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Sunday, September 25, 2022

The centrality of rituals in Hindu life

How does dharma manifest to us? Being subtle how does it become graspable to its followers? Dharma for practical purposes, is tradition. And tradition manifests to us in the forms of customs, rituals and tradition.

That is Hindu dharma.

This explains what it means to be a Hindu? And why there are rituals? I am not fond of quoting westerns on Hindu dharma but this passage by Werner Menski manages to catch the gist of being Hindu. I will quote directly from him:

“Here lies the key to understanding what it is to be a Hindu. For it is ultimately the recognition of the interrelationship between the individual and the cosmos which defines a Hindu. This recognition may be mainly subconscious, and most Hindus will probably not express it in so many words, but there is clear evidence of a belief in invisible or partly visible links between the individual and the cosmic world. Certainly, most Hindus are aware of the many visible links between the individual and his or her physical environment. The Hindu approach to life is an environmentalist approach, one which underlies and helps us to explain the phenomena of Hindu social life.”

To elaborate upon the first tweet, the rituals, customs and tradition in Hindu dharma are the concrete manifestations of cosmic rhythms in individual and social life. It is impossible to grasp them rationally.

These cosmic rhythms only become manifest to us when like a mantra, we repeat a certain ritual designed by Jñānīs is repeated again and again and then it reveals its secrets to us. It is not a rational but a supra-rational understanding of cosmic rhythms.

This understanding is not evolutionary. It is an insight, which means that this understanding is inherent in all of us and is hidden due to the layers of ignorance that we have acquired and appears suddenly when our citta is cleansed of this ignorance by sādhanā.

When our citta is cleansed, these insights suddenly appear, or so to say; revealed. There are various means of purity of citta, meditation being a very potent one, but sādhanā of a certain custom and ritual is also a very common way to cleanse the citta.

That is why these customs and rituals are so important for being a Hindu. They are not mere conventions. They are not arbitrary. They are the bridges between the human and the divine; natural and cultural; individual and cosmic. All Hindus should practice some.

(This article has been compiled from the tweet thread originally tweeted by Pankaj Saxena (@PankajSaxena84) on August 3, 2022.)

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