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Consolidation of the Brahmanical Tradition

Consolidation of the Brahmanical Tradition

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Published by Ramita Udayashankar
Introduction
Purusharthas
1. Dharma
2. Artha
3. Kama
4. Moksha
Varnashrama
Samskaras
1. Scope and Number of Samskaras
2. Purpose of Samskaras
Conclusion
Introduction
Purusharthas
1. Dharma
2. Artha
3. Kama
4. Moksha
Varnashrama
Samskaras
1. Scope and Number of Samskaras
2. Purpose of Samskaras
Conclusion

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Published by: Ramita Udayashankar on May 10, 2013
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CONSOLIDATION OF THE BRAHMANICALTRADITION
INTRODUCTION
 
The first millennium witnessed changes and continuities in religious beliefs and practices,some of which are gendered. The Brahmanical tradition was paralleled by the non-VedicShramana movement. The Buddha was a member of this movement. Shramana also gave riseto Jainism, yoga, the concept of the cycle of birth and death, the concept of samskara, and theconcept of liberation. The Brahmanical ashrama system of life was an attempt toinstitutionalize Shramana ideals within the Brahmanical social structure. The Shramanamovement also influenced the Aranyakas and Upanishads in the Brahmanical tradition.Buddhism was promoted by Asoka the Great of the Mauryan Empire, who unified the Indiansubcontinent in the 3rd century BCE. After 200 CE several schools of thought were formallycodified in Indian philosophy, including Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Purva-Mimamsa and Vedanta. Charvaka, the founder of an atheistic materialist school, came to thefore in North India in the sixth century BCE.
 
Sanskritic culture went into decline after the end of the Gupta period. The early medievalPuranas helped establish a religious mainstream among the pre-literate tribal societiesundergoing acculturation. The tenets of Brahmanic Hinduism and of the Dharmashastrasunderwent a radical transformation at the hands of the Purana composers, resulting in the riseof a mainstream "Hinduism" that overshadowed all earlier traditions. In eighth century royalcircles, the Buddha started to be replaced by Hindu gods in pujas. This also was the same period of time the Buddha was made into an avatar of Vishnu.
 
Within the Brahmanical tradition, Vedic rituals seem to have been increasingly confined toespecially spectacular occasions, such as the asvamedha, performed by Samudragupta (c. 4
th
 century AD), and commemorated on his coins, where the presence of the queen is particularlynoteworthy. Vedic learning continued to be a marker of identity for Brahmanas. This isdocumented in inscriptions, where donees who received land grants were frequentlyidentified in terms of the schools of Vedic learning to which they were affiliated.
 
Prof. A. L, Basham writes in his famous book, ―The wonder that was India‖ that Indian
religious texts were written by Brahmins and from the brahmanical point of view andrepresent conditions as the Brahmins would have liked them to be. Thus it is not surprisingthat they claim the utmost honour for the priestly class and exalt it above measure. Such
 boastful additions in religious texts ensured that ―The Brahmin was a
great divinity in humanform. His spiritual power was such that he could instantly destroy the king and his army if they attempted to infringe his rights. In law he claimed great privileges and in every respecthe demanded precedence, honour and worship.
 
PURUSHARTHAS
 
 
The individual‘s efforts in ancient Indian society were directed to achieve in his life fourfold
aims. These aims were called Purusharthas.
The word ‗Purushartha‘ means the object of 
human life. The object of life was considered to be the final fusion of self in God. To attainthis ideal, one had to pursue Purushartha e.g., Dharma, Artha, Kam, and Moksha.
DHARMA
 
The 1
st
Pururshartha, i.e., Dharma means the things to be adopted by humans. It relates to theapplication of laws that are the basis of the society. These are the principles on which manand society base their activity. Dharma, as such, means Duty and Good Work. The Vedas,Truthful Conduct and what elevates the Soul are Dharma. The ancient thinkers believe thatDharma not only elevates the man and society but also the nation and everyone should pursueDharma. It is dharma which ensures that an individual lives a life of virtues and does notadopt immoral and unjust means to achieve the goals of Artha and Kama. An unbridled pursuit of Artha and Kama without caring for Dharma results in the downfall of a man and hecannot achieve salvation.
ARTHA
 
The 2
nd
purushartha, i.e., Artha signifies things of material, welfare, and pleasure. It is the
symbol of man‘s power and prosperity. It is related to Varta and Dand Niti and relates to
material prosperity. The necessities of life are fulfilled by Artha. The thinkers opined that oneshould earn his livelihood through honest means and work for physical betterment. As one of the purusharthas, it stands for material well being.
 
