My First Year as Brahmacari
Last April, I completed the anniversary of my Upanayanam and as I reflected on my first year as a Brahmacari, I realized that I have come a long way since that memorable day. Per my calculations I had performed Sandhyavandanam and Samitadanam at least 665 times!
In the beginning, Sandhyavandanam alone used to take me almost an hour as I had to repeat the mantras after my father. We also had a book to guide me through the various steps and I even had to look at the pictures to understand the correct posture etc. But by performing it daily, I was able to memorize the mantras and gradually reduced my Sandhi time to 20 minutes. The initial challenge with Samitadanam was to be able to keep the fire burning before I finished offering the Samit/Darbha to it. My grandfather was a great help in this regard. He taught me how to arrange the Varali (dried cow manure) and place the camphor strategically underneath it. He also found me shorter sized Samit/Darbha pieces so that they caught fire and burnt completely.
The toughest trial for me was to perform the Pratah, Madhya, and Sayam Sandhya and Samitadanam along with my regular school day routine. Initially I was unable to wake up early enough to be able to complete the morning rituals, eat breakfast, get ready and leave for school. I was constantly making my parents late for work. In the evenings I had to cut my video games and reading time short so that I could finish the evening rituals, eat dinner, do my homework, and go to bed on time. But I worked with my parents on a schedule and slowly trained myself to wake up earlier. By following the schedule I could perform my Brahmacari rituals, my school duties, and still leave time for fun.
Having the Poonal also earned me the special privilege of being a Ritwik for SVBF events during the past year. Prior to my Upanayanam, I remember looking at a picture of my dad standing with several Ritwiks at the SVBF temple Kumbhabishekam. When I asked him why I wasn’t in the picture, he said that it was because to participate in the event I needed to be a Brahmacari, chant 30,000 Gayatris prior to the event, and lastly follow Mani Mama’s strict instructions as a Ritwik. My first opportunity to join this elite group came in August 2011 on the Gayatri Japam day. Since it was my Thalai Aavani Avittam I performed the Gayatri Homa wherein I offered 1008 Samits to the fire at the SVBF temple. But the coolest part was that the SVBF’s Gayatri Yajnam was scheduled for the same day so I got the privilege to participate in this event as a Ritwik along with my father.
Another bonus of becoming a Brahmacari was the opportunity to join Mani Mama’s Veda class. I have slowly started reading Sanskrit. My parents tell me that being able to read multiple languages will have a positive impact on my mental development. When my grandparents visited us this year, they commended me on my discipline and my ability to manage time. I know they are just encouraging me and that I am long way off from being a true Brahmacari, but one thing I am sure of is that I have started the journey.