Saturday, November 29, 2014

A PhD holder went back to village for farming

http://www.ijourney.org/pics/ij/thumbs/2.jpg
"We did not want to exploit -- or be exploited. So we just moved out of the city."
  
Two Thoreaus of Sakwa County
"I don't need designer glasses," Dhirendra smiles, his sharp bright eyes shining through the wide-rimmed black glasses. It seems like he bought the glasses twenty years ago before moving into this village. His long pause following the casual statement makes one think about the superfluous nature of our world compared to his exceptionally simple life. Dressed in a long home-spun cotton shirt and shorts, he comfortably sits on the freshly resurfaced cow-dung floor chopping vegetables, as his wife Smita comes in and out of the kitchen to respond to our questions as she prepares lunch. Just looking at her glowing skin you can tell that the village life has been good for her. The cool breeze easily flows in and out of the many open windows in this simple, two-room house.
http://ijourney.org/pics/profiles/dhiren4.jpg"Why are the onions hanging on the ceiling?" I ask. Fifty three year old Dhirendra explains, "Oh, they're from the farm. If you arrange them like that, they can last for a year. Of course, only if they're organic"
Their home looks almost like any other house in a 400-person village in rural India, except for a few specialized tools: like a hand-made oil press and the silver and yellow windmill on the roof which the villagers tell us to look for while giving us directions to their house.
The Inspiration
Looking at both them, it's hard to believe that they were both professors at an Engineering College in Ahmedabad. Or that he has a degree in Engineering and she studied Physics and Space Science in college. The story of why two PhD's dumped a city life for tribal one, traded in their teaching careers for a shovel and a hoe, and opted to live on 12,000 rupees ($300) a year is http://ijourney.org/pics/profiles/dhiren1.jpgan inspiring tale that almost leaves you with a "Duh!" feeling.
"In the cities, you have no choice in your lifestyle. Your water is chlorinated, the chemicals you use pollute the environment, and there is rampant greed," Dhirendra warmly explains their motivation to search for a simpler, more natural lifestyle. Both Dhirendra and Smita wanted to live a natural life that was deliberately based on their value system.
With another couple, they started brainstorming. They didn't know anyone who had attempted bold experiments to address these concerns, at the time in 1983. Four pressing issues, they realized, were of great importance to them: 1) Can we live a sustainable and conscious life? 2) Can knowledge, work and devotion to life be combined together as a lifestyle? 3) Can humans coexist peacefully with animals? 4) Can we be the change with our own lives?
After a lot of discussion, they felt that the city life was very artificial. "We did not want to exploit -- or be exploited. In the city you inadvertently take advantage of the environment and end up exploiting one section of the society or another. We wanted to get away from it all," Smita says. They wanted a way out of the cramped flats, polluted air, impure water, stale produce. And most importantly, they wanted a way out of the "more" mindset that creates so much mental instability. "If we want to have a stable mind, we have to be with nature. For example, if we use a fan or an air conditioner, our bodies don't self-correct," Dhirendra says.
One year into their marriage, Sonejis arrived at a simple conclusion: the best lifestyle is one which is in tune with nature.
The Simple Life
Instead of just talking about their values, the Sonejis decided to make the boldest move of their lives. In 1986, a year into their marriage, they bought two and a half acres of land and moved into a small tribal village named Sakwa. Most family and friends thought they were crazy, but for Dhirendra and Smita it was a no-brainer.
From scratch, they built their own house (including a bathroom) and embarked on an entirely different lifestyle. No electricity, no vehicles, no running water. Instead they would work on farms, eat fresh, pesticide-free produce and their own cow's milk, and live with the rhythms of nature. "It's just natural to wake up at 4AM," Dhirendra says in a matter-of-fact way that makes you wonder about late-night TV programming.
For the tribal life, their PhD's weren't all that useful. They struggled initially. For three years, Dhirendra got tutorials from local farmers about managing his crop. Because they didn't have running water, they could only farm in the monsoons and they were only able to fulfill sixty percent of their needs; Dhirendra had to earn some supplemental income by doing several small projects, like installing bio-gas plants in villages and training locals to work in oil mills.
After five years, though, it was a different story altogether. Dhirendra and Smita started thinking up creative, organic solutions for common tribal problems, they dug up a well, they installed a bio-gas plant to utilize cow-dung for basic electricity that would use power tools like a flour mill for the entire village, they experimented with a wind mill and solar cooking. And they came up with tons of farming innovations, from water development to land management to crop rotation, which increased their efficiency with locally available resources.
Today, they produce over 200 kilograms of crop annually: oilseeds, pulses, spice and over 50 varieties of fruits and vegetables, all grown with organic manure. "Each month we have different fruits and vegetables," Dhirendra proudly smiles, as he gives us a tour of their farm. Walking through the two and a half acres, you can spot everything from mangoes, papayas, lemongrass, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet tamarind, eggplant, to vanilla right here in their own backyard.
http://ijourney.org/pics/profiles/dhiren5.jpgWhat about money and other expenses? "Our yearly budget averages to about 12,000 rupees (less than $300)," says Smita, "that comes from selling a sweet-sour cold drink powder made from a plant in our farm, some Ayurvedic medicine, and hand-made organic soap from a Neem plant." That budget is not just for the two of them; it also includes their 19 and 17 year old sons! More than half of their expenses go toward travel and books and the rest are used for clothes, shoes, some food items that they don't grow, like salt or jaggery. To keep all the wheels moving, everyone averages about 4 hours of work daily.
One might expect a lot of excitement around the Soneji's natural, four-hour-a-day work, seven-bucks-a-month lifestyle with fresh food, clean well water, organic shelter, hand-spun clothes and some entertainment like books and travel. But unfortunately, there has been little response from the community. Sonejis do what they can to share the good word -- they issue a regular newsletter with best practices and new lessons learned, they constantly innovate useful solutions like a hand-powered oil press and share it with the villagers, and they speak about their experiences at various conferences in big cities.
At present, though, it seems that the world will take some time to believe that this really is possible. Dhirendra says, "Demographically speaking, one acre of land is every Indian's due. And that's really all that one person needs to survive."
Raising Children
The two Soneji sons were both born after they moved to Sakwa. Vishwain is 17 and Bhargav is 14 today. Arguably, the biggest challenge for the Sonejis came when Vishwain became of elementary school age: do we home school or send him to an institutionalized school?
For six months, they deliberated back and forth. Dhirendra wasn't too keen, "There is a huge difference between information and knowledge. The current school system fills people with information but doesn't necessarily give them knowledge. And they provide no values." Although they didn't want to send their kids to school just for a diploma, they also didn't want to jeopardize the future of their children. Their discussion probed into many other deeper questions like: what exactly is knowledge? What is science? Sonejis do believe in science but in the natural kind, not the technological kind; instead of spending time learning computers, they would rather spend time learning about wind motion and earthquakes. But they acknowledge that everything is a double-edged sword.
In the end, they concluded that knowledge is that which is useful to society and you don't need government's stamp of approval for that knowledge. Vishwain and Bhargav would be home schooled.
http://ijourney.org/pics/profiles/dhiren3.jpgOn top of home schooling in the basic subjects, they focused the education on practical matters. "Wouldn't you have been able to write an essay without taking your board exams? Couldn't your friend learn to take good pictures without passing high school?" Dhirendra asks rather seriously. School teaches you how to learn, but because of the overly institutionalized approach much of what you learn in school is never applied anywhere in life. For the Soneji sons, their upbringing would include repairing a clock, riding a bicycle, painting the sunrise they wake up to, discussing solar energy, and playing Chess in the afternoon shade. There is no such thing as vacation and everyday is an ongoing education in life's school.
Despite not having a formal education, both of their sons seem to function at a much higher level than their counterparts in the city. Vishwain speaks four languages, can help build a house, and tell you the physics of how a fan works. His parents let him decide what he's interested in learning and then encourage him in that direction. Bhargav, the younger son, gets regular lessons using books and real-life tests from both of his parents. Recently, he took apart a broken bicycle to see how it works and then, of course, fixed the problem.
What about college? "No one asks Birla (a millionaire) for his college degree," Dhirendra laughs, "but we're open to it, if the boys decide to go." It seems like they'll probably end up being entrepreneurs while living on the farm. "It's really their decision," he adds. The kids are free to decide to if they want to go to the neighbors to watch TV, if they want to start using a scooter, if they want to have food products that their parents might not eat, or if they want to enroll in a college. The four of them have a very close relationship and everything is talked about openly on a regular basis.
Service And Spirituality
Interestingly enough, the Sonejis don't believe in doing service. "We help the villagers as much as we can. But we are not into social service. We believe that our own life is of importance and has to be lived without causing harm to anyone else's. If, while living our life, we end up helping others, that's fine. But that's not the main purpose," Smita says.
In fact, they strongly argue that these religious and development organizations who "help" actually create more problems than they solve. By giving hand-outs, they encourage a sort of sedate laziness that hinders any promotion of actual grassroot solutions. Furthermore, they super-impose their "solutions" and their ideas of progress that not only don't jive with the tribals but don't even work in the cities!
Sonejis believe in natural action. No service. No big buildings. Just help those you can touch. From all the leftover bamboos, they created a guesthouse - "Aum Kutir" for the many guests they host routinely. Instead of using pesticides to kill unnecessary bugs, they copied nature and dug up an aqua-pond; every monsoon when the big bugs come out, the frogs also come out and everything self-corrects itself. Their farm doesn't have any scarecrows either. "There's enough for us and the birds to eat." For many, such decisions are a result of their spirituality, but Dhirendra says that it is a natural progression of their lifestyle: "We want to develop truth, non-violence and love within ourselves and stop the violence, anger, and greed. That's our spirituality. That's it."

