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Also referred to as the ‘southern path’, one of three paths taken by the self, or its subtle body, after death, according to the Upaniṣads and Vedāntic theology. (The others are the devayāna (‘the way of the gods’), or the ‘northern path’, and the path to Yama's world—known as saṃyamana.) According to the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (6.2.16), those on the pitṛyāna—those who perform sacrificial actions (karma) properly, but without knowledge of their real meaning (or of brahman (neut.), according to Śaṅkara)—follow the route through the funeral smoke into the night, from the night into the fortnight of the waning moon, from there into the six months when the sun moves south, from those into the world of the fathers (pitṛloka); from there to the moon, where they become food, and the gods feed on them (or they starve—i.e. the effects of their karma wear off). They pass from there into the sky, and so, via, wind, rain, earth, and food, they enter the bloodstream and semen of a human being, and are reborn to begin the potential cycle again.

Subjects: Hinduism.

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