Vedic Literature, Impurity, Saṁskāra Ceremony

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Question: Could you please kindly explain the difference between the Vedas, Upaniṣads, Purāṇas and Itihāsas?

Question: Could you please kindly explain the difference between the Vedas, Upaniṣads, Purāṇas, and Itihāsas?

Answer: The Vedas, also called Śrutis, are an eternal body of knowledge that is revealed by Bhagavān to Brahmā at the beginning of creation. They do not change. They can also be revealed to qualified sages.

The Vedas have four divisions, namely, Saṁhitā, Brāhmaṇa, Āraṇyaka, and Upaniṣad.

The Itihāsas contain two books, namely Rāmāyaṇa, written by Vālmīki, and Mahābhārata, written by Vyāsa.

The Purāṇas are 18 in number and were written by Vyāsa.

The Itihāsas and Puraṇas together are called Smṛti. They are a supplement to Vedas and help in understanding the Vedas. They are written in each Manvantara by Vyāsa. 

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Question: I am from Bihar where it is customary to stop the daily worship when a child is born into the family or when a family member passes away.  I have been regularly worshiping Kṛṣṇa for two years and doing my japa, so does this custom hold true for Kṛṣṇa worship or should I continue with my daily sādhana?

Answer: After the childbirth, there is sūtaka or impurity of 10 days for the mother. The father is purified after taking bath. So, the father or other family members are not barred from doing the worship.

In the case of death, the impurity is generally for 13 days. During this period, the worship should be done by someone who is not immediately related to the deceased. If that is not possible, then do worship in the mind only.

In the asaucha period, you perform japa without touching the japa-mālā.

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Question: I understand that before a child begins formal learning (traditionally, before a child is sent to gurukula to study under the guru), he is required to undergo the upanayana saṁskāra. I have the following three questions: 

Is the upanayana saṁskāra required in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition?What is the appropriate age for a child to undergo this saṁskāra? If it is required, whom should I approach to perform the saṁskāra for my child?

Answer: According to varṇāśrama system, upanayana saṁskāra is required for brāhmaṇakṣatriya, and vaiśya males between the ages of seven and 16 years. The saṁskāra is a ceremony to initiate the child into the formal study of the Vedas. For those following the path of bhakti, upanayana is not compulsory because bhakti does not depend upon varṇāśrama. At the same time, bhakti is not opposed to the upanayana saṁskāra

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