Garuḍa Purāṇa 22
The Lord begins to explain the procedure to be followed for accidental and unnatural deaths such as suicides, accidents, murders, sanyāsies and young children. A time frame ranging from immediate to six months has been prescribed to perform last rites, known as Nārāyaṇa bali. This rite should be performed in the banks of the sacred rivers, cow sheds, or temples in front of an idol of Kṛṣṇa. Numerous of mantras are used to offer libations and śrāddha-s. Gifts prescribed for other rites are also applicable to this rite.
The Lord proceeds to say that one should perform annual śrāddha rites for the dead. Those who perform annual śrāddha rites liberate ancestors and blessed by them. Lord then proceeds to discuss about karmas. From the way the Lord explains, one can clearly understand that one has to suffer twice, one with his subtle body in world Yama and another with gross body during his rebirth. Good karmas makes a person’s subtle body to sojourn in heaven and those who have accumulated bad karmas,have to suffer in the hands of servants of Yama. Some of the sinners enumerated by the Lords are – liar, thief, taking food at other’s house without informing them in advance, scolding others without valid reasoning, imparting knowledge to the undeserving, offering stale food, stealing books, raping, the one who does not pay the sum mutually agreed, disrespecting sacred fires, etc.
Just before the entry points of Yama’s city, there is a dreadful river called Vaitraṇī. All the subtle bodies have to necessarily cross this river. Those with good karmas can make a person to cross the river with ease and those with bad karmas have to cross the river with indescribable pain inflicted on their subtle bodies. Apart from their karmas, one’s nature is also taken into account while crossing this river. A miser, an atheist, irritable personality, arrogance, egoistic, ungrateful ones are made to wait in the banks of the river for an indefinite period of time. Symbolic gifts made during last rites help a subtle body to cross the river with a little more comfort. Apart from gifting, making a saṃkalpa is important. Each of the gifts discussed in Garuḍa Purāṇa or their representations should be given only with saṃkalpa. It is ultimately one’s thoughts and actions that determine the fate of his subtle body. It is the battle between dharma vs adharma and if dharma prevails, he undergoes less sufferings both with his subtle body and with his future gross body. Thoughts about previous lives prevail in the subtle body when it exists alone. If a subtle body attains a gross body and born again, the subtle body forgets the lessons learnt through all its previous lives. To get over evil karmas, pilgrimage is suggested.
Garuḍa Purāṇa elaborately dwells on various rites to performed at the time of death and thereafter. The underlying concept of the teachings of this Purāṇa is to caution the readers that they should not accrue bad karmas. Both good and bad karmas accumulate because of one’s thoughts processes. Thought is more powerful than action, because thoughts affect the subtle mind by embedding strong impressions. Impressions in the subtle mind manifest when the subtle body attains gross bodies during transmigration.
Many of the teachings of Garuḍa Purāṇa may not be applicable in today’s environment. It lays emphasis on various gifts. Gifts are to be interpreted in proper sense. The intent of the Purāṇa is to make one share his riches with others. It does not advocate that one should resort to borrowing and make these gifts. If one makes gifts beyond his financial abilities, it causes more bad karmas than good karmas. There is no point in spending money and doing last rites without taking care of the aged with love and care when they are alive. God will forgive any sins, but not the sin accruing out of of neglecting one’s parents or grandparents in their old age. No amount of gifts and no expensive rites will absolve the one who ignores his or her parents and grandparents when they are alive. A lot of time should be spent with them.
While performing last rites, again one should perform within his financial means. No last rite should be performed with borrowed money. No ancestor is going to curse, as long as he is taken care of well during his life time. If parents and grandparents are taken care of well during their old age, in fact no gifts and no rituals are required. It is enough to merely cremate them with respect, dignity and honour.
With this the series on Garuḍa Purāṇa is concluded.