Purpose of penance

Source : The Hindu

It is to be understood that the scriptures and the Puranas attribute the highest status to both Siva and Vishnu and that both are merely two sides of the same coin, pointed out Sri B. Sundarkumar in a discourse. If the Bhagavata Purana highlights the greatness of Vishnu, the Siva and the Skanda Puranas describe Siva or Muruga as the highest deity. The killing of demons such as the Gajasura by Siva or Ravana by Rama is symbolic of the Lord’s ways of establishing the victory of virtue over vice, and instilling faith in upholding dharma and righteous living.

The asuras are shown as capable of severe and austere penance and through such effort win boons from Brahma and other celestial beings. But because they lack maturity of mind and are given to evil tendencies, they opt for ephemeral ends instead of seeking what is of permanent value. Their penance fuels restlessness of spirit that yields to the pulls of desires. Gajasura does austere penance and secures longevity, strength, and valour from Brahma. He then indulges in atrocities. When these become too much for the world to bear, Siva intervenes and kills him.

Any evil tendency in one is a manifestation of asuric quality. When one’s pursuit in life is directed at the enjoyment of the objects of senses, he reflects asuric tendencies. It only sadly reflects the failure in a majority of human beings to nurture the mind and cleanse it of impurities, so that it is allowed to mature and mellow.

Much can be learnt from the world of Nature which provides examples of the natural process of maturing as in the blooming of a flower from a bud or the ripening of a fruit.

Penance has to be done with the aim of attainment of calm and contentment of mind. The purpose is to realise the true value and importance of seeking salvation.

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