As we go through life, we come across various situations that are way beyond our capacity to deal with – and ultimately, the wheels of time makes us come to terms with the situation. Death is one such situation, which makes us really desperate. In Tamil there is a saying, that even if one is very detached, his flesh will get “agitated”(Sathai Aadum) in the event of death.
There is a story about how a king was blessed by a very pious saint, thus: “May your grandfather die before your father; may your father die before you; and may you die before your son” – the king was infuriated, and asked the sage whether he was blessing him or cursing him. Replied the sage: “O King! – the natural process of evolution, which decrees that death attends the people generation by generation, whereby the older generation dies before the next generation, is one of life’s greatest blessings. Imagine, if one were to lose someone from the succeeding generation instead of the preceding generation? Death does not differentiate between generations. That is why, if your grandfather dies before your father, and if your father dies before you, it is a great blessing” – The king understood the import of the sage’s words, and fell at his feet, the story goes.
In the Mahabarata too, we find that “Puthra Sogam” is one of the worst calamities to ever befall anyone. Death of a parent, death of a child, death of a friend, death of a brother, death of a sister, death of a pet (sometimes the pet becomes so much a part of the pet owner’s life, the death of a pet can sometimes emotionally kill the pet owner) etc, gives one a perspective of death. But this perspective is confined largely to how exactly that individual felt while experiencing the death of someone close.
How does one view one’s own death? The scriptures say that death should not be feared, nor should it be welcomed. It will come when it has to, and nobody can dictate terms. But as long as the individual is alive, he or she should do full justice to live the life one is living, before even thinking of death. Death is an experience, which gives different meanings to different persons. And death, is certainly a tough question for the atheist to answer. If the atheist is able to answer why someone dies, he should certainly be able to answer, by the same logic, as to why someone lives in the first place!
We often see funeral processions in the streets. When we see them, we often fail to realize that someday, we too, would be taken for burial/cremation like that – this is one of life’s greatest blessings – the awareness that nothing is permanent in this world. And yet, how people accumulate money! People accumulate money as if they are going to live forever. This is especially true in today’s rich, modern India, where people define their lives by the amount of money that they have.
I speak of most of these things from personal experience. My eldest brother, died in a road accident four years back – my mother, who was alive at that time, never really recovered from that shock – and she died barely a year after her eldest son died. I often wonder as to what my brother and my mother would have spoken to each other as soon as they saw each other in the other world. Not to talk of my father, who passed away in 1981. Time, they say heals every memory, every wound – this is so true of a wound like death – for example, soon after my father died, I thought I would not be able to live without him – for some years, it was terrible – now, after 25 years, his absence doesn’t trouble me as it did many years earlier. But there are numerous occasions, when I do something or get something that I often wish he were alive, to share my joy.
Recently, through my wife’s initiative, I started tracing some of my old school and college friends – I was truly shocked to find a number of persons had died. Seven of my high school classmates are no more – and they all have died in different accidents. Two of my PG course classmates with whom I studied in Delhi, some years back, are no more. So, to be alive, in today’s world, is in itself a blessing that we don’t really appreciate by not being aware.
But in today’s world, death is just business. Death of a prominent person is an opportunity for a few people to advertise in the newspapers – whether they are expressing sympathy or gaining business, is anybody’s guess. I remember an old friend of mine, who was so proud that a number of prominent people attended his father’s funeral (purely on the basis of the post he /the son/ was holding) – His successor’s father too, passed away, and there were barely four people for the funeral.
These external conditions apart, what does death mean to us, internally? Because, in the ultimate sense, it is going to define, how we live! – to those for whom death means nothing, they would live life without really caring to self evolve – to those for whom death means something, they would live life in such a way that they evolve while they are alive, in order to face death as and when it comes.
In the power point presentation, “Interview with God”, available on the net, God is asked, as to what he finds most intriguing about humans – He lists certain things about humans that he finds intriguing and among which the best I liked was : “They live like they will never die, and die like they have never lived”……