OVERCOMING THE FEAR OF DEATH BY FACING LIFE
(«People who have learned to live are not afraid to die»)
We seldom know consciously when we, or our loved ones, are going to suddenly, or slowly, leave the physical plane. Thus it would be sensible to be ready at every moment for this possibility. In the Bible we have the parable of ten virgins who were waiting the arrival of the bridegroom. Five virgins had plenty of oil, and five did not think to gather enough, and had no light when he finally arrived. This is symbolic of our being ready for the Lord when our time comes to meet Him. Most of us are caught totally unprepared when the time comes, we feel that we are not ready, that we need more time to finish projects, to enjoy our lives, to work out our relationships and satisfy various other needs and desires. The individual who is always ready for death is also always ready for life. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who has had more contact with dying people than perhaps any person alive today, believes that, «People who have learned to live are not afraid to die». In this chapter we shall explore some of the ways in which we can adjust our lives and ways of thinking so as to be always ready for death, whether it be our own or that of a loved one.
A) TIME WASTE IS LIFE WASTE
Satya Sai Baba says that «Time Waste is Life Waste». One of the saddest moments in a person’s life is the moment he gets the news that he will be shortly leaving the physical body, and he feels that he has not lived his life in the way he wanted or should have. He wants desperately to «buy more time», but this is seldom possible. He feels remorse because of having wasted his life on vain pursuits and having ignored that which was really meaningful to him. Following are a few examples of how Dr. Moody’s patients changed their way of thinking and living as a result of having died and returned to life:
«I try to do things that have more meaning, and that make my mind and my soul feel better. And I try not to be biased and not to judge people. I want to do things because they are good, not because they are good for me. And it seems that the understanding I have of things now, is so much better. I feel like this because of what happened to me, because of the places I went and things I saw in this experience». Many found these experiences a blessing which changed their way of life:
«It was a blessing in a way, because before that heart attack I was too busy planning for my children’s future, and worrying about yesterday, that I was losing the joys of the present. I have a much different attitude now». Others experienced a change of focus in their lives from the physical to the mental level:
«I was more conscious of my mind at the time than of the physical body. The mind was the most important part, instead of the shape of the body. All my life, it had been exactly reversed. The body was my main interest and what was going in my mind, well, it was just going on and that’s all. But after this happened my mind was the main point of attraction, the body was second – it was only something to encase my mind».
Satya Sai Baba encourages us to use the memory of the fact of our physical mortality to help us keep our thoughts, words and actions in line with our spiritual purpose in life.
«Remember death. The body is the car in which you are riding to death. You may meet death any moment while riding. Some tree or lorry, culvert or such will bring it about. If you remember that time is running out every moment, you will not be tempted to waste time in idle talk or vain pursuits, wanton mischief or vulgar entertainment».
A person who lives his life with intensity, moving steadily towards his spiritual goals, will always be ready for death when it comes. A person who gives sufficient attention to his mental and spiritual evolution will be more at peace with death when it comes, than a person who has wasted his energies on vain pursuits and the accumulation of material objects which will have to leave behind. The only possession we take with us is our character. The after-death state is not a solution for the lazy person who wants to avoid the difficulties and responsibilities of life. Neither does death release us from any negative tendencies or problems. Socrates was of the belief that death is not a release from any tendencies or weaknesses of character. According to Socrates, our character followed us whenever we went. It appears that the «spiritual evolution» which we talk about is in reality the evolution of character throughout the various lives. This character is manifested as various positive and negative tendencies recorded in the causal body or what we might call the soul memory. We incarnate over and over, working on correcting and purifying this character, attempting to mold it into a more divine shape with qualities such as love, peace, truth, selflessness, righteous action, non-violence and higher wisdom. It is the development of and purification of this character which is our basic goal on earth. It is that which links one life with another. We develop this character in three basic ways:
1) Through our moral conduct – i.e. doing to others as we would like them to do to us.
2) Through spiritual disciplines such as prayer, meditation, fasting, breath control etc., which increase our awareness and level of consciousness.
3) Through fulfilling our «Dharmic role» in the evolutionary process here on earth. Trough fulfilling our purpose or role in life. Let us consider this last point in more detail.
B) WE HAVE COME TO EARTH WITH A PURPOSE
We each come to this earth for specific reasons, with specific roles to play, lessons to learn and goals to attain. If we do not work towards the fulfillment of these roles lessons or goals, we will never feel fulfillment in life and will not feel ready for death when it comes. We have an obligation, to manifest our inherent abilities here on this earth. Seth emphasizes this point:
«Now: For those of you who are lazy I can offer no hope: death will not bring you an eternal resting place. You may rest, if this is your wish, for a while. Not only must you use your abilities after death, however, but you must face up to yourself for those that you did not use during your previous existence».
