Chandogya Upanishad cites a dialogue between father Uddalaka Aruni and his son Svetaketu. The father explains to his son that anything experienced in the physical world exists as it is, yet there is a greater truth beyond it all. The father provides this example to his son: If someone strikes at the root of a large tree, it would bleed, yet remain alive. Even if the tree is struck at the stem or at the top, it would bleed but would still survive. The tree would live on because it is nourished by its Supreme Living Self. However if the life of the tree, the Living Self, leaves the tree, then it would wither in the same exact manner as the physical body would and die when the Living Self has left it. Both the Living Self and the True Self do not die. One cannot see it, but must understand its essence. Attempting to understand this concept is a path for knowing our higher selves, or the Real Self, which is Brahman.
How can Karma divert you from knowing your Higher Self?Dr. Pillai answers, “Your brain is not different from the brain of your father, mother, grandma, great grandparents, or even their earlier generation. Just as you have inherited biological genes, you have also inherited the genes of their Soul. You keep thinking their thoughts; their emotions and thoughts live through you. This adds up to your Karma.” So, upon liberating these thoughts from earthly attachments and suffering, you liberate yourself as well. Aadi Amavasya is an important day for reaching out to your Higher Self. The dark, or waning, phase of every lunar month, especially the New Moon day (called Amavasya in Sanskrit) facilitates communication with that Higher Self. During this time ancestral souls visit the Earth. The New Moon in the Tamil month of Aadi (mid-July to mid- Aug) is considered especially auspicious for performing rituals to reach out to the souls of our ancestors, honor them and find happiness in our lives. After your ancestors are relieved of their karma they bless you with abundance.
Where do the souls of our ancestors find rest and bliss?The Upanishads tell us that the journey of the departed mortals pass through the dark path of Pitri-yana, which intersects at Pitriloka (the world of departed ancestors), and finally ends at the Moon (Chandraloka). The soul first reaches a place in Pitriloka and depending on the karma, will proceed further on a journey to the Moon during the six months of Dakshinayana when the Sun makes its journey southwards, which considered the time of the darker phase of the moon. After reaching the Moon, they rest in joy and peace.
What are specifications of Aadi Amavasai Pooja or ancestral rituals?Performance of ancestral rituals to ancestors reduces their suffering and brings them happiness of honor and nourishment. The Vedic scriptures stress that before the beginning of the ritual, the evil spirits should be driven out from the selected piece of land which the ritual will be performed. The scriptures also speak to the importance of offering oblation in the form of cereals, milk (except from that of a camel, sheep, doe and buffalo), honey, barley, wheat, rice, sesame seeds, peas and mustard are common cereals and grains. Any water used in offerings should also be free from odor and foam. During the ritual, great care should be taken that an eunuch, an untouchable who disposes corpses, sinner, imposter, patient, cock, dog, a naked person, monkey, pigs, a woman on her menses, and anyone who has had a birth or death occur in their home does not witness the ritual. If any of these individuals observe this ritual, then neither the deities nor the ancestors will accept the offerings.
How do you perform the 2018 Aadi Amavasai Pooja at home?Special priests perform such rituals at specific holy rivers or water bodies. But Dr. Pillai also suggests a simple method for ancestral rituals, or tarpanam, that can be easily be performed at home during waning Moon phases preceding Amavasya to receive blessings of ancestors:
- Place a teaspoon of a mixture of black sesame seeds and rice, a coin, a few small pieces of darba grass into the palm of your right hand
- Sprinkle a few drops of water over the offerings
- Make a heartfelt prayer to your ancestors and pour the water over the offerings calling upon six generations of dead ancestors on your father’s side and then of your mother’s side to accept your offering; ask them to be healed, be at peace, and to not return to Earth, and to cross into the light
- Ask your ancestors to send you their blessings
- Pour the rest of the water to wash off the offerings completely