By Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev
Times of India – Editorial Page
21 October 2020
Note: For a different thinking, read another opinion piece at the end of this article. But please read Sadguru first with due diligence. Editor.
Do you know you will die one day? We don’t know if you will get married or not, if you will get a job or not, if you will be successful or not, but death is one thing that is guaranteed in your life. One of the biggest follies is to engage with death in the third person, as though it is an abstract event that happens to other people, not us.
About 1,60,000 people in the world, who were alive yesterday, are not here today. Each second, two people die in the world. And one day, it is going to happen to you and me, too. This knowledge is inbuilt in every human being. Yet, we think we have an unlimited lease of life. This situation is best expressed in the Mahabharata.
THE SPEAKING TREE
The five Pandava princes are lost in the forest. Starved and parched, they scout for water and food. They spot a lake and as they try to drink from it, they are confronted by a yaksha in the form of a white crane, who insists they answer his questions first. Refusing to be stopped by a bird, one by one they try to drink from the lake and drop dead. Only Yudhishthira, the eldest of them, is left.
Always the humble and righteous one, he ignores his thirst and engages with the yaksha, who fires a volley of questions about life at him. One of those questions being, ‘What is the biggest wonder of life?’ Without hesitation, Yudhishthira answers, ‘Hundreds of thousands of living beings meet death at every moment, yet foolish man thinks himself deathless and does not prepare for death. This is the biggest wonder of life.’ Pleased with his answer, the yaksha allows him to drink from the lake and also restores to life his dead brothers.
Death is a fundamental question. Each moment, death is happening in us at the organ and cellular levels. Only if you are ignorant and unaware, does it seem like death will come to you someday later. If you are aware, you will see both life and death are happening every moment. If you breathe a little more consciously, you will notice that with every inhalation there is life, with every exhalation there is death.
Upon birth, the first thing that an infant does is to take in a gasp of air. And the last thing you will do in your life is an exhalation … Life and death exist together, inseparably, in the same breath. Breath is only a supporting actor; the real process is of prana, life energy that controls physical existence. With mastery over prana, one can exist beyond breath for substantial amounts of time. Breath is a bit more immediate in its requirements, but in the same category as food and water.
Death is such a fundamental aspect, because if one small thing happens, you can be gone tomorrow morning … why tomorrow, you could even be off the next moment. How can you avoid death and live on as if you are going to be here forever?
Fundamentally, this situation has come about because you have lost perspective as to who you are in the Universe … When you have lost perspective as to who you are, how will you grasp anything about the nature of life or death?
Abridged extract from ‘Death: An Inside Story’ by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Isha Foundation. (Penguin Ananda)
(DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.)
You have read and absorbed many of the home truths — too many even to count, starting from the fear of death for all, generally speaking — referred to by Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev from whom we have much to learn from. Especilly we thank him for broaching the topic for wider discussion.
As mentioned earlier, this is a different thinking on Death, and not in the least a critique of what Sadguru has said very briefly, which is too little to get a real grasp of his thinking, so foolish to make such an attempt.
Started at 60 seriously!
I too started thinking seriously of death, only when I completed my 60th year, not because of any fear of death, I had none, but because of the thought of the four Ashramas – Brahmachariya, Grehasta, Vanaprasta and Sannyasa — taught by Hinduism. To me they appealed to be the most natural and rational way to order one’s length of days.
Civil society also divides a persons’s productive years when it suggests retirement at the age of 60 or 65; Catholic church at 70th. I for on started speaking it publicly which only made very adverse and sharply critical comments and reactions from my family members, friends and well wishers like: “Then who is going to take care of the education and marriage of your 4 children – 3 girls and one boy? You are very irresponsible to talk about your death, your body donation to medical college etc.”
I stuck on to Rational conviction!
Such things never deterred me to go back ward from my rational conviction, that such open fearless talk at home and to friends alone will act as a needed galloping force to my children to stand on their feet and grow up fast, as time and tide wait for no one for childish waste of precious time. Parental love should run pari-pasu with parental pinching, to avoid the harm caused by spoiling the child by sparing the rod, I thought!
