Pindams at Gya
Theosophist, October, 1883
Selections from a Letter by “A. Hindu” | Editor’s Note by H.P.B.
It is generally believed that after death the souls of some men, owing either to their own misdeeds or the influence of evil stars, cling to this earth and wander on it, assuming at times various shapes and remaining in a state of continued unrest; and that the only way by which they can be delivered from this unhappy condition, is through the offering by some one related to them of what is commonly called Pindam laid at the feet of Godadhara, the presiding Deity of Gya. People, whose veracity can hardly be doubted, say that the ghosts very often narrate through the persons obsessed by them the tale of their sufferings, and express the desire that their friends and relatives should offer the Pindam with a view to their speedy deliverance.
If there is any truth in these stories, what is there in the shrine at Gya that emancipates the ghosts when their previous karmas require that they should still hover over the earth; why should the reliquiae [“relics” or remains] of the departed which, under ordinary circumstances, naturally longs to prolong its artificial existence covet its final dissolution? Is it the strong will of the person that offers the Pindam, or is there about the place itself any latent magnetic power that destroys the reliquiae? . . .
It is further believed by many, that if by some accident the shrine at Gya were suffered to remain without any offerings being made to it, even for one single day, the presiding Asura of the place would rise from his resting place and shake the very world to its foundation. . . .
If the offerings help really in any way to destroy the Hindu Bhutas, can they also produce the same result upon ghosts which, while they lived on earth had neither any regard for the Hindu religion, nor had they ever heard of Gya and its Pindam?
A short explanation from you would be of an immense value to your Hindu readers as throwing light on one of the most mysterious ceremonies daily performed by hundreds of Hindus coming to Gya from the different parts of India and at a great cost of money and convenience.
Editor’s Note. [H.P.B.]—The answer would be more satisfactory. we think, were it to come from some initiated Brahmin or Yogi. If we believe in bhoots or “shells” who have to wait in the earth’s atmosphere for the slow dissolution of their reliquiæ [“relics” or remains], we cannot say the same of Godadhara. We believe the latter—as we believe all the other minor Hindu gods and goddesses—no more than the generic name assumed by a host of elementaries who play their tricks upon Eastern credulity as some spooks play theirs upon Western imagination. But this is our personal belief, for which we claim no degree of infallibility. While disbelieving the omnipotence of Godadhara and her threats there seems no reason why we should doubt, at the same time, the word of honest and truthful pilgrims when they tell us that they saw “the shadow of their departed relatives.” The air is thronged with shells—the pale reflections of men and women who lived and whose reliquiæ are magnetically drawn to those whom they had loved on earth.
As to the efficacy of Pindam or Śrâddha we deny it most emphatically. The custom of such post-mortem offerings having been in existence for long centuries and forming part and parcel of the Hindu religion, they produce effects, only owing to the strong belief in them of the offerers, or the pujarees. It is the latter who cause unconsciously the production of such phenomena. Let there only be a strong medium in the midst of pilgrims (something that happens invariably in a country so full of sensitives as India is), and the intensity and sameness of their thoughts bent constantly and simultaneously upon the object of their pilgrimage, will affect the throng of the elementaries around them. They will repeat that which they find in their friends’ brains and clamour for Pindam. After which, following the same idea which develops in the pilgrim’s thought, i.e., that the offering will bring on deliverance—they, “the ghosts,” will promise a sign of it, and perform the promise mechanically and unconsciously as a parrot would repeat a word, or any trained animal performs an act, led on by the superior intelligence of the master mind, that had trained it to this.
What is it that puts an end to the unrestfulness of the “Ghost”? Nothing particular, most probably: neither the magnetism of the place devoted to the Pindam, nor the strong will of the person who offers it; but simply the absence of any idea connected with the reappearance of the “ghost”; the firm assurance, the implicit confidence of the medium that the “ghost” having been comforted by the offering of the Pindam can no longer return, or feel unrestful. That’s all. It is the medium’s brain, his own creative power of imagination that calls forth out of the normal subjectivity into abnormal objectivity the ghosts that appear, except in the cases of the apparitions of real spirits at the moments immediately following their death. No living being, no god or goddess has the power of impeding the immutable law of nature called karma, especially after the death of the person that evolved it.
We would be pleased to see an infuriated asura shaking in its wrath “the world to its foundation.” Many a day, during the invasions of and attacks upon cities by the armies of an enemy, have the shrines remained without any offering as they have often been destroyed, and yet the world moveth not. It is the presiding and hungry, when not simply greedy, geniuses of the shrines, the Brahmins, who need the Pindam, we should say, more than the Godadharas and the omnia gatherum [“all gathered”, a miscellaneous collection] of such. The masses claimed for the quieting of the souls of Christian ghosts paid in hard cash instead of being rewarded mostly in nature are of the same kind and efficacy. And if we are asked to give our honest opinion upon both the modes adopted by the priests of every religion to make the living spend their money in useless ceremonies upon their dead, we say, that both means are in our sight no better than a legal and authorized extortion, the tribute paid by credulity to cunning. Change the name and the story is told of civilized Christians as it is of half-civilized Hindus. But—Mundus vult decipi [the world wants to be deceived]—and who can prevent a willing man from hanging himself!