All are terribly afraid of death. No one wants to die. Even intellectual persons who have grasped the idea that the Soul is Immortal and is distinct from the body are also awfully afraid of death. Mysterious is Moha or infatuated love for the body! Mysterious is Maya or Avidya!
This body is an instrument for all sorts of sensual enjoyments. That is the reason why man is intensely attached to the body. Through ignorance he identifies himself with the body. Through erroneous misconception he has mistaken the impure, insentient, non-permanent, pain-giving body for the pure, sentient, eternal, all-blissful Soul. So he is caught up in the whirlpool of birth and death. Man has lost his power of discrimination through the force of Avidya or ignorance. From Avidya is born non-discrimination or Aviveka. Hence he is not able to discriminate between the eternal and the non-eternal, real and the unreal, Atman and Anatman, truth and falsehood, matter and the spirit, Jada and Chaitanya. From Avidya is born egoism or the self-assertive principle. Wherever there is egoism, there is play of the two currents Raga-Dvesha, or likes and dislikes. He performs actions through likes and dislikes. He takes bodies to reap the fruits of his actions. Therefore, Avidya is the root-cause of human sufferings. Avidya is the cause for Karmas and births. If you free yourself from Avidya, through knowledge of the Imperishable Atman you will have conquest over death and merge yourself in the Immortal Sat-Chit-Ananda Brahman or the Absolute.
The student of Jnana Yoga equips himself with the four means of Salvation or Sadhana Chatushtaya, viz., Viveka, Vairagya (dispassion), Shad-Sampat or sixfold virtues and Mumukshutva or intense yearning for the final emancipation. Then he approaches a Brahma-Srotri, Brahma-Nishtha Guru, hears the Srutis or the Upanishads, then reflects on what he has heard, meditates constantly on Nirguna Brahman and attains Self-realisation or Atma-Sakshatkara and thus achieves conquest of death.
The student of Bhakti Yoga develops the Navavidha Bhakti or nine modes of devotion. He does Japa of Mantra, does Kirtan and serves the devotees. He does total ungrudging self-surrender to the Lord. He says to the Lord, “I am Thine. All is Thine. Thy Will be done.” He attains the vision of the Lord and thus obtains mastery over death.
The student of Raja Yoga practises Yama or self-restraint and Niyama or religious observances. He sits, restrains the breath, withdraws the senses, controls the thoughts, practises Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (union with the Lord) and thus attains conquest over death.
The student of Hatha Yoga awakens the Kundalini Sakti, that is lying dormant in the Muladhara Chakra through Asanas, Pranayama, Bandhas and Mudras, takes it through different Chakras, viz., Svadhishthana, Manipura, Anahata, Visuddha, Ajna and unites the Sakti with Lord Siva in the Sahasrara Chakra and thus attains conquest of death.
A Karma Yogi purifies the heart through constant selfless service. He kills egoism through self-sacrifice, attains illumination and thus achieves conquest of self.
What Is Death And How To Conquer It
Death is only a change of form. Death is only separation of the astral body from the physical body. Why are you so much afraid of death, my dear?
Birth follows death just as waking follows sleep. You will again resume the work that was left off by you in your previous life. Therefore, do not be afraid of death.
The idea of death has ever been the strongest motive power of religion and religious life. Man is afraid of death. In old age he tries to think of God. If he remembers God even from his boyhood, he will reap a rich spiritual harvest in old age. Man does not want to die. He wants to live for ever. This is the starting point of philosophy. Philosophy enquires and investigates. It boldly proclaims: “O man, do not be afraid of death. There is an immortal abode. That is Brahman. That is your own Atman that dwells in the chambers of your heart. Purify your heart and meditate on this pure, immortal, changeless Self. You will attain immortality.”
O man, do not be afraid of death at all. Thou art immortal. Death is not the opposite of life. It is only a phase of life. Life flows on ceaselessly. The fruit perishes but the seed is full of life. The seed dies but a huge tree grows out of the seed. The tree perishes but it becomes coal which has a rich life. Water disappears but it becomes the invisible steam which contains the seed of a new life. The stone disappears but it becomes lime which is full of new life. The physical sheath only is thrown but life persists.
