Friday, June 13, 2014

PHILOSOPHICALLY THINKING ABOUT FATHER"S DAY

 Philosophically thinking about Father’s Day  on  June 15, 2014
( Compilation for a discourse by N.R. Srinivasan, Nashville TN, June 2014)

I am sure you would have read my discourses “Father’s Day Worship in American Churches and Hindu Temples” and “Hindu American Way of Father’s Day Celebration” delivered earlier.   Father’s day, a socially inspired celebration and veneration sprung out of love for a father has been converted to a day of religious worship in Western Culture. American Hindus do not lag behind and so have made it a day of Special religious Events Day of worship in Hindu Temples in America. They have more reasons than others as Hindus always worship Mother, Father and Guru as Gods and in that order as per Vedic commands in Taittareeya Upanishad—(Matru devo bhava; Pitru devo bhava; Aachaaryya devo bhava). But Hindus have not ear marked any one day or any one god for celebration of these mortal gods but worship father all the time even if he is not good to them.  But they do have special fortnight for honoring Pitrus (deceased ancestors) called Pitrupaksha. They also worship them before starting any major sacrament like Upanayana (thread ceremony) or Vivaaha (Marriage) called Naandi Shraaddha.

There is a dad behind every child they say.  I do not have the experience of many for I did neither grow up with my father nor did I grow up with my siblings.  Driven by a divine decision at the age of eight I decided to move away from my parents from a village in erstwhile State of   Mysore and lived with my grand-father in Chennai.  I did not have the joy of living with my siblings to share love with them and enjoy the fun of customary fights too. I know only that my blood pleasure, heart surgery, quick temper and occasional frustration in life is from my father and the genes he affectionately passed on.   My father too did not grow up under the umbrella of his father as his father passed away while he was two years of age. So, both of us missed the concept of Pitru devo Bhava. (Look upon your father as God) so dear to Hindu way of Life.  But I do not fail to think of him on this memorable day but for whom I would not have been here to serve you.   

I often wonder why graduation ceremony is so important in Hindu American Way of life!   It is a day to part with your son or daughter and say “You are on your own kid; don’t feel shy to call me when you need me”.  Probably kid celebrates Father’s Day that comes next after graduation to thank his father for his or her getting independence from Father-raj!  I succeeded to be a successful father not learning the trick of the trade from my father. My children looked upon me something akin to worship when they were young and growing up in India probably tutored or disciplined by elders at home.  I too could discipline my children while in India.  Then I moved to USA.  They graduated not only from High School but also from reputed colleges too here.  I went beyond customary American Norms to bring up children despite my struggles being uprooted from India.  I could influence their choice too as to what to study for their own benefit and to have a prestigious status in Hindu migrant society. Later I felt they started despising my advice, my words and limitations I placed upon them blending with American culture.  Probably they felt my IQ started   shrinking down to nothing as their own rose to near Einstein Levels. When they questioned my judgment I felt I am getting dumber. My son diplomatically ignores my advice telling his mom “there is a generation gap mom; dad does not understand”.  The trouble is not with them it is with me as a father.  Hopefully if my mental capacities improve may be they will find me worth listening to again!  But do I have the luxury of time and effort?  Here is a society where children no longer listen to their dads after a while.  They want to be self-made. Of course even in India I too was so by exception. Rather we have to accommodate and adjust to children’s views as they grow older.  

 As fathers we should be aware to the changes in ourselves and consider our children as our friends and well-wishers rather than dependents. A Subhashita (good saying) also says as you grow old treat them as your equal and friends.  So the formula “Pitru devo Bhava” won’t work in America, of late in India too. Nevertheless we cannot dismiss the fact that fathers are the key to changing the family to be healthy and changing the country to be peaceful. We hear of Father of the Nation and Pilgrim Fathers but not hear about Mother of the Nation or Pilgrim Mothers. I wonder whether Pilgrim Fathers had wives and also brought their wives with them.   Many of us do not know how to be an effective father because we did not have had an effective father when we were growing up. It is not that love alone is enough. No dad ever loved his kids as Dhritaraashtra did. Dhrita-raashtra means one who is firmly attached to his kingdom.  But he failed miserably as a father. He was attached to his Kingdom as his name Dhrita+Raashtra suggests and failed to bring up children morally and spiritually. He did not turn out spiritually Dhrita-putra though he was firmly attached to them and wanted  to continue Kuru dynasty.

My religious thoughts do not take me to pay that high respect to my father or ancestors as my spiritual thoughts compel.  We are all familiar with the customary hymns (slokas) recited with reverence on Father’s Day:
Maataa Raamo mat-Pitaa Raamacandrah | Svaamee  Raamo Mat-Sakha Raamacandrah  
Sarvasvam Me Raamacandro Dayaalu |Na -Anyam Jaane Naiva Jaane Na Jaane  
    
[Rama is my  Mother  and  Rama (Ramachandra) is my Father, Rama is my Lord   and  Rama (Ramachandra) is  my  Friend, Rama  is  my  All  in  All, O the Compassionate Rama (Ramachandra)!  I do not know any other; I do not know any other; indeed I do not know any other.] 

