Article on Shraadh
The present translation is from a book by Smt Dhiruben Patel.
The organizer of Ahemdabad Ashram Shri Sevaramji had handed over a hundred tapes to her which were compiled in a book called SHRAADH- KYA? KYON ? KAISE ?
In the year 1939 Swami Gangeshwaranandji Maharaj were staying in Ahemadabad during CHATUR MAAS .His discourses were featured in the DAILY HERALD.
The editor of the paper had handed over the job of compiling these lectures for the Daily to Pandit Baldev Shastri.Due to constraints of space in the
paper the full lectures were not published .
Smt Dhiruben took the help of Acharya Shri Shankaranandji Swami (M.A.),Poojya Swami Amar Muniji (M.A.) and Swami Sarvagya Muniji(M.A.)
to translate the Sanskrit quotations and compile all the lectures .There were a total of 105 lectures published in the paper and out of those
only 30 are presented in this compilation. The portion being covered here is SHRAADH KHAND.
The text explains the purpose of the rituals so that we offer the shraadh rituals with understanding and gratitude to the departed.
SHRAADH- (Kab? Kyon? Kaise?) – WHAT ? WHY? & HOW ?
India is unparalleled in the world for it has a unique tradition of Yagna(sacrifices) Daan(Charity) and
India has also the 4 divisions or stages in a human beings life known as Brahmncharya,Grahasthashram,Vanarprasth and Sanyas.
It is Grahast Ashram that is the foundation or the backbone of all the other 3 stages in ones life .A householder (Grahast) has to carry out certain chores
on a daily basis wherein unknowingly some insects are killed in 5 places while carrying out daily chores like–
1.Sweeping the floor
2.Grinding the wheat for daily food.
3.Storing water in a pot
4.Cooking on fire.
5.Grinding rice and other masalas.
The rishis in the olden ages thought of certain rituals by which the householders could atone for their sins as Indian tradition believes in non-violence.
In the Manu Smriti there is a mention of 5 daily Yagnas mandatory for a householder.
1.Brahmn Yagna—Learning and Teaching is Brahmn Yagna
2.Pitr Yagna—Offering of food and water daily to our ancestors.
3.Dev Yagna—Daily homas(fire ritual ) in the name of the different deities.
4.Bhoot Yagna—-Feeding the Cows, dogs and crows daily.
5.Manushya Yagna—-Offering food and respect to guests who visit our houses unannounced .
The teachers who have taught us and passed on the knowledge we owe them gratitude which we can show by passing on the knowledge and enlightening another.
The ancestors have left behind legacies and WE our the very reason for our being.(good deeds done by us help us live and also bear children)
We owe them a lot and when we feed a Brahmin we are able to show our indebtedness.
The different deities shower different kind of graces by which we are able to live our lives .The rain god gives rain, the sun gives us heat and Mother
Earth (prithvi maata )the soil for us to grow the food needed for our consumption. Saraswati maa gives us education, Lakshmi Maa Wealth etc.
The deceased sometimes are born as other living beings like crows, dogs and cows and by feeding all the living beings we are able to pay our debts to all
those with whom we may have had some relationship.
Guests that arrive at our homes are- personification of the Lord Himself and it is thus essential to respect and honour them.
Besides the daily Yagnas there is a 15 day period allocated by the Rishis during the Krishna Paksh of the month of Ashwin.
Shraadh means the offerings made to the Brahmins with faith and according to one’s capacity.
There are 4 limbs of Shraadh ceremony
HOMA- (होम) Fire rituals
PIND DAAN ( पिंड दान ) -Rice balls offered while seated on a mat made of KUSHA grass
TARPAN (तर्पण )– Oblations of water with black sesame
FEEDING OF BRAHMINS-Offering of meals with gratitude .
Ved Smriti Shastra and other texts have explanations on the procedures of conducting Shraadh ceremony and it is very explicit that when such rituals are
carried systematically and with complete faith (shraadha) our ancestors are indeed pacified and shower us with their blessings.
There is a shloka that is recited during the ritual which says—
“From Brahmin to the Shudras and to the insects and to the Devtas, Rishis, Men with divine qualities —My mother and father, my grandfather and
grandmother –may all of you be pacified with the oblations of water and black sesame (tarpan) that I am now offering.”
“ My ancestors who may be residing in all the 7 continents connected to me by my previous births—may they also be satiated and happy with the
oblations(tarpan).May their Atma (Soul) get peace.” A ritual recited with this ardent prayer is sure to receive blessings.
Nowadays modernity has crept into our lives and it is indeed a pity that the belief in this system is soon fading. The reason for this is a desire
for material comforts and a lazy lifestyle.
The respect is dying for rituals and old traditions. People also make fun of these rituals and want to accept only if these rituals have any scientific proof.
In the year 1939 our Gurudev Swami Gangeshwaranandji Maharaj gave a series of lecture on this topic from 18th October to 25th October in Ahemdabad.
