Peace, my heart, let the time for the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain into songs.
Let the flight through the sky end in the folding of the wings over the nest.
Let the last touch of your hands be gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a moment, and say your last words in silence.
I bow to you and hold up my lamp to light you on your way.
~ Rabindranath Tagore
If we are asked to vote the world’s scariest word, then without a moment of hesitation almost all of us will vote for the “Death”. It is a word which creates a dark shadow over the life of man which has a tremendous power to turn a smile into sorrow. As Francis Bacon quoted, “Men fear death, as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other.” Sooner or later, the moment is destined to come when the death will appear on the horizon of life waiting to be embraced. However, the fear of death stemmed from the fear of cease to be existent and losing ones identity and foothold in the material world. We see our death coming long before its arrival; we notice impermanence in the changes we see around us and to us in the arrival of aging and the suffering due to losing our youth. Once we were strong and beautiful and as we age, as we approach our final moments of life we realize how illusionary such a comfortable place actually was. Passing away from this life is perhaps the greatest mystery. On average more than 1,50,000 people die every day on this planet. That’s 2 people per second. Over a million corpses a week. And this is “normal” for planet earth. This fact helps us to get some perspective on the scope of various tragedies. If 3000 people get wiped out in a single stroke, that’s still only 2% of one day’s total, which is insignificant from a cosmic point of view.
Since the death is terminal truth (but dying may not!), is it really necessary to treat it as an alien? Are we really failing to co-relate the death with life? Does death really carries a scary face? Does death really mean an end and complete extinction of human existence? Does death leads a man from known to the unknown? What does death really means? A curse? Or a blessing? So many questions….so many! Since time immemorial we are searching for the answers, finding the hidden paths which might lead us to the eternal wisdom shrouded in the mystery of darkness. Here are many scientific experiments that have been seriously questioning the term death, as we know and understand it. According to quantum physics certain observations cannot be predicted absolutely. Instead, there is a range of possible observations each with a different probability. Why does our observation change what happens? Answer: Because reality is a process that requires our consciousness.
Our classical way of thinking is based on the belief that the world has an objective observer-independent existence. But a long list of experiments shows just the opposite. We think life is just the activity of carbon and an admixture of molecules: we live awhile and then rot and subsequently get annihilated into the ground. The quest for the true face of death has been attracting Philosophers, Scientists, Theologists and a Common man, with equal fascination, which inspired numerous efforts to unveil the darkness. Man is yet to unveil the greatest secret of a human life.
The death has been defined from different perspectives. Medical science defined Death as, “The cessation of all vital functions of the body including the heartbeat, brain activity (including the brain stem), and breathing. Metaphysical approach considers death, as the end of one journey and the beginning of another journey; it also deals with the concept of the spirit or soul. Hindu religion does not accept the death in its totality, it says; “The body dies however the spirit remains alive“. The Hindu Vedic perspective further affirms, ‘the part of us that doesn’t believe in death will never die’. Hence, by discovering our spiritual self[i] while we are alive, we know what goes on when we die. Our search for our soul is assisted by the Hebrew book of Genesis, sacred text for the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Chapter 2, verse 7 of the Bible, Book of Genesis tells how God formed the bodies of the first ancestors from the dust of the Earth, and then brought them to life by integrating, animating and awakening their material bodies with the formless spirit of divine breath. That sacred breath of life have been construed by ancient thinkers as “soul” or “spirit”. The Buddhism talks about the concept of death on the similar lines with Vedic philosophy. To Buddhism, however, death is not the end of life, it is merely the end of the body we inhabit in this life, but our spirit will still remain and seek out through the need of attachment, attachment to a new body and new life. Where they will be born is a result of the past and the accumulation of positive and negative action, and the resultant karma (cause and effect) is a result of one’s past actions.
The philosophies developed by various tribal cultures across the world too address the questions of life and death. The animist discourse on Life, Death and After-life has attempted to identify ‘Death’ with the ‘will of nature’ or ‘creator’. Here for e.g. From the Naga Tribals perspective the general understanding of life after death may be grasped from the writings of M Horam who says, “Like all other members of the greatest human family, these wild Nagas believed in-the existence of a better world and adored, under different names, gods, the creators of the universe………….Their notions were in general simple and philosophical” (M Horam, Nagas : Old ways and New trends). Traditional beliefs in spirits, local deities and supernatural forces associated with life events remain strong even among Naga tribes that have adopted Christianity. Spirits are associated with both animate and inanimate objects and most are regarded as either gods or souls of deceased people. Rather than being divided into good and bad spirits, individual spirits are regarded as having good and bad qualities. Therefore, there is a reason to believe that the ancient religion of the Nagas have also had developed a rich philosophy revolving around the question of ‘Death’. Almost all religious philosophies define death more or less on the similar tunes, as a journey of a soul or a spirit from one form to another, through a medium governed by the law of transmigration.
