- HINDU SAMSKARAS IN THE EYES OF PERIYAVAA
SAstra-s emphasize that for the purpose of realization of the Self, one has to practice what is known as nitya-anitya-vastuviveka (discrimination between what is eternal and what is temporary or perishable etc.), iha-amutra-phala-vairagya (renunciation of the fruits of action in this world and elsewhere), sama-damaadi-sadhamasampat (control of sense organs, control of mind etc.) and Mumukshutva (a burning desire for the highest liberated state). Indeed, it is not easy to practise them all of a sudden. But one has to start the process one day or the other if one wants peace and tranquility. Fundamental to all these is chitta suddhi or purity of mind. When a person performs a ritual, his mind is focussed on it during the performance of the entire ritual: the mind is weaned away from wasteful thoughts, malice, ill-will,etc. etc. Some people perform rituals under the directions of a priest but they do not concentrate while performing the ritual.
I have heard this story narrated by Kanchi Mahaswamigal. The story goes that a grihasta was performing a certain homam at his house. The priest instructed him to offer a ball of cooked rice(havis) into the fire(agni) saying swahaa. Without paying attention to instruction of the priest, the grihasta put the ball of havis in his mouth. The priest shouted, "O Brahmana, that was meant to be offered into the fire." The grihasta promptly took out the havis from his mouth and threw it into the fire. The priest now shouted at the top of his voice thus:-"Siva, Siva, what a blasphemy?You have polluted the fire with your ucchishtam(echal).The grihasta acted quickly and poured water into the fire thinking that he was purifying the fire and extinguished the fire. The whole ritual was ruined. Such a catastrophe can be avoided when a person believes that the ritual is performed for his benefit only. Some of us perform rituals under compulsion from parents, wife or other family members or close friends. PeriyavA gave an excellent example in this regard. A woman looks at the mirror and finds that her forehead is barren and does not bear tilakam. Will it serve the purpose if she were to apply kunkumam(bindi or sticker) to her reflection in the mirror? Likewise, rituals have to be performed for our own benefits and spiritual upliftment, says Paramacharya.
All the rituals are part of what the Gita refers to as karma-yoga. Karma-yoga means doing things in a refined way in a perfect manner. Work or rituals done to perfection is yoga. Yogah karmasu kausalam(B.G. verse50,chapter2), says Lord krishna in the Gita.
Karma-yoga implies performing duties without aspiring for the results of actions. It perfectly fits into the regime of rituals, since performance of rituals, especially the nitya-karma (vihita karma), does not confer any special merit(punya), but their non-performance incurs sins according to texts on rituals.
(to be continued)
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