DEATH

ਪਵਨੈ ਮਹਿ ਪਵਨੁ ਸਮਾਇਆ ॥ ਜੋਤੀ ਮਹਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਰਲਿ ਜਾਇਆ ॥ ਮਾਟੀ ਮਾਟੀ ਹੋਈ ਏਕ ॥
ਰੋਵਨਹਾਰੇ ਕੀ ਕਵਨ ਟੇਕ ॥੧॥ ਕਉਨੁ ਮੂਆ ਰੇ ਕਉਨੁ ਮੂਆ ॥
ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਮਿਲਿ ਕਰਹੁ ਬੀਚਾਰਾ ਇਹੁ ਤਉ ਚਲਤੁ ਭਇਆ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ (sggs 885).
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Birth Is The Proof Of Impending Death.

"Whoever is born, will die", says the Gurbani. To that end, death (Maut, Maran, Mrityu, etc.) is inevitable. There is no escape from this reality. This is the reality of this "Sansaar" (Jagat or the world) — it is tied to birth and death. Illusioned or deceived by his love of Maya, a Manmukh (Denier of Truth or who does not live by the Giaan or Wisdom of the Gurbani) is unaware of it.

The Gurbani calls the human body “Jajaree-ਜਜਰੀ”, meaning perishable, frail, weak, ਨਾਸਵੰਤ, etc. The time eats it away, bit by bit! It dissolves slowly and steadily into the very elements from whch it had come!

Once the measure of breath is full, interview with death is certain!

This inevitability of death — that which is born must end. — brings horror and fear into to the hearts of those of us caught in the grip of illusion or ignorance. What is this death? All sensible men are challenged by the Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS) to inquire into all these pertinent questions.

Death Is Of The Body, Not The Soul

If we follow the Gurbani's instructions and inquire, "to whom is this death?", then we will come to know that which dies is not the Real us! What actually dies is the ego-born body which depends on the movement of the Praana or life-breadth. Untruth depends upon external things; for it is unreal. Only that which exists on its own can only be called Real and True. As the body depends on Praan, it never has its independent existence. Any thing that depends on some thing else must go. That which is born must die. With the death of the body, dies the world of names and shapes. Thus, death is a change in time and space. Since our false "I" (egoism) identifies with time and space, we are afraid of this change. Consequently, there arises the desire to prolong the life. We try to control the material nature, and become subjected to its effects in the process — lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride, enviousness and stubborn mindedness.

The idea that there is such a thing as the Soul (Self or Aatamaan) independent of the body is shared by almost all world religions. Although the word Soul has different meanings in different contexts. It is, however, generally agreed that the Soul is nothing material, and that it is the nucleus of our very Being. As indicated in the Gurbani, the Divine Spirit and the Soul is essentially one and the same — Eternal, Pure, Perfect, Consciousness, Life Force that sustains the body, Immortal, Unborn, Ever-existing, Primeval, Non-destructible, Unbreakable, Insoluble, Changeless, Immovable, Invisible, Inconceivable, Immutable, Imperishable, free from limitations and conditioning. Being Eternal in nature, the Soul is never born nor will it ever die. It can neither be cut nor slain by any weapon, nor burnt by fire, nor moistened by water, and nor withered by wind. It is the True Image of the Divine Light ("Joti-Svaroopa"). Unaffected by the movements of the body or mind, the Soul is not subject to our grief, despair, disease or ignorance.

However, as the body is made of five elements (space, air, fire, water and earth), it is bound in the framework of time and space. Upon its destruction, the elements go back to their respective source — the earth merges with earth, the air merges with air, the fire merges with fire, the water merges with water, and the space merges with space. Thus, in reality, death is only the five elements returning to themselves. All die but the Aatamaan lives. Thus, this material body by itself is inert. It becomes enlivened only when the Spirit Soul is infused in it; without which this body is nothing more than nine holes in the flesh and bones! Thus, the proof the Soul exists is that when it deserts the body, the body cannot act.

