WHAT IS MEANT BY 'IMPURITY'?
WHY OBSERVE ASAUCHAM?
TO WHOM DOES IMPURITY APPLY?
ARE THERE ANY EXCEPTIONS?
Understanding Death - a few pages with direct reference to the act of death, what happens at death etc.
VAISNAVAS C.A.R.E. INC - Counseling, Assistance, Resource, and Education for the terminally-ill and their family
interview with Religious and health care professionals on Australian Broadcasting
The Good Death radio interview backed up here
quotes from Sat Kriya Sara Dipika and Garuda Purana regarding helping the
soul pass on, and the family's asaucham:
Antyesti (The Last Rites) prayog:
Disposing of the bones or ashes (asti) in the Ganga:
Disposal of last remains ashes in the sacred Ganges river - if you cannot
do this company will do for you:
Importance of immersion of mortal remains (asthi) into the Ganges
What is the spiritual perspective on scattering of ashes from a cremation urn?
Mritakam (death rites impurities
WHAT RULES ARE TO OBSERVED DURING MRITAKAM?
HOW LONG DOES THE MRITAKAM LAST?
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE DEATH OCCURS AWAY FROM HOME?
WHAT TO DO WHEN A SECOND DEATH OCCURS DURING MRITAKAM?
WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR THE BIRTH AND DEATH OF CHILDREN?
WHAT ARE THE RULES REGARDING AN UNNATURAL DEATH?
WHAT IS TO BE DONE ON THE DEATH OF 'FALLEN PERSONS'?
WHAT HAPPENS TO ONE WHO DIES FOR A JUST CAUSE?
WHAT ARE THE RULES OF ASAUCHAM TO BE OBSERVED BY THOSE ATTENDING A FUNERAL?
PRAYERS TO HELP ON THEIR WAY:
Vaishnav Sradha -
by Shyamasundar dasa ACBSP commenting on Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati
Hindu Death Rites - Sri Vaishnava - by Sri Rama Ramanujacharya
How to tell what body a person has got after their passing away:
Who should and who should not be invited to a Shraddha ceremony for the departed:
Mahalaya Amavasya and Pitri-paksha shraddha - oblations to departed forfathers concluded
Ghost Busting services - removal of ghosts, curses, tantra, black magic, and mental health issues:
Why We Should Cremate the Dead
Sutakam (birth rites - impurities
WHAT ARE THE RULES OF SÜTAKAM FOR THE MOTHER?
Mother's Day pages links and tributes:
Menstration (or scroll down)
WHAT ARE THE RULES PERTAINING TO IMPURITY CAUSED BY MENSTRUATION?
OCCASIONAL / UNWITTING IMPURITY
Asaucham regarding Solar and Lunar Eclipses and what to do
PMS pages and links
Sri Dharma pages and links: (The attributes and qualities of glorious womanhood)
seX-files - everything about sex in Krishna consciousness
Related books on the topics:
Spiritual First-Aid Kit
The Final Journey: Complete Hospice Care for Departing Vaisnavas
A Second Chance, Softbound
Beyond Birth and Death
Beyond Illusion and Doubt
Care Providers' Handbook on Hindu Patients - Providing Culturally &
Religiously Sensitive Health Care - Australia 2012
The following guide is simply a guide, it is not intended as an "in your face" dogmatic presentation, but rather a presentation of shastric facts to help individuals deal nicely with the fact of the death of a loved one and understand and apply the guidelines of the ancient Vedic scriptures to their/our lives in modern times. Obviously various gaunas/traditions differ with these guidelines, and according to the family lineage, gotras, caste, or sampradaya these may differ slightly. However, you will notice a continuum with the intent to assist you/us through the transitional period, and aide us to return to normality after having dealt with the circumstances properly.
Many challenges, burdens, or inappropriations occur or are invoked upon families, societies, communities, as well as individuals within them due to not knowing what to do. Especially in the fallen age (Kali yuga) where religious principles and inclination have reached an all time low, or disinterest, due to misrepresentation and deviation of the clergy (in practically all religions) so much has been lost. The clergy (head) becomes deviated and the rest of the body cannot help but follow suit.
Therefore in Daivi Varna-ashram Dharma the brahmins hold such a responsible position by guiding and protecting society on all levels; the kshatriyas physically uphold protect and administer those tenets, teachings and make policy; and the vaishya community provides the funding; the shudra class assists by rendering valuable menial service that affords the efficient running of society. In such a way everyone has a function, and a valued place where they fit in. This is true equal rights - equal importance, although different function.
What has come to be known as Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma) has upheld these basic principles as best it could. With the onslaught of enticements (belittlement and misrepresentation of Vedic culture) from the colonialists to give up the Vedic way of life and adopt western ideals of pursuing material temporal bodily pleasures as the ultimate goal in life, and think of this life to be all in all.
As a result of such powerful propaganda there is now a lacking for proper guidance as to what to do, and what to avoid. Lusty mundane liberalistic academics, and other unqualified persons now guide the people through what they call the "Education System" which saintly Vaishnavas refer to as the slaughter house of youth.
Many of the peoples who have taken their births in India and other such seats of Vedic Culture (Malaysia and South East Asia - Bali, Indonesia, Singapore, South Africa, Mauritius, etc) have also forgotten what to do, and what not to do. Also many of the Indians or descendents from Indian stock reside in the colonies (USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand) or in the United Kingdom, making it hard to gain information from family priests.
Because of the hard struggle for existence in these places, and the fact that to work long hours, sometimes seven days a week, and associate with those who have no or little culture, what to speak of Vedic culture, some have it seems lost their culture, adopting the western way of life by default. The children grow up knowing less than their parents, and with no extended / Joint family to support them, rely on the association of T.V. and peers at school for "cultural education".
Nowadays many people who call themselves Hindus have no idea about their own traditions and customs. Many of the parents do not have adequate knowledge to be able to explain the reasons for various customs to the youth who ask. And many people who sincerely wish to follow the faith are not fluent enough in one of the Indian vernacular languages to gain access to the relevant literature, and there is also a lack of any practical guide to Hindu customs written especially for Hindus in English. In view of all these reasons I have been directed by the grace of guru and Krishna to make an attempt to give some guidelines whereby sincere and devout Hindus may be guided in the practice of their faith. How far I have been successful will be for the reader to decide.
