Article-- FAMILY LIFE
Family life actually incorporates all facets of living. The householder couple is the center piece of the whole structure of the whole society. They are the breadwinners and parents who will bring up children, inculcate values and mold them so that they can become the future of society. It is the husband and wife in the prime of their life who are responsible for the care of dependents such as aging parents and other elders.
Our sages have stressed the role and importance of householders at multiple places in the Vedic teachings. The guidelines given in our scriptures are as relevant today as they were historically. Let us examine these guidelines briefly:
1) Yoga and yajna are the two wheels of the cart of life. Practice of yoga leads the person to enrich his/her life through the proper personal and social code of conduct, and then to achieve focus, relaxation, and even salvation through deeper stages of yoga practice. Yajna consists of five duties. This includes pitra yajna, or to take care of one’s parents by not only fulfilling their needs, but also by patiently listening to them. These two aspects of care are referred as seva and sushrusha. This is possible only if there is peace at home with harmony between the husband and wife (the householders).
2) Four stages of life have been described and appropriately called the four ashrams. The soul is eternal, and is merely passing through the stages of childhood, student life, family life, being grandparents with progressive detachment, and eventually being fully detached from the actions other than the selfless acts (nishkaam karma) before passing on into the next life. It is obvious that only a well-groomed and happy household can make all of this happen.
Upanishads, especially the kathopanishad, in which the sage Yama clearly explains to Nachiketa (the one who is curious) that for most people, except some rare souls, one can fulfill his or her duties only by passing through the stage of family life as a son/daughter, as a parent, and as a useful member of society. Yama, further explains that passing through family life is the only way to achieve salvation as well.
3) The Ishopanishad has 18 mantras. This is essentially the 40th chapter of Yajurveda. In the 12th to 14th mantras, it is explained that those who practice individualism only stay in the darkness of ignorance, and those who practice sociality (togetherness) alone are in the state of even greater darkness. The results of individualism and sociality are different from each other. Individualism leads to better personal care, however it is only through togetherness that one can achieve salvation. It is obvious, therefore, that it is essential for an individual to take care of his/her needs, and at the same time be a part of the family and society to reach full potential in life.
4) A system of 16 sacraments have been put together in Vedic scriptures originating from the Vedas and being described in further detail in the greha sutra. Three of these sacraments before birth, 12 during life, and one after death. Out of these, after the education is the sanskaar of marriage, or vivah sanskaar. In most Indian marriages, very little attention is paid to what the pandit is saying at the time of performing the marriage ceremony. Either because the pandit is ignorant, or people have different agendas when the ceremony is going on. During the 7 steps taken during the wedding ceremony the following points are stressed:
1. We will work to assure plenty of healthy food and may we be blessed with progeny,
2. Second step is for vigor and strength,
3. Third for wealth and prosperity,
4. Fourth is for the satisfaction of worldly desires,
5. Fifth is again for progeny,
6. Sixth is for health and happiness in all 6 seasons of the year
7. The last step is taken for achieving lasting friendship with each other.
If you take away some of the elaborate ritualistic aspects of wedding ceremonies, and focus on the mantras which are being recited, lot can be gained since there are some great teachings and guidelines incorporated in what appears to be just a ritual .
Following even some of these guidelines can lead to a successful married life and family.
5) Here are some mantras from the 3rd chapter of Atharva Veda, which can be recited as a prayer to make the family life better.
Om anuvratah pituh putro matra bhavatu sammanah. Jaya patye-madhu matim vacham vadatu shantivan. (3.30.3)
May the children be respectful and act according to the wishes of their parents. May the wife communicate with husband with peace and sweetness and vice versa?
Om ma bhrata bhrataram dwikshan ma swasara muta swasa. Samyanchah savrata bhutva vacham vadata bhadraya.(93.30.3)
May the siblings not have animosity against each other and act in harmony.
Jyayasvantashchhittino maa vi yooshta sanradhyantah sdhuraashchrantah
Anyoo anysmen valgu vadanta eta sdhreecheenaanvah sam manas skranomi
Be respectful to elders, have desire to do good deeds, work hard to the best of your ability and don’t have any jealousy towards others.
Om samani prapa sahavo nna bhagah samane yoktre sahavo yunajmi Samyancho agnim saparyatara nabhimiva bhitah (3.30.6)
May the house hold be like the axis of the wheel and the members of the family like the spokes of the wheel which all remain connected, with same kitchen, same source of water and prayer area for all members of the household.
Another example is from Mahabharata. The charioteer of Arjun’s chariot was Lord Shri Krishna, who directed him to the right path, but the charioteer of Karna was demoralizing and discouraging him. Family life is no different from this example.
So, in summary, we have been blessed that our scriptures have provided us with clear and intense guidelines to have a great family life and live happily while performing our responsibilities as a human being in all facets of life.