Garuda Purana 2

Garuḍa asks several questions to Viṣṇu on death and Kṛṣṇa patiently clarifies all his doubts. This series will deal briefly on the answers provided by Kṛṣṇa.

A corpse should be cleansed with the mixture of water and cow dung and darbha grass (kuśa grass) should be spread on the place and the corpse should be placed on the darbha grass. If this is not done, evil spirits will enter the corpse. Corpse should be placed only on the ground and not on cots or elevated platforms. A circle should be drawn around the corpse. On drawing the circle, Brhmā, Viṣṇu, Rudra, Goddess Lakṣmī and Agni, the god of fire enter this circle. If this circle is not drawn, his soul does not get a proper womb for rebirth and remains as a ghost, which lives in the air for a long time.  It does not receive śrāddha (rituals to ancestors) and water.

Sesame seeds are used in all śrāddha rituals.  Sesame seeds are considered as sacred and can destroy evil spirits and can burn all the sins committed by the deceased. Thirst of the corpse is quenched by offering libation with water and sesame seeds.  Kṛṣṇa says that darbha grass has grown from His hair and sesame seeds from His perspiration.  Brhmā is in the root end of darbha, Viṣṇu in the middle and Śiva in the tip. Darbha grass should be placed in the hands of a person who is dying. Salt is also effective in removing sins of a person, as salt has originated from the body of Viṣṇu.  Gifting (dāna) sesame seeds and salt are considered as more sacred than other gifts. Gift of salt when a person is dying takes the person directly to the heaven.

Kāla, the god of death, also known as Yama detaches the soul from the body of a person at the appointed time and nobody can prevent this. Kāla’s assistants push the dying person’s breath out of his body and they take out his soul.  At the time of death, the normal balance between five types of prāṇa-s is disturbed pushing the udāna upwards, causing a peaceful death.  Peaceful death happens only for those who are devoted to the Lord during their lifetime.  Those who have always spoken truth, have unstinted faith in the Lord and always follow the virtuous path also die peacefully.  Those who speak lies, deceitful devotion, preach ignorance, abuse Vedas die unconsciously.  Their mouths become dry and they die because of suffocation.  Their death becomes violent.

The souls of those, who have committed sins during their life time spend their time in hell and are born again in the earth.  Here soul does not mean the Brahman, but the causal and subtle bodies encasing the Soul. A soul is called jīva when it is covered by causal and subtle bodies.  The epic then proceeds to say the different types of rebirth the jīva takes such as plant, animals, human, etc depending upon the sins committed by them.  After their death, they go to hell.

Garuḍa Purāṇa then proceeds to explain different types of hells and each of these hells are described horrifically.  The jīva-s are tortured in these hells, depending upon the intensity of their sins. All the hells are ruled by the god of death, Yama.  For those who lived virtuous lives, their jīva-s are taken to the heaven.  Once their good karmic accounts are exhausted, they are made to fall from the heaven and are born to noble couples.  Love, anger and ego are described as thieves of the body and mind is their head.  Kṛṣṇa says that if the Self is not realized during one’s life time, they are equated with beasts.

(to be continued)