How to be traditional in today’s world?

There has been a prominent impact of various cultures on our civilization. In today’s technology-centered world, cultural boundaries are getting blurred further. However it is a sad fact that there is a heavy price to pay as we embrace progress. Before the advent of Western influence, culture and progress co-existed in our country. As we know, the sages, kings and the learned ones who followed Sanatana Dharma were also doctors, engineers, mathematicians, builders and economists. It is imperative that while we imbibe technology, we should also remain rooted in our culture and traditions for our own good.

Here are a few things we can do to uphold our traditional values.

‘Name’ calling

Elders have always been respected in our culture. Of late we are getting into the habit of addressing everyone with their first name irrespective of their age. Calling someone ‘Sir/Madam’ is considered old-fashioned today. In our Eco-system addressing people by their first name is only reserved for those who are younger to us. Sir/Iyya (Tamil)/Ji or Madam/Amma(Tamil)/Ji adds more respect to the conversation. Can we try this outside the workplace to start with? 

From shaking hands to salutation

Our salutation has always been the two-palms-touching head-slightly-bowed Namaskaram/Namaste. A complete full-prostration is reserved especially in front of elders. Handshakes are tedious, subject to analysis (firm or soft, duration of contact, one-handed or two-handed) and in today’s world very unhygienic. We can try teaching our kids to do ‘Namaste’. Oh by the way, this type of salutation works in the virtual world of Zoom and Skype as well! We can also try answering the phone with a Namaste or vernacular equivalent word (Vanakkam/salaam etc). 


God-fearing or God-trusting?

We should never announce ourselves as God-fearing. What is to fear about God? Rather we should be God-believing, God-trusting, God-admiring and God-loving. Our Gods don’t come down on us if we commit a sin, they are all-forgiving and giving us chances all the time. So next time, when we get into a conversation about this, we can say, ‘I am a God-loving person’ instead.

Krishna is my friend

Food is God

Food is considered equivalent to God in our beliefs. Scriptures like Vedas, Upanishads, Itihasas and other works praise the importance of food. Food is never abused, wasted or played with in our culture. It is nourishment and is required to sustain the body which hosts the soul. So next time when we position a dish for an Instagram post for garnering likes, we need to think twice about this. While we are enjoying our excesses, there may be people out there who are clueless about where their next morsel is going to come from. 

A departed soul does not ‘Rest in Peace’

According to our tradition, when a person dies he (the soul) is either is born again as per Karma (good or bad deeds) or becomes one with the Supreme. Peace comes to the soul only when it merges with the Almighty. The right thing to say when we hear about one’s demise is ‘May the soul attain Mukthi (salvation) or Om Shanthi (peace). Never RIP.

Learning is sacred

Today information is available through many means. As a result, one can learn things (languages, physics or philosophy) without a proper preceptor. As a result the learner has no reverence towards acquired knowledge. Today we see pride, arrogance and absence of accountability creeping in because of this. Our tradition has always kept teachers in high esteem (even above Kings and Gods) thus creating a lineage of preceptors (Guru-parampara). I know a few people who have learnt things from Youtube, but managed to find the person who was responsible for the content and offered their tributes to them. It is a good practice to acknowledge the source of information or a simple ‘thank you’ comment can go a long way in terms of respect.

Jana or John?

Of late, we work with a lot of foreign employers and/or customers. Which is a good thing until we find that some of them are unable to correctly pronounce our names. And we are embarrassed about this!  We are now rechristening our own names To make it easy for them to pronounce our names. Siddharth becomes Sid, Janardhan becomes John, Vandhana becomes Vanessa and so on. Gradually it creeps out of the office and we start introducing ourselves with the new names wherever we go. Apart from the ‘It-is-my-right’ argument, is it really necessary to change ourselves for the sake of vanity?

Celebrating Star Birthdays

We are blessed with two birthdays in a year – our ‘English’ birthday and ‘Star Birthday’. While celebrating the former is a universally accepted practice, can we start celebrating our Star birthdays as well? Personally I am uncomfortable with the practice of blowing the light off the candles on such an auspicious day, but let it slide for now. Star Birthday is one when the stars are aligned in the same way it was when we were born and it should hold something significant to all of us. Visiting a temple, getting the blessings of our elders and singing traditional birthday songs will prove to be more fun in the long run.

The above practices help us keep in touch with our traditions and also help us embrace progress. When we practice these habits, we can attain our dual goal of material satisfaction and moral contentment.

Do add your other suggestions in comments about what else we can practice apart from the above.

Author Details

Rangarajan has been blogging for over 12 years now on various topics. With Thedal, he becomes one with the universe and he is hoping that his search will help him discover the eternal truth.  Please join him as he traverses through the universe across temples, philosophies and science!

7 thoughts on “How to be traditional in today’s world?”

  1. very nice. I have decided to wish “Namaskaram / Vanakkam / Subrabatham” instead of hi / hello in my phone communication atleast with my contacts.

    1. Thanks Ramalingam. It is a great attempt and if it works, it will set a great example. All the best!

  2. Hi Ranga,

    That was some food for thought! 😀

    I guess the current pandemic has brought out the meaningfulness of so many of our ancient customs like folded hands Namaskarams and the imoprtance of food in shaping us! I definitely agree that ‘God trusting’ is more apt than ‘God fearing’. When our earthly fathers themselves don’t cause harm to us, how much more our Heavenly father who loves will protect us! So trust and not fear is the right way!

    As Om Shanti also means ‘peace’, I would say RIP is almost equivalent to it. Again, I’m ok with calling people by name in the workplace as it tries to reduce the hierarchical mindset.

    I think acknowledging or thanking the source of info is not only a good gesture but imperative, be it an unknown internet source or a known person. And ‘westernizing’ one’s name is something I too abhor! So much tradition and culture is attached to our names! We shouldn’t give it up to merge with the crowd!

    1. Thanks for your detailed inputs Shoba. Thanks for your commentary on each aspect. Really appreciate it.

      As to RIP, the concept of soul resting outside the body is not considered peaceful in our philosophy. That is one difference between our beliefs and Abrahamic religions. When we say Om Shanthi, it means let the soul attain peace by merging with the Almighty.

      Once again thanks for your detailed comments Shoba.

      1. It was my pleasure, Ranga!

        W.r t to R.I.P, it could mean ‘Rest in peace with God’, bcoz anyway in Abrahamic religions there is no concept of reincarnation and here too the soul either goes to Heaven (to be with God) or God forbid to the other H.
        Hopefully it goes to rest with God!

        Ok I will 🤐 now!

  3. A few more traditional practices we could practise:

    * Leaving our footwear outside or just inside the entrance of our houses. This is a very hygienic practice which is even followed in Japan

    * Offering water to guests soon after they come home. This was a practice in the olden days when people walked long distances to visit others and were given water to quenct their thirst and refresh them asap.

    * Even maintaining various fasts would be beneficial to health

  4. Wonderful ones Shoba, thanks for sharing. You are very right about not entering a place with slippers. Same with offering water. It is a great leveler that it can be offered by anyone to anyone irrespective of any class or other differences.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *