While different sects in Hindu society have their own mode of worship and their own name of God, Hindus have some common values to live by. This is a brief description of some of the values.
Respect for mother and mother earth
"This earth is my mother and I am the son of this earth" - Atharve Veda, 12-1-12
Hindus have raised the status of mother to the level of Goddess. The first value that a child learns from his or her family is respect for the mother. In Hindu families it is a common custom to bow down to touch the feet of elders and parents. This traditional custom emphasizes the value of elders. The concept of Mother worship is deeply ingrained in the Hindu way of life and the mother is considered as the first Guru of the child.
This concept of respect for mother is extended to other natural phenomena which provide sustenance for life. For example rivers are worshipped as mother. The cow, provider of milk, is worshipped as mother. Similarly the earth is treated as mother and is respected.
In Hindu tradition, everything good, blissful, protective and evil-destroying is associated with a mother-image.
Respect for father and ancestors
In Hindu families, respect for parents and elders is emphasized. Hindus believe that bringing up children is a religious act-the Dharma of every parent. For children, the parents are therefore divine. Hindus consider the service of one's parents to be a pious and divine duty and preventing any one from carrying that duty is considered to be a sinful act. The story of Shravan Kumar, who was dedicated to serve his parents is often recited.
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The Story of Shravankumar
Thousands of years ago there was a tick forest on the banks of river Sarayu which flowed close to the city of Ayodhya. One night, king of Ayodhya, Dasharath, came to the forest to hunt. Dasharath could shoot in the dark by merely following the direction of the sound made by animals.
Dasharat waited under a tree. He heard a gurgling sound. Thinking that an animal had come to drink water from the river he shot an arrow in the direction of the sound. A moment later there came the cry of a human being. The anxious king ran to the place and found a youth crying in pain on the bank of the river. The arrow was stuck in his heart.
The young man's name was Shravan Kumar. He was a caring person and was dedicated to serving hi parents, who were old and blind. It was their wish to visit holy places in their last days. Shravan carried them from shrine to shrine in two baskets which hung from a sling. While on their pilgrimage the three had come to the banks of Sarayu for a short rest. Shravans parents felt thirsty and asked him to fetch some water.
With difficulty Shravan told the King Dasharath about his parents who were waiting for him not far from the river. He requested the king to take the pot of water to them and then he died. Dasharath carried the pot of water to Shravan's parents. They said, "Son, why are you so late? Where did you go?" Dasharath did not reply. Then the mother asked, "Why don't you speak? What is wrong?"
With tears in his eyes Dasharath told them about their son's death. He was willing to take them to his palace and look after them. But the old people were not interested in his offer. They only cried for their son. The mother dashed the pot of water to the ground and cursed the king, "One day you too shall die when your sons are not around."
Many years later, Dasharath's son Rama and Lakshman had to go in exile for fourteen years. The pain of separation from his son was so great that it lead to Dasharatha's death. His only fault was that he had unintentionally prevented a son from serving his parents.
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Respect for Teachers
There is a great Guru-Shishya tradition in Bharat. The Hindu scriptures say that, like parents, the Guru is also worthy of worship. A guru is not simply a teacher. A guru not only gives education, but also gives inspiration and passes on experience and knowledge. For a Hindu, a Guru can be a person, a symbol or a book. For example, in the Sikh tradition, the holy book "Guru Granth Sahib" is treated as the Guru. In Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, we treat 'Bhagwa Dhwaj' (Saffron flag) as the Guru.
Hindu scriptures declare: 'Satyameva Jayate' (Truth alone triumphs). This saying also appear in the national emblem of Bharat. Story of Harishchandra illustrate the value of following the truth irrespective of any obstacles and difficulties.
The word 'Dharma' is many a times translated as righteousness. It is an essential part of Hindu values and way of life. Our schripture says: 'if you protect righteousness, the righteousness shall protect you.'
Forgiveness and Fearlessness
There are numerous stories in Hindu scriptures which convey the message that development of qualities like non-violence and forgiveness require fearlessness and strength, as shown by Swami Dayananda.
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The story of bold Swami Dayananda
Swami Dayananda was a sanyasi who dressed in orange robes. He was a great reformer and the foudner of Arya Samaj. He was also an intellectual and spiritual giant and he possessed an athletic body. He was fearless and he felt for the poor. In hid discourses he propounded the his views about education of women, abolition of child marriage, eradication of untouchability and similar prevalent dogmas that weakened Hindu society.
Some seemed to understand him, but many were angered by it. They threatened to harm him, but Swami was afraid of no one.
Once, during one of his discourses, a misguided man called Karansingh was present in the crowd and he approached Swami in anger. The man said, "we do not accept your interpretation of Vedas." The Swami replied, "You might go ahead with your ill-conceived notions, but I have to perform my social and spiritual duty."
Swamiji's words annoyed the man and he drew a sword from his waist and rushed to Swami. Swami Dayananda quickly grabbed his arm and wrenched the sword from it. He broke it by pressing its point to the ground. The man felt ashamed and hurriedly left the place. Swami Dayananda's friends asked him to charge the man. But Swamiji said, "Eventhough the man forgot the duty of a warrior, how can I forget the uty of a Swami? A Swami does not harm anybody. Besides God, he fears none." Swami Dayananda was a fearless man.
Here is a short story from Upanishads that illustrate the value of honesty.
In the past, students used to live with their master to gain education. Such places were called Gurukuls. In one gurukul, the master wanted to test his students, so he gathered them around and said, "I need some money urgently. Can you go and bring some from your families? But please be careful. I do not want any one to know about this, so only bring the money when no one is looking."
All the students went home and came back with some money, except for one student who came empty-handed. "Why have you come empty-handed? Couldn't you pickup some money when no one was looking?" enquired the master. The boy replied that in spite of many attempts he kept of failing. 'Why?' questioned the master. 'I did come across many chances when no one else was looking, but I always felt myself looking at my own wrong deeds.' The master declared that he was the only student who has gained any real education because he knew the value of honesty.
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Service to humankind
Hindus consider that the service to other is a virtue; giving pain to other is a sin. Giving and sharing is one of the values preached relentlessly in Hindu scriptures.
Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore they practice non-violence. One has to be fearless in order to be non-violent.
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