http://ijourney.org/pics/profiles/dhiren2.jpgLast year, when they were out-of-town visiting relatives, heavy rains hit their neighborhood. In the process of getting out of harms way, one of their cows slipped and died from the strain of the rope around her neck. When Dhirendra and Smita saw the horrific site, they wondered about tying up animals. They asked, "Why do we tie up animals? It's not natural." A few months later, when milking another cow, Smita noticed a curious habit she hadn't been conscious of - putting the mother's calf in front of her so she gives milk. Again they asked, "To use up a mother's milk for our benefit is almost like theft. Man is the only animal that does that. Is that really natural?" For them, it wasn't and since that day, more than a year ago, both Dhirendra and Smita have turned vegan.
Henry David Thoreau once said, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived."
If there is ever a doubt if Thoreaus exist in this day and age, if there is ever a doubt if it is practical to lead a life in alignment with ideals of simplicity, if there is ever a doubt that two PhD's live a natural life on seven dollars a month, go visit the Sonejis in the village of Sakwa. You will believe. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Origin of Indian caste system

Origin of Indian caste system
(A self-declared system to hereditary system)
Author: Muktipada Behera


Though the caste system is fading away slowly due to western exposure, industrialization, international competence, still there are doubts in Indian’s mind how it got originated and what is the solution to get rid of it. This is a major issue even today in various states like Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, South Indian states etc. I got a few requests to put lights on this long standing social disorder. I am trying to summarize the concept after studying all relevant Hindu texts and documents. 

1.   Introduction:

Our Veda (the Sruti), the only Hindu authority, does not mention anything on caste system. It just mentions (for example Rig Veda Purusa Sukta - brahmanosya mukhamasit, bahu rajanyah kritaha, uru tadasya yadvaishyaha, padhyagam shudro ajayata etc) four keywords (called Varna, color, class) Brahmana, Kshyatriya, Vaisya and Shudra with their definition based on Guna-Karma. This is also called Svabhavaja Karma or action based on mental inclination. Later texts like Mahabharat, Gita(Sloka 4.13 - Chatur Varnyam Maya Sristam Guna Karma Vibhagasah) also defines these keywords based on Guna-Karma.

These Guna-Karma divisions as per Sankhya darshan is:

1.  Activities done by a person with dominant Satwa guna called as Brahmana.
2. With dominant Rajo guna mixed with Satwa guna called as Kshyatriya.
3. With dominant Rajo guna mixed with Tamo guna called as Vaisya.
4. With dominant Tamo guna is called Shudra.

Veda and Gita ‘do not’ command to divide the society based on Guna-Karma. People choose this as a formula to divide the society. Other formula could have been based on economy (high class, middle class, low class) as it is done in USA. Due to advancement of technology, we can think of dividing people based on genetic pattern. Twenty-three human chromosomes can provide all details of mental, psychological inclination of a person. For example the recent genetic study reveals many insight into the origin of caste - http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/caste-system-has-left-imprints-on-genes-study/article8155444.ece

So this caste system is neither the God created, nor a vision of Veda. It is a human creation. Interestingly Upanishads and Mahabharata say in the beginning all humans were with dominant Satva guna, pure mind. Later their mind got corrupted when Greeks opened the Pandora’s box. This is in contradiction with what we study about primitive humans from western study: living in jungle, taking raw meats, barbaric life etc. Our civilization says the first set of humans born with pure mind, called as Risis. And we are all the Risi-putra(children of saints).

Unfortunately there are smritis(e.g. Goutama smriti, Manu Smriti etc) which say such fierce words as these: “If the Shudra hears the Vedas, fill his ears with molten lead, and if he remembers a line, cut his tongue out. There is no purification rites for Sudra.” This is diabolical old barbarism no doubt. These books are not aligned to Veda. However people thought that Smriti is a Hindu scripture. But those are not. During 200 BCE these kinds of Smritis were written to suppress Vedic Varna system. Unfortunately those books are instrumental in diving people till date.

2.   How it got adopted into Hindu society?

Given the definition in Veda, Gita (like IEEE standard), how it got implemented in Hindu society? That is the trick of specification vs implementation inconsistency.

1.  At some level of our parent generation the caste was a ‘self-declared’ or a ‘voluntary’ designation based on what kind of profession they choose. There are instances mentioned in Purana, Mahabharat(in Ajagara, Uma and Maheswara story). And it was not hereditary.

2. Later it was a political (Kings) decision to allocate caste to individual to give it a permanent shape. In Mahabharat, King Yudhisthira is saying “it was difficult for him to determine the caste of an individual based on mental inclination”. Here also it was not hereditary. There was choice for profession and change in caste.

3. Wherever politics enter, the thing gets spoiled. Same happened here also. And caste became a matter of (a) privilege, later (b) hereditary and tied to some (c) old customs. Individuals were imposed a caste forcefully to get the low profile jobs done. This became a hereditary system.

4. History says there are many royal communities once they became powerful, they declared themselves as Brahmin caste as a whole community and ruled over rests. And others were dominated for their selfish gain. Evidence says this self-declaration is done till recent years in Tamilnadu and Kerala. “Mighty is the right” is proved.