Do you want your very dear smart child – all children are smart — to be spoiled by the sheer lack of regular coaching which cannot be given by an overdose of kissing, embracing and dancing to their tunes always? Your children will understand you cannot stop loving them, even when they do dastardly things due to their immaturity.
Death end-all of all Humans?
That has been, and still is, my thinking in spite of all my imperfections as ‘know-nothing’. My love for any of them has not diminished one bit either! At my age of 86 all of them are rather well settled, all due more to their smartness than mine and to the giver of all good things! That brings me to the main topic of our discussion today: DEATH, and the bigger question: Death the Be-all and End-all of all humans?
NO, neither human life nor death, are products of human whims and fancies, is my take on it! I am here following pure logic and reason, which alone are within the ambit of humans, not Faith or day-dreaming which can make you feel, you are ridding in the skies on horses’ back, but will not help you lift one inch above the harsh ground! YES none of us have or could have chosen the date and place of our birth or the parents to be born from! The same will apply for our death! Then, why cry over thought of death, but rejoice over a new born?
When I was 6-year Old!
Some 80 years ago I was a child of 6, like David taking care of sheep and cattle as in the story of ‘David and Goliath’. Ever since so many historic happenings in my life forced me to think and change: starting from becoming a very devoted child of Mary; it continued for years, forcing me to take: Mary, cause of my joy, as motto for ordination; that devotion had made my 10 years of seminary study, the happiest in life.
One historic happening among many!
After that changes began fast, switching on devotion to Jesus and telling mother Mary not to get offended for praying only to Jesus my Lord & my God, then to Jesus my friend only (foot-washing ministry presenting as friend), then to Jesus, Son of man, then to son of Tiberius Julius Abdes Panthera, possibly, then just to a Man, possibly a Good Samariton and so on.
One of the many historic happenings in life which forced me to accept CHANGE as the only constant! While studying 2nd year philosophy in Seminary this happened. My Italian professor Fr.DiFiore came and told me very privately: “You are good in Philosophy (I never thought so), so you can study also Greek and Hebrew, only those good at studies were allowed, because, after ordination “you may be allowed to go to Rome for higher studies, when you have to study these!”
My flat RETORT NO!
My immediate reaction was a flat NO, because I was all set to go to Assam to work for the poor there, never dreamt of going abroad! “So I would rather study Assamese” I said. The Professosr was simply flabbergasted and I was adamant. So my other smart companions who opted to study came and told me: “We will go to Rome to come back as Cardinals, and you will be working here in a Pattikadu” to taunt me. “I would me very happy” was my only reply.
After 6 long years!
Years passed and after ordination I was posted to teach in minor seminary, Mylapore, and Fr. Difiore then was Principal of St.Bede’s across the road, when like thunder bolt the News came from Archbishop Loise Mathias, over phone: “You have to go to Rome, come this Friday, I’ll tell you what to study there!” And the news spread like wild fire!
Study Greek now!
The following morning Fr.DiFiore came walking crossing the road and shouted at me in Joy: “James didn’t I tell you 6 years ago to study Greek, You didn’t listen, now you have to study!” To which I replied: “All those who studied left the seminary leaving me alone! Man proposes, God disposes!” And my professor agreed! Any other explanations for such happenings?
Even today due to force of habit, I get up daily with the prayer: “I am more blind than Barthimeus, help me to desire, think, speak and do, what YOU want and only what you want from me to, from dawn to dusk!” Because today, tomorrow or a few days from now I may be gone!
Still thinking of CHANCE the only constant!
I am still searching and changing! And still thinking of the changeless, indestructible Energy: Ekam sat, behuda Vadanti, and the words of Jesus, “I and the Father are one!” none of which I understand! So I continue my ‘Shell- Life’ for the last 16 years, hoping against hope for the death-visa, which may come also in my case! I have written more on this earlier!
This being the case in my life, how do you think of DEATH in your life? The greatest wonder in this world for me is the LIFE, not the death, of each one of us to learn from, where all of you are teachers! So speak up, this “know-nothing” is listening. james kottoor, editor ccv.