--> Skip to main content

Symbolism In Brahmacharya And Diksha In Ancient Vedic Education

A look at the symbolism in Brahmacharya and diksha in ancient Vedic education based on the Atharva Veda.

Usually brahmacharya is translated as celibacy. But its literal meaning is ‘to move in Brahma’ or ‘to move towards the supreme state of consciousness named as Brahman.’ Typically it signifies the comprehensive education received by a young person in Vedic times before she or he is married and led the family life. The education includes not only the study of the various subjects but also the spiritual initiation, diksha by special methods. Diksha even today is an important aspect of spiritual life.

The hymn (11.5) in Atharva Veda is the earliest attempt to describe the process of diksha or initiation by a teacher or guru. The knowledge is imparted by an occult means. This hymn metaphorically describes the rishi as keeping the disciple in his womb, impart power to him and make him grow.

This procedure is represented symbolically even today in the ceremony of sacred thread upanayanam by enclosing the disciple and the teacher by a single cloth and the teacher giving the mantra to the disciple in his ear.

The acharya initiating him, takes the Brahmacharin within him as a mother the child;

Three nights he carries him like a mother bearing the child in her womb, and to see him when born, devas come in body (Atharva Veda 11.5.3).

No wonder the spiritual initiation is called as a second birth for the student.

The brahmacharin bears the radian Brahman
Where in all devas are woven together
Creating breath and in-breath prana and out-breath apana
Word, mind, heart, sacred knowledge and wisdom. (Atharva Veda 11.5.24).

SourceAtharva Veda by Sri Aurobindo Kapali Shastry Institute Of Vedic Culture