' of Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the sustainer, and Maheshvara or Siva, the destroyer), and many sectarian deities Vishnu, Siva, and Sakti. 

    When individuals in popular Hinduism are in need, they appeal to their 'favorite deities' (ishta Devata), also known as the 'family god' (Kula Devata). 

    Mahalakshmi, also known as Lakshmi, is the goddess of riches and prosperity, Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom, and Ganesh, the deity of fresh beginnings and the ability to remove barriers. 

    Despite contemporary education and well-established medical facilities throughout this age of societal development, the Hindu mentality is still inclined to seeking heavenly favors during sickness and other afflictions. 



    Lord Siva is known in Hinduism as Vaidyanath (all-healer) and Mrutyunjaya, among all Vedic and non-Vedic deities (conqueror of death). 


    In popular Hinduism, one of the mother goddesses, Mariamman, is worshipped by South Indians for general healing. 

    Shitalamata (literally,'mother who cools') is revered in northern India as a goddess with curative powers, particularly in the cases of fever, chickenpox, smallpox, measles, ulcers, and cholera. 

    She is said to be carrying a pitcher filled with medical water to treat illnesses. 

    Many such deities who heal ailments are commonly sought by peasants in various regions of India in case of any affliction, even before seeking medical care. 

    Because many Hindus still believe in magic, the idea of an evil eye, curses, or even destiny (karma), this is a widely accepted practice. 

    As a result, rather of seeking therapeutic care, they turn to pujas, mantras, and other forms of divine intervention (Sharma 2002: 3). 


     



    Ayurveda (science of life) is a Hindu discipline of medicine that promotes a holistic approach to healing and human well-being. 

     

    "Let me witness a hundred autumns; let me live a hundred autumns," says the Atharva Veda's aphorism on life and health (Griffith ed. 1899: 292). 


    The Indian healing tradition dates back to the Atharva Veda and flourished throughout the Buddhist period. 

    It reached its pinnacle during the Caraka era, with a focus on Ayurveda



    In Hinduism, there are five components to the healing tradition: the patient, the physician, holy chant, ritual or process, and medication therapy. 


    During the Buddhist period, however, holy chant's importance waned and eventually faded away over decades of medical treatment (Valiathan 2015: 109). 

    Atharvaveda is primarily concerned with healing substances and spells, as well as enhancing one's own well-being while inflicting bad on one's adversaries (Dasgupta 1975: 280-281 ). 

    Atharvaveda gave rise to Ayurveda, which means "knowledge of life" in Sanskrit. 

    The connection between Atharvaveda and Ayurveda is primarily due to the fact that they both deal with illness healing. 

    With its religious importance, Atharvaveda is renowned for healing ailments caused by sins and trespasses by penance (prayaschitta), while Ayurveda treats diseases caused by the eating of unwholesome food via medication. 


    Medicine (bhesaja) is considered penance by charaka1 (which utilizes the term Ayurveda in the context of 'science of life') (Dasgupta 1975: 273-277). 



    In today's culture, however, Ayurveda is acknowledged as a distinct area of life science that deals with the body, mind, and overall well-being. 

    Ayurveda is formed from two Sanskrit words: ayus (meaning life) and veda (meaning knowledge) (meaning knowledge or science). 

    Ayus, which refers to the whole of existence in all of its forms, is made up of happiness (sukha), sorrow (duhkha), good (hita), and evil (hita) (ahita). 


    A life of happiness (Sukhmayuh) is defined as being devoid of bodily and mental ailments and endowed with vigor, power, energy, and vitality, as well as pleasure and success (Roy 1986: 152-153). 


    Ayurveda recommends daily and seasonal routines (dinacharya and ritucharya), a nutritious diet, exercise, and excellent behavior to sustain well-being and health (Tiwari and Pandey 2013: 288-292). 




    It focuses on efforts to reestablish the body's connection to the rest of the universe. 

    It accounts for discord in the balance of the body's essential humors, such as air or wind (vata), bile (pitta), and phlegm (kapha). 

