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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Thanatophobia: Fear of Dying

We've Nothing to Lose in The Birth-Death Cycle
by Mata Amritanandamayi (As told to T. S. Sreenivasa Raghavan)

We die the moment we lose awareness of birth. One who's not aware of the purposefulness of his birth, even when he's physically alive, is as good as being dead. Then why should we fear death?

I'm not afraid of death. Generally, man loves or loathes only those things with which he's familiar. He needs a reason for every action of his. Hence he develops a variety of emotions like fear, love and hatred but only with the known.With the unknown, he's not swayed by such emotions. Yet man is still afraid of death. It is in this context that a discussion on life and death becomes germane.

Many are curious to know about life after death. I wish to remind them that the body alone perishes; the soul remains intact. Take the case of the electric bulb. Once fused, it burns no more. However, the death of the bulb doesn't denote the death of electricity that, like the soul, always remains the same.

As long as we continue to identify life in terms of body, mind and intellect, we'll remain enslaved to our vasanas or subtle tendencies. The same enslavement forces us to move through the cycle of birth and death. It is, however, possible for determined individuals to get out of this vicious cycle, provided they use their discriminating abilities to perform only dharmic actions.

Some souls are born again, if their karmas in the previous life were not based on dharmic values. But the souls which extricate themselves from the bonding grip of vasanas merge into the infinite like a drop of water disappearing into the ocean.

Some might ask: Why don't we get to see souls? The soul is too subtle for the human eye to see. The way we don't see a transparent crystal immersed in water, we also don't get to see the soul, which is too subtle for our eyes. But, it's not the case with souls alone. We also have bacteria inside our eyelids. Do we ever see them?

The rational mind asks if indeed, life and death are decided by one's karma, why is it that so many people die at the same time? Didn't the December 26 tsunami end thousands of innocent lives? You see a tree over there, which has a branch full of dry leaves. A large bird alights on it. The force with which the bird flaps its wings results in the movement of air, and the suddenness with which it lands shocks and shakes the branch. Hence, the frail, dry leaves had to fall. The leaves would've fallen anyway if not for the bird, in other circumstances. Here, the bird just happened to be an instrument. The same way, those who died en masse had to die. For, the circumstantial forces and the karmic burden they carried forard, worked against them. Their time had come.

Don't fear death. If you get out of the cycle of birth and death, you will become one with the Absolute. If you're to take birth again due to your karma, don't get disappointed, for you are only being invested with one more opportunity to realize and follow the dharmic path. Either way, you've nothing to lose.

1) Mata Amritanandamayi on Wikipedia
2) Embracing the World
3) The Phobia List
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