Is it proper for us to say something like “RIP (May the soul rest in peace)” ? What should be the traditional Hindu response to news of death? Sri Sarmaji explains::
When death occurs, friends and family alike express their feelings and send condolence messages with the words R.I.P. (Rest in peace), “may the person’s soul rest in peace” and words to this effect. In Tamil we usually say “ஆன்மா சாந்தி அடையட்டும்”. I would like to say that this perspective of the soul is a western concept. In our tradition we look at the soul in a different way, and to this extent our response should be different. We may instead say “may the soul reach its sublime destination”. நற்கதி அடையட்டும்.
After death a person’s soul – Jiva- seeks to reach paraloka, the ultimate destination. Jiva cannot be destroyed though the sarira (the body) can be.Our Vedas tell us that in the after-life a person achieves ‘saalokhya’ when he gets into devaloka; ‘sarshtita’ when he can get the wealth of devas; and ‘saayujya’ when he becomes a deva himself. I would therefore submit that we should convey through our condolence message the meaning that the departed soul will continue to travel in quest of the Pitruloka, and we should seek God’s blessings to the soul to have a smooth passage. So we can say “may God confer on the soul a happy transition to its sublime destination”. This will be more aligned to our way of thinking. The small but significant difference is in the suggestion of movement of the soul and not its ‘resting’. There can be alterations in this for specific sampradaya’s: Vaishnava-s can say “Acharyan thiruvadi prapti” or “Vaikunta prapti” while Smartha-s can say “Sivaloka prapti”. I hope I do not appear to be hair-splitting or being hung on semantics. The idea to be conveyed varies, and hence my proposal.
My take is that once Periyava said (in Dheivathin Kural) that we do not know whether that attained moksha or not and let us do whatever pitru karyams properly etc. Although the context is different, the message is that “we do not know what happened to that soul – even if we all know that it is a great soul”. I guess it is safer to say “Let Parameswara bless the departed soul”.
Categories: Devotee Experiences