[Advaita-l] Re: Shraadha & Reincarnation

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Thu Oct 6 10:29:30 CDT 2005

On Tue, 4 Oct 2005, Krunal Makwana wrote:

Btw, no need to resend.  I do read all mail but sometimes i'm slow to
respond either because I'm busy or I have to do some research to give you
a proper answer.

> I was performing 'Shraadha' today for my deceased father and i was confused
> as to why i was doing it? Doesn't Hinduism believe in reincarnation, that
> after the body dies the soul goes onto another body, with a different mann,
> buddhi, cit and ahamkar?

yes however the path is not as straightforward as it might seen.

> Okay lets suppose that the mann, budhi, cit and ahamkar were the same in the
> new body, but where is the link to the previous family, it doesn't have one,
> as the soul has 'moved on' so to speak, so any attachment with the former is
> not really there?

The whole reason reincarnation happens is because of karma.  The actions
of this and previous lives propel a person on through to new lives until
stopped by the dawn of jnana.  And this karma is like ballast on a ship.
bad deeds lead to the atma sinking down into worse bodies while good deeds
lead to it obtaining more and more divine forms.

Those who have been wicked go after death to Hell.  There they are
punished according to the nature of their sins and when they have done
their time, they are released and return to the world.  (See Brahmasutra

Those who have acted well but for selfish reasons go after death to the
Chandraloka.  They are called pitrs and this is the pitrayana.  There they
enjoy the merit of their deeds and when it is exhausted they return
to the world.

Those who have acted well for selfless reasons, as a sacrifice to God, go
after death to to the suryaloka or Heaven.  They are called devas and this
is the devayana.  There they enjoy the merit of their deeds and when it is
exhausted they return to the world.  (See Brahmasutra 3.3.29-30)

Those who have renounced action, if they have acheived jnana in this
lifetime are called jivanamuktas.  If they do not, they go after death to
the Brahmaloka never to return to the world.  There they can try again
until they get mukti or the pralaya or end of the world when they get
absorbed into brahman

The pitrs as mentioned above belong to the second group.  In the preceding
life they performed virtuous deeds.  One of these was to have children.

So you as one of those children are under a debt. You do shraddha (and
have children of your own) as a payment for that debt.  Similiarly you are
under a debt to the Gods for the world in which you live in.  You pay it
by doing pujas etc.  And you know all this due to the Rshis so you are in
debt to them which you pay by learning shastras.

But why do the pitrs want pind as a an offering?  The pind is the "food"
that makes up the spiritual body of the pitrs.  But it is not the actual
rice and ghee but the good karma of following shastraic injunctions that
is the actual substance.

A sannyasi is not bound by the three debts because he has stepped outside
of the whole system.  Kind of like how the concept of debt would be
meaningless to someone who didn't have any money or believe little colored
slips of paper meant anything.

> Another question arises, that we 'believe' that the pitru comes in the form
> of a pashu namely birds, so does that mean that the atman comes in a less
> statuse than human being meaning that it went backwards rather than evolving
> again? what does the bird represent then? my father?

The kagdo or crow is not the pitr himself but his messenger who takes back
the offering to pitraloka.  Like Agni is called the messenger of the  Gods
and offerings are made into fire regardless of which God is being

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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