Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

Death and Transition

by Swami Rama

[This passage has been taken from the book Path of Fire and Light Vol 2, pp 19 – 21, by Swami Rama, published 1976 by the Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy of the USA].

Book cover: Path of Fire and Light Volume 2The fear of death is one of our most prominent fears. We are all afraid of the word “death” and do not want to face the truth that we all have to die. Why do we fear dying? Death itself is not painful; only the fear of death is painful. When we take off an old shirt to put on a new one, we do not feel fear or pain; we are only pleased to have a new shirt. But the thought of taking off our body brings fear.

This is the way of the world. You see a child dying, and old woman or old man dying, your friend dying, or perhaps sometimes a young, healthy person dying, and you say, “I don’t believe in God!” But this is not God’s doing. Death has never given you any assurances or guarantees; it comes at any time. And so we fear it. That fear is projected in many ways. Because you see death all around, you worry: “My husband will die – My other will die – What will happen to me?” You remain constantly insecure. You need to examine that insecurity; you have to understand it and not be afraid. You are sure to die. Even the strongest dies; the best, the most powerful person dies – even a sage dies, although he has a better dying. How can you ignore this reality?  Why do you not understand it?

If you merely remember fear, it will create more fear. But if you systematically analyze your fear, you will see that it has a dual face: you are either afraid of losing something, or you are afraid of not gaining something. That is fear. A major fear with each of us is that our body will perish. But you have not analyzed this fear.  Would you want your body to be eternal?

There was once a sage who prayed and prayed for eternal life. Finally, God came down and told him, “Okay, go to the spring in that mountain, drink the perennial water, and you will become immortal.” So the sage rushed there with great pride and anticipation. But when he thrust himself forward to drink from the water, he suddenly heard many semi-immortal beings shouting to him: “Don’t do it! Don’t drink the water! We all drank it and we are suffering.” So the sage asked, “What’s the matter?” They answered, “We wasted our entire energy asking God for eternal life, and God told us to drink the water. Now we are immortal – but to be an immortal human being is not a pleasant thing to be. It is torture being here in this world for a long time. Neither the mind nor the body can handle eternal life.”

If we know something about the philosophy of death and the technique of dying, then our fears about death will be eliminated and we will approach death differently. Actually, there is no mother who can give you the shelter that death can. Your physical mother gives you birth; but death gives you real solace and rest. Death is an expansion of sleep.

In Sanskrit, death is called sahodara, or “sister.” These two sisters, sleep and death, are born from the same mother, the same source.  Just as sleep gives you peace, so also does death give you peace. Sleep relieves you from certain stresses, but death relieves you from the stress of a lifetime. Death puts you into a long sleep. You may sleep now for three hours, but death puts you into a sleep of a hundred years, or perhaps two hundred years. How can we say that death is terrifying? We want to sleep; should we also not want to die? But because people are afraid of the subject, there are very few experiments conducted on death.

Instead of avoiding the thought of death, it is very helpful for us to understand what death is. None of us experiences the reality of our death in our daily life. We do not really believe that we will die, although we see others die. There is a constant battle in the human mind and heart about death, but you do not discuss it because you are afraid. So you push aside the fear of death, the highest fear, and then that fear is projected in many ways. You worry that your spouse or father will die, and wonder what will happen to you. Or you worry that your lover will die, or your bank book will die, because you see death all around. This means that you always remain insecure, and you need to examine that insecurity. You have to understand this fear and not be afraid. You are sure to die.

Actually, nobody is really afraid of death – people are afraid of pain and illness. It is a terrible thing when one suffers great pain and does not die. The actual experience of death is not the pain that makes you cry. But if you understand what that suffering is, it goes away. You understand, by that time, that there is no pain in death. Then you are very close to the Reality, though you are not yet enlightened.

Editor's Note

For published works of Swami Rama and Swami Veda Bharati, please visit www.yogapublications.org or email [email protected].



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