5. Hindu society was so conservative and social customs were very tight. Anybody violated any custom was thrown out of village, property and made untouchables. Many communities were made religiously impure by birth. History says even many Brahmins, who wanted to be liberals or violated any custom; they were forced to become untouchables as a punishment. It more similar to honor killing of married couples from different communities in today’s India.

6. On one side the rulers made rules to make a concrete infrastructure to divide people. On the other hand the priest-class did not leave any stone unturned. Various tags were discovered to identify people using (a) Surname (b) Gotra (c) Sutra (d) Caste/sub-caste (e) external symbols like sacred thread, Tilakam, Tulsi necklace (f) false rituals with wrong notion like Pinda-dana (g) fear of eternal hell on mixture of community, even if Veda do not mention of any hell etc. External symbols were compulsory for each community to prove their caste, acts as an identity card, otherwise people could not isolate from other castes. False rumors were spread through folk songs, on sharing of “Roti and Beti(common dining and marriage)” will incur sin.

For example Manu Smriti says on naming of various Varna
Sloka 2.31. Let (the first part of) a Brahmana’s name (denote something) auspicious, a Kshatriya’s be connected with power, and a Vaisya’s with wealth, but a Sudra’s (express something) contemptible or lack of respect.

Sloka 2.32. (The second part of) a Brahmana’s (name) shall be (a word) implying happiness, of a Kshatriya’s (a word) implying protection, of a Vaisya’s (a term) expressive of thriving, and of a Sudra’s (an expression) denoting service.

7. Some of our Mahapurusha(saints) directly or indirectly helped to give it a shape. Started with, Buddha (800 BCE) strongly condemned any division of Humanity. During his time 99% of Brahmins and Kshatriyas were converted into Buddhism. This practically abolished castism and Vedic rituals from India. Later Adi Sankaracharya (8th century) was a great advocate of Brahmin caste and caste maker, for which he is criticized most. Ramanujacharya (13th century) tried to eradicate and declared all of his followers as Brahmins. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (17th century) followers themselves declared as Vaisnava-Brahmins. Rammohan roy, Swami Dayananda (19th century) were strong condemner of caste-system. Swami Vivekanand (19th century) converted few thousands dalits into Brahmins by initiating them into Gayatri. It is said an individual who is initiated into a Mantra from an eligible Guru, will be considered as Brahmin. Many, including untouchables, followed these saints, took Mantra and got converted into Brahmins. All most all saints have put their maximum energy (by initiating through Mantra) to fix this social disorder. Still this is an unsolved problem. So why to blame the limitations of Semitic religions, where they have only one prophet?

3.   What is the Consequence of Indian caste system?

1.     Due to this wrong implementation of Vedic definition, the Varna (class, color) systems converted into caste (Jati) hereditary systems.

2.     India lost its patriotic feeling. Rather it was just a combination of few separated communities without any coherence. All the feeling and enjoyment and marriage were limited to same narrow community.

3.     The only way the human breed can mix is through marriage. This cross-community marriage got blocked in fear of losing property and privilege. Even in some communities only elder son was allowed to marry. Youngers were advised to practice polyandry e.g Kerala Namboodiri Brahmins. Later again each community gets divided and sub-divided into many smaller castes to protect the selfish and narrowness among themselves. So where is the Indian-ness?

4.     Women were considered as Sudra as mentioned in Srimad-Bhagavatam. They were deprived of Vedic rights and temple worships. Though there are twenty five women risis (Gargi, Maitreyi, Vak etc) mentioned as editors of Veda, not sure why women were not allowed to chant Vedic Mantra. Even today many women are scared to chant Veda.

5.     Many including Swami Vivekananda, Dr, B. R. Ambedkar pointed out; this disjoint communalism was the cause of Mohameddan and Christian invasion into India. Because the downtrodden, the major population, during that time cooperated them to find an escape route of suffering.

6.     History says when a pariah (Chandala) gets converted into Islam and Christian, nobody was hesitating to do hand-shake and offer a chair. Most of the religious conversions were voluntary. Foreigners come with few thousands soldiers and gets multiplied into many millions in a few years.

7.     Foreign rulers did not try to solve this social disorder. Rather they had tried to make it sticky by following Smrities and took advantage of this Indian weakness. Because their colonization policy was based on “divide and rule”. And we were succumbed to our own faulty system.

8.     Even today Christian missionaries are targeting the downtrodden, rural, poor lower caste people to convert into other religion. And this has a strong impact on Hindu population and Hindu civilization. Unless they are uplifted, there is no solution to this conversion issue.

4.   What is the solution as given by Swami Vivekananda?

Swami Vivekananda has highly criticized caste system and its related discrimination. He write in a letter, ALMORA,  30th May, 1897 - "the conviction is daily gaining on my mind that the idea of caste is the greatest dividing factor and the root of Maya; all caste either on the principle of birth or of merit is bondage. [CW-6]"
  
1.  Remove false notion: Though our castes are apparently linked with our religion, but they are not so. In religion there is no caste. Caste is social custom. Same is told by Mahatma Gandhi also to the nation.

2. Revert back to Brahmin-hood: We are all Risi-putra. The solution is not by bringing down the higher, but by raising the lower caste up to the level of the higher. The goal is to uplift everyone into Brahmin Varna. After independence Dalits were given special privilege as compensation under constitution. We need to reach a civilization where everybody will be treated equally without any special privilege to any community. Then only caste-less Indian society will be possible.

3. Caste Conversion through Self-declaration: There are thousands of castes, and some are even getting admission into Brahminhood, for what prevents any caste from declaring they are Brahmins? Instead of crying foul, people can self-declare or correct their castes based on Vedic definition.

4. Rename the whole Community: Thus caste, with all its rigor, has been created in that manner. Let us suppose that there are castes here with ten thousand people in each. If these put their heads together and say, we will call ourselves Brahmins, nothing can stop them; I have seen it in my own life. Some castes become strong, and as soon as they all agree, who is to say nay?[CW-III page-295]

5. Expose to western science: Keep harmony between Vedantic theories and western science. Science and technology is a greatest gift from western civilization. All Indians need to be exposed to modern developments across globe. This will help in removing the narrowness about our own civilization, customs and way of life. Till date Indian caste system is suppressed due to exposure to western Industrialization and international competence. India must keep foreign direct investment (FDI) up to eradicate local monopoly in profession and economy.

5. Conclusion:

So your caste was voluntarily declared by your own forefather. Now it is your turn to undo the mistake.


Swamiji - Don't you see how in our society, marriage, being restricted for several hundreds of years within the same subdivisions of each caste, has come to such a pass nowadays as virtually to mean marital alliance between cousins and near relations; and how for this very reason the race is getting deteriorated physically, and consequently all sorts of disease and other evils are finding a ready entrance into it? The blood having had to circulate within the narrow circle of a limited number of individuals has become vitiated; so the new-born children inherit from their very birth the constitutional diseases of their fathers. Thus, born with poor blood, their bodies have very little power to resist the microbes of any disease, which are ever ready to prey upon them. It is only by widening the circle of marriage that we can infuse a new and a different kind of blood into our progeny, so that they may be saved from the clutches of many of our present-day diseases and other consequent evils.
Source - Complete Work of Swami Vivekananda, Volume-5, INTERMARRIAGE.