To make the discourse of DEATH poetic it is pertinent to quote a poem written by EDWIN LEIBFREED,
“The Song of the Soul”
For death is but a passing phase of Life;
A change of dress, a disrobing;
A birth into the unborn again;
A commencing where we ended;
A starting where we stopped to rest;
A crossroad of Eternity;
A giving up of something, to possess all things.
The end of the unreal, the beginning of the real.
Science believes in something that could be proved by the scientific experiments (in controlled environment), hence, there is a reason to believe that; the science has acquired a very narrow approach to the understanding of death. There are lots of scientific experiments done to conduct a research on the state of death. Unfortunately, science still hesitates to explore the possibility beyond the “Organ Failure-Brain Death Theory”. The science, for now has failed to explain the possibility of the existence of spirit or consciousness, which was being largely talked about by all the religious philosophies world-wide.
There have been instances where people testified about their death-like, near-death and post-death experiences, which were of course didn’t acknowledged by the medical professionals. Science showed these experiences the bottom of dust-bin by concluding them as “hallucinations”. When will we understand that there are things in this world which are beyond the reach of present state of our mind? Knowledge is like a flow of river, stagnation has no place in the world of knowledge. Science evolves; it will forever evolve and may be, the mystery of the darkness of death then will be unearthed. However, for the time being, subject of death is still a mystery and challenge to the ego of scientific temper of mankind.
Oriental philosophy which has been discussing the question of death, post-death condition from metaphysical point of view had little success in logical revelation of the mystery behind death. The theory of spirit was developed to understand what exactly happened when a person dies. According to the major religions of the world, body contains an energy called “spirit” or “soul”, which is wholly responsible for the actual physical existence of the body. They had further considered body and soul as two separate entities but wholly connected with each other. Soul has been the focal point of investigation rather than the body itself. Hence, it could be said that, a Body is the need of soul for its nourishment. Soul can be considered as the ‘micro-energy’ which comprised in a gross mass of cells called body. The energy is an essential element that could be keeping the atoms of the gross mass of cells together. This entire theory seems difficult to understand at prima facie, however it is logical, and logic is said to be based on the flight of human imagination and constructive contemplation. When energy releases from the body, person is said to be died. Energy-less, spiritless corpse becomes like an airless balloon (a fine example to understand). What happens when an air comes out of a balloon? A process of deflation starts, and balloon changes its shape. Then, what happens with the air that comes out of the balloon? Air comes out and merges with the environment. The existence of an air could only be established when it was filled in a balloon. Air has no separate, independent physical existence. Air is an intangible thing, which can only be experienced. Though we cannot completely relate this example of an air and a balloon to the spirit and the body, however, it is an undeniable fact that energy needs a medium and body acts this way, as a medium for energy.
Hence, on the basis of the discussion so far, it is proposed that the death of man never occurs. This statement, which is not an exaggeration, could only be taken as true if we considered man as a soul, spirit, energy or consciousness. How would you feel if you compare yourself with an iron rode that passes the heat from an end to end by becoming a medium? Compare human body with an iron rode, and think about spirit in place of heat. Logic often works, and helps a man to see a path to the understanding. It is certainly not wise to ignore the fact that the logic does not arise in the vacuum except when the logic which itself illogical to be considered as logic in first place.
As said before, the Death occurs when energy releases from the body and merges with the nature. However, there is another angle to it, a type of Death that each one of us experiences continuously. Every moment, we take birth and embrace the death. Since our body is a gross mass of cells, every moment innumerable cells dies and new ones are born. If a body is made of cells it further corroborates to the proposition that body will have no existence without cells. If these cells are renewing every moment, it may mean that our body too get renewed every moment, and that undoubtedly a process of birth-cycle with different dimension, what else could that be, if not a birth? Or a death?
Many of us fear death which is certainly not an irrational reaction. We believe in death because we have been told and taught that we will die. We find it natural to associate ourselves with the body, and we know that bodies are perishable. However, a new scientific theory suggests that death is not the terminal event as we think. One well-known aspect of quantum physics is that certain observations cannot be predicted absolutely. Instead, there is a range of possible observations each with a different probability. One mainstream explanation, the “many-worlds” interpretation, states that each of these possible observations corresponds to a different universe (the ‘multiverse’). A new scientific theory – called biocentrism[ii] – refines these ideas. There are an infinite number of universes, and everything that could possibly happen occurs in some universe. Death does not exist in any real sense in these scenarios. All possible universes exist simultaneously, regardless of what happens in any of them. Although individual bodies are destined to self-destruct, the alive feeling – the ‘Who am I?’- is just a 20-watt fountain of energy operating in the brain. But this energy doesn’t go away at death. One of the surest axioms of science is that energy never dies; it can neither be created nor destroyed. But does this energy transcend from one world to the other? This is the question that has been haunting to the Author of this article since ages.
