Vaidika kriyas have been designed by Rishis - our ancestors - to bring significant benefits to all who perform them. For best results, they need to be considered an indivisible part of our life. They have been written about in our sacred scriptures and are a part of our tradition from time immemorial.
The theory of karma and reincarnation is one of the many pillars of the Hindu belief system. Hindus believe that every action and conscious thought have an effect that is experienced by the doer either in this life, in the afterlife or in another lifetime.
Every human has to face many obstacles and challenges during their time on this planet. Adversities and unfavorable circumstances are the result of past wilful actions, or designed to be a catalyst in the souls's growth.
A core part of the Hindu belief system is that a soul never ever dies. After the death of this physical body, the astral body continues to be alive, experiencing either pain or pleasure according to the soul's tendencies and actions on earth. One of three things happens to it:
The shastras specify 16 kriyas or karmas that need to be performed for every human being to make their experiences more pleasant and assist in the soul's spiritual growth.
Of these 16 kriyas, 15 are performed by the parents for the benefit of a child. The 16th - perhaps the most important of all - is performed by children for the benefit of their deceased parent / parents.
It is believed that this 16th karma makes the after death experiences of the deceased very pleasant, sending them heavenward and helping them avoid hellish conditions of pain and suffering.
The Garuda Purana, presented in the form of a conversation between Maha Vishnu and Garuda, is all about the conditions that a soul experiences after it leaves the physical body.
Once the physical body dies, the soul has no home. It belongs to no particular place. Without the physical body, its identity while it was in the body is lost.
All the material possessions, family ties, even its own name are all useless to the soul at that time. It can still see all the family members around the body, but cannot re-enter the body and cannot communicate with anyone.
Unless the soul is highly advanced spiritually, it will get very disoriented and confused in this state.
According to the Garuda Purana, the soul in this state is a 'preta atma'.
'Preta Samskara' is the procedure specified in the Garuda Purana to help the disoriented soul remember what its real identity is and start the journey back to where it originally came from.
This kriya unites the departed soul with its ancestors and enables it to continue its journey homeward.
In the case of unnatural death, the Garuda Purana says the soul - which is disoriented, confused and unable to ascend to higher blissful worlds, becomes a source of great trouble and grief to its family.
Some or all of the family members may experience Ill health, constant worry and anxiety, mental disorders and many, many more that make life a burden.
This condition is 'Preta Badhe' - or trouble due to entities.The specified remedy for this is either 'Preta Samskara' or 'Narayana Bali'.
During 'Preta Samskara' or 'Narayana Bali', disembodied entities troubling the family are made to ascend to higher worlds. Not only do they no longer cause trouble, but they also bless the entire family and go to higher states where they too are blissful.
The attitude with which these kriyas are performed is of utmost importance.
These karmas need to be performed with utmost reverence and humility.Offerings offered to the Brahmanas during these ceremonies are in effect offered to please Maha Vishnu so that Vishnu dootas may help the soul ascend to higher worlds, thus avoiding the lower planes of existence.
It is believed that the offerings made to the Brahmanas in the name of the deceased protect and guard the soul in the afterlife.There are various offerings the shastras prescribe need to be done.
Each of these has a very positive effect on the conditions of the soul in the afterlife. They are believed to lessen the burden of negative karmas and accentuate the positive karmas.
As per the Garuda Purana, the time taken for the soul to reach the abode of the ancestors is one year. At the end of the first year, the soul reaches 'Pitru Loka' or the abode of the ancestors.
At this time, the shastras state the 'Vaikunta Samaradhana' be performed. This is not just an act of remembrance, but an effort to help the soul to further ascend to higher planes beyond the 'Pitru Loka'.
It is said that a day on Pitru Loka is as long as a year on earth. And the beings there - just like yogis and Devas, eat only once a day. So once a year, a ceremony is performed and offerings are given to Brahmanas.
It is equivalent to serving food to the ancestors. And this is a duty every man needs to perform.
Narasimha Shankara Shastry
#11, Simhadri Nilaya, Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Krupa, 7th Main Road, Dwaraka Nagara
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Bangalore 560 085