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A Hindu Perspective on Pastrol Care

Seeta Lakhani's picture

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Through the extended family

Pastoral care in Hinduism does not come from a central body of priests because their role is confined to conducting formal religious ceremonials. It is in fact the extended Hindu family which is often the first place individuals turn for pastoral care. The family elders, whose role it is to provide advice, take on the responsibility of providing guidance to the younger generations. The role of the family is critical in Hinduism, as it not only provides the individual with a sense of identity, but also gives them the support they need to nurture spiritual values which can be integrated into their daily lives.


The crucial element in this form of pastoral care is the emphasis on practice rather than preaching. In many cases, the guidance provided by the family elders arises naturally as they set an example for younger generations to follow. Living as part of an extended family becomes a source of strength and inspiration during a person’s lifetime, giving them a sense of direction and purpose as well as nurturing higher ideals and aspirations in life.


Financial support

Not only is the extended family able to provide the spiritual guidance and support the individual needs, but it also automatically produces greater financial stability for every family member. If a youngster wishes to set up home, he can not only turn to his parents for financial support, but also to his uncles, aunts and the wider family. The financial resources of an extended family provide the added stability all families need, particularly during hard times such as the current recession.


Support from temples

The community spirit generated in temples provides individuals with a sense of belonging and mutual support from fellow devotees. Pastoral care can be provided through the ceremonials and rituals at different stages in life, like birth and marriage, or during difficult times such as illness and death. A bond can be built with a temple organisation or a religious teacher. Most Hindu families will subscribe to a particular sectarian movement and may have their personal gurus, or swamis, on whose guidance they base their lives. It is through such shared participation in rituals that the individual feels connected with his or her family, community and faith tradition. Religion is no longer seen as something abstract, but something tangible that can provide the support and guidance the individual needs throughout their life.


Ethical and moral guidance

Hindus also draw support from the teachings of ancient and modern proponents of spirituality who may be able to provide guidance more suited to modern dilemmas. All these spiritual figures promote the message of striving for higher spiritual ideas over secular living. Hinduism promotes living in the world without becoming too materialistic. Devotion to making spiritual progress, and eventually experiencing God for themselves, is the aim of human life. Sharing a religious ethos generates visible cohesion and natural pastoral care in the family and greater society.