Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 08 Feb 2005


In Hinduism, why are so many rituals performed after a person's death?

When a householder dies, rituals are performed and a cow is donated (Godana). This proves that a householder certainly goes to the hell because the cow is donated to help the householder to cross a river of blood and pus called Vaitarini flowing in the path of the hell. But when a saint dies these rituals are not done and the cow is not donated. The tradition itself proves that the householder, who does all the prescribed rituals, worships statues and does chanting of the Gayatri Mantra goes to hell. A saint does not do any of these things and only does the propagation of divine knowledge. Becoming a saint does not mean removing the sacred thread and putting on the saffron cloth. The quacky uniform of an actor cannot make him a policeman. A policeman is valid while doing his duty even in civilian dress. Therefore a saint is he who works for the propagation of the knowledge. The rituals consist of two parts:

1. Prayers to the Lord and

2. Sacrifice of fruit of work in the form of money to the deserving people.

The prayers will give satisfaction and peace. The practical sacrifice will bring the fruit from the Lord. When a person does not do these two things while he is alive, he does not get anything when his son does these things after his death. The son will get the fruits and not the father or the mother who died. Therefore one should pray to the Lord while one is alive and get the peace and satisfaction. Similarly one should sacrifice the fruit of one’s work (food and money) to deserving people while one is alive. The food offered by the son will not reach the dead person. The Lord has made all the arrangements for food in the upper world. Even for a jailed person, the government arranges for food. The Lord will certainly arrange for food for all the souls present in all the worlds. The threat of offering food to the dead parents was given so that a greedy person is forced to do these rituals. [Tradition says that if one does not do the rituals and offer food to one’s dead parents, they will not get any food in the after-world]. But there is no truth in this threat. A person who did these things while he was alive does not aspire either for sons or for such rituals. Shankara, Vivekananda, Meera etc., who participated in the propagation of divine knowledge and devotion, did not have children and they never bothered about such rituals. Their path is the path of knowledge (Archiraadi Marga) as said in the Gita (Ekayaa Yatya naa Vrittim). It is said that such people do not need these rituals “Nahi tena Pathaa Tanutyajah, Tanaya Varjita Pinda Kankshinah” i.e., the people in the path of the service of the Lord do not require the son and the rituals after death.

A person must be wise to pray to the Lord and to donate to a deserving person, while he is alive. He should not depend on his sons for this after his death. In that unhappy moment, the sons will not be able to get a proper deserving person to receive the fruit of the work (money and food) that they donate. When they sacrifice the fruit to undeserving persons, sin is purchased by the donation of food and money. Therefore it is better to do the donation while one is alive by searching a proper deserving person who can be the human incarnation of the Lord or at least a great devotee of the Lord. If this real aim of the rituals is not understood, performing the rituals after the death is simply a waste, and they are done only as a formality. In such rituals the priests recite the hymns without knowing their meanings like tape recorders. The concept of prayer is completely lost in such recitation. When you donate to such undeserving tape recorders, you cannot get the real fruit and you will get sin in such rituals. If one has prayed to the Lord and donated to the most deserving person while he is alive, such rituals are not necessary for him after his death.