• By Jnana Prabodhini
  • April 2001

The Sacrament of Upanayana:  
Taking the vow of studentship

The ceremony is normally performed in the prayer hall of the school or a quiet room in a house. A platform of 5 mtrs. X 6 mtrs. X 0.5 to 0.75 mtrs. Is erected and decorated auspiciously.

Om is to be installed in the centre of the backdrop at a height of about 3 mtrs.

The sitting arrangement may be as shown in the diagram given earlier with the “Requirements for Upanayana”.

The altar should be 0.5 mtrs. X 0.5 mtrs. X 0.25 mtrs. A steel tray or sheet is kept at the bottom of the altar. On that, electric coil heater is kept. Those who are going to be initiated are called aspirants. There should be as many Threads / Malas or other symbols as the number of aspirants. The Threads should be kept in a tray near the preceptor.

Normally, the principal of the school is the Preceptor. Any senior person with good character, a lady or a gent, can conduct the sacrament as a priestess/priest of preceptress / preceptor. The priest should be able to sing the verses in the script, which are given musical compositions.

On the left side of the priest, the sitting arrangement for the dignitaries can be made. Only the preceptor, the priest and the instrument players sit on the dais. All the rest squat on the covered floor. Chairs may be provided to those who cannot squat on the floor for a long time because of old age or for any other reason.

 The aspirants should take bath at home, touch the feet of their parents to venerate them, and then come to the school to undergo the sacrament. A tilak of ‘ashtagandha’ is applied on their foreheads.

 The sacrament is conducted preferably in the morning. It takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete the sacrament. Therefore all the arrangement are to be made on the earlier day.

 The hall is perfumed with the incense. Nobody enters the hall before 15 minutes for the commencement of the ceremony. The aspirants and their parents take seats 10 minutes before, and guests take their seats 3 minutes before, the commencement. The Tanpura starts 2 minutes before and the priest starts by saying ‘Harih Om’ on dot.

Priest and the participants:
 Hari Om
 (The priest rings the holy bell. The leaders of the rows stand up with the incense pots in their hands.)

Priest: Today we are performing the noble sacrament of Upanayana or taking the vow of studentship. Let us start by purifying ourselves.
(The leaders of the rows turn to the audience and start walking.)

Priest and the Participants:

(The leaders walk to the end of the hall with the incense pots in their hands. When the first quarter of the couplet is sung, they walk half the distance. When the first half of the couplet is over, they reach the end-wall of the hall. When the third quarter of the couplet is over, they reach the centre of the hall again, and when the couplet is finished, they come back to their original places, keep down the pots and stand there taking Akshata in their palms. Now other aspirants also stand up with Akshata in their palms). (Akshata are rice grains.)

Priest: A person may be impure, or in whatever state, if he remembers God, he is pure inside out.

Priest and the participants:

 (When the first quarter of this couplet is sung, the students turn to the right and sprinkle Akshata. In the second quarter of the couplet they again turn to the right, facing the audience. In the third quarter, they once again turn to the right and thus, after making a round around oneself, resume the original sitting position in the fourth quarter, sprinkling Akshata in every direction they turn to.)

What is mean by taking the Vow of Brahmacharyasram?

 (The representative of the aspirants sits in the centre facing the priest. He and along with him, the other aspirants ask)

Aspirants: You said that we are performing the sacrament of Upanayana i.e. taking the Deeksha – vow of Brahma-Charya Could you kindly explain it’s meaning to us?

Priest: Sure, Deeksha is a pledge of undertaking an earnest pursuit of knowledge – secular and spiritual. For that you are led to the preceptor. On the path of realizing the Supreme. That is called Upanayana. Upanayana strengthens your resolution to practise Brahmacharya, i.e. life of chastity. Yajurveda says-

Priest and Participants:

Priest: When one leads a regular, chaste life he becomes eligible to take the vow. On taking vow in all earnestness he receives the fruit i.e. the desired effect. When one sees the desired effect, he reaches a conviction and faith. Ultimately, leads to realization of the Truth.

Priest and the participants:

Priest: Truth itself is Brahman. Knowing the Truth is knowing the Brahman, i.e. seeing the Divinity manifest in individuals and in the living and non-living world.

Who can realize the Ultimate Truth? Who can bring that realization into practice?
The one who has taken the vow of Brahmacharya, the one who is putting in all earnest effort to practice the code of conduct of this Ashrama, can realize the Truth That is Brahmacharya Mundako-panishad says-

Priest and the aspirants:

Priest: This self within the body, of the nature of light and pure, is attainable by truth, by austerify, by right knowledge, by the constant practice of chastify. Him, the asceties with their imperfections done away, behold.

Priest and the participants:

Priest: Deeds inspired by Truth win. The unvirtuous, the evil, the untruth, never.

Priest and the participant:

Priest: Truth alone conquers, not untruth. By truth is laid out the path leading to the Gods by which the sages who have their desires fulfilled travel to where is that supreme abode of truth.

Priest and the participant:

Priest: The will of the Brahman is knowledge; the apparent expansion of the Brahman is the secular knowledge. The pursuit of both spiritual and secular knowledge is pursuit of Brahman – the Truth. The Truth prevails; so we must pursue the Truth. Following the will of the Brahman, one should lead his life through the four stages, Ashramas, viz. Brahmacharya – student-hood, Grihastha – life of a householder, Vanaprastha – the life of retirement, and Sannyas – casting off the bondage of the material life. One who does so becomes the most successful person according to the Hindu tradition.

Trying to realize Brahman. Brahmacharya is to be practiced till the age 25, and, if possible, later also. This is the appropriate period for self-realization. Later, one may enter into the other stages. Manusmriti says ----

Priest and the participants:

Priest: Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and Sannyas are the four stages in human life. Among these, the Grihasthashrama shelters the other three. The wise who practices these Ashramas in a gradual course according to the religious tradition attains spiritual felicity. (Manusmriti – 6,89-90)

Priest and the participants: repeat the above

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