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|Basic to the Vedic Tradition|
When a child falls ill the parents take special care of it. How wrong would it be to neglect a sick child? If there is anything worse it is not to perform the upanayana of one's son at the proper age and fail to impart him the Gayatri mantra. This rite is for his Atmic uplift as well as for the good of the world. It is sheer vanity that the "thread ceremony" is nowadays performed like a mini-wedding. This is one reason why it gets postponed since the parents have to find enough money to "celebrate" it on a lavish scale. Delaying this samskara for such reasons must be condemned in the severest terms possible.
We in the Matha are ready to do anything [to help parents to perform the upanayana of their children at the proper age]. We arrange "mass upanayana" ceremonies. A number of other religious organisations also have similar arrangements. The Gayatri is common to all. Mass upanayana is conducted for boys belonging to boys belonging to different denominations, Smarta, Vaisnava, Madhva, etc, and is being done fairly satisfactorily. This practice must grow with more and more participants.
Well-to-do parents think that such mass ceremonies are meant for people without means. But, at the same time, they do not perform the upanayana of their children on their own at the right time. In this samskara the importance of which is hard to exaggerate, there is no question of some being able to spend more on it than some others or some being able to afford the expense more than others. Money or property has nothing to do with it. It is sad that in upanayana rite considerations that are not relevant to it are brought in with the result that the samskara that is at the heart of the Vedic tradition is emptied of all its meaning.
It is the duty of parents to make sure that, after they are invested with the sacred thread their sons chant the Gayatri everyday without fail. Some boys discontinue chanting this mantra the very first day after the upanayana ceremony. Parents must see to it that they don't. They must also make sure that the children perform the sandhyavandana without being distracted by cricket matches, cinema, party meetings, etc. I am not sure how far my urging is going to help, considering nowadays that parents nowadays are themselves more interested in clubs, films, meetings and the races than in matters concerning the Self. If there is any realisation on their part that their own lives have been lived in vain, they may perhaps want their children to do better. But will the boys listen to them? In all likelihood they will turn back to tell their parents: "why do you ask us to perform sandhyavandana and recite the Gayatri? What about you?"
In this unfortunate situation, if I am wasting your time by speaking about such matters, it is because I have a duty to remind you of your responsibility with regard to your children's Atmic advancement.
I do not know whether you will do what I ask you to do, nor do I know how you will do it. I will have to carry out the duty imposed on me by the Matha. The Matha bids me to see it that the upanayana of children is performed when they are of the right age, all those children who are entitled to learn the Vedas. Further, the Matha also bids me to see to it that, once the boys are invested with the sacred thread, they perform the sandhyavandana without fail everyday and that they learn to chant the Vedas at least one hour a day.
For a general background, please see here