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Explaining The Necessity And Significance Of Upanayam

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous in Parenting' started by Gauri03, May 1, 2018.

  1. Gauri03

    Gauri03 Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    My son is 9 years old and will go through his thread ceremony this summer. He is a bright and curious child whose favorite phrase is "but why mommy?". Not surprisingly we are having some difficulty explaining the purpose and necessity of the ritual. To be honest, in my husband's community upanayanam has become a style over substance event with enough pomp and show to rival a wedding. I've tried the "initiation of education" explanation but that is not cutting it. My husband's idea of helping is telling him that he will get a boatload of gifts if he sits through it. He has a lot of questions that I am not equipped to handle. My husband and I are irreligious and don't feel strongly either way. We have committed to this for my in laws' sake. It will mean the world to them and I wouldn't dream of depriving them of this joy. But I want this grand production to mean something to my son, so he doesn't remember it as a meaningless party. While growing up in India we had enough cultural context to develop an intuitive understanding of social obligations versus personal beliefs. How would you convince a child raised in the American idiom in a non-religious household that traditions and rituals in cultures that have been around for a long time have meaning beyond the literal? How do I contextualize an ages old ceremony that no longer serves a real purpose but is cherished nevertheless?
     
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  2. Greenbay

    Greenbay Finest Post Winner

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    This link explains every thing. You don’t have to explain every ritual but the gist is, it is an initiation ceremony for learning. Now kids start school at 3 years but those days, since they had go far to study, it was done when they were 8 years old. Your son will understand if you explain how was learning and leading in Vedic days.
    Upanayanam Explained.. | Sulekha Creative Inside Outside - Home And Garden Contest
     
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  3. kaniths

    kaniths IL Hall of Fame

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    How about taking him out on a field trip? A day @ Patashala / Gurukul (I'm sure you can locate one back home) where he gets to see how the gurus and students live and practice the tradition with commitment and sincerity, that which might give him the exposure and understanding required, also turning out to be a meaningful first experience and a memorable upanayanam too? :innocent:
     
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  4. Shanvy

    Shanvy IL Hall of Fame

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    @Gauri03

    my son tilts towards being agnostic and due to a tradition in the family he is still not had his upanayanam.

    what did i tell him??

    ancient practices—

    by 7 the child was ready for school but it was gurukul. so a child was initiated and prepared for learning. he was given a identity(—introduction by a person saying he comes from this sage... to x sharma. x is his name..)
    which i believe was like the id card for the child. interesting titbit for your kid..
    so the child is born again taken closer to gayathri (learning) and handed over to his guru.who guides him with knowledge which inturn gives him a new set of perspectives of life.....mata—pita— guru- deivam is the order foe the very reason..

    though we have moved to mobiles, gprs this old tradition connects him to his gps and ggps in india, because he continues the family tree and tradition..

    that coming of age, and initiation into the culture is seen in most religions be it india or west. but then arguments and different school of thoughts say you cannot compare upanayanam to the same..

    the necessity according to me is the discipline of sandyq vandhanam. i have seen kids who pack their kit for even a weekend trip and adults who hang the janau\thread along with the shirt they remove. so it basically depends on the child’s introduction into the same and the interest to grasp new things.

    the gayathri mantra is powereful, though everyone of us can chant according to new age gurus and people, the one who is initiated into it has a different experience.
    definitely help him in his concentration. and more..

    you may want to hear him too, not sure if it will help you..


    @Viswamitra could give you a better view from being in the us and observing kids around..
     
  5. messedup

    messedup Platinum IL'ite

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    You can also tell him to explore via net or books if you have. First see what he make out with his studies. Then explain to him the importance of this and make him realise its importance. Kids need everything to be very sensible otherwise they declare their parents and everyone involved as doing the nonsense and do not trust them for their sensible discussions that most of the time doesn't make any sense.
     
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  6. Viswamitra

    Viswamitra IL Hall of Fame

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    @Gauri03,

    I happened to visit a Gurukul in Chennai last week where 80 children are going through 12 years of Vedic education like traditional Gurukul leaving their parents and staying in a village along with other kids. Apparently, not all the children can go through this traditional education in the modern day context. However, rituals like Upanayanam are still performed by the families to initiate the child to Brahman by doing Brahmopadhesam.

    My son had his upanayanam at the age of 9, 2 years after he came to the US. He was in a transition mode during that period. I explained the Bramacharya Ashram, Grahastha Ashram, Vanaprastha Ashram and Sanyasa Ashram in a completely different way to my son. But if I were to do it all over again, I would have done it differently.

    Every child is a dependent up to a certain age and rely and emulate the values reflected by the parents. When the brain development reaches the level of inquiry, he or she gets to validate the points of view of the teachers and parents before accepting them. That is Brahmacharyam (independent) stage in life. Later, he or she will enter into Grahastha stage where he or she learns to be interdependent (in order to reach this stage one had to go through both dependent and independent stage) sharing and caring for each other and for the general well-being of the children and others. When a child is dependent, the parents try to increase his/her concentration and when the child becomes independent, it gives the growing adult the ability to contemplate.

    Vanaprastham is the stage where he or she uses the life experience combined with the knowledge gained to find the purpose of life. This is a stage of withdrawal from the world while living in the world and can be called meditative stage of life. Sanyasam is not actually moving into the forest but having heart in the society and head in the forest i.e. learning to lead a life for the well-being of others. In my point of view, this type of life is equivalent of renouncing all the desires as one achieves selflessness at that stage. We can call it as Samadhi stage in life.

    Instead of telling a child that one had to be separated from the parents to be with the teacher and separated from the society to be in the forest, etc., it is a better model in the current context to explain the four Ashrams differently to the children.

    Viswa
     
  7. Srama

    Srama Finest Post Winner

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    Dear Gauri,

    Fortunately I did not have to answer too many questions to my son when we did his upanayanam around the same age as yours! Phew! I have been trying hard to come up with an answer for you and can see your predicament very clearly, but I am going to try nevertheless.

    I am not sure what questions your son is coming up with but is it possible to just tell him that it is one occasion to get the family (extended as well) together and seek their blessings in a very traditional Indian way? For my son's, every elderly person that we knew was present and it tickled him to no length that there were so many OLD people just to bless him! I also just told him that an important shloka will be taught to him and as he grows up if he wants to know more, we can talk about it. He wanted to know if his dad was taught and was thrilled that he gets that too! And we have talked since then, both because of his interest (going to a catholic school has upped his interest in understanding various religions, various rituals we have attended bar mitzvahs, baptisms, confirmations etc has helped him understand better) and because I do want him to practice Gayathri at least. As a teenager now, I can clearly see that just chanting is helping him emotionally especially when he has to deal with the stress of high school. Also for him going to India every summer and practicing Sandhyavandanam with his grandfather helped him bond better with him. He refused to remove the janivara (the thread) and so far changes it every year while DH does not even wear one though he does Gayathri!!

    I have never gone into the details of traditional explanations may be because DH is not religious/ritualistic and even though I grew up in a traditional family and dad did his sandhyavandana without fail every day, all he just said to us was that it gave him some peace and satisfaction and that was that. So the tradition of Gayathir japa continues :)

    Enjoy the festivities and have fun! Best wishes to your son.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2018
  8. cinderella06

    cinderella06 Gold IL'ite

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    @Gauri03 you can show him YouTube videos. Upanayanam is to prepare the boy to start his schooling and stay away from home to learn vedha and gain knowledge from Guru. Staying in gurukulam, and doing service to the Guru. You can show this video
    this is the upanayanam story of lord Vamana
    Now a days nothing of the above is done. Just the ceremony.
    Gauri I have no experience as I have a girl. These are the things I know about upanayanam. Sorry if there is anything wrong in it.
     
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  9. justanothergirl

    justanothergirl IL Hall of Fame

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    @Gauri03 The thread (yagnopavitham) in itself is secondary . Brahmopadesham or the first instruction from the father to the son after which he will embark on a life long journey of learning is the most imp part of Upanayanam.
    Its one of very few rituals that is actually not religious and does not require faith in God(s).
    Is it relevant today?

    May be may be not. It depends. I still celebrate pongal by making sakkarai pongal in a brass pot at home the way my grandmom did . I pick up rice jaggery and milk at the local indian grocery store all packaged in plastic.
    I still send a rakhi to my brother . He is no rajput soldier and I am no fair maiden waiting and praying for his long life . But these and so many more are a part of my life . While it is true that they might not have the significance or relevance today as it did for my grandma it continues to offer a glimpse into a life a hundred years ago. Something I hope to give my children ...both roots and wings . To me upanayanam was the same way. Ofcourse DS had a ton of questions and we found a priest who could speak very good english and was very patient with the never ending tirade of questions.
    That was specific to Upanayanam and now for my general $0.02
    In general when I am faced with a situation where I have to do things for the sake of my parents or PIL..I come clean to my kids. I have told them even as young as 9
    “ I dont believe in this. I am doing it for thatha patti /ajja ajji .It would mean the world to them and sometimes that trumps our own personal opinions on various things.”
    U might be surprised how light you would feel after that. With a bright 9 year like urs you would soon find that its very hard to talk about something very convincingly when deep down we don’t believe it ourselves.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2018
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