A Vrata, simply put, is a vow. There is no religion that doesn’t prescribe or include different kinds of vows. Vows are prescribed either as means to attain greater self-control or expiate sins or recondition the mind to make it more sensitive or receptive or simply to please God or Ishwara or become worthy of Grace. It typically involves following strict rules of diet, sleep, rituals and such. Vratam typically goes with the adjective dṛḍha meaning firm. A dṛḍha-vratam, firm commitment like in ‘only by a firm commitment is truth attained’.
Spiritual vows are different from religious ones. The spiritual process is nothing but relentless pursuit of the truth of our being and even a little success comes only through a firm commitment. Here are five vows that can lead to lasting happiness for yourself and for others around you.
- Kamala-Vrata – It means the Vow of the Lotus. Although the lotus emerges from the muddy bottom of ponds, it remains pure and does not get soiled by mud at all. It remains dry and does not get wet even though it blooms out of water. Similarly, even while living in this world that has a fair amount of evil and sorrow, we should always remain virtuous and cheerful. You do what is right in a given job, role, or situation to the best of your capacity without worrying about whether your neighbour is doing it with the same sincerity or dedication. You are good irrespective of whether the world around you is good or bad.
- Chandana-Vrata – It means the Vow of Sandalwood. When a piece of wood from the sandalwood tree is ground, it continues to emit a wonderful fragrance down to the last particle. Similarly, no matter how much hardship we have to endure in our lifetime, we should always continue to radiate the fragrance of a positive attitude. Our quality is life is determined by how we respond to situations more than what happens to us. Keep our calm, keep your head over your shoulders during times of adversity and continue to maintain a positive disposition. You will sail through and you will inspire and uplift everyone who comes close to you just like the sandalwood.
- Ikṣudanda-Vrata – It means the Vow of a Sugar Cane. The cane of the sugar plant is crushed and mauled in many ways but it always yields a delicious and pleasant syrup, never a bitter or poisonous fluid. Likewise, no matter how much we are suppressed, put down, pulled down or mocked, we must never become bitter and should continue to exude blessings and good wishes.
- Hema-Vrata – It refers to the Vow of Gold. Gold is heated and smelted into many shapes but it never loses its brilliance. It ends up as more beautiful as an ornament. Similarly, no matter how much we are tormented, we should forbear and continue to show the brilliance of our wisdom, knowledge and virtues. These torments and tribulations will then transform us into something that is even more beautiful, something that is better than what we were.
- Deepa Vratam: Deepa is an oil-wick lamp. The oil is likened to the ego. Oil and fire combined in an unrestrained manner can burn you as well as others. It is destructive. The same oil or ego when channelized through a wick of self-control or self-restraint, can produce steady and long lasting light. This is what it means to live a life of yoga. Be a lamp unto yourself. Share your light with others.
Living a life of internalizing even one of these vows, can help one transform his or her life for so much better. The biggest secret of Karma Yoga or simply the biggest secret of happiness is to never seek happiness for yourself. Seeking happiness for others is a more reliable way of getting happiness in life and one or more of these vows can help achieve that.