Death, be not proud

Wikipedia defines Death as ” Death is the irreversible cessation of all biological functions that sustain an organism. Death is an inevitable process that eventually occurs in almost all organisms.” Remember Benjamin Franklin (1789), “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”. Despite being ubiquitous, Death is dreaded and rarely talked about, except in hushed tones & in dark corners. But I want to make it centerstage & say a few things about this universal phenomenon.

Ba Bha Borkar, a famous poet in Marathi, sings the story of life so very well:

नाही पुण्याची मोजणी
नाही पापाची टोचणी
जिणें गंगौघाचें पाणी


कशाचा न लागभाग
कशाचा न पाठलाग
आम्ही हो फुलांचे पराग

पूजेतल्या पानाफुला
मृत्यु सर्वांगसोहळा
धन्य निर्माल्याची कळI

(Transliteration: I do not count the merits, Nor do I count the sins, Life is a swirling cauldron; I have no attachments; Nor have any pursuits, Like the pollen of the flowers, …To the flowers offered to God, Death is mighty celebration, They feel blessed to be used & discarded)

Actually, if you think about it, it is strange to be afraid of Death. Really, Life hurts much more than Death!! Living is a daily struggle, mostly an uphill battle chasing dreams & other chimera. Sure, some successes but full of disappointments & pain, perpetually keeping us in a state of want, pushing us to achieve the next goal, something better, higher & faster. Ironically, even achievers are unhappy in their worlds. Satisfaction is a moving goal post. As against this continuous seeking, at the point of death, the pain is over!! Swarga, Nirvana, Salvation, the Promised land, Heaven, Jannat, all await us there. So why grieve? why fear death?

Partly I think this is caused by the imagery surrounding Death. The Grim Reaper. Yama, on a black bison. The Purgatory, the Boiling Cauldrons. Even though the Jesus story is of hope, as he came back to life, the sufferings on the Cross is what is majorly emphasized & not the Resurrection. Devoid of all the negative hype, what is wrong with death? Remember, it is inevitable…. Life is a game, and no one gets out of it alive. If you have lived a good life, then Death is an entry ticket into Eternity. And all religions promise that the afterlife will be much more rewarding & comforting, than the struggles of Life!! I think the fear of death follows from the fear of life & living, itself!!!

All these thoughts are prompted by the death of a friend’s mother, another friend’s sister & my own uncle, all in this month. Each life & each death is an unique story. But let us talk about my uncle. He was my father’s immediate next brother, & we all have very fond memories of his love and affection, in our childhood years. He introduced us to British Council libraries. He would assemble all kids at his house, get everyone to play cards, keep a running supply of snacks and nimbu-pani. The evening reward, for participating in the card-playing marathon, was an Ice-cream treat. This was before the Kwality & Joy family pack days. So the entire jing-bang was ferried in rickshaws to Kawre & Solanki Ice cream parlors. He first introduced us to an ice-cream lunch or dinner: idea was to have 5/6 or more, cups of different flavors, & skip the meal.

His giving was legendary. In my mother’s kitchen the Big dabbas of Steel & Copper were procured & supplied by my uncle. As were the crockery & cutlery sets. His loving nature apart, he was super intelligent. A ranker in his SSC exam at that time, his sense of humor was legion. Fie, if you were caught on the wrong end of his repartee…many family anecdotes were made from his caustic, but witty comments.

Somewhere down the line his loving nature gave way to bitterness. He behaved as though God has put him on earth to correct his fellow humans, to show them the right path. Full of vituperative anger & caustic sarcasm, he hurt many & left many wounded. Slowly, people started avoiding him. Even the family members bristled & kept their own counsel, on the other side of the road, where he walked. Unfortunately, this reinforced his feeling that the world is wrong, & he must intervene and tongue-lash people unto following his dictum. He lived to ripe age of 89, saw his children settled, disposed his property, made money & bank balances, but died lonely, and if truth be told, un-mourned. What makes a man change so much? “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live” These words of Norman Cousins ring true when I think of my uncle. A loving, kingly man, witty and smart, the life of any party. Why and how does he turn into a man-eating ogre?

Death never takes a wise man by surprise. And wise my uncle certainly was. He had he had lived a full life, by his rules, and was “prepared & ready” to die. He never felt it necessary to grieve & mourn and would not have expected us to grieve. Don’t get me wrong. I am against the ostentatious Rajasthani practice of Rudaalis (professional mourners) immortalized by Mahasweta Devi’s short story, brought to life by Kalpana Lajmi and played by Rakhee & Dimple. Extreme show apart, I do believe Grief is a coping mechanism and has a place in life. Grief is not a disorder, a disease, or a sign of weakness. In the normal situation, grieving is a necessity, a price you pay for the love of the deceased. The only cure for grief is to grieve. But in the instant case the love had evaporated & so literally there was no grief. With all sincerity & humility, I hope, when I die, there will be no grief. Unlike my uncle, i have never tried to teach others the “right” path. But I believe I have shown acceptance and tolerance to all. I have lived a good life. I have no remnant desires. To his credit I must say my uncle too had a very peaceful death. I wish for the same.

