Thursday, June 11, 2015

HINDU AMERICAN RELIGIOUS AND PHILOSOPHIC THOUGHTS ABOUT FATHER'S DAY

Hindu   American  Religious  and Philosophic  Thoughts   about  Father’s  Day
(Compilation for a discourse by N.R. Srinivasan, Nashville TN, June 2015)

Father’s day was founded in Spokane, Washington at the YMCA in 1910 by Sonar Dodd. After hearing a sermon about Jarvis’ 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 celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.  By the mid-1980s the Father’s day had become a “Second Christmas” for all the men’s gift-oriented industry. President Richard Nixon signed into law designating third Sunday in June as Father’s Day in 1972.


Father renders without any selfish motive   the most important pivotal relationship for every person. In our lives, we see that a father does tremendous help during his entire life-time   thinking   for the well-being of his child at all times.  Father takes us in his arms, teaches us and disciplines us. Father has the most important relationship for each one of us. During youth and later, the spouse takes care of us like the mother and father and loves and cares.     Numerous ways he supports and helps the child to grow. Research   findings on several parents and children reveal that a father’s love contributes as much — and sometimes more — to a child’s development as that of a mother if not more, though he does not openly express the same like mother.  The power of paternal approval is especially strong in cases where the father is seen by his child as having heightened prestige in the family, as this tends to boost his influence. We ourselves see in our lives how our fathers have had influence on us since our childhood. He feeds; He pampers; He scolds to correct us; He teaches us values; He teaches us directly as well as indirectly as a role model. Every one of us has a distinct memory of our fathers teaching us since childhood in very many ways.  A father plans for the well -being of child or children besides giving and facilitating education for them. He also arranges the marriage for his children and ensures that lineage continues. He blesses the grand children in equal measure if not more.

In this context I try to recall my Bible studies in Tamil in which God was addressed as Paramapita or Supreme Father.  In Christianity God is addressed as Holy Father.  I have never heard of Holy Mother in Christianity.  In Tamil language we often plead to God saying “en appane”   meaning my father.  People in Kerala address Lord Krishna as Guruvayoorappa meaning He is the Father for the whole city.  Lord Venkateswara in a temple near Kumbakonam is called Oppiliappan who later became Uppillaiappan which is translated as Salt-free Father. No salt is used in the temple indirectly controlling blood pressure of the people. Probably this city is known for its temper? Thus Father occupies the first slot because many Gods are addressed as father when Puranic age dawned and gods settled down in family culture pushing the mother down who occupied the first place in Upanishads.  In many cultures we can find God addressed as father.  Tamil culture is one of the oldest cultures. In Aramic culture Abba means father which might have come from the older culture Tamil from the word Appa. Similarly father comes from Pitru in Sanskrit. This father and son relationship from many cultures has been perhaps motivated by Tamil culture which is considered to be even older to Sanskrit or   Puranas. Brahman is of common gender and therefore there is no reference to him as mother or father.

All said and   done world is predominantly patriarchal. More than 90% of presidents, prime ministers   are males as are nearly all big corporate bosses. Men dominate finance, technology, films, sports, music, priesthood, army, cooks and even stand-up comedy. In much of the world they still enjoy social and legal privileges simply because they have a Y chromosome.  Early childhood education provides boys with more structure and a better chance of developing verbal and social skills. Schools need to become more boy-friendly. They need to provide more male role models; employing more male teachers in primary schools will both supply boys with male to whom they can relate and demonstrate that men can be teachers as well as firefighters.  The growing equality of the sexes is one of the biggest achievements of the post-war era; people have greater opportunities than ever before to achieve ambitions regardless of their gender but some men have failed to cope with this new world. Badly educated men in rich countries have not adapted well to trade, technology or feminism. More schools would like to have more male teachers to serve as role models for boys, but they find not many volunteers. And poorly educated men are often much worse at things such as showing up in time and being pleasant to customers than their female peers are. Couples split for variety of reasons, but a common complaint is that the man was not doing his fair share.

