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Fear of Death PDF Print E-mail
Gita - Gita Articles

The glory of death
The reality of death
The secrets of death
The mystery of death
Taking the bull by the horn
What you do if you fear something swimming etc
Adventure is coming close to death
Importance of mayaspace
Upholding of dharma
Bluntness rude vs sarcasm
Death vs life
Worth not thinking


sri-bhagavan uvaca
asocyan anvasocas tvam
prajna-vadams ca bhasase
gatasun agatasums ca
nanusocanti panditah

The Blessed Lord said: While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.||2:11||

Fear of Death

In our last column, “The turning point,” we examined the verse and mentioned the fact that the origin of Arjuna’s despair was the fear of death. Krishna in the first two mentions of the verse clarifies that Arjuna is on the wrong thinking tract. In the next two he clarifies what the wrong track is. The ones who are gone (gatasum) or the ones who are still here (agatasum) do not need to be worried for (nanusochanti panditah). Krishna can see what the root cause of Arjuna’s thinking is; Arjuna believes like many of us that Bhishma, Drona and others can be killed; he believes that the war he is going to fight is going to be won by killing of the enemy. To Krishna killing does not happen, not body can be killed; even if the body dies, the essence lives on. We shall explore that further in later columns. Let us examine this fear of death in this column.

Centuries ago this question did not arise in every one’s mind, it happened to Arjuna and Arjuna alone. Today, this question is real only to a few. Why is that? Because we do not like to talk about death. The reason commonly given is that it is a negative talk or let us deal with life now and we will deal with death later. We live and we die. I met a doctor friend of mine recently and we were talking about what might happen after life or better expressed after death. We talked a little, we speculated a little and then she said, “I am a pragmatic person, I will deal with my life and not worry about what happens after death.” And the conversation ended. Why bother about finding out?

There is a deep-seated fear in all of us about dying. Death is so real. It happens all around us all the time. And we like to close our eyes to it. The fear is so deep rooted that we do not even want to think about it. Death is the only certainty in life. Some will like to include death and taxes but I would include death, crisis and taxes as the certainties of life. Every one has in his or her life some sort of crisis, minor or major. They have a divorce or a car accident or they get fired from a job; the crisis is part of life. We do talk about crisis management but often turn the other side when we start talking about death management. Death does not happen in one moment, it is happening every day. We are all slowly heading towards death and it does make sense to talk about death management.

Yes, it is a very courageous step for us to talk about the issue of Death Management (DM). Because to me DM is the ultimate challenge we will ever face, it is the ultimate adventure man can undertake. Let us explore it a little. For a child who does not know how to ride a bike or how to swim, it is an adventure to learn that. The first time he goes under water in a swimming pool, he panics, but once he learns how to float, he becomes comfortable with it and water never intimidates him. I learned swimming late in my life. And I can tell you that water still intimidates me. It took me a long time before I could gather courage to go for white water rafting, all because I was afraid of “what if.” And having done it, I feel so happy I did it. This fear of “what if” is actually deep down a fear of death. It should be deeply understood. This point that all fear has its origin in the fear of death is significant. Once you master swimming you are not afraid of it. Knowing swimming or skiing or any such adventurous sport, familiarity with the situation gives you a comfort zone. It allays your fear. And that is the point, let us know death, let us talk about death management. This will help us understand death and will at the same time take the fear out of it. We are afraid of the unknown; once it becomes known, it becomes a friend. We always talk about conquering death. Death is not an enemy. There is no reason to fight it. But, we can definitely know it better.

And how do we know it better. The only way to know death better is to know it through our day-to-day life. Awareness is the key. We were talking about adventure and we also talked about crisis. Crisis is a term we give to untoward things that happens to us in a natural course of life. Basically it is just a situation that we interpret as adverse to us. Adventure is a crisis that we bring upon ourselves. We plan it, go to great pains and bring it upon ourselves. The mountaineering team going to the Mt. Everest has to go through rigorous training for months. Even then it is not certain that it will make the peak. All because Mt. Everest is there and it provides a challenge. . So, what is common in crisis and adventure? It is the awareness. The awareness is heightened in all sorts of crisis. Suddenly you become aware of yourself. Most of the times your energy is going outside of you. You are thinking about campaigning or you are busy thinking about what your secretary said to a client today. You and I do not have time to be with ourselves. An adventure or crisis suddenly raises the level of awareness. And in this heightened awareness, you have a different feeling.

There is another important point to note as well. The most thrilling adventures are the ones that bring you closest to death. Whether it is the feeling of drowning in the water (the panic we talked above) or the chill of the peak of Mt. Everest, death is only round the corner. You come back feeling thrilled and overjoyed; you just had a close encounter with Death. If you can bring the same awareness in your day to day life, you can experience life in its fullest. And then it will be easier to face death; it will be easier for you and I to talk about death management.

Death is a difficult topic to talk about. It is believed by some that just before death (maybe five minutes or maybe 30 minutes) all diseases leave the body. The reason being the fact that life wants you to go unto death with a full awareness. This allows you to know death in its full glory. Now, not every one has to believe in that. But the fact remains that if you live your life with full awareness, if you have taken risks in life with full awareness, if you have participated in crisis (be it natural or planned adventure), you will die with full awareness too. Most of us become unconscious before dying because of the fear we talked about and not experience the ultimate adventure at all. There is a beautiful story about Socrates. We all know he was poisoned. His friends were crying and mourning. Socrates was telling them not to cry. He asked them to take it as an opportunity to know what was happening to Socrates in that process of dying. Socrates kept describing to his disciples detailed events until he could no longer speak.

Yes, the process of dying ultimately is an opportunity to know what death is all about. But awareness is the key. You have to be aware throughout your life to be able to be aware in the last moment. But, there are other techniques to know about death during life. And these techniques have something to do with using awareness as the light to travel into your unconscious levels. We all know the power of hypnosis. You may have heard about people who were fully conscious during a general anesthesia (having some sort of surgery). There are also techniques available to be aware during sleep. The deepest level of sleep takes you to the same level as death. You touch death every night when you fall asleep, you simply do not know in your conscious level about it.

I am not going in detail about these techniques nor am I going to get into any discussion whether these techniques or concepts are correct or not. But the point is that it is time we do talk and think about death. Death after all is the ultimate surgery. The surgeon is the nature or to many, Parmatma. Life energy is removed from the physical body during this final surgery. What happens to it after is a different issue. People will differ about the next step. Whether it is a surgery like appendix or like a heart transplant will remain to be known. To me, being a scientist, energy cannot be destroyed, and hence it probably is more like a transplant. This forms the basis of life after life where the life energy is transplanted to another physical body.

Om Shantih Shantih shantih

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