There are ten (or, in the case of Sudras, nine) purificatory ceremonies, or “sacraments,” called samskaras, which are done to aid and purify the jiva in the important events of his life. These are jivasheka, also called garbhadhana-rtu-samskara, performed after menstruation, with the object of insuring and sanctifying conception. The garbhadhana ceremony takes place in the daytime on the fifth day and qualifies for the real garbhadhana at night-that is, the placing of the seed in the womb.
It is preceded on the first day by the rtu-samskara, which is mentioned in Chapter IX of Mahanirvana-Tantra After conception and during pregnancy, the pumsavana and simantonnayana rites are performed; the first upon the wife perceiving the signs of conception, and the second during the fourth, sixth, or eighth month of pregnancy.
In the ante-natal life there-are three main stages, whether viewed from the objective (physical) standpoint, or from the subjective (super-physical) standpoint.(1) The first period includes on the physical side all the structural and physiological changes which occur in the fertilized ovum from the moment of fertilization until the period when the embryonic body, by the formation of trunk, limbs, and organs, is fit for the entrance of the individualized life, or jivatma.
When the pronuclear activity and differentiation are completed, the jivatma, whose connection with the pronuclei initiated the pronuclear or formative activity, enters the miniature human form, and the second stage of growth and development begins. The second stage is the fixing of the connection between the jiva and the body, or the rendering of the latter viable. This period includes all the anatomical and physiological modifications by which the-embryonic body becomes a viable foetus. With the attainment of viability, the stay of the jiva has been assured; physical life is possible for the child, and the third stage in ante-natal life is entered. Thus, on the form side, if the language of comparative embryology is used, the first samskara denotes the impulse to development, from the “fertilization of the ovum” to the “critical period”. The second samskara denotes the impulse to development from the “critical period ” to that of the “viability stage of the foetus “; and the third samskara denotes the development from ” viability ” to ” full term” .
On the birth of the child there is the jata-karma, performed for the continued life of the new-born child. Then follows the nama-karana, or naming ceremony, and niskramana in the fourth month after delivery, when the child is taken out of doors for the first time and shown the sun, the vivifying source of life, the material embodiment of the Divine Savita. Between the fifth and eight month after birth the annaprasana ceremony is observed, when rice is put in the child’s mouth for the first time. Then follows the cudakarana, or tonsure ceremony;(2) and in the case of the first three or â€œtwice-born ” classes, upanayana, or investiture with the sacred thread. Herein the jiva is reborn into spiritual life.
There is, lastly, udvaha, or marriage, whereby the unperfected jiva insures through offspring that continued human life which is the condition of its progress and ultimate return to its Divine Source. These are all described in the Ninth Chapter of this Tantra. There are also ten samskaras of the mantra (q. v.). The samskaras are intended to be performed at certain stages in the development of the human body, with the view to effect results beneficial to the human organism. Medical science of to-day seeks to reach the same results, but uses for this purpose the physical methods of modern Western science, suited to an age of materiality; whereas in the samskaras the superphysical (psychic, or occult, or metaphysical and subjective) methods of ancient Eastern science are employed. The sacraments of the Catholic Church and others of its ceremonies, some of which have now fallen into disuse,(3) are Western examples of the same psychic method.
1. For what follows on the medical side, see the Appendix, vol. i, p, 19!. on the Samskaras, by Dr. Louise Appel, in the ” Pranava-vada” of Bhagavan Das.
2. A lock of hair is left at the top of the head, called sikha. As when a king visits a place, the royal banner is set up, so on the head in whose thousand-petalled lotus the Brahman resides, sikha is left.
3. E.g., the blessing of the marital bed, which bears analogy to the Hindu garbhadhana rite.