Absence of a father affects the children growing with mother alone. Children who grow up in broken families do worse in school, earn less as adults and find it harder to form stable families of their own.  Boys are worse affected than girls, perhaps because they typically grow up without a father as a role model. The problems of marginalized men tumble on down the generations. Men who never shoulder family responsibilities miss out on a lot of joy, and so do many fatherless boys.

When men live with women on more equal terms, they may grow closer to their children. Father may find they like being attentive, and would certainly be good for their kids, especially boys. “Fathers are teachers and coaches.  They are mentors and role models. They are examples of success and the men who constantly push us towards it. But if we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that what too many fathers also are missing—missing from too many lives and homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of   men. And the foundations of our families are weak because of it” said our president Obama on Father’s day in 2008. Plenty of fatherless-boys turn-out to be fine. But the point of our conservative President   which many more conservatives echo is sound. There are many ways to be a father and man. But not all of them are equally honorable.  Many Gods in Hindu religious texts are hailed as Fathers. All of them cannot be considered as ideal fathers as we ee later.    

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 out  of  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; Aachaarya devo bhava).  Here all may be of equal status for God is Tadekam thougth many say mother is first! But Hindus have not   designated any one day or any one god for celebration of these mortal gods but worship deceased father all the time even if he was not good to them.  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.  It was the will of God that the age of eight I decided to move away from my parents who lived in a village in erstwhile State of   Mysore and lived with my grand-parents in Chennai. Later I considered every guardian of mine as father and was lucky to have three adopted fathers.  I did not have the joy of living with my siblings to share love with them and enjoy the fun of customary fights too. But I lived with my cousins as my own siblings to whom I was a role model.  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 and write about Father’s Day.  I also grew up with the concept pitro rakshati rakshitah.

I often wonder why graduation ceremony is so important in Hindu American Way of life!   I never heard of it as I grew up in my life passing through several graduations. It is thought in USA as  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 an object of 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, having   decided to move  from India to give  the best of education for them which was denied to me being poor and an Iyengar Brahmin  when caste based Communal G.O.,  dictated rules for   admission to engineering and medical  studies soon after the so called Independence.  I could influence my children’s 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 developed lukewarm attitude to 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. It is wiser 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, though it holds good for a day on  Father’s day for sending a greeting  card once a year!  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 or left them in despair in their homeland as many migrants now do!  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 which I would later discuss in detail do not inspire me to pay that high respect to my father going to a temple and propitiating a deity   for worship   as my moral obligations and Manava (human) Dharma compel.   Religious approach seems to be not that great learning from the stories of Rama, Parasurama, Siva  or as a matter fact any God as ideal father though they are all praised as fathers. Siva neglected his intelligent son Subhramanya though he depended on his valor, went out of the wave to bring Ganesha to limelight compelled by Parvati and both of them were not natural born sons of Parvati though it was a love marriage. Rama never thought about his children when Sita was pregnant.  Parasurama beheaded his mother implicitly obeying his father whatever may be the justification (that was his law of the letter Pitru devo bhava!).  Jamadaghni was neither a good husband nor a good father whom Parasuram obeyed out of fear. Probably Narasimha episode did not happen on planet earth! Here again the respect goes to son but no Son’s Day is celebrated! Who knows? Buddha walked away from worldly responsibilities agitated andpained by others but causing enormous pain to his beloved. 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  also more popularly known as Radha-krishna, (not Rukmini or Satyabhama) Union of Jeevaatman and  Paramaatman  and also Jagannatha (Universal Lord) or Janaardhana (Savior of people). I never heard of Pradyumna as Krishna-suta or Krishna-kumara though he is considered as Vyuha of Vasudeva, chip of the same block.

