Guiding Light: Interpreting Hindu stories

Swami Brahmavidananda SaraswatiUpdated: Thursday, October 06, 2022, 10:24 PM IST
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We have just finished the celebrations of the Sacred Divine through the nine days of Navratri. With Dassera, we also celebrate Sri Rama vanquishing Ravana in battle. With the newfound interest in Hinduism, there is a Hindu cultural resurgence and revival and a cultural assertiveness. We find that more and more people are interested in the stories of Hinduism, from the layman to professionals, psychologists, yoga teachers, philosophers, and Bollywood too. Everyone is looking at all our ancient stories. While I am very glad about this newfound interest, there is one trend that is not very healthy - the trend of looking at these gods and goddesses, heroes and heroines, as only being symbolic. Hence there is a tendency to interpret them as stories for psychological growth or as archetypes for a psychological transformation for leadership.

I am not dismissing all of them. They all have their role to play and help human beings to develop more fully and richly in their internal life. One cannot dismiss these as merely symbolic ignoring the fact that these were written as historical works, especially the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. We actually look at it as prehistoric. This cannot be a dismissal of it just because it is written differently from how modern history was written. The descriptions, not only of the events, the cities, the culture and the way people lived interspersed with human pursuits of wealth, pleasure, Dharma and moksha – all this shows a high degree of sophistication. Too much to be just dismissed as stories and myths of a prehistoric history.

There are stories of a land, its culture, its civilisation, so ancient, that people are still learning and growing from it. The deepest treasures including the spiritual treasures that are hidden there have yet to be understood by the vast majority of people who dabble in them. We, the later generation should understand the histories written thousands of years ago by trying to understand the culture and practices prevalent then, descriptions of which are available in the stories themselves.


The writer is the founder of Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him at aarshavidyaf@gmail.com

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