Death

You are born. Some stuff happens in the middle. Then you die.

“May I ask just one question?” put in one of the others. “In what manner should one live one’s daily life?”
As though one were living for that single day, for that single hour.
“How?”
If you had only one hour to live, what would you do?
“I really don’t know,” he replied anxiously.
Would you not arrange what is necessary outwardly, your affairs, your will, and so on? Would you not call your family and friends together and ask their forgiveness for the harm that you might have done to them, and forgive them for whatever harm they might have done to you? Would you not die completely to the things of the mind, to desires and to the world? And if it can be done for an hour, then it can also be done for the days and years that may remain.
“Is such a thing really possible, sir?”
Try it and you will find out.

-J. Krishnamurti

I don’t have much experience with death. There have been only five people who I’ve known personally who have died—four family members and one friend. And during the time of passage, I think we all have similar wistful thoughts. We will miss the person who died. And we think: we must celebrate the moments of our lives, and we must be grateful for what we have, grateful for life itself. We must stop wasting time.

But then we soon forget.

In the Mahabharata, a 50,000-verse ancient Sanskrit epic poem which culminates in the Bhagavad Gita, there is a scene where one of the heroes, Bhima, is presented a riddle by a rakshasha. If he’s right he can pass, if he’s wrong he loses his head. The riddle is “what is the greatest mystery of all time?”

The answer: The greatest mystery is that Man is mortal and yet lives as if he is immortal.

The Reclining Buddha
Creative Commons License photo credit: ZeePack

Death is mystery. The trouble is that we can’t leave it as a mystery. We come up with all sorts of theories of existence and death. We believe.

The fear of death is the fear of the end of experience, at least this is how my mind feels it. The end of experience is frightening, because the mind is acquisitive and it is fearful of not having enough time to acquire enough pleasure, things, power, status, time, approval and so on. The mind wants enough time to complete its incomplete-able story. The fear of death is also projected onto others; it is my fear of how I will feel when a loved one dies. So, it’s really the fear of my own feelings.

In western countries, we fear death perhaps more because it is something we hide. In India, death is treated very differently. My grandmother passed away four years ago. There were rituals and and the body was prepared in the house, openly, with children running around and family and guests visiting. There was mourning of course, but mostly there was the consensus that this was a happy time, as she was finally free of an ailing body. Indians mourn and fear death like most human beings, but the energy is different because death is never hidden. During the ride to the crematorium in a hearse-like bus, people in that part of India stop whatever they’re doing and momentarily touch their fingers to their hearts, saying good-bye. It’s a nice tradition. The pyre is outside and anyone, including children of all ages, can view the open-flame cremation.

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

-Mark Twain

Anthony de Mello reminds us, it’s more useful to worry about life before death rather than after.

I don’t know about death.

I do know about life. I do know that it is possible to be easy with life, where life and living are one, where in our true nature, we are easy and peaceful. All we have to do is to stop identifying—stop identifying with beliefs and ego and mind and identities. I talk about Awareness and Release, but there many other simple portals, available to everyone.  I like the openings which are available to all of us in the daily aspects of our lives. I like the ones that don’t make any pretense of requiring us to jump through spiritual hoops and hierarchies. Eckhart Tolle talks about Presence and Acceptance, Geneen Roth talks about conscious eating, Candice O’Denver talks about simple awareness, Adyshanti talks of simple meditation, and there are many others (External Resources). It does not take religion or spirituality and you don’t have to be special or blessed or strong. Come as you are. That’s perfect.

There’s only one way to crack through the cement wall that you have surrounded yourself with. I’m going to give it to you now and I want you to remember it and try to connect it and practice it. There’s only one way to break out of your building false securities, which is to suffer knowingly, intentionally, without looking for an answer. Now there it is. You can save yourself years of work if you take that home, write it in your own words and examine it.

-Vernon Howard

Crack through the delusions. Enjoy life. You will have plenty of time to be dead.

18 thoughts on “Death

  1. Eso

    “Death” is but a doorway to another existence another time. Across the hallway you will find the doorway called “Birth”, if you have used the recent recurrence wisely, you attract another life, another experience. (We are indeed immortal, just not physically as in body)

    Consciousness is the key.

    Thanks for this thought provoking writing and the real feelings it generates.

    Eso

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Eso,
      Ah, yes, Consciousness is the key. When we are identified with the mind (thoughts, emotions, ego, beliefs), we give only the barest attention to awareness. As we we become more aware, a whole mysterious timeless world opens up.

      Thanks for your thoughts. I hope you are well!

      love and peace,
      k

  2. Sarah

    I enjoyed this post. Death is something I’ve found most people just don’t want to talk about. And I think that is fascinating because death is the only guarantee in life. I’ve begun to reconsider how much of a separation there really is between the living and the dead. And how precious it is to be alive and open to this tactile experience on earth. That view re-frames what a “valuable” experience is. I particularly like the quote at the end. Not an easy bit of advice to take, but I suppose good advice never is.

    Namaste.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Sarah,
      When I was younger, I was afraid of death. It is really the end of experience of this particular mind/body that I think we are afraid of. There’s an old movie, Moonstruck, in which a woman, whose husband is cheating on her, is on a quest to find out why men cheat. She settles on the answer that men cheat because they are afraid of their own mortality. They are trying cram experiences and approval and validation into this life.

      There is a great Buddhist meditation which focuses on the thought “I might die today.” It’s a valuable exercise.

      Thanks, Sarah, for your wonderful thoughts on this.

      love and peace,
      k

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Linda,

      Yes, you’re right, it’s not the sexiest of titles! I read somewhere that I should use numbers and lists to entice people on the internet, like “10 awesome thoughts on Death.” It’s not really my style.