Perhaps this is why Jesus cursed the fig tree which was not bearing fruit. We have come to this earth to develop and manifest the divine talents which are latent within us. Each of us has a specific part to play in this drama of life. Each of us is a unique component in this great machine called humanity. Each of us is a unique cell which has its own particular function in the body of humanity. No individual is more important than another. No work or function is higher or lower than another. The heart cannot function well if the stomach does not function well. The circulation cannot be efficient if the intestines do not do their job.The head cannot arrive to its destination if the feet and hands do not perform their purpose. We come to this earth over and over playing various roles, pleasant and unpleasant, famous and insignificant (to human eyes), mental and physical. If we try to avoid playing the part for which we have come, we will be in continual conflict with our inner selves and never find peace or contentment. This part which we have come to play is called our «Dharma». Each of us must seek to find our dharma in this particular incarnation. We must try to understand why we have come to this earth. What goals do we hope to fulfill before leaving these physical bodies? We must investigate our deepest inner feelings and uncover what our goals are on the personal, family, social, professional, national and global level. What would we have liked to have accomplished before leaving this physical body? After listing these goals, the next step is to analyze and evaluate the way in which we spend our time and live our lives. Are we working efficiently towards the fulfillment of these goals, or are we wasting our time and energies on chasing other, less important pursuits or in routine, mindless, habitual, robot-like functioning? We can come to conclusions as to which types of efforts and activities we would like to increase in our lives and which we would like to decrease. It is not important to actually arrive at our goal before we die, but rather to feel that we are living our lives in accordance with our goals, and that we are doing everything that we reasonably can at the moment to move in that direction. If one feels that his beliefs, words and actions are all in harmony with his goals, then he is able to leave his physical body peacefully. Making these changes in our lives means facing and transcending the many attachments, aversions, fears and social conditioning which prevent our discovering our real goal in life; and, once finding it, from being able to follow it. These attachments and fears control our mental states imprisoning us in a wall of fearful ignorance, very much like Plato’s cave. We must break these chains and ascend into the light of the realization of our purpose here on this earth. Ultimately our final purpose is to perfect our character into an instrument of Divine Love and Wisdom and eventually become superhumans like Jesus the Christ, finally merging with God. Once this happens, there is no more need for incarnation on the earth plane. We will know when we have found our dharma, our part to play this time around, by the satisfaction, fulfillment, joy and meaning in life it will give us. If we do not enjoy what we are doing, then we have not found our real role yet. If we are bored or tired with what we are doing, then we must seek further, either to find what our real purpose is here on this earth, or to be able to see the divinity and beauty in what we are now doing. Thus we must either change what we are doing , or change the way we perceive what we are doing, so that there may be happiness, and enthusiasm. A person who has found his dharma is inspired with his role. He plays it with intensity, it is his whole life, but, at the same time, he remembers that it is a role and not his true self. A time will come when he will leave that role and examine how he has played it. Then he will be given another role. This changing of roles may take place within one lifetime or from one lifetime to another. Some may complain that social and economic responsibilities do not allow them to work in their dharmic line. Christ has specifically promised us that if we do the Lord’s work here on earth, then He will supply all our needs. Psychiatrist Helen Wambach asked her hypnotized subjects for what purpose they chose to be born. What was the reason they took these physical bodies? Here are some of their answers:
«When I was choosing to be born, I was aware that one of my children was with me in this time between lives. I felt strongly that my purpose in this life was to produce a great leader, and that one of my sons would be a great leader who would produce social changes. I don’t want my other children to know about this, and I wasn’t aware of it until the hypnosis, that my strongest purpose was just to give birth to this son». (Case A-187). What more beautiful gift could an individual offer to the world than an enlightened human being who would add more love and wisdom to the world around him/her.
«When you asked the purpose, I felt strongly this life was chosen to experience rejection by my mother and sister, and my final detachment so that I can get on with my spiritual tasks». (Case A-338). Thus many of the unpleasant and apparently unjust reactions which we experience from those around us are actually chosen by us before birth as tests and opportunities to develop unconditional love and understanding.
«My purpose in this lifetime is to learn patience and love of my fellow man, and to relieve loneliness by mixing with other people, and showing compassion». (Case A-57).
«I think my purpose in this life is to learn humility – that everyone inside is the same – there is no better or worse. To show and teach this». (Case A-434).
«My purpose for this lifetime is to evolve from a me-feeling to a we-feeling, to accept responsibility, not to place any restrictions on other people. I am here in this time period to help with the transition». (Case B-82).
«My purpose is to overcome fear». (Case A-353).
«My purpose is to become free of materialism and to combat negativeness. To combine male and female emotions for control, love and strength». (Case B-25).
«My purpose for this lifetime is to learn humility». (Case A-46).
«I am here to learn, but also to teach and to help in this period of a transition in history from the religious to the scientific to the spiritual life». (Case B-88).
