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Daily Duties of a Devout Hindu

(Note: Make this session highly interactive. Find out what each family is doing and also motivate them to start practicing them. When this topic is taken for children, the same topic should be discussed with parents in parallel. Handouts can be given to all the families)

In addition to the normal activities associated with one's profession (varna dharma) and stage in life („shrama dharma), the daily routine of a devout Hindu is to perform paŮcha mah„ yagŮas (five daily duties) and paŮcha nitya karmas (five constant duties). These are the minimal practices which guide a person in everyday life and ensure peace, material and spiritual prosperity.

PaŮcha Mah„ YagŮas (Five Daily Duties)

1. Worship God (Deva YagŮa) in the form of a family deity (Ishta Devat„) in the home shrine through prayers and meditations. This practice helps one to become God-conscious in all daily activities. Additionally, this practice arouses a sense of togetherness in the family, since the family members worship together and participate in the rituals, chants, singing, and study of scriptures. Tradition says that "a family that prays together stays together."

2. Study religious books (Brahma YagŮa). This practice refreshes one's mind with sacred knowledge and also helps to preserve and enrich such knowledge.

3. Contemplate on the life and teachings of the sages, saints, holy men and women, and one's forefathers (Pitri YagŮa). This practice is intended to serve as a reminder to preserve, enrich and continue one's cultural heritage and family values.

4. Provide food for those who are in need (Bhuta YagŮa). This practice is intended to create the spirit of sharing with others.

5. Serve guests with love, respect, and reverence (Nara YagŮa). This practice is the basis for the traditional hospitality of Hindu households.

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PaŮcha Nitya Karmas (Five Constant Duties)

1. Dharma (Righteousness): Live a virtuous life in accordance with the teachings of the scriptures. Cultivate virtues of purity, self-control, detachment, thinking of others first, truth and ahims„. Be respectful of parents, teachers, and elders. Dharma also means performing all duties associated with one's normal profession, and individual and social obligations. Work must be performed purely for its own sake. This means that all actions must be performed for excellence and not merely for reward (nishkama karma). "Fix your heart upon your work, but not on its reward. Work not for a reward; but never cease to do your work." (Bhagavad GÓt„ 2.47)

2. Tirthay„tr„ (Pilgrimage): Regularly visit holy persons, temples, and sacred pilgrimage sites. Such journeys provide freedom from routine life and thereby freshen the mind. Pilgrimages also help to create a sense of togetherness in the family, since all members undertake the pilgrimages together. IN USA, visiting all the temples in your own city can also be called piligrimage.

3. Utsava (Holy Days): Participate in festivals and holy days in the home and temple. Observe fasts on holy days. This practice inculcates God-consciousness, refreshes the mind and creates a sense of togetherness in the family and the community. Hindu sages tell us that occasional fasting prevents bodily diseases, restores the body's healing power, and heals the mind by removing lust, anger, hatred, pride, and jealousy.

4. Samsk„ras (Sacraments): Perform various Samsk„ras in accordance with the scriptures. Samsk„ras are the religious ceremonies, which mark and sanctify an individual's passage through life. They purify the mind by inculcating truthfulness in the mind, and purity and generosity in the heart.

5. Sarva Brahm„ (God is in all): God lives in the hearts of all beings. Practice this truth, realize it and be free.

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