That which is born is the body. It is the creation of "Haou" (false ego-sense, "I" or "I-ness", Haumai). Thus, in reality, death is of the "Haou", by the "Haou" and for the "Haou". Therefore, its natural for ego-beings (Manmukh, Saakat...) to be afraid of death. In false ego-sense we are born, and in false ego-sense we die. Like the incense stick, the body and mind born of false ego-sense must also finish. Born of the symptoms of the spiritual ignorance and misapprehension, the body and mind must perish one day. That which dies with the death of the body is the "I-am-the-body" idea. The Soul does not die because It is bodiless, spaceless, timeless and beyond all material logic or philosophical speculations.

The fear of death is due to "I-am-the-body" idea. However, the True Giaanee (Also spelt Giani, Giyani, Janani, etc. is the Gurmukh, Spiritually Wise or Mool-realized being) is not afraid of death because his state is beyond body-consciousness or time and space. It is natural for the person established in his Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot...) to be fearless, but to be afraid of death or anything is not. Since the Giaanee knows he is neither the body nor the mind, the event of death has no effect on him. He is established in the Timeless Consciousness, beyond mental limitations and conditionings. Being so situated on the platform of Immortality, he is dead to the phenomenal world of names and forms, thus, untouched by the death of the body. In other words, the loss of this world of names and forms do not affect the Giaanee; for he is aware of the fact that death does not mean non-being. Therefore, he loves death as he loves deep sleep, because in deep sleep their is no body-consciousness either. To the contrary, Agiaanee (Manmukh, ignorant or ego-being) loves sleep but not the death, because he does not perceive the world like a Giaanee. He let the egoism interpose between the Self and the non-self. So long as there is false ego-sense, there will be fear. This is why a body-conscious person is always afraid of death.

Even though the physical body of a True Giaanee and a worldly man (Agiaanee, ego-being or unwise) both come to an end, but there is a difference in the death of both entities. A Giaanee dies in Divine-consciousness and becomes one with the Timeless Principle. To the contrary, a worldly man dies in time-bound consciousness (egoism) and falls down and suffers. Thus, death is natural to all beings, but the manner in which one dies is man-made. In other words, Spiritually Wise knows how to die, while the ego-being does not know how to truly die. Accordingly, death terrifies a worldly man, while a Giaanee rejoices it!

The event of physical death itself is of no importance to a Giaanee (the Gurmukh); for he does not react to the events. It's not that the Giaanee has no feelings or that he has a stone-heart. In reality, he is very compassionate for the suffering beings. If someone dies, he suffers with those who suffer. But he is always aware that the birth and death is for the body-frame only, not for the Soul (Jot).

Birth and death are but two points in time and space - Maya's dualistic principle. Thus, life and death, joy and sorrows, pain and pleasure, and so on, are real to the man in bondage (false ego-sense). But to the True Giaanee, they are all in the world-play ("Jagat Tamaashaa"), as unreal as the show itself! He is already dead (Mirtak) while living in the body - Jeevanmukta. What the death can do to the man who is already dead? We ignorant, on the other hand, feel sad as we grow older because we identify the Mool (Source, Jot) with the finite frame of the body. So long there is this error, there will be the fear of death. But as the Giaanee grows older, he becomes more happy and peaceful. His mind becomes happy with the reel of destiny coming to its end. He knows at last he is going to the True Home ("Nij Ghar", "Sach Ghar", etc.)! He has conquered death while still alive.

The True Giaanee, thus, leaves this world like a traveler, who reaching his destination collects his baggage and leaves the train or plane without any regrets. He knows that the death waits from the moment the body was born! So he treats death like a guest who has been patiently waiting to see him since the birth of his body. He anxiously opens the door for death and entertains it! Since the Giaanee has already left his body all along (living dead), for him there is nothing in death to regret! To the contrary, for an ignorant person, there is nothing but regrets at the time of death.

