Soota Muni continued his narration to the assemblage of seers in Naimisharanya. Garuda prayed to Sri Hari again offering salutations to clear his doubts about rites, performances and deeds relating to aparakarmas in more detail. This chapter describes what a son should do in his filial duty and pious obligation to his parents when they are in old age so as to facilitate their going to higher worlds. Indirectly, here is an account of the various offerings for the dying.
Garuda prays to Sri Maha Vishnu to relate to him the rites to be performed for those who have done good and how they are to be performed. Sri Hari is happy that He has been asked for information which would be relevant and useful for all. Then He describes the rites to be performed for those who were righteous and pious.
The pious one, in his ripe old age, his body suffering from disease would know that death would soon take him away. At that time he must worship Salagrama, the sacred stone, a symbol of Shiva and Vishnu too. Prayers and worship must be offered in the prescribed form using perfumes,flowers, lamps and many items of sweet food. In this connection special charity should be extended to Brahmins who chant ashthakshari and panchakshari incantations to propitiate the deities. The utterance of the very name of Vishnu or Shiva would make the entire area around sanctified. When relatives surround the dead body, they should not weep or wail. They should utter God’s various names repeatedly. The wise and knowingones constantly remember the names. Only those who do this act of love for the dead one can be considered real relatives. In this context Sri Hari cites the instance of Ajamila the sinner who gets sanctified for merely calling out his son’s name Hari. Even without knowing that he is doing the right thing or the pious thing when death is approaching him he called “Hari!”. This very utterance sanctified him, a sinner. Sri Hari thus destroys sin even if His name is uttered inadvertently. Yama’s command it is, not to bring to him anyone who dies with Hari’s name on his lips.
Uttering a string of His names is worship indeed. The names are Atchyuta, Keshava, Rama, Narayana, Krishna, Damodara, Vasudeva, Hari, Sridhara, Madhava, Gopika Vallabha, Lord of Janaki, Ramachandra. Yama’s order is that only sinners-who always shun the lotus feet of Hari-held in the highest esteem and reverence by paramahansas, the purest and noblest, and the most knowing-ones-are to be brought and produced before Him. The Kinkaras, servitors are instructed to bring those who never uttered Hari’s name, who never bowed to Him or offered obeisance to Vishnu.
Sri Hari tells Garuda that singing His glories bestows His grace on the singer. That is the best expiation for any or all sins of the wicked, and even those in utter ignorance and stupidity. For the sinner mere penance would be of no use since he has shunned Hari and turned away from Him. One who utters the name of Krishna would be free from all sins. He would never even in his dreams see the servitors of Yama. The person who towards the end of his life performs goudaan would never fall in the frightful river Vaitarani. Merely uttering “Nandanandana” is an expiation of all sins.
For this reason smaran and chintan of Krishna’s name is essential to absolve one’s self of all sins. Repeating the thousand names of Vishnu, Vishnu Sahasranama and reading or listening to Srimad Bhagavadgita, would wash away all sins. There are certain observances too like fasting on the eleventh days of the lunar pakshas (fifteen day periods) which earn great merit like ganga snaana, a bathe in the Holy Ganges. Giving away in charity to a twice-born (Brahmin) a cow along with its calf with food. Ghee, clarified butter and gold would save man from being thrown into hell. A man must give away according to his own wishes, with his son’s approval money, gold or property to deserve God’s grace. The sons too have the pious duty of not coveting the father’s money earned by his own hard and honest work. The quality of a good son is also described. The son would make all gifts necessary or expected of him to make his father’s life happy here and also in the other world. While in ill-health or before death two gifts made by man are reckoned as the best and the indispensable. These are ashtha daan eight fold charity of sesamum (til) and then things. The eight are til (sesamum), iron, gold, cotton, salt the seven grains a saptadhaanyas, a plot of land and cow. These charities wipe away the sins of the dying man during his last days. The til daan, charity of sesamum pleases dev, danav and daityas. Sesamum seeds are of three colours, white, black and brown. The charity of these would wipe away sins committed by vak (speech), manas (thought) and karma (deeds).