Our Scriptures mandate a lot as son’s duty. Scriptures insist on Naandi shraaddha to honor  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 vishvedeva deities--the father, grand-father, 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 fore-fathers who have led a noble life and enjoy life for a while in Pitruloka as Upanishads postulate!  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 Prahlaada 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.   Prahlaada was deeply grieved and felt still indebted to his father.   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. Did he know the secret of his father’s life as Jaya or Vijayaa in previous life?  Even Narasimha should have been surprised! How can Lord refuse his beloved devotee’s request? He blessed Prahlaada to be a Chiranjeevi, (Immortal) and a permanent companion of his.  Prahlaada 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 Bhagavadgeeta that among Deityas (demons) he is Prahlaada (deityaanam Prhlaadosmi), thus complimenting the noble and philosophically pious 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 world 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 Garbhaadaana (charity to womb).  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 Kanyaa-daanam (charity of a girl) 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, Prahlaada would neither have been in this world, nor there would have been any reason for the Avatar of Narasimha, nor would have Hiranyakasipu relieved of his curse to go back   to Vaikuntha to resume his duties as  Vishnu’s gate-keeper.   So it was all the divine will and plan.  

We hear of many prodigal sons too.  A good father waits for the return of his prodigal son. This has been well told in the parable   of the  prodigal son in Bible too.  We hear of  sacrificial father's too. Good Lord sent Jesus his only son to save the world knowing well the cruel world where he was crucified. We hear of  a cruel father Hiranya Kasipu who made several attempts to kill his son but his son  in turn got Moksha (liberation)  for his father praying  to  most ferocious God.    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.  Prahlaada is an example. 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. He will not be the same father in the next birth in Hindu Concept too! 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 (pitasya 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 god-father who has nurtured 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”.
                          

