How well or how ridiculously it is done today is a different matter, but there is a whole science of what to do at different steps. One of the first things people traditionally do if someone dies is, they will tie the big toes of the dead body together. This is very important because it will tighten up the muladhara in such a way that the body cannot be invaded by that life once again. A life that has not lived with the awareness that “this body is not me” will try to enter through any orifice of the body, particularly through the muladhara. The muladhara is where life generates, and it is always the last point of warmth when the body is cooling down.
The reason why traditionally, we always said that if someone dies, you must burn the body within an hour-and-a-half or a maximum of four hours is because life tries to get back. This is also important for the living. If someone very dear to you died, your mind may start playing tricks, thinking that maybe a miracle will happen, maybe God will come and bring them back. It has never happened to anyone, but still the mind plays up because of the emotions that you have for that particular person. Similarly, the life that has exited the body also believes that it can still get back into the body.
If you want to stop the drama, the first thing is to set fire to the body within one-and-a-half hours. Or to be sure the person is dead, they have stretched it to four hours. But the body should be taken away as quickly as possible. In agriculture communities, they used to bury, because they wanted their forefathers’ bodies, which are a piece of soil, to go back to the soil that had nourished them. Today, you buy your food from the store, and do not know where it comes from. Therefore, burial is not advisable anymore. In earlier times, when they buried in their own land, they always put salt and turmeric on the dead body so that it quickly dissipates into the soil. Cremation is good because it closes the chapter. You will see that when there is a death in the family, people will be crying and wailing, but the moment cremation happens, they will become quiet, because suddenly, the truth has sunk in that it is over. This does not only go for the living but also for the disembodied being who has just exited the body. As long as the body is there, he or she is also under the illusion that he can get back.
There are many rituals to see that you can somehow put a drop of sweetness into such a non-discerning mind so that this sweetness will multiply many fold and they will live comfortably in a kind of self-induced heaven. That is the idea behind the rituals – if they are done properly.
I am sure most of you have heard of runanubandha, which indicates a physical relationship. Whenever you touch someone – either because of blood relationship or sexual relationships, or even if you just hold someone’s hand or exchange clothes – these two bodies will generate runanubandha, a certain commonality. When someone dies, traditionally, you are seeing how to completely obliterate the runanubandha. The idea of putting the ashes in the Ganga or in the ocean is to disperse them as widely as possible so that you do not develop runanubandha with one who has departed. For you to continue your life, you must properly break this runanubandha. Otherwise, as it happens in modern societies, it will affect your physical and mental structure. Children up to eight years of age are immune to these things – nature has given them that protection, but adolescents will suffer immensely when we do not take care of the dead properly, because the energies of disembodied beings are always there and the first ones that they go after are adolescents because they are the most vulnerable. You see in the world today how much upheaval people are going through during adolescence.
One of the reasons why adolescence is more of a struggle today than it was in previous generations is that we are not properly taking care of those who have departed and these runanubandhas are all over the place. It is like loose software everywhere, and it always affects adolescent life most.
But what to do? How do you grind your emotions into powder and sprinkle it? I don’t think it is possible to cut off your emotions.
Emotions are a different, secondary aspect to life. It is the physical sameness, the runanubandha with the dead that you want to eliminate, because this can cause sickness and mental derangement, among other things. Emotion by itself is not damaging. If you had a beautiful relationship with someone and now the person is no more, it is healthy to cherish the beauty of that relationship rather than suffer. But if the runanubandha is there, it weakens your body and your mental structure in such a way that instead of cherishing all the beautiful things that happened between two people, you are suffering, and not only that – it will lead to a certain derangement of life. To avoid that, we try to destroy the physical memory alone. It is not only that you cannot forget the emotional and psychological memory, you should not forget it either. Someone who meant so much to you – why should you forget them? You must cherish that relationship forever.
The holiest of all Shraddhas and the rituals done after death for the upliftment of the soul is to perform the practice at the Baisi Pahacha (the 22 steps that lead to Lord Jagannath Temple). Its a duty and spiritual obligation for our fore-fathers and ancestors so that their souls get liberated to the highest of heavens.
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