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The Present book deals with the rite of Sraddha and vindicates the popular belief that Sraddha, being an important topic, forms an integral part of Hindu Dharmasastra.
The belief in the after-death survival of deceased ancestors and their separate world belongs to the Indo-Iranian period and as such is pre-Vedic.
Prasad taught English Literature at Patna University for over forty years, during which he wrote scores of books, including biographies and translations, the most outstanding of which is his prose rendering of Shri Ramacharitamanasa.
The Hindu Sacrament Samskaras which are companion volumes to this book. In offering this book to the purohitas and householders our intention is not to rival the Books of the Dead, the Tibetan and the Egyptian.
There seems to be a fundamental problem when we refer to the subject of The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The approach of comparing it with The Egyptian Book of the Dead in terms of mythology and lore of the dead person seems to miss the point, which is the fundamental principle of birth and death recurring constantly in this life.
One could refer to this book as "The Tibetan Book of Birth". The book is not based on death as such, but on a completely different concept of death.
It is a "Book of Space". Space contains birth and death; space creates the environment in which to behave, breathe and act; it is the fundamental environment which pro- vides the inspiration for this book.
Our daily living situation refuses to believe that the dead will ever return or that death is a renewal of life. We treat the dead as dead and, inspired by a sense of gratitude, pay whatever homage and largesse we can afford.
Elaborate rituals, which include prayers for the peace of the deceased and offerings of material objects for use by the disembodied soul, are recommended by the dharmasastra.
In most cases, when the dying man grows faint with fear, terror and bewilderment, the hymns are sung, episodes from the epics recounted, and suktis from the sastras read.
You are not alone in leaving this world, it hap- pens to everyone, so do not feel desire and yearning for this life. Even if you feel desire and yearning you cannot stay, you can only wander in samsara.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead aptly describes the psycho- logy of the dying man on hearing the prayers offered for his peaceful end:.
Now when the bardo of dharmata dawns upon me, I will abandon all thoughts of fear and terror, I will recognise whatever appears as my projection and know it to be a vision of the bardo; now that I have reached this crucial point I will not fear the peaceful and wrathful ones, my own projections.
For his life after death prayers and gifts are offered so that he may not have to suffer the dearth of anything, material or spiritual.
Gifts are offered with rare generosity; the person performing the last rites is encouraged to loosen his purse strings and offer whatever gifts he can in cash or in kind, the gifts which are meant to enable the dead to be ferried from the world of karmic miseries to the world of Elysian bliss or to the abode of the blessed.
A locus classic us in the Garuda Purana lauds liberality in making gift—offerings:. By offering gifts of wealth to brahmanas, the sons in fact, prepare for their salvation along with sons, grandsons and great grandsons.
What is given to father will be requited a hundredfold; to a mother a thousand fold; to a sister a hundred thousand fold and to a brother manyfold.
Written with ungrudging assistance given by Digvijay Narayan Singh, a scholar par excellence, the following pages deal with the rite of sraddha and vindicate the popular belief that sraddha, being an important topic, forms an integral part of Hindu dharmasastra.
For example, in the present case, the procedure of sraddha given in the Narada Purana shows much resemblance to the details given in the Sraddha Sutra of Katyayana which by the way has so much similarity with the procedure of sraddha given in the Yajnavalkya Smrti.
Grateful thanks are due to Mr. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited, Delhi, for initiating this purposeful project which began with a description of the Hindu marriage system.
This volume completes the series, ending as it does with a description of the last samskara. As soon as the players have played their seven parts the eighth is played by the descendants, preferably by the son of the deceased.
What begins with the garbhadhana now outlandish to many comes full circle with the completion of the sraddha. The samaskaras do not leave out any of the seven stages nor any of the turning points in the life of an orthodox Hindu.
It is considered meritorious to remember the dead and pay the deceased ancestors due homage and obeisance. Cordial thanks are also due to several pandits, purohitas, and priests who have preceded me and by their writings paved the way for this little volume.
Of the sixteen samskaras which encompass a Hindu life the last one is performed for the dead by their sons or grandsons or relatives.
Many passages in the puranas and dharmasastras extoll the role of the son in the life of a devout Hindu; in that of a non-believer and heretic, a relative is as important as a son insofar as the last rites are concerned.
Because a son delivers trayate his father from the hell called Put, he was therefore called put-tra a deliverer from Put by the Self-existent Svayambhu himself.
In the twenty-ninth chapter of the Garuda Purana we are told, though in different words, that there is no sal- vation for a man without a son; he can never attain heaven without a son.
The purana goes a step further when it declares that one must obtain a son somehow. Either the mother or a kinsman can perform the expia- tory rite on behalf of a boy less than twelve but above four.
Boys of less than four years in age can never be guilty or sinful. Even the king cannot punish them. There is no expiatory rite prescribed for such boys, in the sastras.
That the sraddha, if performed according to the dharma- sastras, led to the everlasting peace of the departed soul and liberated it from karmic bonds and from the cycles of birth and death is widely recognized.
This explains why so much attention is paid to this ritual by the an- cient seers. Some of them give a detailed description of the funeral rites and of subsequent rituals at the crema- torium or at home.
In the Narada Purana, for example, one finds a description of the sraddha rites as well as qualifications of the brahmana invitee to the rituals.
Realizing the pre-eminence of the last rites among the samskaras, the law-givers also lay down some mandatory disquali- fications of an invitee as well as rules with regard to the sraddha-tithis.
According to the Narada Purana, only a brahmana who has some special merits can be invited for a sraddha.
He should be well-versed in the Vedas, devoted to Visnu and abider by his own conventional conduct of life, and born of a good family and be of quiet nature.
Among the characteristics of such a brahmana are also his dispassion and freedom from hatred. He should be engaged in the worship of the deities and be an adept in the prin- ciples of smrtis.
He must be a pastmaster in the knowl- edge of the principles of the Upanisads. He must be interested in the welfare of all worlds.
He should be grateful and richly endowed with all good qualities. He must be engaged in advising others by recounting the good scrip- tural texts.
These are the brahmanas who can be em- ployed in a sraddha. One who is physically deformed, wanting in a limb or by having a superfluous limb, a miser, a sickly per- son, a leper, one with deformed nails, a person with long suspended ears, one who has broken his religious vows, a person whose livelihood is the reading of the stars i.
All these should be excluded scrupulously from the sraddha. He should invite the brahmana the previous day or on the same day. The brahmana who is invited should maintain celibacy and conquer his sense organs.
As soon as a competent brahmana gifted with all the qualifications laid down here has been discovered and found willing to supervise and direct the sraddha rituals, the householder, with his sense-organs duly subdued, should take the darbha grass in his hands and invite the intelligent brahmana with following words: The learned man should perform the sraddha at the hour called Kutapa i.
That hour in the eighth kala muhurta of the day when the sun begins to be less fierce is called the Kutapa. That which is given to the pitrs at that time is of everlasting benefit.
The afternoon is the time granted to the pitrs by the self-born deity god Brahma. Hence, the kavya oblations to the pitrs should be given by excellent brahmanas only at that time.
If the kavya is offered along with the monetary gifts at the wrong hour it should be known as belonging to the raksasas.
It never reaches the pitrs. The kavya offered in the evening too becomes something pertaining to the raksasas.
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