The subject of 'Hindu' customs is extremely complex owing to the variations in customs, manners and rites which are current amongst different Hindu communities. The customs differ sometimes quite radically from village to village, in various districts, amongst families, castes, and sects. So it is very difficult to compile a guide for all Hindus. Nevertheless for the sake of convenience it is possible to divide the Hindu community at large into two groups; Dvijas and non-dvijas. A dvija is a person who has been initiated with the sacred thread [upanayanam] and has received the Gayatri mantra from a Guru. Non-dvijas are those who have not received this sacrament of initiation. All the canons of the sacred laws are applicable only to the dvijas as it is through the sacred thread ceremony and the teaching of the Spiritual Master that one becomes capable [adhikari] of fulfilling the sacred law, and any neglect or breach of it would constitute a sin which leads to punishment and suffering.
Non-dvijas are free of this obligation to follow the Sacred Law in it's entirety and do not commit sin by neglecting it, but, on the other hand they are greatly blessed by following as much of the Sacred Law as they are able to. So neglect on the part of a dvija produces demerit whereas observance on the part of non-dvijas is an act of merit.
Bearing this in mind this guide is written for all Hindus who aspire to maintain their traditions, whatever be the reason. The subject matter is culled from the various Law books such as Manu Smrti, Åpastambha Smrti, Baudhåyana Smrti, Sat Kriya Sara Dipika and others and can be used by all those who follow different recensions of the Vedas. It is written in the form of questions and answers for easy reference. Special regard has been paid to the fact that many Hindus live in western countries where it is much harder to practice the faith than in India, so I have given some practical guidelines applicable especially to the Modern-Western context.
Helping someone at the time of death, some examples of what do, or what can be done. Here is an example of a devotee assisting his father in this passage, it is kindly used with their permission.
1. WHAT IS MEANT BY 'IMPURITY'?
Impurity in the religious sense is not the same as impurity in a microbiological sense, here we are talking of RITUAL IMPURITY known in Sanskrit as 'asaucham' in which one has to conform to a certain type of behaviour and place some restrictions on oneself and one's socialising for a certain period of time.
Ritual impurity or asaucham usually lasts for 10 days and is of two kinds;
a. after the birth of a child - known as sütakam
b. after death of a family member - known as mritakam.
2. WHY OBSERVE ASAUCHAM?
These periods of sütakam and mritakam have a religious as well as a social and practical significance. In the case of a birth it is a profound and traumatic experience for the mother and less so for the father. The mother is weak and exhausted, and the child is vulnerable and susceptible to infections [antibodies to various bacteria are passed on from the mother to the child during breast feeding.] The first few days are the most important in the life of the mother and the child as this is the period during which 'bonding' takes place. So in their infinite wisdom the ancient sages [Rishis] have advised that there should be a period of 10 days semi-isolation for the mother and she should be relieved of social and religious obligations.
In the extended family (joint family) arrangement the mother is allowed to remain in her room to rest and is relieved of all domestic chores. The other members of the family help to take care of the new-born infant and the mother is served hand and foot for the recommended period of 10-12 days.
In the case of death a period of mourning is prescribed lasting from 10 to 30 days depending upon the caste of the person ("According to Vedic scripture, if someone dies in the family the whole family becomes contaminated for some time, according to its status. For example, if the family is brähmana their contamination period is twelve days, for the kshatriyas and vaishyas it is fifteen days, and for shüdras thirty days". - A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Nectar of Devotion. Chapter 8 - Offenses to be Avoided.)
The psychology behind this is dealt with in the following link, written as a homily by me.
During this period too the family are relieved of their various religious and social obligations so that they have time to work through the grieving process. The situation is very much controlled in that what is to be done and what is to be avoided has all been laid down in the scriptures so in this moment of tragedy, loss and bewilderment the situation is controlled from without giving a feeling of security and reassurance. The relatives or neighbours will prepare the meals for the first three days and tend to all the domestic needs of the bereaved family and in this way the whole community comes to the support of the family.
Asaucham is not a condition like a disease by which one is infected and has to wait for it to take its natural course or be treated with antibiotics! It is rather a condition which one imposes upon oneself. It is a sensible process by which us conditioned souls can come to terms with maturational changes in practical and philosophical ways, that create a positive or insulation sheild of confidence in the knowledge that everything has been dealt with. In order to work through one's personal grief, and to avoid disturbance to others in the community through sadness, moodiness, and depression, etc., this simple mechanism is in place. Here, we mention the mritakam, but similarly the total absorbtion in the baby consciousness, although necessary for parental bonding, protection and nurturing of the species, can be a bit "over the top" / "too much" for those not directly involved - or the more transcendentally situated.
Here you will find some verses from Sat Kriya Sara Dipika and Garuda Purana showing the importance in practical terms why it is important to follow asaucham, especially to assist the departed soul in their passage. Here it is important to understand what you may experience as someone is about to leave their body. Here is a nice example of a devotee assisting his father to be aware and conscious of his situation at the time of death - please don't leave it to chance. We all need to prepare now as death can come at any moment and we need to be prepared to approach the Lord and be under the shelter of the Vishnu-duttas rather than the Yama-duttas as so many are. Here is a useful book to read on re-incarnation.
3. TO WHOM DOES IMPURITY
It applies to the immediate family members known as 'sapi__as' these including the father, grandfather, brothers, paternal uncles and their wives and children.
A married woman observes the impurity of her husband's family and not that of her natural family.
4. ARE THERE ANY EXCEPTIONS?
Yes - the following persons are exempt from observing mritakam; the reason being that many people are dependant upon their functions and would be harmed if their essential services were interrupted, so ultimately it is the welfare of the group as a whole which prevails in these matters.
2. Architects and builders
3. Doctors and surgeons and other medical workers.
4. Politicians and administrators.
5. Vedic scholars and officiating priests.
6. Those who are in process of a religious observance or vow i.e. brahmacharis and also those who are fasting for kavady or similar such vow.
7. Those who have been initiated and are engaged in the performance of a yajña lasting more than one day.
8. During the three days of a marriage ceremony once the kankanam is tied.
9. Those who are taking part in the 10 day Brahmotsavam or annual temple festival.
NOTE; #6, #7, #8, & #9 are dependant upon the tying of the kankanam - a yellow thread - to the wrist of all the principal participants at the commencement of any festival or sacramental function. Once this thread is tied the participants are exempt from observing any mritakam until the completion of the function.
RULES ARE TO OBSERVED DURING MRITAKAM?
Upon the death of a relative the following rules are to be observed for three days;
1. No tiffin or meals are to be offered or received by any of those coming to mourn or express their condolences - the family are thus exempt from their usual duty of serving and welcoming guest as in this case those who come to mourn are not considered as 'Guests' and are not to be treated as such, nor should they expect it of the bereaved family. Generally the close relatives should eat only fruits the first three days.
