Garuda Puran Saar – The Essence Of Garuda Puran
VEDAS, UPANISHADS, PURANAS
- A `Puran’ is a classification of Sanskrit sacred writings, which are very ancient. They date back to almost 4th century AD. They trace and document the journey of Hinduism by including mythology and folklore in their writings. Puranas are a common-man interpretation and explanation of the more complicated higher texts – the Upanishads and the Vedas.
- Ved Vyasa, the narrator of Mahabharata, is considered to be the compiler of the Puranas.
- There are 18 main Puranas – known as 18 maha-Puranas. They are dedicated to the the Holy Trinity of Hinduism – the Trimurti –Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer.
- The 18 maha-Puranas are: – Agni Puran, Bhaagvat Puran, Brahma Puran, Brahmaanda Puran, Brahmavaivarta Puran, Garuda Puran, Harivansh Puran, Kurma Puran, Linga Puran, Maarkandeya Puran, Matsya Puran, Naarada Puran, Padma Puran, Shiva Puran, Skanda Puran, Vaaman Puran, Varaaha Puran, Vishnu Puran.
- Of the 18 maha-Puranas – Garuda-Puran holds a peculiar belief and status. It is the only Puran that is supposed to be chanted after the demise of a person; and especially in the 13-day mourning period that follows the demise.
- I have often observed that the very mention of this Puran generates fear and apprehension. It is often touted as a painful, fearful description of a soul’s after-death journey. It is referred to as `Narak-Darshan’ (vision of hell). It is also associated with many superstitions such as – it is inauspicious to keep the text at home; it is inauspicious to read it in any other period except the mourning period etc. etc. Nothing could be further than the truth.
- Those who are conversant with south-India’s Telugu language are encouraged to listen to the online commentary of Garuda-Puran by Pandit Sri Samaveda Shanmukha Sarma – for insights, clarity and understanding of this needlessly feared text.
WHAT THEN, IS THE GARUDA PURAN?
- It is merely a description of the journey of the departed soul over the 13 days that it takes, after death, from Preta-Lok to Pitru-Lok.
- Preta-Lok is the space, the dimension, between earth and heavens. This is the space where the soul is not attached either to the earthly material plane or the celestial heavenly plane. It is the connecting space from one dimension to another.
- Pitru-Lok is the lower heaven designated for departed souls. Here they attain a semi-Godly status.
- From our earthly perspective, we presume this period of transition to be confusing and scary for the departed soul. But in reality that is not so. Whatever be the soul’s earthly karma – there is enough guidance from heavens above for every soul to make this transition smoothly.
- But in our earthly endeavor to aid and assist the soul – we make this journey along with our departed – through words, chants, emotions and descriptive imagination. It is our earthly way of accompanying the soul on its final journey in its present departed form.
- In Hindu tradition, it’s a mark of respect to walk parting guests up to the last gates. In line with this tradition, we listen to the Garuda-Puran over a period of 13 days – this is the time that the soul takes, to make this journey to the next dimension.
- We follow the soul with our emotions; we offer help and aid through symbolic ceremonies; we try to feel its pain and pleasure; we maintain the serenity it needs to convey a sense a loss of a co-passenger whose station has arrived.
THE ORIGIN OF GARUDA PURAN
- It is a dialogue between Lord Vishnu and Garuda. Garuda is a bird, an Eagle, the king of birds. He is the vahana (vehicle) of Lord Vishnu.
- Garuda-Puran is a series of questions raised by Garuda and answered by Lord Vishnu.
- According to Hindu texts, all departed souls gather at the feet of Lord Vishnu – where begins an assessment of their past life and deeds – and where their future life will be written for them. This is the spot at which they gather to, from departed lives – and this is the spot from which they disperse into their future lives for fulfillment of good / bad karma, till finally they attain Moksha (liberation from the cycle of life and death).
- It is said in Garuda-Puran – that Garuda was watching from heavens above, the 13 earthly-day journey of every departed soul, till it reached his Lord’s feet. This prompted him to ask questions which were then answered by Lord Vishnu.
- This is the simple dialogue that we yearn to listen to, when we hear the Garuda-Puran.
- But over hundreds and thousands of years, many melodramatic descriptions, which were once part of Hindu folklore, were intercepted into the original Garuda-Puran – giving it the fearsome look that it carries today. Needless to say, social biases and social superstitions have more than seeped in into our interpreted versions of Puranas. Hence it becomes important to periodically separate the chaff from the grain of every Puranic text.
GARUDA PURAN SAAR – THE ESSENCE OF GARUDA PURAN:
THE 13-DAY JOURNEY FROM PRETA-LOK TO PITRU-LOK
- The following is a series of questions and answers, asked by Garuda and answered by Lord Vishnu:–
- Garuda: How does death occur?
