Dharma or righteous living is the foundation of a society, and its goal is moksha or self-realization. In between we must pursue wealth and pleasure but never to breach dharma. When dharma is breached the pursuit of moksha is derailed and the result is chaos … a ravanic culture on the loose.
Bhagavan takes incarnation when dharma is threatened. It means that the world cannot run as it ought to when dharma is broken. Ravana had breached dharma and had to be destroyed to restore Ramrajya- the reign of Sri Ram.
The world has produced many great men and women known for power and wealth, but they are hardly remembered after they passed on. If Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot are remembered, it is for the evil that they have done. Business tycoons such as John D. Rockefeller and Dale Carnegie are remembered for their generosity rather than their wealth. It is well known that Rockefeller was very unhappy until he sought an interview with Swami Vivekananda to help him with his sleep challenges and constant worrying. Swami Vivekananda suggested to him that he develops a culture of charity. This was adopted and his unhappiness was resolved. Carnegie was known for his exploitative relationship with his workers but after folding up his business he became a philanthropist and went on to establish branches of the Carnegie Public Library globally.
Indians must understand that they are not living in a frontier society where there is desperation for food and survival. In 1845 when Indians landed as immigrants aboard the Fatal Rozack it was necessary to have such a disposition for survival. Since 1920 when indentureship had ended to this date, Indians have been active in shaping the destiny of this nation.
Nevertheless, for the past thirty years there appears to be an overwhelming desire to make money after retirement or to babysit grandchildren so that their children can maximize their income and imbibe as much pleasure and joy.
The rum shops and bars have replaced the debating society and the theater. The choir or bhajan mandali have retreated and today it is a challenge to have a bhajan mandali in a mandir. Acquiring a diploma or a professional degree is the height of achievement and very few Hindu students who are academically educated see value or merit in pursuing the arts.
Dr. Prahalad Sooknanan, retired lecturer in Mass Communication at Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business, was a renowned singer in the orchestra arena and the rendition of Hari Om Sharan songs. Kishore Ramnarine of Navet, a retired principal of Guayaguayare Government Secondary School always takes pride in singing songs of Mohammed Rafi and engaging in discussions on the musical genius of OP Ralhan and other leading musicians of the Hindi film industry.
One cannot deny the contribution of Ralph Maharaj and his contribution to theater. His work molded and inspired the artistic careers of outstanding actors like Hansley Ajodha, Dinesh Maharaj and a few others.
The efforts of Shivanand Maharaj, Rana Mohip, Sandra Sookdeo and a few others providing classes and training in the arts must be acknowledged. Many youths attending these classes excelled in their academics and all-round development. Two outstanding individuals are the brother and sister duo- Ompraksh Singh and his sister, Prashanta. Both are pursuing professional degrees in medicine. For many years Omprakash was the top archer in the country in the youth category. Both are also qualified lifeguards and holders of black belts in martial arts. Additionally, they are active in Ramleela theater and were part of a troupe that presented Ramleela to audiences in India. Prashanta is also a trained Indian classical dancer. These youths also serve as trained volunteers with the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, and Prashanta had the distinction of presenting a paper at a world Hindu Youth Conference in California, USA a few years ago.
Unfortunately, having a ‘nice time’ in this country has come to be associated with drunkenness and lewd behavior as portrayed in our carnival. With the blessings of the State, carnival now defines national culture and too many of us have fallen victims to such propaganda.
The onus is on the Hindu community- Jagad Guru- to redefine culture, that is, to give it a Hindu perspective. Would Rama have endorsed a festival like Carnival? I am not at all bashing Carnival with its beautiful artworks but the lewdness and sale of alcohol and other criminal behavior that come in tow must be called out. No sane people should endorse this hedonistic debauchery that parades as national culture.
Education is not just learning a skill to earn a livelihood; it is refinement of the mind. It is time that the Hindu community recognizes the arts, that is, engage the young minds in the pursuit of yoga, dance, music, martial arts, and other artistic and physical pursuits. Don’t we need poets and painters to capture the events around us? And writers to tell our stories? Or have we surrendered to the dailies- Express, Guardian and Newsday- and the National Carnival Commission to tell us what is culture?