Anything that does not show dynamism (we call it evolution) will eventually die. For example there is a huge water pool and it is decided not to allow any water enter into it thinking that its purity will be lost. Eventually this water pool will be stinky. Similarly if you don’t allow other community (caste) to enter into your family life, then whole genetic system, immunity system and cultural system will fall apart. The aroma has vanished and only the stinky ugly part is poisoning the mind of society. Don’t propagate this ignorance to your next generation, your sons and daughters.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Six orthodox rules in Hinduism broken by Swami Vivekananda

Liberalization of Hinduism (shifting from orthodox to liberal)

Very few know about it and without these we would have lost our glory.

Six major orthodox rules in Hinduism were broken by Swami Vivekananda. This was a shift of Orthodox Hinduism to liberal one in nineteenth century.

We can appreciate his contribution if we evaluate his work based the circumstances and situations of the society during that time.

1. Buddha’s compassion:

People are very creative while worshipping and invoking God on stones and images. But when it comes to poor and down trodden, they escape by saying it is their Prarabdha(past life Karma), so they should suffer. And God will take care of them, why should we? There are many scriptures (smritis) mentioning the donation to priests to gain Punyam. Rarely do these inspire to donate to poor and downtrodden. More peculiar to it, they distinguish Vyavaharika and Paramarthika reality. They say Vyavaharika reality is Maya(false), and there will be difference and division among people and we need to accept suffering due to it. Mostly they apply this logic to other’s suffering, not for their own. Swami Vivekananda criticized these attitudes of people. He said God is present in everybody’s heart. So service to mankind is service to God.  He insisted on serving the living God present in human temple. Don’t waste your energy in stone temples. He said intellectuality should go with Buddha’s compassion. He further goes ahead quoting his Guru Sri-Ramakrishna "who are you the insignificant, crawling on earth, to show compassion to others? Not compassion, rather worship the poor through service, the living God."

Swami Vivekananda writes in a letter, 1894 - "If you want any good to come, just throw your ceremonials overboard and worship the Living God, the Man-God — every being that wears a human form — God in His universal as well as individual aspect. The universal aspect of God means this world, and worshipping it means serving it — this indeed is work, not indulging in ceremonials. Neither is it work to cogitate as to whether the rice-plate should be placed in front of the God for ten minutes or for half an hour — that is called lunacy. Millions of rupees have been spent only that the temple doors at Varanasi or Vrindaban may play at opening and shutting all day long! Now the Lord is having His toilet, now He is taking His meals, now He is busy on something else we know not what. ... And all this, while the Living God is dying for want of food, for want of education! The banias of Bombay are erecting hospitals for bugs — while they would do nothing for men even if they die! You have not the brain to understand this simple thing — that it is a plague with our country, and lunatic asylums are rife all over. ... Let some of you spread like fire, and preach this worship of the universal aspect of the Godhead — a thing that was never undertaken before in our country. [CW-6]"             

2. Caste breaker:
First time in Indian Hinduism history Swami Vivekananda allowed Sudra (the 4th varna) to join as monks in asram and worship in temple. Even He initiated many untouchables into Gayatri mantra in Kolkata and converted them into Brahmin. Earlier Veda, Upanishads study were prohibited for Surda. Smriti holds that Veda is not to be read in the vicinity of a Sudra. “Put molten lead in his ears if he hears Veda; His tongue is to be slit if he pronounces it; his body is to be cut through if he preserves it.” Swamiji broke this tradition and published Upanishads for the access of all. It was not a simple task to break this old age tradition. Swamiji was highly criticized in time by orthodox Brahmins and many of his good friends deserted him. But He did not care for the consequence and decided to clean Hinduism single handedly without any fear.

3. Women freedom:
Earlier women were not allowed to chant Veda and to join as a monk. They were considered impure due to menstrual cycle they incur. Swamiji removed these two rules and allowed women to chant Vedic manta. He also established a separate women asram specially dedicated for women. Even today in most of the orthodox temples women priests are not allowed. But Swami Vivekananda initiated a lot of women disciples including women from foreign countries to conduct worship with Vedic chanting. He took a lot of pain even to convince Indian women that they have equal eligibility for all Vedic rites. His famous disciple sister Nivedita helped him to train Indian women to overcome these superstitions. 

To quote Swami Vivekananda - "The idea of perfect womanhood is perfect independence. Liberty is the first condition of growth.... The best thermometer to the progress of a nation is its treatment of its women. There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of woman is improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly on only one wing....Women must be put in a position to solve their own problems in their own way. No one can or ought to do this for them."

4. Travel oversea to foreign land:
The first Hindu monk to cross ocean was Swami Vivekananda.

During the time of Swami Vivekananda(1863-1902), travelling oversea to foreign lands like USA and UK was considered as a sin. If you travel across the 'black waters' then you lose your caste and will be out of Hinduism. So Hindu orthodox people were afraid to cross ocean. For this reason initially Gandhi family was hesitating to sent Mahatma Gandhi to study law in London, thereby losing his caste.  

Swami Vivekananda did not accept this age long superstition and became the 'first Hindu monk' to travel outside India crossing ocean. Earlier only Buddhist monks went out of India. No Hindu monk had ever crossed the sea because of above fear. Swamiji even used to eat with foreigners and made many disciples in foreign lands including women disciples like Sister Nivedita.  But he got his punishment on returning back to India. After returning from USA, Swamiji was not allowed to enter into Dakshineswar Kali temple in Kolkata where his Guru Sri Ramakrishna had lived a major part of his life. The temple management denied his entry into temple because Swamiji had lost his Hindu status while eating with foreigners. After that Swamiji did not find any interest to visit Jagannatha temple and other temples in Odisha. Such was our foolish Indian temple management!

Only due to Him currently many Hindu monks are able to travel abroad to spread Hinduism without any violence. Today there is no social restriction for anybody to travel outside India for business reason, tourism etc.

Interestingly honourable Supreme Court of India took Swamiji as a model to give a historical verdict on foreign travel. Regarding the prohibition of the government on a person’s going abroad(specially IITian) the court discussed the importance of travel across the world as said by Swami Vivenananda. Court iterated in Verdict - "Swami Vivekananda, that saintly revolutionary who spanned East and West, exhorted, dwelling on the nation’s fall of the last century: ‘My idea as to the keynote of our national downfall is that we do not mix with other nations—that is the one and sole cause. We never had the opportunity to compare, notes. We were Kupa Mandukas (frogs in a well).’" Link for details on verdict - http://esamskriti.com/Swami.pdf

5. Vedanta in common:
Vedanta is the last part of Veda, known as Upanishads. Earlier Upanishads were studied only by monks in forest. Those texts were not published outside for common house-holders. Swamiji decided to spread these texts in common masses and published these books with the help of his foreign devotees. Even He had to fight with orthodox Pundits during that time to get original manuscripts.  Today very few have access to Upanishads and very few know that Upanishads are the original scripture of Hinduism.

