Jyotishacharya Shastri Pundit Roshan Singh
ta ātma-sargaṁ taṁ kāyaṁ
sādhyebhyaś ca pitṛbhyaś ca
kavayo yad vitanvate
te — they; ātma–sargam — source of their existence; tam — that; kāyam — body; pitaraḥ — the Pitās; pratipedire— accepted; sādhyebhyaḥ — to the Sādhyas; ca — and; pitṛbhyaḥ — to the Pitās; ca — also; kavayaḥ — those well versed in rituals; yat — through which; vitanvate — offer oblations.
The Pitās themselves took possession of the invisible body, the source of their existence. It is through the medium of this invisible body that those well versed in the rituals offer oblations to the Sādhyas and Pitās [in the form of their departed ancestors] on the occasion of śrāddha.
Śrāddha is a ritualistic performance observed by the followers of the Vedas. There is a yearly occasion of fifteen days when ritualistic religionists follow the principle of offering oblations to departed souls. Thus those fathers and ancestors who, by freaks of nature, might not have a gross body for material enjoyment can again gain such bodies due to the offering of śrāddha oblations by their descendants. The performance of śrāddha, or offering oblations with prasāda, is still current in India, especially at Gayā, where oblations are offered at the lotus feet of Viṣṇu in a celebrated temple. Because the Lord is thus pleased with the devotional service of the descendants, by His grace He liberates the condemned souls of forefathers who do not have gross bodies, and He favors them to again receive a gross body for development of spiritual advancement.
Unfortunately, by the influence of māyā, the conditioned soul employs the body he gets for sense gratification, forgetting that such an occupation may lead him to return to an invisible body.
We all have ancestors, both of blood and of spirit, and each of our lives rests firmly on the foundation of their sacrifice. They are as near to us as our breath and bones, and when related with in conscious ways, they can be a tremendous source of healing, guidance, and companionship. The ancestors we choose to honour may include not only recent and more distant family but also beloved friends and community, cultural and religious leaders, and even other-than-human kin such as companion animals. Our ancestors bring vital support to fulfill our potential here on Earth, and, through involvement in our lives, also further their own growth and maturation in the spirit realms.
Like the living, spirits of the deceased run the full spectrum from wise and loving to self-absorbed and harmful. Physical death is a major event for the soul, a rite of passage we will all face, and the living can provide critical momentum for the recently deceased to make the initiatory leap to become a helpful ancestor. Once the dead have become ancestors, part of their post-death journey may include making repairs for wrongs committed while here on Earth. For their sake and for ours, it’s good to spend a little time now and again feeding our relationships with the ancestors. The five suggestions below, none of which require belief in any specific tradition or dogma, are safe and effective ways to assist our beloved dead and to welcome the ongoing support and blessings of the ancestors in our everyday lives.
Fulfill Your Soul’s Purpose as an Ethical and Loving Person
The most important and most challenging way to honor our ancestors is to fulfill our personal potential and life’s purpose here on Earth. Many cultures maintain that we each have a unique destiny or karma to fulfill and that we ideally make it a high priority to remember these original instructions and do what is necessary to express our gifts, our true will, and our most authentic selves. The ancestors are seen as allies in this process of remembering and a reservoir of power and backing to help us embody our potential in this lifetime. Conversely, when we have lost touch with a sense of greater purpose, if we are fortunate, the ancestors may bring about life changes aimed to jar us into greater contact with our soul’s longing and increased awareness of the agreements made before our birth.
Talk of destiny and calling is all well and good; however, in reality it’s difficult to actualize our full potential until our life and relationships are more or less in order. This gradual and ongoing work of being a conscious person may include things like learning how to express emotions in healthy ways, committing to tell the truth in relationships, reaching out for necessary support to get sober, seeking education to better ourselves, taking better care of our bodies, and generally accepting greater responsibility for becoming a loving and reliable human being. Whatever helps us to become more ethical, balanced, and open-hearted people is one of the most powerful and sincere offerings we can make to our ancestors.
Ironically, the very things that would drag us down are often part of our inheritance from family ancestors. Alcoholism, patterns of physical and sexual abuse, emotional cruelty and dysfunction, religious extremism, racism, sexism, wounds related to money and poverty, predisposition to physical and mental illness, and a thousand and one other poisons can all be passed down along the bloodlines where they lay, seeds in our karmic profile that, if watered with the right conditions, may grow into full-blown dysfunction. If properly understood these challenges may implicitly point us in the direction of the antidote, often an internal resource that we also carry as a dormant ancestral inheritance. For example physical violence can be a distortion of the gift of healthy warriorship, fear of scarcity may mask an unhealed wound in a lineage of strong providers, or addiction could be a way of numbing the sensitivity required of healers, artists, and lovers. In this way, the ancestors can be both the source of the hardship and the remedy, yet every time we make the right choices when faced with these inherited patterns, we elevate both ourselves and their spirits.
Dedicate Positive Actions in the Name of the Ancestors
Nearly all traditions have some way of recognizing the spiritual benefit of good deeds and generosity. Charity in Christianity traditions, sadaqah in Islam, tzedakah in Judaism, and dana in Buddhism and Hinduism are but a few religious expressions of a nearly universal theme of practicing generosity and affirming our inter-relatedness with and care for others. Traditional, indigenous ways of life also tend to emphasize the need for sharing wealth and the blessings that flow from living a helpful, service-oriented life. In this way, engaging in loving and truly helpful actions results in the accumulation of tangible and usable energy in the energetic field or body of the one taking the action.
Most people instinctively grasp a related principle that the energetic effects of actions can, at least to some degree, be directed or linked to others who did not carry out the actions themselves. To illustrate this, imagine someone privately donating ten million dollars in your name toward feeding and housing the homeless in your area. Compare this with someone doing a private ritual to dedicate an impending act of genocide in your name; clearly less cool. In neither case are you the one carrying out the actions themselves. This principle is already widely applied through the practice of making charitable contributions in the name of the recently deceased by their loved ones.
Having a clear focus, a meaningful activity, and personally connecting with the process of elevating the consciousness of your beloved dead all help to enhance the effectiveness of this practice. For example, if you have the sense that your grandmother’s spirit is not at peace or if she is well and you just wish to celebrate her life and spirit, consider specifically dedicating a positive action to her rather than to all your ancestors in general. The more specific the target of the offering, the more concentrated the effects. Also, try to choose a type of service or action that fits the recipient’s unique life and spirit. If your father was racist or engaged in domestic violence, you might donate to a charitable organization working for racial healing or a battered women’s shelter. Likewise, if the deceased loved local wildflowers, a dedicated day of service to the Native Plant Society can enhance the intimacy, emotional charge, and effectiveness of the offering. Finally, taking the time to set clear intent and emotionally connect to the process can help insure the positive energy generated actually reaches the intended target.
How To Perform Tarpan
Black or white sesame seeds
18 coins, (coins can be reused)
Flowers or petals
Prepare the offering:
Cut the Kusha grass into 6 equal pieces, around 4 inches long. (This represents 6 generations on both sides of your family)
Line up vertically the 6 pieces of Kusha grass on a tray or large leaf, leaving a little space between each.
Make a paste with chandan by adding water to it; spread the paste onto the kusha grass
Place 3 coins on each piece of grass at the top, middle and bottom
Sprinkle flowers over these items
Place a tablespoon of rice mixed with a teaspoon of sesame seeds in the palm of your right hand.
Sprinkle a few drops of water on the rice and sesame seeds in your right hand
Say the following:
“I invite 6 generations of my ancestors on my mother’s side and 6 generation of ancestors on my father’s side to take this offering”.
Pour water with left hand over the mixture in your right hand, and let everything fall onto the kusha grass, coins and flowers.
Say a sincere prayer: “Use this energy and be healed, be at peace, cross into the light and please bless me and your progeny.”
Make sure everything is washed off your right hand. You may reuse the coins, or discard everything at a river, beach or in nature. You may accumulate offering remnants and discard later.
You may now place the above mentioned items in a dish of water with a little milk and make offerings with cupped palms of your hands. Make a ring of the Kusha Grass and put it on, on the ring finger of your right hand. Take three strands of Kusha grass and place them across both your cupped palms. Make three offerings towards the left, three offerings towards the right and three forward offerings. This is done while you face the south.
I wish to offer my most humble blessings to you and your family.
May your ancestors return back home, back to Godhead.
Your ever well wisher