The 4th of July is a celebration of Freedom. The path and practices of Yoga and Ayurveda lead us to the highest freedom and the most glorious health. Last week in my Mindfulness and Yoga Stress Reduction Course we were practicing bringing Mindfulness into the body. One of members of our group shared that she had been experiencing "chest pain" that seemed activated by her emotional state. The conversation turned to Ayurveda and how those of us with more Vata (air and space) in our Prakriti (constitution) tend to be very sensitive and can often pick up on the feelings and energies of others. We discussed the possibility that this pain in her body may not necessarily be her own. According to Ayurveda, we are born with 7 generations of our ancestors's energy influencing us. There is a practice in Ayurveda called TARPANA which is an ancient ritual of healing the ancestral pain that we carry. This ancient medicine is a healing not only for ourselves but also for our ancestors as well. The ceremony can be quite elaborate or simple. Dr. Robert Svaboda has an interesting article about this sacred healing ceremony. Here is a brief exerpt:
"The traditional ritual of Tarpana is complex, but its essence is simple. It is much like the All Soul’s tradition, when people visit their relatives in the cemetery. In preparation, consider what one food item your parent or grandparent was fondest of. May be it is the apple strudel your grandmother used to bake, or the ale your father used to drink. That food will act as a vehicle for your emotion.
Sit comfortably facing south and visualize your dead ancestors, one by one, as far back as you can remember. Make each one sit in front of you. Telling them you want to help release them from any residual earthly desires they might have, offer them a spoonful of water, a spoonful of milk, and a spoonful of sesame seeds, preferably the black variety. These offerings are the same for everyone.
Then offer a little of the special item, with the heartfelt wish that this will satisfy any residual cravings and allow that individual, wherever he or she is, to continue with their own progression towards greater integration and clarity. You then request them to return whence they came, and feed the food you have offered to an animal, or put it into a river or the ocean. It is good to repeat this annually, preferably on the same New Moon Day each year. The best days for Tarpana are New Moon Days, especially those which fall in September (Pitr Paksha).
You need not even believe in reincarnation, or even life after death, to perform Tarpana. Your parents and grandparents are still alive inside you, in your genes. You are simply projecting a part of your personality, contacting it, and requesting it to be pleased with you and to relinquish any inappropriate influence it may have over you. This visualization releases you from any unhealthy psychological habits you may have as a result of the influence of these previous beings who also shared your genes, and of the images you have of those beings.
Tarpana is especially important for ancestors you knew personally. If you loved them, you show them your love in the only way remaining to you, by remembering them and offering part of yourself to them as a token of your love. If your relationship with them was marred by negative emotions, Tarpana allows you to forgive them, to heal the relationship by sacrificing your negativity and offering them the healing power of your love. Thankfulness for the genes which have given you life, and forgiveness for those genes which have limited your existence, transport the sacrifice to its intended target.
If you are convinced that this procedure can actually help eliminate any negativity remaining between you and the image you hold of your ancestor, it will. Faith is essential for it to work; you must make your offering with complete sincerity. Faith can truly make you whole.
Faith can make our society whole as well. Tarpana is important to all of us who have forgotten our roots. It creates the bond which should exist between our ancestors and us. Hindu tradition regards Tarpana as a duty, which every child must perform for its parents. When we accept this responsibility we relinquish forgetfulness. Tarpana is an act of remembrance, which solidifies the link between the generations. By opening ourselves to our ancestral influences and forgiving our forebears their imperfections, we open ourselves to their accumulated wisdom, which can cement our culture together."
The full article can be read here: www.hinduism.co.za/tarpana.htm
I remember when my mother used to cringe when my father would open up our garage to display his thousands of belongings quietly hidden in his "man cave." My father was an engineer, a brilliant engineer, and he saved everything; every screw, every nail, every bolt, every baby food jar (to store the screws and nails and bolts). I could never understand my mother's reactions until I was in college and learned that when my Irish ancestors came to America they were considered lowly, unintelligent and drunks. My mother was carrying some very deep ancestral shame regarding how others in our neighborhood might see us when our garage door was open and my father was in his glory. I learned there were the "lace" Irish and the "shanty" Irish. My mother did everything she could to present our family as the "lacey" ones while my father did not seem to care at all what others thought. This need to prove our worth and value ran rivers deep in me as I struggled, rather unconsciously, to prove I was intelligent and worthy. This took a lot of energy and still does if I am not being mindful.
What are your ancestors unresolved pains? What are yours? Tarpana offers us a simple and heartfelt ceremony to connect and heal.
May all beings everywhere be happy and free.
Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavanthu