By Bhaswati Bhattacharya
Many Bharatiya families are rooted in useful traditions directly handed down uninterrupted from mother to child, over thousands of years with the unspeakable advantage of learning from people we can trust – our parents and grandparents, uncles and elder cousins – who have no hidden agendas and harbor absolute purity for the good of the family.
These families invest time and energy to teach basic priceless values to their children while the children are young, when things become part of the way of being. They include language, daily routines, foods that link therapeutically to the biochemistry of the child’s immune system, and a hunger for proper exercise and play. Coordination, technical skills with machinery, arts or agriculture, and facility with animals learned easily in childhood are more difficult to attain in later age.
Those who grew up in families that did teach exactly those things — how to master the basics of being human, how to resolve problems in health, relationships, and how to get around in the world understand that this atmosphere defines belonging to a traditional Bharatiya family.
Today’s conservative values are not authentic to Bharat. People who propagate superstitious practices against women, restrictive practices that place guilt and judgment on family are using power tactics used by corrupt forces influenced by invaders.
Profound open-mindedness coupled with enlightened choices that prevent someone from blindly accepting new lifestyle options without examination are the treasure of practiced fluid eternal wisdom taught in such families. The basics of movement, what gives nourishment, how to master the power of focus, staying open to continuous exploration, mirthful play, deep and profound rituals of rest and unbounded joy are elements of the teachings of authentic traditional upbringing in a dharmic Bharatiya family. There are no superstitions and no fear. Every ritual, custom, and practice is explained logically and utilized practically so that members choose these daily practices over other options and understand the parameters of any rules.
Several generations of a traditional family living together create the environment that reinforces these basic values for young members and is the biggest priority of defining FAMILY. Each ensures that no member is lost or deprived, and that each can develop toward their unique potential. They are not forced into careers or marriages – these are signals that the family is decaying in wisdom and blindly adopting rules. They can treat each member with respect only when they have nurtured and grown a tree of self-respect inside themselves. The growth of a strong tree inside each member of the family is the duty of each family member. It is reinforced with love, laughter, and loyalty to wisdom.
Life experiences of tragedy and loss are tests to see whether families have learned skills in wholesome ways. Wars, sudden deaths, accidents can shift comfortable lives into tragic discomfort quickly.
Ayurveda whispers about the Madhya Marga, the medium way; taking a path in the middle is better than walking on its edges. In a family where skills are broad, each family member can participate to help the whole clan. When liberal values and conservative values are blended to be used appropriate to the time, any crisis can be handled with quick application of values that are neither lazy nor severely rigid. Examples include handling sudden needs for money, addictions in members of the family before the addictions become severe, and the inconvenience of unpredictable but life-changing love with someone very different from the clan.
The South Asia Times Columnist Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya is a Fulbright Specialist 2018‐2023 in Public Health and Clinical Asst Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. Her bestselling book Everyday Ayurveda is published by Penguin Random House.