Garuḍa Purāṇa 7

Garuḍa Purāṇa then proceeds to explain how ghosts are formed.  Śrāddha-s are performed for the departed souls once in a year.  This annual rite is performed with piṇḍa offerings to ancestors.  Among many aspects of this ritual, the important ones are offering piṇḍa-s and feeding the priests who partake in the ritual.  Garuḍa Purāṇa discusses about 17 types of ghosts and some of them narrate the incidents, because of which they have become ghosts. Formation of five types of ghosts is discussed below.

1. Eating the prepared food before serving the food to the priests and offering to the ancestors by means of piṇḍa-s. The yajamāna (the performer of the ritual) became a ghost.

2. Stealing the ornaments of a woman and his son.  The boy was taking water from the jar nearby, and the thief forcefully took away the water jar from the boy and finished drinking the entire water.  The boy died due to dehydration.  On seeing his son’s death, the woman fell into a well and ended her life.  The thief became a ghost.

3. Two friends were doing business and incurred heavy loss.  One of them was rich, but greedy.  Their business ended up in loss and they left the place in a boat. The friend of the rich man threw him out of the boat while he was sleeping and took away whatever he had. The dead man’s wife on knowing her husband’s death committed suicide. The killer of the rich man became a ghost.

4. There was a rich person.  He lived with his parents and a younger brother. The two brothers loved each other.  Someone created problems amongst them and the elder brother sent away his younger brother from his family and he was also ill treated.  The younger brother suffered even for food, clothes and shelter. His parents helped their younger son without the knowledge of their first son.  Their first son somehow came to know of this. He tied his parents by iron chains and left them in a deserted temple.  Unable to bear the humiliation and pain, they consumed poison and died. His younger brother also died due to malnutrition. The elder brother became a ghost.

5. A priest has stolen gold ornaments that adored the idols of gods.  The king who came to know of this ordered the killing of the thief.  The king was not aware that the priest had stolen the jewels.  In the dead of a night, the priest killed the king and took away all his jewels and hidden himself in a deep forest.  He was killed by a tiger and he became a ghost.

Ghosts said that they choose the following places for their living:

1. Where people do not follow the precepts of Vedas.

2. The places where falsehood and ignominy exist.

3. Where there is no faith in any religion, no dharma, no forgiveness, no forbearance and no spiritual knowledge.

4. When people do not perform śrāddha-s for ancestors.

All these details are provided as conversation between a knower of Vedas and ghosts. At that time, Viṣṇu appeared before them.  On seeing their Lord before them, the ghosts wanted to speak, but they could not.  Knower of Vedas paid obeisance to the Lord. As soon as he paid obeisance to Him, there appeared six celestial chariots. The knower of Vedas had boarded one of the celestial chariots and the five ghosts boarded the rest of the chariots. The ghosts reached the heavens simply because of their association with the knower of the Vedas. The knower of the Vedas subsequently became the famous gaṇa (attendant) known as Viṣvaksena.

Modern theory:  Latest theories differentiate between ghosts and spirits. It is said that a ghost is only a fragment of the total energy of the dead.  Ghosts are said to be not harmful. However, the essence of the energy of the dead (which is often referred to as the subtle body) reach the world of spirits, to be born again.  Spirit is the subtle body that leaves its gross body at the time of death. When the subtle body leaves the gross body, the subtle body remains in a semi-conscious state for some time, possibly twelve days till the day of sapiṇḍikaraṇa, as said in Garuḍa Purāṇa. Wherever the ghosts exist, there will be negative energy causing negativities in every act performed in that place.

Irrespective of all these discussions, either Garuḍa Purāṇa or modern theory on ghosts and spirits, nothing will affect a true believer of god. Even if one is religious, such negative energies can never hurt him.

(to be continued)