6. Influential freedom fighter:

Swamiji was both a religious leader and a patriot. Usually monks in traditional sense never bother about social issues. Swamiji was an exceptional in this case. Though he was a monk dedicated for religious reform, He inspired many freedom fighters in due course. Few famous names are Subhas chandra bose, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajagopalachari, Bal Gangadhar Tilak etc. His notable book “Lectures from Colombo to Almora” was so popular that, all freedom fighters in jail had one copy with them to ignite the patriotism in their mind. The situation was such influential that, British govt wanted to ban and close Ramakrishna mission.  It was saved due to the divine intervention of holy mother Sarada. She clarified British people that this is a religious organization and nothing to do with politics. Please see below link:- http://www.sriramakrishna.org/admin/bulletin/_bulletin_89540aeb28bc577a5daccd6922ba5896eaa2bab3.pdf

Monday, April 7, 2014

Secret of Krishna-Gopis Rasa Leela

Secret of Krishna-Gopis Rasa Leela
(By Muktipada Behera)

Now-a-days there is a lot of misunderstanding about Krishna-Gopi Leela due to western influence. Many claim it to be an immoral act. And they also say - if Krishna could do it, then why not we! They have a slogan - "Krishna Kare to Ras-Leela or Hum Kare to character Dhila". But a few vital points are worth noting. Many have not read the detailed literature on this Krishna topic before making such comments. This Krishna-Gopi relation is not a human relation, rather it is purely a divine relation between God and devotees.

The authentic book on this topic is Srimad Bhagavatam because the very existence of Krishna, Radha and Gopi are traced to this ancient text only. According to this text this Rasa-lila event happened in Vrindavan, India when Krishna was of nine years old, that means in his childhood. And the girls (gopis) involved in this act were of similar childhood ages between eight to ten years. All Gopis were worshiping Mother Durga to get Krishna as their future husband. Krishna was never tempted with this offer and rather He discouraged the Gopis. It is upon the insistence of Gopi, the supreme Lord Krishna decided to fulfill their desire through a divine play. This text also says Krishna left Vrindavan (also Gopi, Radha etc) at the age of ten and never looked back at them throughout his life.

However current youth generation and even older generation try to mimic what Krishna did as a child. Rather they should try to follow what Krishna did at his youth hood (He fought many war to save nation) and old age (He was the king of India extended till Afghanistan, He was also a Vedic teacher). If at all they want to mimic childhood Krishna, then they need to prove their fitness by lifting a mountain (Giri Govardhan) with their little finger. Just imagine is it possible for an ordinary human being to satisfy all sixteen thousand girls at one go, at the same time? It can only be possible for a super-man like Krishna, who is the incarnation of God.

Ordinary and impure person cannot understand the divine love of Gopi for Lord Krishna. It is a spiritual practice called “Madhura Bhava” to get divine love and finally liberation. In Madhura Bhava God is worshiped as husband, is of highest type relation. Other types of relation with God can be of a servant (practiced by Hanuman towards Rama), as father (Prahllada towards Vishnu), as child (mother Yasoda towards child Krishna), as friend (Arujuna towards Krishna) etc.

Madhura Bhava is practiced usually by women because for them it is natural to think of God as husband. If it is required, any man can also practice this, but he has to think of himself as women and lover of Krishna during this spiritual practice. In current age this spiritual practice is done successfully by Meerabai, Jayadeva, Chaitanya dev, Sri Ramakrishna. Sri Ramakrishna during this practice was dressing like a woman, wearing ornaments and thinking of himself as a lover of Krishna.

In Radha Krishna's life there was not even an iota of lust. There is no idea of lust or sympathy in this love. Radha says to Krishna, "If you place your feet on my heart, all lust will vanish."

Great philosophers like Swami Vivekananda also analyzed (From Book: Lectures from Colombo to Almora Chapter: The Sages of India):
“There are not wanting fools, even in the midst of us, who cannot understand the marvelous significance of that most marvelous of all episodes. There are, let me repeat, impure fools, even born of our blood, who try to shrink from that as if from something impure. To them I have only to say, first make yourselves pure; So long as there its selfishness in the heart, so long is love of God impossible. So long as such ideas are in the brain, how can one understand the mad throes of the Gopis' love? "O for one, one kiss of those lips! One who has been kissed by Thee, his thirst for Thee increases for ever, all sorrows vanish, and he forgets love for everything else but for Thee and Thee alone". People with ideas of sex, and of money, and of fame, bubbling up every minute in the heart, daring to criticize and understand the love of the Gopis! It is forgetfulness of everything, and the lover sees nothing in the world except that Krishna and Krishna alone, when the face of every being becomes a Krishna, when his own face looks like Krishna, when his own soul has become tinged with the Krishna colour. That was the great Krishna!”

Srimad Bhagavatam after describing this divine act, at the end gives a precaution (Canto 10, chapter 33, sloka 31): “Someone not in control sure mustn't even think of ever doing a thing like this; such a one, acting out of foolishness, would be destroyed like one not being Rudra would be with drinking the poison from the ocean”. So the fate of any man by mimicking Krishna will be like a human trying to become Shiva by drinking poison.

In this regard, the Gopis in past birth were Rishis who wanted to enjoy Isvara as husband. They were blessed by Sri-Rama in Treta to fulfil this desire. And all of them got birth in Vrindavan in women bodies as Gopis.


In this divine love, a human being can be modelled as a Gopi (a woman) irrespective of gender. And there is only one Husband of this universe and He is Lord Krishna, Rests are women.

What is food – An analysis on non-veg and veg

What is food – An analysis on non-veg and veg
(By Muktipada Behera)

Now a day’s people talk a lot on veg and non-veg food, specially Indians returning from Foreign lands. People take it as a status symbol to say “I am a vegetarian”. Medical science could not conclude anything till date. There are medicines made up from animals bones, oil etc. Veg or non-veg are a matter of habit from childhood. So what our culture says about it?

From the beginning as per human development cycle people were hunting animals for food. Later kings and rich were also going for a hunt to jungle and killing animals like deer etc for festivals. We have many instances in Vedic period eating meat and beef are an auspicious thing. There is a Smriti law “those who rejects meat shall go to hell for as many years as the slaughtered beast has hairs”. So be careful!!!

First time Buddha (as a Hindu monk) enforced rules to stop killing animals and meat-eating. It is known the vegetarianism concept is borrowed from Buddhism. And later a section of Buddhism developed into vaishnavism and adopted vegetarian food as a religious goal. Analysis proves when people were forcefully stopped taking non-veg and they became weak. That helped later India to be conquered by foreign invaders because our king and solders were not physically fit. Before Buddhism nobody dared to invade India, rather India was stretched till Afghanistan.

Let’s fill something better. Anything taken by mouth is food, be it leafs and meats. This is a generic definition. We can make it little bit more generic “Anything taken inside through all our openings (mouth etc) is named as food”. We have five sense organs (eye, ear, nose, mouth, skin) or five openings through which we take food inside. Like sight is a food for eye, sound is a food for ear, smell is a food for nose, and touch is a food for skin.

We should make sure that we are taking healthy and good food through all our openings, not just through mouth. In fact food taken through mouth is a redundant part compared to food taken through eye and ear. So Hinduism gives more emphasis on food for eye and ear, what you see and what you hear in day-to-day life. It gives emphasis on whether you live in a polluted environment so that your skin is taking all bad food for it.

Swami Vivekananda on Food


In the Chhândogya Upanishad (VII. xxvi. 2) there is this passage, "आहारशुद्धौ सत्त्वशुद्धिः — Through pure food the Sattva quality in a man becomes pure."

