Welcome to the second lesson, and thank you for taking the time to join us on this journey.
If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to put together a simple ancestor altar. This is one thing that will really help provide you with a visual reminder and focal point for everything else you do during this time. It can be simple, so try not to overthink it. You can always add to it later on.
Normally, during Pitṛpakṣa, even though we honor all of our ancestors, we tend to focus on those in our immediate family. Technically speaking, a person is considered an ancestor one year after they have passed. Amongst other things, this allows us time to mourn and come to terms with our loved one’s new role as ancestor.
During Pitṛpakṣa, also known as Śrāddh in modern India, time is set aside for special practices on the days that correlate to when our immediate family members passed. We’ll share more about those practices later. For now, just know that they exist and that it is calculated by lunar phase.
For example, if your relation passed on the third night of the fortnight when it was a crescent moon, on the third day of Pitṛpakṣa each year you would do special practices for that person. You can look up the moon phases for thousands of years of human history here.
As we’ve mentioned before, the ancestors are the guardians of life, and children are very, very dear to them. The tradition believes that the ancestors are the invisible forces that help bring parents together, and guide and protect the child as it grows.
The second day of Pitṛpakṣa is specifically set aside to do practices and remembrance for any children or young people who have passed. And, you can also dedicate time to serve and protect children who are still alive.
The suggested practice for today is to remember and take care of children. There are a number of organizations you can donate to or volunteer for that help uplift the lives of children, providing water, food, shelter, education, or other forms of care.
You can also offer the merits and blessings of any of your regular spiritual practices (meditation, chanting, prayer, etc) to a child, whether they are still alive or a soul that has passed. You can also help children remember and connect with their ancestors, which will bless them with roots and an inner sense of security that will always protect and nourish them.
For the children who have passed, a traditional prayer is that they find a loving family and experience care, wisdom, prosperity, and great happiness in their next birth.
As always, let your heart guide you as you practice. Know that whatever good deeds you do, the merit is shared with your ancestors. And that they are pleased that you are able to perform good work on their behalf, and will rush in closer and closer to bless and protect you – because you are their beloved child.