How does an embodied soul get entangled in its desires after death?

life after death


1. Pitrupaksha and Mahalaya Shraddha

From a spiritual perspective the Krushnapaksha (the dark fortnight of Bhadrapad), which is also known as Pitrupaksha (a time particularly dedicated to the performance of shraddha rituals) has special importance.

1.1 Importance of Pitrupaksha

It is also known as Mahalaya in the Hindu religious Scriptures. It is necessary to perform the ritual of offering water to the departed ancestors (Pitrutarpan) during the fifteen days from full moon day (Pournima) in Bhadrapad to the no moon day (Amavasya) in Bhadrapad and on the specific tithi, the shraddha of the ancestors should be performed. By doing shraddha in Pitrupaksha the ancestors are satiated for the whole year. A quote from Mahabharat elucidates the importance of performing shraddha for the departed ancestors.

श्राद्धं कन्‍यागते भानौ यो न कुर्याद्‌ गृहाश्रमी ।
धनं पुत्रा: कुततस्‍य पित्रुकोपाग्‍निपीडनात्‌ ।।
यावच्‍च कन्‍यातुलयो: क्रमादास्‍ते दिवाकर: ।
शून्‍यं प्रेतपुरं तावद्‌ यावद्‌ वृश्‍चिकदर्शनम्‌ ।। – महाभारत

Meaning: How will a householder who does not perform shraddha while the sun is stationed in the Kanya, that is, Virgo sign and thereby invites the ire of the departed ancestors, acquire wealth, son etc.?

Similarly, till the time the sun does not enter the Vruschik, that is, Scorpio sign from the sign of Kanya, that is, Virgo and Tula, that is, Libra, till then the Pitruloka (the subtle region where the subtle bodies of the departed ancestors go) remains vacant.

The Pitruloka being vacant means that during this period all the departed ancestors of the lineage descend and come close to their descendents to bless them. They curse the descendants and leave if shraddha is not performed by the descendants.

The subtle bodies of the departed ancestors arriving during the Pitrupaksha, that is, Mahalaya for the shraddha:

  • Father, paternal grandfather and paternal great-grandfather – They are known as the Pitrutraya.
  • Mother, maternal grandmother and maternal great-grandmother – They are known as the Matrutraya.
  • Sapatna Mata, that is, step mother
  • One’s mother’s father, one’s mother’s maternal grandfather and one’s mother’s maternal great grandfather – They are known as the Matamahatraya.
  • One’s mother’s mother, one’s mother’s grandmother and one’s mother’s great grandmother
  • Wife, Sons, Daughters, Paternal uncles, Maternal uncles, Brothers, Paternal aunts, Maternal aunts, Sisters, Father-in-law, Other relatives, Guru (if one has a Guru-disciple relationship), disciple (if one has a Guru-disciple relationship).

Only the Hindu Dharma has done such profound study about the well-being and evolution of a Jiva even after death. Most of the people consider the ‘Shraddha’ to be of no use. 99 % of the people who perform shraddha do it merely as a custom. Only the shraddha done with spiritual emotion is beneficial.

The meaning of shraddha: Whatever is done faithfully for repaying what the departed ancestors have done for us is called shraddha. Swami Vidyanand says, “Only the shraddha done with faith is called ‘Shraddha’”.

1.2 What happens to the Jiva after his death?

The spiritual information about the human body: From a spiritual perspective, the human body is made up of five sheaths.

Subtle body

  • The first is Annamaya-kosha, that is, the physical body visible to us.
  • The second is Pranamaya-kosha – it has the five vital energies (Panchaprana) providing energy to the whole body.
  • The third is the Manomaya-kosha – This is the seat of emotions and desires.
  • The fourth is Vidnyanamaya-kosha – This is the seat of the intellect.
  • The fifth is Anandamaya-kosha – This is the seat of the Soul (Atma).

The Annamaya-kosha is gross while the other sheaths are subtle. After death, a Jiva’s Annamaya-kosha and Pranamaya-kosha do not remain, but Manomaya-kosha, Vidnyanamaya-kosha and Anandamaya-kosha remain with him.

After death

Hence, despite the gross body being destroyed by death, a Jiva’s existence and his desires do not end. Consequently, a Jiva gets entangled in his desires and this poses a hurdle in his further progress.

The process of an embodied soul (Jiva) getting entangled in his desires after death: After death a Jiva, that is, the subtle body constantly makes efforts for fulfilling its desires. Sometimes it enters another body forcibly. Due to desires a Jiva goes to various subtle regions (lokas) as per his actions. Despite going from one place to another, the Jiva has intense attachment to his previous place. Many a times while going from one place to another, this Jiva goes astray and keeps searching for something. The process of getting entangled in desires after death is known as hurdles in the further progress. Due to this, the responsibility of liberating the person from this process of getting entangled in desires rests with the deceased person’s family members.

