The Brahma-Gaudiya- Vaisnava-sampradaya carries within itself the divine trnascendental message of Bhaktivata-dharma, the intrinsic culture of the primeval Tradition, to repeat the phrase of the famous philosopher, Rene Guenon, I This primeval Traditon obviously rests on the original, universal and very sacred foundations of Yaisnava-vedanta whose sociocultural, scientific, phposophical, religious and spiritual legacy is boundlessly rich.
Anyone who is interested in this legacy cannot remain indifferent to Vaisnava, ritualistic practices inherent in samskdras.
The word samskiira (from the Sanskrit sam-s-karay means "perfect deed". It is highly beneficial, purifying and sanctifying ceremony. Its rite rests on a series of actions in harmony with metaphysical rules that manifest the invisible reality, which our gross senses cannot perceive, in the visible world. Samskiiras eradicate bad karma and increase the auspicious influences of material nature.
But what do we mean exactly by samskiiras'l How are they performed? What purpose do they really serve in Vaisnavism for men and women of this day and age?
The book clearly answers these questions and more. Long awaited by the Vaisnava community, it delivers a mine of clear and simple information that will undoubtedly captivate most readers.
To be sure, this book will accepted unanimously as far as the performance of samskaras, or purificatory rites, is concerned in the present-day Vaisnava community, even though some objections may be raised, due to a previous partial andinsufficientsly synthetic understanding of different sdstras. Two objections may be raised:
• Since all men and women of Kali-yuga are born sudras, samskdras (as they are presented by Vaisnava tradition) are no longer suitable for them. One need only follow the Piihcariurika method along with the chanting of the maha-mantra which is suitable for this ironage.
• Kali-yuga briihmanas are not quite qualified. They no longer have the require mystic powers which enabled them to perfectly and successfully perform the different samskiiras. The result is that the effects of such rites are no longer reliable. So why bother when it is more practical and appropriate to perform Hari-nama- sankirtana- yajiia?
The answers suggested by this book may be summarized as follows:
What is part of the primeval Tradition emariating from Krsna Himself should be perpetuated for the material and spiritual welfare of mankind. Thus, the performance of the various samskdras must not be neglected nor stopped. The necessary introduction of the Pdiicariitrika method in this Kali-yuga should necessarily make us forget to practice other samskiiras, which may hold many benefits and give importance to the Tradition. Namely:
Helpto re-establish varnasrama-dharma for the present and future generations, a since qua non for the Vaisnava community to survive. The lack of social structure based on the divine precepts of the primeval Tradition can only lead to chaos and anarchy in the short or long run.
Establish the social and cultural values of Vaisnava-vediinta inherent in Bhiigavata-dharma so that it may be accepted by a greater number of people and countries.
Support and complete the rites of the Piiiicariitrika method, thus increasing its spiritual efficiency. Samskiiras can in this way compensate for the fact that the mahd-mantra is not chanted purely right away. Generally speaking, one who engages in bhakti-yoga requires some time before he or she can chant without offense to the Holy Names of the Lord and thereby reveal its full spiritual power and efficiency. Samskdras can act somewhat like a stimulant to accelarate the chanting's efficiency and progress more quickly from vaidhi bhakti to para-bhakti?
? By extension, the performance of samskiiras makes us think that with time and the purification of numerous individuals, children will take birth with qualities superior to a sudra' s attributes, even though it is Kali-yuga. Samskdras are therefore more directly adapted to their status (that of the next generations for a period of ten thousand years" in this age). The new briihmanas will by the same token be more qualified. They will nevertheless see that the congregational chanting of the mahd-mantra is systematically introduced in all ritualistic ceremonies. This shows the double advantage of associating the practice of samskiiras with the chanting of the mahii-mantra. The former helps to perfect the latter while the latter guarantees the former's efficiency. The objections put forward, though seemly relevant, are thus somewhat unfounded. The benefit of performing samskaras is therefore undeniable, provided its rules applied in conjunction with Hari-nama-sankirtana. This handbook is thus worthy of interest. We therefore invite any reader anxious to perfect his life or that or his relatives to draw therein information as invaluable as sublime sparkling jewels that reflect the light of suddha-sattva.
The first edition of this book was published on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of H.D.G. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's appearance.
In this sixth edition, we present a revised edition of the book of Samskiiras. We have restructured the chapters by adding complementary informations, complete procedures for Sarnskaras, a new chapter on Sannyasi Initiation and sraddhceremony, and some excerpts of the introduction of Gopal Bhatta's book on Sarnskaras.