2. As consciousness of the cook affects the food, and for those who being more than just vegetarian, live only on Krishna prasadam, and with no offerings being made by the family......it is difficult. Therefore the rule is: No food should be prepared in the home of the deceased from the moment of death for three days after the death - if possible the neighbours and friends should prepare meals and bring it to the mourners unasked, otherwise they should eat only food bought in the market. After three days they may prepare their own meals but should not serve any of it to those who come to visit until the end of the 10 days. Visitors too should politely refuse to take any refreshment in the house. During this time the meals consist of havishanna - boiled vegetables without grains.
3. No salt or meat should be eaten during the first three or the full ten day period by the mourners (obviously best is no meat to be ever eaten, but some are adicted to doing that.... See out Vegetarianism and Beyond page ).
4. For three days no pujas, study of sacred texts other than the Garuda
Purana. Yajñas or any religious activity should not be
done other than the chanting of the Sacred name - japa,
kirtana and bhajana. It is recommended that a learned brahmin should
be invited to recite and explain the Garuda Puräna which deals with
the matter of death and reincarnation at great length. The recitation is
continued for the the whole ten day period. If a learned brahmin is not
available then the family members should try to read a few chapters themselves.
You will note that the informations that we give over these couple of pages and their links cover everything that is mentioned in the Garuda Purana.
5. The family members should remain continent, sleeping, eating and sitting upon the floor, they should do no work nor cause it to be done by anyone else for three days (in other words for these three days just read and chant and have time to come to terms with your loss - dealing with it in a proper way will make the proper resolve for all concerned).
6. Personal adornment and enjoyment should be avoided - this includes activities like bathing for pleasure, shaving, wearing fancy clothes, applying perfume, oiling the body or hair, having massage, looking in the mirror, watching T.V and videos, and wearing jewellery and garlands or putting flowers in the hair.
7. Those that are in mritakam should remain at home and not go to public places and especially never to a temple or attend a religious function or a marriage. Simply chant Hare Krishna that is best.
8. Gifts must not be given or received during mritakam - after there is a proper time to give and recieve gifts, but not in mritakam - asaucham.
Some further guidelines are included here:
6. HOW LONG DOES THE
In most circumstances it lasts for 10 days (on the eleventh day a feast can be held in the name of the departed soul) - the first three days being the most important and should be observed strictly, but there are some exceptions and variations to this rule. Generally one has the option of observing either the full period or just three days. After twelve days a brahmin is free....
1. Upon the death of parents, brothers, paternal brothers and grandparents the period of mritakam observed is 10 days and 10 nights.
2. Upon the death of an Åcårya or Guru the disciples observe mritakam for three days, the wife and the children of the Åcårya observe for one day and one night only.
3. Death of a class mate [studying the same Veda] or a very close friend - mritakam lasts for one day [12 hours] only.
4. Death of a girl who is engaged but not yet married - both families observe mritakam for three days.
5. Death of a married women - mritakam falls on the family of the husband alone and not on the natural family.
6. Upon the death of an unmarried woman three days only are observed.
7. Upon the death of young children there are no rites need to be performed.
A more in depth look at the particular understanding of the asaucham and how it is to be applied according to the teachings of HDG Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
As we mentioned it is not such a big thing for things to be slightly different (according to local tradition - gauna), the basic principle is of most importance.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE DEATH OCCURS AWAY FROM HOME?
1. If one hears of the death of a relative in a far away place within the 10 day period then only the remaining number of days and nights are observed.
2. If the period of 10 days has elapsed then only one night with the
preceding and succeeding days are to be observed.
WHAT TO DO WHEN A SECOND DEATH OCCURS DURING MRITAKAM?
1. If the second death occurs during the period of the first mritakam then the family only observe the first 10 days and do not extend it.
2. If the second death occurs with one night remaining of the first period of mritakam then the relatives should observe another 2 nights and 2 days.
3. If the second death occurs on the morning after the completion of the first period then they should observe another 3 days and 3 nights.
4. If another death occurs after this then the full period is
to be observed.
WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR THE BIRTH AND DEATH OF CHILDREN?
1. When a child is born only the mother observes a period of sütakam lasting for 10 days, the father is purified immediately by taking a bath [after visiting the nursing home or the lying-in chamber].
2. If the child is still-born the period of asaucham for both the parents is 24 hours.
3. If a miscarriage occurs then the number of days observed is equal to the months of pregnancy be followed e.g. if the mother miscarries in the 6th month then the period of asaucham would be 6 days.
4. When a daughter dies before her marriage the family observe
asaucham for 3 days and 3 nights.
The rules are generally speaking only burial for children before teething. Before tonsure (chuda karan) on boys also burial. Thereafter cremation option is open. After upanayana - only cremation (for boys this is usually 5 - 8 years). Burial also is done without rites or mantras.
For girls (virgins) generally speaking only burial until marriage (marriage - vivaha is the upanayana rite for girls). So also amantrakam (no mantras or rites of any kind are performed).
5. Up to the age of three there is no cremation - only burial without any ritual; offering of sesame seeds and water is optional. The parents are purified when they have disposed of the corpse and taken a bath.
Further insights from Vishnu Purana quoted in Hari Bhakti Vilas
Also it is important to remember that upon disposal of the corpse/body into the ground with our understanding that we are not that body it is never done to make such a grave into a memorial, by putting flowers on the grave or having periodic visits, etc. - as the soul, who we so dearly loved is not there, only some remains of the elements of the physical body. The cemetery is only the place for disposal of the body - other ideas come from persons / communities who have no idea of the nature of the soul. Due to this, there is so much wasted land all over the world that could be otherwise used for the living.
6. If a son dies before the tonsure ceremony [ from 3 up to 5 years of age] the period of asaucham prescribed is 24 hours only.
7. If the son dies after the tonsure ceremony and before the initiation [upanayanam] with the sacred thread - 3 days and nights are observed.
8. The death of a fully initiated son would entail the full 10 days and nights.
Note regarding Miscarriages, Termination(s), Abortions, etc.:
We never do any rituals for a baby (born or unborn) until caula (about 5 years old)NOTES for priests, purohits, et al:
The body of the foetus is simply buried (not burned) and the parents observe asaucham for as many days as the months of pregnancy - i.e. 2 days for two months.
They then have bath and have the punyaha vachanam ceremony done.
As regards having caused abortion - the only thing to do is a prayaschittam - atonement.
He can take a child from a very poor family and sponsor that child’s education and development.
If the guilt is overwhelming - then let him take 2 or 3 children and sponsor them till adulthood.