«My purpose for being born was to realize my own inner thoughts and independence. The time period was relevant to women’s liberation because it was a time for women to find strength, influence and independence in a man’s world». (Case A-454).
«I felt that this lifetime was chosen to experience abandonment, so that I could learn self-sufficiency. I came in this time because this part of the twentieth century is very good for psychological growth, and I will develop my ability to teach and respond to others in this time period». (Case A-378).
«When you asked the purpose, I realized it was to establish a new relationship with people I owed from damage I did to them in past lives. I am certainly aware now that my husband in this life is an alcoholic and I understand that I must help him because I was unkind to him in a past life». (Case B-11).
These inspiring answers fit in so well with the basic goal of the transformation of character. Through them we also come to the understanding that one of the main means of testing and measurement of our spiritual progress is the analysis of the quality of our relationships with those around us.
C) HARMONIZING OUR RELATIONSHIPS
Our degree of spiritual evolution can be measured in terms of our ability to love. The degree of harmony in our interpersonal relationships is also a function of our ability to love unconditionally. Thus we can understand much about our strengths and weaknesses along the spiritual path by observing the degree of harmony or conflict we experience in our relationships with others. We will attract to ourselves exactly the individuals and characters which have something to teach us. Our close family members and friends are chosen before we are born because we have much to teach and learn from each other. The relationship is destined in order to teach and learn from each other. The relationship is destined from before birth; but our reactions are our own free will. For example, it may be fate that we will have to receive rejection from our close relatives. But how we will react to that rejection is up to our own free will. We can become hurt, angry and bitter; or we can avoid all contact with them and suppress our feelings; or we can continue to love them unconditionally, realizing that the problem is theirs and not ours. Thus the realm of personal relationships is a major field of learning here on the earth, especially for the emotionally oriented individual. When a relationship is not going well, we will do well to examine ourselves for selfishness, immaturity, pride, lack of self-confidence, and, most important of all, lack of love. The disharmonies in our relationships will show us our weaknesses and where we have to develop more. We decide, even before we come to this earth, to play these various roles with those around us, so that we may all continue with our spiritual evolution. We may come over and over with the same spirits until we work things out with them. There are three main attractive forces between people, LOVE, HATE and FEAR. These three emotions will attract the object of these emotions into our lives. It is better to attract what we love rather than what we fear or hate. So let us work on developing more love and transcending (not suppressing) hate and fear. And, even if we do attract what we fear or hate, we can eventually overcome the problem by learning to love what previously repelled us. Psychiatrist Wambach’s subjects verified that they incarnated over and over with the same spirits playing different roles. Consider some of these answers:
«My mother was my sister in a past life and my father was a lover. My first son had been a grandfather in one lifetime of mine, my second son had been a father, and my first daughter a friend. My second daughter I saw clearly as a mother of mine in a past life». (Case A-225).
«My mother was a close male friend from a past life. My father was my wife whom I used to treat cruelly in a past life». (Case A-460).
«I became aware that in one of my previous lives my mother killed both my father and myself. Neither she nor my father remember, I became aware, but somehow I always dreamed about this experience. Only now, as I see the relationships here in the hypnosis, I have freed myself». (Case A-589).
«My mother was a mother of mine in a past life and also a child of mine in a past life. My children told me they wanted to be my children before I was born, and I knew them not only from past lives, but from the between-life period». (Case A -381).
«I knew my mother had been my mother previously. I had been twins with my father, so we were very close, I was aware of numerous other family relationships that stem from past lives. I was glad to be a sister rather than a wife to my brother». (Case A-513).
«My mother was a sister or close relation in a past life. My father was a captain of a ship I was a sailor in. I got the impression that many other people who were in this life were in a particular lifetime of mine in the 1600 ‘s». (Case A-558).
«I realize now that part of my purpose this time is to be aware of my mother’s feelings toward me and learn to love her anyway. Oh boy, is that a toughie!» (Case A-242).
«I came in this time period to correct past errors and to work out my guilt about certain relationships». (Case A-57).
«I came in this time period because certain other people I needed to work out relationships with, would also be alive at this time». (Case B-70)
«I came this time to get to know my mother better who was my best friend in a previous life and she was alive in this time period». (Case B-55).
Psychiatrist Wambach’s comments on these results are of interest to us.
«Among the 87 percent responding «Yes» to the question about knowing parents in past lives, there was an astonishing variety in the relationships reported. Fathers in this lifetime had been lovers in the past, mothers in the past, brothers, sisters, friends and children. Mothers in the current lifetime were seen as friends, fathers, brothers, sisters, children. There was no consistency at all in the way in which people in this life were related in past lives. The Freudian hypothesis of daughters wishing that fathers were lovers was not evident in the data, nor did sons see their mothers as wives in past lives more frequently than seeing them in other relationships. Often parents in this life were friends or distant relatives in past lives.
