Rites of passage are developmental milestones that people everywhere experience. The components and degree of importance vary extensively across cultures, but in all cases may have a profound impact on the individual and the society as a whole. For Hindu’s, these sacraments are known as samskaras, a collection of the most significant events in the lifecycle, beginning prior to birth and continuing past the individual’s death. Although there are sixteen recognized samskaras, only a subset is commonly practiced. From one Hindu society to another, there will be variations in which samskaras are observed, as well as the details involved in each. Translation of the word samskara reveals it to mean “making perfect” or “refining,” and thus is
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This correlates to components of Freud’s psychoanalytic theory which suggest that humans are innately driven by instinct and unconscious motivation. The Hindu people see samskaras as a means of overcoming the id and rechanneling that energy for the benefit of the entire society, rather than relying on the superego for internal morality. This focus on the community’s importance rather than the individual strives to direct each of its inhabitants to a model of conventional morality, particularly Kohlberg’s fourth stage where what is good for society as a whole is regarded as right. However, opponents of Kohlberg point out that his theory is biased against those of non-Western societies and that just because they may only reach stage three or four of this view they likely still reflect high-level concepts of morality, just from a different perspective.
Samskaras are believed to be important in removing an individual’s impurities, to ready them for the next stage of life, and are crucial for a person to reach their developmental potentials (Britannica Academic Edition). Similar to Erikson’s psychosocial stages, the successful completion of each samskara allows for individual growth and cannot be properly manifested without the prior accomplishment of all stages before it. This stage-like progression relies mainly upon social influences and continues long after adolescence to span the entire