athātas-sāmayācārikān dharmān vyākhyāsyāmaḥ || 1 ||

1. Now, therefore, we will teach the Dharmas which form part of the duty of daily life, as they have been decided by the agreement [of those who know the law]. 

Now, therefore — after the study of the śrāutā and gṛhya sūtras.

Dharma — ‘acts productive of merit,’ usually translated by ‘duty or law,’ is more accurately defined as an act which produces the state called apūrva, the cause of heavenly bliss and of final liberation.

Sāmaya — ‘agreement, decision of men who know the law,’ is threefold = vidhi – injunction, niyama – restriction or guidelines, and pratiṣedhā – prohibition.

dharmajña samayaḥ pramāṇam || 2 ||

2. The authority [for Dharma] is the agreement of those who know the law. (Manu 2:6, 12; Yajñ. 1:7; Gautama 1:1:]

The Dharma teachings arise from the consensus of those learned scholars who have studied the Scriptures.

vedāśca || 3 || 

3. And [the authorities for the latter are] the Vedas alone. 

The knowers of the law are authorities for us and the Vedas alone are their authority. The Vedas are therefore the root authority in matters of dharma and adharma. [Gautama 1;1:2]

Catvāro varṇā brāhmaṇa kṣatriya vaiśya śūdrāḥ || 4 || 

4. [There are] four castes — brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas, and śūdras

All four are entitled to practice the Dharma set forth by the agreement of the Law-givers.

teṣāṃ pūrvaḥ pūrvo janmataś-śreyān || 5 || 

5. Among these, each preceding [caste] is superior by birth to the one following. 

aśūdrāṇām aduṣṭa-karmāṇām upāyanaṃ vedādhyayanam agnyādheyaṃ phalavanti ca karmāṇi || 6

6. [For all these], excepting śūdras and criminals, [are ordained] the initiation [upaṇayana], the study of the Veda, and the setting up of the sacred fire; and [their] works are productive of rewards [in this world and the next]. (Manu 2:35.) 

If one omits the ‘a’ prefix in aśūdrāṇām the meaning would be — “those śūdras who are of impeccable behaviour may also be initiated etc.”

śuśḷṣā śūdrasyetareṣāṃ varṇānām || 7 || 

7. To serve the other [three] castes [is ordained] for the śūdra. (Manu 1:91, 8:410 and 9:334 Yajñ. 1:120.) 

pūrvasmin pūrvasmin varṇe niśreyasaṃ bhūyaḥ || 8 || 

8. The higher the caste [which the śūdra serves] the greater is the merit. 

upanayanaṃ vidyārthasya śrutitas-saṃskāraḥ || 9 || 

9. The initiation [upaṇayana] is the confirmation in accordance with the texts of the Veda, of a male who is desirous of [and can make use of] sacred

The deaf and dumb who cannot make use of the sacred knowledge are thus excluded. The stipulation of ‘male’ excludes women for the reason that their domestic duties precludes them from making use of the scriptural knowledge of the Vedas. Although women are required to use certain texts during agnihotra etc. it is recommended that they be taught at the time of performance only.

sarvebhyo vai vedebhyas-sāvitryanūcyata iti hi brāhmaṇam || 10 || 

10. A Brāhmaṇa text declares that the Gāyatrī is learnt for the sake of all the [three] Vedas. 

This statement is to remove the doubt whether the ceremony of initiation is to be repeated for each of the Vedas. Only if the Atharvana Veda is to be studied is a separate initiation required.

Tamaso vā eṣa tamaḥ praviśati yam avidvān upanayate yaścā avidvān iti hi brāhmaṇam || 11 || 

11. A Brāhmaṇa text declares that one who’s initiated by a guru unlearned in the Veda indeed enters darkness, and he who initiates comes from darkness.

The one who conducts the upanayana ceremony should himself be learned in the Veda. Nowadays it is customary for the father to do the teaching of the gāyatrī even though unlearned in the Veda.

Tasminnabhijan avidyā samudetaṃ samāhitaṃ saṃskartāram ipset || 12 || 

12. One who desires initiation shall seek to obtain a teacher in whose family sacred learning is hereditary, who himself possesses the knowledge of the 6 aṅgas of the Veda [along with the meaning], and who is diligent [in following the law]. 

A teacher in whose family sacred learning is hereditary — it must be remembered that at the time of the sūtras, books were not widely available and learning was confined within families and not institutes of learning. 

Samāhita means avoiding the proscribed acts and diligently following the prescribed acts.