«Mates and lovers were perceived as friends, close relations, parents from past lives as well as lovers. Some subjects did report that husbands or wives in this lifetime had been in a sexual relationship with them in past lives as well, so there appeared to be a trend for people to work out sexual relationships by assuming the same sex roles in several lifetimes. But again, this was well under one third of the reports of relationships in past lives to husbands or lovers now».
This data along with other available information generates some of the following thoughts.
1) We tend to incarnate over and over with some of the same spirits.
2) We incarnate with the spirits who have lessons to teach us or lessons to learn from us.
3) If we are unable to harmonize the relationship in one life, we will have to attract the same spirit or the same type of personality in a future life and eventually learn the lesson.
4) It seems therefore logical and useful to try to harmonize our relationships now, so that we may enjoy lives of greater love and harmony and, simultaneously, have a free conscience at the moment of death.
In counseling people who are about to die, I have noticed that death is much more disturbing to them when they have failed to harmonize their relationships with those around them. Also those who remain, often feel guilt, that a mother, father or sibling has passed on before they were about to «work things out with them», and now it is too late. Isn’t it better then to begin to take a look at our relationships today and discover where we are harboring anger, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, hate, fear or other separating emotions towards those around us. If these people are available and open to communication, then we can begin to discuss our relationships with them, with the hope of settling our differences, forgiving each other and starting a new relationship based on love and communication. There also may be positive emotions of love, affection, respect, gratitude or admiration which we feel but have never expressed to these persons. It would be shame for one of us to leave before these positive emotions are expressed. This is one of the basic steps which we must take if we are to be ready for death at any moment; whether it be our own or the other’s death. If the other is not available, or not ready, to listen or communicate, then we can at least transform our own feelings. We can let go all of our bitterness and other negative feelings, and imagine the other surrounded by light and love and wish him well. We can forgive him for everything and at least clear up any negativity from our side. Then we will be able to leave our physical body much more peacefully, with less karma to drag us back down into the same unpleasant type of human interaction. LOVE and FORGIVENESS are our basic tools here. One simple exercise is to imagine that you are about to die in a few minutes and bring the various important people in your life to mind and think what you would like to express to them before you leave. Write down your thoughts to these persons, as you imagine that you will not see them again. Then you might want to give this letter or express these feelings to them personally. If we owe anything to anyone, it is best to repay it and not leave debts standing. These debts will be like connecting chains which will bind us again to the same situation. If we have harmed someone, it is best to develop humility and ask for forgiveness. If they don’t want to communicate about it, we can relax our body and mind and imagine the scene in our minds and ask them for forgiveness in our imagination. We can also write a letter asking for forgiveness. This will clear us from the picture. We may also ask God’s forgiveness. God is always ready to forgive the sincere heart. And, lastly we must also forgive ourselves and not hold on to old guilt which makes us feel separate from God and others. If we have difficulty thinking of someone in a good light, we can relax the body and mind and then imagine 5 positive qualities which this person has. In this way we can change the image we have for this person. This will help to open our hearts and our feelings; and the relationship with this person will certainly change. The more we examine how we can prepare for a peaceful death, the more we realize that preparation for death is in reality preparation for life. It is like the relationship between sleeping and waking. If we have not lived our day in such a way so as to feel peaceful and satisfied at the moment of falling asleep, we will not be able to let go, and will feel restless. Thus the next day will be even more unpleasant. In the same way if we do not live our lives in harmony with our inner beliefs, we will feel panic and remorse at the moment of death. Consequently, the next life will start out with those unpleasant vibrations. We start out where we have left off. Dr. Moody’s subjects, who have died and come back to life, verify that they were suddenly inspired to live much less selfishly.
1) «I didn’t tell anybody about my experience, but when I got back, I had this overwhelming, burning, consuming desire to do something for other peopleΖ I was so ashamed of all the things that I had done, or hadn’t done, in my life. I felt like I had to do it, that it couldn’t wait».
2) «When I got back from this, I had decided I ‘d better change. I was very repentant. I hadn’t been satisfied with the life I had led up to then, so I wanted to start doing better.
Another subject saw one spirit trying to communicate to those whom it had left behind to change their ways before it was too late.
Dr. Moody: «Was there any particular thing she was trying to tell them?» Subject: «Well, it seems more or less that she was trying to get through to them, trying to tell them, seemingly, to do things differently from what they were doing now, to change, to make a change in their life style. Now, this sounds kind of put on, but she was trying to get them to do the right things, to change so as not to be left like she was. «Don’t do as I did, so this won’t happen to you. Do things for others so that you won’t be left like this». I ‘m not trying to moralize or make a sermon, but this seemed to be the message that she was trying to get acrossΖ It seemed that in this house there was no love, if you want to put it that wayΖ It seemed that she was trying to atone for something she had doneΖ It’s an experience I’ll never forget».
