The last rite is performed with diligence. The departed must attain peace. Peace ensures a quick return to the mortal world. There is very little peace from birth to death. There is very little one can do to attain it while one is alive. The least we can do to expect peace is by the rite someone performs so that we may abide in peace after death. The least the living can do to the dead is to perform the last rite in order to help attain it.
For peace is easier attained dead than living. Everyone expects last rites to be performed for them, for they have never had peace in their life. Peace is not a commodity that can be exchanged, nor a thing that can be shared. And therefore we are at a loss to receive it. By the last rite through divine invocation we are more likely to attain it than in our daily life. We place a great importance to this one rite for this very reason. In the end we all want peace. In the end. Not in the beginning. Not in the middle. In the end. When it is all over. When the struggle for living is over. When we are no more. When the mortal clash has ended, for there can be no quarrel with the dead. Ad because the quarrel has ended, the dead are more likely to be at peace than the living. Who, in turn, await their turn to receive ‘the peace that passeth understanding’.
A pact we have with each other. Pax, we say, let’s bury our differences. And one of us gets buried by the other so that peace may exist between us. For peace must exist, if not in the living then certainly among the dead. In that region that we know not, and so the quarrel cannot continue. It comes to a halt. Abruptly so. And peace has a chance to survive. Even if it is not among the living. It is there among the dead and that gives us hope. Hope that in the end we will find it. S that when we return to the living, we can merrily go on as before, knowing fully well that peace will reign in the end. At the final frontier.
It is not possible for peace to survive among the living. It is too fragile, too shy, too vulnerable, too weak. It has no spine. It is not bold to assert itself. It is forever hiding behind cliches, behind suave talk, behind hypocrisies. Sinking, lurking, timid, furtive, fearful, tremulous. How can such a thing live in this world? Survival of the fittest and peace is anything but fit. Peace is for the weak minded. For the spineless. For the peace-mongers are among the weakest people on earth. Peace is not for the humans. It is for the gods. The last rite is an oblation to peace because the gods love it. The divine grace is bestowed on those who perform this rite. Their largesse extends to the departed as well. And everyone is in peace at last. At long last. In the abode of God there is peace. And that is where we direct the departed to hasten.
The chants rise in pitch and the urgency with which the entreaty for peace is made is captured in the rising voices of the priests. By their loud chants the gods awaken from their peaceful slumber and invite the dead to their abode. Once the guest is allotted his or her place in the heaven, they can go back to their rest in peace. May the dead rest in peace. May the gods leave them in peace. May peace be bestowed on their soul. May the gods be pleased to send them back as humans so that they can spread the message of peace among the living. The gods are aware that peace cannot survive among the humans, but gods are after all gods. They cannot wage war. They cannot force anyone. They cannot order people or lord it over them. For they are the peaceful lot. But because they have great faith in peace, and in humanity, they think that eventually peace will return to earth. For peace was there on earth before humans sent it packing. Our chants invite it back. The slokas are an ovation to peace. The chanting priests pay homage to it in unison, urging peace to return to the earth. Or, failing which, they must accept the departed in their abode of peace.
Poor gods! They always fall for this particular human artifice. This trick by the priests never fails to succeed. Time and again, they feel propitiated and do man’s bidding. Time and time again man shatters peace and implores the gods to send it back. And the cycle goes on. In the rounds of rebirth this sham takes place. For the god’s hope in man in undying and man’s hope in god’s obduracy is equally undying. And the drama of life and death continues.
Let peace be to the gods. For we have no use for it here on this planet earth. And those who seek it, let them fall inline with the rest or await their turn for the last rite.