Death as a metaphor
Death is a great mystery with everyone seeing others die but yet not being prepared to consider Death being a constant companion the moment one is born. One’s last breath is as uncertain as one’s birth was. Self is the Existence; Birth and Death being mere events, foot notes on the eternal journey through which Self evolves. Death comes to every one and it should come when you are happy to receive him, it comes softly with steps unheard and presence unobserved. Yet a human being things Death as a distant eventuality and not immediate concern. Every one has lived life carrying a baggage on shoulders his wife, children, relatives and associates, possessions and positions, gods and divinities, religions and philosophies. Every one has neither taken a path from the regular one and he has lived very much in the same manner as others have done. Death appears to one as if all doors are now close, without an opening being left, no one even knowing what is to happen in future and all doors are closed to the future. He cannot plan, does not plan for tomorrow, plan for tomorrow. His existence becomes inconsistent and futile and that causes despondency and sufferings for him.
Death teaches one to live Life with fear. In one’s quieter moments all the ideas of good and bad, noble and evil, preferable and not preferable and all the things he had accepted as important, substantive turn out be of no consequence. One should know what Death is to live the Life that he has to live. One would live one’s life then without baggage on shoulders. This is living the Life, without fear of losing what one brought when one was born.
Every one, even great minds have considered, reflected, meditated and spoke on Death, but they were not saved by Death. Death has no respect for childhood, adolescence, youth or an old age, neither for a healthy man nor for a sick one. Death is a great power that snuffs out a life out of recognition. When Death arrives everything is accepted. He who knows what death is, knows what Death brings out. It is Death that makes one to remain alive. When one reflects on Death, the living becomes important. A man commits suicide not because he is afraid to live. Therefore, all great thinkers therefore, give great importance to Death, understanding its real meaning and becomes wise, enlightened and delivered from the Life as one knows. Socrates and Ramana Maharshi used Death as a metaphor.
Socrates considered Death ‘as separation of the soul from the body and being dead as the independent state of the body in separation of the soul and independent state of the soul in separation from te body.’ Therefore for him Philosophy is ‘the practice of Death’ and ‘the Philosopher qua a philosopher does not concern himself with the body but so far as he can separate himself from the body and concentrate upon the soul.’ In Phaedo, he clarifies his attitude to Life and Death, ‘A true philosopher in particular, or rather alone, are always eager to free the soul and this very thing is the philosopher’s occupation, a freeing or separation of soul from body . . . it would be absurd for a man who was training for himself throughout his life to live as closely as possible to death to grumble when death came to him?. . . those who are really philosophers practice dying and death has less terror for them than any one else.’ ‘Philosopher’s soul has no respect for the body and shuns it, seeking rather than to be independent of it. This is what is called death, freeing or separation of soul from body’.
In his reply to the Judges at his trial charging that he has been misguiding Atheninas, Socrates, perhaps in anticipation that his is likely to get death penalty, explains that ‘The difficulty, my friends, is not to avoid death but to avoid unrighteous; for that runs faster than death. I am old and move slowly and the slower runner has overtaken me, and my accusers are keen and quick and the faster runner, who is my unrighteousness has overtaken them. And nowI depart hence condemned by you to suffer the penalty of death.’ Then reflecting on the state of Death he says. ‘either death is as state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another. Now if you suppose that there is no consciousness but a sleep like the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by dreams, death will an unspeakable gain . . . I say that to die is gain; for eternity is then only a single night. If death is a journey to another place and there as men say, all the dead abide , what good of friends and Judges , can be greater than this ? If , indeed, the pilgrim arrives in the world below, he is delivered from the professors of justice on this world and finds the true judges who are said to give judgment there . . . the sons of God who were righteous in their own life . . .If this be true that let me die again and again . . .’ Then consoling himself he finally says, ‘I shall then be able to continue my search into true and false knowledge, as in the world so also in the next; and I shall find out who is wise and who pretends to be wise and is not . . . On another world they do not put a man to death for asking questions , assuredly not. ’