1.3 Objective of performing shraddha

Some actions are expected to be performed by the relatives for an embodied soul (Jiva) to progress spiritually after death. These are:

  • Helping the embodied soul (Jiva) during his lifetime to not get trapped in desires.
  • Satiating the desires of the embodied soul (Jiva).
  • Awakening the Jiva to move ahead in his spiritual journey.

By doing the various shraddhas after the death of a person mainly this is achieved. Subtle bodies of all embodied souls (Jivas) do not do spiritual practice. Hence, by performing rituals like shraddha, they need to be encouraged to go further on the basis of external energy. Three main objects of shraddha are:

  • Helping the deceased ancestors to move from Pitruloka to further subtle regions (lokas).
  • Liberating the unsatisfied subtle bodies of one’s family trapped in the lower lokas.
  • Liberating the deceased ancestors turned into ghosts due to their own evil deeds from this form.

The sheath of desires around the subtle body of the Jiva reduces by doing shraddha. The subtle body is given momentum through the energy of mantrashakti in the shraddha rituals.

1.4 Importance of shraddha

  • 1. Abiding by Dharma: Along with repaying the debt of Deity, Sages and society, repaying the debt of deceased ancestors is important. A shloka of Mahabharat is notable in this respect.

    पुन्‍नाम्‍नो नरकाद्यस्‍मात्‍पितरं त्रायते सतु: ।
    तस्‍मात्‍पुत्र इति प्रोक्‍त: स्‍वयमेव स्‍वयंभुवा ।। – महाभारत १.७४.३९

    Meaning: Son protects his deceased ancestors from the Hell named ‘Put’. Hence, Brahmadeva Himself has called him ‘putra‘ (son).

  • 2. Purification of lineage: If religious conducts of the family (kuladharma) are not followed, maternal or paternal defects increase. Deceased ancestors (pitar) are protectors of the lineage. If kuladharma like the rituals of shraddha is followed, purity of the lineage is certain.
  • 3. Completion of give and take account: The give and take account with a person is settled by performing his shraddha.
  • 4. Repaying debt of Deities and Sages becoming easy along with repaying the debt of ancestors: Repaying the debt of deceased ancestors is quite simple and easy through the ritual of shraddha. This is possible by the unification of Vasu, that is, desire, Rudra, that is, dissolution (laya) and Aditya, that is, action.

Thus, it is clear that the ritual of shraddha is a necessary achar to evolve the worldly and spiritual life of a person.

1.5 Pitrupaksha and Mahalaya shraddha and its importance

The deceased ancestors come to reside in the house of their relatives in the Pitrupaksha. By doing shraddha once in this fortnight, the deceased ancestors are satisfied for a year.

पुत्रानायुस्‍तथाऽऽरोग्‍यमैश्‍वर्यमतुलं तथा ।
प्राप्‍नोति पंञ्‍चमे कृत्‍वा 
श्राद्धं कामांचं पुष्‍कलान्‌ ।। – महर्षि जाबालि

Meaning: Son, long life, health, unlimited prosperity and desired objects are acquired by performing shraddha in Pitrupaksha.

The deceased ancestors grace their descendants who do shraddha. But distress those who avoid performing shraddha without due cause.

वृश्‍चिके समनुप्राप्‍ते पितरो दैवतै: सह ।
नि:श्‍वस्‍य प्रतिगच्‍छन्‍ति शापं दत्‍वा सुदारुणम्‌ ।। – महर्षि कार्ष्‍णाजिनि

Meaning: If the shraddha is not performed before the sun enters the Vruschik sign, the deceased ancestors of a person puts an intense curse on him and returns back to Pitruloka.

Nowadays, nobody performs shraddha-paksha, nor do they do spiritual practice. Due to the dissatisfaction of the deceased ancestors, the Jiva has to face many hardships.

Distresses caused by the unsatisfied subtle bodies of deceased ancestors: Due to unsatiated deceased ancestors there is possibility of distress like not getting married, marital disharmony, not conceiving, abortion, giving birth to a mentally retarded or handicapped baby, getting nightmares, seeing snakes or deceased ancestors in dreams or while awake, having obstacles in spiritual practice. Even if one doesn’t have such distress at present, one can make efforts for future protection. Efforts can be taken to give momentum to one’s deceased ancestors.


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