But anyway in the practical sense in the world and looking from my perspective of pastoral care, one needs to do something to show empathy for the family and for the grief-resolution process etc. The said family also need symbolic closure and thus need to hear the philosophy at this time. So I try to be as compassionate as possible and not to stand on shastraic rulings like a rabbi or a mullah. I humbly try to counsel the family from the spiritual point of view explaining the nature of death and reincarnation etc. (without diluting upon the oral tradition mentioned earlier!!!!)
It is also important to find a way to discern what the family would prefer - cremation or burial and go with that. But it is important to stress the fact that we are spirit souls, transmigrating from situation to different situation through numerous bodies, and families, and thus we do NOT visit graves or leave flowers etc., or keep going back to the grave-side after the burial - it is disposal of mortal remains only, and not a memorial to the child - we tell this with tact of course!
At the burial I do not normally do any ceremonies other than read from the 2nd chapter of the Bhagavad Gita and deliver a funeral homily an example of which I shall attach here to this page.
Narayana Bali is not necessary but certainly helps with the grief resolution so please do it if you feel that it is appropriate
WHAT ARE THE RULES REGARDING AN UNNATURAL DEATH?
No post death obsequial rituals are done for a person who has died a violent and unnatural death like an accident, suicide, murder, falling from a height, being killed by an animal, or death from an infectious disease, etc and no mritakam is observed by the family members who become purified immediately upon the disposal of the corpse which should be cremated without any rituals. After a lapse of ten days and before the sixth month they should have the ceremony known as Nåråyana Bali performed by a learned brahmin. The purpose of this ceremony is to release the soul from an earthbound state to which it has obtained as a result of the unnatural and violent death. Even after this the yearly and periodic Shråddha offerings are unnecessary.
If you need more information on the Narayan Bali rite or how to perform Vrishotsarga as mentioned in Garuda Purana, feel free to get back to me.
These are extremely traumatic occurrences to any family and so therefore the Sages in their wisdom realized that to impose restrictions, rules and observances on a family shocked and unprepared at this time would be too much for them. They are therefore not socially obliged to do anything. Obviously they are bereaved and will need the consideration that a period of mourning gives, but there are no restrictions upon them - it is left to the individual needs of each family to decide what to do. More on suicide here.....
WHAT IS TO BE DONE ON THE DEATH OF 'FALLEN PERSONS'?
'Fallen persons' or 'patita' are those that have committed the crimes of murder, incest & child abuse, drunkards, drug addicts, women that have caused abortions to be performed upon themselves and upon others, those that have stolen the property of a temple. For all these no ceremonies at all are performed, the family remains in mritakam only until the disposal of the corpse which is done without any rituals; afterwards the ceremony of Nåråyana Bali should be done as explained above.
Fallen persons are not generally held in great regard or esteem by their families because of the social disgrace and stigma attached to their crimes. Very often their deaths are greeted with expectancy or even relief, and to impose rites and observances in these cases would be hypocritical.
aneka näcäilä more prasäda
viprera çräddha-pätra khäinu ‘mleccha’ haïä
aneka—in many ways; näcäilä—You have made dance; more—me; prasäda kariyä—by Your mercy; viprera—of the brähmaëas; çräddha-pätra—the dish of the çräddha ceremony; khäinu—I have eaten; mleccha haïä—although born in a family of meat-eaters.
“My dear Lord, by Your mercy You have made me dance in many ways. For example, I was offered the çräddha-pätra, which should have been offered to first-class brähmaëas. I ate from it even though I was born in a family of meat-eaters."
Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté Öhäkura, in his Anubhäñya, quotes from the Viñëu-småti in reference to the çräddha-pätra.
According to this verse, if one is born in a brähmaëa family but does not behave according to brahminical standards, he should not be offered the çräddha-pätra, which is prasädam offered to the forefathers. Advaita Äcärya offered the çräddha-pätra to Haridäsa Öhäkura, not to a brähmaëa who had been born in a brähmaëa family. Although Haridäsa Öhäkura was born in the family of meat-eaters, because he was an advanced devotee he was shown more respect than a first-class brähmaëa. (Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita Antya-lila vol 4. chapter 11:30 text and purport.)brähmaëäpasadä hy ete kathitäù paìkti-düñakäù
etän vivarjayed yatnät çräddha-karmaëi paëòitaù
Sri Ishopanishad 17
väyur anilam amritam
athedam bhasmäntam shariram
om krato smara kritam smara
krato smara kritam smara
väyuh—air of life; anilam—total reservoir of air; amritam—indestructible; atha—now; idam—this; bhasmäntam—after being turned to ashes; shariram—body; om—O Lord; krato—O enjoyer of all sacrifices; smara—please remember; kritam—all that has been done by me; smara—please remember; krato—O supreme beneficiary; smara—please remember; kritam—all that I have done for You; smara—please remember.
Let this temporary body be burnt to ashes, and let the air of life be merged with the totality of air. Now, O my Lord, please remember all my sacrifices, and because You are the ultimate beneficiary, please remember all that I have done for You.
WHAT HAPPENS TO ONE WHO DIES FOR A JUST CAUSE?
A person who gives up his life saving or defending another - especially a brahmin, a woman, a child, or a cow, a soldier that dies in the defence of his country or a policeman that dies in the line of duty - fighting crime, all these persons are considered to be martyrs and go straight to a heavenly realm and therefore do not stand in need of our help in the form of rituals and ceremonies. No mritakam is observed.
WHAT ARE THE RULES OF ASAUCHAM TO BE OBSERVED BY THOSE ATTENDING A FUNERAL?
All those who attend a funeral or touch a corpse are considered as impure until they take a bath and wash the clothes that they wore to the funeral. The tradition is that they should bathe in the tank near the crematorium which is there for this purpose or they should bathe in the sea. The mourners should not enter the house but bathe outside fully clothed and then change their clothes and enter. If this is not possible then they should at least sprinkle water mixed with turmeric over themselves, touch fire and eat a little ghee before entering the house and taking bath.
They should never enter a temple or even salute the Deity or a priest from afar while in the state of asaucham! Best is to do their duty and then get again suchi - purified.
Here are some further notes that one might find useful in regard to what traditionally goes on in Vaishnava and Hindu households:
Here is the process for Antyesthi samskara (last rites). Needless to say one needs to approach a priest/purohit to have these rites performed. Note it is not all priests and purohits who perform these rites, as some need to worship the Deity daily they cannot do, least it compromised their sadhana and seva to the Deity.
What to say as far as at a funeral, here are some guidelines and various shlokas from Bhagavad Gita to help us through these stressful times, put in the form of a homily.
A VERY important aspect now of returning to normal life is adjusting our consciousness again so that we may go on. Here is an article that we complied some time ago to help with the grieving and healing process.
There is much more detail and references here
Embalming - Do Vaiashnavas Embalm:
Vaishnavas try to dispose of the body ASAP.
