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Sri Chandramoulisvaraya Namah:
‘Aachaaram’ means observing, listening about and putting into practice the conduct of the great. Manu says:
Further Brihaspati says: A son without valour, courage, wealth, austerity, Gnanam and Aachaaram is no son; he is equal to his mother’s urine. Though it is generally stated here, the commentator explains that the reference is to kshatriya son without valour and courage, vaisya child not knowing how to make money and brahmana son without austerity, Gnanam and Aachaaram. Bhagavan has himself stated that he likes those who observe properly the limitations of varnas and asramas. He has also mentioned the benefit accruing to a person who observes thus.
In Smrityantram: Narada says that just as the water irrigating the sugarcane field also helps in the growth of grass on the way, man who follows the path of dharma without ever swerving, attains fame, desired objects and wealth. Life without aachaaram is degenerate. Life without Gnanam is useless. Even if one who has left Aachaaram goes to holy places, bathes in sacred rivers, gives danam in lakhs and performs many yagnas, none of it will save him. Hence it is the principle of Sastras that if one has aachaaram, there is nothing not available to him and if one has left aachaaram, he cannot get happiness in this world as well as the next. It is clear that aachaaram as laid down in Vedas is the very base of our life.
Further there is something called Sadaachaaram. Sadhus are those free from defects. Sat means good. Their conduct is known as Sadaachaaram. Those with Sadaachaaram conquer this world and the next. The aachaaram traditionally observed in a place is called Sadaachaaram. In Samskaramanjari it is stated that their conduct should however not contravene Sruti and Smritis. They add:
The bodies and sense organs of our forefathers were brilliant. In such persons even if a little of adharma is there, sin will not attach to them. For example, consider a large wild fire on one side; nearby there is a big river and a small tank. Once there was strong wind; it brought with it a lot of debris and garbage and rubbish and filled the forest, the river and the tank. The wild fire in the forest became more intense and burnt away all the debris. The river on its part took away in its flow all the garbage and dumped it in the sea. But in the case of the small tank, what happened was that whatever little water was there was all covered up with debris. In the same way, the superior, middle level and inferior persons should be identified. Following this, Bodhayana says that if sages and Devas commit some adharma, we the humans should not follow them and indulge in adharma. Yagnavalkya says that if a dharma, though laid down in Vedas, does not confer Swarga and breeds hatred in this world, it should not be followed. For this type of conduct, there has to be a guide. Otherwise we will fall in a deserted well. Maharishis have therefore written down in the form of Sastras out of compassion, the Vedic secrets which they found through austerities. We do not just call it Sastra, but we call it Dharma Sastra. It will bring out dharma alone; it will show the form of adhrama also in order to avoid the same. Hence Dharma Sastra alone is important for our observance.
Aachaaram is not just bathing and wearing dry clothes. It also comprises of purity, sraddha (faith), bhakti etc. Purity means bathing in pure water; if river is nearby, bathing in river; if no river, then in tank; if no tank, in well. Bathing has to be done before sunrise chanting sankalpa, Varunasuktham, Aghamarshana mantra etc. and contemplating on holy rivers and name of Iswara associated with the spot. If river, one should bathe facing direction against the flow; if tank, facing Sun. One should then wear clean clothes, perform Japa, Pooja, Homam etc. as per rules laid down in Sastras and eat food with guests if available. While performing bath, Japa, Pooja etc., one should do them observing silence and with sraddha in the karma and bhakti. Just as a guest coming to our house will not feel satisfied if gentle attitude and kind words are not used for him, even if we serve many dainty dishes, whatever be the danam, dharma etc. we may perform without bhakti and sraddha will not bear fruit. Hence in addition to external cleanliness, internal purity is also a must. We must perform good deeds as per Sastras with bhakti, sraddha and happiness.
That cleanliness is not just taking bath has been mentioned earlier. We need purity in food also. Only if there is purity of food, purity of mind will result. If we eat any food in any place, even if it is tasty, it will not allow us to follow virtuous path. Just as grains grow depending on the manure, the mind will engage depending on the food we eat. Hence everyone should follow discipline in food also. We should avoid food prohibited in Sastras under all circumstances. In case food prohibited in Sastras is served to us when we take food in someone else’s house, we should not eat it thinking that the host might mistake us or as we are unable to control our tongue. Whatever high quality food we may eat, it is not going to remain for ever in the stomach, ensuring no further hunger. We eat only to satisfy our hunger. If we keep eating any food for momentary pleasure, that food in the stomach will not allow us to engage in good activities, in spite of our studying Sastras and remaining pure otherwise. Hence the most important discipline we should observe is that of food. Food is of three types- Satvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. We should avoid food causing excitement as far as possible. We should only eat food which is Satvic and conforms to Sastras. If one follows this practice always, there is nothing he cannot achieve.
There are many causes of the qualities of an individual. Generally if one is comfortable and attached to dharma, we think it is due to the merit of his previous births. If one suffers, we say it is due to his sin in previous births. Though his attitude is in accordance with his karma in earlier births to some extent, we cannot say that that is the only reason. If that be the case, there will be no need for any virtuous effort.
Hence everyone should only engage in acts permitted by Sastras. Sri Mahabharatam states that in case an evil person is sitting in a row, he will spoil all the persons sitting in that row and eating with him. If his very sight is so powerful, we should think of what harm will betake us if we move with him, eat with him or eat dishes prepared by him.
Our Sastra is meant for our well being and comfort and not for troubling us. Bathing before sunrise is prescribed for our good health and for performing our daily karmas as laid down in Sastras. Discipline in food is also similar. If one rises in the ‘Pancha Pancha Usha’ time, i.e. five nazhigas (two hours) before sunrise, bathes, offers Argya in Arunodaya time (when the eastern sky turns orange), chants Gayatri silently upto sunrise, then worships Agni (performs Oupasanam), followed by Pooja, Vaisvadevam and honouring of Atithis (guests) and keeps eating Satvic food, he can enjoy good and strong health without suffering from diseases and live a long life even now. Our forefathers followed this type of Aachaaram and lived a long life happily and with satisfaction.
We wear clothes washed by the washerman, sit in trains and buses with all types of people, keep wearing the same clothes again for months without washing, rise at 8 o’ clock in the morning, take coffee etc. without taking bath or observing any karma and eat any food in any restaurant in the company of all types of people. We thus lose health, power and brilliance and live like walking corpses. We suffer from many diseases and illnesses not capable of being diagnosed by doctors and feel miserable. Although we know very well that our forefathers enjoyed strong and good health and also how they achieved this, we do not follow those practices and follow on the other hand the practices of westerners in all matters due to infatuation and face destruction. But we do not adopt the good practices followed by them. They live in cold climate, whereas we live in tropical clime. While our forefathers have established practices and codes of conduct suited to the respective climes, we leave them out, follow the wrong path, spoil not only ourselves for now, but also our succeeding generations and the society at large. Like it is said in the proverb ‘Surya namaskaram after eyesight is lost’, having left our practices and conduct and reached a despicable state after losing purity in entirety and experiencing much suffering, let us at least now think deeply and adopt the practices and conduct followed by our forefathers and improve ourselves. May Iswara give us virtuous intellect to this end.
VEDA DHARMA SASTRA PARIPALANA SABHA
Translated by: P R Kannan, Navi Mumbai
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