Hinduism is the oldest existing civilisation in the world. The interesting thing is that besides being the oldest, it is a resilient and ever flourishing civilisation, too. Have you ever wondered why this civilisation has survived and is still blooming? The answer lies in its civilisational ethos. Hinduism is not a religion; it is a way of life. With the march of civilisation, the Hindu-intellect evolved certain values, principles, creeds and beliefs. This Hindu way of living is based on these core values and fundamentals which make it ever growing and sustaining. There is a basic underlying value-system which has enabled this civilisation to survive for over 5,000 years. Interestingly, these values have been assimilated in our culture in such a way that they have become part of our daily lives. These ways of life are termed Sanatani (beginning-less) since they are beyond time and space and are universal in their applicability.
There are many Hindu principles which the world has adopted from Hinduism and there are many which the world needs to adopt so as to make it a better place to live. The following are a few of them:
Extended family as a life value
National Geographic researcher and Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner discovered that communities with most centenarians have one thing in common: Making family members and other loved ones among the daily priorities. As per this research, time spent with family is a wise investment which can add up to six years to your life expectancy! Living in an extended family is one of the important values of Hinduism.
The Hindu concept of life is not a life based on individualism per se, but a life which is based on family-ism. It is not the individual but ‘individual in family’ who is the basic unit of Hindu identity. Family is a pivot on which the whole Hindu way of life revolves. It is in the family that a Hindu-individual is born, groomed and gets his value system. Living in a family makes your life stress-free and gives psychological support to excel.
Hindu parents are duty bound to raise their children and take care of ageing parents. This unit of family is generally an extended family in which though all the members may not be living under the same roof but enjoy very close emotional bonds. You cannot conceive of any Hindu family without family as the basic unit.
Respecting parents and elders
A child is groomed to respect, care and obey his parents and grandparents. Lord Ram gave up his kingdom for the sake of his father’s vow. Parents for any Hindu child are living Gods. Indian legends have the example of Shravan Kumar who shouldered his blind parents to all the holy cities. Out of father and mother, mother is given more respect since she is the birth-giver.
Unlike many Western cultures where parents are disobeyed, it is hard to think of any Hindu child disobeying his parents. The other social value is respecting elders. The elders may include uncles, aunts (both paternal and maternal), other elders of the family, and elders in general. The teacher is worshiped as a guru and is given equal respect as parents. A guru is a mentor, friend, philosopher and guide for his students and is revered as such.
You will not find such a welcoming attitude towards guests in any culture where the latter are hailed as gods. The underlying thought of Hindu-philosophy is Atithi Devo Bhav (Guests are Gods). The visiting guest is given utmost respect and care. This value is imbibed right in the family culture and has been ritualised as a tradition. This is one of the reasons why the Hindu civilisation has been so receptive to all the incoming cultures and giving space to accommodate them all. India is home to all the major six religions of the world and people from other religions have settled here because of the accommodative ethos of Hinduism.
Co-existence with other beings
Going to temple and reciting prayers is a daily ritual for many Hindus. The most interesting part is the recitation of the prayers ending with two axioms “Parniyon Mein Sadbhavna Ho” (let all living beings live in peace with each other) and “Vishva Ka Kalyan Ho” (Let the whole world prosper). The Hindu is not concerned about me, myself or fellow human beings only. Praniyon means all living creatures, including birds, animals, plants, trees, etc. Even the Panch-Tatva which are five basic elements of life — water, air, earth, space and fire — are considered living entities and are hailed and worshiped as such. A Hindu worships rivers, mountains, fire, forests, sky, et al. As for ‘Vishva Ka kalyan Ho’, it means that a Hindu is not only concerned with fellow countrymen, but prays for the well-being and welfare of the whole universal; this is true humanism and universalism.
The world needs to learn these cultural values which are the core ethics of Hinduism.
The writer is an independent columnist. Views expressed are personal.