H.G. Matsyavatar Das

Thursday, 29 January 2009

DEATH: a Stage of Life

By Matsyavatara Dasa

No matter what our descendant roots are, noble or of humble origin, rich or poor, old or young, illuminated or not, we are all destined to die. We know that it is inevitable, but we deceive ourselves by thinking that others will die before us, that we will be the last to go. Death always seams far away. Isn’t it a misleading way of thinking? Isn’t it an illusion, a dream? This makes us negligent and we shouldn’t believe it. We should be courageous and prepare ourselves, because sooner or later death will knock at our door.

(Yamamoto Tsunetomo, samurai monk of ending 1600)

Death is most likely the most complex, painful and captivating phenomenon with which man has always had to deal with; generally it irrupts very strongly in the story of an individual, of a family unit and society reality, often leaving behind desperation, emptiness, and mental derangement.

Intelligent people of every era, though living in health, have come across this problem with genuine spirit of research, looking for the comprehension of the events that obligatorily move to a different level from the one merely pertinent to the sensorial perception.

The thought of death is located deep in the human soul and strongly affects the entire course of life and the character, mostly operating at a deep conscience level.

The objective of this analysis is the reinterpretation of the phenomenon, reinterpretation that takes the abandoning of those preconceptions structured in our mind since the green age, and connected to apparent realities and to the destructive image that the idea of death carries with itself.

To face this arcane and dramatic argument in the over-rational perspective, lightly expressed and surely unusual for the western culture, we need to take an “inner journey” , to the roots of our deepest and concealed experiences. The rational mind can capture and encode the physical reality, but not all the reality is reconductible to this level. How can the rational function explain in a full and satisfactory way the “intra-psychic” dynamics? How can it answer the existential questions on the imperceptible nature of oneself and explain the mystery of life? In front of death or of a disconcerting medical report even the most solid rationality will vacillate showing all its limits.

The sages of the Vedas, mind and life scientists who belong to a millenary tradition, indicate how the human being complexity must be studied in its entire bio-psychic-spiritual reality. The classic Indian works explain that barriers between the physical, psychic-energetic and spiritual-metaphysic do not exist; the same human life is a combination of these three interactive dimensions of reality. Man does not only have a physical body but also a psychic body, which represents one of the fundamental bases for the development of the personality. But physical and psychic do not complete the picture of a human being: the physical body and the mental structure are two tools utilized from the purusha, the spiritual self, the subject that perceives, thinks and acts using in fact the body and the mind. Only those that are fully conscious of their self can influence deeply and with determination their physical and psychic bodies, activating inner resources that allows the rediscovering of the auto-healing path. What unifies the physical world and the psychical world, that makes them interactive and gives them a meaning is the self, the vital spark, the witness, the one that sees, that hears, that understands; all the rest are tools.

We need to underline that every living being is eternal, therefore the living entity does not have a beginning (anadi) or an end (ananta). The Veda knowledge teaches that we do not die with the body but at the moment of the spiritual journey out of the body we are moved elsewhere aboard of the psychic structure. From this perspective we can transcend the mistaken contraposition of the binomial life-death, rediscovering the living being’s dimension in which death, being a life phase, is not in opposition with life, but with birth. Similarly, the “asleep” state of consciousness, the one without dreams, is not in opposition with the “wake” state of consciousness. If we made life coincide exclusively with the wake experience, then we can say that sleep has nothing to do with life, but we know very well that it is not true at all. Without sleep there could not be the wake state: during sleep the neurons healthily interact, all the cells easily surrender their wasted products and regenerate.

In the Fedone, Platone makes Socrate say, in one of his last phrases: “The time has come that I must go; every one of us continues with his or her program: I go off to die, you all go on to live, but no one knows who will be better off, only God knows”. And Tagore wrote: “Birth and death are two parts of life, just like to walk you must lift a foot and then lay it down”.

Birth and death are two dots in a circle that the sages of the Veda s call samsara, the repeated cycle of birth and death, since, like the Bhagavadgita teaches, all that is born will die and all that dies will be reborn.

Birth and death are like awakening and going to sleep: we are here before we awake and we are here again after we have fallen asleep. The similitude between dream and death is very close.

The fear of death, besides the terror generated from the unknown, from the journey to an unknown destination, is primarily constituted from the fact that we must leave the objective world, the body, our dearest people, the social position, the prestige, the richness, the pleasure of food, of sex and various possessions. Yet, doesn’t the same happen during our dreams? In the dream doesn’t the subject abandon its physical body? Doesn’t he abandon the social prestige? He abandons a large quantity of things for which he has often developed a morbid attachment. The realization of the self permanence in a different dimension from the one of the wake state of consciousness, is something to be reinforced when we have the resources to make an investment of knowledge, to resolve the problem of death in life.

Death, as the Vedas teache, is a passage towards another dimension, passage through which we renew our lives’ projects; it is not the end, but the beginning of a successive existential cycle. It is like exiting from a theatre scene and entering into another; the actor does not disappear, he is gone only to the observer’s eyes; the same is for the living being at the death moment: the protagonist does not disappear, but simply goes elsewhere. The Gita compares the body to a dress; death is like undressing from old clothes and wearing new ones.

Our prejudices, the social schemes, the way of facing certain phenomena and certain passages of life, are to be reconsidered at the renovated light of intelligence. The image of the self is not what the mirror shows. Death can lose its dramatic power if we come to a new vision of reality, by acknowledging and experiencing ourselves beyond the multiple masks of ego.

The fear of being annulled, zeroed, terminated, is the product of a certain culture, a prejudice, a negative dogma that generates tormenting thoughts, swinging between remorse and irony. Many make irony on death trying to exorcise their fear, but the right approach to the phenomenon must be honest, serious, through an in-depth study, not only intellectual, but experimental.

The subjective world and the objective world, the psychical introverted and extroverted functions and the needs of all the living being should be harmonized. It is by harmonizing these functions that we can grow up, that we can illuminate our personality. Life is a continuum, birth and death correspond to the appearing and disappearing of a physical body, and the same is for the appearing and disappearing of thoughts, illusions, wishes, opinions. If emotionally detached we put ourselves in the position of observers, we can see that the psychical contents float in our conscience as objects on the surface of a river, and therefore we can manage them at our best. What slips off our control, instead, is all that we identify ourselves with and obviously what we ignore.

The fear of death is caused by the identification with our body. Who identifies himself/herself with the body they are wearing will experiment, as years go by, growing fear and terror of death.

What wins death is love, together with consciousness. Love is the strongest feeling, it outlives death, because living means to give and receive love. To love in its widest meaning is to love life itself, therefore all that is living: all creatures. This should set our way of life, of eating, of relating with others. The more we love life and we understand its nature, the less we will fear death.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting blog! Thank you very much for posting all these Matsyavatara Prabhu's teachings!