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Hindu Dharma Sastras (ancient law books) ban foreign travel. Crossing the sea was a taboo in those days. There were reasons for it. But great Brahmins like Agastya and Kaundinya travelled to South East Asia and established a Hindu empire which lasted 1300 years in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. I have written a lot about it my earlier posts.
His Holiness Sachidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharati Svaminah of Sringeri Mutt (33rd Head of Sringeri Shankara Mutt) answered a devotee’s question on the ban on orthodox Hindus travelling abroad.
Some gentlemen pleaded with His Holiness for relaxation of the rules prohibiting foreign travel and urged the great need and the advantages of such travel in the interests of the welfare and advancement of our country.
Brahmanyam is the highest asset of a Brahmana and for preserving it he is asked not to mix with all and sundry people even in this land whose contact or company is likely to affect the Brahmanyam. How can a Brahmana then be permitted to go to foreign lands and stay there with people of quite different tastes, tendencies and habits? No kind of expiatory rite can completely eradicate the effect of such contact. So the Sastras do not permit free intercourse as before with one who has returned from foreign lands though he may have performed some expiation ceremony. It is in no sense cruel to have such segregation.
Though we equally love all the portions of our body, do we not allow some portions to be operated upon and even removed if we find that they are likely to affect the general health of the whole body? It may be a painful process but is a necessary one. Similarly a person who has seriously impaired or lost his Brahmanyam is sure to affect the purity of others and nothing wrong in segregating him from the main society.
It will be well to bear in mind that the prohibition as regards foreign travel applies only to the small communities of Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya collectively called Dvijas and not to Sudras and other castes which form the overwhelming majority in our society. Let the latter take to foreign travel and the former encourage and help them. If they do so, this will incidentally reduce the heart burning and hatred caused by the Brahmanas competing with others in all fields of worldly enterprise.
If it is said that the Brahmanas particularly are required for foreign travel by reason of their superior intelligence, quick grasp of new ideas, power of adjustment to circumstances etc., we must recollect that this superior capacity is not the result of physical labour but only of their habits of self restraint, strict adherence to the Sastras, frequent exercise of their intellect in the pursuit of subtle problems of life and more so of their inborn state of contentment.
If the Brahmana is allowed to give up all these and join in the race for worldly prosperity and imbibe the spirit of discontent, the superiority will vanish in no time and he will be just like others and sometimes even inferior to them. It is therefore dangerous to try to dilute and ultimately eradicate Brahmanyam from our land and make the Brahmanas remain so only in name to be treated with contempt.”
From the book ‘Golden Sayings’,1969 publication by Sri Jnanantha Grantha Prakasana Samiti, Thenkarai, Madurai District.
Swaminathan comments: What Swamiji said several decades ago is very true. It is a bitter truth that we are not ready to admit. No one will follow Swamiji’s advice. We have hundreds of excuses to put forth before him. But the religious heads cant dilute the Satras. I myself have noticed the following changes during my 27 year stay in London:
1. We can’t follow all the rituals in foreign countries which we followed in India.
2. Our sons and daughters are not following or believing what we believed when we were young.
3. Every family got marital connection with a Non Hindu. The minute it happened, their entire tone changed and began to talk about “universal brotherhood!”
4. Names of Sri Lankan and Mauritian Tamil children have been distorted beyond recognition. By the third generation they didn’t even understand their names. Neither do their parents! When they followed false numerology their names got wrong and negative connotations.
5. The Non residents did not see anything wrong in religious conversions.
6. They did not attend their parent’s funerals for the fear of losing their asylum status.
7. Most of the youths lost their roots and forgot their mother tongue. Most of their religious hymns are in their mother tongue. When they read them through Roman letters they sounded awkward.
8. Few old people have become mental patients because of cultural and religious conflicts in their families.
9. Children who are born to couples belonging to two different religions feel like rudderless ships!
10. First generation forget their mother tongue. By second generation, they forget their culture. By third generation they forget their religion. By fourth generation they are rootless and feel like rudderless ships. Since their parents also forgot most of their language and culture they are unable to help their children
11. The writer can give hundreds of incidents to substantiate the above statement. Very few Brahmins do Sandhya Vandhana three times a day and monthly rituals like Tharpanam. Going to temples is rarer.
12. We must see His Holiness in the right context. He advised Brahmins to be content and be the torch bearers of religion and culture like in the olden days. You and I look at present day and care for our family and our friends, but Shankaracharyas and saints like him look at future and care about generations to come.