Shraadh, paying homage to Ancestors


Satsang: Swami Tejomayananda

Q. Hindus perform shraadh – homage to ancestors – annually. Does the result reach the departed ones? Is it a necessary duty?

The answer to this question depends on various factors. First, do you have faith in and reverence for the Vedas and value what they say? If the answer is ‘yes’, then you must follow their injunctions. Those who do not believe in the Vedas, would not obey the commands therein. There is a third category of people who say, “I have faith, but also have questions.” Actually, such questions and doubts would not arise in the mind of one who has total faith, complete shraddha.

Every jiva is born with his karma, but the jiva is not in isolation. A part of the whole, he lives with other members of society. After death, the jiva will continue its journey, in accordance with its karma – even if the after-death rites are not properly performed. However, it is natural to wish that the departed soul of a dear one, finds peace, a noble destination, and freedom from suffering. This compassion is felt more intensely for a person we have lived with, and were bound to by a relationship. Any action done with such intensity is certain to bear fruit. According to the law of karma, every action produces a result. So, any karma performed with the intention of it benefiting the departed, will definitely do so.

The whole universe is one, and the power of thought is great. No thought dies without any effect. So, any karma backed by a powerful thought, according to scriptural injunctions, invoking the deity’s power to help the jiva, will certainly bear fruit. Any obstacle on the path of the jiva can be neutralised, minimised and overcome, by God’s grace, by the power of a mantra and good thoughts. The jiva will surely be benefited by the combined strength of all these.

Further, whether or not the result reaches the jiva, the one who performs the puja feels very happy. This is a direct result of having done something with sincerity for the other jiva, and this can be experienced immediately.

Scriptures tell us to perform shraadh for our ancestors, only up to a particular generation. For those who are unable to do the ceremony every year, certain special rites can be performed in Gaya. After this, we do not have to do the ritual every year. The scriptures give us many such options!

You will be astonished to know that a person is permitted to do his own shraadh during his lifetime. For those who have faith in rituals and who doubt if their children will perform them in the future, here is a way out! When someone takes sannyasa, they do their own atmapindam, their own shraadh. So deep and complete are the shastras that they take care of all contingencies.

The answer is very clear. Every action produces a result. Hence the result of the karma will certainly help the particular jiva, wherever the jiva may be. People belonging to other cultures may not perform these rituals, but they do, in some way, remember their loved ones on their death anniversaries, in their own way, according to their traditions.

The writer belongs to the Chinmaya Mission

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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