- Vishnu: The energy that drives the human body is called Prana-shakti – the God-force energy. When this energy leaves the human body, then all cells come to a standstill. This state is called death.
- This is when the soul finds its answer to the eternal question “Who am I?” I am not the body; I am not the mind; I am not the intellect; I am not the ego. I am simply Prana-shakti – the God-force energy, the God-particle.
- Garuda: With what energy does the soul identify with?
- Vishnu: When Prana-shakti is in incarnate form, the soul identifies with body energy, mind energy, its earthly intellect and its ego. But when Prana-shakti detaches itself from incarnate form, then it identifies only with God-energy.
- Garuda: When the earthly form is vibrating with Prana-shakti, then the soul identifies with everything else except that – but when the bodily form is bereft of Prana-shakti, then the identification happens. Why this contradiction?
- Vishnu: But isn’t that what is called Vishnu-maya, the great Cosmic-illusion? The challenge of every bodily incarnation is to overcome the urge to identify with every other energy except the true God-force energy, the Prana-shakti. Souls will continue to be born and reborn till they can conquer this illusion.
- Garuda: If the soul is God-force energy, the God-particle, the Prana-shakti – then how can it be touched with good karma or bad karma? How can it feel pain or pleasure? How can it enjoy or suffer?
- Vishnu: Prana-shakti is untouched by karma, pain, pleasure, enjoyment or suffering. But Prana-shakti becomes entrapped and encased in a web of emotional energies, collected through earthly incarnations.
- When a person dies, his body, mind and earthly intellect are consumed by the 5 elements – the body is placed on Earth; then bathed with Water; then Fire is offered; then the fumes merge with Air; and then the soul becomes one with Cosmic Space.
- But ego remains. Ego cannot be consumed by the 5 elements. Ego has to be voluntarily released by the soul; if this does not happen, then soul energies continue to identify with – I, me, mine, you, yours… etc.
- So when Prana-shakti leaves the body, ego travels with it. Ego creates emotional identification and emotional energies. These energies travel with the soul encasing the soul in a web.
- Karma, pain, pleasure, enjoyment, suffering etc. are emotions that arise from ego. As these emotions are still attached to the soul, the soul feels them, and is affected by them.
- Garuda: How can soul rid itself of the trappings of ego and emotions?
- Vishnu: What has been gathered on earth must be left on earth only. Hence the process of rebirth. The soul goes back with its emotional baggage and with the objective of clearing them.
- Both good and bad emotions have to be cleared with help of earthly deeds. This action again forms new karma and sometimes new emotions. Some souls succeed but some come back with yet more. It is not easy. Emotions of love and affection are very difficult to let go of; they are very comforting; but they are very binding.
- Garuda: What happens after death? After Prana-shakti detaches itself from the body?
- Vishnu: The soul is free but remains attached to its earthly possessions and near, dear ones through emotions. Either through its own emotions or by the emotions of those who are left behind on earth.
- The ones who are grieving for the departed have detached themselves from the body, mind, intellect and ego of the dead person – but they still hold on to the memories. Churning of memories creates emotions, either negative or positive. These bind the soul.
- The stronger the emotional energies, the harder it is for the soul to leave. At this point in time – the soul enters a middle dimension of neither earth not heaven. It is neither earthly nor divine. This mid dimension is called Preta-lok, and the soul assumes the energies of Preta-atma.
- Garuda: What does a soul experience in Preta-lok?
- Vishnu: The soul is restless. It wants to begin its journey upward. It wants to go home.
- Garuda: What should be done to help the soul begin its upward journey?
- Vishnu: Emotions of the departed soul and emotions of those on earth, still attached to the soul, must be brought under control – this will create an upward passage for the Preta-atma.
- Garuda: How can emotions of the departed soul and those on earth attached to it be brought under control?
- Vishnu: By engaging in a series of symbolic ceremonies on earth that will create energies of emotional detachment. The soul is asked “to go”, “to leave”, “to proceed upwards” through these symbolic ceremonies.
- This process creates detachment between those on earth and their departed. The departed does not receive gross offerings but it receives the subtle emotional energies contained in those offerings. That is what it partakes. Hence, these ceremonies are must be performed.
- Garuda: What is the next destination for souls from Preta-lok?
- Vishnu: They have to make the journey to Pitru-lok. That is the dimension where departed souls gather, and it falls in the southern direction.
- Garuda: Where do souls go from Pitru-lok?
