#192 Connecting with our ancestors
It sounds impersonal to call you like that.
In addressing you like this, I address atleast 3 generations, grand parents from both sides of the family, great grandparents and great great grandparents.
I offer my namaskaara and respect to you
I am here because you were there before me.
Your blood runs in my veins
Your genes are a part of my DNA.
Your blessings have flowed through the lives of your children and grand-childreni.e. us.
Your teaching of some of our family traditions has resulted in some practices being adopted and some forgotten.
We still enjoy some of the unique food recipes that have been passed forward although I must admit that they require a lot of prep.
Your wealth and property that you left behind, some of it was lost and some we were able to build on.
Some of your stories are even remembered today.
Most importantly the thread of gratitude that runs through the rich tapestry of all that you have blessed us with, continues till this day.
The little that I know about you, I am deeply grateful to all that you have been and all that you did for everyone in the families across generations.
There is so much that we have received from you, our ancestors. But, much of it is one sided. As with all things in life, the balance must be restored. We seek to make offerings to you and the extended family during this period in the Hindu calendar of 15 days called Pitra Paksha, a period devoted to the ancestors.
I feel close to you but I have never met you or if indeed you have been reborn and are around me, I don’t know that you were my ancestors.
I don’t know if you are now reborn or are in pitrloka, a special realm. Wherever you are, I hope that you are fulfilled.
I would love to do something for you because of the gratitude that I feel for this gift of life.
What does one offer you? According to the Vedic tradition, we do shraadha karma. They say that involves pinda dana, which is an offering of pindas (cooked rice and barley flour balls mixed with ghee and black sesame seeds), accompanying the release of water from the hand. Our parents do this followed by the worship of Vishnu and Yama.
When we make these offerings, I do hope that you receive them well.
Some Hindus perform the Shraadhaa rituals on the banks of holy rivers and even holy places such as Varanasi, Gaya etc.
I feel deeply connected to all of you, even the ones I have never met in this lifetime.
What a connection and it is not the French connection.
Such a sacred connection that gives rise to a sacred debt, pitrrnam.
All that all of you have done I can never repay. So our Shaastra tells us to pay it forward by having children.
If you could see us now,your descendants, would you be proud of how we have lived our lives?
Are we learning the lessons of life well?
Have we learnt to work hard?
Have we learnt to love whole heartedly?
Have we learnt to live in courage despite our many fears, real and imagined?
Are we living a life of priorities and contribution?
Have we been able to avoid or not commit the mistakes you have made?
Most importantly have we learnt from our mistakes?
Have we learnt to perform our duties with eagerness knowing that our duties are privileges and not burdens?
Dear Pitrs- Presumably you lived in times of greater hardship. Was your heart hardened or was your heart softened?
Have we been able to build on all that you have blessed us?
Are we honoring Mother Nature in our lifestyles?
The Taittiriya Upanishad reminds us – Matr devo bhava, Pitr devo bhava. Acharya Devo bhava.
Are we growing into people who consider our parents and teachers as manifestations of the divine?
Are we living upto dharma. Do you see us being worthy pitr-s for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren such that they can see and live the meaning of Matra devo bhava / Pitra devo bhavah, Acharya devo bhava when they see us.
What do you think of how we are carrying forward the lineage, our ways of living, relating, how we spend our time and money, what we value and disregard?
Dear pitr-s I do hope that you are proud of your descendants.
In our presence lies an absence of you that is present but hidden.
May you know that nothing was ever lost or a waste in the river of life.
If some of you died sudden deaths, my prayers that you were able to pick up the thread from where you left off. My prayers for your healing.
If there was ill treatment towards you, either from the family or from society, my prayers that all of you have been able to forgive and move on.
Did you seek God and most importantly did you find God?
A lot of questions but in the asking there is a solace, an articulation of my sacred connection to all of you.
Soon there will be a time when your descendant will also follow in your footsteps and be referred to as pitrs.
Maybe my descendants will be able to ponder and wonder about who I was as offerings are made.
Even this tradition of offerings to all of you, we have learnt from you, our ancestors.
May we live complete lives and grow into pitra/ancestors for our descendants and keep the blessings flowing. We owe it to our ancestros and we owe it to our descedants.
In honoringyou we are honoring our legacy – us.
In being an instrument for me and my life, I will always be grateful.
Changing track a bit, the action of offering Shraadha is reflected even in Valmiki Ramayana which is more than 5000 years old. While Sri Rama is in exile in the forest, his father and King Dasharatha dies in sorrow. In Valmiki Ramayana it is said that on the twelfth day of the death of Dasaratha, Bharata gives various presents to Brahmins. On the thirteenth day when Bharata and Shatrughna go to the cremation ground to collect the bones both of them are overwhelmed with grief and fall down on the ground. Sage Vashistha, pacifies them and tells Bharata – “O, Lord Bharata! This is the thirteenth day of the death of your father. Why are you hanging down here, when the ceremony of collecting the bones is still unfinished? The three pairs of opposites (namely hunger and thirst, joy and sorrow; birth and death) occur to all living beings without any distinction. They being inevitable, you ought not to behave like this. A few days later, Bharata sets off for the forest because Sri Rama does not know about his own’ father ‘s death. Sri Rama asks Bharata why he has come to the forest, wearing robes of bark and antelope skin, abandoning Ayodhya kingdom. Bharata informs Rama about their father, Dasaratha’s death and requests Rama to take over the kingdom, endowed to him as per succession. Sri Rama says that since king Dasaratha allotted two different duties to the two of them, onewas the exile binding on him and the other bequeathing the kingdom to Bharata. Both the duties must be implicitly obeyed by both of them.Bharata replies that it is an established practice for the eldest son to become a king and requests Rama to come to Ayodhya and get crowned in the kingdom for the welfare of Ikshvaku race. Bharata requests Rama to offer traditional libations of water to their deceased father, who died with the thought of Rama alone, absorbed in his mind.
All the brothers, having consoled Rama as best they could, told him, Let the libations be offered to our father, the protector of the world.
Rama replies –
Rama says I shall go and offer libations to my great father. Go and fetch the dried pulp of ingudi fruit and an upper garment made of bark.
Thereafter, their constant follower Sumantra who was conversant in these matters consoled him and helped their descent into the auspicious river Mandakini for taking bath.
Rama, the ruler of the earth, held water with both palms cupped and, facing the south, the direction of Yama (the god of death) said these words, sobbing:
पितृलोकगतस्याद्यमद्दत्तमुपतिष्ठतु।।2.102.27।।’O best of kings, you are gone to the world of the manes, and let this inexhaustible libation of pure water reach you’.
Then, the powerful descendant of the Raghu race reached the bank, from the bathing spot of the river Mandakini along with his brothers and offered pinda (an offering of rice flour to the departed) to his late lamented father.
Placing the balls of ingudi pulp mixed with badari fruit on a spread of darbha grass, Rama, was overcome with grief and weeping, said:
O great king, we offer you such food as we partake now. Be pleased to accept it. For, his gods are offered the food a man takes.
Rama, the tiger among men, ascending the riverbank and proceeding on the same path (he had come), climbed the (Chitrakuta) mountain of charming slopes.
This section was from the Aranyakanda, the section of when Sri Rama was in the forest.