Theologian Meletis, firmly believes that Spirits do continue their relationship with the incarnated Spirits whom they have recently left.
«Does the departed Spirit have the power of communicating with its family, acquaintances and friends? Or does it cease to be interested and think about the people on the earth? There is no doubt whatsoever that there is intimate communication. The relationship is not severed by death. It simply changes. The bounds and mutual helping of one another between the living and the dead continue to survive. We are one spiritual body with Christ as our head. Our spiritual bounds are not broken, not even by death. The spirits of our loved ones are observing us, are interested in us and struggle along with us in our pleasant and difficult tasks».
Perhaps the greatest obstacle toward our being able to transcend our emotional weaknesses and negative reactions towards others is the fact that we are so controlled by our attachments, aversions, fear, social programming and habit patterns. Self-examination is one way in which we can observe and transcend some of these obstacles.
We have already discussed the need for greater detachment from the body and mind, where we begin to observe our personality as an instrument through which we spirits are acting. In reality, we are being examined every moment of our lives. Every experience is an opportunity which we can use for growth into greater awareness. We often fail to see the lesson in an experience, because we do not have enough emotional freedom. We would do well to identify with our inner spiritual nature which has existed as other personalities before its birth into this body and will continue after the death of this body. Then we will be freer to see the truth, and answer the questions on the «examination of life» more correctly. When we answer from the ego level, we are usually wrong. The ultimate question of life is WHO AM I? The basic purpose of life is to answer this question, to realize our true spiritual nature, or to KNOW OURSELVES, in the terms of Socrates. Socrates felt that it was better to die than not examine one’s life continually. He was persecuted and eventually condemned to die because of his philosophical search and his encouraging others to do the same. Here he shows the conviction of his beliefs:
«If you say to meΖ you shall be let off, but upon one condition, that you are not to inquireΖ in this way any more, and that if you are caught doing so again, you shall die – if this was the condition, on which you let me go, I would reply: «Ζwhile I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy, exhorting anyone whom I meetΖ Are you not ashamed of heaping the greatest amount of money and honor and reputation and caring so little about wisdom and truth? The unexamined life is not worth living».
It is not enough, however, simply to examine our lives philosophically. This wisdom must become love and selfless action. It must become a feeling of spiritual oneness with all beings in the universe and bring harmony and peace into our lives.
E) TRANSFORMING OUR BELIEF SYSTEMS
As we examine more deeply into our personality through self-analysis, we will discover that, at the basis of our personal reality, we have a structured BELIEF SYSTEM. This belief system forms the structure of our lives and the various experiences which we encounter. Our basic belief system filters out the information which flows in through our senses. It allows only those thoughts and impressions, which are consistent with our belief system, to reach the conscious mind. The rest is hidden away in the subconscious. The examination and transformation of belief systems is a subject which requires a whole separate book and not a few pages. Let it suffice to say that there are two basic core beliefs upon which all our other beliefs are based. One core belief is that I AM THIS BODY AND PERSONALITY and the other core belief is I AM AN IMMORTAL SPIRIT. Our goal is to strengthen the second belief system which offers us much more inner security, self-confidence, strength, fearlessness, joy, peace and inner satisfaction in our lives. It is also obvious that we will not fear death if we firmly believe we are spirits. One basic problem is that we are strongly affected by the group belief system of the society around us and find it difficult to break free from it. It is true that our personal reality is created by our personal belief system, but in many cases our personal belief system cannot become free enough from the social belief system. Thus we basically experience a reality based on the social belief system which is working deep in our subconscious. Thus we will be able to experience the result of our Spirit belief system either when our concentration becomes so strong that we are completely unaffected by what others believe or when the society, as a whole, evolves into this system of belief. From early childhood we have been taught that we are spirits; but the actions of our parents and of those around us, showed us clearly that they did not believe this in any depth. If we truly believed that we were spirits, there would be no worry, anxiety, fear, sense of depression or helplessness, no bitterness or resentment, there would be only love and peace. Seth challenges us to experiment with a belief in good without a belief in evil.
«Quite simply, a belief in the good without a belief in the evil, may seem highly unrealistic to you. This belief, however, is the best kind of insurance that you can have, both during physical life and afterward.
«It may outrage your intellect, and the evidence of your physical senses may shout that it is untrue, yet a belief in good without a belief in evil is actually highly realistic, since in physical life it will keep your body healthier, keep you psychologically free of many fears and mental difficulties, and bring you a feeling of ease and spontaneity in which the development of your abilities can be better fulfilled! After death it will release you from the belief in demons and hell and enforced punishment. You will be better prepared to understand the nature of reality as it is. I understand that the concept does indeed offend your intellect, and that your senses seem to deny it. Yet you should already realize that your senses tell you many things, which are not true; and I tell you that your physical senses perceive a reality that is a result of your beliefs.
