"DEATH" Live well to die well

(friend, we must know that the world is as transitory as the bubbles appearing and disappearing in water)

One of the greatest mysteries that have astounded humanity, ever since it’s beginning is death. Every religion has, special prayers and rituals, that the followers of that religion, carry out mostly for the peace of the departed soul. Though many of the neo-religions claim that these prayers and services are also done for the solace of those whom the dead have left behind, but some how some where, the mention of the spirit or the other world does figure in.

I remember when I was young boy of about 6 or 7 years we lived in a remote area of Himachal Pardesh in India. My father was posted as a sub divisional officer and our house was away from the little bazaar and village. The place was full of fables of ghosts and spirits that my father’s helpers would tell us. There were little temples of demi gods, with their fearsome figures in the temples.The place was laid back, lonely and strangely magical for a young mind atleast. One day there was a lot of music being played at a distance. I told one of the servants to take me there and he was shocked at my request. When I asked him the reason for his being shocked, he told me that it was the music of death. Any way I insisted and he took me to a hill top from where I could see a procession moving. The people in that procession were carrying a man as he slept on a kind of cot. I asked the fellow accompanying me as to who were these people carrying. I was told that the sleeping man was in fact dead and the music was being played to ward off the evil spirits so as not to allow them to take over the body of the dead man. I still remember clearly that my perception of death was dead bodies lying around and spirits moving around them, and a lot of other crazy stuff. So, death for me was nothing more than a sepration of spirit from the body, the body being consigned to flames or buried in a grave, but the spirit most certainly being alive and hunting around to take over the bodies of other people, mostly little children like me. I saw them take the dead guy to an open kind of place and put him on a pile of wood. The music had stopped playing. They put a lot of wood on and around the sleeping man and then set him on fire. The smoke started rising and as the smoke hit our nostrils we rushed back home. I could not sleep till late that night and the thoughts of the dead man, the music, the fire, the smoke and that man rising from the cremation ground and coming to our door kept haunting me for days. I could not really ask any thing from my father and mother as I was even more afraid of them than the blessed dead man's ghost. So, for days I would have the company of the dead man, coming to our door in the evening and being around the house.

It took me some time to overcome that stage of growing up. I have always been fond of reading, and over a period of time, as my mental horizon and ken expanded I became fearless of many things, I served in the army and police in my youth and did handle death at many occasions. I learnt to handle it with respect and dignity. This respect came out of my realization of the great beauty of life, its complexity and a feeling of divinity about it. I have always thought of nature as God, and considered them as one entity, and in admiration of natures capability to create such emotion and intelligence in life, I started respecting and revering death and would touch any dead body with absolute respect and admiration.

Many friends and relatives died and I would go to shoulder their coffins sans any fear but with love and respect as a volunteer, but of late once again I have started being curious about the phenomenon of death. Now these feelings arise out of curiosity, arising out of knowledge of the existence of the unknown. There is so little we know about the outer space, the human body and so much more, that I have started revising my opinion, about all that I thought I knew, including death, spirit, body and some other worlds, as well as reincarnation, in this or some other world, in this or some other form. Death today haunts me, not at all as a fear, but as a mystery.
Death refers to a moment at which life ends or a state of being that proceeds life. However drawing precise conceptual boundaries between life and death has become a challenge even for the advanced medical science of today. Where as when every one was feeling comfortable with brain death as the sign of final adieu of the consciousness to the body, and the world around it per se, the latest scientific break thru suggests that even after the brain death occurs there are parts of body that are reactive to electricity and thus conscious and capable of arousing the same consciousness in the complete body. Strange though it may seem but it is true. So defining death has it self become problematic however because there is little consensus over how the life itself should be defined. Some thinkers have suggested defining life as consciousness but defining consciousness today is a challange to modern scientists, psychologists and philosophers. Even the scientist’s today wonder, as to whether, the body is the cause of spirit ,or is Body the manifestation of spirit, and thus the spirit is the cause of the body.

