Quite often, let’s say on a monthly basis, I see my grandparents arrange for some offerings to our forefathers. Cigarettes, candies, sweets, water and rhum (alcohol) are served to them on a banana leaf. The offering is either made in a corner of the house and or it’s arranged in a corner of the yard. I haven’t figured out as yet why the spot matters. But as I progress with my reading of the Bhagavad-Gita, Text #41 came to me as a stab of enlightenment over the reasons for such offerings:
“According to the rules of regulations of fruitive activities, there is a need to offer periodical food and water to the forefathers of the family. This offering is performed by worship of Lord Vishnu, because eating the remnants of food offered to Lord Vishnu can deliver one from all kinds of sinful reaction … When remnants of prasadam food are offered to forefathers by descendants, the forefathers are released from ghostly or other kinds of miserable life. Such help rendered to forefathers is a family tradition, and those who are not in devotional life are required to perform such rituals. One who is engaged in the devotional life is not required to perform such actions. Simply by performing devotional service, one can deliver hundreds and thousands of forefathers from all kinds of misery.” The service obligation to our forefathers is “automatically fulfilled by performance of devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
With the moderate devotional practice that is engaged by each family member, now I know, that we are exempted from the service offering. However, Bhagavad-Gita does not specify the density and degree of devotional service that should be practiced.
My grandparents follow many rituals because of traditions that flow from one generation to another. Sometimes these are vague jumble of chaotic rites. But the curious instinct that war within me always seeks answers to the “whys” of all such activities. I’m gradually building up my traditional baggage.
Maybe I should tell them I just upgraded my knowledge from our sacred book. 🙂