Can you tell me, friend, “Is there anyone on the surface of this earth who is not afraid of death? Is there anyone who is not uttering the name of the Lord when he is in serious difficulty, when his life is trembling in the balance, or When he is in acute agony?” Why then, O sceptics, do you deny the existence of God? You yourself admit His existence when you are in trouble. On account of perverted intellect and worldly intoxication you have turned out as an atheist. Is this not a great folly? Think seriously. Give up arguing. Remember Him and attain Immortality and eternal peace right now.
In Garuda Purana and Atma Purana it is described that the pangs of death are tantamount to the pain caused by the stings of 72,000 scorpions. This is mentioned to induce fear (Bhayanaka Sabda) in the hearers and readers and force them to work for Moksha. In spiritualism there is the unanimous report from enlightened spirits that there is not even a bit of pain during death. They clearly describe their experiences at death and state that they are relieved of a great burden of this physical body and that they enjoy perfect composure at the time of separation from the physical body. Maya induces vain fear in the on-lookers by inducing convulsive twitchings of the body. That is her nature and habit. Don’t be afraid of death pangs. You are immortal (Amara).
Strive ceaselessly to live in God through Japa, Kirtan, service of the poor and meditation. Then only will you be able to conquer Time and Death.
When the God of Death comes to take your life, he will not accept your excuses: “I had no time to worship God in my life.”
Knowledge of Brahman, or Brahma-Jnana, alone can free us from the clutches of ignorance and death. This knowledge should come to us as a direct realisation through meditation. Mere scholarship or intelligence or study of religious books cannot help us to attain the summum bonum. It is a matter of direct experience and not of argument or reasoning.
Habitual study of abstract problems will result in another earthly life, in a well-developed power of abstract thinking, while flippant, hasty thinking, flying from one object to another, will bequeath a restless ill-regulated mind to the birth following this world.
Self-realisation will remove Avidya or ignorance, the root-cause of human sufferings, and produce in you the knowledge of oneness of the Self, which is the means for eradicating grief, delusion, the dire malady of birth and death, the concomitants of Samsara or world’s process.
The Sun of pure consciousness is shining in the chambers of your heart. This spiritual Sun of suns is self-luminous. It is the Self of all beings, that transcends speech and mind. If you realise this Self, you will no more return to this Mrityuloka, the world of death.
Birth and death are two illusory scenes in the drama of this world, created by the jugglery of Maya. In truth, nobody comes and nobody goes. Atman alone exists for ever. Destroy fear and Moha through enquiry and rest in peace.
“I know that mighty Purusha who, resplendent like the Sun, transcends darkness (ignorance). By knowing Him alone, one conquers Death. There is no other way to salvation” (Yajur Veda XXXI—181).
Every effort in the direction of Yoga never goes in vain. You will realise thereby the fruit of even a little Yogic practice. If you have succeeded in the practice of the three limbs of Yoga viz., Yama, Niyama and Asana in this birth, you will begin your practice in the next birth from the fourth limb, viz., Pranayama. A Vedantin who has acquired two means, viz., Viveka and Vairagya in this birth, will start his practice in the next birth from the sixfold virtues, viz., Sama, Dama, etc. Therefore, you should not be discouraged a bit even, if you fail to attain the Kaivalya or independence or final Asamprajnata Samadhi in this birth. Even a little practice for a short period will give you more strength, more peace, more joy and more knowledge.
You cannot die, because you were never, born. You are immortal Atman. Birth and death are two false scenes in the unreal drama of Maya. They concern the physical sheath only, a false product formed by the combination of the five elements. The ideas of birth and death are mere superstition.
This physical body which is made up of clay or earth is a toy for the Lord for His Lila or sporting. He is the Wire-puller or Sutradhara. He keeps His toy running as long as He likes. Eventually He breaks the toy and throws the pieces away. The game of two ceases. There is only oneness. The individual soul merges in the Supreme Soul.
The knowledge of the Self destroys all fear of death. People are unnecessarily alarmed of death. Death is like sleep. Birth is like waking up from sleep in the morning. Just as you put on new clothes, so also you put on a new body after death. Death is a natural incident in its course. It is necessary for your evolution. When the physical body becomes unfit for further activities and use, Lord Rudra takes it away and supplies a new body. There is no pain at the time of death. Ignorant people have created much horror and terror regarding death.