Tasminścaiva vidyākarmā ntam avipratipanne dharmebhyaḥ || 13 || 

13. And under him the sacred science must be studied until the end, provided [the teacher] does not fall down from the ordinances of the law. 

If the teacher does happen to fall from the practice of Dharma then the student has the right to tactfully upbraid him, if he continues in malpractice the student should leave and find another teacher.

Tasmād dharmān ācinoti sa ācāryaḥ || 14 || 

14. He from whom one gathers [ācinoti] [the knowledge of] Dharma is called the ācārya [teacher]. (Manu 2:69, Yajñ. 1:15.) 

tasmai na druhyet kadācana || 15 || 

15. The teacher should never be offended in any way. (Manu 2:144.) 

sa hi vidyātastaṃ janayati || 16 || 

16. For he gives a second birth to the student by [imparting to him] sacred learning. (Manu 2:146-148.)

tacchreṣṭhaṃ janma || 17 || 

17. This [second] birth is the best. 

Because it procures spiritual advancement and the means to liberation. The guru is considered a “father” and the students are considered as spiritual sons. The disciples between themselves have the relationship of “guru-brothers.”

śarīram eva mātā-pitarau janayataḥ || 18 || 

18. The father and the mother produce the body only. (Manu 2:147)

The body is a mere product of matter and is a vehicle for the jīvātman

vasante brāhmaṇam upanayīta grīṣme rājanyaṃ śaradi vaiśyaṃ garbhāṣṭhameṣu brāhmaṇaṃ garbhaikādaśeṣu rājanyaṃ garbhadvādaśeṣu vaiśyam || 19 || 

19. Let a Brāhmaṇa be initiated in spring, a Kṣatriya in summer, a Vaiśya in autumn, a Brāhmaṇa in the eighth year of age, a Kṣatriya in the eleventh year and a Vaiśya in the twelfth year. (Manu 2:36.)  

atha kāmyāni || 20 || 

20. Now [follows the enumeration of the ages to be chosen] for the fulfilment of some [particular] aim. 

Saptame brahma-varcasa kāmam || 21 || 

21. A person desirous of excellence in sacred learning [should be initiated] in his seventh year. (Manu 2:37.) 

aṣṭhame āyuṣ kāmam || 22 || 

22. A person desirous of long life in his eighth year, 

navame tejas kāmam || 23 || 

23. A person desirous of sexual vigour in his ninth year, 

daśamennādya kāmam || 24 || 

24. A person desirous of well-being in his tenth year, 

ekādaśa indriya kāmam || 25 || 

25. A person desirous of strong sense-organs in his eleventh year, 

dvādaśame paśu kāmam || 26 || 

26. A person desirous of wealth [cattle] in his twelfth year. 

ā ṣoḍaśād brāhmaṇasya-anātyaya , ā dvāviṃśāt kṣatriyasya-ā caturviṃśād
vaiśyasya yathā vrateṣu samarthaḥ syāt-yāni vakṣyāmaḥ
|| 27 ||

27. There is no dereliction [of duty, if the initiation takes place], in the case of a Brāhmaṇa before the completion of the 16th year, in the case of a Kshatriya before the completion of the 22nd year, in the case of a Vaiśya before the completion of the 24th year. [Let him be initiated at such an age] that he may be able to perform the duties, which we shall declare below. 

The meaning is, that the initiation shall be performed as soon as the child is able to begin the study of the Veda. If it is sufficiently mentally developed at eight years, the ceremony must then be performed; and if it be then neglected, or, if it be neglected at any time when the capacity for learning exists, the expiation prescribed in the following Sūtras must be performed. The age of 16 in the case of Brāhmaṇas is the latest age until which the ceremony may be deferred, in case of incapacity for study only. After the lapse of the 16th year, the expiation becomes also necessary. (Manu 2:38; Yājñ. I:37.

atikrānte sāvitryāḥ kāla ṛtuṃ traividyakaṃ brahmacaryaṃ caret || 28 || 

28. If the proper time for the initiation has passed, one shall observe the duties of a student for a period of two months, as observed by those who are studying the three Vedas. 

The meaning is, he shall keep all the restrictions imposed upon a student, such as chastity, etc., but that he shall not perform fire-worship or service to a teacher nor actually study. (Manu 2;39; 11:192, Yājñ. 1. 38; 

atha-upanayanam || 29 || 

29. After that he may be initiated. 

tataḥ saṃvatsaram udaka-upasparśanam || 30 || 

30. After that he shall bathe [daily] for one year. Haradatta comments that if he is healthy he shall bathe three times a day — morning. midday, and evening from the time of initiation. 


atha-adhyāpyaḥ || 31 || 

31. After that he may be instructed [in the Veda].  

atha yasya pitā pitāmaha iti anupetau syātāṃ te brahmaha-saṃstutāḥ || 32 ||

32. He, whose father and grandfather have not been initiated, [and his two ancestors] are called ‘slayers of the Brahman.’ 

