Hindu Funeral Rites and Ancestor Worship 
Antyesti, Sraddha and Tarpana
7. The Psychological Benefits of Sacrifice
The Satapatha-brahmana, a text of the Vedic period, speaks about the five debts that a human being accrues by living in this world. A person becomes indebted to God, to the gods, to the ancestors, to living persons of this world and to lesser beings. It states that these debts can be repaid through sacrifice. God can be repaid through the sacrifice of studying and teaching the Vedas. The gods can be repaid by the sacrifice of offering oblations into the fire. The ancestors can be repaid through the sacrifice of offering libations of water (tarpana). Elders of this world can be repaid through the sacrifice of showing hospitality to guests, and lesser beings can be repaid by the sacrifice of offering food to animals and other creatures.
In a similar way, the Manu-samhita, a work of the Grhya period, explains how even unknowingly a human being causes suffering and thereby incurs sin while living in this world. Five places are cited: the kitchen, the grinding stone, the broom, the mortar and pestle, and the water pot. Like the Satapatha- brahmana,Manu says that through sacrifice a human being can atone for these sins. In other words, Hindu thinkers from the earliest times recognized that life involved consuming the resource of this world. Both texts recognized that a human being had a debt to settle with the world, and both agreed that it was through sacrifice that a human could settle this debt and establish a just relationship with the world. The pitr-yajna was one such attempt.
The psychological effect of sacrifice was to enlarge one’s individual existence. By performing the worship of the ancestors, one established a relationship with the ancestors. The person no longer lived alone in the universe. The meaning of the opening prayers used in the tarpana ceremony is illustrative, “From the highest point to lowest point, so far as this universe extends, let all divine sages and patriarchs, all deceased fathers, on both the father’s and mother’s side, be worshiped. Let this humble offering of sesame and water go for benefit the whole world, from the highest heaven down to this earth, to benefit the inhabitants of the seven continents belonging to unlimited families in the past.” The rite of pitr-yajna was therefore, an attempt to psychologically harmonize the individual with the larger world outside.
This need for psychological expansion and to establish a just relationship with the universe was also expressed in how the Brahmana texts interpreted thepinda offerings used in the pitr-yajnas.The cakes were not simply food offerings. They represented the pitrs and ultimately the whole of existence. The first cake, for the father, was seen as the image of the earth (bhur) and just as fire enjoys the earth, so the soul of the father was said to enjoy the first cake. The second cake, for the grandfather, was seen as the image of the sky (bhuvar) and just as the wind enjoys the sky, so the grandfather was said to enjoy the second cake. The third cake, for the great grandfather, was seen as the image of the heavens (svar) and just as the sun enjoys the heavens, so the great grandfather was said to enjoy this third cake. In this way, the three pinda cakes were equated with the whole of creation, bhur, bhuvar and svar Offering thepinda to the pitrs was equal to feeding the universe.
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 a-brahma stamba-paryantam devarsi pitr-manavah
trpayantu pitarah sarve matr-mata-mahadayah
a-brahma bhuvanal lokadi-dam astu tilodakam
 The combination of words bhur, bhuvas and svar become “the great call to creation” (maha-vyahrti) used at the beginning of the savitr-gayatri mantra and when offerings of ghee and other articles were made into the fire.