What is it that gives you Moksha?
Having a son does not imply Liberation and Vice-versa
This was one of the questions that the Yaksha posed to Yudhishthira “What ensures Moksha?”. To this Yudhishthira answered, it is in having a son. Now people may wonder, “I do not have a son”. Someone else may say “I have only daughters.” Someone may say, I am old and not married at all. Does this mean that none of these category of people are eligible for liberation? No, this is not the import of the above answer of Yudhishthira. It is a statement of Truth, when it is said that Liberation has no connection at all with having or not having a son. Liberation is a result of causeless Grace of the Supreme Being. It may be a direct result of having developed intense love and greed for the Lord. One has to come to this firm conclusion that one’s True parents is only the Lord and Lord alone. The Lord is ever worried for His children and is interested in uniting with His children through the means of invoking Bhakti in the hearts of His dear ones and then granting liberation to them. When society blames a couple who do not have children or when society blames a young widow, such behavior is not sanctioned by Vedic scriptures. People level too many allegations on the Hindu community for such inequalities. It is to be understood that such rude behavior is a result of decline of morality within the community and it is definitely not in line with the revealed Vedic Scriptures. In fact the Scriptures appreciate a Young widow, who is chaste, as a Tapasvini (तपस्विनी a female hermit), who is fighting the challenges of life without the aid of male support, which makes her austere and worthy of worship.
Taking recourse to Shastra is essential – finding escape mechanisms is condemnable
The Shastra has ordained certain Varna Ashrama Dharma formalities for male children. So to continue those ritualistic activities, having a son is recommended by Shastra. However it never penalizes anyone for not having a son. It has to be clearly understood that having a son or not having a son is a result of Karma alone and cannot be forced on a woman or a couple, by the pressures of society. If society penalizes a couple or a woman for not having a son, the Shastra directly points out to this flaw as a sin and no less. A son is recommended so that he may follow the injunction of the scriptures. It is also stated in the Shastra that a son who does not follow the injunctions and duties as ordained in the Vedic literature is as good as dead. A son should perform purificatory duties to the gods and the departed parents and forefathers. He should offer oblations to the forefathers once a year and should visit Gaya and offer oblations there for the sake of his departed ancestors. Performing ritualistic sacrifice at Gaya does not exempt the person from discontinuing the yearly sacrifices that he had been performing for the sake of his ancestors, prior to his offering oblations to his ancestors at Gaya. Some people misinterpret the Shastra and try to find an escape route, avoiding the yearly sacrifices that a person carries out year after year. Such an approach is highly condemned in the Shastra. A good son, the Shastra says, is one who is extremely obedient to his parents. The greatest blessing that a son gets from his parents is their prayer that they get the same son in every incarnation that they take. Just giving birth to a son does not lead to fulfillment. Real fulfillment is attained only if the son attains maturity and wisdom, if the son is dutiful and understands his role in elevating himself, his family and his Dharma at large. The responsibility of nurturing the son, also lies with the parents. It is the duty of the parents to act wise, follow Shastra, understand Dharma and live by it. Setting the right example is the hallmark of right education. Unless both the parents and the child involve themselves in elevating the position of Dharma in their lives, just procreating a son shall simply be regarded as an act of lower animalistic tendency, nothing more. This is the total import of the answer given by King Yudhishthira.
Senses Working and Still Dead
The next question that the Yaksha raised was this. Who is it whose eye sees things beautiful, whose tongue tastes tasty stuff, whose ears hears pleasant things, whose nose smells fragrance and the one who is used to the fine sensations of touch and yet who is dead? To this Yudhishthira replied, “The one who does not serve the Devata, the Athithi (अतिथि Unexpected Guest), one’s employees, one’s ancestors, one’s own Self (the Atman), that one is dead even if his senses are alive and the life-force operates within himself.
What stops us from progressing spiritually?
It is seen that in the Bhagavad Gita, the Supreme Lord offers many mechanisms by which one shall be able to execute various forms of yoga such as Karma Yoga, Dhyana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga etc. But on the practical platform, when one tries to execute these various forms of Yoga, it seems to be a tall ask, because one is confronted with too many types of difficulties. The first cause for inability to execute Vedic processes is the challenges of everyday life, the never ending fruition of cause and events that present themselves as obstacles towards taking up spiritual discipline. The next challenge is the sullied mind that has been rendered weak and ineffective, because of which it is unable to attach itself to any Bhakti or Jnana related activities. The mind is unable to participate because of the level of impurities in which the mind is being continuously being soaked into. So the initial stage will be to first elevate the mind to a minimum extent proceeding which the mind could then be fully engaged in Jnana and Bhakti related endeavors. The mind has to be first relieved of its pre-occupations; imaginative, fantasizing tendencies and then laying it to rest. So what are the pre-engagements for the mind so as to attain an amicable state? The answer to this is provided in the Upanishads. It says that man has to execute the Varna-Ashrama Dharma without fail. Whatever provisions are made for a Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya or Shudra, as per the revealed scriptures one must do. If someone is a Brahmachari, a householder, A retired man or a renunciant, one should do those activities as prescribed in the Scripture. For example for a general citizen, it is recommended that one should give alms, feed the poor, give donations, serve the deities , undertake activities for social welfare etc. Then, one must avoid activities that are prohibited by the Shastra such a visiting certain places, avoiding certain types of food etc., disengage from certain activities depending on time place and circumstances. When one carefully obeys the do’s and don’ts as per the prescribed scriptures, this itself shall have a cleansing effect on the mind. Thus the Varna Ashrama Dharma is eulogized as the Pancha Maha Yajna (पंच महा यज्ञा). This refers to the 5 important junctures within the 24-hour time window. A day is divided into 5 Kala (काल time frame). There are important Anooshthana (अनुष्ठान spiritual activities) that have to be performed in these time frames. The first kala is called pratah kala (प्रात: काल). The next is sangava kala (संगव काल), then madhyanha kala (मध्याह्न काल), next aparahn kala (अपराह्न काल), finally sayan kala (सायं काल). Vedic literature gives direction as to which entities have to be serve different cosmic entities at different kala. These are the sacrifices that are to be performed as part of Varna-Ashrama Dharma to rid the mind from deep staining impurities.