Accordingly, a True Giaanee looks at death only a form of change, not horror. Childhood goes and makes way for youth, which again ends to bring old age. It may be painful, but Spiritually Wise bears with such change. Material body is said to be the Soul's "Cholaa" (garment or vesture); for the Soul is encased in it. 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. To put it otherwise, the body is the "chariot" and the Soul is the "Charioteer". The "Charioteer" remains the same, but the "chariot" keeps changing! This is the relationship between the body and the Soul. Baabaa Nanak explains this as follows:

In essence, a less intelligent man sees death as an end, but the True Giaanee sees it as an interlude, a pause before a new beginning! It is the start of a new life, a new field of experience, a new phase in the struggle a Soul makes to reach its ultimate Goal — liberation fromrepeated suffering. Buddha describes death as "a great release". Death releases mortals from senility and diseases, and unites the Spiritual Beings with "ਪਰਮਾਨੰਦੁ-Parmaanandu", the Supreme Bliss.

Therefore, Spiritually Wise views change with optimism for more meaningful struggle for ending the cycle of repeated suffering. He neither cries over things that are unavoidable, nor does he cling to passing objects. The less intelligent try to cling to passing objects and suffer in the process; because, the pleasure (and security) that objects bring leads to fear and sorrow. Spiritually Wise knows that the worldly objects were not with him before; they came in the middle; they will not be with him in future. So he does not grieve. Truth never loses; falsehood never endures. Thus, the True Giaanee sees the Changeless Truth even as everything changes.

On A Higher Plane, No One Goes Anywhere

For whom is the fear of death? The fear of death arises only after the false ego-sense (I-thought) arises. Ego is nothing but identification of the Mool (Source...) with the time-bound body. So long as there is this obstinate error, there will be fear. As indicated in the Divine Teaching of the Gurbani, all changes or happenings (birth, death, etc.) are perceived at this lower plane of consciousness — ego consciousness, material consciousness, time-bound consciousness or body-consciousness. However, on a Higher Plane (Naam-Consciousness, Shabad-Consciousness, Soul Consciousness, Timeless Consciousness or Spiritual Realization) no one goes anywhere! We were, we are and we will be. No one dies; no one comes or goes. We are That Spirit Soul: the Immortal Joti Svaroop, Naam Savroopa or Anand Savroopa; which neither perishes, nor comes or goes.

Thus, the Gurbani affirms that the death is an illusion, a foolish notion. When the Gurbani declares, "I am Joti-Svaroopa," it is affirming the unified field of Higher Plane of Consciousness that exists in, around, and through everything and everyplace. For example, when we travel from one point to another, upon reaching the destination we claim we have arrived there. But, in truth, we never left our Source; it is always in everything and everyplace. This Source is the Mool in us which is not rooted in time and space. Thus, the Mool (the Virtual Reality) being everywhere and in everything cannot be taken from place to place! The reason we do not share this Higher Plane of Consciousness, the unified field of most complete sense of Being and belonging, is the fear of death. For most of us, death represents that fetal break or change where life ends and the unknown begins. In reality, it's not like this! The Gurbani says:

There is a Buddhist story about two disciples looking at a flag fluttering in the wind. One says, "Look at that moving flag". The other disciple disagrees, "No, it is the wind that is moving. The flag has no motion of its own". They continue the debate until their Master shows up, and he says, "You both are wrong. Only your consciousness is moving." What it means is that, in reality, nothing comes and goes. What comes and goes, or that which wanders around is our mind: false ego-sense!

Material world is a product of our time-bound consciousness. Just as the ocean is one; but, it is the substratum for countless waves, wave-lets, foam, ripples and bubbles. These waves and wave-lets, ripples, foam and bubbles have no existence apart from the ocean. They all merge out of the ocean, exist in the ocean and ultimately sink themselves back into the ocean. So too is life. The matter ripples out of the bottomless pool of the Timeless Essence to form the universe in time and space, and ultimately all merge in this Homogeneous Oneness. In the Buddhist story, the flag stands for waves or gross objects that seem to move, the wind is the subtle force or consciousness that creates the motion, but in reality, nothing is moving. Its only the mind (ego-consciousness) that creates movement where there is none. When the mind takes refuge in its all Serene Soul Consciousness (Sahaj-Avasthaa), its all movements or wanderings cease to be.

