Why should a prayer be augmented with an expression of gratitude? and Why are specific sanskars performed after birth of a child?

Why should a prayer be augmented with an expression of gratitude?

1. Gratitude

God is the creator of the universe. We too are a part and parcel of the universe. So both, the universe and we were created by God. All events in the universe followed thereafter. These include me, my happiness and unhappiness, intellect, actions, my family, country, religion, spiritual practice, etc. Thus whenever one thinks about the self and / or the world, unconsciously harbouring awareness of God or one of His forms and offering the credit for even this awareness to God, is termed as gratitude. Prayer is actually a synonym for surrender. This act of surrender is completed only after the expression of gratitude. The Guru Himself is God for a seeker who has been blessed by the grace of a Guru or for one who is practising Spirituality according to the Path of the Guru’s Grace (Gurukrupayoga). Hence it is but natural for him to harbour more gratitude towards the Guru.

1.1 Importance

·         Reduction in ego: Gratitude is a means of offering the doership of an act to God / the Guru; hence it helps in reducing the ego. Often seekers forget to thank God for anything occurring as wished in a prayer or after deriving Bliss (Anand) from rendering service. A seeker can also develop subtle ego about getting spiritual experiences or experiencing Bliss. It is therefore important to offer the credit for a spiritual experience or the experience of Bliss to the Guru.
·         In expressing gratitude, one offers the result of an action unto God : Since the result of the action is sacrificed, the action becomes a non-action (akarma karma) and no give and take account is generated. Thus the chances of a seeker getting entrapped in the cycle of birth and death are reduced.
·         Increase in the number of repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name on the counter after expressing gratitude: On 16th July 2002, when undertaking the repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name, I saw the photograph of Gurudev before me. I expressed gratitude and spoke to His photograph just as one would speak to a person before oneself. I said to Him, ‘I cannot meditate. Please get it done from me.’ Tears swelled in my eyes as I said this and I happened to see the counter. Before expressing gratitude, I had repeated (chanted) The Lord’s Name 188 times. When I looked at the counter after expressing gratitude, the count had exceeded a thousand. Thereafter, I said the points told by Gurudev in a meeting and prayed. After a while when I lifted the counter, the count had increased by another forty. - Mrs. Sankalpa Tambe, Kalambaste, Chiplun, Ratnagiri district

1.2 Examples of expression of gratitude with spiritual emotion (bhav)

A. Gratitude about the Guru being one’s everything: Dr. Hemant Kamat, a seeker expressed his gratitude unto the Guru thus,
O Gurudev, I am grateful to You
For endowing me with a human birth,
For granting me the desire to be liberated,
For drawing me towards spiritual practice.
O Gurudev, I am grateful to You
For gifting me with holy texts for the study of Spirituality,
For giving me appropriate guidance in repeating (chanting)
The Lord’s Name,
For giving me the opportunity of being in Your holy
company (satsang),
For endowing me with the opportunity to render service
unto the Absolute Truth (satseva),
For impressing on my mind that propagation of Spirituality
is the supreme service unto the Absolute Truth,
For convincing me about the importance of sacrifice and
for getting it done from me,
For explaining to me what spiritual love (priti) is,
For endowing me with such a beautiful society to
undertake my spiritual practice.
O Gurudev, I am grateful to You
For pointing out what qualities I lack in,
For creating situations conducive for my spiritual practice,
For giving me the opportunity to learn from fellow seekers
and warrior seekers,
For granting me guidance from senior seekers,
And for the holy company (satsang) of saints.
O Gurudev, I offer obeisance at Your feet,
For alleviating my worldly problems,
For reducing my attachment for the Great Illusion (Maya),
For eliminating my doubts about spiritual practice,
And for steadying me in spiritual practice.
O Gurudev, I am grateful to You
For driving away distressing energies which was
impossible for us to do,
For endowing me with the spiritual experience that You
alone are the doer and that You alone can get things done
from me.
And for granting me the assurance that I can attain the
Final Liberation (Moksha) in this birth itself.