Doubts of the people were removed through these discourses.
What is Shraadh? Why shall we perform it? How shall we perform it?
How does the shraadh reach our ancestors?
What are the benefits of this custom?
Why only during the month of Ashwin Krishna Paksh.?
What texts are sources of this custom?
If set to a scientific enquiry how will this tradition convince people in today’s world ?
Swamiji answered all these questions in His impeccable style and wit.
We are sure the new generation will surely be convinced by the well explained meanings that Swamiji have revealed in these lectures.
The modern people will now be eager to express their Gratitude to their ancestors during these 15 days.
SHRAADH- CHAPTER 1
THE EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE TO OUR ANCESTORS.
I am telling you the story from the Upanishads where Maitreyi and Yagnavalkya are in conversation.
Here they discuss that the route to liberation or moksha is Knowledge and not Karma(deeds).In the explanations of karma it is said that
the one who does the karma is the beneficiary of the fruits of that karma and the doer of the good karma is promised heaven.
Now the question that may arise in our minds is that if the above is correct then how do our ancestors get liberation by the karmas performed
by the son during Shraadh? Why perform shraadh at all?
Now that the Pitr Paksh is fast approaching there is a need to explain the fruit of the karmas performed by the sons to reach their ancestors.
How does the food and grain presented to the Brahmin reach the forefathers??
What is the importance of ancestors in our lives??
Is there mention of this in the Vedas??
What good deeds (punyas) does one get and what harm if the shraadh rituals are not performed?
If someone does not have the resources then how does that person perform Shraadh?
First thing that needs to be discussed is –
“Does the fruit of karma reach someone other than the doer of the karma”
Usually we say that we reap what we sow. जो करेगा वो भरेगा (JO KAREGA SO BHAREGA)
Good deeds done by a person reap good results .A murder done by a person has to be compulsorily be punished for the crime.
No one else can be granted imprisonment on his behalf. Then how can shraadh benefits reach our ancestors?
This term is GENERAL and not SPECIFIC. (Jo karega so Bharega)
If it was such a binding statement then the business community people would be in real trouble!!!
They would not be able to INHERIT any wealth of their fathers and fore fathers as obviously they have not earned it themselves or even
worked hard for it! As soon as an individual passes away the son immediately notifies the banks and claims ownership of the wealth.
In the same way if the wealth earned by the father is used or inherited by the son THEN in the same way the charities and the rituals performed
by the son during Shraadh should reach the father and the fore father.
A cook prepares the meal for us and we generally savor the food before he does! If a guest happens to come,the food is then first offered to the guest.
Neither the cook nor we partake the food.
In the same token a man applies for an insurance policy and pays for the premiums himself and yet the beneficiaries after his death are his wife and children!!
The statement then is not necessarily applicable in all situations .
In some cases the Jo karega so Bharega (We reap what we Sow.) has to be replaced by –“A deed done with an intention
with someone in mind is sure to reach the intended person.”
The truth is that the shraadh makes a person become worthy of the wealth of the father and fore father.
The one who offers the last rites is usually nominated as the heir to the wealth of the deceased.
The son inherits the wealth as he is then expected to carry out the shraadh ceremony of his father.
The truth that he is BORN of the father and mother is not the reason for the inheritance. From the father’s body lice are also born out o
f the skin and out of the sweat in his body. But obviously they cannot claim that they to have a right to the property.
Birth is then not the criteria. THEN why does the son claim the wealth??
Critics do not have a reply to this question!!
WHY CAN WE NOT SEE THE ANCESTORS WHEN THEY COME DOWN DURING SHRAADH?
Doubts are there in the minds of people regarding the above statement .The question then should be that have such people who have these doubts ever seen GOD?
We believe that no one can really see God !!!!
PRATYKSHA (Visible) vision of God is not really possible.
YET people of all religions believe that there is a force called GOD and believe that HE exists.
Critics take the reference of the scriptures to prove that there is GOD.
In the same token Scriptures can also be the source for our belief and faith in the Shraadh Ceremony.
Actually it is the sriptures that are the source of information and proof regarding this ceremony.
In the Manu Smriti , Manu Maharaj who understood the essence of the Vedas says—-Just as we pray to Indra and the other devtas
during the DevYagnas with the help of Agni (fire) the devtas get pleased when we make our offerings to them through the medium of fire,
in the same way in the PitrYagna the Pitrs are pleased and satisfied when we offer food to the Brahmin.
The fire is replaced with the mouth of the Brahmin in this Yagna. We all have a JATRAAGNI ( a fire that digests our food in the stomach. )
When we feed the Brahmins the forefathers are happy and they bless us.
This ritual should be done every month during the dark half (Krishna Paksh) on Amavasya day.