Artha according to the epic Shantiparva consisted in acquisition and preservation of wealth.Agriculture, trade, cattle breeding and handicrafts constituted artha which could be had withthe help of action. Without it, both dharma and kama could not be attained.
 
Artha is considered a purushartha not only because humans naturally want to acquire wealth but because, in the absence of artha, a Hindu cannot perform his religious duties such as the performance of rites and rituals, feeding renounces, and engaging in charitable activities,which are all obligations for people in the householder stage of life.
 
To live a happy and purposeful life a man requires and possesses material resources andmeans in quantity sufficient to enable him to live such a life. Thus Artha means acquisition of wealth and p
ower to ensure one‘s happiness and prosperity.
 
KAMA
 
Kama the third aim of individual‘s life does not mean fulfilment of individual‘s sexual
desires only. It is an all comprehensive term. The fulfilment of all the desires and sensuous pleasures is covered by it. Like all living beings a man has to propagate his species and has tosatisfy the desires of his senses. The striving for this is Kama. Kama relates to the attainment
 
of pleasure and it is a natural tendency. It occupied an important place in Hindu scheme of 
life because married house holder‘s life was considered as the most important stage in life.
 
MOKSHA
 
The 4
th
 
 purushartha, i.e., Moksha is the ultimate goal of individual‘s life. It
is the fulldevelopment of soul. It is the realization of the true self by a person. The first three purusharthas serve as means to achieve this goal. Salvation or Moksha means attainment to
 bliss in life after death. It also signifies that an individual‘
s soul is no longer subjected tovicious cycles of rebirths. The Moksha could be achieved only when an individual hasfulfilled his duties towards the different sections of the society, towards some persons andalso towards the gods.
 
The synthesis of all the four gives the Purushartha. Dharma (life duty), Artha (wealth), andKama (sex) relate to objects of this world. These are called triverga. Dharma signifies ethicalideal, Artha signifies physical means and Kama signifies vital desires of man. Dharma andArtha are the sources and regarded as the ends meant for corporate activities. To be free of Karma is real Moksha. Moksha is the last Purushartha. All the work has to be performedkeeping in view the last Purushartha
 – 
the Moksha
 – 
which is equally important for man.
 
VARNASHRAMA
 
The ancient Hindu pattern of social organisation aimed at the values of Dharma, Artha,Kama, and Moksha by the individual through his physical, psychological and socialevolution. This evolution was calculated to be effected through the process of theVarnashrama system.
 
The varnashrama Dharma refers to the institutionalization of the stratification in society interms of Varna and the four stages of life. It reflects a broad set of personal duties and socialresponsibilities. Varna literally means colour, which later on with distinctive division of labour and diversification of socio
 – 
economic activities was identified with birth andsolidified into caste
system. Ashramas were idealistic division of an individual‘s life for the
 performance of all socially acceptable actions one should perform. Bhagavad Gita emphasisethe importance of fulfilling varnashrama dharma.
 
It is supposed that human life has a span of about one hundred years. Ashrama system dividesthe span of human life into four stages or Ashramas namely
 
 
Brahmacharya or the period of training and learning
 
 
Garhasthya or the period of work for the world as a householder and of enjoyingmarried life
 
 
Vanprasthya or the period of retreat for loosening of social bonds
 
 
Sannyasa or the period of renunciation and expectant waiting of freedom or moksha.
 
Prof. A. L. Basham commenting on this system writes, ―This scheme, of course, represents
the ideal rather than the real. Many young men never passed through the first stage of life inthe form laid down, while only a few went beyond the second. Many of the hermits andascetics of ancient India were evidently not old men, and had either shortened or omitted the

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