1. The End - An Overview

“Seeing death as the end of life 
is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean.”
(There’s much more to it.)
- David Searls
ज्ञेयं यत्तत्प्रवक्ष्यामि यज्ज्ञात्वामृतमश्रुते |
अनादिमत्परं ब्रह्म सत्तन्नासदुच्यते || 13||
jñeya yat tat pravakhyāmi yaj jñātvāmitam aśhnute
anādi mat-para brahma na sat tan nāsad uchyate
BG 13.13: I shall now reveal to you that which ought to be known, and by knowing which, one attains immortality. It is the beginning-less Totality, which lies beyond existence and non-existence.

गुणानेतानतीत्य त्रीन्देही देहसमुद्भवान् |
जन्ममृत्युजरादु:खैर्विमुक्तोऽमृतमश्रुते || 20||
guṇān etān atītya trīn dehī deha-samudbhavān
janma-mityu-jarā-dukhair vimukto ’mitam aśhnute
BG 14.20: By transcending the material nature associated with the body, one becomes free from birth, death, disease, old age, and misery, and attains immortality.

“The phenomenon of death sets the human mind to think deeply…. 
Death is a call to reflect and to seek the Goal, 
the Truth, the Eternal Totality of Life.”
- Swami Shivananda

The Most Important Steps to Honor the Departed Soul
Further elaborated on this website . . . .

1.  Provide the most peaceful, clean, quiet, comfortable environment possible for the departing soul – both before and immediately after death. See Section 3 - Preparing to Leave the Body.

2.  Do not move the body for several hours after death. Let the body rest in a peaceful, settled state immediately after passing with head pointed to the north and feet to the south. Tie thumbs together with string. Tie big toes together with string. Make note of the exact time of passing to calculate the tithi (lunar day) for future observances. See Section 4 - The Moment of Passing.

3.  Cremate the body as soon as possible during daylight hours, either on the same day as death, or soon thereafter. See Section 5 - Vedic Rites.

4.  Immerse the ashes in flowing water as soon as convenient. The sooner the better. See Section 5 - Vedic Rites.

5.  Traditional Vedic Antyeshti Kriyas (final rites) usually last for thirteen days – as soon after death as can be organized by friends and family - either at the place of death or in the deceased's former residence or at any holy site. Ideally, begin Antyeshti rites as soon as possible after death. See Section 5 - Vedic Rites.

6.  The thirteenth day of Antyeshti Kriyas celebrates the restoration of the departed soul’s subtle body and journey to the ancestors. This includes a meal prepared for Brahmins and other honored guests, dakshina payments to pandits, and a generous feeding of cows.

7.  If death is unnatural or accidental, perform Narayan Bali Rites on the 12th or 13th day of the usual Antyeshti Kriyas. See Section 5 - Vedic Rites.

8. Arrange for offerings to the departed soul each month on the lunar day that the soul left the body for one year after death. These offerings can also be made all at one time during the 12th and 13th days of Antyeshti Kriyas. See Section 5 - Vedic Rites.

9.  One year after death on the lunar day that the soul left the body, organize a special Shraddh ceremony to honor the deceased.

10. Any time after one year, a seven to nine day Srimad Bhagavat Saptah Yagya is the biggest and best yagya that can be offered to the deceased. Often several families will join together to sponsor a Bhagavat Saptah Yagya. See Section 5 - Vedic Rites.

11. There are various other rites of passage for monks and mahatmas and sanyasis. Some of the details will differ for different shakas (classes) and traditions (sampradayas) within Hindu Sanatana Dharma. But the main points in the following sections give a basic and universal overview. What matters most is the purity of life of the departed soul, and the attention of one’s teacher, family and friends. As Krishna says in the Bhagavat Gita, chapter 6 verse 40: ‘Neither in this world nor in the world to come is there suffering for the sincere truth seeker on the path of righteousness.’

12. Those who have an enlightened Guru are even more fortunate. According to Swami Shantanand Saraswati, the successor to Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, Himalayas: “The Guru is always with the disciple. There is no question of leaving him at all. The Guru will never leave the disciple unless He sees him reach his goal of Self-Realization. Even death would not break this relationship. So, one should be carefree, because the help from the Guru is assured. As long as the disciple hasn’t achieved realization, the (Guru draws) the disciple to the goal and (they) are united. One can be very sure of being cared for.”

These points are elaborated in the following Sections . . . .