«Believing in evils, you will of course perceive them. Your world has not tried the experiment as yet which would release you. Christianity was but a distortion of this main truth – that is, organized Christianity as you know it. I am not simply speaking here of the original precepts. They were hardly given a chance, and we will discuss some of this later in the book.
«The experiment that would transform your world would operate upon the basic idea that you create your own reality according to the nature of your beliefs, and that all existence was blessed, and that evil did not exist in it. If these ideas were followed individually and collectively, then the evidence of your physical senses would find no contradiction. They would perceive the world and existence as good.
«This is the experiment that has not been tried, and these are the truths that you must learn after physical death. Some, after death, understanding these truths, choose to return to physical existence and proclaim them. Through the centuries this has been the way».
F) LEARNING TO LET GO – MEDITATION, RELAXATION, PRAYER
One of the ways in which we can soften the mind for the reshaping of the belief system is through daily practice of some mental discipline such as deep relaxation, mind control, prayer or meditation. In this way the mind is relaxed and becomes more malleable for self-transformation. It can then be filled with more positive qualities. Death is a process of letting go of everything; a surrendering of the body and its attachments. It requires letting go of all the concerns which are occupying the mind; the projects, plans, relationships, business and professional concerns, possessions, pains, problems and even joys and pleasures. When we practice deep relaxation or meditation, we learn to let go of all these concerns and experience natural inner peace, which is always present in our actions and even in our efforts. We can learn detached effortless action which is far more efficient and productive than tense, anxious, stressful action. Thus, when the moment of death comes, we are able to face that experience in the same way; with peace, with dignity and conscious awareness. We will have learned through our inner experiences that we are something above and beyond the body and mind. As a result we will concentrate our attention more on the spiritual aspect of our existence, which will eventually slip out of the body, and thus will be able to face death with inner peace. This does not mean that we will not try to live as long, and usefully as we can; but when the moment has obviously come, we will leave with a peaceful smile on our lips, meditating on the divine bliss of the spirit world we are about to meet. The first step then, is relaxation; letting go. The second step is focussing the mind on a higher entity or reality. Once we are completely relaxed we can concentrate our minds on the image or name of Jesus the Christ, or we can imagine the divine light or the unmanifest God without form. It is said that if we have the name of God on our lips as we leave the physical body, then that name will carry us to a very high after-death state. This is only reasonable since we have already seen that the spirit will automatically go to whatever place comes into the mind. Thus if we have God in our mind we will go to God. Satya Sai Baba comments on this:
«Listening to some Puranic (scriptural) tales you might say that it is quite enough if the name of the Lord is remembered at the very last moment of life. But it is a difficult task to recall that name in the end if you have not practiced it for years. In the surge of emotions and thoughts that will invade you at the last moment, the name of God will be submerged unless you learn from now on to bring that name to the top of your consciousness whenever you want it.
«There was a shopkeeper once who was inspired by the tale of Ajamila. He decided to remember the name of God with his last breath by a shortcut. He named his six sons after various gods for he knew that he was bound to call on any one of them when he was about to die. The moment came at last, and according to program he called the Lord by proxy, six times in all.
«The boys came and stood around his cot and as he surveyed the group, the last thought that came to the dying man’s mind, just when he was about to quit, was, «Alas, all of you have come away. Who will look after the shop now?».
«You see his shop was his very breath all through his life and he could not switch to God at short notice. The latent tendencies will have their say, whatever you may wish.
«It is no mean achievement to get the name of the Lord on one’s tongue at the last moment. It needs that practice of many years, based on a deep-rooted faith and a strong character without hatred or malice. The thought of God cannot survive in a climate of pride and greed. Moreover, how do you know which is the last moment? The God of death does not give notice of his arrival to take hold of you. He is not like the photographer who says, «I am clicking, are you ready?».
«If you wish your portrait to be hung on the walls of heaven, it must be attractive; your stance, your pose and your smile must be all nice, is it not? So be ready for the «click» day and night, with the name of God ever rolling on the tongue and the glory always radiant in the mind. Then, whenever «shot», your photo will be fine».
In His down-to-earth and humorous examples Sai Baba makes us realize the simple truth that we will die in the way that we have lived. It will not be possible at the last moment to change our character, interests and way of thought. This process must begin here and now, through daily meditation and concentration on the name or image of God or some other divine quality such as love or light. According to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, we can prepare for our death in five basic ways:
1) Commit to memory the fact that we are spirits and that anything that we see after death is simply a projection of our own mental concepts.
2) Develop a communication and relationship with higher powers through regular prayer.
3) Live our lives selflessly, serving others in any way that we can.