Charity of iron earns merit to the dying man and this saves him from treading Yama’s way or go anywhere near Yama’s domain. This charity propitiates the weapons in Yama’s hand like axe, threshing pestle, rod, sword or dagger all made of iron. Yama’s servitors would be happy too with this gift. The names of these kinkaras are - Urana, Shyamasootra, Sundamarka, Udumbara, Sesha and Bala. Charity of gold is the most valued gift which would please the inhabitants of all the three worlds: Bhoo, Bhuvar and Swar worlds. Deities, sages and the courtiers in Yama’s royal court too would be pleased. For this reason, the most valuable offering or charity is gold, which would elevate the condition of the dead man. He would reach the Kingdom of joy, swarga and stay there for long. He would have rebirth as a King or one with wealth, learning and strength.
By giving away cotton in charity, one would be liberated from the fear of Yama Kinkaras, servitors of Yama. By giving away iron, salt, sesamum and gold in charity all those like Chitragupta, inhabiting Yama’s city would be pleased and propitiated.
By giving away Sapta dhanyas, seven types of grain, rice, barley, wheat, red ram, black grain, kaakun kangini, and bengalgram.
The sages and seers observed and believed that charity of land, the size of a cow’s hide along with the prescribed rites would save a man even from the sin of killing a Brahmin, saving him from brahmahatyapaap. The sins committed while being a King cannot be washed away-not by vows, pilgrimages or any other charity, except the charity of land. The person who gives away in charity a bit of land filled with grain would go direct to Indra’s Kingdom. He would be worshipped even by divine beings and demons. Gifts or charity of any thing else would be of little avail. The merit of giving away land goes on increasing day by day. A King who does not give any land in charity to the twice- born would be born as a beggar without the shelter of even a hut in a hamlet. A King who out of arrogance and pride does not give away land in charity shall have to remain in hell as long as Sesha holds up and supports the earth.
For this reason, Kings must make gifts of land. Others get the same merit by giving away a cow in charity. There are three kinds of hells and the charity of cows would make a sinner go beyond all hells beyond Vaitarani. One should give away three cows in charity, one to overcome death, one to redeem himself from debts and the third to obtain salvation.
By making a solemn gift, or giving away in charity a milk- giving, tawny cow with its calf to a scholarly and pious Brahmin, known for his righteousness, one is sanctified and absolved of all sins. The sins may have been committed at any stage, in youth, manhood or old age-either in this birth or any of the earlier births. The sins may have been committed at any time, morning, afternoon, or night. They may have been any relating to, speech, thought or action. The gift of a cow would release, the sinners from the totality of his sins. The gift of one cow or giving away in charity one cow while one is agile would equal the charity of a hundred cows when given in old age, while dying or while laid up with sickness. Such a solemn charity, if made to a person who has bathed in sacred waters like those in the Holy Ganges would raise the worth of the good deed a thousand fold bringing endless merit both to the giver and the recipient. Receiving such charity, the righteous person, a Vedic scholar who made many offerings to deities and who does not eat any food cooked by others, would never be tainted, even if he receives as a charity the whole earth covered with diamonds. The cow when and if given in charity to an unworthy person leads the giver to hell. What is more, it has its effect in causing trouble to that undeserving person and his progeny for a hundred generations. The charity of one cow is to be made to one recipient never more than one. The reason is that he may sell it. Even sharing a cow with his own family would result in trouble for the recipient.
Garuda is told further by Sri Hari about ‘gaudaan charity of a cow which is a good means to cross the river Vaitarani. The cow given away in charity should be decorated. It may be black or reddish. Its horn tips should be covered with gold, its hooves with silver. It should be milked in a vessel made of copper. While milking it, the cow should be covered with a black cloth. A little bell should be hung round its neck. The copper vessel into which the milk is collected its to be placed on a cotton quilt or sheet. Over the cow a golden image of Yama is to be placed along with an iron rod and a bronze vessel with ghee in it too. A raft has to be made with sugar canes, tying them with silken ropes and a vessel with a hole-filled with water and then one has to present the cow rafter and all to the Brahmin along with clothes and ornaments. While reciting the appropriate mantras one should place a foot on the raft and send up prayers to Sri Hari.