- Vishnu: Partial energy of every soul remains in Pitru-lok for a certain frame of time. This energy becomes the guiding force for those left behind on earth. Souls never incarnate with their full energy field. Part energy either goes back to earth for rebirth and reincarnation – or it may travel to other heavens (divine dimensions) to rest for a while – or it may even travel to lower dimensions to experience some pain and suffering. It all depends on the soul’s previous karma – and the web of emotional energies it has collected.
- Garuda: How long does it take for the soul to travel from Preta-lok to Pitru-lok?
- Vishnu: 12 earthly nights and 13 earthly days.
- Garuda: What is the significance of this period?
- Vishnu: The soul disentangles itself from the emotional shackles of its previous body and begins to accept its new subtle body.
- The earthly body is composed of 5 elements – the Panchamahabhutas – Earth, Fire, Water, Air and Space. The subtle body is composed of only 2 elements – Air and Space. Hence it can exist only in a different dimension.
- The soul takes time to understand and accept this because of emotional attachment to its previous body, and everything and everyone associated with that body. This disentanglement process is completed within a time frame of 12 nights and 13 days.
- Garuda: What is to be done on earth during these 12 nights and 13 days?
- Vishnu: Symbolic ceremonies have to be performed on earth, during these 12 nights and 13 days, to make this disentanglement process easier for the soul.
- Garuda: Will the soul of the departed be able to receive these earthly offerings?
- Vishnu: The departed soul cannot receive earthly offerings in their gross form. But it will receive the intentions and the essence of these offerings in subtle form. Prayers and chanting will offer solace to the departed soul. The intentions behind other gross offerings will also reach the soul.
- Garuda: What are the symbolic ceremonies on earth that will make disentanglement process easier for the departed soul?
- Vishnu: Day 1: The lifeless body has to be destroyed by the fire element. The person performing the cremation rites offers fire to the head, while facing away from the dead body. It is a symbolic way of saying “we are not looking back, you also don’t, proceed on your journey”.
- At this point, the un-identification process for the soul begins. The formation of the Preta-body in the ethers above will commence.
- The 1st symbolic Pindam (rice-ball) offered on this day, will form the Preta’s head.
- Vishnu: Day 2: The ashes of the cremated earthly body are gathered and collected. This conveys to the soul that change is a natural process. The soul is unable to find its original self in the remains. This strengthens the un-identification process.
- The 2nd symbolic Pindam (rice-ball) offered on this day, will form the Preta’s ears, eyes and nose.
- Vishnu: Day 3: The collected bones and ashes are immersed into the water element. Here, the soul observes the detachment of its earthly relatives. How easily they burnt it; how easily they gathered the ashes and bones; how easily they flowed the remains into water. The un-identification process is now strongly set into motion.
- The 3rd symbolic Pindam (rice-ball) offered on this day, will form the Preta’s neck and chest.
- Vishnu: Day 4: The soul now devoid of the mortal remains to identify with, hovers around its earthly home and hearth, and around its earthly near and dear ones. It is in an observation mode.
- The difference between real and false now becomes very clear. It acquires a clear perspective of things and people as they really were; it does a silent review of its own life; it observes the emotions of those left behind on earth; it feels the pleasure and pain of emotions – its own lingering emotions and of those on earth.
- The 4th symbolic Pindam (rice-ball) offered on this day, will form the Preta’s stomach and abdomen.
- Vishnu: Day 5: The soul continues the observation activities of the day 4; but restlessness sets in. The soul now starts getting restless about its neither-here-nor-there status. Now it strongly seeks liberation.
- The 5th symbolic Pindam (rice-ball) offered on this day, will form the Preta’s limbs (arms, hands, legs, feet).
- Vishnu: Day 6: The soul is now getting ready for its final liberation. The un-identification process in now more or less in place.
- The 6th symbolic Pindam (rice-ball) offered on this day, will form the Preta’s vital organs.
- Vishnu: Day 7: The soul starts looking forward to its journey upward.
- The 7th symbolic Pindam (rice-ball) offered on this day, will form the Preta’s bones, marrow, veins and arteries.
- Vishnu: Day 8: The soul that was till now feeling the absence of its earthly body – now begins to feel complete in its newly formed ethereal body. The soul understands and realizes that it has acquired a new form.
- The 8th symbolic Pindam (rice-ball) offered on this day, will form the Preta’s hair and nails.
- Vishnu: Day 9: The soul gains acceptance of its transition from earthly plane to ethereal place.
- The 9th symbolic Pindam (rice-ball) offered on this day, will complete the body to perfection and vitality is induced into the Preta-form.
- Vishnu: Day 10: The soul feels the energy and the totality of its ethereal-form, the Preta-form.
- It observes the absence of earthly deficiencies and deformities that were part of its earthly incarnation. It feels rejuvenated, energized and complete.