Centuries later, Ramana Maharshi’s response was not different but one expressed distinctive to his own Death Experience which was not the conclusion but the testimony and testament of his enlightenment. Surprising as it is, for a lay person Maharshi seems to have had a Death Experience even before he even had a Life Experience. But as he mentioned in later pointed out that Ramana was not the one whom they were seeing clapping his hands when hymns are sung but Ramana was Brahman that is immediately present and directly perceivable who as the Brihad Aranyaka Up. (III.i.1-2)avers, is within one who breathes in with Maharshi’s breathing in, one who breathes out with Maharshi’s breathing out, one who breathes about with Maharshi’s breathing about, one who breathes up with Maharshi’s breathing up, is the Ramana who is in all things. Ramana is one’s self which is in all things. One can not see the seer of seeing, listen the listener of listening, think of the thinker of thoughts, know the knower of Knowing. He is the self - Ramana within,
Therefore, it would be reasonable and rational to accept that Ramana, Maharshi as Ramana within, having already overcome desire for sons, the desire for wealth having done with Learning in earlier lives had completed his Life Experience, prior to the moment in Time, he had his Death Experience, The Death Experience revealed and made him conscious that ‘The body is insentient and inert, whereas I feel the presence of my personality and the resonance of the ‘I’ too within me and without the body. Then ‘I’ should be the spirit transcending the body . . . That means ‘I’ am the Deathless spirit’. Then the ‘Fear of Death vanished, absorption in the Self continued in unbroken stream from then onward. Other thoughts too passed along as musical notes would do, but the ‘I’ continued to dominate as the shruti note underlying and blending with all rest of the notes. Whether the body was engaged in speaking, reading or in any thing else, I still continued to be central point’.
He became aware that ‘the real I or self is not the body, nor any of the five senses, nor the sense-objects, nor the organs of action, nor the praana, nor the mind, nor even the deep sleep state where there is not cognizance of these . . After rejecting each of these and saying ‘these I am not’, that which alone remains is the I and that is Consciousness . . It is Sat-Chit-Ananda in which there is not even a slightest trace of the (empirical) I thought. This is called Mauna –silence or Atman. That is the only things That Is’. Therefore, that ‘Renunciation does not mean outward divestment of clothes abandoning home etc. True renunciation is the renunciation of desires, passions and attachments’.
Ramana Maharshi clarifies, ‘If the Mind, which is the cause of all thoughts and activities, disappears, the external objects too would disappear. Mind is only thoughts, it is a form of energy. It manifests itself as world. When Mind sinks in Self, then the Self is realized; when the Mind issues forth, the world appears and the Self is not realized.’ ‘All thoughts are inconsistent with realization, The right thing to do is to exclude thoughts of oneself and all other thoughts. Thought is one thing and realization is quite another’. ‘If all thoughts and actions vanish, then external objects will also vanish . . . The mind is only thoughts. It is the form of energy. It manifests itself as the world. When the mind sinks internally deep in the Self, then the Self is realized. When the mind issues forth externally, the world appears and the Self is not realized ’.
‘The sense of (empirical) I pertains to the person, body and the brain. When a man knows his true self (the individual real I) for the first time something else arises from the depths of his being and takes possession of him, that which is (the Universal I or the Self), behind the mind is the infinite, divine, eternal. Some people call it the Kingdom of Heaven, others call it soul and others again call it Nirvana, Hindus call it liberation; you may give whatever name you wish. When this happens a man has not really lost himself; rather he has found himself ’.
Therefore, ‘The purpose of inquiry is to focus the entire mind at its source. It is not a case of one I searching another I’. Since thoughts influenced by sense organs gives rise to the empirical mind Maharshi says, ‘Once we take away the world, which causes our doubts, the clouds in our mind, then the light of God will shine clearly through. How is the world taken away? When for example instead of seeing a man you and say, this is God existing as body, which body answers more or less perfectly to the description of a God, then it would as a ship meets the description more or less of the wheel’.