Best is not to allow a funeral parlour to "embalm" a devotees body. In many cases it is quite disrespectful, especially when we remember that these are the bodies of a devotee. After reading the article, which is true, I'm sure you'll also advise against "embalming" a devotee's body.
Here's the Embalming process as done in many New Zealand funeral homes. Although in crematoriums like Breakspear (Ruslip, UK) where my mother's body was disposed of they have eight separate ovens, and each cremation is tagged with the name etc, so one can guarantee to get the exact and only ashes of your family member. It pays to check their system to ensure getting the correct ashes.
Here's an example of how devotees deal the the passing of a devotee,
as with the case of our late associate Vrindavanesvari
dd (a householder) and HH Tamal Krishna Goswami
(a tridandi sannyasin)
It has been suggested that everyone continue chanting japa on their beads, as it is the yajna for the Kali yuga dharma - they will need some input of sanity.
The Asaucham period for imediate family is ten days, during which bleeding of the mother will gradually stop and her strength can regain. Even for the husband there is a ten day asaucham period. One may question why, if the husband did not go into the labour room or contact impure items (ie blood, after-birth, stool, etc) why he, and close family members undergo asaucham, the understanding is that, as well as posibility of touching these impure items the kind of impurity-consciousness (asaucam) which makes one enamoured, or otherwise absorbed in the event, the new baby and so on is a consideration for asaucham. Besides this, the husband will be needed to be somewhat free to assist his wife and close family in settling the new child and providing for all necessities. When the Niskramanam samskara is to be done they all come to the temple for the first time to receive the blessings of the Lord and welcome the child into the community of devotees. Name giving (Naamkaranam samskara) is usually done at this time too.
The mother and child should stay in the confinement room (sutika grha) for the period of impurity (asauca), which is ten days in the case of a wife of a brahamana.
The father and other close relatives also should observe asaucham, during which time they should refrain from all duties requiring purity for execution (visiting the temple or worshiping the Deity etc). However, there is an exception for those engaged in sacrifice (yajna), those who are initiated (taken panch samskaras - diksha), those observing vrata, brahmacaris, realised souls, doctors, craftsmen, barbers, servants and kings .............
In Bengal in ancient times they observed 30 days (one month) as shown in the example of Lord Sri Krishna Chaitanya's birth to mother Sacidevi: "Completing her one month of confinement, the period of contamination after child birth, Srimati Sacidevi went for a bath in the Ganga with the other ladies." Caitanya Bhagavat Adi Lila Chapter 4
.............ideally the husband and wife who have the new baby are in asaucham for ten days, meaning they are to focus on the child and its welfare. Other family members should provide meals and take on the responsibility of puja etc for a period of ten days. That will allow peace of mind to the couple, also a chance for the mother to heal, and for mother and child to bond, and its essential that the father be available to arrange for everything. So it is a practical rest period on many levels.
In the Sri Vaishnava line as mentioned in asaucha prakaraNam "sri vaishNava sadAchAra nirNayam", jAtAsaucham: ( teettu in connection with the birth of a child ):
10 days if the child is born to the parents with the same gOtram as yours. (examples: of course your own ; your brother's ; your paternal uncle's - means - your father's brother; and anyone else with your own gOtram).
3 days if the child is born to the parents of your married sister (
because of mAtula relationship ).
WHAT ARE THE RULES PERTAINING TO IMPURITY CAUSED BY MENSTRUATION?
A woman is considered as impure during her monthly periods for a period of three to four days or until the bleeding stops. The reason being that the presence of any of the exudates from the body; blood, pus, vomit, faeces, urine, sperm is defiling and the individual is considered as untouchable until the secretion has stopped. All social activities with a person who is in such a state are avoided;
1. Especially they are not permitted to cook or to serve food.
2. Conversation with them is forbidden to brahmins.
3. They are of course forbidden from entering a temple or taking part in any ritual as long as the presence of blood is there.
4. The husband should not sleep in the same bed or have sexual intercourse with his wife during her period.
Another very good reason why this custom arose was to give the
women a break from their household chores. Normally a mother never has
a day off, she is available to attend to her family 24 hours a day
every day. So the custom arose to give the women a holiday of three to
four days a month in which they could rest and recoup their energy and
be served hand and foot! In ancient India there was never any problems
with P.M.T (or PMS)!!
In a spiritual context this gave the woman a chance to catch up on her spiritual activities - she could fast, perform meditation and japa [without a mala] and spend the time reflecting without being disturbed. Nowadays with the break down of the extended family system and with the women in the work force, this arrangement is no longer practicable. So one should observe as much as possible within the context of one's daily life. The following are some practical hints which could be adopted as a guideline for living in the modern world and still maintain the practice of dharma;
1. If a separate room is not available for the wife to sleep in
then at least have a bed roll so that she can avoid sleeping in the same
bed as the husband.
2. As regards food and cooking best is if a family friend could help out with some meals. If due to circumstances this is not posible, and as a last option it might be an idea to call an aproved vegetarian take away - nowadays, with the breakdown of family structure, impersonalism, and families living far away from relatives emergency provisions may have to be saught. Just to get the feeding done, as we all need to subsist on something, and in this case the availability of fast food stores and speedy delivery services this is not a problem. We say this in this way because GENERALLY the reality is that foods stuffs, especially grains cooked by non-devotees is not considered suitable for a brahmin to partake of. As the consciousness of the cook is transmitted through the food to the partakers - it is said that one who regulaly eats foodstuffs cooked by non-devotees, unofferable, unclean (not sattvik - at least in the mode of goodness) foodstuffs his mind will become disturbed. Still if there is no option, maybe the family could perhaps take approved/suitable/uncontaminated fast food for the three days. [However, Eating OUT is not a good idea!]
3. Avoid inviting guests around during this period and if they have already been invited try to make an excuse - if they are devotees then they will understand - being 'unwell' or 'under stress due to events' is a time honoured excuse!
4. The husband could take over the household chores; shopping, cooking, cleaning, looking after the kids etc. And he could serve the wife for a change and give her as much of a break as possible for her to do her own thing!
5. Going to a temple or attending any type of ritual should be avoided at all costs. Also avoid conversing with a brahmin priest.
6. If going to work is unavoidable then keep physical contact with others down to a minimum and avoid serving others tea or coffee or using their utensils.
Srila Prabhupada's standard and that of the Goswamis vidhi was practical, with the emphais on uninterupted pure devotional service to Krishna.