- It is now rearing to make the journey upward. It waits for the final goodbye before it begins this journey.
- The 10th symbolic and important Pindam (rice-ball) offered on this day, allows the soul to taste one last time, the sensations of hunger and thirst.
- On day 10, 5 symbolic Pindams (rice-balls) and water are offered on a triangular stone. The triangle faces south; this is the direction of Yama (God of death).
- The 1st Pindam at the head of the triangle represents Yama; he will lead the way to Pitru-lok.
- The 2nd Pindam in the middle of the triangle, represents the departed soul; he will follow Yama to Pitru-lok.
- The remaining 3 Pindams at the bottom of the triangle are offered for Bhur-Bhuvaha-Swaha – Earth, Preta-lok, Pitru-lok – the 3 dimensions of the departed soul’s final journey.
- 3 ancestors of the departed soul are invoked for guidance and company: usually from the direct lineage – father of the departed, grandfather of the departed, great grandfather of the departed.
- The invoked souls, along with the departed soul, accept the gross offerings through the element of Air. With the offering of this last meal, the soul is now instructed “to go” onward on its journey. The Prana-shakti in Preta-form is now airborne. (Om Vayu’hu Prana’ha).
- Vishnu: It is on this 10th day that the soul’s journey from Preta-lok to Pitru-lok commences. This transition will take 2 nights and 1 day. The soul must now not look back. To facilitate this, the near and dear ones on earth, of the departed soul, must now symbolically detach themselves. By doing so, they allow the departed soul to gain speed on its journey.
- Vishnu: Day 11: Led by Yama and guided by ancestors, the soul is now presumed to have transited from Preta-lok and entered the higher dimension of Pitru-lok. The departed soul is now no longer a Preta; it has now assumed the form of Pitru (ancestor). Hence, on the 11th day, the 1st formal Pitru pind-daan (offering of the 11th symbolic rice-ball) is performed.
- Vishnu: Day 12: This is the most important day of the ritualistic ceremonies. The departed soul must now be anointed and declared as an ancestor through the chanting of mantras. The soul will now replace its 3rd ancestor in the lineage.
- At any given point, there will be only 3 Pitrus (ancestors) in hierarchy who will serve as guiding lights for their lineage.
- [On the 10th day, the departed soul was guided upwards into Pitru-lok by his departed father, departed grandfather, and departed great grandfather. The great grandfather has now earned the right to move upwards into higher heavens; the departed soul will now join his father and grandfather to form the Pitru-trio for the lineage. This merger and realignment is called Sapindi-karan / Sapindya-karan – which means ‘to become one with others’.]
- The 12th day Pind-daan to Pitrus involves making 4 symbolic Pindams (rice-balls). These are: 1 for the departed soul + 3 for the Pitrus (ancestors) above it. The Pindam for the departed soul is merged with the remaining 3 Pindams – and the new trio of ancestors is formed. This is the official declaration of the departed soul’s successful transit from Preta-lok to Pitru-lok.
- Vishnu: Day 13: A religious closing ceremony is performed, where fire is allowed to be lit & Gods are worshipped again. This marks the closure of the impure period of the departed soul’s near and dear ones on earth.
- Vishnu: There are 2 journeys that are undertaken here: the first real journey by the departed soul; and the second symbolic journey, through thoughts and emotions, by those on earth.
- We, on earth, try to understand the soul’s heavenly journey; we follow the soul in spirit; we offer solace, guidance and encouragement to the departed soul.
- Once the soul reaches its heavenly destination, those on earth are once again encased by Vishnu-maya – the great Cosmic-illusion, and life resumes its normal course.
- Garuda: And my Lord, what happens to the soul after the 13th day? What awaits it?
- Vishnu: Its life and work on earth is reviewed. Thoughts, words and actions are assessed. And in accordance with laws of karma – the soul will ready itself for the process of rebirth on earth.
- Garuda: And the cycle continues. That is Vishnu-Maya – the great Cosmic-Illusion.
And THAT is the essence of Garuda-Puran. The language used in translation is simple, modern day English with modern day nuances. Undue dramatization has been done away with; fear-factor, the fear of death and dying has been replaced with an understanding of life-after-death. Amidst all of this – the essence of the original work has been kept unchanged and intact.
Read. Understand. Imbibe. Share. This is the undying principle of Hinduism, and perhaps every other religion – that – there was life before you were born & and there will be life after you die. Life is eternal.
V good review and description.
Thank you 🙂
i would like to know if there is any “simple tamil version” of audio is available for garuda puran. If so can you please include its audio version in your website.
Fantastic facts are disclosed herewith. great Job. Thanks.