Funeral Homily - Pt. Sri Ram Ramanujacharya
Funeral Speech - Pt. Jaya Tirtha Charan dasan

Readings from the Bhagavad Gita

PRAYER FOR DEPARTED SOULS ITS PURPOSE AND PRE-REQUISITES (Forest University Lecture given on All-Soul's Day, 1952)

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Thus it is, that in Time which is eternal, there is nothing upon which to rest, and there is nothing created, in which there is the least stability, or permanence.

The sands on the river bank, and the rain which pours down from the sky may be measured and counted; but not the number of our forefathers that have passed away.

In each aeon, 14  Indras  (kings of the gods) pass away, and so many emperors and divine princes have been taken by Time. What then, can one say of human beings.

Every creature is seized by Time and carried away, in accordance with the results of its actions done in this and in previous lives, why then, should one grieve upon its passing?

Having realised that there is nothing in this world that can save us, and that friends and relatives are dying one after the other, one must choose the Dharma — as one's only associate.

Merit and demerit are one's only companions on the path of Yama the god of death, therefore one should constantly exert oneself to greater virtue and piety.

To-morrow's business should be done  today, and the afternoon's business in the forenoon; for death will not wait, whether a person has done it or not.

While the mind is fixed upon possessions, vocation or home, or while the thoughts are fixed on some beloved object, death suddenly carries one away; as a wolf snatches a lamb.

Time is no-one's friend, and no-one's enemy. When the effect of one's Karma; by which this present existence is caused, has expired, death comes to claim one.

One will not die before one's time has come, even though pierced by a thousand arrows. One will not live after one's time has run out, even though only touched by the point of a blade of grass.

Neither medication, nor magic formulas, nor burnt-offerings, nor prayers will save one who is in the jaws of death.  An impending tragedy cannot be averted by a hundred precautions; what reason then for one to grieve?

Of existing beings the beginning is unknown, the middle is known, and the end again unknown; what reason then for one to grieve.

As the body undergoes changes of infancy, youth, maturity and old age, even so will the soul take a new body hereafter, a wise person does not grieve at this process.

Just as a person puts on new clothes and discards those that are worn out, even so does the soul take on new bodies according to its  karma.

No weapons can hurt the Soul, no fire burn it, no waters moisten it and no wind can dry it. The soul is imperishable, eternal, unchanging,  immutable and without beginning. The soul does not die when the body dies. Knowing the soul to be thus, one should not grieve for the destruction of the material body.

       Institutes of Vishnu XX 22- 53


Funeral Speech:

First I’d like to thank you all for coming here today to show your love and affection, and last respects to one who was so dear to us.

We’ve all had so many different relationships with ………………….. to some of us they were a parent; as a spouse; some of us as son or daughter; some as friend or work mate. The proof that …………………….. was a good person is in the numbers of you who are here to wish them on a safe journey to their next destination.

It is not an easy time for any of us, and emotions and memories run high. Unfortunately there is little that we can do to change what has happened, for as old follows new, so death follows life.

In the Sanskrit language of India there is a verse:

väsäàsi jérëäni yathä vihäya
naväni gåhëäti naro ’paräëi
tathä çaréräëi vihäya jérëäny
anyäni saàyäti naväni dehé

“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones”. (Bhagavad Gita 2:22.)

The body is just like an outer dress. When a suit becomes old, we give it up and accept another suit; similarly the soul is changing dresses according to desire and necessity

na jäyate mriyate vä kadäcin
näyaà bhütvä bhavitä vä na bhüyaù
ajo nityaù çäçvato ’yaà puräëo
na hanyate hanyamäne çarére

“For the soul there is neither birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. It is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval. The soul is not slain when the body is slain.” “The soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind”. (Bhagavad Gita 2:23.)

“It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable and immutable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body.” (Bhagavad Gita 2:25.)

That is why we have such a method of sanctified disposal of the body according to religious principles.

“In this material nature, everything is created, it stays for some time, produces some by-products, dwindles, and finally vanishes. Our bodies are created at a certain moment by sexual intercourse. The semen of the father emulsifies and takes a pea (seed like) form, and the living entity, or soul, takes shelter in that form, and because it takes shelter, it develops hands, legs, eyes, etc. This development is complete in the seventh month, and in the ninth month the human being comes out of the womb. It is because the soul is present that the child develops. If the soul is not present, there is no development, and the child is born dead. We can take this dead body and preserve it in chemicals, but it will not develop. Development means change of body. All of us have had baby bodies, but those bodies are no longer existing. The body of a baby develops into the body of a child, and that body develops into the body of a boy (or girl), and that body develops into a youth’s body, which eventually turns into an old man’s (old Woman’s) body. Finally the body completely vanishes.”.(SSR 7. Exploring the Spiritual Frontier.)

