Almost three decades of life experience on this planet has taught me that there are no coincidences. I wrote something similar (as I am about to share) last year but ended up erroneously deleting it. Never have I experienced such pain. Not even upon watching the Hindi movie Cocktail. It still stings. Though as I said, there’s a reason for everything and a right time for everything to manifest.
Before you proceed further, please do refer to the previous’s week’s post. That’s the precursor to what I am humbly seeking to present in this article.
A Man Called Ove and After Life
Last year, I consumed two similar contents in the form of a book and a Netflix show (the second season of the show was released recently as well). Both deal with a man trying to reconcile (and failing miserably) with the death of a spouse. Both the book and tv show are terrific. I cannot recommend them highly enough.
In the book, Mr Ove has had an incredibly fulfilling life with his Sonja (his wife). It was love at first sight for Ove. A tragedy (won’t drop complete spoilers as I would encourage you to read the book) keeps them childless. Yet, the love between them is so profound that it never matters. They have lived until their old age, but now Sonja dies. Ove’s entire life was centred entirely around one person. When she leaves, he is devastated beyond imagination. He wants to end his life.
In the Netflix show, After Life, Tony’s life loses meaning the day Lisa succumbs to Cancer. Lisa, his beloved wife, gave meaning to Tony’s existence. Now that she’s gone, he is eager to end his life. Only the love for his dog stops him from taking his life.
What’s common between Tony, from After Life and Ove from A Man Called Ove?
Both struggle to reconcile with the death of someone who gave meaning to their life.
My primary takeaway from both the (brilliant) stories was that as long as you continue to attach yourself to matter (the body), you shall be devastated.
Because matter has a beginning and an end.
As long as we keep perceiving ourselves and others as only flesh and bones, there’ll be trouble. (In fact, the body identification itself leads to people doing all kinds of atrocities on the planet)
If one keeps considering their loved ones, a combination of blood, bones and flesh, the cycle of misery can only end (hopefully) when we get the RIP tag.
Humans have devised various ways to bid farewell to the bodies of those who pass away. Some burn, some bury, some even leave the dead body for vultures to feast. In Vedic tradition, the offspring is supposed to put fire upon the body of the deceased parent; the parent that spends all their life trying to protect the offspring. If you think deeply, you realise the rituals itself are devised in a way to bring detachment and awakening.
Is death a necessary evil?
Someone asked me,
“Which is that one tv show you wish never ended?”
As I thought about it, I felt there is not one tv show, or for that matter anything in else in life that I’d wish were eternal.
The ending gives meaning to existence; ends help us appreciate more that which existed.
Sample the case when someone dies. Mostly (and rightly so), people will speak in good terms about the dead. Pity that the dead doesn’t get the opportunity to hear all the right things. When the body was alive, how much would she have craved to hear all the good stuff!
Death helps you reminisce the good that life brought with its presence.
Is detachment the way?
Your near and dear ones are natural objects of love and affection. Detachment doesn’t equate with severing ties with people and wandering off in mountains or jungles.
True detachment, as explained by Shri Krishna in Bhagwad Gita, is perceiving life beyond matter.
One of the most revolutionary ideas presented in Bhagwad Gita is that you are not the body— A spark, energy, dwells within the covering of matter that’s divine. It neither gets created nor gets destroyed (remember that famous scientist’s words? Yea, he mirrors what Shri Krishna speaks in Gita)
“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.”Bhagwad Gita, 2.22
A branch of knowledge in Vedic pantheon is Sankhya. It delves with the analytical study of the self. I’ll humbly try and present a simplified version of the same.
If someone were to ask me, “who are you?”
My first response would be my name.
But that’s my name. That’s not who I am.
I may proceed to tell the person about my sexual orientation.
“I’m a man (who’s scared of lizards)”
Once again, that’s my body identification.
So who am I then?
Some sample responses can be:
I’m human (species)
I’m an Indian (nationality)
Batman Fan (identification)
Tik toker (diseased)
The mind (I have a mind, not am the mind)
The intellect (I have an intellect, not am the intellect)
And so forth.
A reasoned and patient analysis can lead any seeker to understand that there’s a consciousness that dwells within. One may term it as Atma, spirit, soul, or energy. For simplicity, let’s call it the observer or the witness.
This observer is ever active even in a state of deep sleep or while dreaming. When we wake up each day, this observer helps in identification with the body once again.
The matter is the (impermanent) residence of this observer.
Have we established this much?
Okay, let’s see how to use this knowledge.
Perception is Everything
Once you start identifying yourself and others as more than matter, a natural sense of detachment (from the body) arises.
Death becomes an occasion to rejoice an existence–a profound existence incapable of being replicated. Death becomes an opportunity to marvel life.
“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.”Bhagwad Gita, 2.13
Equality remains a utopian concept (and in case of communist ideology, a totalitarian concept) until we have a body-based identification.
In soul consciousness, there’s a unity that religion, atheism or humanity cannot achieve.
As a spirit, all are equal.
What happens after death is a matter of personal choice (and the subject of another post). One may think of heaven, hell or liberation from cycles of birth and death. Whatever floats your boat.
To factually know what happens after death, one will have to die.
In Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone, Dumbledore says (I am paraphrasing),
“To an organised mind, death is a great next adventure.”
Would it be morbid to remind yourself of your mortality day in and out?
Not at all if one can develop and enhance the soul vision as advised by Shri Krishna. Let death wake you up towards:
- Living a more profound life
- Loving and communicating freely
- Focussing on what brings joy to your inner self
- Being of service to life around
I hope my humble attempt at writing on the topic of death could present some useful ideas for you. Thank you for reading until the end of the piece.
May you live a vibrant life.