Hindu monks calling for violence against India’s minorities are betraying their sacred vows ( Scroll )

The commitment of offering fearlessness to all should be understood as an obligation to join in building communities where all live without fear.

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Representative image. | Reuters

Becoming a sannyasin or monk in the Hindu tradition is a radical and consequential choice. The implications of this choice for the individual are clearly revealed in the profound steps of the initiation ceremony that marks entry into monastic life.

With the ritual of renunciation, monks commit themselves to the safety and wellbeing of all. This is non-negotiable.

One of the steps of this ceremony is the performance of a funereal or postmortem offering called the shraddha. This offering is normally done by the family members of a departed person. Balls of rice, mixed with sesame seeds, are prayerfully offered for the peace and wellbeing of departed ancestors. The candidate for Hindu monasticism, however, completes this offering for himself/herself (atma shraddha).

Having severed ties with family and community, the monk assumes that there will be no one to make such offerings on his/her behalf. A normal shraddha ceremony is performed after death; the monk-aspirant performs his ceremony before the death of his body. In actual fact, the monk performs his own funeral ceremony.

Sitting before a sacred fire, the aspirant participates in a ritual (viraja homa/yajña) of making offerings into the fire. Traditionally, the offerings are material (rice, sugar, sesame seeds etc.). In this case, however, the aspirant offers his/her passions (rajas), aiming to be free from these. Chanting mantras, he reduces to ashes his anger, lust, greed, and hate.

Finally, he makes a symbolic offering of his body, signifying his non-attachment to the physical and his identity with his true self (atman). The initiate is given a new name by his guru and ochre robes signifying the fire of wisdom in which his harmful passions have been consumed.

This story was originally published in scroll.in . Read the full story here


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