Nature Vs Nurture – A perspective from Our Scriptures

This is an age- old  debate on what shapes our personalities – our genes or environment. Our scriptures seem to indicate that one’s upbringing is relatively more important than one’s lineage or genes. I will illustrate my point with the help of a couple of stories. Consider the story of  Prahlada. Prahlada had the genes of a Rakshasa, who was a sworn enemy of the Gods and especially of Hari. No one would have been surprised if he had inherited all the qualities and values that Hiranyakasipu stood for. But as it turned out he was just the opposite of his father in all respects. How does one account for this?  If you recall, Narada provided the necessary ‘samskara’ to him even as he was in the womb. The sage sang in glory of the Lord Vishnu when Prahlada was still in the womb. Having been taught about the glories of the Lord even before birth, he never looked back. In fact he needed this  ‘samskara’ even before birth as otherwise his mind would have got poisoned by his father after birth. It was, of course, the grace of the God that made it possible through the sage Narada.

The case of Valmiki was just the opposite. He was the son of a great Rishi, Pracheta, who was a realized soul. No one would have expected a son of such a great soul to fall into bad ways.  He was a great robber and a murderer before he turned a saint. But then how did he make the 180 deg turn in life? Again, it was the ‘samskara’ given by the sage Narada that not only turned him into a Rishi but also inspired him to write Ramayana.

Both the examples above strongly suggest that Nurture is all that matters – not one’s accident of birth.

In fact the story of Maha Bali (grandson of Parahlada) also points to the same conclusion. As the story goes, Mahabali was, at one point of time, completely disinterested in worldly matters and at once approached his Guru Sukracharya. Sukracharya happened to be in a great tearing hurry as he had to go for a meeting with the Gods. So he gave Bali  the briefest possible teaching:

” Everything in the Universe – you , me & the all else- is Consciousness. Consciousness with thoughts is bondage and without thoughts is liberation”. Before leaving, he further added bluntly: ‘If you are sincere and reflect on this  with humility, you will  understand this simple message & will be enlightened instantly. If you don’t, you will be in bondage for ever even if I elaborate this message with all scriptural stories. All these stories will be like pouring ghee over ashes’.

Come to think of it, isn’t this a simple, crisp and clear enough message?  I think the scriptures and all the rest were written for the sake of the ignorant masses like us.

This simple teaching was enough to enlighten Bali as the subsequent events showed. He did not think twice before readily agreeing to  give away whatever was sought by ‘Vamana’. In fact he even overruled the advice given by his Guru Sukracharya who cautioned him not to oblige Vamana since the latter was none other than the Lord Vishnu himself.

And as for my final example, how about Parikshit?. Even as he was in the womb he had the auspicious vision of Kishna & Maha Vishnu’s Chakraayudha (as the story goes he was saved from destruction in the womb by the grace of this divine weapon, when attacked by Brahmastra from Aswathama)). What can  be a better ‘samaskar’  than the vision of the Lord & His divine weapon which is capable of cleansing anybody’s soul?

I am sure there are some counter examples from our scriptures refuting my conclusion and I would welcome readers to come up with suggestions.

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Published in: on July 22, 2012 at 8:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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