Friday, June 14, 2013

FATHER'S DAY WORSHIP IN AMERICAN CHURCHES AND HINDU TEMPLES (PITRU DEVO BHAVA)

  FATHER’S DAY WORSHIP IN AMERICAN CHURCHES AND  HINDU  TEMPLES

(PITRU DEVO BHAVA)
(I-DISCOURSE BY N. R. SRINIVASAN, JUNE 2013)


Father’ Day is celebrated all over America on the Third Sunday of June and recognized as a National Holiday though a Sunday. It is certainly appropriate to honor our fathers each year, as a   special day of celebrations, with all family members. At the same time we cannot forget we are all children of God. Hindus call their creator as Pitaamaha (Grand Father) and invoke him in all their prayers.  While earthly father love their children we cannot forget how God is merciful and forgives us for all our misdeeds when we approach him with love and reverence more than our real fathers.  So this day is also observed as a day of worship by all Hindus praying to him as grandfather (Pitaamaha) to bestow healthy and happy life to their earthly fathers. Followers of Siva offer a special worship to Him on this day as the Universal parent while Parvati his wife is the other silent parent watching everything,  who is also propitiated in this act of worship along with Lord Siva.

With few exceptions behind every great dad there is a great kid. All said and done all societies in the world remain patriarchy; even Kerala except for Nair community in India. In Hinduism mother occupies first place in all worships but not in social life. In social life, father rules. Men who take the fatherhood seriously, who participate in their children’s lives and who stand up and put their children first, need recognition. Dad’s selflessness needs consideration and love. In America there are many fathers who raise their kids as single parent with or without the help of others while separated from their spouses. I wonder why USA insists on Mother’s maiden name for identification often instead of father’s name ? Why Hindus should not carry mother’s surname if father is placed in the second slot (Matru devo bhava, Pitru devo bhava, Acharya devo bhava….)?  Official records in India need often father’s name only! I am sure you know the reason if I do not!

 Lord Brahma is the first patriarch.  He is called Pitaamaha. Unfortunately there are no temples or worship for him except in the lone temple at Pushkar in Rajasthan in India. But Brahma is invariably invoked in many Vedic Mantras in our religious worship because of his first appearance in Vedas for worship.  Prusha-sookta says “Virajo adhi poorushah” conveying,   first creator came into being referring to Brahma. Taittareeya Upanishad in its convocation address gives its directive “Pitru devo bhava”—pay respect to your father considering him to be God after giving the first slot to Mother and the third to Guru. Later with the development of Bhaktimarga (Devotional Schools), Siva and Parvati occupied the position of universal parents as celebrated in hymns “Jagatah pitarau”, in all worships. Among the Brahmin community it is the father who imparts Brahmopadesam and Gaayatree Mantra during Upanayana Ceremony and so leads all gurus or the first recognized Guru.

It is worth recalling in this context what our Puranas say about creation and the leading role of fathers. Brahma started the work of creation in consonance with what had prevailed in the previous Kalpa (yathaapoorvam akalpayat) having been endowed with the power of creation by the Supreme Principle. Brahma alone as a male created four mind-born off-springs—the sages Sanaka, Sananda, Sanaatana and Santkumaara (all males). These sages while ordered to carry on the work of creation further refused to pro-create as their minds were already immersed in meditation in devotion to the Supreme Principle. Brahma then created eleven Rudras and several sages progressively to carry on the task but still things did not proceed in an orderly fashion. He then gave up his exclusive patriarchal role of creation and split himself into male and female—Manu Svayambhuva and Sataroopa. Then on creation perfected, progressed and creatures multiplied in orderly fashion by the co-operation of male and female.  Vedas declare the Creator as neither male nor female but both. It is therefore logical that Brahman or Supreme Principle is  to be respected as  both father and mother  and respected as god-head  in the role as both  male and female.

On the contrary Bible says; “The Lord created the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.  God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh at that place. Then the Lord God made the rib He had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man. He thus made woman a secondary creation out of man.  That was the Biblical story of Adam and Eve. The man was happy that the woman was his bone and flesh only. That is the reason why in Western society man leaves his father and mother and bonds with wife, and they become one flesh. This may be the reason why the Western society still remains male dominated. In Hindu concept a girl is married into the family and not to the individual alone and so they love to live with the family. So they do not leave the father alone as far as possible. I often wonder why then Father’s Day declaration to be a national holiday took such a long battle and time in male dominated Western Culture, well over 40 years after Mother’s Day was declared a national holiday?