Thus, the universe and its experience is born with the body and perish with the body. It has its beginning and end in the Infinite Consciousness, but the Infinite Consciousness knows no such beginning and end. What begins has to end; what ends has to reappear somewhere to die again. Thus, the body comes and goes, but the Soul is eternal, free of birth and death. To the man aware of this Truth, birth and death are all in the world-play, as unreal as the show itself! Such a man of immaterial intelligence, detached witness or observer, is already dead Within while living in the body - Jeevanmukta.

In nutshell, what comes and goes (body) has no Reality. What is Real (Soul) never dies, and that which dies is unreal (body). Since the True Giaanee's mind is already dead (of egoism), he has no reaction to changes occuring at the material plane. For him it's natural for the body to die, as it is natural for the incense stick to burn out. Thus, he understands body and Soul are two separate entities. The body comes and goes, but the Soul is eternal, free of birth and death. All Jeeva (individual beings) are the Spirit Soul. The reason one identifies himself with the material body is the ignorance born egoism ( "I-thought"). Truth ever remains steady; falsehood never stops moving. Thus, as indicated in the Gurbani, all changes "are the lot of the false and the insincere".

The True Giaanee does not cling to the body-consciousness, therefore, he is not a body, visible or invisible. He has become the Light (Giaan); for he identifies with the Soul only. For him nothing comes and goes. The Gurbani repeatedly remind us not to cling anything made from the five elements and the mind. As any form made from the five elements is unreal (transient), they tell us not to depend on any material object. One's Mool (Source, Jot...) is the only Reality, all else is a passing show. If we hold on to "all else", then we are sure to regret at the time of death. Therefore, if the vague idea associated with the form of the body is rejected, only the Supreme Reality will remain!

Therefore, the Giaanee is aware of the Truth that death of the physical body does not mean non-being. The Mool is never born, for that he could never die. Since the contending mind (false ego-sense) functions in the framework of time and space, all movements pertain to the body or instinctive mind only; but they are superimposed on the Mool, giving rise to the delusion that birth and death relate to the Mool. This is the error. The Mool exists before the birth of physical body and will remain after its death. Thus the birth and death are phenomena in the Mool within, but the Mool   ever remains unbroken, untouched and unaffected.

The True Giaanee and the rest of us live in the same world. However, he sees the world as it is, while we do not. For example, we see ourselves in the world, while the Giaanee sees the world in himself; for everything exists in the Infinite Consciousness. Consequently, to us, we get born and die; while to him it is the world that appears and disappears! The Giaanee thus is a Timeless Being, and there is no birth or death in the Timelessness. He neither broods over the past, nor worries about the future. He lives in the "now". He is at Eternal Peace, for he has realized his own unassailable Being.

Looking at a tree standing beside a pool of water, we will notice that the tree on the bank looks inverted, that is, it reflects upon water with its branches down and roots up. The True Giaanee takes this body or material world as only a reflection of the Reality. In other words, most of us take this world real (permanent), and live our life cycle only to find death at the end! To the contrary, the Giaanee takes the life cycle backwards; he dies first, gets the death out of the way, and then he goes on living as - Jeevanmukta (living liberated).

Therefore, instead of mourning, a true Sikh (student or learner of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS) celebrates death. Why? Because a Sikh is supposed to be a True Giaanee. If he is not a True Giaanee yet, he is not a Sikh yet! This is why to be a Sikh (or Khaalsaa) is not a question of heredity, family of birth, ancestry, race, region, social status, caste, creed, education, titles, religion or any peculiar external appearance of a person; it is a question of Mool-realization! Khaalas - or khalas - simply means pure.

