16 Samskaras

Shodasha Samskaras :

Purifying us at every step

According to the Vedas, a human being experiences perfect, unbroken and everlasting happiness only when he or she attains to the state of Atmajnana, the state of awareness of the Self. This is possible only by gaining purity of mind, chittasuddhi. Right now our minds are full of agitation, impurities — bad qualities or durgunas. These durgunas can be removed gradually by cultivating eight good qualities which are called Atmagunas. Once we develop these qualities then the state of Realisation is imminent and inevitable. The eight Atmagunas are compassion – daya; forgiveness or patience – kshant;, absence of jealousy – anasuya cleanliness – saucham; not feeling mental strain or doing work with effortless ease – anayasa; auspiciousness – mangala; non-miserliness – akarpanya; and  non-grasping or non-desiring nature – aspruha.

There are forty samskaras prescribed of which sixteen, called the Shodasha samskaras, are in vogue today. These samskaras to be performed by or for an individual beginning with conception and continuing up to the last rites performed after death. They are done in the five different stages of a human life i.e. – the prenatal years, the childhood years, the student years, the adulthood years and the old age or wisdom years. These samskaras are meant to cultivate positive qualities which help purify the soul and ultimately lead it to Realisation, or union with God.

If we look closely, we can see that Amma participates in most of these samskaras.

Couples who have married but have been childless for many years will seek Amma’s blessing and ultimately conceive.

Each week dozens of babies are brought to Amma to receive their first solid food from Her hand. In the West, parents come to Amma asking Her to baptise their children.

Amma initiates children into their study of the alphabet, taking their hand and tracing the letters in a plate of sand or rice.

Older children will come to Amma to receive the sacred thread, symbolising initiation into formal study of the Vedas. This is something truly remarkable, in that tradition holds that only a person of the Brahmin caste can give the thread; a Brahmin would never think of receiving the thread from a person of lower caste. But Brahmins come to Amma, whose caste is that of a fisher woman, and prostrate to her before receiving this sacred thread from Her.

Then we can see Amma performing marriages and giving initiation into sannyasa, and finally performing the last rites.

There are a few samskaras which do not come under the classification above, but which are also widely performed like performing puja to the foundation stone of a building, the milk-boiling ritual before one starts living in a new house, etc.

As we can see, Amma actively participates in samskaras. Amma’s participation in every aspect of our lives is symbolic of the higher truth that She is with us even before birth and to death and beyond. In fact initiation in to these Samskara is to tie one to Dharma first, then through these practices gets purified and takes you above Dharma and Adharma and beyond.