Conscious and planned conception is beneficial for both parents and child in various ways. Vedic scholars, from time immemorial, have always advised couples to not produce children mechanically, that is to conceive children unconsciously, as a by-product incidental to the pursuit of one’s sexual interest. Gathering necessary knowledge and making informed decisions about conception, prenatal development, childbirth and parenting practices, help ‘would-be parents’ to develop all-round preparedness and readiness before conception – making pregnancy desirable and parenthood a journey aspired to.
Conscious conception encourages and motivates couples to prepare physically, mentally and spiritually. The preparation prior to conception will contribute significantly towards the growth and development of the child during the prenatal stages and thereafter. It also fosters an early bond and relationship between parents and child. The reflection and preparation process incrementally builds couples into the mental framework that is necessary to create a loving and peaceful environment for both parents and child throughout pregnancy. In fact, the concept of preparing prior to conception is well established in the guidance model given by Ayurvedic doctors for pregnancy and childbirth.
There are many considerations for couples to prepare, including, but not limited to, wellness, diet, exercise and lifestyle. Yet, more than anything else, a child must be wanted by the couple – preparation begins here. Wanting a child is more than just having a desire for a child. It is not a fleeting sentiment. It requires due deliberation. It must come from a place of conviction, clarity and love.
Sankalpa for a child
When desire is made resolute with firm conviction through understanding, direction, devotion and aspiration, as a result of reflection and discernment, it becomes a mental force, which is defined as sankalpa in Hindu philosophy. Sankalpa may be translated as ‘definite intention’ or ‘firm resolution’. When a couple shares a mutual sankalpa of wanting a child, it gathers greater strength. Sankalpa acts as a guiding-force for the couple. It attracts and channels thoughts, feelings and activities, and energises the atmosphere; all moving toward manifesting the parental aspiration for goodness and felicity.
Sankalpa crystallises the purposes, ideas and values of the parents into the child’s development. As procreation is not different from the creation of humanity, sankalpa that shapes the child, verily, shapes humanity as well. Therefore, in Hinduism, procreation is more than just achieving continuity of lineage and personal fulfilment; it is also to serve Dharma. Couples ingrained with Dharmic consciousness aspire to bring forth children endowed with nobility, intelligence and spiritual insight. Adi Shankaracarya says, jagatah sthiti karanam praninam abhyudaya nihshreyasa hetuh, ‘When society attains stability (on account of Dharma flourishing through noble, intelligent and insightful people), such a state of society becomes a catalyst for growth of abhyudaya (socio-economic well-being and civilisational progress) and nihshreyasa (spiritual realisation, happiness and freedom) for all humanity’.
Historical accounts of many personalities correlate their traits and abilities directly to the sankalpa of their parents. The 17th century emperor and founder of the Maratha Hindu Empire, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s extraordinary display of heroism, righteousness and aspiration for independence from oppressive Islamic rulers and the restoration of a strong Hindu sovereign, are all manifestations of years of immense sankalpa and prayers of his visionary and pious mother, Jijabai.
The child must be prayed for
Sankalpa communicates our desire, will and aspiration to the Cosmic Consciousness. The most effective method to nurture and reinforce the power of sankalpa is through prayer. Hence, the Vedic dictum: ‘a child must be prayed for’. Through constant prayers, couples repeatedly exercise and affirm their concepts, visions and commitments in a mode of solemnity and self-surrender. Swami Vivekananda once said, “My father and mother fasted and prayed, for years and years, so that I would be born. They pray for every child before it is born.” Prayer is definitely an easily accessible medium of inner communication and contemplation for everyone. In fact, Hindu rites and worships customarily include the affirmation of sankalpa of the practitioner, often in beginning part of the prayer or meditation.
There is a well-known anecdote about the celebrated philosopher-sage and world-teacher Adi Shankaracarya (circa 8th century). His parents were poor yet noble-minded and dutifully religious. Being childless for many years, they performed austerities and prayers seeking the blessings from Lord Shiva. It is said, once they dreamt of Lord Shiva, who offered them a choice between having a child, who is brilliant but short-lived or who is not brilliant but long-lived. The couple chose the former and thus was born the child named Shankara. Even as a child, he had distinguished himself with incredible intellect, lofty character and marvellous dynamism. Before long, he accomplishes numerous literary masterpieces in philosophy, spirituality, logics and poetry, and excels in philosophical critiques and debates against renowned scholars, while still in his teens.
- Psychological and yogic-spiritual preparations are important aspects to consider in conscious conception because they lay the foundation for the child’s prenatal education and development – a process commonly referred to as garbha samskara.
- Vedic rites of passage (Samskaras) include external rituals, ceremonies and worships together with internal sankalpas, prayers and contemplations. Among these, 3 rites are associated to child conception and pregnancy as well as prenatal education and development - Garbhadhana (marks the intent to want a child; conscious conception), Pumsavana (marks the foetus transition to child development; for protection), Simantonnayana (marks the preparation for a healthy and safe delivery; for satisfying the needs of pregnant mothers).
Rakesh Nair (Yogi Rakesh) is a life mentor and teacher of Vedic philosophy and yoga. A lifelong practitioner since childhood, he studied and trained for many years in the authentic Vedic tradition, primarily in the lineage of Advaita teachers. He holds a Masters degree in Sanskrit studies. He also has a degree in Computer Science majoring in Software Engineering. He founded yogirakesh.com to help bridge the knowledge in ancient scriptures to modern life.