“SamskAra संस्कार” means “refining” or “forming well”.
As the name suggests, Samskaaras are brilliant formulas filled with powerful Vedic mantras that purify every stage of our life from birth to death. In other words, following a righteous dharma is a way of combating our karma. Samskaaras and Nitya Karma go hand in hand.
Why should we do good? Why should we refine?
Bhagavat Geeta 3.20 and 3.21
“लोकसंग्रहमेवापि सम्पश्यन्कर्तुमर्हसि ||
यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठस्तत्तदेवेतरो जन: |
स यत्प्रमाणं कुरुते लोकस्तदनुवर्तते ||”
loka-saṅgraham evaapi sampashyan kartum arhasi
yat yat Acharati śhreṣhṭhas tat tat evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramAṇam kurute lokas tat anuvartate
While man is free to act according to his will, he should never forget that he is a role model for his family and the society who try to emulate him. The quality of a home decides the quality of a society. People follow what great people follow. It is with this larger perspective, that the well learned sages contributed to the vast library of dharma shaastras to give us a guide to conscious living.
The sages are called seers (mantra drashta). A seer is one who sees the mantra. Vedic mantras have been revealed to the austere sages by the act of the supreme being. Hence the vEdas are called ‘apaurusheya’ (That which does not emerge form humans) because they were sounds that were heard in the beginning of the universe and were not composed by anyone. As they were only heard, the vEdas are termed as ‘Shrutis”.
The samskAras are simple sensible sanctifying rites and duties to be performed by man in the presence of the vEdic sounds so that he keeps his mind pure and unshaken thereby retaining good impressions at the soul level. As we go through these pages, we would realise that the mantras are filled with blessings, care and positive vibes.
Can Vaishnavas excuse themselves from nitya karma?
Even though a Vaishnava has surrendered everything to Shreeman Narayaana, he has to follow the prescribed duties as per shaastras. Our Poorvaachaaryas and Prakrutam aachaaryas have demonstrated this by following the right path relentlessly.
Vaadhoola Smriti 189 quotes Bhagavaan’s words:
श्रुतिस्मृति ममैव आज्ञा यस्तां उल्लङ्घ्य वर्तते ।
आज्ञा छेदि ममद्रॊही मद्भक्त अपि न वैष्णव:॥
Shruti-smRuti mamaiva aagaa yastaam ullangghya vartate |
aagyaa chedi mamadrohee madbhakta api na vaishnava:||
Shrutis and Smritis are my commandments. Those who overlook them are called ‘transgressors’. They are my betrayers and cease to be a Vaishnava though they are devoted to me.
List of 40 Samskaaras.
Strictly going by the smritis, there are 40 SAMSKAARAAS that one must perform and 8 Atma guNAs that one must inculcate.
Sage gautama says in Chapter 8, saMskAra varNanam, Gautama Smriti :
गर्भाधान पुंसवन सीमन्तॊन्नयन जातकर्म नामकरण अन्नप्राशन चौड उपनयनं चत्वारि वॆदव्रतानि स्नानं सहदर्मचारिणी सम्यॊग: पञ्चानां यज्ञानां अनुष्ठानं – दॆव पितृ मनुष्य भूत ब्रह्मणां ऎतॆषां च अष्टका पार्वणश्राद्ध श्रावणि आग्रहायणी चैत्र आश्वयुजी इति सप्तपाकयज्ञसंस्था अग्न्याधॆय अग्निहॊत्र दर्शपौर्णमास अग्रयणं चातुर्मास्य निरूढपशुबन्ध श्रॊत्रामणी इति सप्तहविर्यज्ञसंस्थां अग्निष्टॊम अत्यग्निष्टोम उक्थ: षॊडशि वाजपॆय अतिरात्र अप्तॊर्याम इति सप्तसॊमसंस्था इत्येतॆ चत्वारिंशत्संस्कारा: ।
अथ अष्टावात्मगुणा दया सर्वभूतॆषु क्षान्ति अनसूया। शौचम् अनायासम् मङ्गलं अकार्पण्यं अस्पृह इति।
यस्य तु खलु संस्काराणाम् ऎकदॆश अपि अष्टावात्मगुणा अथ स ब्रह्मण सायुज्यं सालॊक्यं च गच्छति गच्छति॥
1. garbhAdhAnam 2. pumsavanam 3. seemantOnnayanam 4. jAtakarmA 5. nAmakaraNam 6. annaprAsanam 7. choodAkaraNam 8. upanayanaM , the 4 vEda vratAs – (9-12) 9. prAjApatya 10. sowmyam 11. AgnEyam 12. vaisvadEvam 13. snAnam 14. vivAhA, the pancha mahAyagyAs – 15. dEva yagyam 16. pitRu yagyam 17. bhoota yagyam 18. brahma yagyam 19. manushya yagyam and the 7 pAka yagyAs- 20. aShTakA 21. parvaNam 22. sthAli pAkam 23. shrAvani 24. AgrahAyaNee 25. chaitree 26. Ashvayujee and the 7 havir yagyAs – 27. agniyAdhAnam 28. agnihOtram 29. darshapourNamAsam 30. agrahAyana 31. chAturmAsyam 32. nirooDapashubandhanam 33. shautrAmaNee and the 7 sOma yagyAs – 34. agniShtOmam 35. atyagnishTomam 36. ukthyam 37. ShODashi 38. vAjapeyam 39. aptOryAmam 40. atirAtram.