B. Gratitude towards God for every breath of life and the Guru for teaching how to repeat (chant) The Lord’s Name: I was trying to repeat (chant) The Lord’s Name along with the breath. After sometime due to intense concentration on the Name, I could hear the repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name through Lord Krushna’s peacock feather. I could feel the Name entering me through the nose, every time I took a breath. The gratitude to God for every breath and to the Guru for teaching me the act of repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name which I expressed was beyond verbal description. However the Bliss (Anand) derived from the spiritual experience lasted for a long time. - Mrs. Puja Ganesh Naik
C. Sometimes seekers have to set out at dawn when travelling out of station. Someone has to wake up at dawn to give them lunch packets. When I do this task, I feel thankful to both, the seekers and the Guru for having endowed me with this opportunity to prepare the holy sacrament (prasad) of the Guru. I feel, ‘How much my Guru does for me so that my spiritual love (priti) for others grows and I progress spiritually !’ - A seeker, Goa
D. When despite my not making a mistake another seeker points out my mistake, I feel thankful to the Guru as He is doing all this only to take me to the next level of spiritual progress. Thereafter I am unaffected about that incident. - A seeker, Goa

1.3 Spiritual experiences

A. Feeling thankful towards seekers and perceiving that I was offering the guidance at their feet: On 24th October 2002, I was scheduled to guide the prominent seekers from Sangli district and those rendering service in the office of the ‘Daily Sanatan Prabhat’. I offered salutation unto the Guru before looking at the audience. At that moment, I experienced an inner feeling of gratitude towards the seekers. There was a lump in my throat. I was speechless. I was overwhelmed with the thought that I had been endowed with the opportunity to serve the Guru because of them. Thereafter throughout the discourse, I experienced the feeling that I was offering the guidance at their feet. Ever since, even during casual conversation with a seeker, I become aware that I am serving him. - Dr. (Mrs.) Nandini Durgesh Samant

2. Repeating (chanting) the Name of The Lord

According to the Path of Devotion, Chanting is the very foundation of spiritual practice. The Lord’s Name is The Lord Himself. That is why the easiest mode of being in constant communion with The Lord is repeating (chanting) His Name continuously. A Holy text titled ‘Science of Spirituality: Vol. 6 A - Path of Repeating (Chanting) The Lord’s Name (Namasankirtanyoga)’ explains in detail the importance of The Lord’s Name, what should be done to repeat (chant) it continuously and effectively and its various other aspects. One may get the impression that one develops spiritual emotion (bhav) for The Lord by being in constant communion with Him through repetition (chanting) of His Name. Often however, repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name occurs just for its sake without spiritual love for The Lord. This kind of repetition (chanting) does not help much in developing spiritual emotion for God. That is precisely why repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name should be done along with spiritual emotion. The ways and means of achieving this are given below.

2.1 Importance of repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name with spiritual emotion

·         Only if repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name is done with spiritual emotion does it reach The Lord.
·         Repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name done with spiritual emotion provides protection from negative energies.

2.2 Efforts to repeat (chant) The Lord’s Name with spiritual emotion

·         A prayer should be made unto the Guru / God to make one repeat (chant) The Lord’s Name with spiritual emotion.
·         Just as one thinks of someone one loves or something one likes repeatedly and very easily without any effort, e.g. a lover thinks of his beloved or a mother of her child so also, the mind should be conditioned to love God. Once one begins to like or love God, one remembers His Name easily and experiences Bliss on repeating (chanting) it. Later repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name becomes a way of life.
·         Imagining The Lord’s form time and again makes it easier to love Him. That is why when repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name, if possible one should place a picture of the deity within one’s visual range. To make the atmosphere more sattvik (sattva predominant), one should affix strips of Names of deities in the room where one is repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name.
·         One should harbour the spiritual emotion that God / the Guru is getting the repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name done from oneself. Mrs. Garud, a seeker in the Dhamse ashram would not fall asleep till 2 a.m. for almost two to two and a half months. She expressed gratitude unto The Lord for this saying that God must be doing this to increase her repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name.
A seeker who harboured the feeling that the Guru Himself was getting the repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name done from her, experienced the following.
A seeker’s perception of repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name with the japamala (Hindu rosary) even in her sleep as she harboured the spiritual emotion that Gurudev was getting the repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name done from her : Once in March 1998, before retiring for the day, I was offering obeisance to Gurudev with folded hands. It was at that moment that I had an intense feeling that He was none other than The Lord Himself and my eight-fold sattvik (ashtasattvik) spiritual emotion (bhav) was awakened. I said, ‘You yourself are repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name through me as a medium for the spiritual progress of Your devotee, seeker and disciple’ to Gurudev and I fell asleep with the japamala (Hindu rosary) in my hand. When I awoke at 5 a.m. I realised that I had been repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name with the japamala all night. - Miss Mahananda Giridhar Patil
·         One should harbour the spiritual emotion that The Lord’s Name is a protective armour against all evil. The spiritual emotion of a seeker in this context is described below.
An inner feeling that repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name when ironing clothes would create impressions of repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name on the clothes and a consequent armour : On 27th October 2002, the Guru suggested to me from within that I should repeat (chant) The Lord’s Name when ironing clothes because this helps in transmitting The Lord’s Name to the clothes which can later be used as a protective armour. - Mr. Rajesh Sadanand Gavkar
·         If one uses a tool such as a japamala to repeat (chant) The Lord’s Name, considering it as a deity, one should offer obeisance to it before commencing the repeating (chanting).
·         Repeating (chanting) should be interlaced with meditation because the two qualitatively enhance each other.
·         One should listen to an audio cassette on repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name off and on.
·         One should listen to audio cassettes of devotional songs (bhajans) composed by saints and to Their spiritual guidance off and on.

