Death is of the body and not of the Self.
For that which comes in existence extinction is certain, not for that which is the Prime Existence nor that which exists as the essence within the manifest creation. Only waves are born, the ocean remains the same. Beings are born, the self remains the same. You are born and you will have to die; hence the fear of death, so much fear of death is related to the body and not to the self within, being unborn and undying. Science may help to prolong life, but death cannot be avoided, being implied in birth of the body. Once born you have to die but behind that which is to die, the unborn flows. Unless one comes to experience that which is not born, one cannot become deathless. Knowing that waves are on the surface while that which is within is the ocean, the nameless, the infinite ocean one is no longer separate, but have become one with a vast ocean, the consciousness.
Ancient ones reflecting and meditated on Death and had realized that Death in popular connotation means the death of the gross form and not of the subtle essence body. The hymn of Death is a remarkable piece of introspection in Rigveda. When it declares that Death comes to a child as well as to adolescent, to young as well as to an old man, it reveals the true nature of that which dies and that which lives. It is the embodied body which one is engrossed in life, burdened, conditioned and mesmerized by the illusory of world of empirical experiences through organs of senses.
Upanishads say that when the body dies, the elements re-enter their source, leaving the self, with its karmas gathered in the embodied state to pass on. Nachiketa points out in Katha Up. that like corn a mortal ripens and like corn is born again. In the intervening period the self departing from one body not yet having entered another one, either waits in Yama’s abode till it finds another body to be conscious with distinct identity or hovers in a state of suspended animation as a blithe spirit, drawn by attachment to the earlier body and dissatisfied because it is unable to establish contact with others through distinct identity.
To the ordinary one, Death is a great leveler but to the one who is wise in Wisdom Death reveals the true nature of the Self, showing that which is Deathless when the embodied body decays, disintegrates and dies. In Mahabharata we are told that mortality is signified by two letters , this is mine and immortality by three letter , this is not mine, both being eternally dwell in Brahman and abiding in human beings thy fight with each other-
Therefore, the self being eternal, even after destruction of the creatures it is not destroyed. If destruction of the self is considered along with the body, then with the destructionof the body all the way of action spoken by the scriptures will be worthless –
It is only as long as the Self abides in the body confronts the problem of Death, then the question of life, possessions and positions, relatives and associates pale into insignificance. Therefore, when one realizes that even bodies of the luminous gods, seers and sages, saints and sinners decay, deteriorate and die, one laments and mourns no more when the Self departs unconcerned when the body decays, disintegrates and dies, unconcerned of the position and the possessions which the body had when it was dwelling therein, without the body or any one being aware of its departure or of its destination. The self does not know death because it has no death to experience, like the Sun which knows not what darkness is, never having experienced darkness. When the body dies, the Self leaves or should leave effortlessly like the cucumber separated form its stem, from the body, the life, possessions, positions, relatives and associates.
The Self within has seen many births and deaths, the warmth of the Sun many times and so is the cool comfort of the Moon, the rains falling, seasons changing, the seeds sprouting and the corn ripening. The birth of a child was not strange to the Self nor the death of the old. It is the body that dies, seeing birth and death once in its life time, so with warmth of the Sun or cool comfort of the moon, the seasons changing, the rains falling, seasons changing, the seeds sprouting and the corn ripening once in its life time, not repeatedly like the self within. For one who considers that he is the visible body and not the invisible self within, dies hundreds of deaths assuming that it is his body that acts, and being attached to the body rather than to the self within, Death has been a dread which one is inclined to push aside. It is the one who is concerned with decaying and disintegrating – death of the body. Normally one who is concerned with death of the familiar body assumes and prays Shiva and chants Mrityunjaya Japa, to save him from the death of the body. But the one who is aware that it is the body that dies and not the Self within praises for the deliverance of the immortal Self releasing it from the bondage like a cucumber is delivered from the stem. Death for such h one is not frightening because he knows that the Death is of the body and not of the Self within.
Rigvedic seer postulates that they are the unenlightened ones asuras who consider this body as the self which has presently taken residence whereas for the enlightened ones devas, who see beyond the limited scope of the present dwelling place. As Shankara says, devas are enlightened by the luminous wisdom contained in the scriptures while asuras are unenlightened and obscured by the influence of senses. Death is not a pessimistic thought but a practical proposition. It is a comma, not a full stop. Just as one changes many residences during one’s life time, being emotionally attached to a residence so long as one is resident therein, and such attachment ceasing once he ceases to dwell therein, even so one’s self has been dwelling in many bodies and being attached to each one as my body during the brief period when the self has been resident therein, and ceasing to be attached to the various bodies lived earlier in innumerable previous occasions. If one knows Death, as the temporary change of address, from one body to the other, then one would cease to be attached and concerned with the body in which the self is presently living in and not be afraid of the death or mortality of the body and ever consciously concerned about the immortal. Instead he prays or should pray for the release of the immortal self from the mortal body as one would release a cucumber from its stem.
That is what exactly what Mrityunjaya Japa - Tryambakama Yajamahe - I propitiate the three-eyed divinity, who is aware of the past, present and future, Sugandheem Pushtivardhanam - the auspicious and enhancer of energy. Uravakariva bandhanaat - like the cucumber severed from its restraining stem mrityor muksheeya maam Amritat - deliver from the mortal (gross body) not from the immortal (self). Mortal is the body which is nothing but aggregation of elements – earth, water, fire, air, space and sensory influences of the mind, intelligence and self-sense. But the immortal self is the one who breathes in with breathing, who breathes out with breathing, who breathes about with breathing, who breathes up with breathing, the one never seen but is the seer, never heard but is the hearer, never thought but the thinker, never is known but the knower, he is the self, the inner controller, the immortal and all else is mortal.
It will, therefore, be seen that only the ignorant ones, who are enamoured by the influence of their senses and dazzled by their positions and possessions, for retaining the fleeting, transient subject to change and separation, which is perceived by them through the medium of senses they will worship Shiva, who is aware of the past, present and future and not for the self which they are not consciously aware, though it is the ‘imperishable, never seen but is the seer, never heard but is the hearer, never thought but is the thinker, never known but is the knower… ’ and which seer Yajnavalkya commends to see, to hear, reflect and meditate upon, because, verily by seeing, hearing, thinking and understanding the self alone all this becomes known. Only by following this prescription would one understand the significance of the verse later in Brihad Aranyak Up. V.xii, which says that it is austerity when a person suffers when he is ill, when a person is carried over after death to the woods, when a person is placed on the funeral fire. He who knows the same gains excellent worlds.