“I give you what you want so one day you’ll want what I have come to give” – Sri Sathya Sai Baba
I’m eternally grateful to you. I’m also indebted to you.
- Grateful because you make my life possible. Sans you, I am not. Sans you, I have no life.
- Indebted because I’m not offering my gratitude to you. Not in the sense I owe you something as in the balance of a transaction. There is no transaction between you and me. There is only the natural sweetness of love. I’m indebted to you because I take you for granted and don’t even acknowledge you most of the time, let alone offer you my gratitude.
By “you”, I mean not the dear reader reading this but the divinity that is making me write and the divinity that makes the reader read, understand and reflect.
There is only One. This is the Truth. Those who know this One speak of it in many ways. Ekam sat vipraah bahudhaa vadanti | [Rg Veda 1.164.46]
The first touch I had with this One was in the form of my mother when I was born. This form pointed to another form and called it the father. I touched that form also as the One. This took me to another form which taught me about the One. I touched this teacher also as the One. Then remembering Its teaching, I touch all the guests in my life as the forms of the One only. [And what a mesmerizing variety of forms the guests appear in my physical home and in the home of my mind!]
Maatru devo bhava | Pitru devo bhava | Aachaarya devo bhava | Atithi devo bhava |[Taitreeya Upanishad Sikshaa Valli 11.3]
The body is a temple. The Effulgence resident in the body is eternal. It appears donning the dresses and names of different embodiments.
deho davaalaya prokto jeevo devah sanatanah [ref] sarvaani roopaani vichitya dheerah | naamani krutvaa abhivadan yataaste | [purusha suktam 1.16]
Kanchi Maha Periva (Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswati Swamigal), an exalted sage, instructs that I must worship this One Entity in all forms and names with love, humility and gratitude. These forms and names are not limited only to those that I know in my present life. They also include the forms and names from the past that have shaped my present. These forms and names are my ancestors. They are the ancestors in my family lineage and in the lineage of all the 8.6 million species on earth. They are the “pitru”s.
But these ancestors are dead and gone. How can they be still with me? Doesn’t it sound ridiculous?
No. On the contrary! Just look at what happens inside a mother’s womb during pregnancy.
The fetus must generate neurons at the rate of 2500 neurons per second from the very first day itself. In 90 days, it must have produced 2.4 billion neurons so that the baby is born with a well developed brain. This activity is regulated by DNA and chromosomes. These are gifts from our ancestors only. Are they not present with us in the present then?
Not only that. Our very physical and mental well being have been, and are being, nourished by every other creature in the world. It is immaterial if they are near or far or whether they are in the present or were in the past. I enjoy my food because of the hard work of the earthworm that I don’t even see. I enjoy a delicious mango from the tree in the backyard because a seed was planted in the ground even before I was born. I’m immune to certain diseases today because my ancestors succumbed to them. I owe a lot to not only what is present today but also to the past in the present.
There is an unbreakable inter-dependency among us, the 8.4 million species, not only on a physical level but also on the mental level.
As the parts of our body depend on one another on a physical level, we all are inter-dependent on the mental level. The mental body is the persona of our thoughts. Our actions and desires of yesterday are today’s thoughts and words. What I think affects not only me but also you. In the vicinity of a peaceful person, you feel peaceful. We all live in one cosmic mind, the Hiranyagarbha, with our individually-imagined minds causing waves of agitations or peace in it.
Our ancestors are very much present with us in every moment of our lives, both physically and mentally. Their forms and names may have vanished. But the moment I think of them, they show up at once in my mind.
All that we have and are today is because of our ancestors. Because each one of us, including our parents who have given us our bodies, has been shaped in the present by what our ancestors did or did not do in the past, thought or did not think in the past.
Offering our gratitude in contentment – the Mahaalaya Paksham
Kanchi Maha Periva says that I must think of all the ancestors with love, as various forms and names of the One Entity, and offer them my gratitude. This is the pitru yajna that Sage Agastya and Bhishma tell us to do also. I must do this yajna with every incoming and outgoing breath, or at least daily or on New Moon day every month. Failing this, I must do it at least once a year.
The Mahaalaya Paksham (meaning “the period of the great assembly”) is the time-period prescribed in scriptures to do this on an an annual basis.
One lunar month is one day and one night for the ancestors. The waxing phase of the moon is their night and the waning phase is their day.The sixteen day period in the waning phase of the moon between Full Moon and New Moon in mid-September to mid-October [Bhadrapadam in Sanatana Dharma scriptural calendar (Purattasi in Tamil calendar)] is a special day for them. All the ancestors gather together during this period to do their worship of Maha Vishnu. Hence the name Mahaalayam. Maha – great. Aalayam – assembly. Paksham – time-period.
Where do they gather? Scriptures say they gather in the Chandra mandalam, the region of the moon. This does not mean the spherical physical body revolving around the earth. The region of the moon is our mind. The purusha suktam explains that the moon appeared from the Hiranyagarbha. Chandra maa manaso jaatah. We know the intimate connection the moon-light has on our mind. We know how soothing the full-moon rays are, how they cool our mind and reduces its agitations.
The ancestors gather in my mind the very moment I invite them. I request them lovingly to sit on the seat of my heart. Then I please and pacify them by offering my gratitude and worship. When I do this sincerely with all my heart, I offer myself to them. This is the sacrifice that is to be done.