Vedas gave honored position to mother as the first god (matru devo bhava) and then to father (pitru devo bahava). You also learn from the Puranas that the most beautiful woman Urvasi was the creation of Narayana while his meditation with Nara was disturbed by Indra.  When devas approached Siva for a commander for the divine army Subhrahmanya was born exclusively from Siva alone denying Parvati the privilege of bringing forth her own womb born child. To this day no other beauty created by the union of man and woman matches that beauty of Urvasi in all the three worlds or the intelligence of Lord Subhrahmanya who even defeated his father in the debate and became Guruguha, both being born out of male.   Thus the male’s non-challenging role to manage alone has been established when occasion demanded by Puranas. This privilege to create children by will by male had been withdrawn for all animates in this world later.

Brahma is called Pitaamaha (paternal grand-father) and not Maataamaha (maternal grand-father).   We also hear only of “Father of the Nation” but not “Mother of the Nation” though we call the land as Motherland. No religion has ever been started other than by a male as we look at the leading religions of the world—Christianity, Buddhism, Mohammedanism, Jainism, Sikhism, Luthereans etc. Strangely, the priesthood of all religions in the world in temples, synagogues, churches and mosques seems to be the exclusive privilege of males or male dominated only. Thus Male member or father assumes the leading role in the creation and management of the society though he cannot manage it without the cooperation of his counter-part. Our Saastras say no Yajna will be fruitful to a performer without the participation of his wife.  Christians talk about Holy Father and Holy Son only, but call Mary as Virgin Mary who evidently is not venerated at the same level. American history talks about Pilgrim Fathers and Founding Fathers. I am not sure whether they migrated without their wives to make America male dominated initially. Later women had to fight in America for long for their privileges in the society which fight is still continuing.

Being Hindu migrants we would like to respect the local culture and traditions in the land of our adoption. The social fabric of Hindu Americans is so knitted born out of the tradition from the   country of their origin that no human activity is segregated from the divine inspiration. Hindu temples do not lag behind churches that celebrate Father’s Day with special services.

Perhaps as Hindu Americans, you all might have heard about Sonar Dodd who is remembered and celebrated as “Mother of the Father’s Day”. Her father raised six kids all by him alone after the death of their mother as stated above. This was uncommon at that time as many widowers placed their children in the care of others like grandparents or quickly married. 

Nashville Christian Family Journal in its Editorial of Williamson Edition June 2013 writes: “Father’s Day was founded in Spokane, Washington at the YMCA in 1910 by Sonar Dodd.  Its first celebration was in the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910. Her father a Civil War Veteran William Jackson Smart was a single parent who raised his six children. After hearing a sermon about Jarvis’s Mother’s Day in 1909, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honoring them. Although she initially suggested June 5, her father’s birthday, the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.

It did not have much success initially. In the 1920’s Dodd stopped promoting the celebration because she was studying in the Art Institute of Chicago, and Father’ Day Celebration faded into relative obscurity, even in Spokane. In the 1930s Dodd returned to Spokane promoting the celebration again, rousing awareness at national level. She had the help of those trader groups that would benefit most from the holiday, for example the manufacture of ties, tobacco pipes, and any traditional present to fathers. Since 1938 she had the help of the Father’s Day Council, founded by New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers to consolidate and systematize the commercial promotion. Initially Father’s day was celebrated in the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South till 1922 when it was torn down. Then on, it is being celebrated in the United Methodist Church.

Americans resisted the holiday over a few decades perceiving it as just an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother’s Day, and newspapers frequently featured cynical and sarcastic attacks and jokes. But the trade groups did not give up. They kept promoting it and even incorporated into their advertisements, and they eventually succeeded. By the mid 1980’s the Father’s Council wrote that ‘Father’s Day has become a Second Christmas for all the men’s gift-oriented industries.’

A bill to accord national recognition of the holiday was introduced in Congress in 1913. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson wanted to make it official, but Congress resisted. US President Calvin Coolidge recommended in 1924 that the day be observed by the nation, but did not issue a national proclamation. Two years later attempts to formally recognize the holiday were defeated by the Congress. In 1957, Maine Senator, Chase Smith wrote a proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honoring mothers. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into a law in 1972.”

So Hindu Americans also conduct special worships (poojas) on this day of third Sunday in June honoring the fathers thanking the almighty for the selfless service rendered by parents towards their children in shaping their lives to be useful citizens in the service of mankind. It is also pleasing and welcome to couples who are united in inter-racial (Hindu-Christian) matrimony solemnized by both Hindu rituals and church services who wish to focus their religious thoughts to both faiths  Holy Father and Holy Son and to their chosen Hindu Deity.   

