Monday, May 4, 2015

THINKING OF MOTHER EARTH ON MOTHER'S DAY?

Thinking of Mother Earth on Mother's Day 
(Message delivered by N. R. Srinivasan, Hindu Reflections, Nashville> TN, USA)

Mother’s day is celebrated on May 10 this year being the second Sunday in the Month of May. It is celebrated with special worship in all churches in USA.  To American Hindus by tradition Mother is the first God. Vedas say “Matru devo  bhava”, consider your mother as God. Here the wisdom of Vedas   also meant Aditi, the Earth Deity, Mother of all Mothers glorified in Upanishads and Vedas. Hindus call their land as Matrubhoomi, Mother Earth. They therefore do not lag behind in rushing to temples and join the special worship program in temples on this significant day unlike Hindus in India who confine to the celebration at home and greeting elderly women.

In the past several Faiths of the world worshipped Divine Principle as Mother-Goddess. They are briefly recalled her. Detailed descriptions are available in various mythological legends and histories of the past. These are:
1)      The emperor of Japan claims spiritual descent from Amaterau (Matera), the Sun-Goddess of Shinto Religion.
2)      In the Orient Bodhisattva who was identified with mother’s love was worshipped as a woman called Kwan-Yen.
3)      Two thousand years before the birth of Christ, the cult of Mother-Goddess Ishtar dominated in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq and Palestine)
4)      Iris, the Queen Mother of Nile valley was the divine queen and was venerated and worshipped in ancient Egypt.
5)      Greek mythology mentions of three goddesses—Hera, the goddess of household; Athena; Goddess of Wisdom; and, Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love.
6)      Magna Mater (probably from matru in Sanskrit) was the great Goddess of Universe according to Roman belief.  Some called her Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom, some called her, Demeter, the Corn-Goddess and some others, Diana, the Virgin-Huntress.
7)      Golden haired Freya was the favorite goddess of every Viking warrior in Scandinavia.
8)      Hine-nui-te-po was the Goddess of Life and Death in Oceania on the islands of Polynesia.
9)      Sadna was the Mother of sea-creatures in Arctic Circle.
10) Sage Vasishtha praised  Aditi (Earth) as Mother of all Entities in Heaven and Earth in Vedas.


 One temple for all Traditions is the general pattern in USA as they cannot afford many temples for sectarian (Sampradaaya) form of worship. Though they call the temple after a presiding deity, that being the choice of founding-fathers of temples    they do provide several sanctums for various deities catering to the religious thirst of the devotees. The worship is focused at these sanctums pertaining to the day of celebration or performance attracting limited crowds.  In due course these temples   become public religious institutions enjoying tax benefits and religious freedom of the state, benefiting the temple and the devotees as   recognized religious institutions.  But unfortunately sectarian based form of worship continues attracting few members on all festive days as set by the orthodox and conservative founding fathers at the beginning who at the same time expect all traditions to participate and support to manage the institution.  It will be fitting and proper to   focus on all important day’s worship oriented to suit all traditions and cultures and also examine how sectarian worshipful days could be broad-based to suit all traditions.   Unfortunately no temple in India or USA has thought about a sanctum for Bhoodevi who is worshiped by all traditions though one of the Sivalingas in India in a famous pilgrimage center is worshiped as Prithvee Linga.  Important National Holidays   such Mother’s Day, Memorial day and Father’s Day etc. give an opportunity to make these special worshipful days more meaningful to make it more broad-based to suit all the traditions and cultures 

Generally Mother’s day is dedicated to some kind of Devi Worship. If the founders of the temple are Vaishanvites they dedicate this day to Lakshmi or Aandal and if they are Saivites to Parvati and if they are Sakatites to Durga, Srilalita or Kali or for Devis to whom they have established sanctums   within the complex. These deities are also worshiped on many other days during designated festivals and rituals.

There is no specific day designated for Bhoodevi’s worship in Hindu calendar. But Bhoodevi or Mother Earth is invoked in all sectarian worships as Goddess of all Entities and Supreme Being with the following Veda mantra in daily worship. Gandhadvaaraam duraadarshaaam nityapushthaam kareeshineem  |  Easvaree(ga)m sarvabhootaanaam taamihopah vaye  sriyam  || [Oh Goddess Earth! I invoke you to come to us. You are the ruler of all entities. You are known by your odor; you are invincible by sins; you are ever full; you are associated with cow-dung and others].

[Earth is known by its quality odor and so Gandha means earth. Sriyam generally refers to Lakshmi, consort of Vishnu. Earth is also the other consort of Vishnu. Here sriyam refers to earth only. This is a famous mantra chanted while applying sandal paste on idols or Saalagrama,   after bathing ceremony (abhisheka) in daily rituals of worshipping idols.]  

