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Samskara, aka: Saṃskāra; 10 Definition(s)


Samskara means something in Hinduism, Sanskrit. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism


Saṃskāra (संस्कार).—Purificatory rites for house-holders; these do not help without the eight ātmaguṇas (s.v. Kriyā yoga).*

  • * Matsya-purāṇa 52. 17, 30.
Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana IndexPurāṇa book cover
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The Purāṇas (पुराण, purana) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahāpurāṇas total over 400,000 ślokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

Dharmaśāstra (religious law)

Saṃskāra (संस्कार):—According to the Manusaṃhitā, Saṃskāras are auspicious Vedic rites. These sanctify and purify the body of a twice born not only both in th is life and the life after death. These are called as Vedic rites because are perfor med by uttering Vedic mantras. And hence it is said that the root o f these rituals are underline in the Vedas.

Source: Shodhganga: Facts of society in the Manusamhita
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Dharmaśāstra (धर्मशास्त्र, dharma-shastra) is a category of Hindu literature containing important instructions regarding religious law, ethics, economics, jurisprudence and more. It is categorised as smṛti, an important and authorative selection of books dealing with the Hindu lifestyle.

Āyurveda (science of life)

Saṃskāra (संस्कार, “processing”).—One of the ten Parādiguṇa, or, ‘10 pharmaceutical properties’.—It is a Sanskrit technical term from Āyurveda (Indian medicine) and used in literature such the Caraka-saṃhitā and the Suśruta-saṃhitā. According to Caraka, these ten properties (guṇa) are the means to success in therapeutic treatment. Saṃskāra refers to processing one quality into another (eg. grapes into wine).

Source: Wisdom Library: Āyurveda and botany

Sanskara-samanya-guna means to make things good or better. In India, the sanskar plays important part in the conduct of families. The attributes of sanskar guna can make a person worth living and respectable.

Source: Pitta Ayurveda: Samanya Guna
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Āyurveda (आयुर्वेद, ayurveda) is a branch of Indian science dealing with medicine, herbalism, taxology, anatomy, surgery, alchemy and related topics. Traditional practice of Āyurveda in ancient India dates back to at least the first millenium BC. Literature is commonly written in Sanskrit using various poetic metres.

Rasaśāstra (chemistry and alchemy)

In rasāvidyā, mercury had to undergo eighteen saṃskāras (treatments) to display its supreme powers of transmuting base metals into gold or silver and of transforming the perishable body into an imperishable state. These saṃskāras are primarily chemicals involving wide range of minerals, plants, animal proucts and several others. the rasāvādins had firm belief in the acquiring of mercury of all the transmutation potencies after undergoing through seventeenth sequential saṃskāras. At this stage, it should be tested on a base metal, and if the later turns into gold, it should be used for the 18th process, i.e. sevana, leading to its assimilation into and revitalization of the body.

The eighteen saṃskāras are specified in Rasayāna texts in following terms:

  1. Svedana – Steaming or heating using water bath,
  2. Mārdana – Grinding,
  3. Mūrchana – Swooning or making mercury lose its form,
  4. Utthāpana – Revival of form,
  5. Pātana – Sublimation or distilation,
  6. Rodhana – Potentiation,
  7. Niyamana – Restraining,
  8. Sandīpana – Stimulating or kindling,
  9. Gagaṇbhakśaṇa – Consumption of “essence” of mica,
  10. Caraṇa – Amalgamation,
  11. Garbhadruti – Liquefaction – internal,
  12. Bāhyadruti – Liquefaction – external,
  13. Jaraṇā – Calcination,
  14. Rāñjaṇa – Dyeing,
  15. Sāraṇa – Blending or preparation for transformation,
  16. Sankārmaṇa – Acquiring power of transformation or penetration,
  17. Vedhana - Transmutation,
  18. Sevana – Becoming fit for internal use.
Source: Google Books: Modern World System and Indian Proto-industrializationRasaśāstra book cover
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Rasaśāstra (रसशास्त्र, rasa-shastra) is an important branch of Āyurveda, specialising in chemical interactions with herbs, metals and minerals. Some texts combine yogic and tantric practices with various alchemical operations. The ultimate goal of Rasaśāstra is not only to preserve and prolong life, but also to bestow wealth upon humankind.

General definition (in Hinduism)

Saṃskāra (संस्कार).—One of the Vedic reformatory rituals performed one by one from the time of conception until death for purifying a human being.

Source: ISKCON Press: Glossary

The word Saṃskāra is usually translated as “more, religious rite, ceremony, social observances, formalities and punctilious behaviour.” But none of these words convey the actual meaning of the Sanskrit term Saṃskāra. The closest approximation is the word sacrament which means:— “religious ceremony or act regarded as an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace”.