Swamiji said - Shankarâchârya has said  that the word Âhâra there means "objects of the senses", whereas Shri Râmânuja has taken the meaning of Ahara to be "food". In my opinion we should take that meaning of the word which reconciles both these points of view. Are we to pass our lives discussing all the time about the purity and impurity of food only, or are we to practice the restraining of our senses? Surely, the restraining of the senses is the main object; and the discrimination of good and bad, pure and impure foods, only helps one, to a certain extent, in gaining that end. There are, according to our scriptures, three things which make food impure: (1) Jâti-dosha or natural defects of a certain class of food, like onions, garlic, etc.; (2) Nimitta-dosha or defects arising from the presence of external impurities in it, such as dead insects, dust, etc. that attach to sweetmeats bought from shops; (3) Âshraya-dosha or defects that arise by the food coming from evil sources, as when it has been touched and handled by wicked persons. Special care should be taken to avoid the first and second classes of defects. But in this country men pay no regard just to these two, and go on fighting for the third alone, the very one that none but a Yogi could really discriminate! The country from end to end is being bored to extinction by the cry, "Don't touch", "Don't touch", of the non-touchism party. In that exclusive circle of theirs, too, there is no discrimination of good and bad men, for their food may be taken from the hands of anyone who wears a thread round his neck and calls himself a Brâhmin! Shri Ramakrishna was quite unable to take food in this indiscriminate way from the hands of any and all. It happened many a time that he would not accept food touched by a certain person or persons, and on rigorous investigation it would turn out that these had some particular stain to hide. Your religion seems nowadays to be confined to the cooking-pot alone. You put on one side the sublime truths of religion and fight, as they say, for the skin of the fruit and not for the fruit itself! [CW-5]

Sri Ramakrishna said - "A man may practise intense austerity and japa, but he won't achieve anything if his mind dwells on the world. But blessed is the man who keeps his mind on God even though he eats pork. He will certainly realize God in due time. - Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna"

So blessed is the man who is moral and honest even though he eats pork, worst is he who eats leafs and his mind dwells on all non-sense and he is involved in corrupted act.

References

1. http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/volume_5/conversations_and_dialogues/xi_xv_from_the_diary_of_a_disciple.htm
2. http://www.belurmath.org/gospel/chapter41.htm

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Probe into Ancestor Worship, Sraddha

(Veneration of the dead, ancestor reverence, Śrāddha or Shraaddha, Hindu Funeral Rites, Antyesti for the disposal of the dead and Tarpana post-mortem rites etc.)

Introduction:

According to Hinduism, life is one continuous never-ending process until one gets liberation. All change is only the change of environment and embodiment. The soul is Immortal. It takes one form after another on account of its own actions. Hinduism is based on two fundamental doctrines, (a) the law of Karma and (b) the law of transmigration. Death is only a necessary and passing phenomenon. Just as you move from one house to another, the soul passes from one body to another to gain experiences.

Śrāddha (Sanskrit: श्राद्ध) is a Sanskrit word which literally means anything or any act that is performed with all sincerity and faith. In the Hindu religion, it is the ritual that one performs to pay homage to one’s 'ancestors' (Sanskrit: Pitṛs), especially to one’s dead parents. Conceptually, it is a way for people to express heartfelt gratitude and thanks towards their parents and ancestors, for having helped them to be what they are and praying for their peace. It also can be thought of as a "day of remembrance."

Tribal religion:

As early man advanced in his culture and took to rituals, he started worshiping his ancestors first by burying their bodies and marking the place of burial by stones. He placed wild flowers there and meat as symbolic reverence to them. Some sort of ancestor worship continued until late in the civilizations. In Indian culture, ancestor worship was prevalent before the spread of Vedic religion. For some time two groups of people were there called Pitheryanis (ancestor worshipers) and Devayanis (god worshipers). Later the ancestor worship was assimilated into Hinduism as Shradda (memorial rites).

One party maintains that ancestor worship is the beginning of religious ideas; the other, that religion originates in the personification of the power of nature (e.g. sun god, moon god, river god, hill god etc). Man wants to keep up the memory of his dead relatives and thinks they are living even when the body is dissolved, and he wants to place food for them and, in a certain sense, to worship them. Out of that came the growth we call religion.

Studying the ancient religions of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Chinese, and many other races in America and elsewhere, we find very clear traces of this ancestor worship being the beginning of religion. Egyptians built those huge pyramids in which they preserved the bodies.

On the other hand, there are scholars who from the ancient Aryan literature show that religion originated in nature worship. Although in India we find proofs of ancestor worship everywhere, yet in the oldest records there is no trace of it whatsoever. In the Rig-Veda Samhita, the most ancient record of the Aryan race, we do not find any trace of it. Modern scholars think, it is the worship of nature that they find there.

Hindu rituals for the dead serve five purposes:
1.  disposal of the body,
2. consolation of those grieving,
3. assistance to the departing soul to reach pitr-loka,
4. sustenance to those pitrs who have reached that destination,
5. A call by the living for help from the pitrs.

Ancient belief system can be divided into three periods of development:

1. The Vedic period:
In the Vedas we trace the endeavor of that ancient people to find God. In their search for Him they came upon different strata; beginning with ancestor worship, they passed on to the worship of Agni, the fire-god, of Indra, the god of thunder etc. In the Vedic period it was believed that the spirit of a dead person became a pitr immediately after the disposal of the body. As soon as the spirit became a pitr it became a recipient of various Vedic sacrifices known as pitr-yajnas. Most prior works on ancestor worship have done little to address the question of how shraddha, the paradigmatic ritual of ancestor worship up to the present day, came to be.

2. The Smriti and Sutra period:
During the smriti and Grhya sutra period it was believed that a soul did not become a pitr immediately after death, but entered an intermediate stage of life called a preta. This preta being could only become a pitr after certain rituals called ekoddista-sraddhas were performed by living relatives. This usually took a year. This is the redefinition of ancestral rites in the Grhyasutras. Manu mentioned all humans must repay three innate debts: pitri rina(ancestral debts), rishi rina (the debt we owe to those who have contributed to our knowledge), and deva rina (our debts to the Divine). It is our duty to take care of our parents and demonstrate our gratitude to those who were instrumental in the continuation of the lineage in which we were born.

3. The Puranic period:
During the final Puranic period the idea expanded to include a new stage of life called the ativahika stage. As soon as the physical body was cremated the soul did not become a preta, but instead took on an initial ativahika body. In order to release the soul from this stage, a set of even more specialized rites called purakas had to be performed by the living relatives. This ativahika stage generally lasted for ten days after which the soul became a preta wherein the ekoddista-sraddhas would be performed to complete the transition into a pitr after one year. Underlying this process was the belief that without the help of living relatives performing particular rites at specific times, the departing soul was unable to obtain the necessary body by which it could partake in the enjoyments of the pitrs. Therefore, in all stages, the living relatives had to perform some required rites.

The soul in its disembodied form hovers about its original and familiar places for ten days. It is in the form of a ghost during these ten days. The astral body takes shape from day to day with the formation of the head, eyes, and other limbs of the Linga Sarira, fed and nourished by the sesamum and water poured out in libation. Soul is fully embodied on the eleventh day. It starts on its journey to the judgement seat of Lord Yama, the God of death. It takes one full year from the time of death to reach Lord Yama’s place. The son should perform the Sapinda ceremony on the twelfth day. This is how religion in India changed so radically in the last half of the first millennium BCE.

The Funeral (Antyesti)

In Sanskrit the term antyesti refers to the final sacrifice, the last of the 16 samskaras or life sacraments that mark important events in an individual’s life. The antyesti ceremony is the funeral ceremony. This samskara is performed to dispose of the dead body, to give peace to the departed soul, and to enable it to enter the world of the ancestors (pitrs). Pitr-loka is the name of the realm of existance wherein the pitrs dwell.