We have tried herein to give everyone the means to perform Yaisnava samskiiras in the Western world so that these ceremonies may take place even so far from Bharata-varsa (India), although this troubled Kali-yuga does not allow the performance of offerings that prevailed in Vedic times. On the other hand, society in general can only benefit from such rites, which prove necessary, for they bring prosperity and harmony to all citizens in our modern society.
Samskdras enable one to progress peacefully towards the ultimate existence, to reach the Absolute. Vaisnavas will find through their performance the means to hold all the trumps on the long path to spiritual advancement. In this book, they will discover and elaborate description of samskiiras based on the scriptures and the commentaries of great aciiryas.
"According to Vedic rights, activities in the mode of goodness are considered auspicious for progress on the path of liberation, and such activities are known as daivi prakrti, transcendental by nature. Those who are situated in the transcendental nature make progress on the path of liberation. For those who are acting in the modes of passion and ignorance, on the other hand, there is no possibility of liberation. Either they will have to remain in this material world as human beings, or they will descend among the species of animals or even lower forms. The word abhijatasya in reference to one born of transcendantal qualities or godly tendencies is very significant. To beget a child in a godly atmosphere is known in the Vedic scriptures as Garbhadhdna-samskiira. If the parents want a child with godly qualities, they should follow the ten principles recommended for the social life of the human being.' In Bhagavad-gitii we have studied also before that sex life for begetting a good child is Krsna Himself. Sex life is not condemned, provided the process is used in God consciousness. Those who are in Krsna consciousness at least should not beget children like cats and dogs but should beget them so that they may become Krsna conscious after birth. That should be the advantage of children born of a father and mother absorbed in Krsna consciousness.?"
"Through samskiiras we can sanctify relations between parents and children, between husband and wife, between master and disciple, between humans on earth, between men and the deceased, between men and demigods, the sages and God. Samskiiras drive away the evil influences of the visible and invisible worlds and attract the blessings of the sages, demigods and God Himself. In the absence of samskiiras, life activities become mundane. Life is an art and like any other art in the world, it requires cultivation and refinement. Man born and left to himself is mass of elements, crude and brutal and slightly remote from his fellow citizen of the forest. His life need as much care, protection and cultivation as a plant in a garden, crops in the field, and an animal in a cattle farm. The Samskaras involve consicous effort to meet this need. The sages and scriptures have given these facilities to trnsform crude animality into refined humanity.
The aim of the samskaras is to create condition for the development of an integrated personality of an individual, who can adjust himself with the world around him believed to be full of human and super human forces.
The samskaras help in the refinement and purification of human life, facilitate the development of personality, impart sanctity and importance to human body, bless all material and spritual aspirations of men and ultimately prepare him for an easy and happy exit from this world of complexities and problems.
Today, the very conception of life has undergone a change. Many fields of life which were regarded sacred have now become secular. So, the awe and reverence with which religious rites were performed are diminishing gradually. But in spite of al these changes in the material aspect of the world, certain mysteries of life and some fundamental needs of human existence will remain. Though the evolutionary process of life has been analysed and studied, the origin of life, its constituents and their combiniations are still puzzling the human mind, and there does not seem to be any possibility of solving the central problem of life satisfactorily. At the source of life men is even today experiencing the mystic touch of the invisible. This fact will keep alive the religious sentiments in men. The consequence of life will cease. Similarly, the fact the life is an art and it requires conscious and planned effort for its cultivation and refinement will never die out. These will always form an important part of human progress." Lakshmi Kapani, Ph.D.
We therefore hope that this book will bring the reader illumination and arouse a growing interest in the regular practice of such purificatory rites. Obviously, this practice must in no way replace that all powerfull Hart-nama sankirtana-yajiia. Still, it should not be excessivley minimized, for it can no doubt be a valuable catalyst for all kinds of individual and collective purification and thus contribute to the promotion and efficiency of Hari-niima sankirtana the prescribed sacrifice for this Kali-yuga.
The six Gosvamis of Vrndavana are among the most famous disciples of Caitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534). He asked them, as He did others, to describe the glories of bhakti, the natural devotion of the living entity for Sri Krsna. This they did in a most wonderful fashion. Their works are one of many ornaments of their reputation which inspired quite a few poets. Srinivasa Acarya wrote a poem describing their life's work and purpose. Here is an excerpt:
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto the six Gosvamis, namely Sri Rupa Gosvami, Sri Sanataria Gosvarni, Sri Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami; Sri Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami, Sri Jiva Gosvami and Sri Gopala Bhatta Gosvarni, who are very expert in scrutinizingly studying all the revealed scriptures with the aim of establishing eternal religious principles for the benefit of all human beings. Thus they are honored all over the three worlds, and they are worth taking shelter of because they are absorbed in the mood of the gopis and are engaged in the transcendental loving service of Radha and Krsna." (Sri Sri Sad-gosviimy-astaka 2).
