1. What is the annual special time for departed ancestral spirits?
If you want to learn more about the fortnight for departed ancestors (Pitrupaksha) please watch our video.
The universe operates in a cyclical manner. For example in every year there is an equinox, a solstice, spring, winter, etc. In the same manner the spiritual dimension also has cyclical events. Every year in the autumn (of the northern hemisphere) there is a fortnight when our departed ancestors come closer to the Earth or the physical plane. In 2023, this special time for departed ancestors falls between Sep 29 to Oct 14.
Due to a lack of spiritual practice, most ancestors get stuck in the afterlife and stagnate due to a lack of spiritual energy. As they continue to have their worldly desires and yet cannot do anything to help themselves they continue to feel restlessness. During this period they come towards the Earth plane in an attempt to connect with their descendants. This period presents a unique opportunity for us descendants to help our ancestors in the afterlife. Just as we serve our parents and close relatives when they are alive as a part of our duty, we have certain duties unto them even after their death.
During this period the environment is filled with the subtle pressure from the billions of subtle bodies of ancestors and the vibrations of their unfulfilled desires. Negative energies also attack the subtle bodies of ancestors by taking advantage of their spiritual weakness and unfulfilled desires. Negative energies often take control of ancestors by fulfilling their desires thus making them slaves. As our departed ancestors have a karmic bond with us, negative energies can also use our ancestors to attack us. As a result during this period our desires and addictions may increase as our departed ancestors and negative energies try to fulfil their desires through us.
2. Some physical signs that departed ancestors need our help
The following are some physical signs that may occur when your departed ancestors are trying to reach out to you and your family.
- Some members of your entire family are continuously facing problems. (Quite often departed ancestors cause problems in their descendant’s life as a way to reach out to them and as a cry for help. They either try to contact the favourite son or a descendant who is doing spiritual practice as they are more likely to get spiritual help from that descendant.)
- Snakes come in your dreams
- Ancestors often come in your dreams
- The same crow repeatedly visits your home. (Subtle bodies of ancestors enter the crow temporarily.)
3. What can we do to help our ancestors?
In the SSRF lecture tour, we have noticed that our attendees are especially interested in what they can do for their departed ancestral spirits and how their departed ancestors exert an influence over them from the afterlife.
Here are a few things one can do to protect oneself and also help one’s departed ancestors in the afterlife:
3.1 Chant the Name of Shrī Gurudev Datta
This is a spiritual protection chant that serves two purposes. It provides us (descendants) with spiritual protection from problems caused by our departed ancestors and it also provides our ancestors with the spiritual energy to give them momentum in the afterlife.
- For the average person (who does not do regular spiritual practice), SSRF recommends that he or she does a minimum of 4 hours of this chant on a daily basis during this fortnight.
- For seekers doing regular spiritual practice, the amount of chanting required can reduce to 1 hour depending on the intensity of their spiritual practice. For example, seekers doing many hours of spiritual practice per day are required to only do 1 hour of chanting of the ‘Shri Gurudev Datta’ chant.
It is important to note that chanting of ‘Shri Gurudev Datta’ has only 50% benefit. The other 50% benefit comes from conducting the ‘Shrāddha ritual’.
3.2 Conduct the Shrāddha ritual
3.2.1 Definition of the Shrāddha ritual
The word ‘Shrāddha’ has originated from ‘shraddhā’ (Faith). It is impossible to repay all that our departed ancestors have done for us. The rites performed for them with complete faith are known as Shrāddha. (from here on spelt as Shraddha).
Shraddha is not just the remembrance of the departed ancestors with a sense of gratitude; it is a specific rite that is to be performed.
3.2.2 Benefits of performing the Shraddha ritual
By performing the spiritually potent rite of Shraddha, not only are the desires of departed ancestors fulfilled, but they also get energy for their onward journeys. A single intense desire of a departed ancestor is sufficient to hamper his or her onward journey in the afterlife. The energy obtained from the Shraddha is utilised to fulfil that desire. Hence, when Shraddha is performed regularly, over a period of time, their desires diminish and they begin to acquire momentum in their onward journeys in the afterlife.
In the present times, most people do not actively practise Spirituality. This fact also holds true for our departed ancestors when they were living. As a result, the subtle bodies of departed ancestors lack the spiritual energy to move forward in their afterlives. Hence, to move forward in the afterlife, they need the help of some external spiritual energy which can be gained through rites such as Shraddha. Having taken the names of the ancestors during the rite, the vibrations generated from the rituals match with the departed ancestor, thus providing him with necessary spiritual energy. This helps him to go beyond the Region of the Dead (Martyaloka) where most of them get stuck in the afterlife. Also, when we do Shraddha, we are less likely to be adversely affected by ancestors in the Region of the Dead and in the Nether region (Bhuvarlok). Compared to chanting Shri Gurudev Datta, the Shraddha ritual helps the departed ancestor in his onward journey in the afterlife far more rapidly.
Another important benefit of the Shraddha ritual is that it helps to positively change the mindset of the deceased ancestor(s) for who the ritual is being conducted. This is especially so for ancestors who have more merits/lesser attachments and who are more spiritually positive. This means that when the ritual is conducted with spiritual emotion, it can help to increase the deceased ancestor’s desire to practice Spirituality and therefore grow Spiritually. Accordingly, when the ancestor is reborn on the Earth plane, the seed for spiritual practice is set in his or her mind and therefore helps them to begin their journey towards spiritual progress.
