Every one fears about death; when will it come, in which form it will come and what will happen after it come and whether it will be possible to prevent death. Of course, death can be prevented, if birth can be prevented. The only way to prevent death is to make sure that birth itself does not occur because birth and death alternates themselves, one after another. We get up from sleep and remain in waking state for some time and again go to sleep similarly, we come to life and remain in life and then die. Just as the waking state is intermediary between two sleeping states, life is an intermediary between two deaths.
Some believe that death is something untoward, sorrowful or a great loss. They even shudder to think about death because death breaks all relations. But death paves way for new birth and new relations. The old relations are forgotten and new relations and new attachments are made. Attachments lead to birth again.
Once we know what death actually means there is no sorrow. In fact, knowledge of death alone gives us the real knowledge about our Self. Once we gain knowledge about death, we gain self-knowledge and attain immortality.
Sri Ramanan Maharshi attained Jnana only after he started thinking about death. The thought came to him when he was very young. One day, suddenly the fear of death overtook Venkataraman, as Maharshi was known before taking sainthood. He then started ruminating about death. He lied down and imagined himself to be dead. He held his breath and began to think inward. "This body is going to die" he said to himself. Then he felt that his body has become very rigid. He pronounced himself dead.
Gradually he became unaware of the body. He experienced a centre of energy playing on him which he recognized as Self. From that time on, he was spending his time absorbed in contemplation of that energy. Till then, he had no idea about spirituality. But suddenly, like a flash of light, he became aware of his conscious Self. He realized that there may be thoughts and there may be action but the 'I-Consciousness" continues. He said "Even if this body dies, the I-Consciousness will continue. Even when my body is burnt to ashes, I will not become extinct because I am not the body. Body is inert and insentient. 'I' on the other hand am sentient. Therefore death is to the inert body only. I am indestructible Conscious entity.
When young Nachiketas found himself at the door of Lord of Death, Yama, he wanted to know what happens after death. Lord of Death admired his brilliant qualities, the voluntary way he had come to the doors of death and the inquisitiveness he had shown to know about death. Dharma Raja then revealed Nachiketas the eternal principles of Dharma and truth.
Dharma Raja said: "When a pot maker uses the clay and puts it on his wheel, a pot is born. But the space in the pot being itself eternally one with the outer space is not created or born. The pot (body) may break. That which is made is perishable. With the braking of the pot, the pot-space is not broken. The unborn pot-space knows no death.
Dharma Raja also unfolded two options before the human; 'Preya' and "Sreya'. Preya implies pleasure derived by body and mind which is momentary, ‘Sreya’ signaled Self-knowledge, which ensures immortality. He who finds his identity in body and mind goes after those objects which fulfill the desires of his body and mind (Preya) and repeatedly falls into the cycle of life and death. He who transcends the domain of the body and mind comes to know his own real self, the Atman, realizes Brahman and attains immortality.
Nachiketas went right into the door of the Yama Dharma Raja, met him and came back with the realisation that death is merely a phenomenon occurring to the physical body.
We all fear death because we consider "I am the body". Birth and death pertain only to the body. He who goes beyond the concept of body and mind and is conscious of Self does not fear about death. Antidote to evils
The Puranas describe the characteristics of the four yugas that constitute the historic evolution of life. In the Krita Yuga, dharma is in the ascendant, and there is a progressive erosion of moral values through the Treta, Dwapara and Kali Yugas. The atmosphere in Kali Yuga does not conduce to upholding dharma and virtue, and the tendency to seek God is lost in the maze of distractions.
Anticipating this laxity towards dharma in Kali Yuga, Krishna desires that it be preserved among people in some form. The Lord bids Bhishma restate the scriptural ideals embedded in its laws so that these values trickle down as moral codes and spiritual practices, said Sri L. Sampathkumar in a discourse.
It is a poignant scene when Krishna, along with the Pandavas visits this noble warrior with exceptional commitment to moral courage and unalloyed truth lying on a bed of arrows, awaiting his departure from this world. Seeing Krishna making an appearance at this time, Bhishma is moved at the Lord’s infinite compassion to bless him during his last moments.
Bhishma is further overwhelmed when Krishna, the very light of knowledge and embodiment of dharma, bids him to expound his views on dharma and share his wisdom with the Pandavas.
Earlier, in the Santi Parva, Bhishma had spoken at length on righteousness, morals and ethics that can survive only if people uphold these virtues with commitment against the powerful effects of evil. He now accedes to the Lord’s bidding, knowing this to be His lila.
Saluting the Lord with love and reverence, Bhishma says that by Krishna’s grace, he feels inspired to speak on dharma that is the basis of universal order. The highest dharma that can relieve one from the cycle of birth and the only solace in Kali Yuga is to worship God with devotion. To love God and remain devoted to Him is the best antidote to the evils of anger, malice, avarice and sinful tendencies. He expounds the Lord’s various names that describe His infinite nature as well as His various forms and auspicious qualities. These names thus become useful aids to people in their spiritual effort at meditation.
From The Hindu Religion Column