2.3 Spiritual experience of repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name along with spiritual emotion

Experiencing indescribable sweetness while repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name along with spiritual emotion and perceiving the presence of the Guru / God when repeating (chanting) in that way : Since 25th October 2002, I sensed a qualitative change in my repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name. Though I did love to repeat (chant) The Lord’s Name earlier as if it were a hobby, since 25th October 2002, the subtle change which occurred is beyond verbal description. First of all I consider myself extremely fortunate for being able to repeat (chant) The Lord’s Name. Just as a mother derives happiness merely by calling out again and again to her baby by its name despite it not understanding the language, so also I experience pure Bliss merely by repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name. The Name seems invaluable. I feel like repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name continuously without cessation. I also constantly perceive the presence of the Guru / God. Consequently, on one hand I feel quite safe and self-confident and on the other, extremely humble. - Dr. (Mrs.) Nandini Durgesh Samant, Phonda ashram, Goa

3. Practising the nine-fold devotion (navavidhabhakti)

The aim of a seeker following the Path of Devotion (Bhaktimarg) is to generate intense devotion unto The Lord. To achieve this, it is beneficial to put into practice the various types of the nine-fold devotion namely, listening to praise of The Lord (shravan), singing praises of The Lord (kirtan), remembering The Lord (smaran), service of the holy feet (padsevan), offering (archan), offering obeisance (vandan), devotion as a servant (dasya), devotion as a friend (sakhya) and narrating everything to God (atmanivedan). Among these, the first three types help to generate faith, the next three are related to the manifest (sagun) form of The Lord and the last three are internal spiritual emotions.

