Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Samskaara Series - Concluding Remarks

Kannada Article by: Tarodi Suresha
English Rendering by: Padmini Shrinivasan
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An auspicious ending with a 'Mangala' would be a fitting finale to this series on Samskaaras, after acquainting ourselves with a glimpse of the various rituals. Samskaara has been widely used, to mean differently, such as polishing, purification, refinement, elevation, Vidyaa etc. A lackadaisical attitude has downsized the present-day rituals, rendering them bereft of their core guiding philosophy. Its essence is not being experienced. On quizzing - what is Samskaara? At face value, the answer would be 'purity'. A process through which, accumulated dirt is removed to restore the sheen. Sriranga Mahaguru used to describe this as a process to restore the original form of the object. Now if we ask, which are the objects requiring purification through a Samskaara? It can be said that it is essentially for the materials, body, the seven constituent elements of the human body and mind. Some include the soul (Atman) too. In this last case unification of the soul with the Supreme is the purification process and vision of the Effulgent Light is the accruing benefit. In summary, all purification processes culminate in the principle of the Supreme Truth i.e. realizing the Self. Although innumerable Samskaaras are enlisted in scriptures, they have been shortlisted to 40 and among these 16 are considered as the most important (Shodasha Samskaaras). As sins can be accumulated in innumerable ways, it is quite natural that procedures to administer antidotes too exist in an equal measure. Depending on when they are performed, Samskaaras are classified as prior and post. The essential qualities of a soul or Atma Gunas enunciated by Rshis are Dayaa (kindness or compassion), Kshama (forgiving), Anasooya (free from jealousy and ill-will), Shuchi (purity in every aspect of life), Anaayaasa (shouldering all ordained duties effortlessly without fatigue), Mangala (radiating auspiciousness), Akaarpanya (large heartedness), Aspruha (non- attachment). Samskaaras aid in the process of accumulating these Atma Gunas over a lifetime. These Atma Gunas in turn fetch the ultimate reward of attaining Brahmapada (Feet of the Lord) and ensure continuity as a healthy lineage.

Every human needs Samskaaras. A sage who has experienced the Divine light does not require Samskaaras. However, the person who performs his Samskaara, accumulates the benefit of spiritual elevation. A few Samskaaras have to be performed by the husband or father only. The death rituals can be performed by others too. Brahmopadesha or Upanayana is performed by the father or an Achaarya (preceptor). In a nutshell, the Samskaara is also for all those who partake in the ritual. The practical aspects of these rituals have assumed different forms. Samskaaras are conducted with or without the recitation of hymns. Hymns-rituals-sacred materials all have their role to play, as long as they are used exactly in the manner enunciated by the Rshis. "The hidden mysteries should be understood before performing the rituals" was Sriranga Mahaguru's emphatic statement.

Holy bath, auspicious wishes, prayers to Mahaa Ganapati, an opening ceremony for ancestors; prayers in remembrance of the maternal lineage; rituals to purify self; as well as the premises are the preparatory rituals preceding the performance of the rites. Garbhaadaana, Pumsavana, Seemantonnayana, Jaatakarma, Naamakarana, Nishkramana, Annapraashana, Choodaakarma, Upanayana, Four Veda Vratas, Holy bath, Vivaaha and Anthyeshti are the 16 Samskaaras which are to be performed for an individual over a life time, beginning even before conception and extending right up to the cremation ground. Few law makers for householders (Gruhya sutrakaaras) hold these numbers differently. If the number of rituals is less in a particular group, then it is compensated elsewhere to make up the count.

Samskaaras are necessary not just to obtain eternal bliss, personal virtues (Atma Gunas) and a superior clan, but absolutely essential to build a noble society at large. Daily activities, festivities as well as austerities covering an entire year; Samskaaras encompassing the entire life-time, right from pre- conception to cremation; have all been built into a way of life commensurate with the four cardinal principles of life known as Purushaarthas. Salutations! To this land Bhaarata, where Maharshis' were born as architects of this divine plan.

Note: The Kannada version of this article can be viewed at AYVM blogs.