• By Jnana Prabodhini
  • April 2001


Dharma Sansthapana – Establishing righteousness
Lord Shrikrishna assures in the Bhagavad Geeta:

‘For the protection of the good people and for the destruction of the wicked, and for the establishment of righteousness, I come into being from age to age.’

 Swami Vivekananda, too emphatically expounds the need for Dharma Sansthapana. He says - “The unity in religion, therefore, is absolutely necessary as the first condition for the future of India. There must be the recognition of one religion throughout the length and breadth of this land”. (Lectures from Colombo to Almora, 1963 Edn.P.185, lines 2 to 5)

In another lecture he speaks about his life mission: Religion for a long time has come to be static in India. What we want is to make it dynamic. I want it to be brought into life of everybody.’ (I bid P.81, lines 12 –14)

 How to make religion dynamic? How to bring it into the life of everybody? Religious sacraments can be a means to serve this purpose. They contain the noblest thoughts in the world. Performing them meaningfully, seeing the lofty religious ideals in the context of modern life, and making a sincere effort to internalize and practice them is Dharma Sansthapana. Since all the sacraments are in Sanskrit, people find it difficult to follow their meaning. For their convenience Jnana Prabodhini has translated these sacraments into Marathi, and now in English.

The Invaluable Treasure
It would be disastrous to throw away the gold, which is hidden under the obscurities of language. Every race in the world is in search of its roots. We Hindus have a tradition of thousands of years, a religion replete with noblest thoughts and a social structure, the scientific base of which is admired by the social scientists. Are we going to divorce with these riches and ape the so-called modern societies?

Swami Vivekananda enlightens us on this:

 “A beautiful large edifice, the glorious relic of a hoary antiquity has, out of disuse, fallen into dilapidated condition… What will you do to it? Will you undertake the necessary cleaning and repair, and thus restore the old; or will you pull the whole edifice down to the ground and seek to build another in its place after a sordid, modern plan whose permanence is yet to be established? We have to reform it; which truly means to make it ready or perfect by necessary cleaning and repair, not by demolishing the whole thing.’ (Ibid, P.358, lines 20-31)

In Modern Times

This applies to Hinduism as a whole and its sacraments also. They are to be reinterpreted in the modern context. Dharma Nirnay Mandal of Lonawala did significant, valuable attempts in this direction. The late Dr. V.V. Pendse, the founder director of Jnana Prabodhini, further rejuvenated them. The Upanayana Samskara, the initiation to studentship, is entirely the creation of his genius.

 From 1973 onwards, the 8th standard boys and girls of the Jnana Prabodhini School are being initiated according to the script that follows Girls wear a string with symbol Om woven in it as the Yajnopaveet. Boys wear the Thread or Tulasimala. Yajnopaveet is that which is purified by the sacrificial fire.

 The tradition says that the thread ceremony is to be performed at the age of eight years. In olden days, the student used to leave his house and stay at the house of the preceptor or “Guru”. In modern times, the student stays with his parents. Upanayana signifies the entrance of the boy or girl into Brahmacharyashrama, life of chastity and pursuit of knowledge. To understand the code of conduct of the Brahmacharyashrama, it is desirable that the student reaches the age of 14. In eighth standard, he normally reaches this age. So it is appropriate to perform the sacrament of Upanayana in the 8th STD.

 The script says that pursuit of Brahman, the Truth, is Brahmacharya. In the light of this objective the student should set his daily conduct. Taking the right kind of food and having proper exercise  - Controlling the organs, offering daily prayer, doing self-study and listening to discourses serving the preceptor and worshipping one’s motherland or nation are the do’s of this Ashrama.

For Girls Also

Both, the boys and girls used to be initiated in ancient times. During dark ages-times of foreign invasions-the girls were not allowed to go out and learn from the preceptor. So the sacrament was performed only for the boys. However, now, both boys and girls pursue higher studies. Therefore, girls too need to be initiated. Arya Samaj initiates both- boys and girls.

 The tradition says that this sacrament is meant only for the first three divisions (Varnas) of the society i.e., Brahmana, Kshatriya and Vaishya (the erudite, the warriors and traders). Now there is no reason why the fourth division, if at all it is there, should be deprived of this Samskara. The late Swami Dayananda Saraswati, therefore, declared that any child, from any caste or creed, can undergo this sacrament.

Not Only For Hindus

Some people think that this sacrament is limited to the Hindus. However, it need not be so. Parsis have their initiation sacrament. Since the essence of this sacrament is taking the vow of studenthood, students from any religion can undergo it. There are some sects in Christianity who believe that the teachings of Jesus Christ must find their expression through Indian culture. Especially the Catholics are introducing Hindu ways of attires, Aarati and Namaskaras in the church. It is a desirable trend. Irrespective of the various spiritual pursuits, the members of our society should feel that our culture, tradition and nation are one and the same. And it is the Indian or Hindu culture, tradition and nation. At Jnana Prabodhini even Christians and Muslims undergo this sacrament. They can have ‘cross’ or ‘talisman’ as a symbol of the vow.

One month prior to the sacrament before, the meaning and significance of the sacrament is explained to the students. Six discourses on the following subjects are arranged:

1. Attaining radiant health and vigor.
2. Controlling the sense organs and building hygienic habits.
3. Making mind steadfast, poised and chaste.
4. Understanding the 10 abilities of the mind and intellect and enhancing them.
5. Enhancing spiritual power and leadership qualities.
6. Cosmic energy and its worship.

Discourses and discussions on this topic are the preparation of Brahmacharyashrama.
After the day of sacrament the students are further oriented for 15 days to daily prayer of Gayatri Mantra.

Far-reaching Effects
It is our experience that the sacrament has far-reaching moral and psychological effects on the students. There is nothing unreasonable in the sacrament. Instead, it is quite rational, inspiring, sowing the seeds of virtuous conduct, imbibing dutifulness and commitment to studies, and giving the experience of being in communion with the Supreme consciousness.

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