Thursday, October 15, 2009


We rarely, if ever, think of our own death in a non trivial fashion. But, if anything is certain in anyone's lives, it is death. But, almost no one is ready to die at any point in their lives. There is always more things to be done, more things to be enjoyed etc. Even after having enough and more opportunities to do and enjoy more things, people are seldom satisfied. That is, there rarely ever is a time for someone where the person may say, 'OK. I am ready to die now.' This dilemma is beautifully captured by the story of king Yayati from Indian mythology.
Even Death felt compassion. Death took the young man aside, whispered in his ear, ”Are you a fool? Your older brothers are not ready, they have lived long. Seventy-five years somebody has lived – he is not ready.

And you are ready? Your father does not want to die. He is a hundred years old, and you are only twenty.”

The young man said something very beautiful, something of tremendous import. He said, ”Seeing this, that my father has lived one hundred years and he has ALL that one can have, and he is still not satisfied, I see the futility of life. What is the point? I may live one hundred years and the situation will be the same. And if it was only my father then I would have thought, ’Maybe he is an exception.’ But my brothers – seventy-five, seventy, sixty-five, sixty – have also lived long. They have enjoyed every kind of thing; now what else is there to enjoy?

They are getting old and they are not satisfied. So one thing is certain: this is not the way to become satisfied. Hence I am ready, and I am coming with you, not in any despair but in tremendous understanding. I am coming with you with great cheerfulness that I have not to pass through this torture, these one hundred years of torture which my father has had to suffer. He has not yet become able enough to go with you.” And the story continues. One hundred years again passed; they came and were gone, nothing was noticed.

Its a fabulous story that so wonderfully captures the state of mind of almost all of humanity. There is always more to do and more to enjoy and there is never a time when one is ready to die despite it being an utter certainty from the time one is born.

This is not to say we should not enjoy or we should keep anticipating death. On the contrary, we should enjoy but we should be ready to let go of the body at any given point. Then, there is no suffering - when we die or when someone we know dies. More importantly, fear of death is the ultimate and root fear from which all other fears emanate. The person who truly conquers lear, lives life with true freedom!

Thiruvalluvar, as always, has a great saying to describe this (kural 334)

‌நாள்என ஒன்றுபோல் காட்டி உயிர்ஈரும்
வாள்அது உணர்வார்ப் பெறின்

The day is a sword in disguise
that is cutting through your life

Typically when people hear such words of mystics, they are quick to dismiss that these mystics are masochists. I do not think so. I think they are merely trying to point to something that we have in general totally missed. I do think it helps a lot to meditate on this pointers from the mystics.

Check out this beautiful video on youtube about the concept of death and rebirth in Buddhism. Irrespective of whether the idea of rebirth makes sense or not to one, its still great to listen to some of these masters.

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