16 Sanskaars (Rituals)
Rituals are the activities performed to elevate the body, mind and soul. They alter the nature of an object and give it a new shape. Just like a goldsmith burns the gold in fire to purify it, similarly in Vedic culture, an infant is put in a furnace of excellent impressions (sanskaar). His flaws are burnt out and attempts are made to incorporate virtues into him. This attempt takes the form of ritual.
According to Rishi Charak, “sanskaaro hi gunaantaraadhaanamuchyate” i.e. the replacement of existing bad traits by good qualities and virtues is called impression. When a child is born, he brings with himself two kinds of impressions. The first category comprises of those impressions that he has been carrying with him through several lives. The second type consists of those which he attains from his parents’ impressions as part of his inherited legacy. These can either be good or bad. The remodeling of a human-being, vide the program of impressions involves enveloping a child in an atmosphere of potential opportunities for the development of good impressions. It also encompasses de-rooting of the bad impressions, whatever their source be i.e. previous births, inheritance from parents or their acquisition in the present life. Most of our pursuits are worldly but the program of impressions is spiritual. The real purpose of Vedic culture is the spiritual development of man who is pre-occupied with building dams and digging streams. A nation that starts progressing develops a network of plans — five-year plans, ten-year plans etc, but since our vision is limited to the material world, the goal of all these plans fails to be any more than constructing dams, digging rivers, making roads and laying railway lines. Our materialistic viewpoint has led us to consider the issue of ‘daily bread’ as the most important question to be addressed. Once the question of ‘daily bread’ has been answered, all the problems of the world are resolved. Once the dams and rivers have led to an increase in the yield, no other problem remains. As per the materialistic thinking, a human is no more than an image of hunger and thirst. The Vedic thought, on the other hand, does not assume human existence to be mere bodily existence. The plans of dam construction, river digging and road/rail-laying should also doubtlessly carry on. But from the spiritual point of view, these are extremely preliminary steps and are nowhere near the commencement of the program of remodeling of man on a spiritual grounding.
The actual purpose of the Vedic culture — the purpose for which the culture was born — is to remodel man by performing rituals. We build dams, dig out the streams, construct roads and lay railway lines. But where is the man for whom all this is done? Which kind of plan do we have for him — five-year or the ten-year one? If there exist established railway networks, if the convenience of motorcars reaches every household, if water reaches every corner of land, if the yield becomes unlimited and yet the man, the user of all these resources, fails to be truthful, honest, empathetic towards others, and is not virtuous, is corrupt and of adulterous conduct, then what is the use of these trains and cars, streams and dams? And is this not the situation today? Is the increasing dazzle of wealth and splendor not accompanied by the degradation of the very human being who is the master of this wealth? Where is man? Where is that human who has humanity — the man who casually throws aside the huge and complicated heaps of temptations that arise in his way? The biggest program of Vedic culture and the focus of this program is the reconstruction/remodeling of man by performing rituals.
The Vedic culture prepared a program for the modeling of man. For the success of this program, the custom of rituals was popularized. It is these rituals that make a man worthy. How many innumerable processes has the soul crossed on its journey across several births? The true tale of this life lies in the casting of impressions upon the soul — whether good or bad — in each birth it takes. As a part of this culture, the purpose of human life is to purify and clean the soul through good impressions and to keep refining it. The question is: How to wipe out the existing impurities and how to colour the soul anew? This is possible through the activities of the present life. The soul can be worked upon as a result of being enclosed in the body. To clean a utensil, you hold it in your hand. To clean the soul, it has to be held within the body. Bound to the human body, it can be dyed with new impressions. The moment the soul enters the human body, the Vedic culture starts influencing it with supreme impressions and continues doing so until the soul once again, leaves body behind.
Whenever the soul enters the body, the practice of Vedic Culture ensures that a fencing of rituals is built around it which prevents any negative impressions from impinging on the soul. It is inevitable to escape impressions. If there is no carefully arranged practice, there will be scope for bad impressions instead of good ones, and instead of development, degradation of the human being will ensue. If, on the other hand, there is a carefully arranged plan, it will bring about a regularization of impressions, a controlled system of encouraging good impressions and avoiding bad ones and a continuous process of development of man, in which he uplifts himself as well as the society. According to Vedic thought, this birth, the previous ones and the ones to come are all an attempt towards soul-purification through casting of impressions — a process of cleansing the soul free of its impurity with the help of constant application of rituals.
The process of complete and wholesome transformation of an individual by means of Vedic Culture encompassed not a handful but sixteen rituals. Their names, in sequence, are as follows:
1. Garbhaadhaan sanskaar ( The ritual of conception)
2. Punsavan sanskaar ( The ritual performed for the physical health of the fetus)
3. Seemantonnayan sanskaar ( The ritual performed for the mental development of the fetus)
4. Jaatakarm sanskaar (The ritual performed at the time of birth)
5. Naamakaran sanskaar ( The ritual of giving the child a name)
6. Nishkraman sanskaar ( The ritual of taking an infant out of the house for the first time)
7. Annapraashan sanskaar ( The ritual of giving solid grain to an infant for the first time)
8. Choodaakarm sanskaar ( The ritual of shaving the child’s head for the first time)
9. Karnavedh sanskaar ( The ritual of piercing the ear)
10. Upanayan sanskaar ( The ritual of investiture with the sacred thread)
11. Vedaarambh sanskaar ( The ritual of initiating Vedic Study)
12. Samaavartan sanskaar ( The ritual of completion of Education)
13. Vivaah sanskaar ( The wedding ritual)
14. Vaanaprasth sanskaar ( The ritual of leaving household for a life of austerity)
15. Sanyaas sanskaar ( The ritual of renunciation)
16. Antyeshti sanskaar ( The last/funeral rites)
To Learn more about the above 16n Sanskaars, please read from the attachment.
Content and Attachment Courtesy:- Darshan Yog.