Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Punarjanma included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Punarjanma

It is the theory that the soul of a man is born again after his death. The Purāṇas and Vedas contain many statements regarding this of which the following are a few:

What is Death?

When the Jīvātmā (soul) of an individual leaves his body with all its upādhis (attributes and adjuncts) it is called Death. By upādhis are meant the following four things. (i) Mind and the senses.

(ii) The five Prāṇas namely Prāṇa, Apāna, Udāna, Vyāna and Samāna. (iii) The Sūkṣmaśarīra, that is, the Prāṇamanovijñānakośasaṅghāta (the subtle body that is invisible with the grosser elements). (iv) Karman (action). All these four things follow the soul even after his death. Only when the soul attains mokṣa (salvation) do the upādhis leave it. It is the life breath Udāna that guides the soul out of the body. It is the Sūkṣmaśarīra that gives heat to the body while there is life and that is why when the soul leaves the body with the upādhis the body becomes cold.

After death.

When the soul leaves the body with the upādhis it becomes active again and its activities and movements depend upon the actions of the soul while living. The spiritual actions of the individual are classified into three.

(i) Aparabrahmopāsana. He who has done all his deeds according to scriptural injunctions is said to be one who has done upāsana of aparabrahma. When such an individual dies his soul with all the upādhis attains Candra. He goes to Candra through dhūma (smoke), rātri (night), Kṛṣṇapakṣa (the dark fortnight), dakṣiṇāyanakāla (the sun’s passage south of the equator), pitṛloka (world of the manes) and Ākāśa (ether). He enjoys the rewards of the deeds done on earth there and reserving some to be enjoyed or suffered in his next birth the soul with the upādhis comes back to earth to enter another body. The soul comes back to earth through ether, vāyu, dhūma, megha, varṣa, vrīhi, yava, auṣadhi, vṛkṣa, Tila, Puruṣabīja and strīgarbha. When the Jīvātmā goes to Candra its padārthatva (attribute) diminishes gradually and when it comes back to earth it increases gradually. Thus the jīvātmā takes thousands of births going to and from the moon. The jīvātmā coming back from the moon evolves from a plant to man. Plants are the food of man and the soul entering the plant enters the puruṣabīja (semen virile) through food. The souls coming out as rebirths do accept wombs according to a definite principle. In the order of the merit of their good deeds on earth they are born in Brahmin, Kṣatriya, Vaiśya or Śūdra wombs. The souls with great sins are born as worms and insects. This passage of the soul from earth to Candra and vice versa is called Pitṛyāna.

(ii) Aparavidyopāsana. There are some people who do not consider performance of religious rites as important but worship Brahman. They do not treat Brahman and jīvātmā as one but view them as separate entities. Such devotees are called Aparavidyopāsakas. Their souls as soon as they leave the body move towards aparabrahman. The path to aparabrahma is through Agni, Jyotis, daytime, Śuklapakṣa (the white fortnight), Uttarāyaṇa (the passage of the sun to the north), samvatsara (year), Sūrya (sun), Candra (moon) and Vidyut (lightning). The dhanyas (blessed ones) who attain Vidyut go to Varuṇaloka, Indraloka and Prajāpatiloka and then merge with parabrahma (the supreme being). This path is called Devayāna. Since for both Pitṛyāna and Devayāna the jīvātmā has to depend upon Candra it is to be surmised that there is some special connection between jīvātmā and Candra. Those who attain Aparabrahma by the path of devayāna do not come back to earth. They have no rebirths. Those who have merged with aparabrahma attain Brahman by the end of a lifetime of Brahmā. Thus those who attain Brahman and do not believe that jīvātmā and Brahman are one and view them separately attain Parabrahma through the merger with aparabrahma. This is called Kramamukti. Some sages are of opinion that those who attain aparabrahma enjoy prosperity by mind. Those who live attached to worldly pleasures but not do things prohibited by the Vedas attain Pitṛloka by the path of Dakṣiṇāyana. After enjoying all the accrued 'puṇya' there, they come back again to earth to be born again.

(iii) Pāpopāsana. The jīvātmā of one who does not follow the injunctions of śāstras correctly does not attain Candraloka. It is born again as pests and insects attaining a place called Tṛtīya. There is no evidence in the Purāṇas of their attaining mokṣa. How a soul subjected to rebirths attains mokṣa is described under 'Mokṣa'. (Chāndogya Upaniṣad, Gītā, Bhāgavata, Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad).

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