Jaldhar H. Vyas
jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Thu Jan 17 23:05:23 CST 2002
On Thu, 17 Jan 2002, S. V. Subrahmanian wrote:
> Long ago, I had raised this issue and you had educated me much on the same
> lines as above. Subsequently I heard the following from a Swami. He was
> talking about Arjuna's lament about the fear of not being able to offer piNDa
> etc (I may not be accurate here, but I am just giving the context in which I
> heard). The Swami digressed from B.Gita and spoke a little on pitrs. Here is
> what he said:
> There is an incident in matsya purANam. bhIshma is on the banks of
> Ganga and is about to offer piNDa to his departed father SAnthanu.
> Just as he is about to offer, SAntanu appears in front of him and asks
> him to give the piNDa in his hands, so that he can consume it. bhIshma
> thinks for a moment and then offers the piNDa on the leaf (or the
> appropriate place as mentioned in the Sruti), but does not give it to
> SAntanu. SAntanu departs. All the R^shis nearby come over to bhIshma
> and appreciate his act and conclude that he has understood the Sruti in
> its right intent.
> Swami used this incident above to prove his point. He point being that
> the piNDa offered to the pitR^s is not intended to nourish them. They
> transmigrate purely based on the karma that they have done. That the
> piNDas are somehow transmitted to them is not correct. But at the same
> time one should avoid doing tarpaNam and SrArdham because of that
> because, these are mandates (vidhi) in the Sruti. A vidhi has to be
> followed in toto. The impeccable performance of the vidhi leads to
> chitta shuddi and that is the only purpose of SrArdham and tarpaNam.
> It is because of this that bhIshma offered it on the leaf as that is how
> the Sruti dictates and vaidika karma has to be performed in accordance
> with Sruti and not take them in our own hands.
> He continued that the kartA of a SrArdham is glorified in a much more
> elaborate way than even the yajamana of a yajna. All the explanation
> that the offering would reach the pitR^s are also there in Sruit. But
> they should be treated as inducements (I am not sure here if he used the
> word arthavAda - one of the six lingas) and not to be taken literally.
> That being the case, he concluded that having a progeny is not a must.
That Swamiji was correct that it is the performance of the rite which is
essential and stories mentioned in the same context are only to illustrate
some aspect of the performance. (Arthavada is indeed the correct term btw)
However it is the popular belief to this day hat the offering of shraddha
maintains the pitrs in their celestial abode. Arjuna says in 1.42:
patanti pitaro hyeShAM luptapinDodakakriyaAH ||
the pitrs fall there (into naraka as mentioned in the first half of the
shloka) due to the omission of the rites of offering pindas (i.e shraddha)
A commonly given (though not grammatically correct) etymology of putra is
the one who saves his ancestors from the hell known as pu-naraka.
It is true that this poses a problem philosophically. Why should the
action or inaction of another cause me to lose the fruits of my own
actions? Perhaps we can say that the ancestors by their desire for
progeny have bound up their fate with that of their descendents.
Remember the statement that man only becomes complete through his
children? It would be interesting to see if any of our Acharyas have
taken up this issue.
Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
It's a girl! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/shailaja/
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