Dwijā – The Twice Born

Composite image of fetus overlaid on pic of cosmos by Arun Shanbhag, Who is a Dwija or Twice born?

In the Vedās, Upanishads, Gita and the Purān, we often encounter the term, Dwijā – twice born (Dwe – two; – born). A person is called a Dwijā, after his thread ceremony.

What two births are implied here?
The First Birth refers to leaving our mother’s womb. There the fertilized egg transforms to an embryo and rapidly develops. Internal organs form and limb buds extend out; heart pumps its own blood and accesses nutrients through the placenta. In the womb, babies can taste, swallow and hiccup. They swim, stretch and kick. Their hearing is well developed. The fetus thus extends its capabilities within the confines of the womb and as it reaches its limits, takes its first birth.

Our eyes open and what a fascinating, infinite world we see. We wean ourselves from our mother, learn to crawl, walk, bound and run. We babble, giggle, string words, compose, sing and write. All our faculties expand exponentially.

But even as kids, we find limits in our lives: physically in our ability to do and get things done; and intellectually and philosophically, in understanding our purpose in this world and in the Universe. The aura of “conquering the infinite” is traded for “I want to be healthy and a good human.” But the infinite lurks and entices.

Who is a Dwija or Twice born?Our scriptures tell us that each and everyone of us: woman, man, bird, animal, animate or inanimate, are ALL part of the divine consciousness pervading the cosmos. The infinite divine – the Paramātmā. The Upanishads coax us to aspire for this: You are That infinite

When Yashoda peers into the mouth of baby Krishna, she sees the entire Universe, all births, all beings, there. Verily, the infinite.

But WE cannot see beyond our material existence, our human-ness, our limitations. I remember the advise to Jonathan Livingston Seagull (novel by Richard Bach): “Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation.” That is what our Scriptures have been preaching all along.

The Hindu Upanayana or thread ceremony is this initiation into our scriptures; initiation into the infinite. That WE ALL may transcend our human limitations by recognizing that the divine consciousness, the energy of the entire cosmos, resides within each of us. That we ARE a part of that divine. Scriptures guide us to cast aside our material veil, which binds us to our limitations, and be one with the divine.

That, our Second birth, dissolves our limitations and lets us live up to the expectations of infinity we see in conception. A Dwijā is one who realizes and starts this journey – a seeker.

What a fascinating odyssey the thread ceremony sparks. On hearing this from our purohit (family priest) Sri Sudhām Bhat during my thread ceremony, I was certainly NOT ready, and as can be seen, laughed mightily. Ha ha!
sacred hindu thread ceremony of Arun Shanbhag
Here my father invests me with the Jānwe or sacred thread.
sacred hindu thread ceremony of Arun Shanbhag

Now, I get it. I wear the sacred thread, coz I am a seeker of the infinite. A Dwijā.
Pic of bird flying over mountains in Alaska by Arun Shanbhag, Who is a Dwija or Twice born?

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61 thoughts on “Dwijā – The Twice Born

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  1. The last picture is truly wonderful, so spiritual and serene. I would love to get a copy to frame. Is that at all possible?

    1. Thank you.
      I think that was a tiny crop of picture I took in Alaska. I am away traveling and may I ask you to remind me in September and I can get a copy of that pic to you.

      1. That would be wonderful!! Thank you so much… we want to have a large print made for our study, I hope you are ok with that idea for your photograph, it is so very beautiful. I will get in touch with you in September! Margie

      2. Hi Arun, you suggested I contact you in September regarding the beautiful picture you took in Alaska. Are you able to please send me the actual jpeg? I do have a copy off the internet but we cannot get an actual framed print made without an original jpeg. Thank you! Margie

      3. Hi again Arun, Could you kindly let me know if you are not able to find this photo? The framer who is going to do this for us suggested I tell you this is not something we are mass producing, that thought never crossed my mind, but he suggested I do emphasize this with you. The painting is being done in this room now and we are most hopeful to be able to include this beautiful photograph. Thank you. Margie

          1. Hi Arun, is there a possibility you can send me the jpeg this week? Sorry to be a pest but my 70th birthday party is in our home on the 22nd; the art studio needs a few days to print the photograph onto canvass and we are very hopeful to have it on the wall by the 22nd. Thank you! Margie

  2. Dear Mr Shanbhag,
    In my opinion Twice-born does not mean going through the thread ceremony of Hindus – not even getting baptized, as per Christian traditions. It perhaps relates to some human being experiencing his or her eternal ‘Atma-swaroopa’. In otherwords, it is really an experience of a person who has left behind his ‘perishable Jeeva-bhaava’ of existing in our perishable creation AND geting established – in a higher state of consciousness, that is called ‘Turiya’ in Hndu scriptures – in an imperishable ‘Atma-bhaava’ at an Akshara or imperishable level.
    Gita talks of three Purushas: Kshara, Akshara and the one beyond the earlier two – the Purushottama, say the Aksharateeta. Every Purusha needs to be considered as a ‘cosmic Being’ whose vast formless consciousness provides the backdrop of a realm or a Loka [the ‘pur’ or ‘Pura’ of that Purusha], a habitat – wherein exist and evolve countless embodied entities including human forms. In Kshara, or the perishable level or Loka of ours, the focus of consciouness [say the ‘self’ of a human being, the spirit] is termed as a Jeeva; likewise that at an Akshara level as ‘Atma’.
    The thread ceremony [or getting baptized] simply inducts a child into the discipline of studies and practices that may eventually evolve a qualified [properly spiritually evolved] one to get into Turiya state and therein to experience ecstatically as altogether a different being – an eternal Atma. That Atma leaves its Atma-vibhrama of being a Jeeva at Kshara level in that state. It may reveret to Jeeva-bhaava again to explain spiritual truths to others located at Kshara level. The words of such beings, the ‘self-realized’ souls are recorded in scriptures.

  3. Wow, awesome blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is fantastic, let alone the content!. Thanks For Your article about Dwija – The Twice Born – Arun Shanbhag .

  4. hey i love ur pics… arun they really r amazing… i m d girl frm south india… u r exactly correct arun v d people frm india should nt forget our tradition… if can v give our meaning full words to the modern people… am i right? n the last pic which u posted is sooooo nice

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