Tri Runas (Three Loans Of Life)

Runa means loan. We as humans are born free. As we grow, at some point of time in life, some of us take a loan to satisfy our special needs. That is, we borrow money either from a bank, a financial institution or sometimes even from a money lender. That loan is repaid within a fixed time.
But the Vedas say we are not born free. We are all born with Tri Runas or three debts which each of us has to strive to repay during our lifetime. They are, Rishi Runa, Deva Runa, and Pitru Runa.

A question arises in our mind. I did not borrow from any Rishi or Deva or my forefathers. Why do I have to repay? Runa or debt need not refer to money alone. It could also be in kind. It also means the intangible assets that we are enjoying today. Let us first see what the Rishis gave us and how we can repay them.

First Debt

As we know, Rishis lived a very disciplined life. They followed several severe austerities. We hear stories about Rishis who went without food for days together, who sat in one place in penance for months together, who took the vow of celibacy. They did not do these things to satisfy themselves. They adhered to such strict rules in order to protect the environment and also the nature that Bhagavan has created so that it can be passed on to the future generations intact. Their sole aim was to meditate for the well being of the entire humankind. We benefit a lot from their accumulated knowledge in various fields starting from Daily life practices to Ayurveda, hygiene, astronomy, astrology and what not.
Therefore we each are greatly indebted to those Rishis and the way we can repay them is by respecting our culture, conserving and preserving natural resources so that we can pass them on to our next generation in the same way that we received it from our predecessors. Selflessness is emphasized here.

Second Debt

Next is our debt to the Devas.
All species on earth are nurtured and protected by various forces of nature. From the moment a life is born till the time it dies, it is entirely dependent on nature. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food that we eat, sunlight, good health etc. Even digestion, good spirits, and sleep is dependent on these elements. These forces of nature are characterized as individual deities in our scriptures such as Indra, Varuna, Agni, Vayu,
Aswini devatas and so on. The repayment to these devatas is prescribed by way of conducting Yagnyas and Pujas along with the chanting of Mantras.
Gratitude is emphasized here.

Third Debt

Third is our debt to Pitrus which is our ancestors.
Pitrus are supposed to be devatas in the pitru lokam. They could be our own grandfather or grandmother. My very existence is because of them my ancestors. Repaying our debt to them is prescribed in the form of performing special puja and other rituals on Amavasya day (no moon day), performing Srardham (ceremony conducted yearly on the day the ancestor passed away). Apart from these days, there are also some days considered to be Punya Kaal (auspicious time) during which some puja is performed in remembrance of the ancestors.
Duty is emphasized here.

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