This is an experience in relation to the Shraddha ritual narrated by Mrs Shweta Clarke, a seeker at the Spiritual Research Centre and Ashram who has been doing spiritual practice for over 20 years.
The period of Pitrupaksha (fortnight for departed ancestral spirits) has a special place in our lives. Both Sean and I realised its significance when we learned of the Spiritual Science behind how we can help our departed ancestors during this period. However, it was the many spiritual experiences associated with Pitrupaksha and the Shraddha ritual that we have had over the years that made us truly understand its importance and significance for both departed ancestors and us, their descendants.
Living at the Spiritual Research Centre and Ashram for many years, we have been very fortunate to have the Ashram help organise the Shraddha ritual for seeker-residents. Seeker priests would conduct the Shraddha ritual with devotion and spiritual emotion, thus making it even more spiritually effective.
However, Pitrupaksha 2020 was different. We were required to be in Mumbai, India at the family home during the Pitrupaksha period. Even though we did not have access to our priest seekers, we had a lot of desire to perform the Shraddha ritual for our departed ancestors. The challenge was that we were living on the 10th floor of a high-rise building, so we wondered how to offer food to our departed ancestors. As per spiritual science, departed ancestors from the afterlife are able to partake of food offered ritualistically either through subtle means or through entering a crow.
Read our article (below) which explains the science behind this.
Often (i.e., not during the Pitrupaksha period), we would keep some food items such as bread pieces, roti (an Indian unleavened flatbread), etc. for birds at our family home. Generally, pigeons, mynas, sparrows and crows would come to the kitchen window on the 10th floor to eat it. However, the ritualistic food offering made for Pitrupaksha is a more elaborate meal, so we wondered as to how to keep it outside the window ledge, which was small in width so that it did not fall out. Also, we wondered if crows would be able to come to eat the meal.
On the last day of Pitrupaksha, known as Sarvapitri Amavasya (on this day, which is the new moon day of Pitrupaksha, performing the Shraddha ritual benefits all of one’s departed ancestors), we prayed ardently to Deity Dattatreya by saying that we are incapable of helping our departed ancestors.
“Please You only help so that the offering is accepted by them, so they are satiated and gain momentum in the afterlife.”
We were chanting throughout the day. For the meal, we prepared food items that our departed ancestors used to like. For example, Sean’s grandfather used to like dal (pulses), which he would have every day. Along with this, we prepared different types of vegetables, poori (Indian fried bread), sweet pudding, salad mixed with yoghurt, pickle, etc. We laid it out on a large platter and wedged it between the windows so that it was firmly in place.
Food offering placed on the kitchen counter next to the window of a high-rise building
At the time of offering, we requested Sean’s father (the eldest male member in the family) to come and make the offering by touching the plate. Although he is an atheist, we urged him to take part in the ritualistic offering and he agreed. All family members present prayed together to Deity Dattatreya and offered the food prepared for the departed ancestors. We prayed so that the departed ancestors come and partake of the food specially prepared for them.
We stepped away from the area and then watched the window from a distance.
What followed was quite amazing.
- Firstly, even though there were many birds like pigeons, sparrows, etc. sitting on parapets in the vicinity, only the crows came to eat the meal. On any other day, pigeons would boldly enter the kitchen window if they saw any food and would have to be chased away. Yet on that day, it was as if there was some common understanding amongst the birds that the food was not for any bird. We felt that the spiritual science is so accurate that there is an etiquette followed by the animal kingdom where the other birds could sense that this meal was different and hence, they did not come in the way of the ritualistic meal.
- Another thing we noticed is that many crows did not flock to the window all at once. Instead, they came one at a time to eat the offering. They did not behave like birds squabbling over scraps but came and ate in a very deliberate manner.
- Usually, when crows come on normal days, they would peck at something easy to eat, like a piece of bread, and fly away with it. But to our surprise, the first crow which came only ate the dal (pulses), which is liquid.
One crow only ate dal from the plastic container
It only ate that for some time and did not eat anything else. After that, it cawed loudly as if it was acknowledging the offering and paying gratitude, and then it flew away. Sean and I experienced an awakening of spiritual emotion because Sean’s grandfather used to like dal a lot. We felt that the offering was accepted by his grandfather through the medium of the crow, and he felt satisfied.
- Thereafter, one by one other crows appeared at the ledge and pecked at the food offering.
The crows came one by one eating various parts of the meal that was laid out
A crow peeping in looking at us
- Each one would eat and while doing so it would peep inside the house looking directly at us. Each of them cawed before leaving.
By the end of the day, almost all the food was eaten. We offered immense gratitude to Deity Dattatreya and Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale (who has guided us about the spiritual science about the Shraddha ritual and the importance of performing regular spiritual practice) for this spiritual experience. We learnt that even if one does not have access to priests for performing the ritual, if desire is there to perform the ritual, God helps one to perform Shraddha for one’s departed ancestors. We wrote our experience so that anyone who may be in a similar situation – where they don’t have access to priests or depending on their situation are not able to do the complete ritual, see that just simple steps performed with earnest desire also gives a lot of spiritual benefit and goes a long way in giving momentum to one’s departed ancestors.