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Universal and Eternal Principles: A Hindu Roadmap for World Peace During Hindu Heritage Month

Universal and Eternal Principles: A Hindu Roadmap for World Peace During Hindu Heritage Month

  • HSS volunteers imbibe positive qualities and values in themselves at their weekly gatherings through familial, community-building activities across the U.S.

October is celebrated as “Hindu Heritage Month” in many parts of the United States to increase awareness and appreciation of the people of the Hindu faith. This signifies a collective tribute to the varied traditions, festivals, values, and expressions of the Hindu jeevan paddhati (way of life) and jeevan mulya (human values). It also recognizes the existence and contributions of the diverse, thriving, and growing Hindu diaspora in North America.

Hinduism has brought forth many universal and eternal principles to benefit all humankind. Nonviolence and peace are the most popular ones, especially in the West. They might seem utopian and strenuous to achieve in today’s multi-polar world, where conflict over resources and religion abounds. And that is why, perhaps, the world looks increasingly at Hinduism for peaceful, non-violent solutions. The true essence of Hinduism’s principles, however,  lies far below the surface of these ideas – it lies in the integration of one’s lifestyle with core values. 

A doctrine of this is outlined most articulately in a prayer familiar to thousands of Hindu Americans, who recite it collectively in groups every Sunday in multiple cities nationwide. 

The prayer starts with obeisance to Bhoomi – our Mother Earth. Earth sustains all living beings and fulfills our existential needs. It deserves our gratitude and respect. The beginning of the prayer instantly “grounds” the individual to their existence and context. 

The concept of the earth as a mother exists in many cultures. The United Nations also celebrates April 22 as International Mother Earth Day each year. The significance of paying respects to Mother Earth at the start of the prayer is two-fold. First, it ties us all, the children of Mother Earth, into fraternal bonds as siblings. This promotes familial thinking, dissolving artificial identities of race, religion, and region. Second, it makes us all equal beneficiaries of the bounties of nature and the debtors of its finite resources. The Ishavasya Upanishad states,

īśāvāsyamidaṁ sarvaṁ yatkiñca jagatyāṁ jagat |
tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā mā gṛdhaḥ kasyasviddhanam

This means that divinity pervades every element of the universe. We should enjoy the gifts of the creation while balancing our individual needs with those of others and leaving some for future generations. “The earth can provide enough for everyone’s needs, but not for everyone’s greed”, Mahatma Gandhi used to say. Remembering this promotes looking out for others, which leads to peaceful co-existence among all people, and people with all of nature.

While the earth represents the material aspects or the “mass” (jaDa), the Supreme Spirit represents “energy” (chaitanya). The prayer transitions to saluting this Supreme, Satchidananda, responsible for the wellbeing of the entire universe and the genesis of virtuosity and eternal principles of existence. 

Here the Supreme is not named after popular Hindu Gods. While many rich prayers dedicated to the different forms of divinity in Hinduism exist, this prayer steers clear from naming one God. The intention is to inspire a collective acknowledgment of a “higher power”, rising above one’s individual beliefs, forms of worship, and family traditions. Then, what attributes describe this higher power? Not the worldly ones, such as shape, symbol, or virtues, but the ones that take us to the higher moral states of sat (truth), chit (conscience), and ananda (bliss). Even the Ayurveda talks about energy layers around the soul, called koshas. The spiritual journey moves one through the annamaya (body) and pranamaya (self-awareness) koshas to the manomaya (conscience/community), vijnanamaya (cosmic principles), and anandamaya (joy/spiritual oneness) koshas, in that sequence. The idea of Satchidananda as a representation of divinity in the prayer is, thus, spiritual and not religious.

After such a profoundly meaningful tribute to the earth and the divinity, the prayer is no longer an individual and intimate endeavor… a higher state of collective awareness has been attained. The prayer outlines the “big goal” for the gathered – to project Hinduism’s universal principles before the whole world and illuminate the pathway to peace through them. 

This goal seems like a long stretch. One needs the right skills, tools, and orientation to walk the talk. The Bhagawad Geeta says that success comes with the right foundation of one’s mind, values, habits, and knowledge. For the group that is aspiring for a supersized goal, the prayer lays out these desired values –

  1. Strength, which includes a fit body, an indomitable spirit, and mental fortitude to overcome obstacles,
  2. Integrity of character, which others can role model,
  3. Knowledge to provide clarity and connectivity with fellow travelers,
  4. Discipline for simultaneous material and spiritual growth, and
  5. Belief in and devotion to the goal.

But the lofty goal of world peace surely needs more than individual intentions and virtues. Again, past Hindu philosophers, such as Swami Vivekananda, provide lessons on achieving societal objectives. He used to advocate unity and organization of well-meaning, strong individuals for the upliftment and peaceful co-existence of the masses. Virtuous teachings of Hinduism, such as mutual love and respect, service, sacrifice, integrity, perseverance, and a sense of duty, provide the steps leading to the goal. They transcend time, space, and artificial walls of division and guide us to a righteous path in life, irrespective of lineage, age, race, gender, or vocation. The prayer outlines these aspects, invoking togetherness and the spirit of dedicating the self to a larger, communal cause.

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With this, the prayer concludes. The group reciting it – the members and volunteers of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) – disperses with a renewed purpose.

Following the roadmap outlined in the prayer, HSS volunteers imbibe positive qualities and values in themselves at their weekly gatherings through familial, community-building activities across the U.S. Through programs such as Yogathons, Teacher Appreciation, Interfaith Dialog, Universal Oneness Day, SewaDiwali, etc., they put their mission into practice

The prayer demonstrates that the essence of Hinduism is in “mulyaadhishthit jeevan paddhati”, which translates to a lifestyle grounded in core values. During this year’s Hindu Heritage Month, let us remember and honor the core Hindu teachings that lead to a coherent and unifying (i.e. yogic), fulfilling, and meaningful life –

  • anyone can achieve greatness and divinity through individual virtues, an environment-conscious lifestyle, and progression on a spiritual path, 
  • everyone can contribute to the well-being of others around them when they develop a compassionate and socially benevolent character, and
  • establishing sustained peace and harmony is a collective, inclusive effort

Happy Hindu Heritage Month! Aum ShantiH, ShantiH, ShantiH (May peace prevail everywhere)!

(Photos, courtesy, HSS)

Anil Kothari is an Oklahoma City-based mechanical engineer, yoga practitioner, and yoga teacher.

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  • Very inspiring perspective at a time when the whole world is looking for solutions to address conflicts and ideas for sustainable peace. Learning and sharing about Hindu cultural values and practices is a true celebration of Hindu Heritage Month. Thanks for sharing.

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