Sixteen Saṃskāras

Hinduism…..gave itself no name, because it set itself no sectarian limits; it claimed no universal adhesion, asserted no sole infallible dogma, set up no single narrow path or gate of salvation; it was less a creed or cult than a continuously enlarging tradition of the God ward endeavor of the human spirit. An immense many-sided and many staged provision for a spiritual self-building and self-finding, it had some right to speak of itself by the only name it knew, the eternal religion, Sanatana Dharma….

– Sri Aurobindo

Man-making is a science. Like a gardener, parents and teachers work on a person so that the best can flower out from him or her. The whole thrust is to help bring about greater awareness and love in the mind, and channelize the interest and energies into positive fields. The whole ‘work’ is on the mind alone, and is comparable to the work of a genetic engineer. The only difference is that while a genetic engineer plays and transforms with the basic structure, a teacher works to manifest the basic inherent beauty, freedom and potential which facilitates to carve out a dynamic, creative, intelligent and magnanimous personality.Interest is a very subjective thing, and has to come out from within. It can never be imposed. Interests are created by impressions and knowledge. That is what ad agencies too do. They create impressions, and this ‘works’ on the mind of the person to bring about the interest in him in the

desired field. Once the interest has been manifested we can just sit back and see the person work for his or her field of interest in a dynamic way. While the experts of the advertisement world are generally seen to use this ‘knowledge of impressing minds’ for their selfish and commercial ends, the Vedic Masters used this knowledge to help bring out a positive and dynamic personality. While the former conditions the mind to the extent that the very thinking process of their target crowd is conditioned in their favor, but the Rishis saw to it that the very power to think and question daringly, independently and creatively grew. Thus we have all our scriptures in the form of question and answers.

These deliberate and positive impressions which help create a deep and lasting impressions on the mind of a person – so as to generate interest in him about the Truth Dharma, help bring out a positive personality and free the mind of its negatives are called ‘Saṃskāras’. No one while living in the world remains free of the conditioning of his or her environs and teachings, so the question is not whether we can stop all conditioning but to see to it that a person is looked after like a plant and help his or her potentials bloom.

To a question whether Saṃskāras are deliberate positive conditioning, well the answer is that the objective of the entire exercise is to help a person awake to a state which is free from all conditioning, so while impressions are certainly put effectively and deliberately yet they are the very anti-thesis of what is implied by the word conditioning. This is one of the finest and blessed science, and has been perfected here as an art form too.

Saṃskāras are the turning points of life and need to be celebrated. Celebrations are very important ingredients of Saṃskāras. They directly or indirectly involve our respected elders, scholars, near and dear ones. Everyone gets together to convey their best wishes and blessings to the person concerned and thus there is social and religious sanction for the act and ceremony. Saṃskāras are great, time-tested tools in our traditional systems which help carve out a great personality. Apart from scriptural validation, history also proves to us the great effectiveness of these methods. When Vedic Masters had their way, India was on top of the world. The people of the far off land prayed that they will one day see this great land of plenty, prosperity and righteousness. In this section we shall present an introduction to these famous sixteen Saṃskāras of Hindus which cover the entire life span of a person and take him to the door steps to Truth.

The Sixteen Saṃskāras

Saṃskāras

Description

1.

Garbhadan

The first coming together of the husband & wife for bringing about conception.

2.

Pumsvan

Ceremony performed when the first signs of conception are seen, and is to be performed when someone desires a male child.

3.

Seemantonayan

A ceremony of parting of the hairs of the expectant mother to keep her spirits high & positive. Special music is arranged for her.

4.

Jatakarma

After the birth of the child, the child is given a secret name, he is given taste of honey & ghee, mother starts the first breast-feeding after chanting of a mantra.

5.

Nama-karana

In this ceremony the child is given a formal name. Performed on the 11th day.

6.

Nishkramana

In this the formal darshan of sun & moon is done for the child.

7.

Annaprashana

This ceremony is performed, when the child is given solid food (anna) for the first time.

8.

Chudakarana

Chuda means the ‘lock or tuft of hair’ kept after the remaining part is shaved off.

9.

Karna-vedha

Done in 7th or 8th month. Piercing of the ears.

10.

Upanayan & Vedarambha

The thread ceremony. The child is thereafter authorized to perform all rituals. Studies of Vedas begins with the Guru.

11.

Keshanta

Hairs are cut, guru dakshina is given

12.

Samavartan

Returning to the house

13.

Vivaha

Marriage ceremony

14.

Vanprastha

As old age approaches, the person retires for a life of tapas & studies.

15.

Sanyas

Before leaving the body a Hindu sheds all sense of responsibility & relationships to awake & revel in the timeless truth.

16.

Antyeshthi

The last rites done after the death.

Source: Vedanta Mission