Dharmic duty of a son to his father

A comment I wrote on Jim’s blog, in response to a debate on whether a son is required by Dharma to absolute obedience of his father’s commands, which I think is worth publishing as its own entry (edited for clarity):

I disagree that absolute obedience of father by son is commanded by Hindu Dharma. On the other hand, the story of Hiranyakashipu and Prahalada clearly shows that a son has no duty to follow his father to hell, and indeed, it is adharmic if a son does so. Prahalada clearly disobeyed his father by refusing to acknowledge him as greater than Lord Vishnu himself. So clearly there are limits on obedience as a virtue.

In the Ramayana, Lord Rama honoured his father Dasaratha, who was a Dharmic soul and who had given a rash boon to his wife Kaikeyi. Rama sought to honour his father by keeping the promise. If the promise had entailed the destruction of Ayodhya or the Solar dynasty, Lord Rama would never have fulfilled such a promise, but rather found a way to save his father’s honour and at the same time disobey him. The fact is, Dasaratha’s boon to Kaikeyi was not adharmic, in the sense that the decision to anoint Bharatha as the crown prince was not adharmic or destructive and in fact Lord Rama considered his brothers to be a part of Himself. In fact, such a drama was ordained by the Lord himself as part of the Avatara, to freely pursue and destroy the adharmic Ravana.

I take the postion that if a father commands his son to do adharma and which would result in bad karma towards his ancestors, family or clan, the son has a duty not to obey him and in fact oppose him if he attempts such destruction. If a father commands his son not to have any children or even convert to another religion, that is a grave sin against his ancestors, because the continuance of his lineage is a duty to his ancestors and breaking that by either voluntarily choosing not to have children or converting to a different religion directly affects his ancestors who are, in fact, as per Hindu belief reborn as his own descendants. In fact, I would argue that such a family with such an adharmic father might be bearing the curse of their ancestors. In that case, the best duty that a son can perform is to honour his father, but not obey him and in fact, take steps to lead his father back to dharma and mitigate the ancestral curse. That is the best duty and the only duty.

A drunk father cannot command the absolute obedience of his son, but dharma commands that any father should be honoured by his son and a son’s duty is to protect his father from his own adharma, even by force if necessary.

5 thoughts on “Dharmic duty of a son to his father”

  1. I’m surprised that you cite the tale of Bhakt Prahlad as a counter-example to a son’s dharma (putr-dharma) being absolute loyalty to one’s father, whereas it is a cautionary tale in favour of said loyalty.

    Leaving aside the question of how Sri Prahlad came to be a devotee of Sri Vishnu (due to subterfuge and borderline evil tactics of devas and especially Devarshi Narad), Hiranyakashyap is widely considered a very evil demon/rakshasa who was wont to fight the gods. Even so, Sri Prahlad did not rebel against him, plot against him, or even insult him, let alone try to kill him. The son only attempted his best to bring his father back to his senses, even when Hiranyakashyap tried to kill him. Hiranyakashyap was quite literally leading Bhakt Prahlad into hell itself, yet the son never stopped for fear. This is far, far beyond the duty entailed by dharma shastras. Of course, since this is a parable, Sri Vishnu intervenes on Sri Prahlad’s behalf, kills Hiranyakashyap and everyone lives happily ever after.

    Since Hiranyakashyap is perhaps the epitome of an evil father, yet Bhakt Prahlad does not dream to depose/kill him, and keeps trying to bring him to the right path despite the spectacle of certain death, this is a rather extreme example for absolute loyalty to father. In reality, a son might be justified to leave an evil father and try to strike out on one’s own before the situation gets as bad as with Bhakt Prahlad. But one can never ever dishonour him.

    Same with Sri Rama. Although he had the advantage that even if he faced destruction, Sri Bharat was eminently capable of running Ayodhya as King, which he did actually do for many years.

    The question of loyalty toward guru, ancestor and King when the latter are manifestly engaged in adharma has been best explored in the Bhagwad Gita. A brief summary would be that the limit of piety is breached by the taking up of arms. If one’s learned guru, ancestors, or even King, take up arms on behalf of adharma and face one in the battlefield, then (and only then), does it become one’s duty to fight them. Even so, loyalty progresses from father>clan>King, and not vice-versa. Pandavas supported their father Pandu against their adharmic uncle King Dhritrashtra, who in turn supported his adharmic sons due to blind affection (“putr-moh”). If Dhritrashtra had not fallen into putr-moh and disciplined his sons early on, the vast destruction of the Mahabharata could have been avoided.