There is no death as such the way which we understand, what is existed is a process of transformation. Body dies, and energy (Molecules along with consciousness/soul/spirit…) meets up with the universal energy and get merged with it. In a living body old/matured cells dies every now and then and the new cells takes their places, the process of which actually gives birth to a new man. Hence, it may prove that man takes birth and subsequently dies as well in a fraction of a second.
In this article we have tried to get into the complexities to demystify death, and concluded that the death (in terms of absolute extinction/annihilation) never occurs. It is a natural responsibility of a man to be ready for the self-transformation that death brings. Death of loved ones gives pain. Why? Because, we never ever attempt to understand what the death is. When the law of transformation will be known to the humans, the suffering will be perished. When truth shows up, the fear for the “unknown” fades away, and then we will be ready to welcome the beautiful moment of transformation which help us to become a part of this universe in real, natural sense.
To conclude, it is proposed that the Death does not exist in a timeless, spaceless world. In the end, even Einstein admitted, “Now Besso” (an old friend) “has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us…know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Immortality doesn’t mean a perpetual existence in time without end, but rather resides outside of time altogether.
Since “I” is not permanent the highest priorities of that ‘I’ as a human being in a living form should essentially be rooted in something which is permanent. If we are able to continue on after we die, our to do list would still matter however, we would only need to change the form of the most important items but not the intention behind them. Whether we are dead or alive, our purpose remains the same: to grow and to help others grow in consciousness[iii]. Only the manner in which that purpose manifests would change.
Let us understand that, the service of the highest good is to devote life to the service of consciousness itself, regardless of whether we exist as a physical or an etheric[iv]/cosmic being.
Let us understand, we should never assume that we already reach the terminal point of the wholeness of the truth. Either we accept it or reject, we have fully understood that there are infinite things that still need to demystify. Let’s be authentic and honest with ourselves that we are still seeking, exploring because we feel a big space and emptiness deep inside that we need to fill in. we are confuse. We have only a small splinter of knowing of the entire wholeness of the truth (our human lifetime isn’t enough) and we cannot use this knowing to make any fixed/rigid inference how the whole reality works.
Therefore, it is better to be humble to ourselves and be open to anything (confusion and uncertainty) so that the wisdom can flow within us… we can’t be arrogant because inspite of our success in our technological advancement we are still asking questions and sometimes feeling confuse.
Lord almighty has given us this beautiful life with some purpose. The best way to use human life is to live like a human being. Somewhere in the chaos of life man has been blinded by his lust for ‘progress’ and ‘development’. Man loves to rule the other fellow human being. Man is an only animal that loves and glorifies ‘slavery’. Man is the only animal that rapes, lie, cheat, wage war and murder. IS this the reason that Lord almighty endowed human life to us? Whether the Death exists or not, whether after-life exists or not, whether heaven or hell exists or not, whether soul-spirit-ghost exists or not, whether Gods and Demons exists or not, there exists a ‘judgment day’ that we all would witness in our life with our own eyes. The Death has always been a topic of serious philosophical discussion since the dawn of human civilization however; it will remain incomplete as long as we do not understand how to LIVE.
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[i] The simplest way to describe the spiritual self is that unseen part of which we are that provides our physical self with insight, intuition, and other ways of knowing and being beyond what our five senses experience in the physical world. Our five senses and our emotions may be access points or portals into experiencing the spiritual self.
[ii]Biocentric universe—also known as biocentrism—is a concept proposed in 2007 by American doctor of medicine Robert Lanza, a scientist in the fields of regenerative medicine and biology, which sees biology as the central driving science in the universe, and an understanding of the other. It asserts that current theories of the physical world do not work, and can never be made to work, until they fully account for life and consciousness. While physics is considered fundamental to the study of the universe, and chemistry fundamental to the study of life, biocentrism claims that scientists will need to place biology before the other sciences to produce a “theory of everything”.
[iii] Consciousness is the state or quality of awareness, or, of being aware of an external object or something within oneself. It has been defined as: sentience, awareness, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind.
[iv] The etheric body, ether-body, aether body, a name given by neo-Theosophy to a vital body or subtle body propounded in esoteric philosophies as the first or lowest layer in the “human energy field” or aura. It is said to be in immediate contact with the physical body, to sustain it and connect it with “higher” bodies.
Aniruddha Vithal Babar, B.com, D.H.R.L., LLM (International Law and Human Rights), M.A. (Political Science with special in International Relations and Conflict Studies), Former Advocate; Bombay High Court and independent researcher with interdisciplinary temperament. He has respectable hold on political and Socio-legal philosophy and thought with research interests include International law, Tribal Jurisprudence (with special emphasis on the development of Naga Jurisprudence), Applied Politics, Idea of justice, Peace & Conflict Studies, Northeast Studies, Subaltern Studies and Human Rights. Presently he is pursuing his PhD in the interdisciplinary fields of Law, Governance and Conflict Management at SSLG, JAIPUR NATIONAL UNIVERSITY. He may be contacted at [email protected])