Rama had no experience as a father and had abandoned his wife when she was pregnant.   His children grew up under the care of Valmiki. How could he be an ideal father?  Probably he did not have an effective father though his father was very affectionate. Rama abandoned kingship   neglected his subjects to fulfill the promise of Dasaratha (influenced by his amorous life) made to Kaikeyi, his cunning step mother. It was then Tretaayuga and not Dwaaparayuga. If Krishna or Bhagavadgeetaa were there his duty as a king would have become more important. Laws do change over a time too. So do our scriptures. 

During Father’s day celebration we all recite: “Jagatah pitarau vande Paarvatee parameshvarau” [Our obeisance to world parents Paarvati and Parameswara]. Here we seek the blessings of Parvathi-Parameswara as universal parents.    Here again Siva was never an ideal father.  He was a recluse most of the times as Puranas depict. Parvati throughout her life was trying to domesticate him. Both Ganesha and Kumara are Ayonijas and are not womb born of Parvati.
Religious approach seems to be not that good based on the above and learning further also the story of Parasurama who beheaded his mother implicitly obeying his father whatever may be the justification (that was his law of the letter Pitru devo bhava!). Probably Narasimha episode did not happen on planet earth, who knows. Buddha walked away from worldly responsibilities confused and disturbed.

Probably worshiping Krishna would be better. He is occasionally mentioned as Vasudeva-suta Son of Vasudeva and Nanda-kumara fostered son of Nanda.  But he is more popularly known as Radhakrishna, Union of Jeevaatma and Paramaatma and also as Jagnnaatha (Universal Lord) or Janaardhana (Savior of people). I never heard of Pradyumna as Krishna-suta.

Bhagavadgeeta refers to Supreme Being or Brahman as the Universal Father. Why then we should be in search of other Gods? Please think of the following verse  in Bhagavadgeetaa:
Pitaamahasya jagato  maataa dhaataa pitaamahah  |
Vedyam pavitram onkaara riksaamayajur-eva cha || 9-17 ||

I am the Father of this world, the Mother, the Dispenser, the Grandsire, that which is to be known, the purifier, the Om and also the Vedas-Rigveda, Saamaveda and Yajurveda (probably Atharvaveda did not exist then or probably Vedavyasa was still working on it at that time!]

Upanishads dictate us the command: “Pitru devo Bhava”—treat your father as God (while living). They also mention of Pitruloka which is equated with   Chandraloka. When one who   performing sakaama Karmas (desire motivated actions by Bhaktimarga) or lower kind of Upaasanas dies he gets only the greatness of the pitrus or manes and attains similarity with the Moon. One attains the moon through Pitruyana and returns to this world by the same way.  Bhagavadgeeta also echoes 

Upanishads and says those who worship Pitrus attain   ancestors in pitruloka:
Yaanti devavrataa devaan pitrun yaanti pitruvrataah |
Bhootaani yaanti bhootejyaa yaanti madyaajino api maam || 9-25 ||

The worshipers of the gods go to the gods, the worshippers of the manes go to the manes, the worshipers of the spirits go to the spirits, and my worshipers (those who meditate on Brahman) too come to me.

Upanishads thus give us a hope to check back if we are good fathers when we meet our kids in Pitruloka and also check back their loyalty. Kids who prefer pitruloka worship parents. Brahmaaloka is for the rare few. Useless kids suffer being born as lower creatures.   Thus there are three Choices—1. Enter Pitruloka, enjoy for a while and return back to earth to  further elevate: 2) Enter Chandraloka stay  for a while in Chandraloka enjoying time  and then proceed to Brahmaloka for permanent settlement; 3) Not being  eligible for either wander around aimlessly being born as lower creatures.

Our Scriptures insist on Nandi Shraddha honoring Pitrus before any Samskaara (sacrament). The ritual of Shraddha performed during the start of any joyous ceremony and performance of any of the 16 religious rites, and recitation of specific mantras for success of the ceremony is called Nandi Shraddha. In this ritual Satyavasu (or kratudaksha) or the vishve deities and the father-grandfather-great grandfather, mother-grandmother (mother’s mother) - great grandmother (mother’s grandmother) and mother- grandmother (mother’s mother-in-law)-great grandmother (mother-in-law of mother’s mother-in-law) are invoked. So if some of us cannot enjoy father’s company here they can still do so by good acts   to join forefathers who have led a noble life and enjoy life for a while in Pitruloka. Hence why not regard them as Gods or guardian angels in this life itself when they are good to us and who always sacrifice every comfort of theirs for us?  There is a compelling reason why we should think of fathers who are not good to us or even cruel to us as could be learnt from the life of legendary or mythological Prahalada, a devotee of Vishnu.

