Does a Soul get more Comfort by expensive Rituals after Death? – 14 Aug 11

My Life

In the time of grief after my grandfather’s death in 2002, we enjoyed remembering him by telling each other such memories. It was not only us, our small family there, but also my grandfather’s brothers and other relatives. Unfortunately being together with them was not a very pleasant situation.

I had the feeling that many of them were not really there because they were grieving our grandfather but because it is a social responsibility and formality. They did not seem to have a feeling of loss but came to the funeral just as you come to any other social event such as a marriage or birthday celebration. A lot of their actions and talk hurt those who were really in grief. We were not really close to these further family members and their behavior led to some discussions and disagreement with our guests.

As my mother is a single child and my father is, too, we don’t have a lot of extended family relations. We don’t have uncles or cousins. When we saw the behavior of my mother’s uncles and relatives, we realized that we were living in a very different world, with different values and feelings for each other and for those around us. It just did not fit and we understood that it can be a good thing not to have such a very big family as it is normal in India. If you just cannot go along with those who are related to you, why do you have to be together with them?

It is usual to have rituals and ceremonies for thirteen days after a person’s death and for that time the whole family stayed to participate. It was a difficult time. We were all sad about the loss of our beloved grandfather, father, father-in-law and husband and additionally there were those relatives who kept on criticizing the rituals we did, complained that some were not performed or in another way. We did it from our hearts whereas for them it was empty rituals.

In Hinduism there are rituals for every little step you take. As a religious family we did them all but seeing those relatives and the complete atmosphere I started questioning the rituals in my mind and heart. It was, as I said before, the first close experience of a death so close to me. I realized that the more money you spend, the better it seems to be for the soul of your beloved. On the thirteenth day after the death, you call thirteen Brahman people, of the highest cast, one of them being a priest. You give pots, clothes, money, gold and silver to all these people and to the priest you also give a bed, a mattress and everything that belongs to it. The concept is that you believe that you actually give it to the one who died as if he needed all these things wherever he is then. Additionally to those thirteen you invite more people to feed them. The higher your reputation in your town, the more people you are expected to invite. Invitation cards are printed and sent out and many people come to whom you provide food.

We did this all, invited hundreds of people to a big feast, gave a lot of money and other things to the priest and his twelve friends and did everything that should be done. If we had not done that, people would have thought that we did not love our grandfather. With the whole situation however I thought about one question: What do these rituals really give to those who have the feeling of loss?

When the thirteenth day was over, our relatives finally left and we were alone again. We were actually one person more. My grandmother stayed with us. We did not want to let her go and she agreed on staying with her daughter and family.

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  1. Helena

    Dear Swami Ji. It was really very interesting to read about these rituals. To be honest I got a big smile. I understand that it is a ritual but maybe better a person who died just must do good deeds in his life when he is alive? Then his family do not need to follow these rituals and better give all these things to someone who really need it? 🙂 I do not speak about your grandfather, I am sure for your family it was a very big lose and I am sure he was a very nice person. Now I really start to agree with lots of things about religion what you said before. Love

  2. Deniz

    If a soul cared about such rituals and expenses during life, maybe the soul would care about them after death too. But I don’t think a wise soul would care about such things. Death customs here are also excessive and irrational, in my view, but from what you say they sound to me even far more excessive and irrational there. It seems the main beneficiaries of these rituals are the high caste priests there. I would like to think that just as I as a matter of principle would not go along with such customs here, I would refuse to do them there too, regardless of what others think. Because if they have such false perceptions that there is value in such rituals, why should I be forced to act as if I have such false perceptions too? I don’t find much meaning in rituals and I think they should often be kept to minimums. I think a simple cremation or burial makes the most sense, according to the wishes of the deceased, and then perhaps a gathering in memorial to the deceased if that’s what people who knew the deceased would like to do. I as a matter of habit refuse to do a lot of customary things that others claim to find meaningful but which I find meaningless, and this is one of the things I would also refuse to lend much of my participation to.

  3. Swami Balendu

    Dear Helena, thank you for your comment. These rituals are part of religious life in India. If you are a religious Hindu person or family, you naturally follow this all. I was religious, too, and was following what was written in scriptures but many times my mind was questioning about the purpose or aim of certain rituals or ceremonies. And that has increased after being in the cave, especially with the rituals after death because it was my first close experience when my parents did this for my grandfather. And that created many questions in my mind about religion. Here I am sharing the process of change in my life after the cave which has brought me to this stage where I am standing now. I am happy you enjoy it. Sending you much Love.

  4. Swami Balendu

    Thank you Deniz for your comment. Yes, it is irrational and completely meaningless but people are doing it because this all is written in scriptures and you have to do it, otherwise you are not respecting the scripture and religion. When I saw my parents doing this all, I also refused and questioned why this all? And what it will bring those who are gone and those who are doing it? I believe all these customs and rituals were made and written in scriptures for higher caste people to make some business and money, nothing else. Sending you lots of Love.

  5. Prakash Zalke

    Rituals are binding of complete outworldly materialism…

  6. Mirela

    Rituals often have been performed on special occasions. Every human group has it’s own way of performance. A ritual can strenght social borders, bring people together, bring joy or solace and satisfy emotional and spiritual needs. But all of these natural needs should not be connected to money. It’s a pity that one person takes advantage of the death of another.

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