When we are happy, we do not have this question: “Why am I happy?” That’s because we are basically happy beings. But when things go wrong in life, there is a loss of a loved one in the family, and when we want to do something and that doesn’t materialise, then there is dukham or sorrow. That time, this question comes: “Why am I sad?”
Sorrow is something that is considered for granted that it will visit us in life and our tradition has provided its own methods to handle that emotion. For instance, when there is a death at home, there is a period of 13 to 16 days’ mourning in many families. This is the time dedicated to completely give vent to all the sorrow within by crying and remembering the departed person.
To be able to remember something well, we must drop or forget other things. That is why on these days of Dukha Anushtana, there is a relaxation in many of the ‘to-do’ list at home. The relaxation generally appears in the form of a ‘do not do’ list. Do not wash the ground outside the house and draw kolams. Kolams and Rangolis give a sense of auspiciousness and cheer to a place. When the mind switches between cheerfulness and sorrow, the latter is not completely experienced. When the body is yet to be cremated, do not cook food at home. It should be brought either from the house of the in-laws or neighbours. The idea again is cooking with a sorrowful mind will not have the right emotional nutrients that give strength. A person who does not have this attachment to the deceased will be in a better frame of mind to cook and serve than the grieving ones. Again, when the attention goes to the activity of cutting, cooking and cleaning—that much energy which needs to be given to focus on the grief within is taken away and the emotion lies buried to manifest sometime later.
The third main area in grief-management is a complete shutdown of all puja and religious activities that include going to temples. In the event of a death, the focus is only on the human body. We identify our loved ones not by the name they have, but by seeing the body. Growing up with this strong body consciousness, it is indeed a great shock when the body disappears. Praying to God, doing puja and other rituals work towards taking the mind out of this body consciousness, into the higher realms of subtle planes. Chanting and performing puja create a conflict for the mind which gets torn between the ephemeral and the temporal. It is for this reason that the puja room at homes is kept closed or within curtains. Mourners are not allowed to go to temples for this reason of the conflict between the upward moving Prana and the downward moving Apana—the latter air is predominantly present in the physical and subtle bodies of mourners. All the auspicious activities begin only with the 13th day called the Subha Sweekaram or adopting auspiciousness into our lives and that becomes a memory we carry the rest of the life.
—Swahilya Shambhavi (www.swahilya.blogspot.com)