CONQUEST OF DEATH: AN EASTERN PERSPECTIVE
Once when Buddha was passing through a village, a hysterically crying young woman accosted him. She stated that her young child had just died and she had heard that Buddha could save the child. Buddha tried to console the woman but she insisted that Buddha should come with her to revive the dead child.
Buddha stated that he would come to her house on one condition that if she could get one grain of mustard seed from a house that had not had a death. The woman thinking that this would be easy, went house to house looking for that mustard seed. Alas, she found that where ever she went, every house had indeed experienced death and hence proving that death was part of life.
Unfortunately most of us identify ourselves with our body, mind and intellect as “me”. However, our body, mind and intellect are forever in flux and hence we experience mental turbulence depending our experience.
We fear death because we love our body too much and by extension our physical life. We cling to a fantasized life, seeing it with colors brighter than it has. Life and death are the two sides of the same coin. What is born must die. However, we erroneously insist on seeing life in its incomplete form without death, its inalienable flip side.
We also fear death because we are too attached to our comforts of wealth, family, friends and other worldly pleasures. We see death as something that would separate us from the objects to which we cling and crave. In addition, we fear death because of our uncertainty about what follows it. A sense of being not in control, but at the mercy of circumstance, also contributes to this fear. It is important to note that fear of death is not the same as knowledge or awareness of death.
Buddha soon after his Awakening stated the following: Everything in this world is transient and changing; our Attachment to worldly things brings only suffering.
Why the suffering? Because we all get attached to things we love and when we lose them, that causes suffering. Hence over 2000 years ago, it was stated, “be in this world but not of this world.”
Several paths to overcome this fear of death are suggested by great spiritual Masters. One of the key messages is to Practice our meditation regularly and from this regular practice, mental detachment would develop.
What does that mean? It means that one would indeed experience whatever was meant to be, but one would develop an inner peace and equanimity that would help over-ride the turbulence. One would develop wisdom to understand the big picture of the journey of the soul/consciousness and death is a natural part of that.
In conclusion, as we regularly practice our meditation, our spiritual knowledge matures, we evolve upwards and give up our transient worldly attachments. This is akin to walking up the stairs where we give up the lower worldly rungs.
What is born must die. This is why monks before they sleep every night, contemplate their own death to accept it as a natural part of life.
A well-known Sanskrit prayer reinforces this message:
Lead us from unreal to Real;
Lead us from darkness to Light;
Lead us from death to Immortality