3.1 Types of the nine-fold devotion

A. Listening to praise of The Lord (shravan): This form of devotion includes listening to the qualities, victories and glory of The Lord with faith. It also means listening to the Guru’s teaching (knowledge).
B. Singing praises of The Lord (kirtan): Singing the praises of The Lord amounts to this kind of devotion. Narrating the knowledge one has gained by listening to the Guru’s teachings to others as the situation demands and inspiring them to behave as per the Guru’s expectations is devotion of this kind.
C. Remembering The Lord (smaran): Constant contemplation upon the Name - virtues - divine play (lila) of The Lord and remaining engrossed in them is this type of devotion. This includes constant remembrance of the gross form of the Guru or God through a picture / idol and that of His subtle form through repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name. If one harbours the spiritual emotion that every breath one takes, every task that one has done throughout the day has been possible only because of The Lord or that one is living every second only because of The Lord then one will remember Him throughout the day. This is the true expression of this devotional form. Kunti from the Mahabharat had asked for unhappiness so that she would remember The Lord all day long. However without asking for unhappiness if one makes attempts as above then this devotion will develop quickly.
     A seeker who remembered the Guru constantly and attributed everything to the Guru experienced oneness with the Guru as described below.
     A seeker perceiving the seat she used to undertake repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name as that of her Guru and also experiencing closeness to Him through the subtle dimension : On 6th July 2002 before meditating, I prayed unto Gurudev and then sat with hands folded in obeisance. The thought that crossed my mind then was, ‘Your seat has become soiled. It will have to be washed at night.’ Just then, I realised that the seat belonged to my Guru and that it is He who uses it everyday and that He would certainly not appreciate my washing it at night (because Gurudev would tell us not to do too many chores at night). The next vision I got was of a sage walking in a forest. I felt as if He was my Guru and I, His disciple. Though in reality, the Guru’s gross form is far away, yet from within He is very close to me. - Miss Mahananda Giridhar Patil
D. Service of the holy feet (padsevan): In this form of service, one literally serves the holy feet of The Lord or performs ritualistic worship of His feet. Service unto the Guru’s feet means harbouring the spiritual emotion, ‘I am a servitor of The Lord’. A Guru has greater attachment for a disciple who worships His subtle form, that is the Guru principle than one who worships only His gross form. Propagation of the Guru’s mission in the best possible way is true service unto the Guru’s feet.
E. Offering (archan): Ritualistic worship (puja) of The Lord with devotion and respect is called archan. Installing a picture of the Guru in the temple at home or worshipping Him mentally are incorporated in this kind of devotion.
F. Offering obeisance (vandan): This form of devotion constitutes meditating upon The Lord after completely surrendering unto Him. This includes praying with spiritual emotion, so that it reaches God.
G. Devotion as a servant (dasya): In this form of devotion, the devotee considers The Lord to be his father, mother and his everything and he himself to be The Lord’s son or servant. Lord Maruti is an excellent example of this type of devotion.
H. Devotion as a friend (sakhya): In this form of devotion, a devotee believes God to be his friend or sibling who shares his happiness and unhappiness. So, no barrier of any kind exists between the two. As spiritual emotion towards the Guru grows, there is a corresponding growth of respect and gratitude for Him. This makes it difficult to view Him as a friend. Only a rare seeker with a spiritual level of more than 60% is capable of remaining devoted in this way. Devotion of Arjun towards Lord Krushna is an unparalleled example of this.
I. Narrating everything to God (atmanivedan): This devotion is the ultimate and supreme step in the Path of Devotion. Here, the devotee explicitly narrates everything good or bad, external or internal to The Lord and surrenders completely unto Him. One should narrate daily to the Guru about everything, all of one’s actions, obstacles faced in one’s spiritual practice, doubts in the mind, etc. Mrs. Mangala Marathe (one of the compilers) experienced the following in this context - ‘One day when I was conversing with H.H. Doctor in my mind, two seekers who were meditating saw me talking to Him on telephone.’

3.2 Comparative importance of the nine-fold devotion

1. Listening to praise of
    The Lord (shravan)
6. Offering obeisance
2. Listening to tales
    praising The Lord in a
    poetic form (kirtan)
7. Devotion as a
    servant (dasya)
3. Remembering The
    Lord (smaran)
8. Devotion as a friend
4. Serving of the holy
    feet (padsevan)
9. Conversing with
    God (atmanivedan)
5. Offering (archan)


Why are specific sanskars performed after birth of a child?

1. Jatakarma [Janmavidhi (The rite at birth)]

1.1 The objectives

To eliminate the defects in the foetus arising from intake of liquor (amniotic fluid) and to liberate the father who has glanced at the son’s face, from the three debts (to the ancestors, to the sages and to the deities) as well as the debt to society. When in the womb the liquor enters the foetus through the mouth. Since intake of liquor is forbidden, partaking it is considered to be a sin.

1.2 Preparations

As soon as a son is born, the father should glance at his face and then bathe facing the north. After donning clean attire he should apply sandalwood paste (gandha) to himself. Then before cutting the umbilical cord, the baby who is untouched by anyone except the midwife, who has not suckled the mother’s breast and has been bathed is placed facing the east onto his mother’s lap, by the father.

1.3 The resolve (sankalpa)

‘I am performing this sanskar of Jatakarma (birth) so that this son of mine is freed from all defects from the time of conception including the intake of amniotic fluid, and is granted a long life, spiritual intellect (medha) and so that he may acquire the grace of The Lord. I am also performing worship of Lord Ganapati, Punyahavachan, Matrukapujan (worship of Matruka deities) and Nandishraddha which are a part of it.’