As we have learnt in Puranas, Lord Vishnu came to the rescue of pious and noble Prahlada emerging out of the pillar during the twilight zone as Narasimha in his incarnation of half lion and half man and killed his father Hiranyakasipu. Prahlada was deeply grieved and felt still indebted to his father though he would have been  killed by him but for the intervention of the lord and yet requested Narasimha to pardon his father's sins and grant him Moksha or liberation to him, indeed a noble gesture unthinkable. Even Narasimha should have been surprised! How can Lord refuse his beloved devotees request? He blessed Prahlada to be a Chiranjeevi, (Immortal) and a permanent companion of his.  Prahlada was first ever to honor his father and bring him Eternal Bliss in spite of all the cruelty meted out to him. Bhagawan says in Bhagavadgeetaa that among deityas (demons) he is Prahlada (deityaanam prhlaadosmi), thus complimenting the noble and PHILOSOPHICALLY THINKING p ious King Prahlaada.  Here is a scenario of most pious and noble son and the most cruel father who would have any how killed him for his being adamant as to not to accept that his father was Superior to Narayana. There is a good lot of philosophical thinking behind it.
At the moment conception takes place, an immortal soul enters the universe for the first time. This unique human being is graced by the divine power and is a gift from the Creator. God places this beautiful gift into the womb of the mother through the medium of father. Their first desire to beget a child is considered as sacred act of charity by the father because such a conception gives an opportunity for a wandering soul eagerly waiting for an abode to re-enter the world to exhaust its past Karmas. This charity initiated by the husband is called Garbhaadaan.  The human being born of that conception gets an entry to the world to work his or her way to elevate, if not accumulate fresh Karmas. Choice and consequences are that of the individual.  It is as an act of charity of father in life like Kanyadanam in Hindu concept. However bad a father may be this first act of charity by the father makes the son indebted to him. But for his father Prahlada would neither have been in this world nor there been any reason for the Avatar of Narasimha. So it was all the divine will and plan.

We read in newspapers of many killings father by a child and a child by father in these days and in history and Puranas too.  There are many children in USA raised by single mothers. While it makes lot of sense to some to celebrate Father’s Day it also serves no purpose to many others if the father has walked away from his responsibility.  It is strange we often meet a bad and cruel father who has a wise and noble kid and vice versa. There are too many examples today of ungrateful adult children and grandchildren who fail to honor their fathers. These off-springs if they are not happy with the contributions of their fathers should at least recognize that they owe their very existence in this world due to him. We can learn from the past and try to become good fathers. If you carefully watch a good father he is also a good husband who treats all women with respect and also teaches his kids to do the same. Who can know the working of God; we can only watch, speculate and hope? We have one life to live and one dad to reckon with in this life who is responsible for our birth in this world. Let us philosophically think and obey the Vedic command and elevate father to status of Vyaahriti of Brahman (God) and meditate on Brahman who is the Universal father (pitaamahasya jagato) with the Mantra Pitru devo Bhava. Those who have no kids and go to the temple on this day to participate in the religious celebration can pray for worthy kids like Prahlaada to honor their parents and serve the society, whatever be their experience.

Therefore it makes lot of sense to join the mainstream to honor father on Father’s Day however bad or indifferent a father may be. If you have a father or guardian in life--a father figure who has blessed you, take a moment to thank and love them. And if you have the opportunity to bless a child by being a stable loving influence in their lives, take pride in it. Not only will you be blessed, your influence may very well change the lives of others for many generations to come. Solomon, the Wise once said: “an eye that disdains a father and dispenses a mother—that eye will be plucked out by wild vultures and consumed by young eagles” stressing forcefully the duty of a child to honor his parents.  So say Happy Father’s Day and celebrate or dedicate the day for worship with the wisdom of Vedas focused on Pitru Devo Bhava”.
                          



REFERENCES

1) Anant Rangacharya N.S., Principle Upanishads, Bengaluru, India.
2) Srinivasan N.R., Father’s Day Worship in American Churches and Hindu Temples.
   Hindu Reflections <nrsrini.blogspot.com>
3) Ronnie Mcbrayer, Thanks Dad for Wising Up, Nashville Christian Family, June 2014.
4) Swami Vireswarananda, Srimad Bhagavad-gita, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
5) Jim Edward, It is important to show appreciation to Fathers, The Tennessean,  June  2014.


[This discourse material is a compilation from the reference above    as well as other sources for a prepared lecture for delivering at Vedanta Class of Sri Ganeha Temple which is gratefully acknowledged. I do not claim anything as original though I have included my explanations and comments elaborately suitably editing. Anybody is free to download partly or fully this discourse, modify and redistribute this as well as other  discourses from the blog Hindu Reflections <nrsrini.blogspot.com> for spreading the wisdom of Vedas and scriptures further.  These  lectures are  posted on the blog for the benefit of those who are not able to attend my lectures personally due to personal reasons or due to not living in Nashville or able to go through the various sources as I have done.]