Each of us is born with three debts of karma (the law of cause and consequence).
We owe a debt to wisdom, which we fulfill by making the world a better place just by being here.
We owe a debt to our ancestors, which we discharge by respecting the elderly the way we’ll want to be respected when we are old and by teaching the young how to make this world become what we want.
The third debt is to teachers and mentors, which we fulfill by living in accordance with the wisdom that they have taught us.
Where we are in our life right now, what we are doing today, our achievements and aspirations, are all in part predicated with the path that our ancestors have prepared for us.
Each of us took birth with a certain destiny and a propensity to fulfill it.
We took birth into a specific family that created an environment most conducive for us to become what it is that the Universe intended. Many of our families inspired us to become what we are by showing us what we wouldn’t want to become. It is usually a case of both.
Holding with sensitivity both the positive and negative traits passed on through our lineage can be a life’s work. By both positive and negative reinforcement, our families prepared our paths, just as we are preparing the paths of those who will come after us.
We want to say “Thank you.”
Whether we like where we are, what we’re currently doing or what we’re struggling with, we want to demonstrate our respect and appreciation by asking for blessings from the preceding generations.
The Sanskrit word trpti means satisfaction. It is related and derived from the word tarpana. The tarpana practice is a way to satisfy and gratify our ancestors in order to cut the subtle bonds that exist between us. According to Dr. Robert Svoboda:
“There is a Law of Nature known as the Bija Vrksha Nyaya: The Law of Seed and Tree.
Your seeds are your genes and chromosomes, the essence of your parent’s germ plasm. You are the tree, the product of those seeds. Half your genes come from one parent and half from the other. No matter how far you try to distance yourself from your parents, in space time, or interaction, your genes and their genes are identical and resonate with one another.
Your parents’ emotions are bound to resonate with your emotions, no matter how far distant you may be from them, because of this fundamental identity.
This is why a certain telepathic communication sometimes exists between parent and child.”
This genetic connection goes back at least seven generations. As a result, the likes and aversions, strong cravings, prejudices and entire personalities of our ancestors are embedded deep within our own cells. You know what they say, “The issues are in the tissues.”
The practice of tarpana entails offering love, gratitude and forgiveness to our ancestors. Love is offered to extinguish left over cravings or deep desires they may have been feeling at the moment of death. These are often the most “charged”. Gratitude is offered for the life they gave us, and forgiveness for any negativity that existed between us.
Visualize your ancestors as far back as you can remember or choose just one if appropriate, such as your father. Offer them something special from your heart, something they may have enjoyed. The offer can be made physically or with visualization.
Cultivate the sincere wish that they be content and satisfied so they, as well as yourself, may continue evolving spiritually. Ask for their support and forgiveness and offer your forgiveness as well. Visualize your ancestors returning to where they came from. This practice can be used to dissolve the subtle bonds with living relatives as well as with those who are departed.
Today is Father’s Day. My father died in January of 2013.
I recently discovered that in my family lineage, there exists a substantial amount of suicide, physical and sexual abuse, addiction and poverty. And a tremendous amount of gifts, cognitive, creative and spiritual.
Tomorrow, I will be doing tarpana practice. I have already begun preparations. I shaved off my beard for the first time in 15 years as a tribute to my father, as I look more like him when clean shaven.
I have written him a heart felt letter saying everything I would want him to know that I didn’t get a chance to say while he was living. I will place his picture on my altar and read my letter to him. I have written a piece of music entitled “Family Tree.” I will play that in his honor and for my son. And I have a fresh box of Twining’s black tea to offer him. He was a Brit and loved nothing more than “a spot of tea.” It will be a celebration.
Then I will spend the day with my 4 year old son, carrying the intention and love cultivated through such practice with the firm conviction that I am creating a positive impact on my family lineage through him and generations to come.
Alistair Gale was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and has lived in the Boulder, Colorado area for 20 years. Prior to taking a position as Life Skills Counselor at Living Well Transitions in 2011, he spent ten years living in a monastic retreat setting practicing and teaching meditation. He facilitated annual Yogi’s in Recovery retreats, mindfulness meditation groups in chemical dependency treatment facilities and provided spiritual lifestyle counseling to seekers from around the world. Alistair has an MS in Counseling and began Doctoral studies in Counseling Psychology at Argosy University. Alistair is also a contributing author to Sacred Journey: A Guide to Meditation in the Shambhava School of Yoga. He is formerly lead guitarist for Shiva’s Garden and enjoys Brazilian jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts.
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Assistant Ed: Catherine Monkman