“Yes, one's first birth is by one's father and mother, and the next birth is by the spiritual master and Vedic knowledge. When one takes his second birth, he comes to understand that he is not the material body. This is spiritual education. That birth of knowledge, or birth into knowledge, is called dvija, ‘second birth.’” (Shrila Prabhupada, Quest For Enlightenment, Ch 6a)Download this episode (right click and save)
The Sanskrit word dvija typically refers to the brahmanas. This is the priestly class. The literal meaning to brahmana is “one who knows Brahman.” Brahman is the spiritual energy. Every living thing we see is a spark of Brahman. Taken together, as a collective, you get the Brahman energy. Matter is also from the same energy, often referred to as the mahat-tattva.
From the definition we see that the real brahmana is more than just a person belonging to an institution. It is an occupation, involving more than just faith in some higher power. The root meaning to the word dvija is “twice-born.” In times past even members of the kshatriya and vaishya occupations were dvija. They also received a second birth, which is the more important one.
1. You have a choice
The first birth already happened. No one can deny that. We don’t remember the circumstances. We can’t recall being in the womb for nine months, but based on the word of authority we accept that it happened. From studying Vedic literature we learn that the consciousness at the time of death determines the state of being in the subsequent birth.
In that sense we have some ability to shape our future. Regardless, those things were in the past. That was then and this is now. With the second birth we have a choice. We have the ability to directly influence our future, especially as it relates to interest. There is interest in this life, svartha, and interest in the afterlife, paramartha. Svartha is already accounted for from the first birth, so the second birth takes on added significance through its ability to bring the best paramartha.
2. Can separate from the animals
You’ve likely heard the theory. Everyone was just a single cell. Gradually, that cell created monkeys. The monkeys are then the ancestors to the currently most advanced species, the human being. The gradual change is called evolution, since you’re starting from an inferior point and eventually making your way to something better.
But how is the human being better than the animal? The animal also eats, sleeps, mates and defends. They don’t worry about mortgage payments. There isn’t even fear of death. Ignorance is bliss. The pig is happy doing things that are unspeakable to the sober human being.
The Vedas confirm the idea of evolution, but not in the way it is commonly understood. The spirit soul evolves through travel. It lives in various body types for different amounts of time. It is something like moving apartments. The dwellings in this case are bodies consisting of material ingredients. Those ingredients have no ability of their own. Matter is dull and lifeless, after all. The evolution takes place through the combined effort of material nature, karma [fruitive activity], time, and the superintendent that is the original creator.
The human life takes on its true value from the second birth. That is what brings separation from the animal. Without this entry, the default mentality will remain; that of trying to enjoy the senses. Those senses can never be fully satisfied.
3. Agree to follow someone who is dear to God
A person typically becomes dvija through a formal process, which is known as receiving diksha. But there is more to it than just protocol. It is a birth, after all, which signals a beginning. The second birth is the moment of agreeing to follow someone. The ceremony acknowledging this agreement is known as upanayana. The Sanskrit word implies coming closer to something.
In the second birth you get closer to the guru, who is the spiritual master. More important than the guru’s association is his instruction. The real dvija is close in philosophical proximity to their guru. A formal ceremony is not an absolute requirement in this regard, as sometimes even the dvija acknowledged by society is far away from their guru in consciousness.
“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)
The bona fide guru is dear to the Supreme Lord. In the second birth you thus get closer to someone who is dear to God. By extension you become dear to God. If you are dear to Him, you have nothing to worry about ever again. No more birth and death. No more evolution, as you have reached the last step. You’ll be so happy with your newfound devotional life that you’ll never want to stop serving both guru and Bhagavan.
How exactly the dvija is known,
By formal acceptance alone?
Or coming in the family line,
Others for future life waiting time?
Closer in consciousness coming,
Dear to the representative becoming.
From the animals distinction making,
Significant that second birth taking.