3.2.3 The simple version of the Shraddha ritual
The Shraddha ritual in its traditional form is elaborate. As a result, it may be difficult for some people to organise the various aspects and perform the ritual. In case one cannot arrange for the complete ritual, SSRF has provided a few easy steps that anyone can do to complete the Shraddha ritual for their departed ancestors. The traditional Shraddha ritual should be conducted by the eldest male member of the family. However, the simple version can be conducted by any male or female family members. (Note: Females should not conduct the ritual during their menstrual cycle, i.e., a period of 5 days.)
Ideally this ritual given below should be conducted every day during the Pitrupaksh fortnight. However, if this is not possible then it should be conducted on at least one of the days during the Pitrupaksh fortnight. If possible observe a fast on the day you are planning to conduct the Shraddha ritual.
Step 1 : Ritualistic offering of food
Mix some steamed rice and black sesame seeds and place them on a plate along with a glass of water. Keep this offering in the backyard, a balcony or anywhere outside the house. You can also cook a nice vegetarian meal as an offering. The best time to offer the food is between 11 AM and 4 PM.
Step 2 : Prayer to departed ancestors
Pray and mentally call out to all of your departed ancestors from this birth and from earlier births to come and partake of the offering. Departed ancestors’ subtle bodies usually come in the form of crows to peck at the offering. Pray to Deity Dattatreya that your ancestors may be satisfied with the meal.
Step 3 : Ritualistic offering of water
Stand and face the South at home. Take a long blade of grass (ideally darbha grass) and pray that it becomes spiritually pure. The darbha variety of grass has more capacity to hold the Absolute Cosmic Fire Principle and hence has the ability to spiritually purify the holder and the environment. Tie the blade of grass like a ring around the ring finger of the right hand. Take a glass of water in the left hand and slowly pour the water on the right palm. Let the water flow out between the thumb and the index finger of the right palm onto a gold, silver or copper plate if possible.
Step 4 : Ritualistic disposal of offering
If a crow has not pecked at the food until late afternoon, the food needs to be disposed of before sunset. The best way of disposing the food is to immerse it in flowing water like a stream or the sea. In case this is not possible, then it can be immersed in a lake. The last option is to bury the leftovers in the ground. Do not bring the leftovers back into the house.
3.2.4 Alternative option for the Shraddha ritual
If none of the above listed steps are possible due to unavoidable circumstances or financial problems, only as a last resort, you can consider carrying out this option of the ritual.
Go into an open space outdoors and face the South direction.
Raise both hands up in the air (to denote surrender) and pray to Deity Dattatreya, “I am helpless. I pay obeisance to all my departed ancestors. Let all my departed ancestors be satisfied through my devotion. O Deity Dattatreya, You only please give momentum to my departed ancestors and relieve me from the debt to my ancestors.”
Remember the most important ingredient in all of the above steps of this ritual is your spiritual emotion and gratitude to Deity Dattatreya and God. We pray that you gain maximum spiritual benefit from this ritual.
Spiritual experiences of seekers when they applied alternative options to the Shraddha ritual are given below.
3.2.5 Donating during the fortnight for departed ancestral spirits
- Donations made in the name of ancestors during the Pitrupaksha period should always be accompanied with the Shraddha ritual. Donations can never be in lieu of Shraddha.
- In order to get the spiritual benefit of donations made during Pitrupaksha, the donation should be made to a deserving spiritual organisation that is serving the cause of spreading Spirituality in a non-sectarian manner.
- The departed ancestor only gets the spiritual benefit of the donation if he/she had desired that the donation be made on their behalf.
- However, the descendant who makes a donation during Pitrupaksha to a deserving spiritual organisation will get added spiritual benefit.
If you wish to donate, please visit our donations page.
3.2.6 Learn more about the Shraddha ritual and the underlying spiritual science
To know more about Shraddha and how to perform it, please read the book on Shraddha available in the SSRF Shop. The period between death and the next birth is akin to that of an unborn child in the womb. Just as care is taken to ensure healthy growth of the fetus in the womb, care of the departed is taken through different rites which are part of the Shraddha. The waves generated through mantras recited in Shraddha, the blessings of the priest, the goodwill of the relatives, offerings of rice and such other ritualistic worship yield extraordinary results which cannot be explained logically. Shraddha creates a protective sheath around the subtle-body of the departed ancestor and helps it in gaining momentum. These rites provide benefits in the subtle regions of Hell and the Nether region.
Note: Just as a mother protects an unborn child in her womb till its birth, so also the rites of Shraddha provide a protective sheath to the departed ancestors after it is completed.
The Shraddha ritual is required to be done by a man. A single woman whose parents are deceased and who has no male siblings can ask the priest to do the ritual on her behalf.
- Increase one’s spiritual practice: When one practices spirituality on a daily basis one’s overall spiritual protection increases as one grows spiritually. Chanting Shri Gurudev Datta during Pitrupaksha helps to give momentum to one’s departed ancestors in their onward journeys in the afterlife.
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