Taittareeya Upanishad in its convocation address (Shikshavalli) introduces to us the Mantra “Matru devoe Bhava”—Regard   mother as goddess, heading the pantheon of divines.  It did not say your mother. Mother therefore should necessarily mean the Universal Mother Bhoodevi first and then mortal mother who gave birth to us.  Markendeya Puraana in Durga Saptasatee while singing the glory of Mother-Goddess, introduces us to the Mantra: “Yaa devee sarvabhooteshu matru-roopena samsthitaa, namas taasyai, namas tasyai namastasyai namoe namah”—Obeisance to Devi who resides in every living-being in the form of Mother.

Mother Earth is the most celebrated deity in Vedas and Upanishads.  I often wonder why Bhoodevi who is so glorified in Vedas (MNU) as Mother of all Mothers and as Isvareegam sarvabhootanaam-- Mother of all entities is not even remembered on this day.  “Mother Earth is mother of all beings such as gods, Gandharvas, human beings, Pitrus or manes, Asuras and she is signified by names such as Medhini, Mahati, Mahee, Saavitri, Gaayatri, Jagati, Urvee, Prithvee, Bahulaa, Viswaa, Bhootaa, Katamaa, Kaa, Yaa, Satyaa, Saa, and Amritaa.   Her greatness is so great that it can’t be adequately described; thus did sage Vasishtha praise Mother Earth--Aditirdevaa Gandharvaa manushyaah piturah asuraas-teshaam sarvabhootaanaam maataa medinee mahatee mahee saavitree gaayatree jagtyurvee prithvee bahulaa viswaa bhootaa katamaaa kaayaa saa satyam amriteti vaasishthah ||”[MNU]

[While the word Bhoomi denotes Earth, here the term Aditi refers to the deity embodied by   it. The word Aditi is derived from the root doe meaning to divide and generally it is applied to the Deity of the heavens comprising of unlimited space. But here it is taken to denote Earth.]
In all Vishnu temples processional deity is invariably accompanied by Sridevi (Lakshmi) and Bhoodevi. Yet exclusive temples to Mother earth are few and far between.   I  have neither  come across any  Ashtottaras and Sahasranamas for Bhoodevi nor any special festival and ritual day for her exclusive worship though  we  chant  Bhoosooktam and Mrittikaa Sooktam contained in Vedas and she is invoked in all worships and rituals along with other deities.   

Mother Earth is not a sectarian deity. She is worshiped by all Vaishanvites, Saivites, Saktites and others with equal respect. She suits all traditional worship. She is respected as Mother in all World Cultures as explained in my discourses. It is therefore fitting and proper to dedicate this day to Mother Earth and worship her. We have neglected her for too long in our worship and religious festivals and ceremonies though the    world celebrates Earth Day in which Hindus also participate. Yet being a benevolent mother she not only continues to shelter us but also feed us with her fertile soil, vegetable   and animal kingdom which we continue to fleece! What better day can be there than Mother’s Day to worship her and save the Mother earth for the future!

Carbon dioxide level is at all-time high this month.  Levels of carbon dioxide reach their heights in May and then going back down as plants absorb the gas. But the long term trend is up according to National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  All our attempts to find an alternate source for living in another planet and find food have remained a dream though shows some promise so for!  Incidentally this will also remind the Hindu Community as to the awareness to preserve the flora and fauna and the pristine beauty  of Mother  Nature  while continuing to enjoy her  love and affection as benevolent Mother.

I have indirectly implied in this discourse as well as other  discourses on the subject that both religiously devoted who are praying for material  prosperity  and the educated class who are somewhat indifferent to religion,  both have neglected  Mother Earth while the rich and prosperous have exploited and abused Mother Earth. Forests and trees are depleted, salinity of the soil is increasing elephants are killed for ivory, water is polluted  and carbon-dioxide emission is increasing. Mother' day should remind Hindus on these while focusing on Veda Mantras and religious  stotras (hymns) which have glorified Mother Earth more than any other deity with a purpose.  Of the five elements,  (Earth, water,  fire, air and a space).  Prithveee comes first in Vedic mantras among Panchabhootas (five elements).

