Reasons to revere and remember the dead

Reasons to revere and remember the dead

By Veenu Sandal | 24 June, 2017

The importance of the physical body as much as the soul seems to have been recognised since ancient times in different parts of the world. There are, for example, the mummified Pharaohs of Egypt with all the rich offerings buried with them, the traditions of the Incas, the Chinese and so on. Incidentally, respect for the dead body is not confined to humans alone. In early times and currently too, last rites are often carried out for dead animals, birds and trees as well. In what I call the “Spirit Forest” near the Qutab Minar  in New Delhi, there is an ancient edifice known as the Kutta Billi ka Kila or Fort of the Dog and Cat,  because of two graves which are said to be those of a dog and a cat that belonged to a royal household.

A self appointed custodian tends these graves and I have seen him chiding people and enumerating dire consequences to enlighten visitors who snigger at the concept of a dog and a cat having a grave. It is still believed that disturbing the tombs of the dead, whether animals or humans, amounts to inviting trouble. I know somebody who perversely poured whisky over the grave of a horse, and was pursued for many years after that by the sound of hoof beats. Somebody else I know who proclaimed he is an atheist and didn’t believe in spirits or an after-life spat defiantly, in my presence, on a centuries old grave of a royal “murid” or disciple in the  “Spirit Forest” and was hounded and brought to his knees by a  ghostly presence. Today, he visits the “Spirit Forest” and pays his respects at various graves dotting it more regularly than I do. 

In fact, an exceptionally long list of “instances” has reinforced the old saying, “the dead should be left in peace”.  But in the case of recent violence riven times in which an unusually high number of bodies are being exhumed for identification purposes or mass graves are being found, does disturbing the remains affect the soul adversely? “Generally, any kind of post death disturbance of the body, other than preparing it for the last rites, is undesirable. But in certain cases such as exhuming a body for a genuine purpose it may actually help because the burial can then be carried out by caring family members at a preferred place.”

It is this “post death disturbance or interference with a dead body” that is one of the prime reasons, quite apart from sentiments, which drives relatives to try and prevent a post mortem from being conducted. In post mortems, the disfigurement of the body is a major consideration. In post death organ donation too, this is often a barrier. But does it really matter if you’re dead? The cases on record in this connection are very interesting. The eyes of somebody to whom I was very close were donated after his death, in accordance with his wish.

“Generally, any kind of post death disturbance of the body, other than preparing it for the last rites, is undesirable. But in certain cases such as exhuming a body for a genuine purpose it may actually help...”

A little later, after I’d established contact with his spirit, he was very happy when I told him how his eyes had transformed the life of a young boy who had lost his eyesight in an acid accident, but he had a regret too : “I wish more parts of my body could have helped someone”. Such responses have come from other spirits too and seem to point towards the manner and motivation of “interfering” with a dead body being important. At the same time, it is known that physical marks of disfigurements from one birth sometimes appear in the next birth or births too.

Briefly, there is the case of a lady in Pune on whom considerable reincarnation research, including research by meticulous Western investigators, has been carried out. She died of snake bite more than three hundred years ago, and yet in this birth, the snake bite marks are clearly visible on the same foot that was mentioned in the East India Company records. There is the case of a boy from a village close to Agra who died in his last birth from a bullet wound in his neck. And in this birth too, the mark of the bullet is at the exact “last birth” spot. There are many more such intriguing cases.

Incidentally, in the fascinating nadi form of astrology and divination, your matching thumb impression can be found on centuries old leaves or parchments. Does this mean our finger prints remain the same birth after birth? It is certainly an area that invites research. To return to the actual cases, while many subjects or exhibits confirmed marks from an earlier birth, in my knowledge so far there are no confirmed cases where body organs or parts are missing because they were donated. I do have a friend though who suffers from liver problems “inherited” from an earlier birth in which she was a male who literally drank himself to death. Curiously, I have seen “decapitated or mutilated” ghosts. For instance, at a dargah of Malcha Marg in New Delhi, others and I have often seen the headless form of Baba Farid.

 A Sufi seeker, Baba Farid was apparently meditating under a tree many centuries ago when soldiers from a royal entourage stopped and asked him for directions. Baba Farid, lost in meditation didn’t answer and as a result the exasperated soldiers decapitated him. Today, his grave forms one of the “Panch Pirs” and after night fall on most nights, the headless Baba Farid can be seen walking near his grave.  I know too of a few cases where a living person is handicapped as a “punishment” for past birth deeds, but that’s another area.

Mind you, the variety of instances cited above are just sampling.  It would take several books to provide spell binding details of cases on record. But though every incident has its own set of circumstances, a significant common theme runs through each and binds them together.  This theme emphasizes that even when the physical body is dead and never mind if it happened recently or a long, long time ago and is just a shell unanimated by a soul, a corpse with the soul no longer residing in it, reverence and compassion for the dead body can greatly facilitate the post death journey of an atma or spirit.

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