Thursday, November 24, 2011

Upanayanam/Brahmopadesam-- Its significance

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Subject: upanayanam / brahmopadesam -it's significance
The Sanskrit word Upanayanam is made of Upa and Nayanam. (vision through knowledge). Literally, it is identified as the second vision known as Wisdom & knowledge. Also, Dwijan as we call the boy to whom the ceremony is being performed, is known to get the second birth - first being born on the earth with physical body and second being "taking one near to wisdom". through this ceremony. Essentially it has two parts. First is the investiture of the three stranded thread called Yagjnopaveetham. The second part is the Brahmmobadesam - taking one to the Brahmman - a recitation into his right ear the Gayathri mantra. This is usually performed by his father, who becomes the Teacher known as Guru to the boy..
The Youngster is thus, made eligible to be taken near the Vedas, so that he can study them and practice what is ordained upon him, in the Vedas. Here is the simplest way I explain the ritual known as Upanayanam - Brahmmobadesam. This ritual is performed with a larger gathering of friends, family relations and others to bless the boy. And from this day, he begins his routine Sandhya Vandanam - a regular prayer done thrice a day - during Morning, Noon & in the Evening. Also, from the day of Upanayanam & Brahmmobadesam, he start to perfom the Samitha Dhanam, a holy fire sacrifice, which he is supposed to perform daily.
Vedic mantra is a two liner and translate in its simplest form as: We meditate and bow before the exalted Dweller of the effulgent sun Who kindles our intellect. While uttering the mantra OM BHURBHUVAHA is always added to invoke the Supreme Lord of the three worlds.
A word of caution about the pronunciation and articulation of this mantra is needed. We strongly advise that this sacred mantra be uttered only after getting taught its pronunciation by a person well versed in the correct recitation of the Vedas.
There are various forms ceremonies, and rituals which mark the diverse stages and activities of men. Samskaaram (signifying cleansing) is the comprehensive Indian word for these forms. these are secular (like a handshake), civil (like certification by a legal authority), or religious( like birth rites) in character.
The Indian society is characterized by four broad choices (varnnyam or Varnam) of occupation, and the Upanayanam is administered to those who opt for religious education and practice, or the organized defense of a nation or community, or commercial operations according to established norms and practices. The ceremony is regarded as important as a re-awakening and creates for the functionaries the obligation to a life-long commitment of ethical principles, the ambience of Dharma. The passage through the ceremony confers the identity of Dvija (of dual birth) on these three groupings of citizens.
While every person is endowed with a autonomous ability to identify and verify objects of nature and human situations, a conscious search for knowledge is best facilitated by enrolling with an appropriate mentor (Achaarya). The expression Upanayanam indicates a preceptors leading the pupil on a spiritual quest of meaning and purpose. The Upanayam ceremony has two initial stages. THe Upaveetham involves the investiture of the sacred thread which is a three stranded loop (representing the three entities of creation, the chit or the animate, the anachit or the inanimate and the Eesvara the Lord) with a consecrated knot (Brahmagranthi), worn on the left shoulder across the midriff. The Upaveetham is the accessory in the worship of the Lord Supreme, Vishnu-Naarayana. The Upaveetham thread is known as Yagnjopaveetham in acknowledgement that the Lord is Yagna (Yagno vai Vishnu).
The Upanayanam signifies the purpose of it all, namely, the reaching for God-awareness through the study of the Upanishad. This mission of reaching or knowing (Brahna-jijnaasaa) is to be realized by means of the sacred formula (Gaayathri Mantram) imparted in the second stage which is thus named Bramopadesam. The young pupil is now known as the Brahmachaarinn, the candidate for the knowledge of Godhead.
The Gaayathri Mantram, hitched to the pranavam, is the precious acquisition of the ceremony, and yields unfailing protection to the one who recites it. The mantram and its metre is adored as the Mother of all sacred formulas and metres, Gaayathri Chhandasaam Maataa. This mantram is to be imbibed with due attention and veneration, and in privacy. There is an ongoing electronic-media commerce in singing this mantram, and this is a gross offence.
The mantram speaks of Devasya, savitu: and bharga charting the Lord (Deva:) who is in the lustre (bharga:) of the sun (savitaa). The cognomen deva: is from dyu: for lustre, and relates to the Indo-European dei and deity. Savithaa, a masculine noun, is for the Sun, but is a substitute for prasavitaa (from sou to bring forth), the maker. Bharge: is effulgence. The following texts establish the Gaayathri as a hymn for the Lord, Sri Maha Vishnu - Sriman Narayana.
The Upanishad text describe the Lord as dwelling in and radiating from the Sun. The Lord is identifies in specific descript such as Lotus-eyed (Chaandogyam), the pure animation (Suddha-sattvam) forming the core dwelling of the Lord in the Sun (Maitreyaaani), bharga signifying Vishnu (Yaajna-valkya smrti), savitr-mandala-madhya-vartree (agneya puraanam), Vishnu's supreme magnificence known as Rk, Yajur, Saama, enveloping the Sun's core (Vishnu puraanam), in Purushasooktam which speaks of the Sun's radiance transcending darkness (aaditya-varnam tamasa: parstaat), the Narayanasooktam describing how the lightning streaks out of the dark cloud (neela-toyada-madhyasthaat), in Sri Raamaayanam which is revered as Vedic redaction, Seeta identifying herself with Sri Raama even as the luminosity inheres in the Sun (bhaaskarena prabhaa yathaa).