According to National Geographic Magazine each day about 5000 acres of farmland worldwide become too salty to sustain crops profitably. All lands is naturally vulnerable to either sodium or sodium chloride that accumulates in the  soil from industrial pollution. Poor drainage can make it linger. When salt builds around roots, plants work hard to grow. Farmers won't be the one's to fix the problem.  Governments must need to mandate field drainage on a large scale. A more immediate solution may come from plants themselves. Research indicates that food crops such as wheat and rice could generally be genetically engineered to resemble plants like seaweed, which evolved salt tolerance long ago. It is a two-way battle. Farmers in Bangladesh's Satkhira region have converted saline rice fields into ponds to raise shellfish.

Please go through my discourses on MOTHER'S DAY on the Blog Hindu Reflections: <nrsrini.blogspot.com> for origin and nature of its celebration in all parts of the world.



“……Prithvee santih aapah saantih osahadhayah santih vanaspatayah santih ……sarvam santih saantireva santih saa maa saantiredhi!”

May there be peace on Earth!  May there be coolness in the water! May the medicinal herbs retain their healing powers! May the plants give us peace! May everything in the Universe be peaceful! May Peace pervade everywhere!  May that peace come to me!


May there be Peace in the outside world! May there be Peace within! May there be Peace of God that passes all our understanding!  



APPENDIX
WHERE WOMEN ARE RESPECTED, GODS REJOICE
( By courtesy P. Ramakrishnan and Amita Kabra of L&T,India)
“O enlightening Mother! May you always shower your blessings in form of peace, happiness and success! May you always be pleased with us and may we never conduct any act that excludes us from your blessing gaze.”-- Atharvaveda 7.68.2
International Women’s Day in 2015 is the day to remember the importance and significance of the contribution of women to the humanity, the role they have played historically and are playing in the modern society, how they have preserve the family, the multiple roles they have played as reflected in the various scriptures, and how society will be enriched by their strength, patience, tolerance and endurance. The specific theme of the International Women's Day is "Inspiring Change". It aims to influence and strengthen the international community's commitment to put an end to violence against women. It intends to introduce a positive change to balance the status of women and men in an unequal world.
 The Indian philosophers have always argued that where women are respected, there Gods rejoiced. In that society, cultural values have blossomed to higher levels, the seeds of divinity sprouted, freedom blossomed and equal opportunities flourished. Recent days we witnessed, experienced, observed and read about the issues affecting women with respect to rape, violence, molestation, deterioration of morals, gender inequality, domestic violence, and so on.  Every Indian should look back at the history of their culture, learn from it, transmit them to the future generations, imbibe them, and enrich the lives of the humanity if we have to live in peace and harmony with clearly defined responsibilities for each individual.
If we have to restore the respect, reverence and regard women enjoyed over so many centuries, if we have to provide adequate safety and protection for women, and if we have to provide status and opportunity for women, every institution has to get involved to transmit the necessary values and morals in the society to instill the concept of dharma – the righteous principles. Societies are changing faster than anyone could have expected. Morals and responsibilities of the individuals are lagging unable to keep up with the changes. Traditionally respected values and morals are forgotten. Bharath is not practicing the very essence of the famous verse that declares, "may all be happy, may all be healthy, may all be noble, let nobody feel sad.”
 Education is the key for successfully instilling the abiding, enduring, and lasting values that preserve the noble and rewarding virtues that create harmony and peace in the society.
All the ills affecting the security of women have to be addressed by every institution, every organization and every concerned individual. There must be combined effort by all concerned agencies to impart the knowledge about the richness, beauty, and grandeur of the role of wife and mother played in various scriptures and how they were able to preserve the integrity, harmony, and peace of mind in the family, community and society. It is time for the family members, educational institutions, Hindu Temples, religious institutions and government to teach the relevance of the scriptures to the modern society and instill respect for both men and women.
The prosperity, well-being and success of any society depend on the respect women are accorded. Women are described to possess innate qualities that guide the society, unlimited patience to preserve the family, and endowed with compassion to shower blessings to the humanity.
 Let us remember the role women played over the centuries in various capacities across the globe, how they have preserved the indigenous cultures, how they maintained the family responsibilities, how they fought and protected their countries, how they are contributing to the economy and well-being of the societies, and how they can achieve the economic parity with men.
In Hindu religion, women have played significant role as wife and mother in preserving and protecting the family. Many scriptures have documented their unparalleled contribution in preserving the families. In fact she was so respected and revered in Hindu religion, she is equated with Goddess – Matru Devo Bhava.
 No country can come close to the status women have received in India. All the problems women are facing in India and all around today should be addressed by looking back at the roots that revered the position of women and chart out the future to provide the safety and security to women. All the families, educational institutions, religious institutions and political institutions must make every effort to instill, transmit and revitalize the traditional respect Hinduism has accorded to the women and inculcate the moral values found in ancient scriptures to redress the present day ills.