In Indian Culture
Why should every son perform ritual of Shraddha Ceremony?
Importance of Sraddha ceremony
For a householder the scriptures have imposed the Panca Maha Yagnas, the five great sacrifices as obligatory duties of life. The neglect of these duties entails penalty. These great sacrifices are : 1. Deva Yajna (sacrifice to Gods), 2. Rsi Yjna (sacrifice to Risi). 3. Pitr Yajna (sacrifice to ancestors), 4. Bhuta Yajna (sacrifice to animals), and 5. Atithi Yajna (sacrifice to guests).
The Sraddha ceremony comes under Pitr Yajna. It is the sacred duty of the householder. Every householder should perform the Sraddha ceremony for his ancestors. Pitrs are forefathers who dwell in the Pitrloka. They possess the power of clairvoyance and clairaudience. When Mantras are recited, they exercise tremendous influence through their vibrations. The Pitrs (ancestors) hear the sounds through the power of clairaudience and they are pleased. They bless those who offer the oblation.
In Sraddha, the essence of food offerings is taken up by the Sun's rays to Suryaloka and the departed souls are pleased with the offerings. Even in Germany and other foreign countries many persons perform Tarpana and Sraddha. They have scientifically investigated the beneficial effects of such oblations. It is imperative duty of all householders to perform Sraddha and Tarpana to please the Risis and Pitrs. The Gita and Upanisads clearly bear testimony to the fact that the performance of Sraddha is very important. It is only the deluded souls with perverted intellect who misconstrue things and neglect to perform the sacred ceremonies and consequently suffer. They are misguided by false reasoning and logic. Satanic influences affect them very easily. Ignorance is the root cause for this state of affairs.
Sraddha ceremony is done once in every year. A day of the Pitrs is equal to one year of human computation. This is the reason why we have to perform Sraddha ceremony once in a year. It is equal to daily performances of Sraddha for the Pitrs (ancestors). In their calculation we, their sons, live only for a few days, because the longest period of human existence of 100 years is merely 100 days for them.
Some people entertain the doubt, "When the Jiva undergoes transmigration and takes another birth after leaving this physical body, is it necessary that we should perform Sraddha ceremony for him? He is no more in the heavens. To whom will the oblations reach?"
In the ninth Chapter of the Gita, Lord Krsna has made it very clear that those virtuous persons who perform sacrifices for the attainment of heaven attain to those worlds of enjoyments. "They having enjoyed that spacious world of Svargas, their merit (Punya) exhausted, enter the world of the mortals; thus following the Dharma of the triad, desiring objects of desires, they attain to the state of going and returning." This establishes the theory of attainment of heaven after death, and rebirth in the mortal world after the exhaustion of virtuous acts. The enjoyments in heaven and peace of the soul are enhanced by the performance of Sraddha ceremony. The suffering in worlds other than heaven according to the merits of one's own actions is mitigated by the performance of Saraddha ceremony his sons. So in both cases the performance of Sraddha is great help. The Pitrs remain in heaven (Pitrloka, Candraloka) for a very long period.
According to the theory of transmigration, even if the individual is to take another birth immediaely after his death, the performance of Sraddha adds to his happiness in his new birth. So it is the imperative duty of everybody to perform. Sraddha ceremony for his parents and forefathers. Sraddha ceremony should be performed with great Sraddha (faith) as long as you live. Faith is the main support for religion.
In olden days the question "whether to perform Sarddha ceremony or not" did not arise at all. Then people were full of faith and had reverence for the scriptures. In these days when faith is almost dwindling into an airy nothing and when the list of non-performers of Saraddha has increased, others of wavering faith begin to doubt whether it is necessary to perform Saraddha or not, and whether any good will accrue out of it. This lack of faith in the Sastras has degraded us to the present deplorable condition. "Shradhavan labhate jnanam.... the man of faith attains knowledge and thereby immortality and eternal peace" is the declaration of the Gita.
Some people argue and say that if a man once performs Sraddha ceremony to his forefathers at Gaya and other places of religious importance, he need not do it every year thereafter. This is not a general rule and does not apply to all. It applies only in expcetional cases. If people take shelter under this exception and discontinue Sraddha ceremony by once offering, Pinda (rice-ball) etc., at Gaya, they do so out of sheer ignorance. They consider it merely a burden to perform Sraddha ceremony and avoid it. They have not discharged their duties properly.
The various religious observances imposed upon mankind by the Sastras tend to purify the ignorant man. The goal of Karma Yoga is purification of the mind. Sraddha ceremony, being one of the obligatory duties, as per the injunctions of scriptures, also tends to purify the mind. Besides this, the forefathers are also pleased and their good wishes and blessings tend to our material and spiritual growth.
People who die without a son will suffer in the other worlds. (This is, of course, not applicable in the case of Nitya Brahmacharins and spritual aspirants who tread the spiritual path alone after renouncing all selfish desires and wordly enterprises). That is the reason why people adopt a son before their death for the due performance of Sraddha ceremonies after their death. The Gita also supports this view. "Patanti pitaro hyesvam luptapindodakakriyah": their forefathers fall (down to hell) deprived of the offerings of Pinda (rice-ball) and water.
But, if a man is religious-minded and if he has discrimination and dispassion, belief in the Sastras and the Vedas, if he has led a virtuous life till the end of his life, if he has led a virtuous life till the end of his life, if he has devoted his last days in devotional practices, Japa, meditation, study, etc., (even if he has no son) he will not have a fall. He will surely enjoy perfect peace. He will not be affected by the dark forces of ignorace. He is free from base attractions of the world. The Lord takes care of his progress. He has got self-surrender and there is no fear of downfall. He has mental purity. All religious observations have Citta Suddhi (purification of the mind) as their goal. This he attains by virtue of his past Samskaras and virtuous life in previous incarnations.
People of some communities in India spend money enormously and indiscriminately on Sraddha ceremony for show. This is mere wastage. Money should not be spent on luxury. It is a delusion to think that the Pitrs will get more peace by spending more money. Money does not count for the ease of the Pitrs, but the intensity of Bhava (attitude), with which the Saraddha is performed, counts.
On such occasios the poor and deserving persons are to be fed sumptuously. Their necessities of life should be attended to. Study of scriptures should be done on such days. Tthe performer of the Sraddha ceremony should observe spiritual discipline like Japa, meditation, Mauna, etc. He should maintain strict Brahmacarya. He should not spend his time in idle pursuits. He should pray to God for the whole day. Recitation of appropriate Vedic hymns should be done. The story of Naciketas of the Upanisads should be studied. The performer attains immortality.
Revive the Vedic religion. Tread the path of Truth. Perform Sraddha ceremony. Shake off this slothfulness, and indifference to the path of righteousness. Awake, arise! Tap the right source. Stick to your Varnasrama Dharma. There is no greater sacrifice than performance of one's own duty. Study the Gita daily. Live in the world, but be not of it. Assimilate the teachings of the Gita. This is the surest way to success in life as well as God-realisation.
May you enjoy the bliss of the Eternal. May you attain the immortal and imperishable seat of Brahman by regular performance of your Swadharma (duty), singing Hari's names, serving the sick and the poor, following the path of righteousness, by regular study of the Vedas and by meditation on the Supreme Self! May the Lord guide you in your activities!
Source: An article by Swamy Sivananda