Dedicated to my father

What is death? How does every human being define death? How do you feel when you hear about someone who is dying? How many of us have realized our natural and inevitable end?

Over the past few months, I have been studying a book that I highly recommend to everyone: “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” by Sogyal Rinpoche. In this article, I am not going to say something that hasn’t been said before, but, I thought that if I say a word or two, someone might get inspired to engage with this topic and meditate on it.

Death…How limited our perception of this topic is. Are we aware that in other civilizations (older and contemporary) there are people who aid the soul of the dying person to depart? The spiritual guides, through their ways and ceremonies, contribute to the peacefulness of the dying person and help him/her and his/her familiars for the incident that is about to follow.

We, in the Western World, and especially the people in large urban centers, see Death as an infectious disease and we tend to avoid it. Is it like this though?

Shall we see it in another way?

Instead of just feeling sorry for someone who is departing, we can, on the one hand, honor him/her for the passage he/she realized in our life and on the other hand help him/her make peace with the life he/she experienced, whichever that was.

The most important changes in the consciousness of a human being happen towards the end of life. In other words, on our behalf, we can honor the dying person while he/she is still alive and not only through the funeral in the end. We can also comprehend the amazing gift called life and thank this person for what he/she is and for what he/she has done. This also helps us to realize the transience of everyone and therefore be conscious of our people while they are still around us.

Reflect on the numerous marvelous procedures that are activated when faced with the information of death: procedures of maturity and openness of consciousness, forgiveness, evaluation of the truly important things in life, repentance, consciously experiencing life (in comparison with the notion of “simply surviving every day”), fear removal that inhibited the realization of our desires and the goal of our life, and so much more.

I would like at this point to emphasize that human pain that we experience when a familiar of ours is departing from life is a normal emotion, as we are humans and we feel the pain, and this is part of the richness and grandeur of having a heart and love.

We need to give ourselves permission and therefore the necessary time to go through the loss of a loved one, go through the grieving process. And indeed… this is a process that takes time.

I would also like to explain that dying people need us to set them free and assure them that they can rest “in peace”. In this book, there is an example worth mentioning: “when someone dies, this is something irreversible, and it seems to that person (dying) as if being on a ship ready to sail, but, cannot depart as the relatives do not let go through their lament and their attachment” (paraphrasing). As the soul of the person who has died is going through several stages until it is completely set free from the life it has lived, it is good during the time period determined by the religion each one believes in, to apply all the rituals necessary – for instance, in Christianity, the Sanctus takes place in 40-days’ time, while in Tibet of special importance are the fourth and seventh week since the death of that person. This shows that the souls of the human beings departing need our contribution in order to head “towards where they should be going”. They need our forgiveness and freedom.

There is nothing more natural than death. It is not the end, but, the passage to another cycle. This is consoling for all of us. In related books, people studying this topic as well as scientists report so many things that can help each one of us to reconsider our stance.

Every day we experience cycles that are concluded; small deaths: when we move to a new house, when we lose unexpectedly something we loved, when they “leave us”, the abandonment we experience, and the break of ties with people or situations. That’s how a person experiences the stress of death without realizing so. How many people report their fear of airplanes, for instance, without realizing that they are expressing indirectly their fear of death? I believe that by better comprehending the nature of death, we can better comprehend the nature of this life.

Another thing worth mentioning: in some cases, when someone dies, we don’t want to enter the drama intertwined with this situation. A slight perspective of “arrogance” and repulsion emerges us within us, while subconsciously we might be marginalizing that person out of fear of having contact with that unpleasant feeling. What we don’t know though is that the person feels already in the margin from the very first moment he/she found he/she is dying and through our stance, we aggravate his/her condition. Wouldn’t it be better for all of us to help that person, through the compassion of our soul, accept his/her departure and praise him/her while still in life (as mentioned before)?

Within us, we should be grateful to the dying person as thanks to him/her we are given the chance to touch upon a subject that is so unpleasant for us to get to know. Instead of avoiding it (thinking that this will not happen to us or that it is still far away from us and that we are now strong and healthy), it is more honest to stop this self-delusion and accept that there is nothing else as common between people as death. The most definitive incident in the history of mankind. It is the only incident that reminds us that we are all the same and that in this case there is no one better or worse. We are all humans who at some point will depart for a new and unknown destination. Death is the best exit from the duality and the egocentricity of the Ego. An excellent life exercise for all of us.

Finally, I would like to explain that death is related to the life contract each one of us has. The fact that someone departs might mean that his/her life-work has been concluded and his/her time to depart has arrived. No drama necessarily. Let me add that, according to the book, we have the right to a peaceful death, which means to die with the preparation of the Spirit, preparation of the soul, within an environment that nurtures divine inspiration that comes at these moments and through the support of the people left behind.

By changing perspective regarding this topic (the way it goes for everything else), we will have a life of greater quality, consciousness, and calmness. Death is the best reminder to Live our Life to the fullest. Life is a gift! 

Besides I believe that whatever it is we fear, we better get acquainted with it and look at it in the eyes, instead of pretending that it doesn’t exist.

Concluding, I will cite an abstract from the book, chapter “HELPING THE BEREAVED”, pages 459-560:

 “Don’t let us half die with our loved ones, then; let us try to live after they have gone, with greater fervor. Let us try, at least, to fulfill the dead person’s wishes or aspirations in some way, for instance by giving some of his belongings to charity, or sponsoring in her name a project she held particularly dear.”

In this book (which is not the only one) there is important knowledge regarding the issue of death and I am not saying this for promotional reasons, but, because I want to honor the source that offered me all this knowledge. I hope I have been of help.