Fourteen Days Dedicated to the Ancestors
Wednesday, September 2 – Wednesday, September 16, 2020
One of the traditions followed on the Siddha Yoga path is the observance of Pitru Paksha, the “fortnight of the ancestors.” This period of two weeks takes place during the Indian lunar month of Ashvina, which corresponds to the Gregorian calendar months of September and October.
The origin of Pitru Paksha harks back to India’s oldest scripture, the Rig Veda. It is described in the scriptures as a powerful occasion on which we honor and express gratitude to those who have come before us and left for us a legacy of their wisdom, protection, love, and material wealth. By Vedic tradition, “ancestors” refers specifically to parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. In practice, people honor departed spouses, children, siblings, aunts and uncles, and parents-in-law on Pitru Paksha as well. They also honor friends, neighbors, teachers, mentors, and even beloved animals that have left this world.
For those walking the Siddha Yoga path, Pitru Paksha is a time to reflect on the Siddha Yoga teachings about the value of human birth, the bond that exists among all living beings, and the recognition that life is not limited to the body and that our connection to our loved ones transcends this physical realm. We learn from the Siddha Yoga Gurus that when the body ceases its activity, the eternal Self, the atman, continues to live on. In the same way, the love that existed between people lives on. Pitru Paksha gives us an opportunity to continue honoring that love and to be grateful for all we have received from our ancestors.
Observances on Pitru Paksha
According to the Indian scriptures, it is the dharma, the duty, of those who are living to offer their prayers and blessings, and the fruits of their spiritual practices, for the benefit of those who have passed on. In this way, we continue to honor those who have passed on; we invoke their blessings, and support them on their journey onward.
The observance of Pitru Paksha is a way to harmonize ourselves with the forces of nature. Those who live in this world and those who have departed from it are all part of the one vital power of Consciousness that underlies creation. Therefore, the giving and receiving of prayers, and the continued fostering of goodwill, brings about auspiciousness in our lives and in this world. The Garuda Purana says that by worshiping our ancestors, we attain such boons as longevity, good health, strength, happiness, prosperity, abundant food, and access to heaven.1 The Vishnu Purana states that those who, with faith, perform rituals for their ancestors make the whole world content.2
During Pitru Paksha, we as Siddha Yogis may choose to dedicate our practice of meditation, chanting, mantra repetition, svadhyaya, and prayer to our ancestors. Another powerful way of sending blessings to our departed loved ones is dedicating to them the recitation of Shri Guru Gita.
In India, another traditional observance during Pitru Paksha is performing charitable works on behalf of our ancestors—especially donating food and giving money to support the education of children in need. Some people may even plant a tree, a symbol of life, to honor departed ones.
This fortnight is dedicated to offering prayers and blessings for the departed ancestors and benefactors. To support people in maintaining this focus, it is traditionally recommended that people refrain from beginning new projects or major undertakings, and to travel only if it is indispensable. Travel considered auspicious during Pitru Paksha is that which is undertaken as a pilgrimage or to begin a spiritual practice.
Prayers and Verses
The following prayers and verses from the Upanishads and Shri Bhagavad Gita invoke the presence of the eternal Self as the undying heart of all beings. During Pitru Paksha, you may include these in the prayers you offer in homage to your loved ones who have left this world.
Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 5.1.1
ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात् पूर्णमुदच्यते ।
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
oṁ pūrṇamadaḥ pūrṇamidaṁ pūrṇāt pūrṇamudacyate ।
pūrṇasya pūrṇamādāya pūrṇamevāvaśiṣyate ॥
oṁ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ ॥
Om. That is perfect. This is perfect.
From the perfect springs the perfect.
If the perfect is taken from the perfect, the perfect remains.
Om. Peace! Peace! Peace!3
Shri Bhagavad Gita 2.20
न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचिन्नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूयः ।
अजो नित्यः शाश्वतोऽयं पुराणो न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे ॥ २० ॥
na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ ।
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ’yaṁ purāṇo na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre ॥
The supreme Self is not born, nor does it ever die.
Having once existed, it never ceases to exist.
The supreme Self is unborn, eternal, changeless, and ancient.
It does not die when the body dies.4