Source of Culture
It is important to demystify culture as a concept before we can understand the importance of culture and its effect on day-to-day life. People often associate themselves to traditions and customs that have been carried forward through ages. There are several reasons for culture to perpetrate into the modern age for people to be following those traditions even in the current trait. Let us consider the many sources of culture.
Customs based on Race, Caste, Creed
Some of the customs may have been associated with divisions in society. There are several cultures that have evolved over the many hundred years based on race, caste and creed. Several movements in the world have transpired in a way that people get identified by customs of the ancient times.
For example people are proud because they have royal blood running through their veins.
Although, society has dramatically changed olden days customs are still being followed in my family as well families of the princely class. Some customs differentiated among people on basis of caste. But, they were ideologies applicable for a selected set of people of a particular time. Since a family is identified with that past ideology people continue following those practices.
Customs based on geographical divisions
There may be certain customs that may be based on geographical divisions. If oranges are popular in certain regions of the country and there is over-production of oranges in that region in a certain reason, it may be customary to hold an “orange-festival” every year, where people from all walks of life visit the place and promote the mood elsewhere too. Following this region, there may be other regions who pick up this idea and popularize certain customs over many years and that becomes the custom in that geography of the world.
Customs related to religion
This is perhaps the most influential area where customs flourish in all variety. People need to identify themselves strongly. Other than religion, there seems to be no better option for people to identify with. There are many anecdotes and practices in the holy books and scriptures of people following various religions. Certain anecdotes talk about practices that would have been carried out by the characters described in the holy books. People identify themselves strongly with those scriptural characters and want to imitate these characters. Hence festivals are born through this sense of identification. Thus culture is strongly influenced through religion and other occult practices that form the framework of scriptures.
Culture based on Historic events
A region of the world has its own history. A nation or a region may have adopted a certain culture of celebration on certain historical dates. But as time passes, the historical date may not be remembered but the practice of taking part in the rituals may well continue into the future. During the Indian independence movement, Sri Bal Gangadhar Tilak established the festival of Elephant-God Ganesha. It was the time when India stood divided under the British rule.
The main motivation of celebrating the festival of Lord Ganesh was to bring people together and get them united. People of India were deeply connected with Gods and it would be of advantage to bring together the strength of a united people invoking the presence of God through a festival.
There could have never been a better plan than this, to bring groups of people together in many parts of the Nation to celebrate the festival and thus unite against the British Raj. Today, most people have forgotten the history behind the event but the festival of Lord Ganesha is still being followed as a public event with faith and gaiety.
Influence of foreign culture
Today, the world has become a global village. We are being influenced by many cultures and traditions around the world. In India especially, 30 years ago one would have never heard of father’s day, mother’s day or valentine’s. However today, India happens to be grossing as a market for these gift items. Now foreign festivals have become part of Indian culture although initially they were means to intrude into our traditional, Santana dharmic culture.
Today, people intentionally choose to be a part of western society although internally they might tend to reject such ideas. A few section of people have willingly adopted to live a western lifestyle while a few believe to change with the changing trends.
Culture developing due to unusual circumstances
Now there may be a local or word-wide phenomenon, catastrophe, either locally or internationally. For example the world is combating the Covid virus catastrophe. This has left a huge impact on the world population and many generations may remember the year 2020 as a year of world calamity. Today even the year 2020 represents a great event on the culturescape of the world.
Rituals beyond the culturescape
There are certain rituals within Sanatana Dharma. Unfortunately the world seems to label these practices as solely belonging to culture. In fact these Vedic rituals are only rituals in appearance but depict a deeper and more profound dimension of life. People following Hinduism do carry out some of these esoteric rituals in the same way as one maintains a body without a soul. Hence, these rituals are dead in the current scope of the culturescape. But, there are some families who follow these traditions blindly. They have no strong reason to support their actions.
For example the rituals followed to please deities, holding fire sacrifices and many other esoteric rituals cannot be simply linked to culture because the spirit of these rituals connect to a deeper dimension of life. They have to do with deeper dimensions of life and existence. If one understands and realizes the value of these rituals, they can serve as a passage to contact infinitum through these Vedic practices.
Culture represents strong identification
Culture by far, is a trail left by some events or rituals of the past. The spirit and significance of many of these rituals have been lost and yet people try to retain the traditions and customs of culture by repeating the practices year after year because it gives them a strong sense of identification and expression. Every living entity wants to exert its existence. Therefore they adopt culture to put their ideas across as strong expressions.
The Culturescape and Spirituality
Spirituality is the means to realize the spirit. The spirit lies behind the many peels of identification, habits and idiosyncrasies of the living entity. Anything that evokes strong identity that belongs to the material plane is an impediment towards realizing one’s real nature. Culture, customs and traditions are very useful in maintaining the fabric of society and maintaining social norms.
It is a route that Nature has taken to retain its form and then slowly graduate into other forms through changing cultures and traditions in a stretch of thousands of years. However for an individual who is in the seeking-mode, getting thoroughly attached to culture or evolutes of culture etc can prove to be a hindrance.
But since the individual has to survive and exist within the norms of society, he should learn to respect and tolerate the proliferation and practice of culture while his attention should be on relieving himself from any sort of practice that shall renew his identification of matter and materialistic emotion.
Understanding the Intention of Culture
It’s great to have a culture. Cultures are inherited from the past. A true culture is what continues, if in the past it had shaped the ways of people. Although culture influences one’s future, one should not be compelled by it as one evolves as a human. If culture were rich, as in the case with India, it should help us accommodate, integrate and evolve. When cultures tend to dictate dogmatism it becomes autocratic. They corrode intelligence of the population who were initially torchbearers of a progressing culture.
There are cultures in the world that have their origin in violence, hatred, intolerance and politics. These cultures are toxic and incite humanity into a debilitating future. One’s religion can be toxic, being a part of a barbaric exploitative culture. Such cultures were formed as part of a larger political scheme. If religion were to be devoid of genuine spiritual tenor it becomes toxic because it serves to subjugate its followers in the name of God.
One’s genetic code is signed by Culture
One’s personality is often shaped by the culture one belongs to. One’s genetic code has the initials of one’s culture etched inside one’s psyche whether one believes it or not, that dictates one’s characteristics, one’s behavior, even one’s thought patterns, and one’s habits.
It is high time that one purges oneself of all the influences of culture because only then shall spiritual freedom unravel. The only possibility of freeing oneself from all such compulsions is through the deprogramming of one’s Mind and Consciousness adopting a rich Vedic lifestyle which includes meditation, prayer, Japa or chanting. This shall not only carve inroads towards correcting one’s cultural bias but also sets the scene for everlasting happiness in one’s life.
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