We are living through times where we have been forced to encounter death in more ways than one. It seems to be coming closer to us making us feel cornered. There seems to be no way out. There seems to be no place to hide. Simply speaking, it has scared the shit out of a lot of us. It used to scare me too until …
I once read that the easiest way to overcome fear about something was to understand that thing or simply do that thing. While in college, I was scared of missing an episode of my favorite soap opera. I was so frustrated with this fear and how it controlled my life, that I gave up watching soap operas for a long time. Another example. I had a deep rooted fear of hunger right from my childhood. I just couldn’t contemplate staying hungry. The minute I sensed a rumbling in my stomach I had to eat something. To overcome this fear (and for a number of other spiritual reasons), I now fast each day for 14 hours a day. Nowadays, I occasionally watch soap operas but I have never felt the of missing an episode. I do break my fast some days but I am definitely not scared of hunger anymore.
Like most people out there, I was scared of death. Not so much about dying myself, but more so about losing people I love dearly. So I had to apply the same technique to death – I had to understand it. I obviously could not kill myself to understand death, so I took the easy way out. No, no! Don’t get me wrong! I did not kill anyone else either. I chanced upon the book on Death by Sadhguru. It is called “Death – a book for all those who shall die” and I managed to overcome my fear through understanding it.
This blog is not a summary of that book. The book is much more deep, more profound than anything I can possibly write. This blog is a small analogy to help my friends and family understand death, so that hopefully they might not feel scared of it. Unlike my silly fears of missing episodes or staying hungry, death is something that is not a probability in our lives. It is a certainty. 100% of us, will die 100%. So let’s start.
Imagine that you are a student of 3rd grade in a school. You are specifically in 3rd grade, because you have successfully completed 2nd grade and now need to learn the maths, science and languages of 3rd grade. When you have learnt everything there was to learn in 3rd grade, you will be promoted to 4th grade. Once you complete 4th grade, you will move on to 5th grade, 6th grade and so on. Someday you will complete school, then your Bachelor’s degree, then your Masters and then maybe a PHD as well. Someday you will come back to the same school you had studied in, as it’s Principal. Being the Principal, you no longer learn at the school, but you create the systems and the processes that run the school. You hire and train the teachers and you check which students are ready to be promoted and which are not. Now, you are no longer a part of the creation of the school but you have become the Creator of the school, itself. All students at the school study hard at school for this same ultimate purpose – to become one with the Creator. Creating a school as a principal, or creating a business as a CEO or creating teams as a Manager, we all want to grow from being part of the Creation to becoming the Creator one day.
Life is also like this school. We enter each new life as a first step in a new grade. We get a new body (like a new Uniform that we get in school). We have been assigned our time and our set of things we need to learn in that time. If we are able to learn our assigned syllabus in our assigned time, voila! we are promoted to the next grade aka the next life. But before we can wear the uniform and take the bag of the next grade, we have to shed the uniform of the grade that we have already completed. Imagine, how life would be if we continued to wear all our previous grade uniforms right from Kindergarden up till PHD one on top of the other! It is not a good idea to continue wearing a uniform which has probably become small, tight and dirty by the end of the grade. It is best to shed it and wear a new one which suits just right for your body and the skills that you are going to learn in that grade. Death is nothing else but shedding the uniform (the body) that we were assigned to wear for that grade. Does it sound overly simple? Yes, it does. But believe me, that is all death is. Death, in no way, indicates the end of the being who was wearing that body. Death only means that the being is no longer wearing the same body in which we are used to seeing it. The being is very much still there but without its body. Sooner or later (depending on how much syllabus for that life has been completed), the being will wear a new uniform and take up a new body. In the next life, whether it is assigned to the next grade, or the same grade again depends on whether it had completed its learning as assigned to it in the past life. The being might also be demoted to a lower grade, if it behaved in a way that proved he had forgotten lessons learnt in the previous past lives (grades).
Simply because we do not understand death for what it is, we do not prepare ourselves for it. All our lives we work hard to complete the syllabus and prepare ourselves for the next grade of life, but when the time comes to move to the next grade, we become scared and we panic. At the time of death, in place of praying for promotion to a higher grade along with a stronger uniform, we start praying to stay back in the same grade with the same uniform which has already become unusable. Why would we want to do that to ourselves or to anyone whom we love? Why should anyone be stuck in the same grade with a rotting uniform when he has the chance to move to the next grade with a brand new uniform? It is our attachment to that person and our lack of understanding of the process of life and death that makes us so short-sighted. We are willing to bear the stench coming from their uniform just so that they are close to us. But we are not willing to let them move on to the next grade of their life.
How do we ensure we have completed our syllabus of our life? How do we know it is our time to die? Unfortunately, completing our syllabus and time to die are not necessarily tied together. One may complete the syllabus earlier and then have some extra time at hand. This is a good thing to happen. The being can, in this case, if it is willing, pick up books of the next grade and start reading them in preparation of the next life. On the other hand, if we waste our time in class, do not listen carefully and understand our subject well, we will most likely not learn what we came to learn in that grade. In such cases, our time will be up, but our syllabus will not be. In such scenarios, we will have to be reborn in the same grade and complete the learning. Till such time, we do not complete the learning of the said grade, we will keep coming back to the same grade. Luckily, the school of life does not allow for cheating, or copying or bribing the teachers in order to get promoted. You simply have to complete your learning in order to get promoted. If someone chooses to exit their own life because the questions in a particular grade seem too tough, he/she is simply postponing those questions for the next life. The lessons have to be learnt, the questions have to be answered for all the grades by all of us one day or the other.
In some cases, you might be paying attention and doing well in your grade. But it just so happens, that your uniform tears. You keep stitching it up for a time but it simply refuses to hold up till the end of the grade. In such cases, you do not have a choice but to shed the uniform and wait for a new uniform to become available for you, for the same grade. When you were such a good student, why did the uniform have to tear? You see, these are completely unrelated events. Your uniform can start tearing because you did not take good care of it. It can also tear because someone pulled at it , or you pulled at it while it was stuck somewhere or simply because you tore someone else’s uniform in the past grade and it is time for you to pay back now. You can continue attending school in a damaged uniform but only till so much time. When the time comes that the openings in the uniform have started revealing areas best kept covered, a sensible being will shed the uniform and seek a new one.
In summary, death is not a bad thing. While it does mean that we will not be able to speak to or hug someone we love, death is the doorway to many higher grades for the person who died. All we need to do is live our life fully, learn all our lessons well (that is a topic for another time). At the time of death, lets pray to the Creator to promote us higher grade so that one day, we can ultimately join him in the process of creation.
Notes – My understanding of death is based on the book by Sadhguru and the teachings of our Guru Avdhoot Shivanand of the Shiv Yog Lineage. I have used the analogy of grades in school to help readers understand the process of life and death. You can choose to disagree with me basis your knowledge, culture or religion. Even if your thoughts on death are different than mine, as outlined above, I am pretty sure these basic facts of death will remain the same –
- You, me and everyone we love will die one day
- It therefore, makes sense to understand death for what it is and not remain scared of it