Last Days

During all his life Socrates had upheld the rights of human beings to think for themselves as foundational necessity and sincerely believed himself as the one sent by gods to contribute the welfare and virtue of the society and the state. Therefore, when he found that he is being unjustly and unwisely being punished, he refused to beg for mercy, and even agree to flee when avenues were provided to him. Refusing to compromise his convictions, he told them that be of good cheer.

However he was surprised and concerned not so much that the Athenians, excepting the few who listened to him, did not accept what he spoke, but Crito who was one of the closest to him, should have not understood the full implication of his death. Therefore, when Crito asked him, how should be buried?, he blandly replied, ‘Anyhow you like, if you can catch me and I don’t elude you.’ Then chuckling quietly and glancing at others, he said ‘I can’t persuade my friends, that I am Socrates here, the person who is talking to you now, and setting out each of these arguments. He thinks that the person he will be looking at shortly as a corpse, and so he asks how he should bury me. As for my lengthy arguments to show that when I drink the poison, I shall no longer remain with you but take my leave of you  and go off to some joys of the blessed. I think that my words are of no avail so far as he is concerned, although I was trying to console both you and myself as well . . .But you should have no fear; you should say that it is my body that you are burying  and you should bury it just as you like, and as seems to you to conform best to custom.’

When the final moment came and people could not restrain their tears from flowing, and Crito went away unable to restrain his tears and Aollodorus burst out crying aloud making every one present break down,  Socrates admonished them, ‘What are you doing strange fellows? That was my reason for sending the women away ,so that they should’nt make this mistake; I have heard that it is better to die in silence. Please remain quiet and be brave.’      

Plato records the last moments with graciousness and in humility. When the jailor brought the cup of poison for him to drink, he spoke these heart-wrenching words, ‘To you, Socrates, whom I know to be the noblest and gentlest and best of all who came to this place, I will not impute the angry feelings of other men,  ho rage and swear to me when in obedience to the authorities, I bid them drink the poison. Indeed I am sure that you will not be angry with me, for others as you are aware and not I, are the guilty cause. So fare you well and try to bear lightly what must what needs be.’ Then busrting in tears he turned away. Socrates who was observing all the events as they were taking place replied, ‘I returnm your good wishes and will do as you bid’ and turning his face to others remarked, ‘How charming is this man!’

But Crito is not yet ready for Socrates to depart and pleads with him, ‘The sun is still upon the hill-tops, and many have taken the draught late; they have eaten and drunk and indulged in sensual delights. Do not hasten then there is still time’. Surprised Socrates speaks to him mildly, ‘Yes, Crito,, they of whom you speak are right in doing thus, for they think that they will gain by the delay. I am right in not doing thus , for I donot think that I should gain anything by drinking the poisona little later.I would be sparing  and saving a life which is already gone. I could only laugh at myself for this. Please do as Isay, and not refuse me’.

Then the cup is brought and Socrates puts it to his lips and drinks the contents. Soon the poison took its toll, but not before Socrates reminded Crito to return the debt which he owed. Then when no further words came out of the sleeping body, its eyes were closed and mouth was shut. And thus did one whom Plato called the wisest, the justest and best of all the men whom he has known. 

Maharshi had never had any healthy constitution except perhaps in his adolescence prior to his Death Experience. In the following years when once he left his home, the intense penance and severe austerities left signs of deterioration on his body, though he did not have any sickness. Therefore, it was only when the first signs of cancerous growth were perceived that people became concerned, wanting him to get treatment from doctors. But he was not enthusiastic giving scant importance to the malady of the body but left ot to the devotes, who prevailed for treatment  to please them. They offered him various remedies and Maharshi accepted treatment as compassion to others, in spite of the cancer eating his vitals, causing him immense pain.

His detachment to the body was so complete that he would say ‘There is pain’ in the body and never ‘I have pain’in my body. In spite of the pain in the body, he would remark ‘One should witness all that happens’. If one were to express concern about his health, he would say ‘There is no need to alarm. The body itself is a disease. Let it have its natural end. Why mutilate it?’ Having no personal desire for treatment, he would remark ‘Have I ever asked for any treatment? It is you who want this and that for me, so it is you who must decide. If I were asked I would always say, as I have said from the beginning, that no treatment is necessary. Let things take their course’.

