Table of Contents

  About the Author
  Books by Bansi Pandit
  What is Hindu Dharma?
  Hindu View of God
  Why Hindus Worship Deities
  Hindu Scriptures
  Principal Hindu Doctrines
  Law of Karma
  Popular Systems 
  Moral & Ethical Ideals of Hindus
  Hindu View ...
  Hindu Reverence for Elders
  Daily Routine of a Devout Hindu
  Hindu Dharma
  Hindu View of Ecology
  Some Philosophical Aspects
  Hindu Response 
  Contribution of Hindus
  Practicing Hindu Dharma
  Timeless Wisdom 
  Sw„mi Vivek„nanda's Address
  Works Cited
  Color Plates
  Download Book

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir


Symbol of Unity


Chapter 15: Hindu Response to Modern Problems

Individuality is the result of association of „tman (spirit) with a human body. A human body without „tman is a dead body and „tman without a human body cannot manifest itself in the phenomenal world. Thus individual personality comprises of two components, physical and spiritual. Because of this natural constitution of the human personality, human happiness depends upon balanced fulfillment of the spiritual and physical needs of one's being.

The scientific and technological revolution of the twentieth century has provided man with substantial amenities of life. We have made immense progress in fulfilling our physical needs. However, we have ignored our spiritual needs and the result is catastrophic. The break-ups in families resulting in children with single parents or no parents, child abuse, spousal abuse, teenage pregnancy, drugs, violence and crime have increased to epidemic levels in modern affluent societies. The root cause of all these problems is that we are focusing our full attention on the physical needs alone and no attention on the spiritual needs. We have become very materialistic in our outlook and in the process lost our souls.

Cosmos is One Family (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam)

In the past several centuries, science and technology have presented to us a mechanistic world view which defines the world as an aggregate of particles of matter. This mechanistic view of the world has led human beings to evaluate all political, economic, environmental, and social issues in a fragmentary way. This fragmented world view presents a separate existence for each unit without any relationship with other beings, nature and God. Thus a modern human being tries to resolve problems with a specialized view which is only a partial view.

Thousands of years ago, sages discovered that all things and beings of the universe are the manifestation of the Supreme Self. "All are in One and One is in all," the sages declared. The sages described the creation as a continuous, dynamic, and blissful experience. The modern scientific view is still short of experiencing the blissful aspect of Reality. Recent developments in physics have shown that there are no definite boundaries separating the fundamental particles, the building blocks of matter, from one another. The scientists observing these particles and the instruments of observation are part of a continuous stream of energy. The current world view of the unconnected existence of everything in creation is at the root of many of our modern problems. The so-called freedom of the human beings is grossly misunderstood as is evident from the uncontrolled expressions of human behavior and controlled thought processes by political interests and religious dogmas.

The fragmented view of life has distorted the relationship of individuals, families, societies, nature and God. The realizations of the ancient seers found the entire cosmos to be one family. Every aspect of creation was seen as the expression of the same eternal principle described as Brahman, God or Ultimate Truth.

Systems Must Unfold the Divinity of Human Beings

In modern societies success is measured by possessions, positions and power. Scientific knowledge has been exploited to control the external nature without any attention to the control of the inner nature. This modern paradigm of success misses the important parameter of character. The foundation of human life is character, the moral and ethical ability of an individual to respond to the external conditions of life. In ancient wisdom, the emphasis was on the integrity of body, mind, intellect and soul.

The sages taught that every child that is born owes Three Debts that must be repaid in the adult life. First, there is a debt to God that one can repay by dedicating one's life to the service of God. To a Hindu, service of God means service to all mankind, regardless of caste, color or creed. Service of God also includes reverence for parents, teachers, the practice of non-violence, and truthfulness, a pleasant and respectful attitude toward others, especially elders, obeying scriptural injunctions, and practice of self-control and purity of thought. In Hindu culture, respect and reverence for old age is recognized as partial repayment of this first debt to God.

A second debt is to the sages and saints who have revealed the truths in the Vedas and other scriptures. This debt can be paid off by serving sages, saints, and gurus and by preserving and enriching the cultural heritage that is handed down through each generation. In the absence of sages and saints in modern societies, the repayment of this debt involves contributing generously, without desire for reward, for the benefit of the needy, homeless, handicapped, sick, poor, and less fortunate.

The third debt is to one's ancestors which includes raising one's family in accordance with the moral and ethical principles of dharma.

To enable an individual to fulfill both the physical and spiritual needs, the ancient sages organized life into four stages: studentship, householder, retirement and renunciation. The three main goals of the studentship stage of life are to acquire knowledge, build one's character, and learn to shoulder responsibilities that will fall upon the individual during his (or her) adult life. This stage begins when a child enters school at an early age and continues until he has finished all schooling and is prepared to assume the responsibilities of the future.

The student is expected to acquire two types of knowledge. First, he must acquire knowledge in the arts and sciences, and learn necessary skills for earning a decent living in the world. Second, the individual must acquire religious and spiritual knowledge, the moral and ethical principles of dharma. He must learn to discipline the body and mind, practice self-restraint, non-violence, and truthfulness.

The householder stage begins with one's marriage, which in Hindu way of life is regarded as a sacrament, and not a social contract. This stage forms the foundation for the support of the other two stages that follow. The importance of the householder stage is often reflected in the analogy that just as all rivers flow into the sea, all stages flow into the householder stage.

An individual's competence in successfully assuming the duties and responsibilities of the householder stage of life depends upon the intensity and the depth of knowledge acquired during the studentship stage. During the householder stage an individual pays the Three Debts. A householder earns wealth and enjoys good and noble things in life in accordance with the formula dharma-artha-kama refer to the discussion of Four Ends in Chapter 5.

