^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ SYMBOLS OF TWELVE MAJOR WORLD RELIGIONS ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^



This paper on “Hindu Approach to HIV/AIDS” was read by this blogger on 6th December, 1999 at the ‘Second International Conference on AIDS INDIA 2000, Organized by Tamil Nadu MGR Medical University, Chennai. Though the data presented here is outdated but the subject is relevant for all time.


It is very painful to know that Asia itself now accounts for atleast one quarter of the world’s 33 million HIV affected people, and India is the country with the largest absolute number of people living with HIV/AIDS (HIV:40 lakhs/AIDS:9500). It is heartening to know that the noble hearted doctors, social workers and the Govt. have awakened to deal with one of the deadliest diseases of the world.


Although Science and Technology have contributed a lot to the improvement in quality of life, they have miserably failed to bring solace and peace. The separation of Science from Religion has been a major tragedy for humanity. Swami Vivekananda wanted that Science and Religion should shake hands with each other. The relationship between them may be likened to that of body and soul. The body without soul is a mere corpse and the soul without body, a mere phantom. Science alone cannot solve the problems of the human society. Hindu Dharma or Sanatana Dharma (which literally means Eternal Religion) directs us to higher knowledge by which one gets eternal joy and peace. Sanatana Dharma is not against reasoning but leads us to the highest goal through practice of virtues such as observance of morality, purity of body and mind, truthfulness etc. The world’s malady is through the spiritual path.


The Hindu life is divided into four stages viz Brahmacharya, Garhasthya, Vanaprastha and Sannyasa. The first stage of life covers the period of study when a student cultivates his mind and soul. He lives with his teacher and regards him as his spiritual father. He leads an austere life and conserves his energy by avoiding evil thoughts and deeds.

It is at this stage the young generation has to be moulded. It is the need of the time that they are to be trained in social, cultural and spiritual values to mould their life. At the completion of his studies, the Taittiriya Upanisad tells what a student should do. “Speak the truth. Practise dharma. Do not neglect study (of the Vedas). Having brought to the teacher the gift desired by him, (enter the house holders’ life and see that) the line of progeny is not cut off. Do not swerve from the truth. Do not swerve from dharma. Do not neglect personal welfare. Do not neglect prosperity. Do not neglect the study and teaching of the Vedas. Do not neglect your duties to the gods and the manes. Treat your mother as God. Treat your father as God. Treat your teacher as God. Treat your guest as God. Whatever deeds are faultless, these are to be performed – not others. Whatever good works have been performed by them should be performed by us”.
Thus the students are instructed by the teachers about values of life. But we have very less scope for such instructions by teachers who were living examples for students. Other than the small goals of life like getting a degree, gaining position, etc., higher goals of life should be shown to the younger generation.

With marriage a person enters the second stage. Hinduism does not regard romance as the whole of married life. Husband and wife are co-partners in their spiritual progress and the family provides a training ground for the practice of unselfishness. Chastity is the first virtue for every man and woman. A good, chaste wife thinks of every other man except her own husband as her child and has the attitude of a mother towards all men. Similarly every husband must look upon all women, except his own wife in the light of his own mother, daughter or sister.

Then again, one who wants to be a teacher of religion must look upon every woman as his mother and always behave towards her as such. Swami Vivekananda says, ‘Blessed indeed is the man who is able to look upon women as the representative of the motherhood of God. Blessed indeed is the women to whom man represents the fatherhood of God’.

Sri Ramakrishna, the prophet of modern India, told his household devotees to live like brother and sister after begetting one or two children. True to his teaching there are so many persons living like this even from the starting of their marriage. Sri Ramakrishna with his wife set so perfect an example of married love and yet were free from the least taint of corporeal passion. In fact it is the great lesson of their lives that in the highest specimens of humanity, love is not dependent on sex or any consideration of physical intimacy. Thus he paved a way for a higher life. The Upanishads say: ‘It is not for the sake of the husband that the husband is loved, but it is for the sake of the self that he is loved. It is not for the sake of the wife that the wife is loved, but it is for the sake of the self that she is loved. It is not for the sake of the sons that the sons are loved, but it is for the sake of the self that the sons are loved (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1,4,5). We invite modern psychologists to study his life to bring more light to the human society to evolve into higher state of existence, knowledge and bliss.

Maha Nirvana Tantra says that no man should scold his wife and he must always maintain her as if she were his own mother.


“Brahmacharya pratishtham veerya labahah”-By the establishment of continence energy is gained.
Swami Vivekananda says that the chaste brain has tremendous energy and gigantic will power. Without chastity there can be no spiritual strengh. Continence gives wonderful control over mankind. The spiritual leaders of humanity have been very continent and this is what gave them power.


“The Yogis claim that of all the energies that are in the human body, the highest is what they call ojas. This ojas is stored up in the brain, and the more ojas is in a man’s head, the more powerful he is, the more intellectual, the more spiritually strong.