There is only one Reality—Brahman. This world and body are superimposed on Brahman, just as snake is superimposed on the rope. As long as the rope is not known and the idea of snake persists, you are not free from fear. Similarly this world is a solid reality to you until Brahman is realised. When you see the rope with a light, the illusion of snake vanishes and the fear disappears. Even so, when you realise Brahman, this world vanishes and you are freed from the fear of births and deaths.
You dream sometimes that you are dead and that your relatives are weeping. Even in that supposed death-state, you see and hear them weeping. This clearly indicates that even after apparent death, life really persists. You exist even after the physical sheath is thrown out. That existence is Atman or the big ‘I’.
If you realise this immortal Soul which is hidden in your heart, if the three knots viz., Avidya (ignorance), Kama (desire) and Karma (action) are rent asunder, if the chain of ignorance viz., ignorance, non-discrimination, egoism, likes and dislikes, Karma, body, is broken, you will be freed from the round of births and deaths, and you will enter the city of deathlessness.
Seek The Immortal
O man! what have you to do with wealth, bungalows and gardens? What have you to do with friends and relatives? What have you to do with wife and children? What have you to do with power, name, fame, position and prestige? You will surely die. Everything is uncertain here but death is certain. Seek the immortal Atman or the Imperishable Self which is hidden in the chambers of your heart.
Spiritual wealth is real inexhaustible wealth. Divine knowledge is real knowledge. Find out the way to conquer Death. Realise the Eternal Atman and attain freedom and perfection, eternity and immortality.
The happy-go-lucky worldly man does not care for religion and higher transcendental matters. He does not worry about God, doctrine of reincarnation, Immortal Soul, Yoga Sadhana, the four means. He knows two things well viz., to fill his pocket and to fill his belly. He eats, drinks, jokes, sleeps, procreates and dresses himself in different costumes.
Some cross the seas to get University degrees. Some practise alchemy to turn copper into gold. Some practise Pranayama to live for hundred years. Some do banking and business to amass immense wealth. If you reflect deeply for a while you will find out these people do two things only viz., eating sumptuously and sleeping. Nothing more than this.
But their eyes are opened a bit when their dearest relative dies, when they get an incurable disease, when they lose their wealth. They get a temporary disgust for worldly life. They ask: “What is life? What is death? What is there on the other side of death? Is there any life beyond? Where shall we go after death?” The dispassion soon vanishes as they have no discrimination.
Man tries to find happiness in sensual objects. Too much sensual indulgence wears out the senses and brings disgust, sickness, and disease of all kinds. The more sexual pleasures he enjoys, the greater the passion becomes. He learns bitter lessons. He learns that his happiness does not lie in satisfying the desire of the body and the senses.
At last he seeks to find happiness in his own Atman within.
If you oppress a man you will suffer oppression in another life and reap the fruit of the seed you have sown in this life. If you injure the eye of a man your eye will be injured in another life. If you break the leg of a man your leg will be broken in another life. If you feed the poor, you will have plenty of food in another life. If you build rest-houses you will have many houses in another life. Action and reaction are equal and opposite. Such is the law of Karma. Such is the law of birth and death. Such is the circle through which you must pass on your way.
Many people are rich but they do not enjoy their life properly. They have plenty of money. They have many bungalows and yet they are unhappy. Their life is very miserable. They suffer from several chronic diseases. Their sons are vagabonds. They are miserly. They are disliked by their friends and relatives. How do you account for this? They craved for money in their previous births and so they had it in this life but did not use it well. They were selfish and cruel in their past life. They had no character in their previous births. So they suffer in this birth.
Do good actions. Entertain sublime, divine thoughts and build your character. Have one, pure, holy desire, the desire for liberation from the wheel of birth and death.
Your character is built by your thoughts. As you think, so shall you become. If you think nobly you will be born with a noble character. If you think badly you will be born with a bad character. This is the immutable law of nature.
Desire determines which sort of objects you will have in your next life. If you desire wealth very much you will get it in your next life. If you desire power very much you will get it in your next life. But money and power cannot give you eternal bliss and immortality. You must be very careful in your choice. Entertain one strong desire, the desire for Moksha or the final emancipation. Shun worldly desires ruthlessly. You will soon be freed from the round of births and deaths. (Excerpts from “What becomes of the soul after Death” by Yogi Sri Swami Sivananda)