(c) Durgadas (Rodney) Lingham.
All Rights Reserved.
Books have been around for literally thousands or rather – tens of thousands of years, even from an archaeological perspective. Cave paintings across the globe going back to extremely ancient times depict ancient stories that would later be shaped into books, often with drawings themselves or petroglyphs and petrographs.
In the Hindu tradition, books that contain sacred knowledge and lore are considered sacred, which is also relative to books by one’s teachers in the sampradaya or lineage or the Guru. Here, such books should be honoured and respected and not simply disrespected and disregarded as many coming into Hinduism do – although more enlightened people would naturally pick this up anyway as a inner trait – just as one naturally prostrates at the feet of a great master, Guru etc. and asks for their blessings or does a deity.
The touching of sacred books and such with one’s feet, dirty hands and such is outside the Hindu sphere of shaucha (purity) and a violation of this code of conduct. Many books are honoured, even modern commentaries and sometimes also placed on sacred altars and shrines. Just as one removes one’s shoes or footwear when entering a temple to pay reverence to the deity, to the Guru or even at one’s home-shrine as a sign of respect, so also books should not be placed on the floor or placed in unclean places, which also means around areas one has their domesticated animals or in the vicinity (as such should also be outside one’s eating quarters and shrine-room or rooms,which must be kept pure for reasons of personal / basic hygiene and respect). Even today in East and South Asian households, the leaving of shoes at the door or on shoe-stands before entering the house is customary.
Keeping the books shaucha or pure also reflects in our own intellects and minds as also our seriousness in learning. If we respect the books properly, then we also respect and regard the authors or teachers as also the sacred content taken seriously if modern textbooks to ancient classics. This here also means we should not take such to the bathroom with us as is a strange European practice and sometimes habit, nor soil them in any manner, such as in the kitchen or around foods and beverages.
Book-stands are used by Hindus for reading the sacred-texts, if not placed on fabric or other fabrics or materials to not touch the ground that human feet treat upon! They deserve a place high up on shelves, to be respected and also not be tainted and hence preserved as best from decay as possible. All cultures have really done this with libraries and vast bookshelves.
Writing or scribbling in or on books, making deliberate marks and notes are also contraindicated here as such reveals a clear disrespect to authors and also to the book or one’s own teacher. It also shows that one has no respect or knowledge for traditional views either, which is why simple page-markers (as post-it notes) or bookmarks can be employed, or a separate piece of paper can be used relative to page-numbers or with additional notes to remember important quotes on such pages, which can be kept inside the book jacket itself. One can also fold the corner of pages without damaging the book or graffitiing it! It is also just simple etiquette and basic knowledge that sadly some adults do not possess, just as one uses citations or footnotes when one quotes another’s passage in an article or ascribes the original source and or also their research bibliography. Here, the ancient classics also gave credit to original sources and the Rishis who first mentioned the quotes or teachings. These are part of student basics across the globe.
Care for aged books and those that are weathered and purchased from second-hand stores and such is also important. We should seek to restore them as best we can (there are many excellent cover-restoration, book repair and binding places in today’s world). We should seek to keep pages in tact and also repair them as necessary as a result of general wear and tear.
Caring for external items as books is much like caring for our bodies by bathing them, keeping the fit and healthy etc. For our “mental books” or libraries, this also means good mental health by avoiding toxic people, foods, teachings and also intake of herbs and foods conducive to memory and intellect.
By revering and caring for knowledge in books then, we can learn to take care of our own minds and also help develop a better sense of awareness regarding the sacred and ancient wisdoms especially, as also respect and honour all knowledge that we have gained in this life!