      Thanks for the kind words, and thanks for visiting and commenting.

      I hope to see you again.

      Love and peace,
      k

  3. Sarah

    So, do you think the Moonstruck quote is accurate?

    I had a dream the other night. I was sitting in a chair on the other side of a desk covered with papers. A Chinese woman was on the other side of the desk, kind of shuffling things. And she said “What you are learning to do is how to die.” Kind of like a job interview or something.

    Anyway, I mention this because it seems awakening is a bit of learning how to die, seeing beyond experience. And that seeing beyond experience makes simple experiences, such as touching a leaf or feeling water, precious and somewhat rare.

    In any case, I am glad to see the stark headline: “Death.” It is an important part of this whole awareness. I wish you all the best on your path.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Sarah,
      Yes, the Moonstruck idea strikes a chord. There was a time in life when I wanted to cram in experiences. I am far more open to allowing and cherishing experiences now. The frantic energy is gone.

      The Sedona Method looks at it a little differently. It categorizes our drivers as the wanting of control, the wanting of approval, the wanting of security, and the wanting of life (completeness, ease). Surprisingly, their opposites often come into play. For example, often we actively seek disapproval, when we are rebellious, or we seek to relinquish control. This makes sense as well, and it’s good way to understand whether our desires are authentic, or they come from conditioning and fears.

      You’re right, the our feelings about death are an integral part of awakening. Die to each moment, die before death, die to the past…these come up often in the context of awakening.

      Your dream is fascinating. Life may be a series of lessons leading to dying. And thus my irreverent opening: life is stuff that happens in between birth and death. To me, death is the powerful reminder that life is precious and short–at least life in this particular mind/body is short. The discomfort that your dream and this article bring up is important. It is an opening.

      It’s also interesting to note that there are times in our lives when we look forward to death. We see death as relief. This too is an opening, because we don’t have to wait for physical death for this relief. What if we were able to live as if this is our last day?

      Most of us accept that we should make the most of life, because at the end of it, is the end of it. We just don’t know how to go about making the most of it, because fears and desires and thoughts and beliefs and confusion gets in the way. My way of cutting through all of that is Awareness and Release.

      Thanks, Sarah, for the wonderful insights.

      love and peace,
      k

  4. Nitin

    Namaste Kaushikbhai,

    Great article,
    Yes, you are right about death occasion in India, I have experienced my grand-father, and aunt/foi death when I was teenager and surprised about how one feel about sorrow but at same time how Indian tradition (treat passed Atman as Mortal to next 14 days and family gives him final good bye to Immortal) keep sorrow as learning process to young and all.
    More we experience to any activities more deeper and deeper (including death) is getting fearless. Perhaps people who work in crematorium (all over the world) see death is daily activity and they must be less fearful then we are.
    “The fear of death is the fear of the end of experience,…….. …….. ……”
    Above paragraphs, I am keeping reading….try to get it (mind game.)

    Take care.
    Nitin

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Nitin,

      Yes, you’re right, the aim of all spiritual practices is eliminate fear. It is fear which trips us up. The fear comes from separation. We are separated from our true nature, from easy awareness, because we create a separating curtain of thought, emotions, beliefs, past and future in our minds.

      The fear of death is the fear of the end of experience…this is why I was afraid of death when I was younger. I hoped at that time to live a long, long time, because I wanted enough time to experience everything–experience accumulations and things and women and pleasure and so on. I think this is fear, this desire for completing an endless story, is one of our four drivers. The others are the need for approval, need for control, and need for security.

      Thanks for the insightful comment, Nitinbhai. I hope you are well!

      Namaste,
      k

  5. Janice R.

    Dear Mr. K.,
    I don’t know any of the enlighted/awareness things to say to you. I barely understand life, I really have no understanding of the transition of physical death.
    But, I can give you what you have so generously have given me.
    Be gentle, be honest, be loving to yourself in all ways. And be patient with yourself.

    I have prayed for you each day since you wrote this. We all depend on you and each other.
    Please take good care of yourself.
    Janice

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Dear Janice,

      Thank you for your encouraging words. I feel and appreciate your empathy.

      Yes, that’s really it, be honest, be gentle, allow, be patient, be loving.

      I hope you are well.

      love and peace,
      k

  6. HappinessandWisdom

    Fantastic post. Full of thoughtful quotes and remarks. I don’t fear death, but I fear not living to my potential, because my experience will not be as full as possible. Your posts along with others, in combination with my own reflections, help me to live to the fullest. I love the last line — crack through your delusions…….perfect!

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Thanks, happinessandwisdom. Yes, you’ve put it very well, we fear “falling short.” Being aware of this, simply being aware, allowing, and letting go helps us see and release this. Thanks for the encouraging words.

      I hope you are well.

      love and peace,
      k

  7. Liara Covert

    It is an experience to know people who fear death, who cling to false beliefs, when you consciously do not. Every situation is a timeless teacher. One is reminded that the essence of being is free and the mind creates illusions of bondage.

    One perspective is the unconscious is not natural. It is part of being a person rejects when he chooses not to face it, not to encounter it, not to acknowledge it exists. Curiously, this is when the mind manipulates by creating illusion such as fear of the unknown.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      “One perspective is the unconscious is not natural.” I like this very much. This is how fear comes up. Most of us roaming the earth today are unconscious, and the very unnaturalness and awkwardness of unconsciousness is the definition of fear.

      Thanks for the insight.

      I hope you are well!

      Namaste,
      k

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