The Gurbani declares that one who dies in the Shabad (Naam) is truly dead. A real Sikh is dead in the Shabad while alive. Death does not crush him, and pain does not afflict him. He remains absorbed into the Timeless Consciousness. In it nothing comes and goes; because, in it everything disappears — false ego, 'I-ness' and 'my-ness', Vaasnaas of material life he lived, and the phenomenal world of names and forms. Only Intuitive Understanding and Spiritual Silence (Sahaj) remain. His joy is Divine, and his suffering is Divine too. That's why a true Sikh celebrates both the happy as well as sad occasions — he celebrates both birth and death, without being attached to either one of them!

Do Not Fear The Death, But Remember It

Fear of death and constant remembrance of it are two different things. Fear of death is based on our ignorance of death, while constant remembrance of it (without fear) is a spiritual practice which helps keep the seeker in the scale of morality, detachment from worldliness, physical and mental control, attachment to the Divine Name, and so on. Therefore, the seeker is urged by the Wisdom of the Gurbani not to fear the death, but always keep it in mind until Truth is realized. It forces us to look into our false conduct, so that we may mend our ways to move from time-bound consciousness to Timeless Consciousness, and avoid the vicious cycle of repeated pain and delusion.

A little story may help us understand the importance of remembering death. It is said that once a person paid visit and homage to the Darbaar of Sri Guru Gobind Singh. Upon seeing beautiful women in the congregation, the person question the Guru regarding the presence of women and their impact on a man's lustful propensities. After listening to his query, the Guru told the person that he had only seven days of life left and that he should go home and finish his unfinished affairs and enjoy everything he wanted to before death. The man went away to his home. On the seventh day, before death devoured him, he prayed to the Guru for his Darshan. The Guru arrived and asked the king if he had done whatever he wished to before death. The man replied that as he was constantly thinking of death, even an iota of evil passions did not dare enter his mind. It was at that time the Guru told the man that a true Sikh never forgets death, thereby, no evil notions dare enter his mind.

Those who remember death do not crave for lust, anger, greed, worldly attachment, pride, enviousness and stubborn mindedness. The more one remembers the end-result of the visible body, the more detached one feels from the ephemeral life (the world of names and shapes), and more attached to the Eternal Factor. In other words, remembering the reality of the death-bound body helps us to disconnect from the fleeting pleasure of the "gifts", and connect us to the "Giver" — the Real Source.

Overcoming the Illusion Of Death

The quest for the Mool (Soul or Aatamaan...) is a journey Within and it becomes evident to one who embarks on it that there is an Underlying Consciousness beyond the levels of the body (perceiveing of objects), mind (feeling of emotions) and the intellect (thinking of thoughts). This Pure Consciousness is very subtle and Self-luminous, and all the human faculties are able to act as instruments of knowledge because of it.

The mind and the itellect are in the grip of Maya — illusion, duality, evil passions, evil intent, ignorance, egoism or wrong self-identity). Our Body is the play-thing of this fickle and unsteady mind and intellect. What is Maya? As defined in the Gurbani, Maya is that illusion which makes us (1) forget the Divine ("Hari Visrai"), (2) gives rise to emotional attachment ("Moh Upjai"), and (3) creates duality ("Bhaau Doojaa") where there is none. Freedom from Maya is freedom from the fear of death.

One's Mool is ever present Within, anchoring us to the Timeless Essence. Those who are fully aware of this Divine Connection Within are living liberated - Jeevanmukta - for they have overcome the body-identity, thereby they have conquered the fear and threat of death. To become "Jeevanmukta" means to come out of ourselves to selflessness. Simply put: to become a living liberated is to annihilate the false ego ("I-ness") while living, before the physical death!

Overtaken by the spell of deceptive Maya, however, the majority of us are not fully aware of the Mool, because we simply accept the body-mind-intellect as the Immortal Mool. Therefore, for the majority of us the inevitability of death becomes the source of fear and dread.

Thus, death is essentially an illusion, our "disconnect" from the Real Source within (Mool...). In other words, death is the result of our forgetfulness or separateness from the Divine Factor, which is Immortal (Amrit), Unborn and Undying. What it means is that Immortality is our True Identity, but we do not know it. As a result, we search it in ephemeral objects. This is our ignorance, bondage and suffering.