Which Deity to choose to worship on Father’s day?
We have to give credit to Christianity for creating Father’s Day Celebration concept and also making it a worshipful day in churches. We have in Hindu practice several religious days like  Rakhi (sister), Bhai Duj (brother), Karadiyan Nonbu (husband), Vata Savaitri Vrat (husband), Karva Chaut (husband), Kumari puja  (Kanyakumari),  Acharyajanma Tithi (Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhwa, Basveswara etc), Guru Poornima (Veda Vyaasa), Dattatreya Jayanti (Guru),    celebrated as festivals and also many of them  made special worshipful days in temples but not Father or Mother for we believe in worshiping them is a routine every day at home. How did this concept develop in Christianity? When Jesus was taken to crucifixion he pleaded to the Supreme as follows: “Father! They know not what they do, forgive them”.  Here he addressed God as Father and prayed to him. Strangely Jesus himself not addressed as father by his followers. You always find the inscription INRI besides cross in Catholic churches. This means: Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum—Jesus of Nazareth, the King of Jews. Here he is addressed as King and not as Father.  Hence devout Christians rush to churches to pray fathers for their earthly Father pleading to Heavenly Father for all human being. That is Brahman in Hindu Concept though Christians do not accept. Hindus say: “Eko (pitaa?) vipraah bahudaa vadanti”.  The Good Lord said In Bhagavadgeetaa “Pitaa aham asya jagato”—I am the father of this world.   Jesus never addressed himself as father but often said we are all Children of God. May I draw your attention here to an American Publication.  In Children of Immortal Bliss Paul Hourihan, who was a long-time American student of Vedanta, presents the venerable Indian teachings of Vedanta.    In his own inimitable way, he shows how the profound, yet practical, teachings of Vedanta, one of the main schools of thought in Hinduism, give meaning and understanding to our lives. Immortal Bliss here refers to Brahman as Universal Father as declared in Bhagavadgeetaa.
Hindu Americans want to rush to the temple on this day to dedicate this day to their Fathers and also propitiate a deity from the assembly of Gods in Hindu complexes.   They also make it a community Celebration Day in Temples inspired by the American Christian Mass Worship in churches even though Hindus in India never make it a significant day for temple worship.  At best they may go to a temple and do one customary archana-mode of worship (chanting glory of God with 108 names) praying for happy and long life for their beloved and   living father. They pay homage to the deceased fathers during Pitrupaksha fortnight or on the s day of death   anniversary. Hindu American children to-day know more about Puranas than their elders having been made wise by Hindu Heritage and Religious Classes arranged by  the community.  It is therefore necessary to   propitiate a God of their choice based on logic on this day who would be   convincing to them based on their scriptural knowledge and facts!
Based on Kalidasa’s portrayal of Siva as ideal father Hindu  Americans who are largely followers of Saivism ably supported by Sakta followers resort to Siva worship on Father’s day dedicating the day for Him. But Puranas and scriptures do mention about other Gods too. Let us examine the same when we think of celebrating Father’s Day in Hindu Way.
Parvati and Parameswara are prayed upon as Universal Parents (jagatah pitarau vande).  Neither Ganesha nor Subrahmanya (Kartikeya) was womb-born of Parvati. In fact their son Kartikeya who matched in intelligence his father Siva should have been fathers’ son. May be that is why Hindu Temples prefer to   dedicate Father’s day to Siva!   Pitaa means: The One who is responsible for birth, one who is a Protector and Savior. He always thinks about children, and is the benefactor of his    children.   Lord Krishna who shows his Viswaroopa (cosmic form) as Narayana in Bhagavadgeeta,   says: “Pitaa- aham asya jagato maataa dhaataa pitaamahah” -- I am the father of this world and also the Mother, the sustainer and the Grand-father giving the first slot to Father.  It is therefore no wonder the son reveals the character of his father (chip of the same block) and also carries his surname and not that of mother in most of the world cultures.
Rama devotees want to dedicate this day to Rama whom they address as “Dayalu” kind hearted    father:
Maataa Raamo mat-Pitaa Raamacandrah |
Svaamee  Raamo mat-Sakhaa Raamacandrah ||
Sarvasvam  may Raamacandro dayaalu h |
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)   my all in all, I do not know any other; I do not know any other; Indeed I do not know any other. [Rama here is considered as all three-in-one, Father, Mother and a Friend]
 A Tamil scripture Tiruvoymozhi (TVM) glorifies father thus:  Our Father is the unparalleled one and unmatched. He has no equal and none superior to Him.   ottaar mikkaar illai  aaya maamaayan”  He is the most mysterious Lord- who has no equal and none superior. One may wonder. Why to talk of superior if there is none equal even?  This is an interesting observation. In general, when we say that there is no equal to somebody (ottaar), it implicitly means that there is none higher than him (mikkaar) either. Theologically speaking, this could be correct and that the expression 'mikkaar illai' might even seem redundant. But in a philosophical context, you don't leave room for any assumptions and stress more clearly without any doubt. This is evidently taken from Svetaasatara Upanishad—“na tat  samaschapyadhikascha drisyate ...." (The one who has no equal and nothing exceeding him...)The full hymn in TVM reads as follows:
ottaar mikkaara illai aaya maavaaya!
ottaai epporutkum uyiraai ennaippetra
attaayaay-ttandaiyay  ariyaadana arivittu
attaa ! nei seydana adiyen ariyene
. – TVM 2.3.2
Even the Supreme Lord (Sriman Narayana) lacks one thing. He does not have 'anything equal to or exceeding him'. If one lacks something he is called poor-man, and he is not equal and nothing exceeding poor man (ottarr mikkaar illai). It is indeed very surprising to see how such   poor-man (God) could do so many unimaginable favors to me (ayamaavaaya).

The hymn conveys the deeper meaning like this: You are above everything. And you chose to come among us as one of us through your Avatars. And having appeared as one among us what did you do? You were my soul, my dear mother, my father and my Guru.   As Mother, Father and Guru you taught me everything that I didn't know because of my ignorance.  You are Supreme Being and hence you did all these. How can I ever attempt to explain it? You only know that too! You have taught us thus our Father is the most wonderful and the Supreme Most. He always cares for us… and is so concerned about each one of us.   

