Funeral Pyres at the Harishchandra Ghat at Varanasi (c) margieparikh

Funeral Pyres at the Harshchandra Ghat at Varanasi (c) margieparikh

We lost someone to death. The deceased had been weak for a while. I had paid a visit to the family on Sunday morning. He was lying peacefully on the bed, asleep then. The next evening, he was a ‘body’, lying on the floor. Whatever we knew of him as ‘him’ had gone. What was happening now was for the living.

I thought for a while about death. I don’t believe that thinking about death is morbid. On the contrary, avoiding thoughts about death seems defensive. Like all contradictions, how can we savor life fully without being aware of death? Inevitability of death adds enthusiasm to one’s embrace of life. I wouldn’t confuse that with impulsiveness and recklessness in the face of death. I value my living moments more since I know they are numbered and depleting.

I do not know when and how I will die. But I surely wish that my life would prepare me and the ones near me for my departure without fuss. I don’t think much of a bucket list because doing to-do things is easy. Finishing business with people is tough. I would like to meet some people again before I am gone. But they also should want to meet me. Now, how does one make *that* happen?


12 thoughts on “Death

  1. urmi shah says:

    Your reflections are right. But this awareness should remain constant once it is experienced; or else it will be “shmashana vairagya”.


  2. Subhash Yadav says:

    A rational indian view of death :

    We all have two beings. One being is with motor organs and is born out of the mother’s womb. This degenerates and perishes. It dwells in the physical world, bhoga loka, and is in temporal captivity. What we call as death is the destruction of this being.

    Our other being is born in minds and dwells in minds. This is paraloka. When a child grows up enough to do discriminatory deeds, s/he acquires a being in paraloka. This never perishes, but shines or fades away like stars. Our being in paraloka is a cluster of deeds of our physical being in bhoga loka.

    Paraloka in a way is the collective memory of our family, relatives, society and the nation. If you lead an exemplary life in bhoga loka, your live as an immortal in paraloka.(Kabir, Meera, Gangasati, Ghalib are no more in bhogaloka, but they shine like stars in our paraloka, and are immortal in this sense)

    Our being with motor organs, the physical body is an instrument for improving our careers in paraloka, rather than bhogaloka. A sense of contentment with our deeds done in bhogaloka obliterates the burden of a perishing body.

    A good death is with this sense of contentment of having created a star (our being in the collective memory) for ourself in paraloka which will shine at least for some time even after we have physically disappeared.

    History is the narrative of bhogaloka. Itihasa is the narrative of paraloka.


    • … will I ever come across something you write that I don’t agree with?? 😀


      • Subhash Yadav says:

        Thanks M;am for the comment.
        This is an extract from an article by Prof. Navjyoti Singh titled, “Sense of Past : Itihasa v/s History. I had read it long back and while reading your blog today it just popped up. Thanks for raising a range of eternal questions which any sincere student of life is concerned with.

        It seems that I finished my MBA quite early. This was the right time to attend your classes !!


        • …but I am amazed, Subhash, at your ability to quote from what you have read long back. Something I just can never do.
          Honestly, the questions raised themselves. I had to write. Whatever thinking I might indulge in, I still can’t stare at death in the eye. The picture here, of Harishchandra Ghat at Varanasi was taken when five pyres were burning. I went there to test myself, but couldn’t stand there for more than a minute. Same happened on Monday night. Couldn’t stay with the dead body in the room for more than two minutes. Wonder why.


        • Unfortunately, in the class, there is hardly any time to discuss matters that matter 🙂 But I also feel that there are many good books that I read prematurely. I should have been reading them now. Seems like we all go through those moments 🙂


          • Subhash Yadav says:

            May be if we can have smaller groups in the class, say 15 or 20 students only, matters that matter can be discussed. In any class with above 40 + students, it is not impossible but difficult.

            This happens with all of us. There are books, read once and remain lying in the racks for years and suddenly they open up only when we are ‘eligible’ (have the right questions) to dive into their depths and get some of the pearls which they carry within them.

            What we are able to get from books (and life too !) is what we bring to them – in terms of the quality of our questions about life and living. The more richer and varied our experience of life is, the more we will be able to draw from life and books around us. Patanjal Yoga Sutra was a compulsory course in my course on Yoga. I read the book, attended lectures, but did not get anything out of it seven years back.
            Since last year, may be when I became ‘eligible’ the book sort of opened up to me and now I have just begun to somewhat understand it.


  3. Subhash Yadav says:

    How to be ready for death ?

    Chapter 16 from Tao Te Ching (Stephen Mitchell’s translation )

    Empty your mind of all thoughts.
    Let your heart be at peace.
    Watch the turmoil of beings,
    but contemplate their return.

    Each separate being in the universe
    returns to the common source.
    Returning to the source is serenity.

    If you don’t realize the source,
    you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
    When you realize where you come from,
    you naturally become tolerant,
    disinterested, amused,
    kindhearted as a grandmother,
    dignified as a king.
    Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
    you can deal with whatever life brings you,
    and when death comes, you are ready.

    If one is ready in the above mentioned way, one may realise that ‘other’ people are and were reflections of ourselves. Meetings and Departures are at the ‘circumference’. At the ‘axis’ one becomes all that exists.


  4. Saju says:

    May be it’s too early in my life 🙂 , but somehow i have been reflecting on a topic for quite some time now – the purpose of life and about death. Like you, i also don’t feel death is a bad thing, at least not for the one dying. Is it inappropriate to say that death is the ultimate freedom…


    • I think it is erroneous, rather than inappropriate to say that death is the ultimate freedom. That sort of freedom is in the mind and comes while one is still alive – if we were to believe the life stories of people who achieved Nirvana – or if we read shlokas invoking the God to help gain victory over death. The freedom is from the fear of death, or non-acceptance/unwillingness to accept the inevitability of death, rather than the death itself.

      And equally erroneous could be the idea that “life” begins at ‘birth’. who knows.


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