From the earliest Vedic times cremation was the most common means of disposing of a body. There is, however, written evidence that burial and post burial ceremonies also occurred during the Vedic period. The Rg and Atharva Vedas mention both burial and cremation as legitimate methods for the disposal of the dead. We find evidence in the Aranyakas that the burial of incinerated bones and ashes was an important and elaborate ceremony. By the Grhya and Puranic periods, however, burial and post cremation burial are hardly mentioned. Cremation had become the only orthodox method for the disposal of the dead.

Vedic Idea:

Here is a summary of what we know about cremation from the Rig-veda:

1. The fire deity, Agni, was invoked to carry the departing soul to the realm of Yama, the god of death.
2. In the case of a priest his sacrificial implements were burned along with his body.
3. Prayers were recited to various deities in order to transfer the departing soul to the world of the pitrs.
4. A cow or goat, known as an anustarani, was burned along with the body of the deceased. This line needs to be verified. Taittiriya Aranyaka (Prashna 6) states that the cow dear to the person was taken to the burial grounds to bid farewell to its boss. The book states explicitly that the cow was returned to its shed (and not killed), after being treated respectfully
5. In the case of a deceased husband, the wife would lay on the funeral pyre alongside the body of her husband. Before the fire was lighted, she would be asked to rise from the side of her husband’s body and rejoin the living.

The Atharva-veda (XVIII) adds the following information:

1. The body was dressed in new garments before cremation.
2. Grains and sesame seeds were scattered alongside the body before cremation.
3. The pitrs were ritually invoked to attend the ceremony and invited to sit on the southern side of the fire.
4. Streams of ghee along with prayers were offered to the pitrs during the cremation.
5. Prayers and oblations made of rice cakes, milk, meat, honey, and water were used in the worship of various gods in order to ensure long life and prosperity for the living relatives.
6. Prayers and oblations were offered to three generations of pitrs: the father, the grandfather, and the great grandfather, during the cremation.
7. Cakes of rice, sesame and other articles of food were buried along with the cremated bones.

Bhagavad Gita:
Ancestor worship is discouraged in Bhagavad Gita.
Gita Chapter 9.25:
yanti deva-vrata devan pitrn yanti pitr-vratah
bhutani yanti bhutejya yanti mad-yajino 'pi mam

Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; those who worship ancestors go to the ancestors; and those who worship Me (Supreme God) will live with Supreme God.

Those who carry out Shraadhs, i.e. who worship the Pitris or deceased Ancestors will become Pitra. They do not attain liberation.

Srimad bhagavatam:
Srimad bhagavatam - 2.3.8 (Canto 2, Chapter 3, Sloka 8)

For spiritual progress the supreme truth is worshiped, for offspring and their care one seeks the ancestral [the residents of Pitriloka], pious persons are sought by those who seek protection, while the demigods in general are there for the less common desires.

Ramayana (Pinda by Rama):
According to tradition, in the absence of Rama, his wife Sita offered pinda to Dasharatha, father of Rama on the bank of Phalgu river at Gaya. In Valmiki Ramayana Ayodhya kanda it is mentioned Rama offered water libation to his father in Mandakini river saying “Oh father, let this be yours.” Rama took one hand full of water and faced the southern direction and said “Let this pure water which is offered to you be inexhaustible”.  Rama mixed fruits of Badari tree with pulp of Ingudi tree and made balls kept them on Durba grass. Said “Oh greate king, we are offering you the food that we normally take. I request you to please take it, because a man can offer only whatever he partakes to his manes.”

Swami Dayananda (Founder of Arya samaj):
Swami Dayananda did not approve to do Pinda daan. According to him the original meaning of the word Shraddha is Shraddha, "devotion." It is the duty of every son to serve his parents with all possible devotion while they are living. But the performance of Shraddha in honor of the dead does not bear out the original idea at all. Shraddha really signifies to serve the living parents with all devotion, not the dead. And it is, therefore, useless to offer Pinda (rice balls) in honor of the dead, as it results in no good.

Swami Vivekananda:
Swami Vivekananda pointed out in a letter 9th February 1902, that Gaya was a place of ancestor-worship even before Buddhism, and the footprint-worship the Buddhists copied from the Hindus.

Sri Ramakrishna:
Sri Ramakrishna’s father Khudiram went to Gaya and had a vision that Vishnu promised him to come as a son to his house. After that Ramakrishna was born. Here in Gaya, from ancient times, Hindus have come from all four corners of India to discharge their duties to their departed ancestors by offering them food and drink at the sacred footprint of the Lord Vishnu.

Holy mother Sarada Devi:
Holy mother Sarada Devi when she was questioned at Jayarambati said “All people, excepting highly evolved souls, live in the spirit body for a year. After that, food and water are offered in Gaya for the satisfaction of the departed souls and religious festivals are arranged. By these means the souls of the departed are released from their spirit body. It is possible for one to attain to a higher state if one's Sraddha ceremony is performed in Gaya. Then what is the necessity of spiritual practices? These dead souls, no doubt, attain to a higher state and live there for some time, but afterwards they are again born in this world according to their past desires. For whom no Sraddha ceremony is performed in Gaya, they live in the spirit body until some fortunate ones born in their family perform the Sraddha ceremony in Gaya or some other forms of obsequies. But if a person has some meritorious action to his credit in this life, he does not lose spiritual consciousness altogether in his spirit body.”  

Ramana Maharshi:
From talks with Ramana Maharshi: Most religions have constructed elaborate theories which purport to explain what happens to the individual soul after the death of the body. Some claim that the soul goes to heaven or hell while others claim that it is reincarnated in a new body.

Sri Ramana Maharshi taught that all such theories are based on the false assumption that the individual self or soul is real; once this illusion is seen through, the whole superstructure of after-life theories collapses. From the standpoint of the Self, there is no birth or death, no heaven or hell, and no reincarnation. How long does it take a man to be reborn after death? Is it immediately after death or some time later? Maharshi said: You do not know what you were before birth, yet you want to know what you will be after death. Do you know what you are now?

Sraddha at the feet of Vishnu:
According to this approach, food or water that is offered to the pitrs is first offered to Visnu and thereby transformed into visnu-prasada. The word prasada means “mercy” or “grace.” Thus visnu-prasada is God’s grace. This prasada of Visnu is then offered to the pitrs, who now receive God’s grace instead of mere food or water. In this way, the grace of God has the power to elevate and sustain the pitrs in a manner that no human power can match. In the case of a homa or havan, a ritual performed with fire, the fire is used as the “delivery system” by which Visnu is first offered food. This food offering, which is now God’s grace, is then offered to the pitrs through the fire. It is thus Agnideva, the fire God, who acts as the link between this world and the world of the pitrs. The successful outcome of the sraddha process is therefore, not dependant on the power of the ritual, the expertise of the priest, precise timing, and availability of the articles, etc. but upon God alone. This approach involved the ‘handing over’ of the fate of the soul to God.

The Padma-purana enjoins that deities other than Visnu and the fathers may be propitiated with food that has been first offered to Visnu. In the Brahmanda-purana it is enjoined that the father’s remain gratified for thousands of kalpas with rice cakes, prepared with the remnants of food offered with devotion to Visnu. In the Skanda-purana, Siva says, “Food should first be offered to Visnu and then the very same food should be distributed to the minor deities and the fathers.”