1.4 The ritual

There is no restriction of maintaining seclusion after a birth (soyar) in the family, only for this sanskar (rite). After completing the rituals right from worship of Lord Ganapati to Nandishraddha the mantra with the following meaning is chanted: ‘O beloved son, I am feeding you with honey and clarified butter (ghee) for the first time. May The Almighty bless you with knowledge, food and wealth. May He protect you always and bestow you with a lifespan of a hundred years’. One should then feed the infant a mixture of honey and clarified butter with a gold coin, wash the coin and place it in the baby’s right ear. Then drawing one’s mouth towards that of the son, the father should chant the verse, ‘ मेधाते देव: ’ which means, ‘O beloved son, may The Lord bestow you with sharp acumen and intellect to study the Vedas. May the Ashvini deities who support the pran and apan vital energies and the others like Som (Moon) bestow you with perfect intellect’. Then replacing the same coin in the baby’s left ear the same verse, ‘Om medhate devaha ( मेधाते देव: ).’ should be repeated. Gold has greater ability to both absorb and transmit frequencies than any other metal. Thereafter, chanting a mantra the father should sniff the child’s head thrice, and decide in his mind what the child should be named. When in the womb the baby’s Brahmarandhra is closed. When the father sniffs the head, it opens. Sometimes instead of sniffing the head the father exhales at the site of the Brahmarandhra, thrice . That too bestows the same benefit. However, it occurs only if the father is of a sattvik (sattva predominant) temperament. Then the mother’s right breast is washed and after chanting a mantra the mother holds the baby to her breast. Since the right breast is associated with the Pingala or Surya nadi (Sun channel), it helps in activating the baby’s right sided channel. Hence the process of digestion of milk commences easily. Nowadays since childbirth occurs in maternity hospitals one cannot perform the sanskar of Jatakarma there. Therefore it is often done along with the rite of Namakaran (naming).

2. Namakaran (The naming ceremony)

2.1 The objectives

This sanskar is performed for longevity and prosperity in worldly life.

2.2 The resolve (sankalpa) and the ritual

This sanskar is performed on the twelfth or thirteenth day of birth. Placing the baby in the cradle (palakharohan) constitutes an important ritual, in this rite. The resolve expressed that day is ‘I am performing this sanskar (rite) of Namakaran (naming) to wipe off any sin generated from the ovum and foetus, to prolong the lifespan, so that the child achieves success in all activities and to acquire the grace of The Supreme Lord. I am performing the worship of Lord Ganapati, Punyahavachan, the worship of the Matruka deities (Matrukapujan) and Nandishraddha which are incorporated in it’.

2.3 Selection of the name

·         A. The name should be selected using the following rules : The first letter should consist of any of the nineteen alphabets viz. g (), gh (), nh (), j (), jh (), yan (), d (), dh (), n (), d(), dh (), n (), b (), bh (), m (), y (), r (), l (), v (), excluding the first two alphabets of the pentads in the Devanagari alphabets which are k (), kh (), ch (), cha (), t (), th (), t (), th (), p () and ph (). These alphabets being dominant in the pruthvi (absolute earth) and apa (absolute water) elements as well as in the tama component, the first letter of the name should not begin with them. [Refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 9 - Path of Chanting The Lord’s Name (Namasankirtanyoga )’.]
·         B. The last letter should be prolonged (dirgha) or should have the visarga [namaha is the visarga (the soft aspirate)]. The less prolonged letters (rhasva) are predominant in Energy (Shakti) while the more prolonged (dirgha) ones or those containing visarga are predominant in Shiv (Brahman). Since the motive in Spirituality is union with the Shiv principle, this rule is followed.
·         C. A boy’s name should consist of two or four letters, for example Bhadra, Dev, Devdatta, Bhava, Bhavanath, Nagdev, etc. while a girl’s should consist of an odd number of letters that is 3, 5 or 7. Letters in odd numbers predominate in Energy (Shakti) while those in even numbers are Shiv predominant.
·         D. The first letter in a girl’s name should not be double, for example Florence should not be spelt as Fflorence. Women predominate in Energy (Shakti) while the conjoint first letter is dominant in The Absolute Being (Purush). Thus this conjoint first letter can have an undesirable effect on the girl.
·         E. If one desires that the child be famous then its name should consist of two letters.
·         F. If one desires excellence in Spirituality, learning and conduct then a name consisting of four letters should be selected. The four letters represent Righteousness (Dharma), wealth (artha), desire (kama) and the Final Liberation (Moksha), the four objectives (purusharthas) of human life.
·         G. The name of a Brahman should suggest auspiciousness, that of a Kshatriya strength, that of a Vaishya wealth and that of a Shudra reproach. (Manusmruti 2.31).
Formerly the practice of prefixing the name with ‘Sharma’ in a Brahman (priest), ‘Varma’ in a Kshatriya (warrior), ‘Gupta’ in a Vaishya (businessman) and ‘Das’ in a Shudra (labourer), was prevalent. Thus from the name one could perceive the class to which one belonged.