4) Practice special mantras or holy sounds (like Om or Gayatri mantra) or the Lord’s prayer which have the power to dissolve the ignorance which binds the spirit.
5) Practice of regular meditation in order to experience the pure consciousness which is our true reality. Meditation, in a way, is the practice of dying. We die to the world of desires, senses and thoughts so that we can experience the inner spiritual self which continues after death. According to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, «To those who have meditated much, the Real Truth dawns as soon as the body and consciousness – principle part». The spirit is the consciousness principle which departs from the body and experiences its purity of self, because of the constant purifying effect of meditation. Those who practice mind control can imagine themselves to be spirits and imagine their spiritual reality, along with letting go of the fears, tension and attachments of the physical body. One can repeat over and over inside himself, «I am a spirit, I am a spirit», «I am not this body, I am a spirit». In such way we can reprogram these falsely programmed minds.
G) FAITH IN GOD AND SPIRITUAL REALITY
In order to be able to really let go, we need to have a certain amount of faith in the truth of our spiritual nature and in the existence of God. Without the faith that nothing harmful will happen to us, it will be difficult to relax and let go. Faith in God is an all-covering shield against all the problems of life, i.e. fear, anxiety, worry, doubt, an a lack of security. One who has faith in God fears neither life nor death, because he is sure that God will protect him in every situation. He may be tested and made to pass through various difficulties but these are blessings in disguise. Through these tests, he grows more emotionally, mentally and spiritually mature. Faith in God is indeed a great asset when facing one’s own or another’s death. One who is able to have such faith, simply attends to his responsibilities towards himself, his family, society and God. He leaves all the results up to God. He makes his greatest effort without being attached to the results. Thus, when the last moment comes, he feels that he has done his best and does not worry about whether he has succeeded or not; that is God’s business. He has the peace and contentment of knowing that he has done his best. He surrenders the results.
H) DETACHMENT FROM THE PHYSICAL BODY AND SENSES
The greater our attachment to the physical body and its needs, the more difficult it will be for us when we have to leave it. Our attachments, desires and sensual attractions will pull us downwards making death a difficult, painful and disturbing experience. But this is not only true of death. These attachments and addictions also make life more painful and difficult, for we are seldom able to fulfill these desires and addictions as much as we would like, and consequently spend much of our time in discontentment and unhappiness. Satya Sai Baba has said that, «the richest man is the man with the least desires, and the poorest man is the man with the most desires». The more simply we learn to live, the happier we are. All religions advocate austerity or learning to control the desires of the body to a reasonable extent. Every religion offers us techniques such as prayer, fasting, spiritual retreating and various types of vows through which we can develop the power of will over the desire nature. This is an essential process for one who wants spiritual evolution or one who would like to be ready to face death at every moment. Death requires our being able to leave our sensual pleasures and enjoyments. If we are not ready to leave them, how will we be able to calmly face death? We will feel the pain of separation from our sources of enjoyment. As we learn to experience joy from within, not needing stimulation from without in the form of food, drink, cigarettes, sex, movies etc., we will develop a permanent state of inner peace and contentment which needs few forms of external help. This is useful both for life and death. The freer a person is in life, the freer his death will be. Through this discipline of the desire nature, we can gradually strengthen our character. We can then be braver in facing life and death, for we will have nothing to fear, nothing to lose, because our center of satisfaction is within us. One must not, however, overdo such disciplines and harm the body or mind in any way. The goal is not self-punishment but detachment and freedom from desire. We are seeking freedom from the ego. We come to the Earth over and over, because only our body dies and not our ego. If our ego were to die, then we would be born spiritually and need not be born again. Sai Baba says we must cross out the «I» in order to get the cross on which Christ was crucified. The feeling of «I» must be crucified so that the inner spiritual self can be born. Then there is no need for reincarnating. Jesus said, «Until a man be born again (spiritually), he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven». He also said, «Until a man becomes perfect, he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven». The ways in which we can work towards this spiritual rebirth are basically four:
1) Through LOVE for God and our fellow men.
2) Through SELFLESS SERVICE to all of humanity.
3) Through WISDOM of the truth of our spiritual nature.
4) Through the CONTROL OF THE MIND and merging our mind in the Divine.
I) THE DREAM STATE AS A PRACTICE GROUND FOR AFTER-DEATH STATES
Just about everyone has had dreams in which they interact with deceased relatives or friends. In some cases this may simply be the workings of the subconscious mind. In other cases it may actually be that we are communicating with these spirits in dimensions which are available to them and to us in our dreams. There appear to be many similarities between the after-death state and the dream state. In both dimensions the mind forms reality with its thoughts. We have the same powers in our dreams that we have after death. According to Alice Bailey, death is simply an extended sleep in which we wake up in a new body.