The six Goswamis taught the complete science of bhakti-yoga, from alpha tvaidhi-bhaktii' to omega tprema-bhakti, love of God). They gave a step by step description of the siidhaka' s progress in spiritual life. The siidhaka (common devotee) must accept and follow the rules of devotional service to rise to prema-bhakti. Spiritual principles should help us to remember Sri Krsna and never forget Him. "The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted to Me, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me." (Bhagavad-gitii 10.9)
In order to make spiritual advancement, the siidhaka must give up the bad habit of always wanting to derive some personal profit from everything. The six Goswamis of Vrndavana teach us to give up this habit, which is to be found in all human beings. Renunciation (vairiigya), as taught by the six Goswamis, does not mean a systematic rejection of wordly things, nor does it urge one to lead life of a recluse. Rather, it invites us to become detached from such things so that our life does not revolve around them, even if we make use of them. The best way to reach such a level of renunciation is to dedicate one's actions and the means to perform them to Sri Krsna. In this perspective, one makes use of any object likely to further his spiritual growth, namely the quest for his original nature as an eternal servant of God. Such renunciation is called yukta-vairiigya.
One who seeks spiritual life must neither reject nor oppose matter and the objects thereof under the false pretext that they are inconsistent with the divine. Yukta-vairiigya is a "practical" form of renunciation. One must know to whom everything belongs: "A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries." (Bhagavad-gitii 5.29).
How can those who do not have to fulfill the duties of a sannyiisi, but are always confronted by everyday life be led to yukta-vairagya'l In this connection, Srila Gopala Bhatta Gosvami wrote Sat-kriyii-sara- dipika.: a practical guide to samskiiras presented in such a way that Vaisnava householders understand how such rites can help them and their relatives in their spiritual life. The book you are now reading is based on this work by the great Gosvami. Its purpose is to make us aware of yukta-vairiigya.
To attain pure love of God, we must learn to control our body, mind and senses if the slightest trace of a material concept of life still dwells in us. The primary and secondary rules that govern the life of a Vaisnava are a means of acquiring such self-control for their purpose is to help us to constantly remember the Lord. A Vaisnava should always think of Visnu and never forget Him. The rules he follows help him this practice (Padma Puriina). Since samskiiras are part of such rules, Vaisnavas should not underestimate them.
The First Canto of Srimad-Bhiigavatam (Chapter 12, verse 13) describes the purificatory rites Maharaja Yudhisthira performed when Maharaja Pariksit was born:
"King Yudihisthira, who was very satisfied with the birth of Maharaja Pariksit, had the purificatory process of birth performed. Learned briihmanas, headed by Dhaumya and Krpa, recited auspicious hymns."
To clarify the meaning of this verse, we herein include Srila Prabhupada's purport: "There is a need for a good and intelligent class of Brahmans who are expert in performing the purificatory processes prescribed in the system of vamiisrama-dharma. Unless such purificatory processes are performed, there is no possibility of good population, and in the age of Kali the population all over the world is of siulra quality or lower for want of this purificatory process. It is not possible, however, to revive the Vedic process of purification in this age, for want of proper facilities and good Brahmans, but there is the Paiicariitrika system also recommended for this age. The Pahcariurika system acts on the sudra class of men, supposedly the population of the Kali-yuga, and it is the prescribed purificatory process suitable to the age and time. Such a purificatory process is allowed only for spiritual upliftment and not for any other purpose. Spiritual upliftment is never conditioned by higher or lower parentage.
"After the garbhddhiina purificatory process, there are certain other samskiiras, like simantonnayana, etc., during the period of pregnancy, and when the child is born the first purificatory process is jata-karma. This was performed duly by Maharaja Yudhisthira with the help of good and learned Brahmans like Dhaumya, the royal priest, and Krpacarya, who was not only priest but also a great general. Both these learned and perfect priests, assisted by other good Brahmans, were employed by Maharaja Yudhisthira to perform the ceremony. Therefore all the samskiiras, or purificatory processes, are not mere formalities or social functions only, but they are all for practical purposes and can b successfully performed by expert Brahmans like Dhaumya and Krpa,
Such Brahmans are rarely available in this age, and therefore, for the purpose of spiritual upliftment in this fallen age, the Gosvamis prefer the purificatory processes under Paiicariurika formulas ...”
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