The Gurbani says even though we are alive, but in reality we are dead because of our separation from the Immortal Reality; but nobody mourns for us! Why? Because of our ignorance of the death, what is already dead seems alive to us, and what is alive seems dead! Thus, true understanding is indicated to be the key to Life Eternal.

We are repeatedly warned by the Gurbani that if we do not set our vision right, that is, if do not set right our ideas of ourselves, then what gave us this present body will surely give us next one also! There is the Mool and there is the physical body. Between them is the false ego (deluded mind). As the mind gets purified, it moves toward the Mool, causing the body-consciousness to disappear! Accordingly, attaining liberation from the menacing body-consciousness or fear of death is the first teaching of the Gurbani.

Spiritual Wisdom (Aatam-Giaan) is the destroyer of all fear. By the negation of the false and the assertion of the Truth, the mistaken superimpositions (false concepts, material conditioning, self-limitations, mistaken identity, etc.) are destroyed, and what remains over is the Pure Self. When the mental distortions cease the world-illusion also ceases, and the mind reverts back to its natural state of Being (Timeless Consciousness or Sahaj Avasthaa). As the dirt is washed with the dirt, a thorn is removed by another thorn, a poison antidotes poison, similarly, the mind is purified (conquered) by the mind!

Therefore, a true seeker constantly and thoroughly trains himself for Spiritual fitness by practicing detachment to the sense objects, and thereby removing his false ego by disconnecting mind from the senses and educating the intellect. Removal of false ego means harmoniously and spontaneously reuniting it with the Mool Within. One then learns to withdraw his false ego at will from the physical body and the world-appearance and unite it with the Bliss (Anand) of the Soul Consciousness Within. At the end, he happily exits from the bodily prison or sense-slavery. Such liberated being (Jeevanmukta) does not come back to this material world again, unless so ordained by the Divine, for he has learned all the lessons that this earthly life was to teach.

By inquiring (Shabad-Vichaar) into the nature of the Truth and falsehood, one can resolve the confusion between the body and the Mool. Just as the diamond fallen into the mud is never spoiled, just as the sky is not affected by the dust particles floating in it, similarly, the Mool is untainted by the body. Birth and death is of the mind (false ego), not the Mool. Therefore, the material expansion or growth is also of the ego-mind. And when this Truth is clearly understood, it is the mind that is liberated from its own ignorance (false ego). Upon dawning of the Knowledge of the Truth, or upon Realization of the Mool within (Source...), the man's mind settles down in Complete Peace (Sahaj, Natural State of Being, Giaan-Avasthaa...), just as grains of dirt floating in water settle down when the water is absolutely steady. This is the state of the mind liberated from both birth and death.

We are of the Timeless Essence. The Gurbani urges us to hold on to this Truth and cling to nothing else. As a result, all our fears, anxieties, the feeling of coming and going, and so on, will vanish and the Bliss will remain over. Immortality downs on us when the river of our separateness (false ego) is discharged into the bottomless Ocean of Divine Consciousness. We are urged by the Gurbani to go Within; for there is no difference between us, Immortality, Mool, Divine Substance or Light (Joti-Svaroopa). By becoming Gurmukh (Spiritual Being), we can reclaim our Immortality "hear" and "now" through meditation on the Divine Name, our True Nature. Since the Divine Factor is always Within, we are never apart from It. As such, it is not the matter of realizing the Immortality, but of realizing that we never were not Immortal!

Thus, the only way to avoid fear death is to get United with he Mool within, "now". Death only takes the body, the dress made of five elements. The physical hearts die, but the Eternal Heart, the Mool, lives. But, death torments one who has become something other than the Mool, or who identifies with the non-self - "I am the body" idea. In other words, death only comes to a deluded or an active mind full of lust, anger, greed, sense attachment, self-conceit, enviousness, stubbornness, attraction and aversion, and so on. Therefore, the Gurbani asks us to know theMool by becoming Gurmukhs (Spiritual beings), and when death comes, go laughing!

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org