    Discord may cause sickness, while restoring it can lead to better health and physical well-being. 

    Ayurveda includes therapeutic procedures such as surgery, the use of medicinal herbs, and meditation (Ketchell et al. 2013 ). 

    "The elimination of the cause of death, bestowing of long life, purifying thoughts and acts, removal of the cause of illnesses, and insuring the well-being of body and spirit" is considered to be the goal of giving medicine (Gautamananda 2019: 2). 







    Yoga is the path to mental health. 



    Yoga simply means 'yoking' or 'joining' in Sanskrit. 


    It refers to the methods or strategies used to change one's awareness and achieve moksha (freedom) from samsara (rebirth). 

    Although the mind is said to be constantly shifting, yoga may help you concentrate and experience a higher level of awareness (Bowker ed. 1997: 1058). 



    Self-control (yama), observance (niyama), posture (asana), regulation of breath (pranayama), restraint (pratyahara), steadying of mind (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and profound meditation (dhyana) are the eight phases of yoga (ashtangayoga) suggested by Patanjali's Yoga Sutra (Samadhi). 


    All of these phases are linked to physical or mental health, either directly or indirectly. 

    Yoga is often understood to signify 'discipline.' The word yoga refers to two things: a school of philosophy that originated in ancient India and a mental and physical exercise method created by this school. 

    Many individuals use yoga as a type of exercise to enhance their health and find inner peace (World Book Encyclopedia 1981: 470-471). 



    Yoga is, after all, a spiritual, mental, and physical practice. 


    Yogas of many varieties are also done in order to live a harmonious existence and gain mental and spiritual bliss (Ketch ell et al. 2013). 

    Yoga is an important aspect of healing, spirituality, and meditation, therefore it is seen as a component of human well-being. 


    Yoga may help you discipline and manage your thoughts, which is a crucial source of focus. 


    Yoga is said to heal the mind, even if it does not cure the physical condition. 

    Hatha yoga, which focuses on breathing and meditation to alleviate stress; raja yoga, which focuses on meditation and self-realization to lead to the growth of consciousness; and tantra yoga, which liberates awareness from all restrictions. 

    All of these types of yoga are connected to mental healing and human well-being in general. 



     

    Geriatric care: Hindu family care and a gero-transcendent outlook on life 


    In general, Hindu family members care for the elderly and dependents at home. 


    Within a family, caregiving for the elderly is traditionally passed down. 

    Nonetheless, owing to fast demographic and epidemiologic transformations in modern India, some people feel obligated and burdened to provide care for the elderly (Capistrant et al. 2015). 

    A gerontological study on Pitamaha Sadans of Chimmaya Mission indicates to "religiosity and spirituality as protective and health boosting factors for older individuals," in addition to family care (Pandya 2016: 15). 



    In this light, Asramadharma might be considered one of the most important aspects of elderly care. 


    Individuals from the higher caste pass through four phases of life, according to the ashrama scheme: student stage of training (Brahmacharya), householder stage (Gruhastha), hermit or forest dweller stage of retreat (Vanaprastha), and ascetic stage of renunciation (Sannyasa). 



    These four phases of life are all geared toward achieving one's ultimate objective, which is moksha or emancipation. 


    "The Ashram system is intended as an instrument of life, as the best means towards the fulfillment of what was believed to be the fullest and most effective administration of individual, social, and economic orders as a whole," write S.C. Tiwari and Nisha M. Pandey (2013). 

    Vanaprastha and sannyasa are intimately tied to the old age period in this ashrama plan. 

    Both are phases of renunciation with a non-attachment mindset. 



    Vanaprasthasrama is said to have originated in opposition to Buddha and Mahavira's teachings, which advocated full renunciation and celibacy


    This extreme kind of non-attachment jeopardized the foundations of family life. 

    As a result, the as ram a scheme was created to help stabilize the family's very existence, which had been jeopardized by the influence of Buddhism and Jainism, which placed a strong emphasis on 'freedom in the forest' (Premsagar 1994: 16). 