Now in every man there is more or less of this Ojas stored up. All the forces that are working in the body in their highest become Ojas. It is only a question of transformation. The same force which is working outside as electricity or magnetism will become changed into inner force; the same force that is working as muscular energy will be changed into Ojas. The yogis say that that part of the human energy which is expressed as sex energy in sexual thought when checked and controlled, easily becomes changed into Ojas. It is only the chaste men or women who can make the Ojas rise and store it in the brain; that is why chastity has always been considered the highest virtue. A man feels that if he is unchaste, spirituality goes away. He loses mental vigour and moral stamina. That is why in all the religious orders in the world which have produced spiritual giants you will always find absolute chastity insisted upon. That is why the monks came into existence, giving up marriage”.


We should not forget that religion is primarily meant for liberating the soul from the bondage of the body and mind by using them as vehicle and instrument respectively. In this respect Hinduism guides us to keep the body & mind healthy as well as pure. It is possible to purify by observing strict continence. In Sanskrit it is called Brahmacharya. It means chastity in thought, speech and deed, always and in all conditions. All our desires have to be sublimated in order to direct the mind to the higher channels of goal by training the mind in japa, prayer and meditation.

Our real nature and purpose of life should be clear. Swami Vivekananda says : ‘Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this Divinity within by controlling nature external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or phychic control, or philosophy by one, or more, or all of these and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temple or forms are but secondary details’.

Among the four paths viz Karma yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga, Raja yoga is a suitable path to train the minds of the modern young persons. It is purely a scientific approach to know ones own self.

It is said in the Katha Upanishad, I quote “The self willed supreme Lord inflicted an injury upon the sense organs in creating them with outgoing tendencies; Therefore with them a man perceives only outer objects, not the inner self but a calm person wishing for immortality, beholds the inner self with eyes closed.

So it is obvious that such a mind has to be given an inward turn towards the higher self. How it has to be given? Here is a narration of a life incident in one of the disciples of Sri Ramakrishna.

Harinath, one of the disciples of Ramakrishna met him at the age of eighteen. When he became closer to Ramakrishna he freely asked all sorts of questions concerning him personally ‘Sir’, he inquired one day, ‘how can we free ourselves completely from lust?’ Sri Ramakrishna replied: ‘Why should it go my boy?. Give it a turn in another direction’: This was something new to Hari. He had thought that a Brahmachari, or celibate should completely destroy lust. But here he found a new kind of advice, which he could never have thought of himself the most powerful urge in a human being was to be channeled in a different direction, so that instead of becoming an obstacle in spiritual life, it could become a help. Instead of wasting one’s effort on overcoming lust, we should direct one’s intensity of emotion to God.

Another time Hari told Sri Ramakrishna that he could not bear the sight of women. To this the Master replied ‘you talk like a fool. Looking down upon women! Why, they are manifestation of the Divine Mother. Bow down to them with respect. That is the only way to escape from their snares’.

Higher Truth gives more bliss than the sensual pleasures. There is a beautiful description in Taittiriya Upanisad about different degrees of bliss. By bliss we mean joy without the touch of sensual pleasure.

It is so unfortunate that younger generation is not made aware of higher type of joys that are available within oneself.


“Who could live, who could breathe, if that blissful self dwelt not within the lotus of the heart? He it is that gives joy”.

Of what nature is this joy?

Consider the lot of a young man, noble well read intelligent, strong, healthy, with all the wealth of the world at his command assume that he is happy, and measure his joy as one unit.

One hundred times that joy is one unit if the joy of the beings that are in the higher world but no less than them is the seer to whom the self has been revealed and who is without craving.

And again one hundred times the joy of these beings is one unit of the joy of the celestial beings still in the higher world.

Similarly the joys of various celestial beings in the higher worlds, upto the creator of the universe are multiplied for each higher world hundred fold. The nature of self is infinite joy or bliss. When infinite joy is available within one’s own self why then one should for carnal enjoyments. It is merely ignorance about one’s own self. Once this knowledge is imparted to young generation at right time and trained in that line in a scientific manner then there is less chance for them to go astray.


Obviously it is we all- doctors, social workers especially teachers, monks, parents, officials should join and work together to help the younger generation to know the right things at right time. Different media may also be used to highlight social, cultural and spiritual values in the society. The rich culture and values of this eternal religion should not left to be washed away by the influence of cheap culture of sensuality, lust and greed. It is a fact that T V is doing more harm to the children than giving knowledge and entertainment when they watch all sorts of programmes. About 48 % of children in India spent 4-5 hours on weekdays and more than 6 hours on holidays. There should be a check over the programmes by the Govt. Parents, teachers and elders should see the type of programmes that children are watching.

At every stage of life children should be taught higher values of life which is vital for any society to survive not only physically but also morally, culturally, spiritually. Let us join and work together for a healthy global village.

Reference Books:

1. Hinduism – Its meaning for the liberation of the spirit by Swami Nikhilananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai – 4

2. Sri Sarada Devi – The Holy Mother – Swami Tapasyananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai – 4

3. Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda – Vol.1 Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta – 14

4. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna – Trans. By Swami Nikhilananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai – 4

5. The Upanishads – Swami Prabhavananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai-4

                *                          *                              *                                 *

No comments: