(124) UPANAYANAM (CEREMONY OF THE SACRED THREAD)
21st June, 1947
One morning two or three days back some people came with a young boy whose Upanayanam had been recently performed and went away after prostrating before Bhagavan.
Soon after they left, some devotee asked him about the significance of Upanayanam and Bhagavan related it to us as follows: “Upanayanam does not mean just putting round the neck three strands of cotton thread. It means that there are not only two eyes but a third also. That is the jnana netram (wisdom- eye). Open that eye and recognise your swa-swarupa (own form); that is what is taught. Upanayanam means additional eye. They say that the eye must be opened and for that purpose they give training in pranayamam (breath control). After that they give Brahmopadesam (Initiating about Brahman), give the boy a begging bowl and tell him to go about begging. The first bhiksha is mathru (mother’s). When the father gives Brahmopadesam, the mother gives three handfuls of bhiksha (rice) to enable the young boy to do manana (repeat inwardly), the upadesa given by the father. He is expected to fill his stomach by begging, stay in the Guru’s house for training and realise his self by opening the jnana netram. That is the significance of Upanayanam.
Forgetting all that, what is done at present is this: pranayamam has come to mean just closing the nose with the fingers and pretending to control the breath; Brahmopadesam means just to cover both the father and the son with a new dhoti when the father whispers something in the ear of the son; bhiksha means just filling up the begging bowl with money. What could they preach to the boy when thefather who gives the upadesa and the priest who gets this done, do not know the real significance of Upanayanam?
Not only that. After receiving the required knowledge by staying with the Guru for a sufficiently long time, the Guru used to send the boy to his parents to find out whether his mind would get caught in worldly affairs or turn towards sannyasa. After staying for some time in their own homes, the boys used to start on a pilgrimage to Banaras, devoid of worldly desires and with a view to renouncing them completely. At that time, parents having girls of marriageable age dissuade the boys from going to Banaras and offer them their daughters in marriage. Those that are strongly inclined towards renunciation would go without caring for the offers of marriage and those that are otherwise, return home and accept the offer of marriage. All that is forgotten now. Pilgrimage to Banaras at present means the young man puts on a silver-lined silk dhoti, his eyes are coloured black, his forehead bears a caste mark, his feet are ornamented with yellow and red paste, his body is smeared with sandal-paste, his neck is adorned with flower garlands, an umbrella is spread over his head and wooden sandals are worn on his feet and he walks on stylishly to the accompaniment of music.
When the girl’s brother comes and offers his sister in marriage and presses him to accept the offer, he says, “I want a wrist watch. I want a motor cycle, I want this and I want that. If you give them, I can marry, otherwise not.” Afraid that the marriage which is arranged may fall through, the parents of the bride give whatever is demanded. Then they have photos, feasts and presentation of cloths and the like.
Nowadays, bhikshas are used for filling up the begging bowl with rupees and pilgrimages to Banaras are used for extracting dowries.”