    It is important to note that the institution of sannyasa is thought to go against the core ideals of the Hindu way of life. 


    Sannyasa was never authorized by early Hindu sages, and they preferred only the first two ashrama schemes. 

    However, subsequent Hindu sages embraced the posture of "homelessness" or "ascetic detachment" as the last stage of existence due to the influence of Jainism and Buddhism (Datta 2001 : 5 83). 




    The Ashrama Scheme is a gero-transcendence perspective on life. 


    The core of gem-transcendence is said to be implied in the vanaprastha sannyasa ashrama system (Krishnan 2020b). 


    "Lars Tomstam's idea of gero-transcendence combines basic components with the final two stages of the Hindu model of the life duration," writes Samta P. Pandya (2016: 2). 

    In the latter two phases of life, as specified by the asrama plan, all three aspects of self, social, and cosmic are visible in some form. 

    While the concept of gruhastha denotes a materialistic outlook on life, the concept of vanaprastha or sannyasa denotes a more cosmic and transcendent outlook on existence, as expressed by the concept of gem-transcendence. 



    The vanaprastha-sannyasa phases, as defined by the ashrama plan, provide the person in gem-transcendence with the isolation he or she craves. 



    The solitude of the forest in vanaprasthasrama assists a person in escaping the flutter of daily existence, allowing sufficient possibilities to begin contemplating on life's greater ideals. 

    This stage is more significant in theory since it is closer to the last stage (death and dying) and moksha (liberation). 

    The vanaprastha stage emphasizes that one's status cannot be reduced to the society's secular needs, which place a premium on production and money (Radhakrishnan 2009: 63). 



    The goal of sannyasa is to achieve spiritual independence, which is in direct contrast to the requirements of a wealthy society. 


    "This stage suggests that human existence has a deeper value, that it is not finished in just being born, growing up, marrying, making a living, forming a family, sustaining it, and dying away," writes Arulsamy (2000: 1). 

    Finding one's own self is more important than gaining significance. 

    In this respect, Radhakrishnan argues that, although the ultimate goal of a sannyasin is to achieve spiritual liberation, being oneself entails not only a release from worldly attachments but also a new connection to everyday life. 

    On the one hand, a person is free of the desire for wealth or glory, but on the other hand, he or she is neither thrilled nor disappointed by success or failure (Radhakrishnan 2009: 64). 



    With its focus on the transcendent sphere of existence, Hinduism, according to Samta P. Pandya, offers a rich spiritual tradition. 


    It has the benefit of promoting the concept of gero-transcendence (Pandya 2016: 2). 

    Despite physical decline, a human being becomes more spiritual as a result of the asrama approach (Tiwari and Pandey 20 13). 

    Old age, according to Shrinivas Tilak, is not a period of total disengagement, but rather a period of differentiation, in which one must practice whatever enables one to reach a higher level of spiritual growth. 

    Tilak (1989) defines liberation as "leading a meaningful life and understanding the art of gently departing the earth at the end" (Tilak 1989). 

    (Rajan 2001: 9) 23 This is why vanaprastha-sannyasa ahsrama advises a stage dedicated to honoring the elderly (the Sruti-Smrti tradition in India). 

     



    Considering the Ashrama scheme's relevance in today's world.


     



    The spirit of accommodation or flexibility is one of the primary qualities of Hindu religious thought. 


    Modernism and its adherents in India's contemporary cosmopolitan middle class are said to participate in new social forms related to aging. 

    Living at an old-age home, for example, is seen as a kind of vanaprasthasrama for the elderly. 

    According to Sarah Lamb, many in India see old age home living as analogous to the 'forest-dwelling' recommended by the vanaprastha life phase (the severance of familial and worldly connections in order to achieve spiritual awareness) (Lamb 2007:57). 

    Sarah Lamb states that the majority of houses still follow the notion of'spiritual forest living' and seva or service in their policy, based on an ethnographic study project done in 29 homes of elderly individuals in Kolkata. 



