While performing Shraadh, we offer food to Brahmins with the faith that it is conveyed to our ancestors as our shraddha/obeisance to them. We pray for them to be peaceful wherever they are and seek their blessings. We recognise that they could have been reborn or could be in the higher realms.
Shraadh is also a time for us to reminisce that our lifespan is finite. Past-life karma determines everything about rebirth. Even twins have different destinies because of the invisible chain of karma around their necks. An infant could be a happy baby or a cry baby; he could be irritable, blissful, angry or peaceful … all this depends upon what he brought along from past lives. The prayers his past life progeny send for him, play a significant role too. So it’s important to perform Shraadh with shraddha. We should involve our children when we perform Shraadh so that they too learn what they should do for us when we are gone. No school will teach them this … but we can teach by example!
A disgruntled young man, at his mother’s insistence, served kheer to a Brahmin on the Shraadh of his deceased father. He took a dig at the Brahmin saying, "Panditji, if my dad has been re-born a donkey, would he get this kheer? What if he has been reborn an elephant? Would a bowl of kheer be enough to satiate his hunger? Wouldn’t he be happier with a ton of grass? Or if he has been reborn an ant, and if this bowl of kheer were to be turned out onto its head, what would become of him?"
The smirk on the face of the lad made Panditji resolve that the egotistical man needed to be taught a lesson. So he said, "Well! A man, with a son like you, could surely have been reborn only as a donkey. If you’re imprudent enough to visualise your father as a donkey or an ant; what can I say about your intelligence? If you think that the kheer that you have offered me shall be transferred to your father in the same form, weight and taste, you are a complete moron.”
The Brahmin continued, “Do you deposit Indian currency into the account of your son who is studying in America? He doesn’t get the same currency notes, but he does withdraw its value equivalent in dollars. In the same way by doing Shraadh, the offering made shall reach the ancestor wherever he is, in an appropriate form!”
Intrigued by the crisp answer given by Brahmin, the lad’s brother - another smart Alec; shot another rattler saying, "Panditji, if our children of the previous lives are doing Shraadh for us, why don't we get the offering they send?”
Panditji said, "Pause a moment to look into your state of mind. Are you a satisfied and content person? Or are you jealous, disgruntled, greedy or irritated? A beggar can be large-hearted enough to share his meal with a street dog. Whereas a millionaire may turn away a beggar from his door. Where does a sense of fulfilment come from? If there is someone you trained in your past life and who still sends prayers and offers food in your name during the Shraadh days; that gives you a sense of contentment. Need I say more?"
Our culture tells of performing Shraadh Tarpan once in the year. It is perhaps only those who respect their parents while they are alive, that can perform this ritual in its solemn spirit. It is a time to pay obeisance to those departed, and also set an example for the next generation, so that they too appreciate the ideology behind these observances.
We believe in rebirth. The soul is immortal; the mortal body is born and dies. The cycle goes on forever … play your role to perfection!
This article has been published in the Hindustan Times on 01.10.2023. It can be viewed here https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/chandigarh-news/sunraysshraddha-se-shraadh-101696108854698.html
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