The word Saṃskāra is derived from the Sanskrit root meaning “to refine”. In the classical Sanskrit literature the word Saṃskāra is used in a very wide sense:—“in the sense of education, cultivation, training, making perfect, refining, polishing, embellishment, impression, form, mould, operation, impression on the sub-conscious mind, a purificatory rite, a sacred rite or ceremony, consecration, sanctification and hallowing; idea, notion and conception; effect of work, merit of action etc.”

1) Pānini defines Saṃskāra as samparyupebhyaḥ karotu bhūṣaṇe — “that which adorns one’s personality”.

2) The Śabda-koṣa defines it as saṃskārāṇāṃ guṇāntarādhānam saṃskāraḥ — “that which brings about quality transformation”.

3) In the Jaimini sūtras (111. 1. 3) the sage explains the term Saṃskāra as:— “an act which makes a certain thing or person fit for a certain purpose”.

4) The Tantra-vartika (p. 1078) defines Saṃskāra as:— “those acts and rites that impart suitability or fitness [adhikāra]” and further adds that adhikāra is of two kinds:—1. The removal of negative mental conditioning (pāpa-kṣaya) 2. The generation of positive qualities through purification of the mind (cittaśuddhi).

5) The word “Saṃskāra” as “sacrament” means the religious purificatory rites and ceremonies for sanctifying the body, mind and intellect of an individual. The purpose of life is a gradual training in spiritual-unfoldment. All of life is a ritual and a sacrament and every phase of one’s physical evolution should be sanctified for service of the Divine. By means of the Saṃskāras, the mind is reawakened to the Ultimate Goal in life which is spiritual wisdom and Liberation from the cycle of births and deaths.

For Hindus the Saṃskāras are a living, vibrant religious experience. Through the Sacraments of the life cycles, the body which is the temple of God is sanctified and rendered fit for service to God. The Saṃskāras are a means of moulding the personality of the individual, and through this moulding one becomes an ideal member of society and an enlightened being.

Source: Srimatham: Hindu Sacraments

Samskāra is a rite that involves mantra. There are forty samskāras or rites performed in one’s lifetime:

Seven are paka Yajñas

  1. (aṣtaka,
  2. sthālipāka,
  3. parvana,
  4. srāvaṇi,
  5. āgrahayani,
  6. caitri
  7. and āsvīyuji).

They involve consecrating cooked items.

Seven are Soma Yajñas

  1. (agnistoma,
  2. atyagnistoma,
  3. uktya,
  4. shodasi,
  5. vājapeya,
  6. atirātra
  7. and aptoryama).

The yāgā that involves the extraction, utility and consumption of Soma (in the general sense nectar, but extract of a particular tree specifically) is called a Soma Yajña. Others are usually referred to as haviryañnas.

Seven are Havir Yajñas

  1. (agniyādhāna,
  2. agni hotra,
  3. Darśa-Pūrṇamāsa,
  4. āgrayana,
  5. cāturmāsya,
  6. niruudha paśu bandha,
  7. sautrāmaṇi).

They involve offering havis.

22-26) Five are the panca mahā Yajñās.

27-30) Four are Vedavratas, which are done during Vedic education.

Remaining ten are one-time samskāras that are done at different stages in life. They are

  1. garbhādhānā,
  2. pumsavana,
  3. sīmanta,
  4. jātakarma,
  5. nāmakaraṇa,
  6. annaprāśana,
  7. caula,
  8. upanayana,
  9. snātaka
  10. and vivāha.

These are specified by the gṛhya sūtrās.

Source: Hindupedia: The Hindu Encyclopedia

The Samskaras are rites of passage finding varied acceptance among religious adherents of Hinduism (Vedic), Jainism and some schools of thought in Buddhism.

The samskāra are a series of sacraments, sacrifices and rituals that serve as rites of passage and mark the various stages of the human life and to signify entry to a particular Ashrama (i.e. stage of life). All human beings are required to perform a number of sacrifices with oblations for gods, Ancestors and Guardians in accordance with the Vedic dictums for a Dharmic or righteous life and become Dvija or twice-born by the performance of these acts. Basically all these rituals are of the nature of purification and/or bestow good qualities (gunas). A person does not have to foster a relationship between religious-spiritual knowledge and the practice of religious-rituals. It means a person having deep religious spiritual knowledge may or may not be involved in the ritual processes. Similarly a person involved in rituals may or may not have the religious knowledge.

Source: WikiPedia: Hinduism

(Skt, formation; Pāli, saṇkhāra). The constructing activities that form, shape or condition the moral and spiritual development of the individual. The saṃskāra-skandha is the fourth of the five aggregates (skandha) that constitute the human person, and also the second link (nidāna) in the twelvefold scheme of Dependent Origination (pratītya-samutpāda). The term refers in particular to volitions and intentions (which may be morally good, bad, or neutral) and the way that these contribute to the formation of individual patterns of behaviour or traits of character. Repetition imprints a particular saṃskāra on the psyche and the imprint is carried over into the next life. The aim of Buddhist practice is to replace negative imprints with positive ones.

Source: Oxford Index: Hinduism

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