The prayers are as follow:
“O! Supreme Being, compassionate one, merciful to all those who seek refuges in Your lotus feet, You are the only one to save all from Bhava Sagara, the ocean of earthly existence owing to the waves of sorrow and remorse. “O Brahmin, the very form of Vishnu, elevate me and uplift me for I presented this cow to you. “O Vaitarani! my salutations to you. I desire to cross the hundred yojanas river! “May I live in the midst of cows, cows before, behind and in my heart too. “May the goodess of affluence, Devi Lakshmi, who sustains all remove my sins in divine form of a cow.” Hands folded in supplication and mouth uttering mantras propitiating Yama the person should give away the cow to the Brahmin, revered as twice-born. The one who observes this rite along with the prescribed gifts being given away goes straight into the court of the King of Justice, Yamadharmaraja. The Vaitarani observance is obligatory whether one is sound in body or afflicted with disease. The charity of giving away a cow is so efficacious that for the man performing the rite, the river Vaitarani on Yama’s way would not even appear. For this reason, it is imperative for all seeking absolution to give a cow in charity. The giving away of the cow and the observance and performance of the ceremonies and rites are best undertaken in sacred bathing-places, in times of eclipses or while crossing a river. These may be observed and performed at the passing of the Sun from one constellation to another; when the sun and the moon are on the opposite sides of the solstice and on Yuga, the last or penultimate day of the lunar month. Obtaining birth as a human being is considered the most valuable and most difficult. Only a human being, by adequate effort following the path of righteousness as per scriptures can attain the condition of the highest bliss or salvation (mukti). The one who neglects the right path of rectitude comes to a bad end. One has to make use of the opportunity to go upward. Affluence, riches, wife, children, family, even the body itself are all transient. Human attachments to love, money etc. are only very short-lived. Man comes into this world alone and leaves it alone without carrying anything worldly with him. Realizing this man has to live only to find himself in a better birth in the life to come, the ultimate aim being self¬realization and the unification with the absolute reality. What man carries along with him after his sojourn on this earth is the good and evil he has done yielding him punya and paapa. Since death is near, while one is healthy in the best of his youth, one must accumulate merit (punya) by performing good deeds to the best of one’s own ability and give away in charity according to one’s capacity.
The charity of even a little wealth, made by one’s own hand yields a good deal of merit when it is made at a time when the recipient needs it. He who gives away liberally goes happily and comfortably on Yama’s way. Without this he would not be ‘provided’ to pass the way easily. Charity in this world makes the passage easy. What is more, one attains human birth only by one’s own righteousness and acquired, accumulated punya (merit). Since everything is transient what is enduring, acts of punya, have to be performed, and righteousness observed. The only near one is one’s own soul. Realizing this one should give away with his own hand. Relatives are not stable. The moment a man breathes his last, they turn away, leaving the corpse on the ground. Nothing goes along with the dead one except his own righteousness. When the body is consigned to flames, the karma of the jeeva goes along with him. In this bhavasagara the ocean of sorrow in earthly life, no relation is stable. One’s own karma determines the birth to come. Like logs carried away by the current of water, humans meet for a while: mother, son, father, kinsmen all come together only to be separated and never to meet again. As long as one has wealth and prosperity, one is welcome as relation, grandson or son. When one dies none of them takes a second look at the one gone. A person should fend for himself in the matter of acquiring punya. While one has wealth, to the extent of one’s own capacity, one should perform acts of charity. Good things and wealth one has now are the results of his merit, punya, earned earlier. Rectitude and righteousness yield real freedom and lasting joy. These are the result of faith in god. Faith and riches are not related. The poor man may have faith: the rich may not have any faith. Faith and wisdom go together. Stupids do not believe in anything except transient things. Sri Hari tells Garuda that He would accept with satisfaction and joy any offering made to Him out of devotion: a leaf, a flower, a fruit or even a little water. He adds that the size of a gift or offering or its value is of no consequence to Him, for what counts is only devotion. Even the heavenly beings admire and honour a righteous son who following the prescriptions of the scriptures and sages. He should make his ailing, old father give away wealth and objects of value in charity. If a son performs acts of charity and gives away solemn gifts from the money left to him by his father, his sons and grandsons are elevated. What one gives away with one’s own hands has a hundred¬fold merit. What is given through the father, mother, sister and brother produces merit exponentially. Those who are meritorious having a fund of punya, there would be no torments of hell and no fear of Yama kinkaras during the last moments of the earthly life. Sri Hari tells Garuda that gifts of those sinners who are misers too and so do not make solemn even in their last days would come to great grief. Near relatives, sons, grandsons or brothers who do not give away in acts of charity acquire sin-the intensity of which is equal to that of killing a Brahmin.