Alavandaar a famous saint pays his obeisance to   Nammazhwaar who leads all Azhwars  (Tamil saint) and a Guru of Ramanuja through the following verse- wherein he relates Nammazhwaar as the very father, mother and all kinds of relative.

maataa pitaa yuvatayas tanayaa vibhootih |
sarvam yadeva niyamena matanva-yaanaam |
aatyasya nah kulabrhiter vaku-laabhi-raamam |
sreemat  tatdanaghri-yugalam prana-maami moordha-naa  ||

For my heritage (vamsam)   I consider Nammazhwar as the Mother, Father, the Spouses, the Children; the wealth and all my pleasures.    I prostrate to those lotus feet of Kula-pati Nammazhwar adorned with the garland of Magizha flowers.

It is rather a sharp turn in thinking moving away from the wisdom taught in Vedas which said “Gurur devo bhava”   implying think of god first and equate Guru with god--Think Guru as God! Vedas say similarly of Mother and Father “Matru devo bhava” and “Pitru devo bhava”.  Similarly Viswa-saara-tantra said: “Gururbrahma gurur vishnuh gururdevo mahesvarah”,   making it clear that God is our first thought and Guru is equated with him. Similarly father and mother are equated with God.
Vedanta Desika in his Upakkara Sangraha says:
Tandai ena ninra tanit-tirumaal taaLil talai vaittom Sadagopan arulaale”


The Lord stood as the Forever-caring Father, making great contributions (tandai ena ninravan) due to the guidance of Namaazhvar (Sadagopan arulaale). Here again the Supreme Being is compared to ever caring father.

Madhurakavi Azhwaar being a great devotee of   Lord Narayana (Supreme Being in Srivaishnava concept), went on a pilgrimage trip to North India. While in Dwaraka he stood before Lord Krishna and prayed thus: “Perumaayan  en  appan”.  [En appan--My Father; peru maayan =mysterious Supreme Lord]. He describes Lord Krishna as Supreme Being like Jaydeva describes Krishna in his composition on Dasvataara. 

The wise lady and Tamil scholar Avaiyar said: “annaiyum pitaavum munnari deivam”-–Mother and father are the first known Gods giving equal status. She did not even think of guru who comes later in life. She made it clear we do not know about real God but mother and father are our first seen and visible Gods. Alavandar echoes the same thought in comparing Nammazhwar to father and mother and equating to Sriman Narayan. A famous and popular sloka recited at the concluding session of Hindu prayer says: “Tvameva maataa cha pitaa cha tameva tvameva bandhuscha sakhaa tvameva tvameva vidya a dravinam tameva tvameva sarvaam mama deva deva.”  Here again known visible gods are compared to unknown God. Thus we can clearly understand we do not know about the unknown God but we do definitely know Father is the God seen in life or visible God.  The hymn above in Tamil goes further to say   that father is very much God in himself as first seen God while  raising    Nammazhwar to the status of the Father first. Here we are reminded  of the human  natural instinct  to consider a great person  as the Father of the Nation (like Mahatma Gandhi) and  not any great mother as the Mother of the Nation  and any  great teacher as the Teacher of the Nation!

The children  in  Hindu Culture pay  respect to  father first while prostrating and then to others : similarly they   pay homage first to the fond memory of their  deceased fathers by way of pitru  tarpanam (oblation to  the  deceased) and then  only to others deceased.

