The inspiration for this topic came from a character in the novel A Peoples’ History Of Heaven by Mathangi Subramanian. The character is a professional rangoli artist. In my childhood, I distinctly remember rangoli being drawn every morning outside our homes and the logic for it. The images were always drawn with rice flour and the belief and also the fact was that ants would come to eat the flour. Why feed the ants? So that they did not come inside the homes to look for food and also the traditional belief that we are obliged to feed all creatures big and small in whatever way that we can. That tradition of rangoli disappeared from our lives over the years due to urbanisation and moving into flats / apartments but, feeding creatures continues to be practiced quite widely. In my own home, we had the tradition of feeding crows, doves, sparrows and squirrels till urbanisation took its toll but, my children feed stray dogs and cats in our neighbourhood every day and also during the day time when at least one particular tabby cat comes meowing for food a few times.

Many other traditions have disappeared from families due to the pressures of modern life and one that I miss most is the original use for our festivals for the families to come together for a few days of feasting and fellowship. On the other hand, some traditions like respect for elders and taking their blessings continues to exist though even that seems to be disappearing with replacement with modern Hellos and other forms of greetings.

Most families and other groups have traditions that they follow without having any idea as to how they started or the logic for them and I share below two stories to illustrate such traditions.

1. We visited our newly married daughter, who was preparing her first Thanksgiving dinner. I noticed the turkey thawing in the kitchen sink with a dish drainer inverted over the bird. I asked why a drainer covered the turkey.

Our daughter turned to my wife and said, “Mom, you always did it that way.”

“Yes,” my wife replied, “but you don’t have a cat!”

2. When the spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat who lived in the monastery made such noise that it distracted them. So the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening practice. Years later, when the teacher died, the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session. And when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up. Centuries later, learned descendants of the spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice.

I came up with the idea for this week’s 2 on 1 Friday blog posts where Shackman and I write on the same subject. Please do go over to his blog to see what he has to say about the topic but, before you do, please enjoy this song,

14 thoughts on “Traditions.”

  1. Many traditions are sensible and add something important to our lives. Other traditions, like the two in your stories, are just unthinking habits that have long lost any importance or purpose and may even be destructive. Like all the traditions that treat women as inferior to men. Or the traditional workplace initiation rituals that are often sadistic and humiliating rather than welcoming.

  2. as always… learning of the more ancient ways of India fascinate me.
    we just got an email ‘memo’ from the complex office telling us NOT to feed the few stray cats that have appeared… with instructions to call the animal shelter.
    the thought of feeding or providing water to any living creature has always appealed to me… and before living in apartments I have attempted to do it.
    especially in drought or other extreme conditions! it seems humane to me to do it. I think how I would feel … trying to keep warm on an empty stomach.
    bless your children for what they do to help the animals.

    1. Living in condos or co-ops can be quite tiresome for pet lovers as many residents object to them and make it difficult for pet lovers. We have had our run-ins with one resident and had to get a restraining order for him.

  3. I related your cat tale to the Angel. According to him, if you are truly deeply properly meditating, the sound of a cat shouldn’t distract you, nothing should distract you. With the possible exception of doing the hum (probably because two sounds are competing – that’s my theory). He has done a few “guided” meditations with me and it is quite extraordinary (and very different from what the uninitiated may imagine). He also told me, and if I have related this to you before please do not be bored, that I appear to be a “natural”. That’s what I like about my life – little hard labour; which, I hasten to add, doesn’t mean I don’t put in the effort. Fine difference.

    As to traditions, particularly family traditions, I have, fondly, upheld quite a few; others I have modified or introduced my own since leaving my family of origin. Naturally, and the reason I largely don’t mention the subject when we speak, met by my mother’s “OH”. My dear Ramana, you wouldn’t believe how much disapproval can be transmitted by two letters. OH. Yeah, well, whatever.

    It appears that there is currently another “tradition” in the making, maybe it’s becoming more of a habit, of my parents not talking to me any more (been nine months now). This is not as tragic as it sounds. Whilst I feel sorry for both of them in their different ways, for once in my life I am not going to make the first move. As far as I am concerned they can stew till their expiry date.

    Hugging you, my dear Ramana, as gentle or robust as you can withstand,

    1. As a meditator, I agree that when one is a serious meditator, nothing should disturb one but, that is under perfect conditions. That is why, the best time for meditation is what we call the Brahma Muhurtha. (

      Parent child equations can be difficult and you are not the only one that I know with such an experience. I had my own in my time and can relate.

      Thank you for the hugs. I really appreciate them.

  4. In the past few years we have embraced an Icelandic tradition which keeps all this Christmas nightmare festival at a distance. We have a Jolabokaflod, literally a book exchange on Solstice.

    What I like about this is that it is new to us and ours and we have all embraced it.


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