It was 2015, and I was at my dad’s home, in the little office I used when not helping to run the family business. Suddenly, the caregiver burst in and through tears shouted to come quickly, that my father was dying. Racing into the living room, I found my 93-year-old dad on the couch, slumped forward over his knees, unconscious. I lifted his torso upright, causing a sudden in-draw of air into his lungs making a strange sound. But he was not breathing.

I got some things together and then, with the caregiver in tow, drove to the emergency department of the local hospital. Upon arrival, I was led to a little room. Dad was conscious and on oxygen.

It was a gift to be able to be with Dad for the few minutes he continued to be alive. But, suddenly, and all too soon, he died. I had been talking with him, he closed his eyes to rest, fell asleep, and then he was gone. After he died, it was clear to me that the body was no longer my dad. It was not dad in an inactive form. Dad was not there. The body bore only the outer resemblance and even that not too well. It struck me that I had always thought of that body as my dad, when, in fact, it wasn’t. Whatever he was had left and only the outer garment was left.

In his book, page 210, Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita, in discussing death, Swami Rama sheds some light on death:

In the city of life there are in fact ten portals. Nine are known by everyone, but the tenth is understood only by yogis. It is called Brahmarandhra (the fontanel or soft spot on the crown of the head), and its function is only known by accomplished yogis. When the pranas (vital energies) depart or abandon their duties, the whole city of life crumbles, and a serious split or division is created. This is the separation that the ordinary man thinks of as death. Without the bridge that is formed by prana, the two units of life separate. One unit is the individual self and the unconscious mind; the other is the conscious mind, senses, and body. This is not actual death; it is only separation. Those who wait for death to release them from their circumstances are merely fantasizing about something that never occurs. They should instead devote their energies to accomplishing their task on this earth.

Swami Rama’s words make complete sense to me, having experienced dad’s death. What he was had become separated from the body. I wondered what happened to the subtle being that he was after that, but that mystery was not open to me.

I heard Swami Rama say that, after death, the unconscious-mind-and-individual-self complex goes on to further lives. Those who are not liberated remain unconscious until they are reborn, Swami Rama said. Those who are liberated remain conscious and may or may not be reborn again.

Returning to Swami Rama’s words quoted above, it’s noteworthy that he says death will not release the deceased from their circumstances. What could he mean by that?  My guess is that he means we carry our circumstances with us.  That they are caused by our own minds and tendencies and that we will recreate them wherever we end up. This reminds me of something a friend of mine who was in Alcoholics Anonymous once told me. She said that many alcoholics will move to try to get away from their problems. But, she said, their problem is their alcohol addiction and simply moving doesn’t remove the addiction. To resolve their alcohol problem, she said, they must do the inner work necessary to get sober and remain that way.

In the same way, according to Swami Rama, dying does not remove our troubles because we have created them and will recreate them in our next life. We must do the inner work necessary to change our tendencies so that we create different circumstances. Moving, even dying, won’t make that happen.

Editor’s Note:

Randall Krause (Mokshadeva) is a Senior Teacher and Mentor in the Himalayan Yoga Meditation Tradition. He spent years learning closely from Swami Veda Bharati, and time personally attending to Swamiji in India and elsewhere. He has taught the Himalayan Tradition in the USA, Europe, India (at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama), and in Thailand and Taiwan.