In common understanding of Puranaic stories  neither Siva nor Rama are ideal fathers. Philosophically Puranas do mention Vishnu-Rudra-Brahma  are one and the same all representing Paramaatman. This needs much deeper study and understanding of Puranas.   Judging by what we have learnt from historic rendering of   Puranas which interests common man  Lord Siva was not an ideal Father or husband.  He was a favorite of his devotees only at all times.  Siva favored Ganesha insisted by Parvati at all times, neglecting the most intelligent Subhramanya (Guru Guha) who ran away to Palani Hills to settle down as Bala Murugan alone. Lord Rama abandoned Sita when she was pregnant and so was also not an ideal husband. He was all the time focused on Raja-Dharma. Even when he met Sita with children he was not kind to her and so could not prevent her from joining her mother Bhoodevi. He thus orphaned his children at the very young age when they needed mother’s love most. May be   Rama has to face his Karma! Here is an explanation in Uttara Khanda about Rama's separation from Sita through the words of the royal charioteer of Rama as he drove Lakshmana back from his assigned duty to abandon Sita.  Sumanta (the wise charioteer) explains that Sage Bhrigu had cursed Vishnu, when he cut the head of Bhrigu's wife with Sudarsana Chakra.  Vishnu was angry at her for protecting the Asuras who were foes of the Devas. Bhrigu cursed that Rama will be born as a human son of Dasaratha and will be separated from his wife for causing such an anguish to him (51st chapter of Uttara Khanda ).   Probably in order not to defame Rama as cruel father and husband Valmiki introduced this explanation showing the helplessness of Rama being a subject of Karmaphala as a human being born on earth!
Universal Father (Jagatah Pitaa) is Jagannatha. 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 command us: “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 Bhaktimaarga) 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.  Bhagavadgeetaa 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 (pitrus) go to the manes, the worshipers of the spirits go to the spirits, and my worshipers (those who meditate on Brahman)   come to me too.

Upanishads thus give us a hope to check back whether we were good fathers when we meet our kids meet us  in Pitruloka while  we check back their loyalty.  I have never heard of a Matruloka! 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.

Arjuna pays tribute to fathers addressing Krishna in Bhagavdgeetaa thus: Pitaasi lokasya charaa-charasya tvamasya poojyascha gurur gareeyaan | na tvat-samo-asty-abhyadhikah kutonyo lokatraye-apya-prathima Prabhaavah || You are the Father of the World, of all things that moves and that does not move. You are its   most venerable Guru (teacher). There is none equal to you in all the three worlds. How   can then be anyone greater than father, Oh! Lord! Of matchless greatness!
Ramanuja taught that the deity absolute Parabrahman (Jagannatha), manifests in five possible aspects: Para, Vyuha,  Vaibhava, Antaryamin and Archa. Living beings can interact with the divine through one or another of these five.  The Para form is sometimes described as the first immanent manifestation of the Supreme Being. Vasudeva, characterized by the six characteristics (gunas), otherwise Bhagavan by which name  Krishna is often addressed  in Bhagavadgeeta, is sometimes called the first Vyuha. From Vasudeva emanates Sankarshana in whom jnana (intellect) and bala (strength) alone gets manifested. From Sankarshana comes Pradyumna to whom belongs Aiswarya (wealth) and Veerya (Valor). From Pradyumna emanates Aniruddha to whom Sakti (power) and Tejas (glow) appertain. Ramanuja was an ardent worshiper of Lord Jagannatha and has included Puri Jagannatha Kshetra in his list of 108 Divya Kshetras. Here is a father–son relationship in Vyuha concept.

As always been, when in doubt or trouble, Hindus seek the help from Geetaa where they will always find an answer to their questions.  The concept of     Lord Krishna in His Para aspect as Jagannatha seems to be ideal father to be propitiated on Father’s Day.  Krishna always cared for his family, mostly his wives and children.   Krishna in His cosmic form (Viswaroopa) is praised in Bhagavadgeeta as Universal Father by Arjuna who says also that no God is greater than father. Probably he was feeling about his father’s early demise which deprived him of father’s love! Dhritarashtra failed to give Pandavas fatherly love though showed his lip sympathy being forced to the situation.   I believe the Tamil Veda Thiruvoymozhi also refers to Krishna only as Father! To avoid all controversies it is logical to dedicate this day to Lord Jagannatha who has also favored Lord Krishna and His Parivara for His physical portrayal in Puri on Ratna Singhasana. Puri starts all worship with worship to Narasimha reminding us of Prahlada-krita Narasimha stotra (hymn) in which noble Prahlada pleads Moksha (salvation) for his most cruel Father world can think of!