«People are apt to forget that every night in the hours of sleep we die to the physical plane and are alive and functioning elsewhere. They forget that they have already achieved facility in leaving the physical body; because they cannot yet bring back into the physical brain consciousness the recollection of that passing out and of the subsequent interval of active living. They fail to relate death and sleep. Death is, after all, only a longer interval in the life of physical plane functioning; one has only «gone aboard» for a longer period. But the process of daily sleep and the process of occasional dying are identical, with the one difference that in sleep the magnetic thread, or current of energy, along which the life force streams, is preserved intact, and constitutes the path of return to the body. In death, this life thread is broken or snapped. When this has happened, the conscious entity cannot return to the dense physical body, and that body, lacking the principle of coherence, then disintegrates.»
Seth not only agrees with Alice Bailey but also goes further to say that we might even be able to practice for after-death states by learning to consciously manipulate our dream reality.
«After-death experiences will not seem so alien, or incomprehensible, if you realize that you encounter similar situations as a normal part of your present existence.
«In sleep and dream states you are involved in the same dimension of existence in which you will have your after-death experiences. You do not remember the most important of these high adventures, and so those you do recall seem to bizarre or chaotic as a rule. This is simply because in your present state of development you are not able to manipulate consciously within more than one environment.
«You do exist consciously in a coherent, purposeful, creative state while the physical body sleeps, however, and you carry on many of the activities that I told you would be encountered after death. You simply turn the main focus of your attention in a different dimension of activity, one in which you have indeed continuously operated.
«Now, as you have memory of your waking life and as you retain a large body of such memory for daily physical encounters, and as this fount of memory provides you with a sense of daily continuity, so also does your dreaming self have an equally large body of memory. As there is continuity to your daily life, so there is continuity in your sleeping life.
«This simple fact is that when you dream you are flying, you often are. In the dream state you operate under the same conditions, more or less, that are native to a consciousness not focused in physical reality. Many of your experiences, therefore, are precisely those you may meet after death. You may speak with dead friends or relatives, revisit the past, greet old classmates, walk down streets that existed fifty years earlier in physical time, travel through space without taking any physical time to do so, be met by guides, be instructed, teach others, perform meaningful work, solve problems, hallucinate.
«In physical life there is a lag between the conception of an idea and its physical construction. In dream reality, this is not so. Therefore, the best way to become acquainted with after-death reality ahead of time, so to speak, is to explore and understand the nature of your own dreaming self. Not very many people want to take the time or energy».
Obviously, such an endeavor would take great time and energy, and a development of conscious awareness in the dream state. Carlos Castanenda’s teacher Don Juan encouraged him to develop conscious awareness in his dreams by remembering to look at his left hand while in the dream. Such techniques and tricks may be successfully used, so as to bring about the ultimate goal of all spiritual work, to be able to discriminate between the witness and the body and mind which are experiencing the myriad changes of the physical, mental, emotional and dream world. The individual who wants to be the master of himself, will eventually maintain self-awareness not only in the waking and dream state but even in the deep sleep state. When consciousness is maintained even in the deep sleep state, it is called «samadhi», nirvana or in Christian terms, «ecstatic Divine Ground». Thus the work we do on developing conscious awareness, in our waking and dream states, is useful not only for the after-death state, but also to the waking state and to our purpose here on earth which is self-realization.
Facing death and facing life are one in the same. One who learns to live harmoniously in accordance with his basic beliefs, will die harmoniously in the same way. One who has no fear for life, will not fear death. Ignoring death is not the way to be ready for it. The fear of death will not pass by if we hide our heads in an ostrich hole. We can overcome our fear of death, by becoming familiar with it, and by becoming familiar with our true selves. We can be ready at every moment to die peacefully, consciously and spiritually by living in the following way.
1) Live our lives with intensity in harmony with our goals and ambitions in life.
2) Discover the purpose for which we have incarnated and work toward that purpose.
3) Seek to find greater harmony in our relationships, at least from our own part, through unconditional love.
4) Practice regular self-examination always seeking to improve the functioning of the personality; and discover our true spiritual nature.
5) Transform our belief system from I AM BODY to I AM SPIRIT.
6) Learn to relax and concentrate the mind through regular relaxation, mind control, prayer and meditation.
7) Live lives in harmony with our conscience. Do to others as we would like them to do to us.
8) Develop faith in, and love for, God.
9) Detach ourselves from the dependencies on the pleasures of the body.
10) Develop self-awareness in the waking and dream state, and learn to manipulate our dream reality.
Obviously preparing for death has nothing to do with retreating from life, but rather living life more bravely, «like a warrior» as Don Juan suggests always remembering death to be waiting for you us our left side. In this way we are not tempted to waste time or energy on meaningless, vain activities, which do not contribute to the quality of our lives.
Remember Sai Baba’s words
«TIME WASTE IS LIFE WASTE»