I’m sure we can all recollect. But who is it that who recollects? The soul. The body is changed. It is not we, the soul, who has changed, only the external covering the body. The body is changed, but the soul is the same and therefore any one of us, all of us can recollect.

“Unlike the bodily changes, there is no change in the soul.”(B.G. 2:25 purport.) For the soul is spiritual by nature.

jätasya hi dhruvo måtyur
dhruvaà janma måtasya ca
tasmäd aparihärye ’rthe
na tvaà çocitum arhasi

“One who has taken his birth is sure to die, and after death one is sure to take birth again. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Bhagavad Gita 2:27.)

This was accepted in all the scriptures of the world, even in Christianity up until Justinian and Theodora, in the

“One has to take birth according to one’s activities of life. And after finishing one term of activities, one has to die to take birth for the next. In this way one is going through one cycle of birth and death after another without liberation.” (B.G. 2:27. Purport ex.)

avyaktädéni bhütäni
vyakta-madhyäni bhärata
avyakta-nidhanäny eva
tatra kä paridevanä

“All created beings are unmanifest in their beginning, manifest in their interim state, and unmanifest again when annihilated. So what need is there for lamentation?” (Bhagavad Gita 2:28.)

“Some look on the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all.” (Bhagavad Gita 2:29.)

That person, who we loved so dear, is different from the body, which we again commit to the elements, and so we should not lament. The body is animated by life, given by our eternal Father, God. The only difference between a live body and that of a dead one is the absence of the life force – that is who we miss. Otherwise we would take home these bodily remains, and keep them in her favourite chair…….

The person is sometimes compared to the air (for both are invisible to the untrained eye). As air passes over different situations it collects some of the attributes of that which it associates. Sometimes air smells fragrant when it passes over a bed of roses, or some nice cooking, and other times it does not smell nice.

Similarly the soul, by association with different qualities, the things he or she chooses to do, becomes known as either a good or bad person.

In this temporal world all beings are like the flotsam and jetsam on the sea’s shore, for some time we come together, we stay, make our families, and then again depart. As we come into this world with nothing, also we take nothing but our lessons, experiences, and feelings with us. Everything that we’ve accumulated in this lifetime remains here. Further proving that we are not of that, nor is that the main thing in life.

But as I’ve tried to convey here today, there is no need to lament for such an eternal being.

Rather, we need to wish her/him/them well. Pray for their salvation, that they may receive proper guidance and help, to send them on their way, to more favourable circumstances by which he/she/they may have the opportunity to understand the meaning of life, having given up this old situation in peace.

(Some applicable kind words of praise for the person, and condolences for the family of the deceased.)

So, now as we send him/her/them on their way through this remembrance service, let us wish him/her/them well, let their be no harboured ill feelings, or grudges, and let us remember, and treasure all the good things that we will continue to love them for, and wish them well for their future.

So doing in the name of Lord, we humbly ask for His blessings.

Again on behalf of ………( name of the deceased )……………….. I thank you all for your time and attention in coming, and wish you all well for the future


Readings from the Bhagavad Gita chapter 2.

çré-bhagavän uväca
açocyän anvaçocas tvaà
prajïä-vädäàç ca bhäñase
gatäsün agatäsüàç ca
nänuçocanti paëòitäù–11–

The blessed Lord said to Arjuna;
 While speaking words of wisdom, you are grieving for that  which is not worthy of grief. The wise lament neither for the physical body, nor for the departed souls.

  na tv evähaà jätu näsaà
na tvaà neme janädhipäù
na caiva na bhaviñyämaù
sarve vayam ataù param–12–

Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings;  nor in the future shall any of us cease to exist.

 dehino ’smin yathä dehe
kaumäraà yauvanaà jarä
tathä dehäntara-präptir
dhéras tatra na muhyati–13–

As the embodied soul continually passes, in this physical body, through various stages of growth; like childhood to youth, to maturity and old age, at death it passes on into another body. The wise person is not bewildered by such change.

  mäträ-sparçäs tu kaunteya
ägamäpäyino ’nityäs
täàs titikñasva bhärata–14–

Contact with material objects of the senses,  O Arjuna, produce sensations of   pleasure and pain - like the summer and winter seasons - they are impermenant and transient, one must learn to tolerate them without becoming disturbed.

  yaà hi na vyathayanty ete
puruñaà puruñarñabha
sama-duùkha-sukhaà dhéraà
so ’måtatväya kalpate–15–

