Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Antyeshti Samskaara - 1 (Post-death Rituals)

Kannada Article by:  Tarodi Suresha

English Rendering by:  Padmini Shrinivasan

Respond to (

Death is inevitable for all who are born. Majority of people do not think about it in particular. Even when the attitude is as casual as - "let us see when it arrives", when really confronted, there is no way other than a path of self-surrender. Some people insure their lives. However this cannot save the body. After death, as Sri Shankaraachaarya says - "bhaaryaa bibhyati tasmin kaaye - even a wife of many years feels disgusted, on seeing a dead body". The dwelling or human body, which the soul (Jiva) had built for itself, has now slipped out of hand. What will happen to the Jiva now? Scriptures refer to this state of the Jiva as 'Preta'. It means 'one which is leaving from here (creation)'. Where is a Preta destined to go? How does it steer itself? All these belong to the realm of secret knowledge. 

A microscope enhances our vision to see what is normally not visible to the naked eye. In a similar manner, our ancient Maharshis earned a divine vision through their severe penance and subjected their body - the prime support for the Jiva - to intense investigation. They realized the Supreme Lord within their dwelling (Pura) which is indeed the human body. Subsequently they identified the progress of a Jiva in a comprehensive manner. Right from its origin, they realised the regions for the movement of the Jiva and accordingly framed a plan for day-to-day living, based on this basic research. As per the slogan 'Svadesho bhuvanatrayam', they concluded that the Jiva has the ability to negotiate all the three spheres of life viz. material, divine and spiritual. Hence the life plan should be crafted with utmost care so that it does not hinder the movement of the Jiva anywhere. It is told that the Jiva bewails after quitting the body, as it is unable to stay as Preta for long. It has to attain its emancipation from the cycle of birth and death (Sadgati) or continue on its worldly journey. The Antahkaranas (mind, intellect and ego), the baggage of good deeds as well as sins and the Praanendriyas (those which constitute the subtle body) all follow the Jiva after death. The fruits to be reaped (by the unrealised souls) based on the individual's actions (Karmas), push the Jiva accordingly into another birth.

Maharshis have designed a life-style to attain the feet of the Lord, which is the highest goal of life. Similarly, there are post-death rituals meant to aid the Jiva to reach its state of spiritual eternity as fast as it can. The Samskaara known as 'Antyeshti' is performed just prior to and immediately after the Jiva leaves the body. It reminds the Jiva about the specific path (Naadi patha) to be followed for communion with the Lord. The priest, with his divine inner vision decides and conducts the rituals helpful and essential for the Jiva to reach its ultimate state of deliverance based on the fate and the current state of the Jiva. These rituals should be performed for the deliverance of the Jiva from its bondage to the human body. If the dead person is a Jnaani, then these rituals may not be of any consequence to him. Yet, it must be performed without fail, as the blessings of the deities representing his ancestors (Pitru devataas), get showered on both the performer of the ritual and his entire family.

A pertinent question at this point is – "how does a ritual, performed here by us, impact a Jiva who has left the body?" It is common knowledge that two objects vibrating with identical wavelengths resonate with each other. Sriranga Mahaaguru had tuned two Tambooras (stringed musical instrument used as a drone for singing) identically and showed that when one is plucked, the other resonates. When rituals are conducted in the august presence of enlightened persons (Mahaatmas), knowledgeable in the destiny of the Jiva of the dead person, they are capable of imparting the required spiritual power to navigate the Jiva towards salvation. Maharshis have brought into practice, procedures conducive to that attainment.

(To be continued)
Note: The Kannada version of this article can be viewed at AYVM blogs.