Brahman here means ‘Veda,’ and those who neglect its study may be called metaphorically ‘slayers of the Veda.’ To be initiated implies to also study the Veda. If a person’s father and grandfather have not been initiated and have not studied the Veda then they are demoted to the level of Śūdras. This would apply to the vast majority of “Brahmins” — it is very rare to find one in whose family Vedic learning is still current.

teṣām abhyāgamanaṃ bhojanaṃ vivāham iti ca varjayet || 33 || 

33. Intercourse, eating and intermarriage with them should be avoided. (Manu 2; 40; Aśv. Gri:Su. 1:19:8:9.) 

teṣām icchatāṃ prāyaścittam || 34 || 

34. If they wish it [they may perform the following] expiation:— 


yathā prathame- ‘atikrama ṛtur evaṃ saṃvatsaraḥ || 35 || 

35. In the same manner as for the first dereliction [of the initiation, a penance of] two months [was] prescribed, so [they shall do penance for] one year. 

Compare above, 1:1:1;28

atha-upanayanaṃ tata udaka-upasparśanam || 36 || 

36. Afterwards they may be initiated, and then they must bathe [daily], 

Praśna 1. Paṭala 1. Khāṇḍa 2.

Prati pūruṣaṃ saṅkhyāya saṃvatsarān yāvanto-anupetāḥ syuḥ || 1 ||

1. For as many years as there are uninitiated persons, reckoning [one year] for each ancestor [and the person to be initiated himself],

saptabhiḥ pāvamānībhir “yad anti yac ca dūraka” iti etābhir yajus pavitreṇa sāma pavitreṇa-āṅgiraseṇa-iti || 2 ||

2. [They should bathe daily reciting] the seven Pavamānis, beginning with ‘If near or far,’ the ‘Yajuś-pavitra, [‘May the waters, the mothers purify us,’ etc.] the Sāma-pavitra, [‘With what help assists,’ etc.], and the Aṅgirasapavitra [‘A swan, dwelling in purity’],

The seven Pavamānis are seven verses which occur Rig-Veda 9;67;21-27. Yajuśpavitra is the Taitt. Samh. 1:2:1:1. The Sāma-pavitra is found Sāma-Veda 1, 2, 2, 3, 5. Aṅgirasa-pavitra-Rig-Veda. 4; 40, 5.

api vā vyāhṛtībhir eva || 3 ||

3. Or also reciting the Vyāhṛtis [om, bhuḥ, bhuvaḥ, suvaḥ].

atha-adhyāpyaḥ || 4 ||

4. After that [such a person] may be taught [the Veda].

atha yasya prapitāmaha ādi na-anusmaryata upanayanaṃ te śmaśāna saṃstutāḥ ||5||

5. But those whose great-grandfather’s [grandfather’s and father’s] initiation is not remembered, are called “cremation-grounds.”

teṣām abhyāgamanaṃ bhojanaṃ vivāham iti ca varjayet teṣām icchatāṃ prāyaścittaṃ dvādaśa varṣāṇi traividyakaṃ brahmacaryaṃ caret | athaupanayanaṃ tatas- udaka upasparśanaṃ pāvamānī ādibhiḥ || 6 ||

6. Intercourse, dining, and intermarriage with them should be avoided. For them, if they like, the [following] penance [is prescribed]. [Such a person] shall keep for twelve years the rules prescribed for a student who is studying the three Vedas. Afterwards he may be initiated. Then he shall bathe, reciting the Pavamānis and the other [texts mentioned above, 1. 1, 2, 2].

atha gṛha-medha upadeśanam || 7 ||

7. Then he may be instructed in the religious duties of a householder.

na-adhyāpanam || 8 || 

8. He shall not be taught [the whole Veda], but only the sacred formulas required for the domestic ceremonies.

tato yo nirvartate tasya saṃskāro yathā prathame- ‘atikrame || 9 ||

9. When he has finished this [study of the Gṛhya-mantras], he may be initiated [after having performed the penance prescribed] for the first neglect [1. 1. 1. 28].

tata ūrdhvaṃ prakṛtivat || 10 ||

10. Afterwards [everything is performed] as in the case of a regular initiation.


The commentators say that for those whose great-great-grandfather or remoter ancestors were not initiated, no penance is prescribed, and that it must be decided by the learned.