ह्रदय कमल सूचि हो….बुद्धि मेरी विमल हो….तृष्णा से शांत मन हो….इतना तो करना स्वामी…जब प्राण तन से निकले (Transliteration: Let my heart be pure like the lotus…my intellect humble…mind free of desires… do at least this much Swami…when life leaves my body)

If you think clearly, “it is not death then a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live” (Marcus Aurelius). Live life king size, Enjoy with family & friends, Contribute whenever & wherever and accept Death, the Grim Reaper, Yama as a friend. A friend buying your ticket and accompanying you to the Beyond, a new Avatar. As a dear friend says, “ उस पल का इंतझार (eagerly await that moment)

So I repeat with John Donne ,” Death be not proud, …one short sleep past, we wake eternally, And Death shall be no more, Death thou shalt die”: vikas, the incurable hopeful

46 Replies to “Death, be not proud”

  1. A contrarian view of the much avoided topic of death beautifully illustrated with your uncle’s life. Indeed makes me able to face death with more confidence. Thank you Sir. Brilliantly as always. Am sure you will live on forever in people’s hearts

    Like

    1. Col
      high praise indeed. Hope I deserve it
      my idea of blogging is to connect with the readers and touch their “soul”
      Your kind words give me the confidence I am on the right path
      Many many thanks for your support and good wishes
      vikas

      Like

  2. Quite insightful Sir. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think the beauty of death is you keep thinking about it thru your life, but when it happens, you no longer feel it. Because, you are already dead!! Enjoying each moment while alive is the key for peaceful death as one doesn’t know when it will come. Later, it doesn’t matter.

    Like

    1. Amit indeed
      One of the Yaksha Prashna is what is the most surprising thing in the world and Yudhistir answers, we all are destined to die, but we all live as though we are immortal
      Living in the present is indeed the best solution for a happy life

      Like

  3. Vikas Sir,
    It is nicely written blog on death. Death is certain, it has been nicely elaborated how people see towards the end corner of life. It is good thoughts of different philosopher nicely compilation. We should celebrate and enjoy the life who are alive and dead

    Like

  4. Nicely written and great words… however the comparison of your uncle’s passing away with how you (or we) want ours is a maybe immaterial. Everyone lives life their own way and affect countless people as Life dictates. I feel that only in the last times does everyone have a realization of their toils, and it is true to them and themselves only…. This realization is what we all love for …

    Like

    1. Hrishi
      I stand corrected, my friend
      agreed that each life and each death is unique
      I was only using the “peaceful death” to register my own aspiration to all
      what will happen is anybody’s guess

      Like

  5. Vikas another very thoughtful blog this time on a subject that is hardly talked till one is alive. Those who fear death should visit Hindu Crematorium and see thoughts from epic Bhagwat Geeta written on the wall. Why perhaps people don’t like death is because they don’t know what awaits them as no one has seen what happens when Atma, the element of god/nature in us leaves our body.
    When one is alive, he or she can get to see/ feel the result/experience of every move, every deed. And if the experience is good, one can build upon it to enjoy it more. If its not, one can change himself/herself to make it better next time. There is no next time after death.
    People left behind lose friend/spouse/father/mother/ relative/guru with whom he/she had good equation and interdependent life. If that person happens to be your caring wife/husband, then you lose a person with whom you can confide, share good and bad experiences of life and she/he will be with you in those good or bad times. Living alone is not that easy.
    Vikas, your examples and quotes are thought provoking and befitting to what you say. Continue this saga and keep us enlightened with your thoughts.

    Like

    1. Dr PMK
      many thanks for your thoughtful comments
      truly appreciate your perspective born out of your own experience
      Bhagwat Geeta is indeed a torchbearer in life and about Death too it teaches us a lot
      Remember the Yaksha Prashna dialogue (he Madhya Parva of the Mahabharata, and is also known as the Dharma-Baka Upakhyan) between Yudhishtir and the Yaksha
      I have yet to come across a more profound explanation of the questions that plague all of us
      we are fortunate to live in a country with such a strong legacy & tradition
      our ancient Literature indeed expounds on all our human condition

      thanks for your words of praise on the blog
      this motivates me to keep writing

      Like

  6. Death and life are two sides of the same coin. My only prayer:
    अनायासेन मरणं विनादैन्येन जीवनं
    A death without pain (अनायासेन मरणं), a life without dependence on others for my basic needs (विनादैन्येन जीवनं).