"While Govinda dasi was Srila Prabhupada's personal secretary in 1968, His Divine Grace endeavored to convince her that it would be best to refrain from temple activities during the first three days of her menses, not just Deity worship. Govinda dasi became very upset. Srila Prabhupada seeing the degree of her disturbance said, 'Never mind.'
Today she follows the rule that Srila Prabhupada wanted her to follow
She says, she just couldn't follow at that time, now she can.
Your Servant, Kusha devi dasi" [Text 1484553 from COM]
"According to smarta viddhi, a women in her period cannot touch the
Deity. However, according to Goswami viddhi, she can, but better she doesn't"
According to the smarta vidhi, women cannot touch deity during menstrual period but the goswami viddhi allows. But it is better not to do it. One thing is that the seva can never be stopped for any reason. This also for the cooking. (A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Letter to Amsu. Vrindavan August 13th 1974.)
During the period of contamination one should not study scripture, or perform homa, Deity worship, tarpana, entertain guests etc. If one is performing Deity worship one may perform, worship by manasa puja. However if one has made a vow to perform worship of the Lord for his whole life, he should not break this vow, but should continue the puja (but if some arrangement can be made that is nice).
Those performing sacrifice, students and realized souls, or one who has performed funeral rites for a sannyasi does not obeserve asauca.
"One should not enter the temple in a contaminated state. (According to Vedic scripture, if someone dies in the family the whole family becomes contaminated for some time, according to its status. For example, if the family is brahmana their contamination period is twelve days, for kshatriyas and vaishyas it is fifteen days, and for shudras thirty days.)(Srila A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabupada. Nectar of Devotion, page 69. - Offences to be avoided.)
"As far as these rules are concerned let me first say that in matters of asauca (contamination/ritual pollution) Vaisnavas in general follow the same rules as all other followers of the Vedic Dharma Shastras. However in ISKCON Srila Prabhupada definitely introduced some new and novel approaches to some of these problems. I was in Fiji for some time and Vasudeva Prabhu and his wives (he has two, they are sisters) all of Indian (Gujarati actually) descent had some interesting things that they did and told me about. Vasudeva asked Prabhupada how long should he stay away from the temple after a relative of his died. If you look at NOD you will see that different numbers of days are given for different varnas. Vasudeva said that he was expected to stay way for ten days. Srila Prabhupada told him that ONE day was enough. One wonders if he would have even said this had Vasudeva not been of Indian descent. In general Srila Prabhupada relied on the purity of the Krsna's Holy Name in these circumstances. In time of need even allowing women to perform deity worship or cook during their rtus. (Not that I am encouraging this.) As the only male pujari in Fiji at the time I had sometimes to dress all the deities myself when all the ladies went sick at the same time. And Indian women will take a week or ten days sometimes before they return to the temple. You don't even see them, neither do they touch their japa malas, but chant on their hands (fingers). In South India the (Brahmin) ladies cannot even enter the house, but must sleep on a mat on the front porch or in a special room on the roof or in the back yard. Food is brought to them. All of this was NOT Srila Prabhupada's mood. (Although one could argue that this is part of Varnashram and therefore eventually might be something he wanted to introduce.)
Let us not have a double standard where these things are concerned. When I was in Europe, based on reading and discussing Srila Prabhupada's instructions we adopted a standard of 3 days off for lady pujaris during their rtus. After the 3 days they were allowed to return to their service. Whether or not the rtu has actually finished. (By the way ladies should take full bath before returning to pujari duties, including washing the hair. On normal days brushing is enough for cleaning the hair. See Bhagavatam story of Devahuti and Kardama). So let us adopt a standard of cleanliness for all men and women doing deity seva. And also let us NOT discriminate against women in the matter of entering the temple room. Afterall we invite non-vaisnavas to come there in order to preach to them, so why not allow our Vaisnavis. At the same time I would respect any lady who wishes to observe the ancient traditional systems of ritual impurity and asauca.(And I would also have equal respect for those who choose not to.) It is their right to choose the way in which they observe these things, while being careful to avoid as far as possible Deity seva aparadhas."(Gaura Keshava das. 1998. COM1415668.)
Srila Prabhupad also mentions that aspiring Vaishnavis unlike brahminis, or what to speak of ordinary women can touch the Deity of the Lord, or cook when they are in their menses, but better that they don't.
For more see section below "Purifying the Body" from Pacharatra Pradipa, Iskcon GBC.
Impurities of the Self
Since contamination spreads by touch, the pujari must be careful to avoid touching impure items such as the holes of the body, hair, the lower part of the body, the cloth covering the lower body, feet, the floor, or any impure substance. Offered articles are considered impure for one who is going to offer fresh articles. Therefore the worshiper must be careful to avoid touching offered items.
According to Manu, there are twelve impurities (mala) exuding from the body. A person must purify himself by cleansing the body with earth (or soap) and water after he contacts the first six impurities: fat, semen, blood, marrow, urine, or stool.
Water alone purifies a person after he contacts the second six impurities: nose mucus, phlegm, tears, perspiration, ear wax, and exudations from the eyes.
Other contaminating agents are alcohol; low animals such as pigs, donkeys, dogs, and crows; low-class people (candalas and mlecchas); hair; nails; bone; corpses (human or animal); the smoke from a funeral pyre; a menstruating woman; eating; sleeping; sex; passing urine or stool; sinful activities; ucchi?˜a (food remnants); and the birth or death of close relatives.
Contagious disease is also contaminating. A person suffering from a skin disease, such as eczema, should not enter the kitchen or worship the Deity. If one has sores or wounds that could contaminate the paraphernalia or the Deity, one should also refrain from cooking and worship. A person suffering from a respiratory disease should not enter the kitchen.
Purifying the Body
After waking, a devotee should cleanse his body and its orifices by employing water and earth (or soap), by brushing the teeth, and by submerging himself in water.
When the parts of the body below the navel and the forearms become contaminated
by wine or the first six bodily impurities, one should purify them by scrubbing
the affected area with earth (or soap) and water.
If the upper body is contaminated, one should purify the whole body with earth (or soap) and water and then bathe fully.
A person should bathe to purify himself after sex, a bad dream, shaving, vomiting, purging, or after touching a dead body, a woman in her menstrual cycle, a candala, or a dead animal or its fat or bones.
A woman purifies herself during her menstrual cycle by bathing on the fourth day.* A woman possessing a bad mind is purified by her menstrual flow.
*If a woman's menstrual period lasts more than three days, it is better if the woman refrain from touching the Deity or anything related to the Deity worship until her period is actually over. The reason for this prohibition is that, at the very least, menstrual contamination is like having passed stool without bathing afterward. In a letter Srila Prabhupada writes that for the worship of a Deity to continue uninterrupted it may be allowed, as an exception, for women to touch the Deity during their menstrual period, but that ``it is better if they don't." This allowance should be understood to refer to a rare exception, or to worship of household Deities. Temple managers should encourage male devotees to engage in the temple Deity worship, minimizing difficult situations that may arise due to women devotees' periods of contamination.