2.4 The types of names

‘The five types of names which are popularly known are the name according to the lunar asterism at birth (nakshatranam), the name according to the month of birth (masanam), the name according to the family deity, the worldly name and the name according to the star sign (rashi).
·         A. The name according to the lunar asterism at birth (nakshatranam): Including Ashvin the twenty-seven lunar asterisms have twenty-seven corresponding presiding deities. The writings of Shankha state that the boy should be named according to the deity of the lunar asterism, for instance Ashvinikumar from Ashvini. Another type of name according to the lunar asterism also exists. Each lunar asterism is considered to have four parts (charans) and each of the parts is designated a letter. For instance the letters chu (चू), che (चे), cho (चो), la (ला) are associated with Ashvini, li (ली), lu (लू), le (ले), lo (लो) with Bharni, etc. The child is named according to the letter of the respective part of the lunar asterism when it is born, for example Chudeshvar for the first part of Ashvini, Lileshvar or Liladev for the first part of Bharni, etc. According to Boudhayan the name according to the lunar asterism should be kept a secret. The child should be imparted this name on the day of birth itself. Several teachers say that only the parents of the child should be aware of this name and that it should be uttered while offering obeisance unto the Guru at the time of the sanskar (rite) of thread ceremony (Upanayan). Currently, however, it is customary to impart this name during the sanskar of thread ceremony. The objective of maintaining secrecy about this name is to prevent the enemy from doing blackmagic (abhicharkarma) such as Jaran, Maran, etc. on the child.
·         B. The name according to the month of birth (masanam): The name chosen according to the month is based on the presiding deity of the month of birth. According to Gargya’s opinion the deities of the twelve months beginning with Margashirsha are as follows -
कृष्णोऽनन्तोऽच्युतश्र्चक्री वैकुण्ठोऽयं जनार्दन:  उपेन्द्रो यज्ञपुरुषो वासुदेवस्तथा हरि: 
योगीश: पुण्डरीकाक्षो मासनामान्यनुक्रमात् ।।
All these names - Krushna, Anant, Achyut, Chakri, Vaikuntha, Janardan, Upendra, Yadynapurush, Vasudev, Hari, Yogish, Pundarikaksha are the Names of Lord Vishnu. From this, it appears that this custom of naming the child after the month of birth began after the Vaishnav sect gained fame in India, that is after the Sutra period.
·         C. The name according to the family deity: Before imparting this name to the child a suffix such as Das, Sharan, etc. is added to the Name of the family deity (kuladevata). If the family deity or the benevolent deity (ishtadevata) happens to be of the feminine gender, then in some places it is the practice to name the boy with the same name. In such cases a suffix ‘ji’ which converts it to the masculine gender, for example Shivaji from Shivai, Banaji from Banashankari, Bhavanrao from Bhavani, etc. is used.
·         D. The worldly name: This name is meant for social, worldly interactions and is the most important. This name is mainly kept to suit the cultural and prestigious background of the family. It should also be auspicious, easy to pronounce and pleasing to the ear.
·         E. The name according to the star sign (rashi): This name can be kept in two ways. 1. According to the lunar star sign (chandra rashi) - Supposing at the time of a child’s birth the moon is in Taurus (Vrushabh) the child’s name should include the letters b (), v () and u (), for example Brijesh, Vasant and Umashankar respectively. 2. According to the solar star sign (surya rashi) - If the same child’s date of birth is 12th March its solar star sign will be Pisces (Min).
·         F. Other names
1. The dimunitive name (kutsitnam): If children of a couple do not survive after birth then it is customary to name the child born with a dimunitive name, for instance Dagadu, Dhondu, Bhiku, etc. It is a popular belief that by naming a child so, it will survive and will also attain longevity.
2. The name amongst the Adivasi tribals: The tribal communities in eastern India name their child after a deceased ancestor. They believe that the soul of the late ancestor has been passed onto the newborn. Some tribal communities name the child according to the tree under which it was born or after a nearby mountain. Others name their children even after the day of the week, for example Soma after Somvar (Monday), Budha after Budhvar (Wednesday), Shukraya after Shukravar (Friday), etc.’(1)

