It has become fashionable nowadays to say or type RIP whenever we hear of someone’s death. This is particularly so in the social media circuit. Like we have imported and adopted so many western customs so also have we adopted this practice without pausing to think of the deep religious connotations this term has.
“Rest in peace” (Latin: Requiescat in pace) is a short epitaph wishing eternal rest and peace to someone who has died. The expression typically appears on headstones, often abbreviated as “RIP” or “R.I.P. It derives its origins from the deep Abrahamic tradition of “Judgement Day” when the departed soul would unite with its body and the dead would rise and Jesus/God would sit in judgement and each “Man must give account of himself on the day of judgement” (Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:10,12) and shall be “judged by how he measured up to the word of God.” The sinners would be cast into hell fire and suffer eternal damnation and the good shall obtain salvation.
The Hindu tradition of Karma on the other hand does not consider anyone to be a sinner and postulates that each person is impelled by his or her karma and the play of gunas to behave in a particular way. The Hindu belief as laid out in the Sanatana Dharma clearly states that the soul never dies:
na jaayate’ mriyate’ vaa kadaachin naayam bhuthva bhavithaa na bhooyah: |
ajo nithyah saasvato’yam puraano na hanyate’ hanyamaane’ sareere’ ||
“Never is he (Soul) born, nor does he die at any time,
he has never been brought into being, nor shall come hereafter;
unborn, eternal, permanent and ancient (primeval).
When the body is slain, he is not slain.”
The soul sojourns through various bodies in its quest to attain liberation (moksha):
vaasaamsi jeernaani yathaa vihaaya navaani gr.hnaathi naro’ paraani |
thathaa sareeraani vihaaya jeernany-anyaani samyaathi navaani de’hi ||
“As a man casts off worn-out garments and puts on new ones,
so the embodied soul casts off the worn-out body and enters other new ones.”
The Hindu belief that the soul undergoes multiple births to help it “work-out” its karma through a gradual, graded, and continual process of refinement is completely contrary to the belief in Eternal damnation, Judgement day etc.
Why can’t Hindus simply say: “My/Our Condolences” or “Om Shanthi” (which by the way is again for the family members grieving at the loss, the soul knows no loss)?
It is time Hindus moved from darkness to light…
Asatho Maa Sad Gamaya.
Thamaso Maa Jyothir Gamaya.
Mrithyur Maa Amritham Gamaya.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
From untruth lead us to Truth.
From darkness lead us to Light.
From death lead us to Immortality.
Om Peace, Peace, Peace.
– Brhadaranyaka Upanishad