Statistics reveal gruesome facts about family life in USA, where children grow up without dads playing positive roles in the lives of their children. Many   single working mothers raise children without the support of grand parents whose numbers are growing.  Following statistics support the fact that children without fathers are more likely to be involved in negative behavior and are a constant worry to the society:
1)      A special report 1988 from US Department of Justice states that 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes.

2)      Seventy-five percent and of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes --Rainbows for all God’s Children.

3)      National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools reports that 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.

4)      Criminal Justice & Behavior, 1978 states that 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes.

5)      Center for Disease Control reveals 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes.

6)      Ninety percent of all homeless and run away children are from fatherless homes.

7)      Psychological studies reveal children without fathers are more likely to be involved in negative behavior.

In Tennessee, approximately 26% of children are living in a father-absent house-hold, which number is increasing. Often men who shy away from responsibilities do so because they did not grow up with strong male role model in their lives. They have also no idea as to what it takes to be a father. Studies show that when a child has involved father, he or she is more likely to succeed. This impacts poverty and incarceration rates and other ills that are a drain on our social service program. Every child should have an opportunity for a healthy relationship with their dad and, ultimately, a better chance at a successful life.

From the above statistics, it is obvious that dads are the key to changing the family and thus    rising moral values of America. Indifferent Fathers should

therefore turn their hearts back to children. They should take over the leadership in their homes seriously. This necessarily warrants that they should love the children’s mother too and be great husbands. They have to understand their kids and communicate their love to them. They have to affirm their kids. Fathers are the key to changing the family to be healthy and changing the country to be peaceful. Many of us don’t know how to be  an effective father because we did not have an effective father when we were growing up.

You now understand why our scriptures insist on “Pitru devo bhava”—your father is your God and is the source of divine inspiration. The last book of the Old Testament also directs attention of all people to fathers: “His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse”—Malach 4:6.

Father’s Day is celebrated in many countries of the world on different days and months of the year. It is not observed as national holiday in many countries as in USA. India also observes third Sunday of June as the Father’s Day on a modest scale at social level and it is not a National Holiday. I wonder why they do not celebrate Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday as Father’s Day in India while they venerate him as Father of the Nation?

It may not be out of place to mention here that many countries celebrate International Men’s Day on November 19 every year to honor all men and boys. India has its own special religious days to honor brothers (Bhaiduj) and sisters (Rakee) about which we have talked elsewhere.

We have all been given different fathers. Some were good and some were not good. No matter what kind of dad you have had, honor them for whatever good attribute you can find, instead of being bitter toward his issues. Give to and take care of your dad even when he hasn’t given to you. You will be a parent too one day to your kid and would like to be treated as you would like to do! Show them the right way!

Hindu Temples of America are motivated to dedicate Father’ Day to Lord Siva prompted by the sloka: “*Vaagarthaaviva sampriktau Vaagartha pratipattaye | Jagatah pitarau vande parvatee paramesvarau”, a couplet from Raghuvamsa of Kalidasa.  Even by the narrations of Puraanas Lord Siva was not an ideal Father or Husband. He often went recluse.  He was  a favorite of his devotees only at all times. Majority of Temple visitors in America are Saivites and are accustomed to their sectarian approach in worship, influenced strongly by Puraanas and Saaiva Aaagamas. Every Hindu knows Brahman is neither male nor female.  Brahman is both. In the above sloka Parameswara means the Universal Lord or Jagannath or Brahman.  It will be therefore logical to focus worship on this day to Lord Jagannath  which will be more broad based to  suit all traditions and  to meditate on Brahman, to whom all worships lead ultimately as said in Bhagavadgeetaa: 

+Om tad Brahma \ Om tad Vaayuh \ Om tad aaatmaa| Om tat satyam | Om tat Sarvam | Om tat puroernamah ||

[*I bow to Paarvati  and Paramesvara,  the Universal parents   who are united together like the  words and their meanings.]

[+Om is that Brahman. Om  is Vaayun (Wind God). Om is Aaatmann Self). Om is Satyam Trurth. Om is  all that. Om is that primeval cause  that existed before creation. So obeisance unto that Pranava!]

“Pitru  devo Bhava”

“Be One for Whom Father is a God”

“Behind  every  great  Dad  there  is  a  great  Kid;  Happy  Father’s Day!”

REFERENCES:

1)      Swami Tapsyananda, Narayaneeyam, Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Chennai, India.
2)      Swami Chinmayananda, Taittitiya Upanishad, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai, India.
3)      Dr. Tolson, How To Be A Great Dad, Nashville Christian  Family, June 2012.
4)      Dr Ananta Rangacharya, Principal Upanishads, Bengaluru, India.