Puranas talk of Brahma being born out of the navel of Narayana (Vishnu) and Rudra being born of Brahma. This establishes father-son-grandson strong patriarchal relationship  and bond as the plan of Creation promoted to humanity; being all of them in masculine gender in Sanskrit it shows the importance given to Father;   Brahma divided himself as male and female and started  the process of creation. Here all thoughts are focused on Father! Hence from Puranic angle also worship directed to  Jagannatha on Father’s Day satisfies both religious and spiritual aspirants as there is no  direct worship done to Brahma unfortunately in  temples!

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.

6) Contributions   from V.  Madhava Kannan Swami  through  E-mails.

7) Men Adrift, The Economist, USA, May 30, 2015.


[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.]



Appendix

Hymns by Prahlada calms down ferocious Ugra Narasimha and brings salvation to his cruel Father
My thoughts were focused on  to the hymns  composed by Prahlaada and addressed to Narasimha when  his father was killed  which perhaps inspired us to respect one's father however cruel he may be!   With these hymns Narasimha not only calmed down as Ugra (ferocious) Narasimha but also turned him to be  Prhalaada Varada (boon giver  to Prahlaada) who at once not only granted salvation to Hiranyakaipu but also blessed  Prahlaada to be Chiranjeevi relieving him from the cycle of repeated births and deaths. Other known Chiranjeevis are Hanuman and Vedavyasa. 
Prahlaada set a noble example by pleading for the liberation of his father with his prayers as his choice which option was given by Narasimha to Prahlaada. Here we are reminded of another Incarnation of Vishnu as Prasurama in his human portrayal. Parasurama implicitly obeyed his father and instantly beheaded his mother Renuka, a ghastly act. Why did he do so?   You know Jamadagni had a weakness like Durvasa and would be angry at least provocation. He reduced 60000 sons of Sagara to ashes. Had he not killed his mother as ordered by his father, Jamadagni would have reduced to ashes both Renuka and Parasurama. So Parasuram instantly acted and when his father wanted to grant him a boon for his implicit obedience to a father, Parasurama wanted the restoration of life to his beheaded mother.  Here is an obedient son respecting his cruel father honoring Shruti " Pitru devo bhava".

Father is the one responsible for Garbha--daana, a charity directed to the soul,   though mother is responsible for the birth of the child accepting the charity.  Garbhadaana is a sacred act of charity and not an act of love infatuation as per Hindu Dharma and therefore is a prescribed sacrament. But by this act the father makes a charity to accommodate a wandering soul searching for a home.  The soul taking birth as a human child will have a chance to elevate itself in this birth reducing the load on recycle of births and deaths. The choice is that of the child but the father has done his charity. That is why he is honored however bad or good he may be.

You may remember Prahlaada as the prime motivator of Father's Day and chant the slokas on Father's Day like Karavalmba Sloka of Sankara which I added in my very popular discourse with my audience on Narasimha. I  you do not agree with "pitru devo bhava" concept of Parasurama you may give him the credit of "Matru devo Bhava" and prime motivator of Mother's Day but for whose respect  for Mother, Renuka would have been reduced to ashes. Please also note the first worship in Navakalevara to Lord Jagnaantha starts with Nrisingha Yajna where chanting of these hymns by Prahlaada assumes great importance and religious sanctity.  

 Here is a scenario where Prahlada with steadfast devotion to Supreme Being ( Sriman Narayana) calms down the most ferocious Avatar of Ugra Narasimha and brings compassion to his most cruel father. That was the power behind these instantly generated hymns for the occasion.  Remember Prahlada on Father’s Day and chant these hymns if you find time.

[If you need the Hymns with meaning and some explanation please send your request by E-mail to: <nadipuram@hotmail.com> HRA Participants will automatically receive the same.}