In the Hindu Dharma, the Guru holds the most exalted and honoured place in the hierarchy of life. The Sanskrit word Dharma धर्म is is derived from the root dhṛ which means to nourish, to uphold, to sustain and to protect.

The upanayana ceremony is one of the traditional rites of passage which marked the momentous occasion when a student was accepted by a guru. The tradition is discussed and debated upon extensively in the Hindu texts. In practise, the samskara rite of passage differs significantly among practitioners of Hinduism.

The concept of dvija twice-born is particularly congruent upon this ceremony. It is premised upon the belief that a person is first born physically and is reborn a second time spiritually–usually when he or she undergoes the rite of passage that initiates him into a school for Vedic studies. This initiation is regarded as a second or a spiritual birth.

The second birth occurs when one officially takes up the responsibilities of fulfilling a role in the community. A person may be born physically through his or her parents–but he is born and reborn spiritually through his or her teacher.

Written in the sun star

The stars shine brightly on a cold wintry night. Summer, which feels like a distant hope, will come. But it is not summertime right now. A fire burns at the centre of the caravanserai. It mimics the Sun’s heat, which has grown scarce during wintertime. Inside one of the two tents of the caravanserai, there rests a contract. Two people sit by a fire to warm themselves.

A woman dances by the fire. The man looks on at her, his dormant desires all awakened. It is not so much her physical form that arouses him. It is her light, her laughter and her dance. The man smiles a narrow smile. She notices it, as subtle and as undetectable as it was. She continues dancing and moves closer to him. He longs to reach out and touch her, but he stops himself. There is no carnal desire inside him, only a desire for her.

She continues dancing and singing. Her voice lingers by the fire. It is the first time he has felt his desire pulsating and yearning within him.

Deir-e Gachin Caravansarai. Image Credit: Mostafameraji

The Commitment

A few months later, summer returns as the Sun’s reign is reborn. An old hermit holds a lantern, a small candle flame, as he walks through the dark night alone. This candle flame is all he has left of that night–that night when the splendid woman danced before him. He has cherished this candle flame for many lifetimes now.

A commitment is being drawn up. A commitment between a teacher and a student. It was a commitment that was made a long time ago. A commitment that is being renewed once more–a commitment that will ripple through time and space.

This is not a commitment that can ever be broken for there is too much at stake.

The hermit knocks on many doors. The people behind those doors are too busy with their lazy distractions to answer the knock. If they were only aware, they would answer. For it is their teacher who knocks. When the student does not answer, the teacher is assigned to another task.

The student meets an old lover shortly after. Their meeting is fated. They, too, have made a commitment to one another. The lovers and the teacher are awaiting their initiation for they have a shared destiny. Not all or any are permitted.

Their initiation and shared destiny had begun.

This post is co-authored by Dipa Sanatani and Nat Li

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