In youthful irreverence and educational pride a young person asked Swami Chinmayanandaji to explain how the offerings of food and water and charity in the name of loved ancestors ever reached them? Swamiji explained that the ritual is basically an act of gratitude towards one’s parents. He explained, “when you post a letter in India, you have faith that there is an order, a system that will work intelligently to reach it to the loved one in America. Similarly, charity performed by you in deep emotional gratitude to your father will leave the gross behind and reach his subtle body (sookshma sharir) in subtle form.” He added that the subtle body, (mind and intellect) functions at subtle levels to convey subtly what words and deeds are helpless to do. Science is still exploring and trying to unravel the mysteries of the mind and its pervasive out reaches.

In this ritual, the grateful son or daughter satisfies the hunger of all species,as represented by humans, cows, dogs (animals large and small) ants (insects) and crows (birds). One feels fulfilled in being able to gratify the beings one lives among. The term ‘shraadh’ is from (Shraddha) ‘faith’ in the family like oneness of all creatures, big and small. One remembers one’s parents’ efforts and good deeds and then in thankful appreciation, steps forward to do the same towards fellow creatures.

An article written years back by a German researcher on ‘Aryan Rituals’, talked of the nutritional testing of the (pind) the rice ball offering in the last rites of Hindus. Tested before the puja the rice ball had all the nutrition, after the mantras and offerings on it the testing showed all nutrition gone! He concluded, that thus, the subtle aspect of rice was accepted by the subtle body of the ancestor.

Prarthna Saran, President Chinmaya Mission New Delhi can be contacted at [email protected]