Q: Gurudev, we do certain rituals for the departed. Is there any basis for these rituals?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: These rituals are there only to show your gratitude to the departed souls. But what has happened is that the Pundits and the Purohits have made it so complicated that sometimes you don't understand what they are saying.
If they translate what they are saying in Sanskrit it gives you an idea.
Do you know why you take sesame seeds and say, ‘Tarpayami, Tarpayami, Taraiyami?’ It is called Tarpanam.
You take the name of the departed one and you take some sesame seeds and water and pour it onto a plate. Why do you do this? You do this to tell the departed souls, ‘Whatever desires you might be harboring in your mind, they are like sesame seeds, insignificant. They are for small things, so you just drop them. There is infinite joy and bliss in the abode of the Divine, just enjoy that. We will take care of your unfulfilled desires. You be contented, be happy.’
This is what we tell the departed souls in Tarpanam.
They do have desires; they want to see the wedding of their grandchildren, their great grandchildren, or see the great grand children getting one more daughter. These sorts of desires remain in their mind before they die so we tell them, ‘Look these desires are small, drop them. Love is the essence of life and the Divine is all love. You move on to the light which is all love.’
So, giving instruction to the departed soul is what Shraddham is.
Then you ask them for blessings, ‘I will do my part, what you can do from there is give me blessings so that my mind is on the right track and so that I do the right things in the right time. Bless me with good luck, prosperity.’
This type of Shraddham is all over the world. Even in South America they do this.
On one particular day the entire city comes on the road and for their ancestors they burn effigies and many other things on the street.
They do this in China, and in Singapore as well.
Do you know what they do in Singapore? There is a particular day for ancestors. So whatever the ancestors were passionate about, they make those things in paper and burn them. If their father loved cars, they will make a nice Benz car, keep it on the street of Singapore and burn it.
Singapore is such a clean and neat city, but on that one day in the year it is so dirty because everywhere you find loads and loads of paper being burnt.
The belief in China is that when you burn some fake currency it reaches the ancestors, and they give you good luck. Sometimes I feel that this is cheating. But at the same time it is just the faith.
So, they build homes right in the middle of the street and burn it. They believe the blessing will come from the other side.
That sort of connecting to the people on the other side is what Shradha is. This is what faith is; with faith honoring people who have crossed over to the other side.
In Europe also there is an All Saints Day when people go and offer flowers in the burial grounds.
Shradha is there in almost all religions and all cultures. Here it is very meaningful in Sanskrit, but people don't understand.
Like Pind Danam – See our body has come out of a ball of food, isn’t it? So the ritual is that they keep a ball of food, it could be whatever the departed liked. So you cook some good food in the memory of the departed and feed it to the poor people.
This is Shradha, it is to be done with a sense of gratitude, and sense of celebration while remembering the ancestors.
This much you can do, in memory of them cook some food which they liked and eat and feed a few people and enjoy.
Thank them and wish them progress in the world where they are in, and ask for their blessings so that you progress well on your journey here. That is it.