2.5 Astrology and the name

Just as a child’s sex is decided in the womb, so is its name. A sound, touch, form, taste and odour coexist. Hence a child’s name corresponds to its appearance. Only one is unaware of it. Only the spiritually evolved know the matching name. If one cannot get advice from a spiritually evolved person the science of astrology can give guidance on the suitability of the name.

2.6 The ritual and the four types of naming

The host of the ritual should address the priest, ‘O priest, I am naming the child .....’, thrice. Then the priest should convey his approval saying, ‘Name him ....’. The consent given by a saintly priest helps the name and form of the child to blend with each other.
·         A. The first type of naming: After spreading rice in a bronze plate, using a fine gold rod one should write, ‘Devotee of .... [ Name of the family deity (kuladevata)]’ on it. Then one should write the name of the month of birth. The names of the twelve months are - 1. Krushna, 2. Anant, 3. Achyut, 4.Chakri, 5. Vaikuntha, 6. Janardan, 7. Upendra, 8.Yadnyapurush, 9. Vasudev, 10. Hari, 11. Yogish and 12. Pundarikaksha. These twelve names correspond to twelve months of the Hindu lunar calendar beginning from the month of Margashirsha, for instance Margashirsha corresponds to Krushna, Poush to Anant, etc.
·         B. The second type of naming: Then the name with which obeisance has to be offered should be uttered softly. Till the thread ceremony is performed, only the parents should know this name. Others should not come to know it. The reason behind this is that black magic (karni) cannot be done if the real name is not known. After the thread ceremony the son should be told, ‘Pay obeisance using the name.....’.
·         C. The third type of naming: According to astrology, the name should be chosen based on the Avakadaha chakra and the part (charan) of the lunar asterism at birth.
·         D. The fourth type of naming: This name is chosen for day-to-day activities according to one’s wish. The name should be appropriate otherwise it would sound awkward like if the name is Sonubai (sona means gold) and she wears anklets made of tin instead of gold. Even the short form of the name should sound nice, like ‘Shiva’ for ‘Shivadas’ sounds good but ‘Pakya’ for ‘Prakash’ does not.

2.7 The naming of a daughter

The naming of a daughter is done without chanting mantras while that of a son is done with them. The reason for this is that if the naming of the daughter is performed amidst chanting of mantras then there is a 5% chance of her being afflicted with problems. The main problem is the untoward effect on the ovaries. [Refer ‘Science of Spirituality: Chapter 9 - Path of Chanting The Lord’s Name (Namasankirtanyoga) point - Prefixing Shri or Om to the Name’.]

3. Nishkraman (The rite of taking the child out of the house)

3.1 The objectives

The motive behind this sanskar (rite) is to increase the lifespan and wealth.

3.2 The auspicious time (muhurt)

This sanskar is performed in the third month after birth on the same date as the date of birth or the lunar asterism at birth. In the fourth month the baby is made to look at fire, a cow and the moon at an auspicious time.

3.3 The resolve (sankalpa)

‘I am performing this sanskar of Nishkraman (taking the child out of the house) to win over The Lord’s grace so as to increase my child’s lifespan, for acquisition of wealth that is, Lakshmi (Shri) and to overcome the defects generated from the ovum and foetus’.