[https://callofthevedas.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/6c7dc-600.jpg] [http://s3-ap-southeast-1.amazonaws.com/ ensnapspub/ public_1065a5fbf4000ff796ecc39ae6455a82a7d2.jpg]
The medium of communication used with the ancestors is the vedic mantras. The language spoken is the language of the heart. The tools used are dharbha grass, sesame seed and water.
The ancestors are nothing but persona of mind. The mind is nothing but a bundle of desires. Desires are nothing but thieves that rob peace of mind, leaving behind agitations as visiting card.
The mantra is “tarpayaami”, a word that has its root in trupti. This means contentment, no more want or desire. It is a mind-set that accepts and revels with the happenings and non-happenings in life as the blessing of Bhagavan only. “I offer contentment to you, accept it and be contented” is the prayer I give to the ancestors. Regardless of the physical bodies the ancestors may be present in, it is their mind-persona, the agitations of the unfulfilled desires that the “tarpayaami” mantra pacifies. Thus pacified, the ancestors become pleased and happy.
The one catch is I can offer only what I have. Before I say “tarpayaami” and offer contentment, I must possess contentment myself. Else, how can I offer something I don’t have?
So, when I invite the ancestors in the beginning, I invite them with the sincere gratitude for giving me all I have and all that I am. “I have enough” should be my mind-set at this time. When I feel contentment within myself, for who I am and for what I have, and sincerely know “I have enough”, then I speak the truth when I say “tarpayaami”. Only in Truth the mantra will have effect. Then this simple mantra, as I utter it sitting in some corner of the world, pacifies the agitations of zillions of thought waves enveloping the world and makes the world that much more peaceful.
Dharbha grass is potent with powers to absorb certain energy frequencies and transmit certain others. Sesame seed is considered to have come out of the body of Maha Vishnu Himself and is potent with widely known plethora of benefits. Water is the eternal purifier physically, mentally and emotionally. On a spiritual level, when yajna is performed and the sacrifice is selfless, Maha Vishnu Himself takes residence in the water.
[http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-0WxOPbw-qos/TnBEP_lQJgI/AAAAAAAACqI/-D4rPcRGHuQ/s1600/ tharpanam_hand_1.jpg] http://smell.ilcannocchiale.it/mediamanager/sys.user/21980/india/Griglia_DarbhaGrass_%20per_Tharpanam.jpg
After seating the ancestors on dharbha grass, I recite the “tarpayaami” mantra and pour water mixed with sesame seed on the dharbha grass, through the gap between my forefinger and thumb. The thumb denotes the unshakeable constancy in everything, Paramatma, the One present in the many. The forefinger denotes the Jivaatama, the Paramatma resident in my body undergoing the experiences of apparent changes. The space between them, the sukra desam as called in the science of astrology, is the region of the mind. This space can be physically seen to separate the forefinger from the thumb and can also be seen to unite them. The mind is like that – it can separate me from God or unite me with Him.
Per traditional practice, I invite three generations of ancestors in my lineage by name and group all the other ancestors together under one name “kaarunika devataa”. “tarpayaami” mantra is offered to all of them. Peace and well being of every creature in all the worlds, not just one’s immediate family, is sought.
In the end, I assert and assure contentment by repeating “contented” (trupyata) thrice.
The “tarpayaami” offering function is called tarpanam. This is to be done on each of the fifteen days of Mahaalaya Paksham, starting from the first waning phase of the Full Moon to the New Moon day. If one cannot do it on all days, one should do it at least on the New Moon day. [This falls on October 12 this year]
We worship God in many ways, employ many religious paths, celebrate many festivals and sing many languages. We do these normally for fulfillment of our desires. The Mahaalaya Paksham gives us the spiritualistic opportunity to say, as Prahlada told Narasimha, “I have enough. I want nothing more”.
God gives us all that we ask for so one day we’ll realize the futility of all the things we ask for, stop asking, open our mind to the plentiful gifts He has already given and realize “I really have enough”. Then we can open His gift of contentment, a gift-box we had not opened till then, and revel in that. Imgaine the joy of a teacher when a student finally understands the lesson that the teacher has been teaching repeatedly. In the same way, when I say “I have enough. I want nothing more”, Bhagavan is immensely pleased. This is the lesson He has been teaching tirelessly sice the beginning of time. What can be more pleasing than this to Him who has been giving us all that we ask for so finally we ask what He has come to give?
Of course, ideally I should be saying this prayer, “I have enough. I want nothing more”, with every breath. But since I don’t do that, I can take up the opportunity provided by this festival to do that. My past is my present. I can truly and totally put the agitations in my mind, all the persona of my past thoughts and desires, all my ancestors so to speak, to rest by embracing “trupyata“, “I am contented” at this festival time. When my mental agitations are pacified, they bless me in return with peace of mind. This really is all blessings rolled into one.
The Mahaalaya Paksham festival is universal. Totally. It must be celebrated by one and all regardless of religion, race, gender and geography. Learn it from your teachers, elders or from people who know. Its efficacy – the principle and practice of contentment and gratitude to the One in the many- must be well understood by elders and taught to children. Contentment and gratitude build a peaceful home, society and the world.
The “I have enough” realization gives peace of mind. When my mind is peaceful, I get clarity. With clarity of mind, I can live to the prompting of the Seat of Love within me.
The Mahaalaya Paksham festival leads me on this path.