One should perform Achamana after coughing or sneezing, after sleeping,
eating, drinking, bathing, dressing, spitting, or walking on a road, after
urinating or passing stool, and after talking to candalas and mlecchas.
One should also perform Achamana before eating, studying shastra, or performing any religious activity.
The man of knowledge purifies himself of sin by endurance, by charity, by japa, and by austerity. A brahmana is purified by accepting sannyaasa.
A devotee purifies himself of an uncontrolled mind by the decision to follow the path of truth. He purifies himself of body consciousness by knowledge and austerity, and he purifies his ability to discriminate by receiving spiritual education.
Purification of Consciousness (citta-suddhi)
One's consciousness is purified first by Vaishnava initiation, by which one receives Vaishnava mantras for worshiping the Lord; then it is purified by one's performing daily sadhana and practicing Vaishnava achara (proper Vaishnava behavior). Purification of consciousness is very much interrelated with physical purification. The Vishnu-smiti lists the purifying agents for the contaminated body and mind as spiritual knowledge, austerity, certain prescribed activities (such as chanting Gayatri at the sandhyas), fire, certain eatables (such as pañca-gavya), earth, water, cow dung, air, the sun, time, and cooked grains.
Among these, the foods are very important. If a person eats pure food he becomes pure, and if he eats impure food he becomes impure. Even though a person undertakes other forms of purification, if he eats impure food he remains impure. Therefore one must always be careful to partake only of pure food at all times.
``By performance of yajña one's eatables become sanctified, and by eating sanctified foodstuffs one's very existence becomes purified; by the purification of existence finer tissues in the memory become sanctified, and when memory is sanctified one can think of the path of liberation, and all these combined together lead to Krishna consciousness, the great necessity of present-day society" (Bg. 3.11, purport).
A person does not need purification after contacting the following items, for they are considered pure: items for sale in the market; goods received by begging; the mouth of a goat or a horse; mongooses; cows (except a cow's mouth, which is impure); elephants; horses; bees; a calf taking milk; cow urine, dung, milk, yogurt, ghee, and rochana; fried or roasted foods (other than meat, fish, or eggs); the hands of a craftsman, such as a potter; rays of the sun or moon; fire, wind, dew, or running water; the shadow of a tree; kusha grass, honey, fruit, or essences; or anything certified as pure by an authoritative person.
Because Deity prasada is pure, a Vaishnava is careful to eat only Deity prasada if at all possible. Since prasada is pure, after taking prasada one does not have to take a bath before worshiping the Deity.* If when taking prasada a devotee does not touch his mouth with either his hand or a utensil, such as a cup or spoon (when taking a small portion of maha-prasada, for example), then he does not have to change his cloth before worshiping the Deity. However, if his hand touches his mouth when he is eating, he must put on clean cloth to worship the Deity.
*However, the pujari must thoroughly rinse his mouth and wash his hands and feet; then he must perform full Achamana. He may not brush his teeth unless he takes a bath afterward. It is best not to eat prior to worshiping the Deity, since one may offend the Lord by belching! Also, with a full stomach one cannot concentrate properly on one's services to the Lord. Service performed directly in the Deity room should be done with full attention, not in a routine manner, for the pujari should always be aware of being in the direct presence of the Lord.
Purification of Articles (dravya-suddhi)
Contamination occurs when an article contacts any of the impure items listed previously. Serious contamination takes place when an article contacts the first six impurities from the body, or when it contacts any other heavily contaminating substance, such as alcohol. Before touching an unoffered item during worship, the pujari should purify his hands by performing samanya-arghya with water from the pañca-patra.
The left hand, which is considered impure, should not touch the Deity directly while He is being bathed. (If the Deity is made of metal, during the polishing, the pujari may hold or touch the Deity with a cloth held in his left hand.)
Articles become free from contamination in different ways, depending on their nature. In the case of serious contamination, things made of iron and similar metals are purified by fire (by bringing the object to a red-hot state); jewels, stones, and conch shells by being buried for seven nights in the ground; objects of horn, ivory, and turtleshell by planing the surface; and cloth by removing the contaminated portion. When things made of wood or earthernware are seriously contaminated, however, they should be discarded.
When articles are mildly contaminated through contact with impure items such as food remnants, they may be purified in the following ways: gold, silver, conch shells, jewels, stones, and spoons are purified by water; yajña utensils, such as the sruk and sruva (wooden ladles), by rinsing with warm water; other yajña utensils by scrubbing with kusha grass and water; an asana, bed, and vehicle by water; and grains, deerskin, cloth,* thread, linen, fruits, flowers, grass, and leaves by washing them in water if extensively contaminated, or simply by sprinkling if the contamination is slight.
*Cloth washed by a dhobi (professional launderer) is not considered suci; it should not be worn by pujaris or Deity cooks. Dry-cleaning is also not suchi, since alcohol, which is most impure, is used in the process.
We continue with purification methods for mildly contaminated objects: Blankets are purified by soap berries (rita-phala), silk by saline earth, linen by mustard seeds; cotton cloth is purified by washing with soap and water, then drying in the sun and wind. Iron and bell metal are purified by ash; tin, copper, and lead are purified by tamarind and water. Wood and floors are purified by planing or scraping. Liquids are purified by straining; containers of gourd or coconut are purified by scrubbing with the hair from a cow's tail. Earthernware, if glazed, is purified by water; different types of items altogether are purified by sprinkling with water. Raw rice is purified by discarding the bad part; boiled rice is purified by discarding the impure part, chanting Gayatri mantra, and sprinkling the rice with water. The ground is purified by sweeping and smearing it with cow dung and water, by sprinkling with cow urine and dung, by burning, by the treading of cow hooves, by time, and by digging. Boats, paths, grass, and brick constructions are purified by wind and sun. Water for one's own bath or for Deity worship is purified by flowing water, which should be clear, sweet-tasting, and sweet-smelling. In order of preference, water should be taken from the following sources: the Ganga or Yamuna, other tirthas, a river that flows directly to the ocean (that is, not a tributary), a tributary river, a natural spring, a lake, a pond, a large man-made reservoir, a small man-made reservoir, a well, and a pot.(Pancharatra Pradipa)
Consideration of Purity and Impurity (suddhi-vichara).
