Pitr –Rin : Repaying Ancestral debt precedes finding Shiva
Indian mythology advocates the idea that apart from the “physical body” or “sthula sharir”, there are other layers that envelop the human form. These include the “mental body” or “sukshma sharir” which gives meaning to the physical body & the “Karana Sharir” which is the body of subconscious memories, encasing all our fears & prejudices arising therefrom.
At the time of death, it is believed that Yama, the god of death claims the physical & mental bodies. However, the “Karana sharir” remains & travels across the river Vaitarni to reach the land of the dead where it resides as a “Pitr”. Fraught with its fears & prejudices, the Karana Sharir prevents the individual from realising his true self or “Atma”. For “Atma gyan” to dawn it is necessary to dissolve this body of fear & prejudices. Only after this does one reach the metaphoric abode of Shiva, which is where the liberated souls or the “Jivanmukta” reside.
To purge oneself of this causal body one needs to take birth & engage in the world of maya, where born in flesh & bone it has an opportunity to reflect & choose and outgrow its fears & prejudice. Thus the Pitr, needs to be reborn. And once reborn they need to feed to sustain their flesh.
Here then emerges the concept of Pitr-Rin. In a reciprocal act of repaying the debt they owe to their ancestors who gave them life, human beings are obliged to procreate as per the holy texts. In fact, during the funeral rites, balls of mashed rice are offered to the Pitr or ancestors, assuring them that their progeny will reproduce, so as to enable them to reclaim their lost sthula & Sukshma sharir, faclitatng their reincarnation in the world to work out their remaining karma.
Thus the idea of debt, which is a cultivated thought, only human beings are capable of, propels men to produce children. Were it not for this saving obligation, men may have been lost as, self centered hermits only concerned with their own welfare. As, a result of this they are forced to undertake responsibility of their families & care for the betterment of others.
Notable in this context is Parvati’s association with Shiva. Her presence forces him to engage with the world and empathise with it. Devoid of her presence he would stay aloof, in divine ecstasies at mount Kailash.
When she conveys her desire for a child to him, he rationalizes with her against it, on the pretext that he has no “Pitr-Rin”, because he has no ancestors. In his infinite form he was never born & would never die. Hence, free of debt, he sees no reason to produce children.
Then of course, is the legendary tale of how she expresses her dissent by producing a child named,”Vinayaka” (without a man) from the turmeric ash she uses to smear her body during a bath.
When Shiva sees him guarding the door to her bath he beheads him. On learning of his identity soon after from Parvati, Shiva feels sorry and gets the boy’s head replaced. So goes the tale about Ganesha’s birth.
The import of the story is that Shiva realises his folly & empathises with the world through Ganesha, who is worshipped as the slayer of obstacles ever since.
It is the duty of the self-assured & poised to guide & protect the lesser mortals so as to enable them to attain their own state of centeredness & steadiness. Invalidating another can never lead us to our own peace. Thus by engaging the selfish hermits, via the medium of ancestral debt & procreation for the survival of the human race, Prakriti (Shakti) involves Purush (Shiva) to participate in the world & be responsible for children & others as well.
And so, until one has fully worked out his Karma by completing his obligations towards his ancestors & society at large, he cannot be released to the higher realms of liberation; one continues to be reborn on the terrestrial plane till he can dissolve the Karana Sharir & move to a higher celestial body with a more evolved consciousness.