    As regards conversion to another “religion,” this is where dharma differs from the Semitic concept of “religion” as a creed. Old gods live inside us, and we do not need to profess any creed to be a Hindu. It’s like being “Japanese,” who can worship his old gods, or convert to Buddhism/Christianity/whatever, but still remain Japanese. Old gods are manifestations of Forces of Nature, and they always prevail. I encourage their worship because then one swims along the current of Nature and shares in its bounty, rather than swimming against and facing death and destruction. Aryans who turn away from their gods and follow Semitic creeds due to historical accidents long ago, still contain the seed of heaven within.

    Why these Semitic creeds seem to create conflict wherever they go is because they are exclusionarists. They do not merely demand obeisance to their patron god, but also vehement, violent repudiation of other gods. Iconoclasm is not merely tolerated, but it is actively commanded. This is in the very first Commandment of Moses, that all Semites and philosemitic goyim live by. Islam takes it to a whole next level, of course, but the principle remains the same. The only explanation I find for this seems to be that Baphomet and Yahweh are jealous, egotistical daemons who cannot tolerate the mere existence of others like them, hence command their followers to attempt to destroy them. They are nominally opposed to one another and do fight when no-one else is around, but 1) those fights usually end up in Baphomet’s victory, and 2) they’ll form an alliance as soon as a third enemy appears on the scene.

    I go along with the western reactionary demand for “National Churches” because it is a potent solution for the problem of making Church a part of society rather than a separate power centre. But the fact remains that this has been repeatedly condemned by mainstream Christian authorities since ancient times, as “phyletism.” Moldbug was right to point out the Christian origins of Progressivism (which he could perceive because he is a Jew), but he did not go far enough back. The best thesis along these lines can be found at: https://reactionreformation.wordpress.com/2020/09/15/ecumenical-christianity-as-a-leftism-enabling-machine/

    So while I give moral support to reactionary Christianity, I remain sceptical of their actual ability to deliver a real back-to-Jesus blow to the various pozzed established churches. The numbers do not appear to be there.

    I would argue that such a family with such an adharmic father might be bearing the curse of the ancestors. In that case, the best duty that a son can perform is to honour his father, but not obey him and in fact, take steps to lead his father back to dharma. That is the best duty and the only duty.

    An excellent summary.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My point was to illustrate the difference between absolute obedience and loyalty. Loyalty I think we agree on. Son needs to honour his father unconditionally but that does not mean absolute obedience. In this case, I took the example of Prahalad to show that, in Dharma, disobedience of father’s immediate command is not necessarily dishonour, which Hiranyakashyap took as dishonour and wanted to kill his son for it.

      There is no contradiction between honouring one’s father and honouring one’s ancestors. On the other hand loyalty != blind and absolute obedience to every command of the father.

      I also think that my point is that a self-destructive father’s commands absolutely cannot be obeyed by his son, for example a drunk father commanding his son to buy him more and more liquor. Obedience of such a command would end up destroying the family completely. On the other hand, the son has a Dharmic duty to take his father off alcohol, by force if necessary and rehabilitate him. That is disobedience of absolute command, but obedience of the higher Dharma to lead his father (and hence family) away from destruction.

      Why these Semitic creeds seem to create conflict wherever they go is because they are exclusionarists. They do not merely demand obeisance to their patron god, but also vehement, violent repudiation of other gods.

      I think as far as religious conversion is concerned, I think there is a duty to prevent conversion to other religions from Dharmic ones, particularly Semitic creeds, because, as you say, it encourages self-destruction (prog-ism) but also violence against the old gods. In fact, this violent repudiation of one’s own gods is a violence against ancestors and creates huge negative karma for the family (I might say, brings down the ancestral curse).

      It is my theory that, part of what afflicts the Hindu elite in India is their previous adharma (which includes, dereliction of Dharmic duty) which has resulted in falling fertility levels as a result of ancestral curse.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I don’t think it’s possible for even Reactionary Christianity to remain in its own lane so to speak.

      It is by necessity of the Lord Jesus’s command to make disciples of all Nations and the fact of Most High God reclaiming his dominion over a fallen creation.

      And the rebel spirits who make themselves God’s over Mankind will be punished for their treason against the creator of all things and beings outside himself.

      All this at the 2nd coming of Christ.

      That conflict is inevitable. As for their fight against the poz I am not sure.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. My understanding of your position is that you disagree with the Peace of Westphalia concept to be extended to religions other than Christianity. Which is a contradiction of the position taken by Jim @ Jim’s Blog.

          Liked by 1 person

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