Updated: Jun 7
Few years ago, I read a story. It was from the life of Sant Eknath. One court Munshi used to come to Eknath every other day and would ask for initiation. Eknath ignored him as he knew about this man’s nature and could see the non-seriousness in his attitude. But it continued for many months and then one day Eknath called him aside.
He looked at his hand and said, ”I would have initiated you but you have only ten days left. You are going to leave this world on the coming Sunday.” The man went pale.
He returned home and straight went to his bed. Didn’t eat anything. Next morning, he told his wife and other family members. They were shell-shocked but then they knew about Eknath. How could the saint be wrong!
Next day the Munshi went to court, did not charge anyone more than the actual, behaved very politely with everyone. Following days, he tried to give genuine advice to everyone who came to him. People around him noticed his sweet behaviour and a strange calmness in him. He called his younger sister who had eloped with someone he didn’t approve of. He forgave her and gave her gifts too.
Then the Sunday arrived. All relatives and family members were present around Munshi. He was nervous and waiting for death to arrive. Just before sunset, he saw Eknath coming to his house. He got up and touched his feet.
Eknath asked him, ”So, how were your last days?” Munshi replied, ”Initially I was sad. But now I can say these were perhaps the best days of my life. I didn’t get angry, didn’t take bribe from anyone in the court. And I even accepted the husband of my sister. Frankly, I’m at peace.”
Eknath asked his wife and mother, ”What did you experience?” They replied in one voice, ”He has been at his best in the last ten days. He finished all his pending work and was extremely loving to all of us.”
Eknath said, ”Munshi, the knowledge that you are going to die after 10 days changed you. You were not manipulating or scheming against anyone. You did not cheat anyone as you understood the futility of amassing wealth. Your behaviour towards everyone was very good. Cheer up, you are not going to die today. Can you see, the awareness of death which I had deliberately introduced, transformed you totally?”
All of us are going to die but yet we plan and live as if we are immortal. Human mind, by its very nature, looks for permanence whereas the fact is that everything in this universe is transient. It happens because of the inherent insecurity the mind has about ever unfolding events in life; the uncertainties of life. Hence, we cling to people, possessions, fame, money, and relationships even long after their expiry. It leads to distortion in our perception of the world and kills the joy of life.
Death is the eternal truth. Life and death are occurring simultaneously each moment yet talking about death is taboo in most societies all over the world.
From the modern agnostic perspective, we see death as a failure of the biological systems. There are organisations like ‘Calico’ (started by Google in 2013) that is trying to harness advanced technologies to increase our understanding of the biology that controls lifespan. That’s indeed a novel way to look at life and death, yet it does not increase our happiness and peace; does not deliver us from the race which saps our energy and keeps us miles away from contentment. Increasing the life span or attaining immortality is useless if human being is not joyful. The life whether it is long or short, must be blissful. It is not the quantity but quality that matters.
Once we understand the inevitability of dying, our relationship becomes truly functional in this world, without any undue attachment. (Read my Blog ‘Law of Functionality’) With no or less stakes in life, anxiety for the result is also lessened. It gives a very different type of freedom where we can perform optimally. The bye-product is, one can live in the present. One big reason for human misery is ruminating too much about the past and future while not living the present. Living in the present brings the colours of life alive.
The understanding about the inevitability of death of others is also transformative. Many of us live in guilt after a loved one leaves this world; so much we wanted to tell that person or wanted to spend some time with them. This shift in perspective brings our relationships with the people we love alive once again. It applies to people remotely connected with us too. The uncertainty of life and death awareness instil a sense of love and compassion in our interactions with everyone around us. Awareness of death cuts through Maya (illusion) and connects us with life in a true sense.
You can’t get angry with anyone if you know that you can leave the next moment. No grudge, no complaint, no possessiveness or clinging; just a fresh breath filling the lungs each moment. What a bliss!!