Vedic society is highly aware of purity, both gross and subtle. Objects have been classified according to their grades of impurity and the methods necessary to purify them. This is called suddhi-vichara, an understanding of how to maintain purity. What follows is a summary of these principles, as Lord Krishna outlines them to Uddhava in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.21.7---15):
``O saintly Uddhava, in order to restrict materialistic activities, I have established that which is proper and improper among all material things, including time, space and all physical objects.
``Among places, those bereft of the spotted antelope, those devoid of devotion to the brahmanas, those possessing spotted antelopes but bereft of respectable men, provinces like Kika˜a and places where cleanliness and purificatory rites are neglected, where meat-eaters are prominent, or where the earth is barren, are all considered to be contaminated lands.
``A specific time is considered pure when it is appropriate, either by its own nature or through achievement of suitable paraphernalia, for the performance of one's prescribed duty. That time which impedes the performance of one's duty is considered impure.
``An object's purity or impurity is established by application of another object, by words, by rituals, by the effects of time, or according to relative magnitude.
``Impure things may or may not impose sinful reactions upon a person, depending on that person's strength or weakness, intelligence, wealth, location, and physical condition.
``Various objects such as grains; wooden utensils; things made of bone; thread; liquids; objects derived from fire; skins; and earthy objects are all purified by time, by the wind, by fire, by earth, and by water, either separately or in combination.
``A particular purifying agent is considered appropriate when its application removes the bad odor or dirty covering of some contaminated object and makes it resume its original nature.
``The self can be cleansed by bathing, charity, austerity, age, personal strength, purificatory rituals, prescribed duties, and, above all, by remembrance of Me. The brahmana and other twice-born men should be duly purified before performing their specific activities.
``A mantra is purified when chanted with proper knowledge, and one's work is purified when offered to Me. Thus by purification of the place, time, substance, doer, mantras, and work, one becomes religious, and by negligence of these six items one is considered irreligious."
The Hari-bhakti-vilasa: provides further details concerning suddhi-vichara:(Pacharatra Pradipa)
Footnote: OCCASIONAL / UNWITTING IMPURITY
If a brahmin unwittingly swallows meat, faeces, semen or wine
he incurs impurity. He should fast the rest of the day until the evening
and then he should drink water with the recitation of the omkåra.
(Yajñavalkya Smriti 13:55.)
punantu mam devajanah
punantu manasa dhiyah
punantu visva bhutani
jatavedah punihi ma
May the gods (devas, devotees) company make me clean, and Vasus make me pure by song. Purify me, ye General of the Gods; Oh Jatavedas, make me pure. (Rg Veda 9:67:27).
Bhagavad Gita 9:30 makes the picture clear:
api cet su-duräcäro
bhajate mäm ananya-bhäk
sädhur eva sa mantavyaù
samyag vyavasito hi saù
api—even; cet—if; su-duräcäraù—one committing the most abominable actions; bhajate—is engaged in devotional service; mäm—unto Me; ananya-bhäk—without deviation; sädhuù—a saint; eva—certainly; saù—he; mantavyaù—is to be considered; samyak—completely; vyavasitaù—situated in determination; hi—certainly; saù—he.
Even if one commits the most abominable action, if he is engaged in devotional service he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated in his determination.
The word su-duräcäraù used in this verse is very significant, and we should understand it properly. When a living entity is conditioned, he has two kinds of activities: one is conditional, and the other is constitutional. As for protecting the body or abiding by the rules of society and state, certainly there are different activities, even for the devotees, in connection with the conditional life, and such activities are called conditional. Besides these, the living entity who is fully conscious of his spiritual nature and is engaged in Kåñëa consciousness, or the devotional service of the Lord, has activities which are called transcendental. Such activities are performed in his constitutional position, and they are technically called devotional service. Now, in the conditioned state, sometimes devotional service and the conditional service in relation to the body will parallel one another. But then again, sometimes these activities become opposed to one another. As far as possible, a devotee is very cautious so that he does not do anything that could disrupt his wholesome condition. He knows that perfection in his activities depends on his progressive realization of Kåñëa consciousness. Sometimes, however, it may be seen that a person in Kåñëa consciousness commits some act which may be taken as most abominable socially or politically. But such a temporary falldown does not disqualify him. In the Çrémad-Bhägavatam it is stated that if a person falls down but is wholeheartedly engaged in the transcendental service of the Supreme Lord, the Lord, being situated within his heart, purifies him and excuses him from that abomination. The material contamination is so strong that even a yogé fully engaged in the service of the Lord sometimes becomes ensnared; but Kåñëa consciousness is so strong that such an occasional falldown is at once rectified. Therefore the process of devotional service is always a success. No one should deride a devotee for some accidental falldown from the ideal path, for, as explained in the next verse, such occasional falldowns will be stopped in due course, as soon as a devotee is completely situated in Kåñëa consciousness.
Therefore a person who is situated in Kåñëa consciousness and is engaged with determination in the process of chanting Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare should be considered to be in the transcendental position, even if by chance or accident he is found to have fallen. The words sädhur eva, “he is saintly,” are very emphatic. They are a warning to the nondevotees that because of an accidental falldown a devotee should not be derided; he should still be considered saintly even if he has accidentally fallen down. And the word mantavyaù is still more emphatic. If one does not follow this rule, and derides a devotee for his accidental falldown, then one is disobeying the order of the Supreme Lord. The only qualification of a devotee is to be unflinchingly and exclusively engaged in devotional service.
In the Nåsiàha Puräëa the following statement is given:
bhagavati ca haräv ananya-cetä
bhåça-malino ’pi viräjate manuñyaù
na hi çaça-kaluña-cchabiù kadäcit
timira-paräbhavatäm upaiti candraù
The meaning is that even if one fully engaged in
the devotional service of the Lord is sometimes found engaged in abominable
activities, these activities should be considered to be like the spots
that resemble the mark of a rabbit on the moon. Such spots do not become
an impediment to the diffusion of moonlight. Similarly, the accidental
falldown of a devotee from the path of saintly character does not make
On the other hand, one should not misunderstand that a devotee in transcendental devotional service can act in all kinds of abominable ways; this verse only refers to an accident due to the strong power of material connections. Devotional service is more or less a declaration of war against the illusory energy. As long as one is not strong enough to fight the illusory energy, there may be accidental falldowns. But when one is strong enough, he is no longer subjected to such falldowns, as previously explained. No one should take advantage of this verse and commit nonsense and think that he is still a devotee.If he does not improve in his character by devotional service, then it is to be understood that he is not a high devotee. (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Bhagavad Gita As It Is. 9:30 purport.)
What to do at the times of Solar
and Lunar Eclipses and the effects of the demon Rahu:
We have some nice discussion pages looking into this topic you are welcomed to look over. HERE
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