Even in pain, his sense of humour did not desert him. When he was informed that a woman in grief was banging her head on the pillar he remarked ‘Is that so? I thought she was trying to break a coco-nut’. When a woman devotee told him, ‘Bhagavan! Give this sickness to me instead. Let me bare it’ he asked her to find out who had given him this sickness in the first instance. He would remark ‘You attach too much importance to the body’. He would say, ‘Why should he carry the burden of the body alone, when it needs four persons to carry?’ or would inquire ‘When we have finished the meal do we keep the banana leaf?’ He consoled a devotee saying, ‘Suppose you go to a firewood depot and buy a bundle of firewood and engage a collie to carry it to your house. As you walk along with him, he will be anxiously looking forward to the destination so that he can throw off his burden and get relief. In the same way the jnani is anxious to throw of his mortal body.’

He would, therefore, remark: ‘They take this body for Bhagavan and attribute suffering to him. What a pity! They are sad that Bhagavan is going to leave them and go away; where can he go and how can he go?’ Cohen records him saying, ‘If the hands of the Jnani were cut with knife there would be pain as with every one else but because his mind is in bliss he does not feel the pain as acutely as other do’.   He would assure ‘The jnani who has found himselfas formless pure Awareness is unaffected though the body be cleft with a sword. Sugarcandy doesnotlose its sweetness though broken or crushed’. He said ‘I am only ill if you think I am; if you think I am well I shall be well’.‘The jnani is not even anxious to shed his body; he is indifferent alike to the existence or non-existence of the body, being almost unaware of it’. To one of the earnest devotee he asked, ‘Do you know what Moksha is? It is getting rid of the sense of misery, which is unreal and attain Bliss, which is always there. That is Moksha.’.

His surrender of the body to the Will of the Ordainer, who ‘controls the fate of souls in accordance with their prarabdhakarmas’ was complete. One devotees distraught seeing him in pain ventured to suggest that if he wills, he could cure himself with one single thought only to be rebuffed with disbelief, ‘Who could have such thought? . . . Who is there to Will this? . . . Every thing will come right in due course’. There was nothing more to Will, when Ramana, the Universal Consciousness has taken charge of the body.When one becomes conscious and aware of the working of the Cosmic Cycle, one participates but does not complain. He had said earlier, ‘whatever is destined not to happen, will not happen, try as you may. Whatever is destined to happen will happen, do what you may to prevent it. This is certain’. This was not fatalism but conscious acceptance of the eternal Law.

Maharshi epitomized the statement in Bhagavata Purana : ‘Let the body, the result of fructifying Karma, rest or move about, live or die, the Sage who has realized the Self is not aware of it, just as one in drunken stupor is not aware of his clothing”. If he does not, then who else will represent truth of the statement?

The days passed in to weeks and weeks to become months. Bhagavan remained a spectator and witness to the events that were passing before him, even while he continued to cooperate with doctors and devotees. His Grace continued to be showered on his devotees even while he was suffering the disease. To the doctor he was very considerate saying, ‘I hope you won’t mind when you have taken so much trouble with your medicine’. To the attendants who were looking after his conveniences, he said ‘The English have a word Thanks but we only say santosham’. Then he tld his attendants to go leaving him alone, either sleep or meditate.

When the moment to depart came, he started breathing heavy, seeing which doctors tried to offer oxygen, which he politely brushed aside. When unexpectedly a group of devotees started singing the hymn, Arunachala Shiva, a smile of indescribable tenderness  hovered on his lips. Then one more breath and then no more breaths came and he lapsed in the state of Bliss, easily without struggle, with no signs that he has left the body.     

As Ramana was leaving the body which had been his abode for all these years, the grieving devotees spontaneously sang in unison the hymn ‘Arunachala Shiva’. On hearing the chant, Maharshi opened his eyes briefly and as the words seeped in his consciousness, a smile hovered on his lips and tears of bliss streamed from the corner of his eyes. When the end came, a long breath passed out without effort, without struggle, without even any sign that Death has taken hold of the body. Maharshi epitomized the statement in Bhagavata Purana : “Let the body, the result of fructifying Karma, rest or move about, live or die, the Sage who has realized the Self is not aware of it, just as one in drunken stupor is not aware of his clothing”. If he does not, then who else will represent truth of the statement? Ramana entered the Space softy to merge gently in Lord Arunachala.  Death was defeated and the  Deathless Spirit strode undefeated, unconquered and free.