That person who remains steady and calm and is not disturbed be either pleasure or pain, and remains equananamous, is fit for attaining liberation from the material world.

 näsato vidyate bhävo
näbhävo vidyate sataù
ubhayor api dåñöo ’ntas
tv anayos tattva-darçibhiù–16–

The wise sages have understood the determined fact, that the material world and all in it, is not eternal - it is transient and subject to change. The spirit is indeed eternal  - it has always existed and will continue existing for all eternity.

   avinäçi tu tad viddhi
yena sarvam idaà tatam
vinäçam avyayasyäsya
na kaçcit kartum arhati–17–

Know that  consciousness  to be imperishable,  by which this entire material universe is pervaded. And no one is able to destroy it.

  antavanta ime dehä
nityasyoktäù çarériëaù
anäçino ’prameyasya
tasmäd yudhyasva bhärata–18–

These bodies which are the subject of perception, are the vehicles of the eternal, indestructible, immeasurable spirit soul; and they are subjected to having a begining and an end - therefore rise up and perform thy duties O Arjuna.

  ya enaà vetti hantäraà
yaç cainaà manyate hatam
ubhau tau na vijänéto
näyaà hanti na hanyate–19–

He who thinks  that the Self  slays, or is slain, does not understand the reality - the Self neither slays nor is slain - it is only the physical body which undergoes change and transformation.

  na jäyate mriyate vä kadäcin
näyaà bhütvä bhavitä vä na bhüyaù
ajo nityaù çäçvato ’yaà puräëo
na hanyate hanyamäne çarére–20–

The Soul in actual fact is not really born, nor does it die. Nor having once been, does it cease to be. It is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval, it is not slain when the body is slain.

 vedävinäçinaà nityaà
ya enam ajam avyayam
kathaà sa puruñaù pärtha
kaà ghätayati hanti kam–21–

O Arjuna, a person who has realized these spiritual truths about the eternal  indestructible and immutable nature of the soul - how can he cause to be killed and whom does he kill?

 väsäàsi jérëäni yathä vihäya
naväni gåhëäti naro ’paräëi
tathä çaréräëi vihäya jérëäny
anyäni saàyäti naväni dehé–22–

As a person discards worn out clothes, and puts on others that are new, similarly the Self which is the indweller of the body, discarding worn-out bodies accepts others that are new.

  nainaà chindanti çasträëi
nainaà dahati pävakaù
na cainaà kledayanty äpo
na çoñayati märutaù–23–

The Self cannot be cut into pieces by weapons, nor can it be burnt by fire, nor moistened by water, nor dried by the wind.

  acchedyo ’yam adähyo ’yam
akledyo ’çoñya eva ca
nityaù sarva-gataù sthäëur
acalo ’yaà sanätanaù–24–

This individual Soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can not be consumed nor dried, It is everasting, all pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.

  avyakto ’yam acintyo ’yam
avikäryo ’yam ucyate
tasmäd evaà viditvainaà
nänuçocitum arhasi–25–

Having realized that this Soul is non-manifest, inconceivable and unchangeable, it does not become you to grieve over the physical body.

  atha cainaà nitya-jätaà
nityaà vä manyase måtam
tathäpi tvaà mahä-bäho
nainaà çocitum arhasi–26–

And even if you consider that the soul is perpetually born, and always dies - even then you should not grieve in this way O Arjuna.

  jätasya hi dhruvo måtyur
dhruvaà janma måtasya ca
tasmäd aparihärye ’rthe
na tvaà çocitum arhasi–27–

For death is indeed certain to that which is born, and to all those who die rebirth is certain. Therefore it does not become you to lament over the unavoidable.

 avyaktädéni bhütäni
vyakta-madhyäni bhärata
avyakta-nidhanäny eva
tatra kä paridevanä–28–

All beings in this universe O Arjuna, have an unknown beginning, a known middle and certainly an unknown end, therefore what cause is there for sorrow in relation to them.

  äçcarya-vat paçyati kaçcid enam
äçcarya-vad vadati tathaiva cänyaù
äçcarya-vac cainam anyaù çåëoti
çrutväpy enaà veda na caiva kaçcit–29–

Some look upon the soul as amazing, some describe it as amazing, some hear of it as amazing and even after hearing of it, none indeed knows it.

  dehé nityam avadhyo ’yaà
dehe sarvasya bhärata
tasmät sarväëi bhütäni
na tvaà çocitum arhasi–30–

That which dwells within the body of all all beings is  the spiritual entity,  it is indestructible O Arjuna, therefore it is not proper for you to grieve over any being.

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