But what is clear in my mind is that even if there is a spiritual silsila or continuity of spirit, death of consciousness, or the body, or both body and consciousness, is the end of the story of this life, here at least. We all shall die one day sooner or later. How should this affect our worldly affairs? We need to look at death as a constant reminder of very momentary nature of life. Does it mean we should not pursue any worldly goal? Should we not truly love each other and spread some happy ness around? There are two ways to react to this situation; one is the way of udaasi and absolute detachment from this world and its people and pleasures and another is the way of absolute consumption, as this could just be our only chance to enjoy the pleasures of body and world. Both these are the extremes that ought to be avoided. What we need is to follow the middle path of having fun, knowing well that the show wont last for ever, but still looking at this world as a guesthouse where we have checked in for a limited period, remembering well, that other guests shall be checking in to the same places that we inhabit, and thus leaving our guest house neat and in order when we leave. The choice is ours to make. I am sure the nature shall appreciate it and if there is any God he shall love you for this too.

There are many of us who believe that the soul dies when the body dies.
They say that the soul is a combination of the five elements and death is nothing but the going back of these elements to their respective homes, or their master elements. For them anything which lies beyond their senses does not exist. There are many who don’t believe in the existence of a soul and their flocks are increasing every day. But even today there are people, well read, well travelled, intelligent and well aware of the modern sciences who believe that the soul can never be demonstrated, but can be inferred by taking in to consideration some empirical facts.

The questions are the same as they were when I was a child.
What remains after death?
What becomes of the soul after the death of the body?
Where has he or she gone?
Does one who died still exists some where, around us or in a different sphere of consciousness, or on a different heavenly body, or maybe even as an energy field some where, if not as a body?.
Or may be the body is just a cocoon for the soul just like a cocoon for a butterfly, and what the caterpillar thinks is the end of the world may well just be a new better and a fresh beginning.

All the prophets philosophers, thinkers, metaphysicians etc have tried to give a solution to this riddle but they have all answered this riddle with riddles alone. Are there no answers? Well, there are but the questions need to be re framed. The false questions must fall.
Questions like,
What is going to happen to us when we die?
Is there a life after death?
What remains after death?
What becomes of the soul after the death of the body?
Where has he or she gone?
I remember a Zen story. A seeker went to a Zen master and asked,” master, “What happens to a person after he dies”?
The master said,” I don’t know”.
“Well you are a master and supposed to know about life and death”,said the seeker.
“About life ask me what you want about death don’t ask me as yet”
“Why”, said the seeker.
The master said, “I am not a dead master yet”.

I need to share my feelings with you as I come to terms with the eternal question. If God or Nature has blessed you with life live it, feel and savour the beauty around you without being an obstacle in another being’s pursuit of his or her happiness and peace. Live and let live. Live well to die well. Live happily to die happily. I for sure agree with Vladimir Nabokov who said that life is a great surprise. I do not see why death shouldn’t be an even greater one, and how can we forget our friend Lord Byron who said, “All tragedies are finished by a death. All comedies are ended by a marriage and the future states of both are left to faith. Let us live our lives with some humility, a lot of dignity, but no pride. Death is the eternal truth and a great equalizer. Life is a blessing, so must be death. Don’t live as if you will never die, and don’t die as if you have never lived.

Here is a link to a beautiful qawaalli with deep insight in to life and death and all that the life can mean to any one, or all that it should mean to any one. This famous qawaalli is sung by Aziz Naazan.
And here is another link to an eternal song of a dying adieu to friends and family, Seasons in the sun, sung by Terry jacks, This is one of my all times favourites, and I am sure you will love it too.
Balwant Gurunay, Mba, PgPr.


  1. Jeevan Sekhon2 May 2009 at 23:47

    What a refreshing and realistic view of death and life! I really enjoyed reading this. The videos are really apt. Excellent work!

  2. Great great...thanks for knocking on my head letting me know this...in busy life we forget the fact..Beautiful philosophy... pure Truth of life is Death...that can only be ignored but can't be denied ...so we must accept this with big stretch arm and beautifull smile...God Bless You.