3.4 The ritual

The benevolent deities (ishtadevatas) should be worshipped with sandalwood paste (gandha), consecrated rice (akshata), flowers, etc. After chanting a mantra, the father and the other relatives should hold the child on their laps. A prayer should be made to The Almighty for the child’s longevity as follows: ‘I am giving the custody of this child unto the moon, the sun, the guardians of the eight directions (dikpal), the eight directions and the sky. So please protect him. Whether the child is vigilant or not protect him by day and by night. May the deities such as Lord Indra perpetually protect him.’
After this, one should worship Lord Mahadev or Vishnu by going to Their respective temples or in the house of any well-wisher. Then the child should be placed in a sitting posture on a heap of rice and other food grains, spread on the floor smeared with cowdung. After chanting a mantra the head and forehead of the child should be sprinkled (prokshan) with holy ash (bhasma) or consecrated rice. This should be followed by worship of deities like Lord Mahadev, Ganesh, etc. with sweets like anarase, etc. The child should then be given some sweetmeats and placed in front of God in the prone position and then brought home.

4. Annaprashan (Partaking of the first solid feed)

4.1 The objectives

This sanskar (rite) eliminates the defects generated by swallowing urine and faeces when in the mother’s womb.

4.2 The auspicious time (muhurt)

The sixth or the eighth month in case of a boy and the fifth or any month with an odd number in case of a girl is favourable for the sanskar of Annaprashan (partaking of the first solid feed). (Even numbers represent the masculine gender whereas odd numbers represent the feminine gender.)

4.3 The resolve (sankalpa)

‘I am performing this sanskar of Annaprashan to win the grace of The Supreme Lord for the destruction of defects acquired by the intake of faeces by the baby when in the mother’s womb, the acquisition of pure food, etc., the acquisition of divine splendour (effulgence), the perfect development of the organs, longevity and to overcome the sins committed by the foetus. I am performing the worship of Lord Ganesh and the Matruka deities, Svastivachan, and Nandishraddha along with it.’

4.4 The ritual

After expressing the resolve the child should be placed to one’s right on a white cloth placed on the mother’s lap, in front of the deity. The child should face the east and should then be fed solid food for the first time. Food containing curd, honey and clarified butter (ghee) should be put in a gold or bronze vessel and the following prayer should be made ‘O God, the presiding deity of food, give us food which promotes health and bestows strength’. Then wearing some gold ornament on the hand one should give the child the first mouthful of solid food. After the child has had its fill, its mouth should be washed and then it should be placed on the ground.

4.5 The test of earning a livelihood

To test the choice of a livelihood, books, instruments, clothes and other tools which sculpt the future should be placed in front of the child. The object touched by the child as the first choice may be considered as the means of his earning a livelihood.

5. Choulkarma [Chudakarma (The rite of keeping a small portion of hair on the front of the head)]

5.1 The objectives

This sanskar (rite) is performed in order to attain longevity, strength and radiance. The small portion of hair facilitates the entry of the sattva frequencies from the universe through the Brahmarandhra. It functions like the antenna of a television set. [Refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 38 - Path of Activation of Spiritual Energy (Kundaliniyoga)’.]

5.2 The auspicious time (muhurt)

It is customary to perform this rite either in the third, fourth or fifth year of a child after choosing an auspicious time. Nowadays, however it is often performed along with the thread ceremony.

5.3 The resolve (sankalpa)

‘I am performing the sanskar choul (the rite of keeping a small portion of hair on the front of the head) in order to win the grace of The Lord so as to acquire pure food, for attaining longevity, to increase oja (precursor of divine energy) and strength and also to nullify the sins generated by the ovum and foetus. Along with it, I am performing the worship of Lord Ganapati, Punyahavachan, worship of the Matruka deities and Nandishraddha.’

5.4 Javal (Jaul, Jayval)

This is also known as the first haircut. This is customarily performed when the child is about one year old. Only some hair in front of the head is retained. The importance of keeping a small portion of hair will be clarified by point ‘5.1 The objectives’.
‘Sixteen Sanskars and some other rituals’, published by Sanatan Sanstha.
Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh. Publishers: Pandit Mahadevshastri Joshi, Secretary, Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh Mandal, 410 Shanivar Peth, Pune 411 030.
Vol. 3 to 10: First edition           Vol. 1 and 2: Second edition
1. Vol.5, Pg. 32

Om Tat Sat

(My humble salutations to Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Jagruti for the collection)


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