After the responsibilities of the householder stage are complete (i.e., one's children have reached adulthood and have assumed the responsibilities), one enters the retirement stage, known as the ascetic or hermit stage of life. In this stage one gradually withdraws from active life and begins devoting more time to the study of scriptures, contemplation and meditation. The individual, however, makes himself available in order to provide guidance and share experiences with the younger generation, when requested to do so.

The renunciation stage is the final stage of life in which an individual mentally renounces all worldly ties, spends all of his time in meditation and contemplation and ponders over the mysteries of life. In this stage of life an individual must forgo the concepts of I, My, or Mine, and evolve his or her consciousness to seek oneness of all existence. In ancient times one would part company with one's family and meditate in a forest. In modern societies this stage can be regarded as complete mental renunciation of the world and total absorption in meditation and contemplation.

Excellence is the Goal of Life, Not Competition

Without adequate attention to manifest the divine power that lies dormant within every individual, one is left to suffer when stripped of material prosperity, titles or powers. While competitiveness does enhance individual skills, lack of basic character and human values cannot be replaced by personal skills.

Individuals motivated by the goal of excellence in life strive to bring the best out of their beings without concern for competition with others. The ideal of personal success for completely selfish goals is highly stressful. Greater joy in life can be derived by sharing the fruits of one's work with others. Society's current paradigm of happiness is possessing, hoarding, and thinking of "me" and "my rights." The sages tell us that greater joy arises from sharing, caring, and loving. Nothing feeds the human heart with a sense of satisfaction as much as acts of service to others. The Vedic prayers for the well-being of all living creatures should be the inspiration behind the vision of the harmonious world.

The Paradigm of Happiness is Selflessness and Charity

The competitive lifestyle in modern societies encourages individuals and nations to accumulate more and more wealth and material possessions without regard for the welfare of others. The possessive nature of the mind is one of the major causes of pain, suffering, and injustice in the world today. If actions of individuals and nations were motivated by the instinct of charity, the problems of poverty and starvation could be significantly alleviated. Forms of charity such as Meals on Wheels, planting of trees, and provision of food, clothing and medicines to refugees are all relevant in modern times. Charity basically means sharing what God has given us with all of God's creatures. According to the Bhagavad GÓt„ 3.12, one who takes from the society and does not give back to those in need is a thief.

In Hindu view, charity encompasses a great deal more than giving away money, food or clothing. Charity also includes sharing good thoughts, words and deeds with others. Our prayers and good wishes to others are also expressions of charity. Giving away material gifts fulfills the need of the moment, but giving education, building and maintaining temples and charitable institutions, or serving as volunteers at such establishments plants seeds of hope for the future. Giving to those who are in need, such as the poor, hungry, sick, and homeless helps us in two distinct ways. First, the charitable actions help the „tman to slowly free itself from material bondage and attain union with God. "Liberation is only for he who gives up everything for others. Even the least work done for others awakens the power within; even thinking of the least good of others gradually instills into the heart the strength of a lion," says Swami Vivek„nanda.26,30  

Problem Cause Solution
Religious and
cultural intolerance, poverty, political and economic exploitation.
Notion of separate identity from each other and from God; mechanistic view of the world. Recognition of the basic Hindu doctrines of unity
of existence and potential divinity of all human beings.
Ethical and
moral degradation.
Lack of character; the present system of education allows the mind to gather facts and store and process data before it knows how to control itself. Educational institutions must install life-building, man-making and character-making systems. Control of the mind should be taught before data acquisition and processing occurs.
Crime and violence Injustices and inequalities, wrong thinking, fear, indifference, hatred, moral decay, impulse to meet disagreement with force, lack of values and attitudes. A fundamental change of values and attitudes is required to recognize injustices and inequities in the society. A spiritual response is necessary to ensure true justice and equality among all people.
Family break-ups, unwanted babies, and ill treatment
of elders
Non-recognition of the spiritual nature of individuals, fragmentary world view and competitive life styles. Recognition of the Three Debts, Four Stages of life, and striving for excellence and not competition.
Environmental degradation. Fragmentary world view leading to the irresponsible use of natural resources. Realization that nature is not a commodity to be dominated and conquered. The planet earth must be treated as Mother Earth.

Table 5

Secondly, serving others helps us to improve our own health. The authors of the book titled The Healing Power of Doing Good researched several thousand volunteer organizations.31 They concluded that 95 percent of those researched exhibited increased self-esteem, serenity, relaxation and positive sense of well-being. They further concluded that serving others resulted in a significant reduction in stress and stress-related illnesses among the volunteers.

Hindu religious literature describes some specific acts of charity which far exceed the normal standards of compassion. For example:

  • After being pursued by a hungry vulture, an injured bird fell in the lap of the Great Emperor Sibhi. The emperor cut a part of his own thigh, offered it to the hungry vulture as food, and treated the injured bird.
  • While traveling in his chariot, a king saw a creeper plant grown over the road. The king left his chariot on the roadside for the creeper plant to climb and grow on the chariot and traveled to his palace on foot.

Hindu Vision of a Harmonious World:

  • Where harmlessness to all creatures is the highest culture, service to the poor is the highest worship, compassion is the highest religion, truth is the highest law, and love for all God's creatures is the highest philosophy.
  • Where political, social and religious institutions and their leaders strive tirelessly to accept people of all races, colors and creeds, and respect their faiths and beliefs.
  • Where all forms of life are revered as various expressions of the Supreme Lord and ahims„ is the governing law.
  • Where educational, political and economic systems are designed to assist individuals to unfold their highest potential.
  • Where mothers, fathers, teachers and elders are revered, children are brought up with self-esteem, and the young are taught to respect intrinsic human values.


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