Religious Impact:

1. On such occasions the poor and deserving persons are to be fed sumptuously. Their necessities of life should be attended to. Study of scriptures should be done on such days. The performer of the Sraaddha ceremony should observe spiritual discipline like Japa, meditation, Mouna, etc. He should pray to God for the whole day. Recitation of appropriate Vedic hymns should be done. The story of Nachiketas of the Upanishads should be studied.

2. Holy mother Sarada devi relaxed in many cases the rule prohibiting religious observance, worship etc during days of mourning after death, the menstrual period of a women and such other periods of ritualistic impurity. Once she initiated a person during the period of mourning, considered to be a time of defilement, saying, “there is no connection between the spirit and the body. The talk of defilement due to death is meaningless”.

3. The various religious observances imposed upon mankind by the Sastras tend to purify the ignorant man. Sraaddha ceremony, being one of the obligatory duties, as per the injunctions of scriptures, also tends to purify the mind.

4. If a man is religious-minded and if he has discrimination and dispassion, belief in the Sastras and the Vedas, if he has led a virtuous life till the end of his life, he will not have a fall. He will not be affected by the dark forces of ignorance. The Lord takes care of his progress. He has got self-surrender and there is no fear of downfall. He has mental purity.

5. Common sense shows each father proceeds by his father. We are all the descendants of King Bharata. If we continue back in parent hierarchy we will reach original seven rishis or Prajapatis, from whom all are born. They are born of Brahma and Brahma from Vishnu. So Vishnu is the absolute father, the common ancestor of this world. Ideally any Pinda given to our parent should go to Vishnu only.

6. When a friend or relative presents food to a lady who is pregnant she eats the food and satisfies herself. At the same time the child within her womb is nourished. The food is converted into a substance suitable for the child. Similarly, when tarpana is offered to the divine fathers, they accept it by first gratifying themselves and then gratifying the fathers over whom they preside. Tarpana is perhaps the most important of the sraddha rites and can even substitute for the rest of the sraddha process.

7. I remember a personal experience at Ramakrishna mission, Bangalore. One monk was dead in that mission and taken to burial ground for electrical burnt. After that the Monk who accompanied the dead body did not undergo any purifying process and attends the monastic duties. He pointed out that no purification is necessary after death of someone.

Psychological Impact:

1. Earlier the house of the dead and environment was not hygienic and there is a possibility of epidemics due to the disease of the dead. So a thorough cleaning or purifying that place and environment was necessary. But in modern days many purifying chemicals are discovered and precaution can be taken based on medical advice.

2. The sraddha process is very satisfying to grieving family members. The invocation of God’s grace to reach beyond human endeavor is indeed powerful. The rite of pitr-yajna is therefore, an attempt to psychologically harmonize the individual with the larger world outside. One established a relationship with the ancestors. The person no longer lived alone in the universe.

3. The meaning of the prayers used in the tarpana ceremony is illustrative, “From the highest point to lowest point, so far as this universe extends, let all divine sages and patriarchs, all deceased fathers, on both the father’s and mother’s side, be worshiped. Let this humble offering of sesame and water go for benefit the whole world, from the highest heaven down to this earth, to benefit the inhabitants of the seven continents belonging to unlimited families in the past.”

4. It is believed that this reminds the ancestor's spirits that they are not forgotten and are loved, so it brings them peace. However, no one prays to ancestors. On Shradh days, people pray that the souls of ancestors be appeased, forget any animosity and find peace.

5. The right to perform these sraddhas and the rights to inheritance were often inter-related. The general hierarchy was as follows: the sons, the grandsons, the sons of a daughter, a wife, the brothers etc. If no family members are available then the rites may be performed by anyone of the town or village.

Brahmin Business:

1. People of some communities in India spend money enormously and indiscriminately on Sraaddha ceremony for show. This is mere wastage. It is a delusion to think that the Pitris will get more peace by spending more money. Money does not count for the ease of the Pitris, but the intensity of Bhava, with which the Sraaddha is performed, counts.

2. None of the Four Veda mantra Samhita-s mention the Pinda dana. It is also not in the Brahmana books. The sutra books (e.g. Apasthambha Sutra) which are dated two thousand years later than Veda Samhitas mention these rites. The local priests usually have no real knowledge. They suggest expensive rites by narrating the fear of hell. We should not be carried away by the story of hell and heaven narrated by them.

3. Hindu sastra prescribes a variety of such ceremonies. Later commentators attempt to explain why water is used during tarpana. Water is said to be a neutral substance, therefore it can most easily be converted into the various foods needed to satisfy the respective pitrs. For those ancestors who have entered heaven, nectar is said to be their food. For those ancestors who have entered into an animal species, grass may be their food. For those ancestors who had returned to this earthly realm, rice may be their food. Water, being a neutral substance, can easily be converted into nectar, grass or rice, etc.

4. When the brahmanas ate they ate on behalf of the pitrs. Their satisfaction was the satisfaction of the fathers. Although the germ of paying homage to the brahmanas is found in the Rg-Veda, the practice of feeding brahmanas was not in practice. In the Vedic period offerings for the dead were poured directly into the fire, which then carried the food to the fathers. The feeding of brahmanas was a practice that developed from the Grhya sutra period. In the later periods, the brahmanas even came to occupy the position of the sacrificial fire. And so food and other such articles formally offered to the pitrs began to be offered to the brahmanas as their representatives on earth. In a further extension to this idea the brahmana began to represent, not only the pitrs, but even Brahman Itself. Consequently, when a brahmana ate Brahman ate, which meant that the whole world also ate.

Logically Inconsistent:

1. When your father while alive is sleeping in other room and you put rice in this room. Will he be feed? No!! Similarly if somebody is going out for a trip, instead of taking any food items with him, at home some Pinda rituals can be done to satisfy his hunger. Is that possible? No!! Now when a person is dead, if you put a lot of food items here and can it possible that this food reaches the dead who is in some unknown region? No!!

2. A lot of emphasis and elaborate rituals are prescribed in Purana after a person is dead. Whereas such kind of wellbeing is not mentioned in those books while he was alive. Also need to check if the dead person was worried what happens to him after death while he was alive?

3. If taking bath after a touch to dead body is necessary, then what doctors will do? What about hospital and death bed, surgery instrument etc.? Do we take bath when we take chicken or meat as our food?

4. When any animal (like tiger, goat, chicken, cockroach etc) is dead what happens to them. Do they move around as eternal preta or some kind of auto-correction mechanism exists in nature for them?

5. What happens to unmarried person, death of children, people with no next generation etc.? What happens to criminals, are they saved by Pinda? What happens to people from other civilization and other religions, they don’t follow the Hindu way of elaborate rituals?

Conclusion:

Hinduism has no central authority that determines its beliefs, ritual practices or social structure. Consequently, Hindu beliefs and practices vary widely from one religious sect to another and from one geographic region to another. This creates a highly diffused and multi-layered tradition. Therefore, it is difficult to determine which practices and beliefs are original and which have been added.


Upanishads say Human being is embodied Brahaman himself. Nobody can make him/her impure. Nobody can put him under delusion eternally. These rituals are done out of ignorance and does not solve the original problem of human migration named as “ignorance of ones own divinity”. Let’s work more towards to realize our own divine nature which will give ever lasting peace. Shraadha is just a temporary help to uplift the soul in its further migration to another world or body.