This blog post is predicated on the belief that we go through karmic cycles of life and death, which itself is predicated on the belief that we are something beyond the body (beyond our limited range of perception), the atman, which does not die when the body dies — based on testimony by numerous independent yogis (rishis, siddhars, samanars, and other spiritual masters across India) as well as testimony from people who have had out-of-body near-death experiences and those who can recollect their previous life. In fact, the entire science of yoga is based on this. See related blog post on Hindu Philosophy. But like the great yogis themselves advice: don’t take their word for it, but see for ourselves using the spiritual sciences they have given us to expand our consciousness beyond our limited range. As Patanjali says in the Yoga Sutras, even a tiny glimpse or the siddhas (“powers” or extended abilities) acquired along the way of our progress, will give us an tremendous conviction of our true nature as something beyond the body.
This year Aadi Amavasai falls on August 14 (in USA Aug 13 night till Aug 14 morning 7:53am PST; in India Aug 14 night till 8:23pm IST).
Aadi Amavasai is one three important amavasai’s (new moon’s) of the year for honoring ancestors:
- Thai Amavasai – the new moon in the Tamil month of Thai (first new moon after winter solstice)
- Aadi Amavasai – the new moon in the Tamil month of Aadi (first new moon after summer solstice)
- Mahalaya Amavasai – the new moon in the Tamil month of Purattasi.
See these two short videos:
As the lecturer in the video says, this will help the atman move on from the earth plane to higher planes of consciousness, and besides benefiting the atman tremendously, the atman can do more for you from higher plane than from lower plane, and that it is easier to receive blessings (if you so desire) from our ancestors because we have a more genuine relationship with our ancestors (compared with God, unless you are spiritually inclined or have lot of bhakti). But the important idea is to not expect blessings or selfishly cling, but first see through it that the ancestors move on to the higher planes, and blessings will come by themselves (from ancestors and/or God). You can “cling” to memories, but be happy, put a smile, thank him. Don’t cling to the desire of not wanting to let go of him, or remembering only the most depressing moments.
It also raises our level of consciousness to the level of higher realms of atman (God/Self/Super-Consciousness,…), instead of trying to pull down the atman / God to your level.
The way I’ve been typically doing the monthly tithi puja for my dad (and will be extending it for aadi amavasai), not necessarily in same order, but same components: in addition to puja and offerings, I start by reminiscing the happy moments with him from as far as I can remember, cherishing his personality, voice, mannerisms (not with clinging, but moving from attachment to appreciation), thanking him (through gratitude, humility, love, admiration) for everything he has done, recite bhakti poetry (usually Thiruvasagam/Sivapuranam or Kandhar Anubhuti), followed by my usual morning Gita readings, japa, and meditation but all in his honor, and that we will meet again. And often throughout the day connect through everything of nature that moves you: trees, flowers, sun, moon, rain in hot summer, warm rays of sunlight on a cool winter day, sounds of nature, and the bustling of life in general. And wrapping it up by expressing gratitude that we are privileged enough to be born in an environment to be able to do that.
All this will make the atman very fulfilled, and help move on to higher realms of consciousness, fully satisfied with his life and accomplishments.
As much as you love him or her, or for all that he or she has done, it will be selfish indeed if one cannot even spare even a few minutes to remember or note the dates on a calendar, let alone spare 15-20 minutes just once a month to do puja/offering (during each tithi for the first year). Almost as if he or she had never existed; coming into existence only out of our own convenience. Remembering by clinging is not same as offering respect (in fact it will do more harm, by not letting the atman expand to his/her fullest expansion, to higher planes). Even if not with spiritual purpose, one should at least do it with the same respect as you would for honoring the anniversary of founding fathers of nations, independence day, memorial day, great spiritual masters, etc.
The more noble (loving, humble, peace-loving, truthful, generous, etc) the soul, the more powerful the atman. Not honoring such an atman can do more harm than good to you. And vice-verse, honoring them will bring good fortune. After all, in the grand cosmic scheme of things, the atman represents a fraction of your higher consciousness, i.e. a part of you. You will be creating a great schism by not respecting that which is part of you (like if you abuse a part of the body by taking it for granted, it will react).
Don’t Dwell on the Negative
Note also, it will be of great disservice to dwell on negative moments. The atman does not dwell on such things. At its level of conscious expansion, the negative moments are insignificant, it does not even come under its radar. This has been attested by many who have had near-death experiences. All experience unbounded happiness, and many account being able to see their entire life in full panoramic view. So it is really more of a disservice to us, not the atman. If you have any regrets (like not being able to be there, etc) and you want to say sorry, say sorry, but don’t dwell. Be happy, do yoga/puja, focus, move forward, knowing that appa is there to help you (provided you do your part of living truthful to yourself and do these pujas). If you still want to repent, or have regrets, still don’t dwell… it will be taken care of in due time by the wheel of karma, there will be plenty of opportunities to do so in this life, or the next, as it will all be played over again and again. Not just on an individual scale, but even on a grand cosmic scale: “all this has happened before, and will happen all over again” (like the universe coming into being, evolution of humankind, the devolution of humankind, devolution of the universe,… and again the cycle starts).
I’m reminded of something Swami Vivekananda did when it was his turn to go to the podium to give his lecture. The previous person had written on the board “God is nowhere”. Vivekananda just walked up and drew a line between the “w” and “h”, making it: “God is now here” [followed by a huge applause].