1. What is Upanayana?
Upanayana is a symbolic, purification rite to indicate that a human being is now ready to follow the Vedic way of living.
The goal of human life is Self Realization and Upanayana is the first step in the transformation of an individual as follows:
Desire-driven person (prakruta-purusha) -> Cultured-person (samskrita-purusha) -> Cultured-person with an understanding of the Vedas (viprahah) -> Cultured-person with an internalization of the understanding of the Vedas (brahmana)
A human being, who is governed by the Vedic way of living, – “Vedic Lifestyle”, is known as Cultured-person. The three threads that are worn during the Upanayana Samskara is a reminder to the person that he should always be bound by the three Vedas – Rig, Sama, Yajur and is no more a desire-driven person.
2. What is Vedic Lifestyle?
Vedas prescribe a lifestyle having three major components
- A healthy attitude (bhavana) towards beings & things in the creation
- Adherence to certain virtues /values (guna) like non-violence, non-stealing etc. (yama, niyama)
- Follow the five types of prescribed actions (karma) as presribed: Compulsory /regular (nitya), Compulsory but conditional (naimittika), Desire driven (kamya), Prohibited (nishiddha), Compensatory (prayaschitta)
3. What is the Rationale Behind it?
From the time a human being is born to about eight (8) years, his actions are entirely determined by his nature, likes /dislikes. He eats what he desires, speaks what he feels like and acts the way he wants. Upanayana marks the transformation of a person from being desire-driven to doing what he is supposed to do, as ordained by Vedas. It marks the beginning of mental training towards the path of Self-Realization.
4. What is Gayatri-Mantra & its Meaning?
According to Hindu scriptures, Gayatri-Mantra is the summary of the entire Vedas. The Sanskrit & English versions of the mantra, along with its meaning is given below. During the Upanayana Samskara, the boy’s father, assuming the role of a teacher (guru) whispers this Secret into his ears. Upanayana Samskara is also a purification ritual, wherein, the boy is ‘prepared’ to receive the Ultimate Secret Knowledge. The three threads worn remind him to follow the Vedic Lifestyle and strive towards Self-Realization.
The Gayatri-Mantra has several deeper levels of meaning. The simplest and most commonly understood meaning is as follows:
|ॐ भूर्भुवः॒ स्वः॒
भ॒र्गो॑ दे॒वस्य॑ धीमहि।
धियो॒ यो नः॑ प्रचो॒दया॑त्॥
|Om bhoor-bhuvaH svaH,
bhargo devasya dheemahi,
dhiyo yo naH pracho-dayaat.
|“May the Almighty God illuminate our intellect to lead us along the righteous path”|
In short, the Gayatri-Mantra is a prayer to lead us in the right path by removing the ignorance in our mind, related to who we are.
5. What is Sandhyavandanam?
During the three times of a day,(refered to as ‘Sandhya’ – junctions) i.e., in the morning, afternoon and evening, the person who has been initiated into the spiritual path through Upanayana-Samskara is expected to follow a religious practice of which, repeating Gayatri-Mantra is considered as the most important. Therefore, Gayatri-Mantra is chanted (japa) by the person. Vedas prescribe this as Nitya-Karma, which needs to be done on a daily basis.
6. What are the Benefits of Sandhyavandanam?
There are several benefits. First and foremost, this is a meditative practice. The practice gives health, long life, prosperity, mental focus and ultimately, the Knowledge (jnana). Regular practice combined with study of the deeper meanings of the practice, brings about significant attitudinal changes that helps a person view everything in the Creation with love & respect.