Tradition and Culture 1

Dear readers,

It is a pleasure to be here today, sharing with you all yet another interesting topic as usual. I hope you all are keeping well.

Today we shall be discussing a very important topic, one that affects all of us in various ways. When the words Tradition and Culture are mentioned the first thing that comes to mind is the way of life of people and what values and ideologies they identify with. Of course, it is without doubt that Tradition and Culture expresses a lot about people, and also a lot about a person in particular, and from someone’s tradition and culture we can deduce certain things about him/her. However in today’s blog, my focus is not so much on the dynamics of Tradition and Culture as regards Language, Food, and Dress etc. but about how our spiritual values can become our tradition and culture.

Tradition is the transmission of beliefs and customs from generations to generations while Culture is the social behavior and norms found in human societies. Depending on how we perceive ourselves, we tend to ascribe that to what our culture or tradition is. If we are from Asia, we might say well it is a tradition where I “come from” to dress in a particular way or to eat a certain kind of food. Someone else might say, “Well because I am from North America, it is a tradition for people to act in a certain way or to treat people in a manner which is different from where you are from.” Bottom line is we directly or indirectly link our actions to our tradition and culture. While this is a fact to a large extent, we need to see past this if we desire to get a deeper sense of what tradition is really about.

So again, when we say tradition and culture, the real question is “what tradition and which culture?” The tradition and culture associated with the body is sure to be temporary and diverse but those associated with the soul are eternal and universal. We can see this proof in our everyday life. Take a real life example of a family that moves from one country to another, say Asia to America. While they may still keep certain things like food and even speak their local language at home, they are influenced in one way or another by the “American culture”, and knowingly or unknowingly they tend to adapt to certain things and even substitute certain traditions into theirs. This on the external is knowing as adaptation or social integration, a very important factor for long term stay in a foreign environment.

We are eternal beings in a transient body and as such our tradition and culture has to reflect our eternal nature and not our transient side. The soul is eternal and will remain long after this current body dies and decays, and as such our tradition and culture should reflect the true nature of the soul and not our bodies. So what is the nature of the soul? It is Eternal, full of knowledge and blissful. Similarly it should have a culture that reflect this nature. The culture of the soul is Truthfulness, Love, and Compassion, just to mention a few. Do not forget, the meaning of culture is the social behavior found in the human society, thus the soul’s culture is the “transcendental behavior found in the spiritual society”. For something to be transcendental, it means it is beyond or above the three modes of material nature namely; goodness, passion and ignorance. Thus the culture of the soul has to reflect attributes that are above these three modes.

Now what is our real tradition? Since tradition is the transmission of beliefs and culture from generation to generation, similarly the tradition of the soul is the transmission of beliefs that are based on scriptures that are coming directly from the Supreme Being, from generation to generation or better put in a line of disciple succession. This will mean automatically that our real tradition is that which has been given to us from the Supreme Lord in a disciple succession. This tradition is none other than the vast ocean of Knowledge coming from the Vedas. This tradition has been handed down by the Lord himself to demigods and down to us. For the uninitiated, all this might sound a little vague so I’ll try to simplify it as much as I can. Every revealed scripture on this planet, be it the Bible, Koran or Bhagavad-Gita has its roots in the Supreme Lord, and as such they represent the basic tradition that we are meant to have. One may then inquire, “If that is the case, then why do they all have different things in them?”

The answer is that the Lord reveals Himself to people according to time, place and circumstances. The Bible was given about 2000+ years ago, while the Gita was spoken about 5000+ years ago, different times and different circumstances, thus the Lord in his infinite intelligence speaks according to the need at hand. Now even though there might be some things that we perceive as differences, we can all agree that the culture of spiritual life is the same. The traditions may differ but the Culture is the same. The tradition is the knowledge that was handed down to us by the Lord at various ages and times, while the Culture is the transcendental behavior found in a spiritual society. So whether one is Christian, Muslim or Hindu, we all share similar cultures. How? Every one of us accepts that in a spiritual society, there should be love, compassion, truthfulness, peace, austerity, cleanliness, prayer, etc. These are tenets of culture present in all forms of religious practice and we all agree with them.

The area we all have tension is in the tradition, which we defined as the transmission of beliefs from generation to generations. It is in the explanation of this tradition that many of us have either misinterpreted or redefined, in ways that now create the tension we experience today.

I’ll keep this brief and expatiate more on this topic next week. Till then do read, share and follow for more.


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