The Udhaga Shanthi ( Uthaka Shanti) Japam recitals takes place normally the earlier day. The boy is being prepared with mentally and physically to take the Brahmmacharyam through the recitals and also with cleansing him with the Holy water. Then the Panchacavyam - a combination of Cow's Urine, Milk, Curd, and the holy water and mixed after recitals of specific Slokas & Mantras to purify the boys body & soul. Then the naandhi srardham (known as Abhvyooham to Srivaishnavas( is performed the day previous to the upanayanam and a very important requirement is stressed by the administering priest/aacharya- manasamaadheeyataam, Compose your mind! This is a pre-condition for receiving instruction, retaining and practicing it. Srimad Bhagavad-Gita Sri Krishna reiterating this discipline, samaahitamanaas srunu, Listen thou with a tranquil mind!

Normal age to perform Upanayanam: between 7 and 15 years.. generally odd running year is taken. If performed after the age of 15 years, then no need to stick to this rule. Best period for performing the ritual is during the Tamil month Maasi, which fall during Mid February to Mid March. However, during UtharayaNa period this can be performed. I.E. from Mid January till Mid July ( Tamil months from Thai to Aani). During Dakshinayana, it is advisable to avoid performing Upanayanam. Also, for Sama Veda followers must avoid performing Upanayanam during the time when Mars is set (Kuja Asthamanam), for Rg Vedis to avoid during Jupiter's setting, (Guru Asthamanam) and Yajur Vedi's to avoid during Venus setting period (Sukra Asthamanam). On the day of Muhurtham, the 8th house to the selected day's Muhurtham should be clean and without any malifics. This is a must for performing the Brahmmobadesam. Due to paucity of time and availability of halls and economical considerations, nowa-a-days, the Udhaka Shanthi, Nandhi and Upanayanam/Brahmmobadesam is performed in a single day.

Here are some interesting facts about the Poonool known as Yagnjopaveetham:

The sacred thread consists of three strands, (all common to Srivaishnavas, Smarthas & other Bachellors) joined by a knot known as Brahmagranthi or the knot of Brahma. The three strands symbolizes the Hindu trinity - Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. There are various interpretations of the three strands to represent many of the other triads like Mahasarasvati, Mahalakshmi and Mahakali. Or the three qualities known as sattva, rajas and tamas; past, present and the future; the three states - wakefulness, dream and deep sleep. Some even say that it represents the three dimensions known as heaven (swarga), earth (martyaloka) and nether regions (patala).

But the most important meaning of the three strands is ida, pingala and sukshama nadi, through which the kundalini energy manifests as prana and consciousness. Yajno-pavita means 'thread of sacrifice.' That is so called because it symbolizes the sacrifice of ego, Anger & selfishness.

According to the Manusmrti which specifies the following ages for the initiation ceremony to take place:

In the eighth year after conception, (i.e. at the age of 7 on birth) one should perform the initiation of sacred thread) of a Brahmin, in the eleventh year after conception for a Kshatriya and in the twelfth year that of a Vaisya. (Manu Smruthi II.36).

The sacred thread is a passport to obtain Vedic education. It is a prerequisite for learning Veda and also for marriage. For without it, in those days, no Brahmin man can dream of getting a bride for him. It was considered important because a person with Yajnopavitha must have undergone all the oaths associated with wearing it and should have led a celibate life and should have completed a major portion of his Vedic Sastras and education. A Brahmachari known as bachelor wears a single sacred thread that has three strands. A married person wears a pair of three bands each. A person who is married who is very orthodox, still with the family but has Sanyasa within the Grahasthasrama (does his daily routine and duties in the family, but unattached - like a drop of water lay on the lotus leaves).