Human birth is a rare privilege say the Hindu Shastras. It is the result of our punya karma, accumulated over several births. Human beings are also endowed with the unique capacity of “free will” that governs their actions. This makes them choose their path do things that benefit family and society or to do things contrary to the natural order.
Many Indians trace their birth to the lineage of a sage or gotra. This is a blood lineage that has lost its relevance with intra and inter-marriages. It is the patriarch or the matriarch of a family who establishes the values and traditions for all its members. This may include upholding dharma (interpreted as fairness and honesty in this case) following principles, love for learning and erudition, observance of tradition and culture, philanthropy, hospitality and conserving resources—monetary, interpersonal and intrapersonal.
The problem arises when the head of the family has an overpowering personality and dislikes losing power and omits to facilitate the transition smoothly. They do not plan a proper line of succession, not only monetarily but also to carry on the traditions and values. A modification in these values and traditions do take place in the changing generations. New and better ones may take their place or they could be eroded.
Many of the younger generation bask in the glory of their ancestors for all the wrong reasons and lead a shadow existence without building up on the base already established. They fail to develop their own identity and do not recognize that their birth in a family is Eswara prasada or a divine gift. In many families, with the break up of the joint family system the observance of traditions and upholding values is becoming more and more difficult. Migration, distances, lack of the proper infrastructure is leading to what is being called simplification in rituals and rites. On the other hand there are some people who go to a great extent to keep the home atmosphere alive in spite of physical difficulties. Festivals, rituals are observed and traditions passed on to a new generation.
However values may be difficult to observe and sustain in a particular environment. Take vegetarianism or abstaining from liquor. In modern times these traditions are losing their importance. Of course, when people become older, the call of roots and family traditions become stronger and these practices are dusted and resurrected.
Only when an individual lives and follows traditions and values with an open mind, does the family background become meaningful. Claims of birth merely establish monetary or situational superiority. When we understand and apply a particular ‘value’, it becomes easy to observe with all its merit in daily lives.