The Meaning of Promise in Today’s World

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By Smita Devi Doorgakant

“A promise given is a promise to God”. A promise is a commitment to do or not to do something. Very often, we hear these words: “I promise to be with you forever or I promise to support you forever and whenever you need me, I will be there for you”. But unfortunately, nearly every time these promises are broken and the person to whom the promise has been made finds himself or herself alone in her or his path. The meaning of promise has been beautifully portrayed by the Hindu Scriptures and Epics.

In the Epic of Ramayana, Sri Rama is clearly the foremost example a person can learn from. Sri Rama was considered to be the righteous person fulfilling all his promises and walking on the path of dharma which means righteousness. That is why he was considered to be the “Maryada Puroshottam”, the righteous Human Being. Sri Rama accepted to live in the forest, as King Dashratha’s wife, Kaikeyi ordered Sri Rama to be exiled for 14 years in the forest and give up the kingdom. Queen Kaikeyi, had asked King Dashratha three boons in return for saving King Dashratha’s life. For the sake of his father’s promise, Sri Rama accepted to give up the kingdom and live in the forest for 14 years. In today’s generation, no son or daughter will agree to abide by such a promise, and very often one can see that children are fighting with their parents over property issues and even fighting in court against their parents. Sri Rama is definitely the best example of a person from whom one can learn the meaning of promise.

Another beautiful event is the fight between Sri Rama and Lord Hanuman. Lord Hanuman is considered to be the ardent devotee of Sri Rama, and still Lord Hanuman agreed to fight with his Lord, Sri Rama for the sake of his promise given by his mother to the King of Kashi. The king of Kashi, once in an event in Ayodhya insulted Sage Vishwamitra and did not pay respect to him. In anger, Sage Vishwamitra asked Sri Rama’s for a promise to kill and to give him the head of King Kashi by sunset. Lord Hanuman was bound by his mother’s promise and Sri Rama’s was bound by his Guru’s promise. Both had to fight with each other for the sake of promises and in the end, the King of Kashi eventually apologised to Sage Vishwamitra and Sage Vishwamitra forgave the King of Kashi. This event depicts to us that the meaning of promise was never broken in these times. That was in Treta Yuga! What of now in this Kali Yuga, when promises are made to be broken! In Satyuga, a person of high eminence preferred death rather than break a promise. Word of mouth was considered solemn, something of divine origin. Even the common folk treated one another with trust.

Over time, the meaning of promise has been degrading day by day. In weddings all religions, whether Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and others, state that the husband and the wife have to promise each other to abide by and support each other in their problems and be together forever. But these promises are not being kept nowadays and the rate of divorces is increasing day by day. Promises are being broken and vows are being disrespected.

In Hindu wedding tradition, the bride and the bridegroom before the fire, take seven rounds (Saptapadi) around the fire, which means to be forever in every birth. Each step is linked to a promise, thus there are to Lord Agni, the God of Fire. Unfortunately, couples nowadays clearly disrespect these vows, and thus separations and divorces.

Let us therefore all try to teach future generation about religion significance of vows that are taken at the time of marriage and the importance of fulfilling them sincerely, which will make , peace, love and happiness prevail. As affirmed Hinduism affirms, “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” – “The world is one family”- , and so as one family let us try to revive and live the true meaning of promises.


* Published in print edition on 26 July 2019

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