The dictionary mentions the meaning of Shraadh as —Pooja and rituals done for the ancestors ( manes )as per the dictates of the shaastras.
The BrahmPurana says—
Keeping in mind the place, time and worthiness of the person the offerings made to a Brahmin is called SHRAADH.
Just as there is a DevLok and other Lokas there is also a PitrLok which is in the south direction above the earth near the moon somewhere..
The ruling diety of this Loka is ARYAMA . Indra rules Devloka and Aryama rules Pitrloka.
The assistants of Aryama are ASHTVASU (the 8 winds)EKADASH RUDRA (11 Rudras)and DWADASH ADITYA DEV (12 Sun Lords)
They keep a track of a person after he dies and find out in which YONI (birth) he has gone and in which country and whether his heirs have
done the necessary rituals after his death. When the sons of the deceased offer their prayers with vedic mantras then—
Vasudev accompanies the father
Rudradev accompanies the grandfather
AdityaDev accompanies the great grandfather
All of them are present during the shraadh ceremony and partake the offerings of food and other things in ESSENCE (Sookshma roop)and
bless the doers of the shraadh and THUS the clan flourishes with sons and wealth.
Those well versed in the rituals know that during the ceremony the ancestors are invoked to be present through vedic mantras and at the
end of the ceremony they are again asked to depart back to where they came from with the help of vedic mantras.
During Yagnas Indra and other devtas are similarly invoked and if Indra and the devtas can come down then why not the PITRS?
Now that we have stated that the ancestors DO come down when invoked then the next question will be that why are they not visible then??
In Yoga Darshan(3—22) there is a sutra which says—
The “worshipped” becomes indebted to the “worshipper”
Patanjali in Yoga Darshan has taught the Art of invoking the lord with certain meditation techniques.
A yogi with efforts and perseverance is able to make himself invisible and would only be visible to those he wishes to show himself.
Some Mahatmas (Great Souls) are known to have just DISAPPEARED.
If a yogi can do that then it is also possible for the deceased ancestors to be also INVISIBLE when they come down with Rudradev and the others.
In the Bhagwad Geeta (ch 10 sh24) the Lord while speaking on his Vibhutis has mentioned ARYAMA also to be his VIBHUTI(Glory)
The Pitrs choose not to show themselves for they fear that the attatchment may continue or that the sons and family people may become
scared to see someone who is dead. This would be an obstacle in the performance of the ritual.
In Padma Purana it is mentioned in the “ Paatal Khand” that when Lord Rama was performing the rituals for His father Seeta suddenly covered
her head as she could see her father-in-law in the body of the Brahmin.
The Pitrs arrive in the body of the Brahmin just as wind can pervade anything says Manu Maharaj in Manu Smriti(3-184).To see them we need Divine Vision not the mortal vision.
There are many facts that prove this ritual and even the Geeta and Mahabharat which are recognized and revered texts have ample proof of Shraadh.
In the Geeta 1st chapter shloka 42 Arjun says that he is worried that if there is war our clan would perish and there would be no-one left to perform the Shraadh and do the Pind Daan etc.
There would be marriage between different classes of people and shraadh performed by these offsprings (deterioration of castes) would not be able to reach our ancestors.
”Not only will Our clan Perish and be destroyed but our ancestors too would perish” –says Arjun.
We have cited many examples to illustrate the importance and validity of the Shraadh .
We therefore should have no doubts in our mind regarding the necessity of performing the ceremony. Yet to a person who is still doubtful may our DIVINE PHYSICIAN
‘ Lord Banke Bihari’ enlighten him.
It is necessary to mention here that the ritual HAS to be performed with total BELIEF and in a SYSTEMATIC way. One should not be a miser while
doing the rituals and should spend as per one’s capacity.
If the above mentioned rules are not taken care of then the fruit of doing the ritual is not GOT.
These days we see that the charity offered to the Brahmin is of really bad and low quality. The shopkeeper has to keep 2 varities of his commodities—
one for charity and one for personal use. Those who get clothes and vessels of the ‘low & charity’ category are actually only showing their INGRATITUDE to their father and forefathers.
THEN there is a DOUBT—can anything done with gratitude be called SHRAADH ??
Shaastras say that there are 3 kinds of words.—
Yogic words are those whose meanings are symbolic of something or a union of words for eg cook is someone who cooks.
Roodh words are those which indicate a meaning and may not have a link with any symbol nor can we analyze them
GAU is another word for GAAY(Cow) in hindi.
We cannot make a general statement that which has 4 legs is a cow as even a horse and all other animals have 4 legs.
Yogaroodh words are those that have a union of 2 words are both SYMBOLIC and INDICATIVE of a meaning .
SHRAADH is a Yogaroodh word.It is indicative of the ceremony and the emotional gratitude.(Is both a verb and a noun.)
Next we shall explain how the food reaches the ancestors and who takes it to them and how?
18TH OCTOBER 1939.