Healing into the oneness of spirit through honoring our ancestors.
As we wrongly invest our spiritual prowess in the strife for material, political, and religious domination, we have largely forgotten the joy, "love, and wellness that are intrinsic to human nature. Diseases and crises such as Hurricane Katrina, the Tsunami in South East Asia, and the tragedy of September 11th become a clarion call for us to recall and honor our innate ancestral memories. These challenges provide us both the urgency and spiritual juncture to explore our past, but we do not have to wait for illness, devastation, or death to occur before we remember our connection to the ancestors.
The Yajur Veda, an ancient Indian text, instructs us in this regard: "To you most luminous-God, we pray now for the happiness of our ancestors and friends. Listen attentively to our call and protect us from those who go against the cosmic order." As I see it, the collective grief of the modern world is due to the loss of our ancestral memory. This loss is the most basic cause for the breakdown of dharma (which means cosmic laws and life values besides life purpose) in relation to out family, global community, and nature.
According to Vedic thought, we are arriving at the fourth and final stage of life on earth, called Kali Yuga (darkness time). During this time, we will see a breakdown of the cosmic order. This breakdown will allow a spiritual breakthrough--an opportunity to ignite the light of unity and understanding among all people. We can begin to unite by embracing our ancestors and honoring the earth. We start this process by remembering our indelible link to our past. When we fail to recall these sacred ties, we lose touch with the onrushing stream of consciousness that flows through memory from generation to generation. Without memory, we cannot hope to sustain our present or know our purpose as human beings. Each one of us has the power us to transform this time of darkness into the light of understanding.
The ancient cultures of the Vedic seers, the native American shamans, African tribes, and the Guyanese Amerindians share similar beliefs about the tremendous problems we face today: terrorism, pandemic illnesses, pollution, genocide, violence, poverty, and crime are all due to the unhappiness of our ancestors' spirits and the loss of their protection. If we allow such conditions to continue unchecked, they will bring about a devastating loss of human memory and, ultimately, the destruction of the earth.
According to Vedic tradition, birth and its resulting shock cause us to lose our memory of our extensive past. We must overcome whatever stands in the way of our remembering. When our ancestral memories are blocked, we forget who we are. Part of our psyche is also blocked, and we therefore lose our ability to tap into the innate intuitive guidance that keeps us on our life's path and that safeguards our profound journey after death. We forget our sacred purpose in life and lose our protection in the hereafter.
The Vedas inform us that one of the highest 'universal laws is Pitri Rina, repaying .our debt to the ancestors, who include parents, grandparents, and spiritual teachers. But our ancestral lineages are not limited to those with whom we share a genetic heritage. Teachers, mentors, and older friends, and indeed, all citizens of the world who help to inspire and shape our lives may be included in the ritual honoring of the ancestors.
The Vedic people understand that none of us exists as an independent being, that we are all linked to the universe through our ancestry. They believe that the act of selfless service and sacrifice keeps us in harmony with our society and lineage. Each year the Vedic culture celebrates and nurtures the ancestors at Pitri Paksha--a fortnightly period that occurs during the dark moon phase of the lunar month Ashvina. In the Western calendar, this coincides with the dark cycle of the moon that comes at the end of September or early October. The last and most significant day of Pitri Paksha falls on the new moon, when prayers and offerings are deemed most necessary. In the present year, Pitri Paksha will be occurring September 17th through 30th.
Honoring your ancestors is the first step in reclaiming your spiritual heritage and center of calm within. We are the only species that has evolved the power of intuition. Yet we too easily forfeit our sacred birthright--the ability to change and grow, create, and strive for inner freedom and oneness with the greater energies.
In ancient India, royal sage Bhagiratha stood on one foot for a thousand years as penance for having liberated his ancestors from the netherworld. He held both arms high toward the heavens for another thousand years. He performed these sacrifices, called tapas, as a prayer to the gods to release the waters and revive the drought-ridden earth. The gods finally were placated and responded by sending rains of such force that Lord Shiva had to break the torrential flow of the river by catching it in his hair. This outpouring formed the Himalayan River and its estuary, the Ganges.
Indian ascetics commonly perform rituals similar to Bhagiratha's sacrifice as a way to show respect for their ancestors and to serve the earthly community. These ancient shamans had one purpose in life--to develop and refine their inner consciousness through disciplined spiritual practice. In so doing, they influenced the community around them and all of humanity with their beneficent energy and vibration. It was in this tradition of spiritual service that my grandfather fasted to bring the rains one hundred years ago in Guyana. The Shatapatha Brahmana tells us: "Sacrifice has only one sure foundation, only one destination, the heavenly realm!"
We can begin our personal practice of honoring and appeasing our ancestors by making small personal sacrifices on a daffy basis. Offer water and black sesame seeds to the ancestors while we face the Southern direction where the pitris live, Feed the hungry. Give homemade bread to a homeless shelter. Embrace the poor. Say a prayer to alleviate suffering. Visit a nursing home. Offer your seat to an elderly or disadvantaged person on the bus or train. Devote an hour a week or month to community service. Fast one day a year for world peace. Make a conscious effort not to Injure, pollute, or otherwise compromise the earth, her rivers, animals, plants, and environment. The highest personal sacrifice we can make is to embrace a spirit of reverence for nature and work toward healing the indescribable damage we humans have wreaked upon our planet.
The Vedic seers teach that "Sacrifices are the actions through which we receive sustenance from the earth and by which we return equal nourishment back to her." They tell us that giving back to nature not only pleases our ancestors' spirits but helps us develop inner consciousness. As we awaken to our ancestral memories, we remember the meaning and purpose of our lives.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||DEPT.: strong roots|
|Author:||Mayatitananda, Sri Swamini|
|Publication:||New Life Journal|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2006|
|Previous Article:||Wellness exercise know your body's limits.|
|Next Article:||Winter house plant care: keep your house in the green with Teresa Soule.|