I took Monday, October 14th off from work. I’d casually mentioned it to my mother that I had off that day and she asked me why later. I told her it was because of Canadian Thanksgiving (my wife is Canadian) and Dussehra just for kicks. In actuality, my wife just happened to have the day off, and I have a few days to use before I lose it, so I took the day. Our local Dussehra festivities all took place on Sunday. I did actually think about officially claiming I took the day to observe Canadian Thanksgiving, but I never really considered claiming it was to celebrate Dussehra. Partly because, like I said, all of the local celebrations were over, and partly for a reason which is the main point of this post.
While in most of the Western, Judeo-Christian world, Easter and Christmas are the only real religious holidays universally recognized as paid days off. Then you get a few federal holidays thrown in the mix. Cultural. Secular. Even with these included, the number of accepted paid holidays comes nowhere near the number of days that I would hold sacred as a Hindu. And for Hindus in India, being closer to the culture from which our dharma sprung, there are even more cultural and local holidays and festivals celebrated throughout the year. And most if not all of those are deeply rooted in the sacred, which in the West, would warrant a day off from work.
(Yes, I know, all days are sacred. But stay with me on this.)
If I were to take days off work to celebrate all of the days that have become sacred to me as a Hindu, I would have more than exhausted the patience of my employers between July and now. With Gurupurnima, Krishna Janmashtami, Ganesha Chaturthi, the nine days of Maha Navaratri leading up to the aforementioned Dussehra, not to mention the upcoming Dhanteras and Diwali, while I suppose I could keep it to one day a month thereby remaining under the HR radar, still my yearly allotted PTO might be wearing thin to nonexistent by now.
But that is not the only reason I wouldn’t use PTO on days like Dussehra. The second, and more important reason is that, plain and simple, Hinduism is a “dharma religion.” The concept of dharma being basically synonymous with duty, one cannot observe holidays (many of which celebrate scriptural episodes which are representative of dharma) by taking a day off. By not doing one’s job.
Because then again, one could say that putting such importance on one’s “livelihood” is too worldly. All of the festivals I named above are, then, opportunities to break that spell. Not only that, but one’s dharma goes well beyond one’s vocation, one’s means of income. Being a parent or being a good spouse is another dharma. And taking a day to stay home and be just that could be of great karmic benefit.
But to me that already sounds like a cop-out, when one has every opportunity to be good at those things whether physically present or not. And even though there is much, much more to it, being gainfully employed is one of the big parts of the provider-role one plays as a spouse and parent. The dharma of employment, on the other hand, is inexorably related to being present and in the moment. And, as a grihastha, according to the Law of Manu, one of my age for example, would do well to pursue “wealth”, for comfort’s sake.
Though a day off every once in a while is nice, and I accept them gratefully when it comes to civic holidays like Labor Day, Memorial Day, etc., it is my opinion that PTO for religious festivals might go against dharma.
But I could be wrong.
Jai Hari Aum.