The 8 Atma guNAs or spirtual virtues or values that one must inculcate:
dayA sarvabhootEShu – kindness to all living beings men, animals, etc.
kShAnti – forbearance or patience
anasooyam – not being jealous of anybody
shoucham – purity of mind
anAyAsam – not troubling oneself and also others, cheerful disposition
mangalam – auspiciousness or goodness, in the blessing mood
akArpaNyam – sympathizing and showing pity, being generous
aspRuham – free from desire
Those who are consecrated with most of the 40 samskAras and possess most of the 8 Atma guNas attain “sAlOkyam” of the supreme being (brahmaN). (i.e.) they live in the Supreme being’s abode.
Smaarta and Shrauta karmas.
A few more samskaaras like nishkramanam, karnavEdam, vidyArambham, vEdArabham have been added to the vertical menu bar showing the list of samskaaras. This is to encompass all schools of thought and traditions that have faded away over the years.
- The first 17 samskAras, the 5 pancha mahAyagyAs and the 7 pAka yagyAs are classified as smArta karmAs. Most of these karmas are done with the “gruhya agni” otherwise called “aupAsana agni” which is lit from the “vivAha agni” during the wedding. This gruhya agni is also called “EkAgni“. Since the smArta karmAs are mostly performed at home, they are also called gruhya karmAs. smArta karmAs are meant for the householder and his family. The mention of the smArta/gRuhya karmAs are found in the smRutis, hence the name “smArta”. The procedures of the smArta karmAs and the vEda mantrAs to be used are explained in the gRuhya sootras. Some gruhya sootrAs also explain shrauta karmAs.
- The last two – 7 havir yagyAs and 7 sOma yagyAs are classified as shrauta karmAs. They are karmas which are done with 3 agnis called “trEtAgni“, namely the gArhapatya agni, Ahavaneeya agni and dakshiNAgni. These 3 agnis are called shrautAgnis. This agni is also derived from the one lit during vivAha (wedding). shrauta karmAs are elaborate, some are done at home and many include large scale yagyas which require special yAga shAlAs. These are performed for the benefit of a race or the mankind in general. The explanations of the shrauta karmas are found in the shRutis (vEdas), hence the name “shrauta”. They are supported and backed up by shrauta kalpa sootrAs.
Conflict in Vedic Texts:
In this website, we will be reading the quotes of various sages on this topic. We may also come across more than one method or rule for performing a particular samskaaram. It is worth noting Sage Manu’s advice here:
श्रुतिद्वैधं तु यत्र स्यात् तत्र धर्मावुभौ स्मृतौ ।
उभावपि हि तौ धर्मौ सम्यगुक्तौ मनीषिभिः ॥ १४ ॥
shrutidvaidham tu yatra syaat tatra dharmaavubhau smrutau |
ubhaavapi hi tau dharmo samyaguktau maneeshibhi: ||
In places where there are 2 different opinions by Rishis on the same topic, either of them can be followed and both have equal authority.
Wish You all a Happy Reading!!
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