A Conversation at the Funeral

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic

Santosh Verma attends the funeral of the father of one of his friends. There he comes across three elderly men who strike a conversation about re-birth and evil spirits, while standing around the
pyre ablaze with fire. Santosh, who happens to be standing near them, listens to their conversation that makes his mind cogitate, even after he has left the place of funeral, how powerfully our
belief systems influence our life. The story runs like this ………


Santosh Verma has to attend the funeral of his friend’s father who had died late last night. In spite of a busy schedule in his office today, he decides to attend it as he knew him quite well because he and his family are quite friendly to that of his friend’s. Normally, he doesn’t attend funerals unless they are absolutely necessary.

Once he attended a funeral of an acquaintance where all types of rituals were performed with elaboration. This set him thinking why people do so; the person who has died isn’t affected by such rituals. But eventually he could reason out that they performed them because their belief systems forced them to do so.

On this particular day, Santosh decides to go to the office late after attending the funeral at 10.00 A.M. He reaches in time to see all the necessary rituals being performed. The dead body is then placed on a pyre that has been prepared with special wood at a specific place at the crematorium. (Customarily, the followers of Hinduism and some other related religious traditions consign the dead bodies to the flames of fire. The ashes are collected next day or so, after the body is completely burnt, to be disposed off appropriately.)

This also takes time as the pyre is lit after performing some religious rituals. Once it is lit, it then takes its own time to burn fully.

Next to where Santosh has been standing, a small group of three elderly persons begin a conversation to while away time. He finds their conversation quite interesting and, therefore, begins to listen to them intently. He comes to know their respective names as they all address each other by their name.

Shyam, who appears to be about 60 years, is short and rotund. He says: “Do you know that the spirit of the person after death stays with the family for a period of 13 days. After this it leaves the family and goes to its assigned place depending on its Karmas (deeds). In majority of cases, it takes its re-birth according its past Karmas.”

Suraj, who is about 65 years of age, tall and lanky and walks with a limp, says: “Sometimes the spirit doesn’t leave the family and haunts its members or a member as evil spirit to fulfill its desires that it wanted with all its heart. It leaves only after its desires are fulfilled.”

Kishan, who appears to be youngest of them, says: “I believe in re-incarnation but don’t believe in evil spirits. They are only imaginary mental creations of people. Unless I really see one, I won’t believe.”

Suraj soon interrupts saying: “I know some who have seen evil spirits.” But he keeps quiet when Kishan snubs him and asks: “Have you seen one yourself?”

At this juncture, Santosh gets tempted to join their conversation but soon restraints himself and instead prefers to listen. 

Shyam also supports Kishan and says: “I know a few who have seen evil spirits but I won’t believe unless I see one myself.”

Kishan continues: “As a matter of reality, there is no substantiating evidence about the concept of re-incarnation except a few cases of re-birth I have read or heard about. Because it has been instilled into my mind since childhood, I started believing in re-incarnation but my mind at times has its doubts about the concept.”

Suddenly, Santosh is tempted to jump into discussion but again restraints himself as he believes that belief systems wield a strong influence in everyone’s life and it is to futile to discuss them as it leads to nowhere.

By this time the flames of the pyre become ferocious as it burns spreading its heat around. People standing around it move away. The group members having the conversation also move from there and sit in chairs at some distance away. Santosh also moves with them and sits with them as he likes their conversation.

After getting seated, the conversation goes on. Suddenly, Suraj interjects saying: “Since it is written in our religious scriptures that all have re-births according to their past Karmas, it must be true. I strongly believe in it.”

Kishan replies: “Do you know that there are religious traditions that don’t believe in re-incarnation? Agnostics also don’t believe in it.”

Kishan turns towards Santosh to seek approval and says: “Brother, do you agree with me?”

Santosh avoids speaking but instead smiles, nodding in affirmation.

All of a sudden, people begin dispersing as the flames start dying down. With this their conversation also ends. An announcement is made about the next ritual mentioning its place and time, which will be performed after four days for the peace of the departed soul.

After the announcement, people start going to their homes. Santosh also starts up his car to head towards home. He will, first of all, take a good shower and then go to office after a change of clothes as there is no hurry, since he has already intimated office that he would be late.

It takes about 35 minutes to cover the distance from the funeral site to his home but it may take somewhat longer because of traffic congestion at this hour. While driving, his mind keeps on constantly musing over what transpired in the conversation.

He muses: Our belief systems are so powerful that they constitute the very core of our personality. They can bind people of the same beliefs together. Concurrently, they can result in fanaticism amongst members of society belonging to different beliefs, leading to violence at times. Unless people give up blind attachment to their belief systems, they will not be able to understand other’s belief systems. An understanding of other’s belief systems makes us accept their viewpoints with ease, which is likely to promote tolerance towards them. This is what is most needed in our society at present.

All at once, Santosh is reminded of what the Buddha said about religious beliefs – believe nothing no matter where you read it or who said it even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

By now he reaches home and starts preparing for the rest of day that looms ahead.


Submitted: June 18, 2018

© Copyright 2021 Dr. Pran Rangan. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:


Vance Currie

I was attracted to this story because it interested me and it is so well written. I have often wondered how people can have blind faith in so many different religious beliefs, many of which are abhorrent or defy reason. The quote that you attribute to Buddha is the most sensible thing that anyone has ever said about religion. If only people would allow reason and common sense to prevail, the world would be a much better place.

Mon, June 18th, 2018 9:49pm

Dr. Pran Rangan

Thanks Mr. Stuart for reviewing the story and posting nice comments to support my views.

Fri, June 29th, 2018 3:45am

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