oday I chose an unusual topic to write as an edit because just three days back a Mother like aunt passed away and there were debates on why one should narrate Garuda Purana when someone dies in the family. Hindu religion has many practices to follow, and this is one of them. I won’t be arguing on rights and wrongs of these practices but I want to pen down what I understood about this scripture. The Garuda Purana is one of the Vishnu Puranas. There is an amazing inventory of correspondence between the microcosmos and the human microcosm body. In Hindu funeral rites, on the 13th day, there is a ceremony called Vaikunta Samaradhana. Punya is acquired from reading or listening to the 7000-year-old text, Sri Garuda Purana during that time.
Garuda Purana is the text based on the conversation of Lord Vishnu (Shree Hari) and his vahana Garuda. Garuda asks the Lord about the punishment for bad deeds humans do on earth. Some of them are as follows: the Garuda Purana tells us that the soul goes through hell or heaven before being reborn. It experiences pain or pleasure, respectively, in hell or heaven, before being re-born. It also says that pain and pleasure will be experienced in the next birth based on the deeds of the current birth. One needs to continually be reminded that the Purānas are GUIDES. They contain everything from Atomic theory to Zoology so when asking a question about the verity of something one must be more specific about the subject. The Garuda Purana has its embellishments that need to be viewed by a mind that knows the purpose and limitations describing spiritual phenomena. If you can read it with an open mind and not take any of its pronouncements as final, you should be fine. Of the occult literature, the Garuda Purana is not the most tricky or dangerous, there are way more difficult ones around. You should gather some spiritual courage and read it anyway.
In the modern era, death and its rituals have become so short and convenient, that people come up with every excuse to avoid the practices that allow dignified departure to the body. For them, it’s a body that is dead, and one needs to burn it, that’s all. Well! Modernism and lack of wisdom have their own side effects. The Preta-kāṇḍa which deals with death and the afterlife. According to the principles of exegesis (Mimāmsa) the primary function of Scripture is to give practical guidance in how to live a Dharmic life this is known as the VIDHI — and this is the most important part of Shastra. In order to support and encourage the desirable practice, the Shastra describes incentives and to discourage the negative acts they give deterrents. All the incentives and disincentives are called ARTHAVĀDAs. In other words, they are metaphoric only and not to be taken literally. In the Preta-kāṇḍa it describes the journey of the deceased called PRETA (dead body) or “ghost (aatma)” into the after-world and its exit interview with a panel of Judges Yama – the Lord of Death, Chitragupta – the celestial accountant, and Varuna – the celestial Intelligence-gathering agent. The deceased person is asked to give an account, a discussion ensues followed by judgment, and then it is sent either to heaven if its good deeds are excessive or to hell if its bad deeds are dominant and if neutral then one returns to earth to continue the spiritual journey. The underlying theme of all these stories is about DHARMA and ADHARMA.
It also describes around 24 types of death punishments given to a person after death for the sins committed in life. These deaths include Kumbhipakam (burned in oil) and Krimi Bhojanam (given as prey to leeches). The final part of this text, is an appeal to self-knowledge, as the key to liberation, going beyond austerities and study of these texts. And this is the importance of the origin of Garuda Purana. The Garuda Purana is often recited at funeral ceremonies. The reason is that it has all the mantras that are to be chanted on such occasions. And if the rites are performed according to these incantations, the ancestors are freed from all their past sins.
According to Garuda Purana, you meet your dead relatives on the 11th and 12th days after you die, that is the reason these two days are considered to be very crucial in the death ceremony. Jaya and Vijaya (GateKeepers of Vaikuntha – The abode of Lord Vishnu) both were born as Asuras (Demons) due to the curse given by Sanatkumara Muni. So, Jaya and Vijaya were born as Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu. Sanatkumara was born as Prahaladha. This happened in Satya Yuga(Krita Yuga). The demons were killed by Varaha Avatar and Narasimha Avatar of Lord Vishnu. After lakhs of years, they were reborn again as Ravana and Kumbakarna in Treta Yuga. Sanatkumara was born as Vibhishana. The demons were killed by Ram Avtar of Lord Vishnu. After lakhs of years, they were reborn as Sisupala and Dhandhavaktra in Dwapara Yuga. Sanatkumara was born as Akrura. The mortals were killed by Krishna Avatar of Lord Vishnu. From the above three incidents, note the point. Four people (Jaya, Vijaya, Sanatkumara, and Lord Vishnu) were reborn thrice in a difference of lakhs of years. This is the law of Reincarnation.
Based on good things and deeds, Atma goes to Swarga (Heaven), and based on bad things and deeds, it goes to Naraka (Hell). Now when you ascend from Earth to heaven, time decreases. If you descend from Earth to Hell, time increases. If you have seen the film Narnia you will understand this concept. The children are in Narnia for 25 years but when they come back to London, they are children again. The same concept is there for heaven and hell. If I spend one day in heaven, then it is one year on Earth. So Sanathana Dharma says if an Atma has done lots of bad things, he will be born on Earth immediately as it goes to Naraka. But if the same Atma did good things it will take years to be reborn again and that’s why Hindus do Tharpana or Thithi which is food for the soul until it is in heaven. So, Garuda Purana explains the soul which is in Swarga where it will meet their relatives. All the above concepts are slightly vague to understand but Hinduism has too deeper knowledge about all these things. Most of the time we humans fail to fulfill the needs (by all means, Physical to emotional) of our loved ones. When they depart, there are rituals to perform for the one dead and one lived. Pure reason is to accept and repent and finally seek clemency.
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