Death is a wonderful part of life but human beings have sadly shunned it instead of celebrating it. Why do I say so? Actually, we see death and life as separate units of life and do not see both as one, due to our total ignorance. If we say life is existence, then death too is existence. Why do we see death as our enemy? What I see from my experience is that, we see death as an enemy because we do not know life fully, as we fear life. If we learn to see both as one, we will be able to see life everywhere. You will see that all is you and you are all. Just as you see activity everywhere, and when activity ceases you see restful equilibrium. Rest rejuvenates. This rest is ‘Death’. It is like day and night. Night is the small death of a day, but still day cannot be called complete without night. All our life we are concentrating on extending life, thereby postponing death, but have totally missed out on enhancing the happiness of extended life. This is because we have never known life and failed to embrace death. It is essential to know the meaning of death to know the essence of life..
Let me explain more clearly. Imagine a life without death. You will be tired, suffering and always clinging to life and the physicality of its illusions and dreams. All your energies will be exhausted. In the Indian scriptures life is Pursharth and death is Prakruti. Pursharth is aggression, and always wanting to conquer and create more and more. When this pursharth rests into prakriti, it is death. It is vanaprastha ashram (Resting in nature). It is sanyasa. In simple words you can say ‘Self resting in self.’ That resting is meditation…. So meditation is experiencing death.
When you do not understand life and death as a whole, you run away from life and deal with life as entertainment, not as celebration. The more you run away, the more miserable you become. You start searching for self in things and events of life. To understand this, watch all the moments of happiness in your life, and you will see that all your happiness was dependent on something, someone or some event. We love adventures because during that period we come close to death and experience life too at the same moment. That happiness is adventurous. At that moment of happiness you are not searching for anything, you are truly happy.
When we peep into our life now, we see it as lopsided…. Unbalanced. We are searching for happiness in things, instead of searching in life. Searching in the right direction, life becomes a promise to happiness and death becomes fulfillment. Death is coming home after a long journey, a deep relaxation. That is why many religions in India celebrate death. Death is a full-stop after a sentence to write another sentence. We always feel that life happens at birth and ends at death. Actually they both happen together. You are here because you died, and this birth is again a first step towards your death, and every step brings us closer to death. Every breath we inhale is life… is birth… we are energizing each cell of our body. And with every breath we exhale, we are dying. This inhale and exhale is one breath, and every inhale is taking you towards death, and exhalation too is coming closer to death…. Both are one and the same, it is a whole.
The human life story, from childhood to adulthood to old age, is also a story of gradual awakening to awareness. We take care of our body, at times we abuse our body. Until the age of 25 or 30, there is lack of awareness about life. Life is presumed to be just a series of exciting moments. Then slowly the awareness creeps in, and we see there is something beyond mere physical experiences.
Whenever you opted for new, you always grew. New was unknown, new was adventure, new was learning, new is opening up, new is growing. You realized that when you become independent. People who opened up grew big. Opening up is living as student and learning everything as fresh and new, for that you have to learn to die to old. You have to become aware, that is accepting life in here and now. But when you are not aware you are holding to your past-life, which most of it was suffering or was always looking for future. Death is not going to happen in future, future is going to create problems if you are holding to your past and missing your present life because you are simply not aware. If you are unaware you will spend more time by creating protective walls around you to keep yourself safe from losing anything. You do not want to die, so you live in resistance, you live in fear and create stress and will always push your present situation in future. Actually you cannot do anything in future, because to build your future you have to die, die to old and live in present and see it dying.
Death is your real teacher and death is what makes you live in present and as complete. One cannot live partly. Death is inclusion in life. It is a wonderful moment together in life. Life is taking your activity to the peak and finally dropping dead. This is a process of love too.. If you happen to talk about death, it is called inauspicious. If you witness life and death as one your life itself will be celebration, and one does not feel tired in celebration. All your activities will be effortless. But if you only see life and take it to the peak, you will fear to look down, you will see down as a valley. Chose both, because if you chose one you will always be afraid of the one you have not chosen and if you still happen to chose one, be responsible and face it. Being responsible is choosing the other one too. In the process you see everything passing through you… joy, happiness, failure, success, suffering, love and everything. This witnessing gives you a real sense of ‘who you are’, without identifying yourself with those experiences. This flowing with inclusion, with all and everything without attachment is liberation, which is freedom. You are dead and achieved Moksha. Witness is never born or it never dies, it is always been there and that is what your real self is. Thats what is meant by TAT SVAM ASI as mentioned in Upanishad.
Let me explain you with an example of a mirror. Mirror reflects you but mirror is still a witness, nothing happens to it. When you are gone and another person or thing comes in front, it reflects him. It is choiceless, mirror does not matter what you are, you may be a flower or you are a thorn, you are crying or laughing, you are sad or happy. Actual you is on other side of you but still you… That real you is witness - that is what you are. You are nor dead nor alive. You simply are. This is all the meditation is about.
We do not know who we are, how others can know you. You can only be insulted when you do not know who you are, that insulted person is your image, image you have identified with. This image is self created image by your knowledge and ego. And also remember that you can only be praised when you dont know who you are. It is your identification or your attachment that is praised. One who is appreciating you may stop doing it some day. You will feel hurt in both the cases.
You do not like the one who hurts you, and you do not like the one who stops praising you - both are thoughts. Your thoughts are like dust on your mirror. Meditation is a process to remove this dust from the mirror to see yourself clearly. We start collecting dust by valuing it. What we like is golden dust, some is silver dust, some are unhappy and sad dust. We hold on to this dust because we identify this dust with our body and knowledge, which is only a part of our life and we fear other part of our life that is death. Game of life cannot be complete without the death. Both have to accept each other, so always remember that death is your real friend. It takes away all your attachments. We have to be thankful to death because most of the time it does what we cannot do. And if you can do it to yourself till you are living, you become a winner, you become ‘Mahaveer’ – one who does not fear. What we fear is only our attachment but when you learn to see all as witness, you know everything is coming and going. Nothing is yours but all is you. You will be able to make more of everything and share to generate more. You will live as love because you will realize that you are embodiment of love. Love is nothing and you are nothing and nothing is God.
Importance of Death is also bowing to your ego. You are letting your part, your attachment die, your ego die. You are giving away from what you thought was yours. Death is removing the dust from the mirror to see your-self as one as God`s reflection. Physical death is just to change our clothes to new to continue our journey. Death is fresh breath of God. It will clean you. It will rise you into a better form. But if you think that the dust on the mirror is you, you may miss the reality of both… life and death.
When you have desires or attachment, death becomes pain and when you do not have attachment it becomes Samadhi. In Samadhi you see life and death as same, as in sama bhava. So in true sense ‘Death is becoming ‘THAT’ and to realize as THAT. As THAT you will be able to explore all the possibilities of THAT. Death is Nirvana, all forms are content in you to become whole.
Author: Satish Kaku, spiritual teacher, seeker and artist