The Perfect Family

Call the family. Gather friends. Sign papers. Put away bright clothes. Every tradition has its own sequence of events that are set in motion when someone passes away.

In the tradition of bhakti yoga, the first priority is to gather together and sing God’s names. Doing so is part-prayer, part-emotional release, and partly for the benefit of the soul of the departed. It’s an all purpose activity. In a recent kirtan workshop I was helping to run in Australia, I called it the Swiss Army knife of yoga practises. I’m sure it could be put more poetically, but it’s quite true.

So last night, after the morning passing of a dear uncle and member of our temple community, we gathered in the evening to sing. Throughout the day, the news had spread and now hundreds of well-wishers and friends streamed through the temple doors to pay their respects. One of the most touching things was the breadth and diversity of the people that came. For different reasons, groups are usually a bit segregated in our temple community. Over the years, Sundays have been mostly attended by the Gujarati/Indian members of the congregation, whereas a different demographic is represented on other days. But last was one of those rare occasions where everyone you could think of was present – young, old, families and ashram residents, even some faces I hadn’t seen around for years.

In the passing of a loved one, we were united. It was a testament to the breadth of the love he showed, and it brought us together to form what felt like the perfect family. Family doesn’t mean blood or the same last name. The bhakti tradition teaches that we are all the same in essence – and that our ultimate goal – to love God, is the same. In realising this together, sharing our sadness together, praying together, sharing our appreciation for a dear friend and giving each other strength, we felt the closeness of true family. Though it may be too big to fit in a family portrait; it may be more multi-coloured than a Benetton ad; more complex than any family counselor could handle, it felt perfect to me.

1 Comment

Filed under Family, Inspiration!, Krishna Consciousness

One response to “The Perfect Family

  1. Ram

    That notion of one family actually comes from the sacred mahopanishad (part of the vedas). It says

    उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् – udaaracharitaanaam tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam.

    For the benevolent (udaara – benevolence, charitaaanam – plural, one having that character) the whole vasudha (earth) is only (eva) one family (kutumbakam). A kirtan, in a sort creates this kind of one world one family atmosphere, although ultimately, the idea being to force one to think about the lord, day in and day out.

    A digression –

    Apologies if this sounds offensive, but unlike in other religious systems, where gratitude is shown to the deceased by offering flowers, by remembering the dead and all that brooding over the past, the hindu idea in performing rites and rituals is to take the atma (soul) to a new pedestal of pitra-loka and allow it continue its journey as per its karma. If we go by the hard facts of the scriptures, which they make, there is no point in thinking or grieving about the deceased, rather one is supposed to continue with his daily activities (as per the shastras).

    The ritual remembrance (as is done in traditional systems) is not for showing gratitude to the deceased, rather doing one’s duty according to the writ of vedas. As lord puts in the gita, “yah shastra vidhim utsrijya vartate kama kaarataha na sa siddhim avaapnoti na sukham na paraam gatim” (16.23) – one who acts whimsically by not following the shastras, neither does he attain siddhi (the supreme state) nor does he reach the ultimate goal.

    Ofcourse, we all know that any sort of previous intercession by lord krishna in any form, can finish this journey of the atma abruptly, and take it back to godhead.

    In real practice however wise the saying may look like, its very hard to practice even for a man who has controlled his emotions, what then to talk of ordinary men and women(who by nature are soft-hearted compared to men)! Sayings from the gita like “na prahrishyet priyam praapya …”, “dukeshu anuvudvignamanaah ….” etc, if followed in the true sense, makes one a real yogi, and the constant remembering of lord’s names is the path for such a yogi.


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