upetasya ācārya kule brahmacāri vāsaḥ || 11 ||

11. The initiated one shall dwell as a Brahmacārin in the house of the teacher, (Manu 2:164)

aṣṭācatvāriṃśad varṣāṇi || 12 ||

12. For forty-eight years [if he learns all the four Vedas], (Manu 3;1, and Yajñ. 1:36)

dūnam || 13 ||

13. [Or] a quarter less [ ie. for thirty-six years],

ardhena || 14 ||

14. [Or] less by half [ie. for twenty-four years],

tribhir vā || 15 ||

15. [Or] three quarters less [ie. for twelve years],

dvādaśa avara ardhyam || 16 ||

16. Twelve years [should be] the shortest time [for his residence with his teacher].

The commentator declares that in (Manu 3;1, the expression ‘until he has learnt it,’ must be understood in this sense, [that the student may leave his teacher, if he has learnt the Veda after twelve years’ study, never before. But compare also Aśv. Gri. Sūtra. 1, 22, 3.

na brahmacāriṇo vidyā arthasya para upavāso- ‘asti || 17 ||

17. A student who studies the sacred knowledge shall not dwell with anybody else [other than his teacher]. 


The commentator states that this rule refers only to a temporary, not to a professed student [naiṣṭhika]. He also gives an entirely different explanation to the Sūtra, which, according to some, means, ‘A student who learns the Veda shall not fast in order to obtain heaven’. This rendering also is admissible, as the word para may mean either a ‘stranger’ or ‘heaven’, and upavāsa, ‘dwelling’ or ‘fasting.’

atha brahmacarya vidhiḥ || 18 ||

18. Now the rules for the studentship.

ācārya adhīnaḥ syād anyatra patanīyebhyaḥ || 19 ||

19. He shall obey his teacher, except [when ordered to commit] crimes which cause loss of caste.

Regarding the crimes which cause loss of caste [pataniya], see below, 1,7,21;7

hitakārī guror apratilomayan vācā || 20 ||

20. One shall do what is beneficial to the teacher, and shall not contradict him. (Manu 2;108, and Yajñ. 1. 27.)

adha āsana śāyī || 21 ||

21. One shall always occupy a couch or seat lower [than that of the teacher]. (Manu 2;108, 198)

na-anudeśyaṃ bhuñjīta || 22 ||

22. One shall not eat food offered [at a sacrifice to the gods or the Manes],

tathā kṣāra-lavaṇa madhu māṃsāni || 23 ||

23. Nor pungent condiments, salt, honey or meat.

Regarding the meaning of “kṣāra”— ‘pungent condiments,’ see Haradatta on 2:6, 15, 15. Other commentators explain the term differently. (Manu 2;177; Yajñ. 1, 33; and Aśv. Gri: Su. 1. 22, 2.

adivā svāpī || 24 ||

24. One shall not sleep in the day-time.

agandha sevī || 25 ||

25. Nor use perfumes. (Manu 2;177; Yajñ. 1:33.)

maithunaṃ na caret || 26 ||

26. Nor engage in sexual activities. (Manu 2;180.)

utsanna ślāghaḥ || 27 ||

27. Nor embellish oneself [by using ointments and the like]. (Manu 2;178; Yajñ. 1;33.)

aṅgāni na prakṣālayīta || 28 ||

28. Nor wash the body [with hot water for pleasure],

rakṣālayīta tv aśuci liptāni guror asaṃdarśe || 29 ||

29. But, if the body is soiled by unclean things, one shall clean it [with earth or water], in a place where one is not seen by a Guru.

na-apsu ślāghamānaḥ snāyād yadi snāyād daṇḍavat plavet || 30 ||

30. One should not frolic about in the water whilst bathing; let him float [motionless] like a stick.

The gist of this sūtra is that bathing, which is normally done in a river or public place should be done with restraint and not cause irritation to others using the same ghaṭ for bathing and washing clothes etc.

Another version of the first portion of this Sūtra, proposed by Haradatta, is, ‘Let him not, whilst bathing, clean himself [with soap powder or the like].’ Another commentator takes Sūtra 28 as a prohibition of the daily bath or washing generally ordained for Brāhmanas, and refers Sūtra 29 to the naimittika snāna or ‘bathing on certain occasions,’ and takes Sūtra 30 as a restriction of the latter.

jaṭilaḥ || 31 ||

31. One shall wear all the hair tied in one knot. (Manu 2;219.)

śikhā jaṭas vā vāpayed itarān || 32 ||

32. Or let one tie a knot of the lock on the crown of the head, and shave the rest of the hair.

mauñjī || 33 ||

33. The girdle [mekhala] of a Brāhmaṇa shall be made of Muñja grass, and Consists of three strings if possible, [the strings] should be twisted to the right. (Manu 2;42-44; Yajñ. 1;29; Aśv. Gri:Su. 1;19;12.)

mauñjī || 33 ||

33. The girdle [mekhala] of a Brāhmaṇa shall be made of Muñja grass, and Consists of three strings if possible, [the strings] should be twisted to the right. (Manu 2;42-44; Yajñ. 1;29; Aśv. Gri:Su. 1;19;12.)

About Sunday morning

Sunday Morning Contemplation is informed by Eastern and Western contemplative traditions. The first, lectio divina has its origins in 6th century Europe. It unfolds in four steps or stages: reading (lectio), reflecting (meditatio), responding (oratio), and silent abiding (contemplatio). Our Eastern inspiration come from the Indian Upanishads (800-200 BCE), where contemplative practice consists of three steps or stages: listening (śravana), reflecting (manana), and meditating (nididhyāsana or dhyāna). Our contemplative practice on Sundays embraces both approaches, and each contemplation will be based on a reading from either tradition.

The texts and teachers I have chosen played a significant role in my life and I believe have much to offer. I will read presellected texts, slowly, with pauses between verses or quotes. The readings will be accompanied by soothing background music. To lessen distraction, I suggest participants close their eyes and listen. However, the screen will display the text so that people can choose to read along or mute the sound and read on their own. If there is time remaining after the contemplative period, participants can choose to either leave or stay for a short discussion.

As a preface to the reading, I will provide a 10-15 minute introduction to the text. When relevant, I’ll review facts about the author/teacher’s life. I will also present a brief explanation of the terms and language encountered in the reading.

Finally, when the contemplation is over, all texts read will be available online to read and/or download at any time on the website.

What I mean by
The Symbolic Life

This website makes liberal use of classical Indian visual art and refers mostly to traditional Indian texts (for example, the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras) in the courses, seminars, and discussions on offer. However, I am not presenting lessons in Hinduism; in fact, teaching mainstream Hinduism is neither my area of interest nor expertise. Rather, my interest in Yoga and Tantra is grounded in the concrete situation in which we find ourselves, in the places where we arrive and from which we depart. Beginning in the here and now, we will explore the underlying meaning of the symbols, stories, images, philosophies, and techniques found in Indian philosophical texts and practice, in light of our world and our current circumstance. We will excavate the meaning of the aphorisms and teaching stories; the symbolic figures of gods, people, and nature; and the sometimes terse, sometimes poetic, philosophy of the texts. Thus, in referring to the Symbolic Life of Yoga and Tantra, I mean not just the symbols themselves, but the rich explication of life that the symbols represent.

Our lived, concrete situation is wonderfully captured in the Sanskrit word loka, whose ancient meaning is “the world.”  The root meaning of both the Sanskrit loka and the English locate (and local, locale, and location) is identical. In the ancient Indian mind, the world is where we are located, in our current circumstance. Thus, the meaning of the symbols of Yoga and Tantra can occur only in the now, in the places where we find ourselves, and not in any imagined ancient and/or foreign world.

To emphasize our place of origin and return, I use the terms “archetypal” and “symbolic” quite frequently. Archetypal meaning is associated with the universal and collective aspects of human experience—what we intimately share with all others regardless of culture or era or epoch—while symbolic language forms a bridge between the realms of the universal with the culturally specific and local. Symbols are the scaffolding upon which human beings build a world and imbue it with meaning.

Think for a moment of pain and pleasure, sorrow and joy, hatred and love, and greed and generosity—universal experiences that ancient Indian thinkers called the dvandva-s. This Sanskrit term is a combination of two words, or rather, one word spoken twice: the word dva (meaning the same as the English “two”) duplicated. Dvandva is commonly translated as “the pair of opposites” or literally “the two-twos” (dvadva). The ancients who coined this compact symbol gave voice to an archetypal human experience that can be further unpacked to reveal deep insights into the human condition. Once we gain an understanding of the various symbols of Yoga and Tantra, we can further excavate their meaning and the archetypes they convey, and thus gain access to, in a practical and meaningful way, the vision of life experienced by the sages. These insights are available to us and are still relevant today, as are the resilient and adaptable techniques and forms of practice that can help us lead richer and more fulfilling lives