    "To give' a life away from the noise of family, spent in solidarity and religious activities,' a location to pursue vanaprastha ashrama (the 'forest living' phase)," said the purpose of one of the institutions for the aged (Lamb 2007: 57). 



    As the world changes, many such houses provide a new sense of self and individuality, particularly for women, that is distinct from the intergenerational family, which maintains reliance and gendered relationships. 

    These houses often foster autonomous and egalitarian ways of life for the elderly, overcoming the restrictions of conventional joint family care (ibid.). 

    Another sociological research, conducted by Samta P. Pandya, indicates that "aging was a condition of mind, something that could be adjusted with... and death was a process that lead to God near" for the majority of inmates of Pitamaha Sadans, the Chinmaya Mission's old age home (Pandya 2016: 1). 



    In this manner, the Hindu mind accepts and adapts the Ashrama system of life to the developing and changing existence in modern society. 


    Many Hindu groups are now working to assist the elderly in overcoming the challenges of aging, including both medical and psycho-moral issues. 

    Although the intergenerational joint family remains the most common location for old people to live and be cared for in India, public and private institutions, as well as numerous individuals, are increasingly taking on the task of caring for the elderly (Lamb 2005: 80). 

    Caring for the elderly is seen as "an essential component of a reciprocal intergenerational cycle and a type of moral religious obligation or dharma" (Lamb 2019: 1). 



    However, in modern India, there has been a sharp increase in the number of 'non-traditional, joint family oriented ageing' facilities that provide care for the elderly. 


    "Many old-age homes market themselves as contemporary places for delivering seva (respectful care) and a forest-dwelling lifestyle to today's senior people," Sarah Lamb notes (Lamb 2019: 2). 

    If a spirituality of ageing, as represented by the ashrama plan and the concept of gem-transcendence, is considered while dealing with difficulties concerning the elderly, it is clear that religion continues to have an influence on the quality of care provided to the elderly. (Kimble et al. eds. 1995: 5)  

    Because India is recognized for its religious and spiritual diversity, it is difficult to establish and encourage a beautiful aging process. 


    In this sense, the modern interpretation of the vanaprastha-sannyasa plan of existence via the lens of gem-transcendence is crucial. 

    "A change from a materialistic and pragmatic worldview to a more cosmic and transcendent one" is how it's characterized (Braam et al. 2006: 121). 



    Final Thoughts 


    Hinduism, by its very nature as a way of life with its teachings and practices, has a long history of concern for the care, healing, and well-being of all living beings. 




    Individual care, beginning before birth and going beyond death, is ingrained in Hindu Samskaras practice. 


    Purushartha, with its focus on dharma and the challenge of fulfilling artha and kama, is inherent in societal well-being. 


    Similarly, paii9amahiiyajnas show concern and well-being for all creatures on the planet, not just humans. 

    Ayurveda reflects Hinduism's emphasis on healing, particularly in its idea of holistic health as embodied in the practice of yoga. 


    Despite the fact that the family is the traditional support structure for providing care and well-being for the elderly, India is undergoing changes. 


    Nonetheless, the traditional reliance on beloved and particular deities for care during sickness and crises demonstrates how Hinduism continues to have a strong hold on its adherents. 

    Hinduism has developed to accommodate the changing world, with all its problems, thanks to a spirit of accommodation and adaptation. 


    The goal of renaissance Hinduism, as well as other neo-Hindu groups and organizations, is to "serve mankind as service to god." Even in times of modernization, this concentration demonstrates its effectiveness. 


    The care provided to the elderly in nursing homes is highly regarded. 

    These locations are seen as useful areas for gracefully aging. 

    In this regard, the concept of gero-transcendence, which is implied in today's ashrama plan, plays a positive and essential role in Indian society. 


    As a result, despite new pressures arising from the present time of modernity and globalization, one can infer and emphatically say that care, healing, and well-being are not a thing of the past but still exist in the Hindu tradition.




    Kiran Atma





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