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April 2019 Seminar

National Seminar on
Prenatal Education: Ancient Indian Perspectives

Jointly organised by
Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture (SAFIC), Sri Aurobindo Society

and
Department of Sanskrit and Indian Culture,
Sri Chandrashekharendra Saraswathi Vishwa Mahavidyalaya (SCSVMV), Kanchipuram

Dates: April 11-12, 2019, Venue: SCSVMV, Kanchipuram


SEMINAR THEME

The National Seminar on Prenatal Education: Ancient Indian Perspectives brought together on one forum a rich diversity of insights, perspectives and approaches from Indian wisdom and medical traditions that highlight a deeper and spiritual understanding of the major aspects of human birthing (reproduction), starting from conception and development of a child, role of maternity and parenting.


CONCEPT AND RATIONALE

As humanity struggles with an evolutionary crisis and continuously strives to discover or re-discover variety of approaches, practices and methods to bring about an upliftment of consciousness in the human individual and collective, it is important to remember that a conscious change in the human birthing can be an important and undeniable way to enable the creation of a conscious humanity.

Conscious conception and conscious pregnancy have the potential to transform the essence of the human population in a matter of few generations. For this to happen, we need to have a deeper understanding of the entire process of conscious creation of a being – from pre-conception to pregnancy, from prenatal education to childbirth, and from postnatal care to conscious parenting. These topics have been dealt with in great detail in Indian tradition; several of our ancient texts and scriptures have deep insights which must be given a wider recognition and dissemination for the purposes of educating the larger community.

Prenatal Education and Indian Tradition

The ancient Indian seers and thinkers gave much importance to prenatal education. As per the Vedic tradition a child has to be the result of prayers and aspirations and not the product of mere entertainment and conjugal enjoyment. We find a lot of materials in the Vedic tradition which deal with the prenatal samskaras or purificatory disciplines that helped and will certainly help in educating a child from the moment of its conception in the mother’s womb.  

In the Vedic tradition, there are three major types of scriptures dealing with different aspects of pre-natal education:

  1. Scriptures such as grihyasutras and smritigranthas deal with the rules of rituals and ceremonies to be performed by the parents to bring forth a child healthy and heroic, bright and brilliant.
  2. Other scriptures such as garbhopanishad deal with the Vedantic doctrine of science of embryology from which one comes to know about the physical growth of the embryo since the time of its formation till it becomes ready to be born as a child.
  3. The third type of scripture forms a part of Ayurveda and is known as Kaumarabhritya which deals with the pre-natal and post-natal care of the child.

Indian tradition has always maintained that pregnancy should be by choice, and not by chance. Ancient Indian tradition has recognized the need for the mental, spiritual and physical preparation of the mother-to-be for the momentous event of childbirth.

In several Indian texts on Ayurveda we find elaborate discussion on ‘supraja-jananam’ (giving birth to a baby with healthy body, mind and soul) which involves the preparation of the couple planning pregnancy prior to conception. This significant idea of pre-conception preparation to facilitate a willed or conscious conception is a starting point in our journey to deepen and enrich our understanding of pregnancy, prenatal education, childbirth, postnatal education and maternity in general. In the words of the Mother, “True maternity begins with the conscious creation of a being, with the willed shaping of a soul coming to develop and utilise a new body.” (CWM, 2:157)

Texts on Jyotish as well as several Upanishadic and Puranic texts also speak of the deep significance of preconception preparation as well as various other topics related to conception, growth of the foetus in the womb, care for the mother-to-be, as well as garbha-samskara (education of the foetus in the womb or prenatal education).

While the famous Garbha Upanishad is an important resource, there are several other Indian scriptures which educate us on several topics in this regard. The list includes:

  • Grihyasutras
  • Smriti-granthas
  • Aitareya Upanishad
  • Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
  • Atharvaveda
  • Srimad Bhagavatam
  • Mahabharata
  • Charakasamhita
  • Sushrutasamhita
  • Ahtangahridayam

Indian tradition is also enriched by significant stories that speak of the significance of the right prenatal education in preparing a conscious individual and humanity. From the well-known stories of Ashtavakra and Abhimanyu in the Mahabaharata to stories of many great souls of the present age, we are awed by the beauty and wisdom of how consciously they were brought into the physical world.

Significant guidance related to the physical, mental and spiritual care and growth of the mother-to-be is also found in many ancient Indian texts. Role of specially prepared food and medicine, physical exercise, emotional and mental purification and control, and religio-spiritual practices is also discussed.

Many of our modern spiritual masters have also spoken of the deep significance of conscious creating of a being through willed conception, conscious pregnancy, right prenatal education, conscious childbirth and parenting.

Our aim is to highlight many of these and several other related insights and perspectives through this seminar.


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SAFIC expresses heartfelt thanks to the entire team of SCSVMV for help with organisation and hosting of the seminar, particularly the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Culture and Hon’ble VC Dr. Vishnu Potty.
Seminar Photos: Upasika Ghosh
Seminar page design: Abhilash Rajan & Rishabh Sharma