    Like

  7. Vikas dada,

    This is a bold and controversial post indeed. As an author, I respect it.

    However, I feel that the post belies the fact that you are not grieving. At some level, you are, in my humble opinion.

    About death –
    The fear most people have is not around what comes after, but “how” and “when” it will come. Will there be lot of pain, dependence, humiliation ? etc.

    Loved these quotes-

    “Really, Life hurts much more than Death!!”

    “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live”.

    “The only cure for grief is to grieve.”

    Like

    1. Neelu
      thanks for your comments
      Yes it is bold and controversial also
      Before posting it I sent a WA message to Ushu and Ninda seeking their advance pardon
      Ushu reacted sharply after reading the blog…”speak for yourself” etc
      But yes, indeed I felt grief, as we have had many many great moments with Nanda
      at the same time I must accept I started avoiding him after his treatment and comments about Padma, Priyu, my mother
      I rebelled against his stance that he knows it all and he has a right to teach everyone or impose his own POV
      This was the later part of his life
      it clouded his native intelligence and all the earlier life where he always was in a giving mode
      later it became only giving gyan/lectures/negative comments
      I know I am preaching to the converted, but to be honest, I must be willing to offend
      ( possibly nana lived this trusth from his perspective)
      I am also questioning why no ill can be talked about the dead. To me it is a foolish belief
      and angst and grief can of course live together

      the quotes you have picked from the blo are also my fav lines
      to them I would only add Abhisheki bua’s rendition of Borkar song
      and the sonnet by John Donne

      My cup over floweth with the views and comments
      thanks once again
      keep writing in

      Like

  8. Vikas, as usual you tread where most fear… A mirror of what be and what beyond…… Like I believe…. Count ur blessings.. That’s all what goes with u….. Thanks for ur insights

    Like

  9. You’ve penned down your analytical thoughts of missing one of your most favourite uncles. A unique expression of life & times spent, especially when we ourselves are not very far from the eternal truth , the ultimate beginning after birth .

    Like

  10. Very well written. Life and death of your uncle and what unfolded is described so beautifully, makes one think for himself. One dimension of death is: who dies or whose death? It is physical body and not the “atman” which moves from one body to another. (This is hindu philosophy) Extremely difficult to see the death this way.

    Like

    1. KK
      thanks for your comment
      Yes in India we have been brought up on the Reincarnation philosophy, muddled with the Law of Karma
      at the root we do not question it
      on a lighter note there is that WA joke,” Of course I believe in Law of Karma!! How else can you understand the success of those whom you hate?”
      Life is a struggle and living in the present, without the baggage of the past, or fear of the future, is indeed the way FW

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Initially I thought your blog was the result of the untimely departure of Cyrus Mistry.

    As I read on, I realised that it was much more personal than that ..losing 3 loved ones in a quick succession is pretty tragic.
    My condolences!!

    Coming to the subject ,my thinking has been that death per se is not the issue. It is, however, feared for 3 reasons:

    • How will I be dying? Will I be suffering for months and years like many unfortunate cases? What will be that FINAL moment like?
    • Since my soul is strongly attached to the body, how painful will be that process ,wherein the hugely intertwined connections with the body will be severed?
    • Death would mean a complete and ‘forever’ separation from the loved ones!! Isn’t that thought a dreadful one?

    In spirituality , it is often said that all your endeavours in the life are to achieve ,what is described as a peaceful death.
    For this to happen ,several actions are required during one’s lifetime:

    • To keep all possible care of the body so that chances of physical suffering reduces ( no guarantee , of course..but we can do our best)
    • Keep maintaining a ‘mental’ distance between “ I” and my body while performing all my actions. When we wear very tight fitting clothes, their removal can be difficult, if not painful. Let the soul be not so tightly entrenched in my body!
    • The attachment with people around is the result of our karmic account with them. I need to make sure that I do not harm anyone in anyway that aggravates my account. When there is a strong account balance with another soul, my soul keeps getting attracted to that soul..even during the final moments. That makes the separation an unhappy process.
    • This calls for what is known as “ न्यारा और प्यारा “ state. It is a mental state wherein a person is extremely loving while interacting, but fully detached from the scene the very next moment. ..a kind of ‘detached attachment’ as mentioned in Gita.

    Most of what I have said above may appear to be ‘theoretical’. I have , however, known many cases who have followed this to a large extent and have demonstrated amazing mental tranquillity at the end.

    Once again , I want to than you VS, for choosing topics which inspire some learning for life!!

    Like

    1. JLS
      as usual on reading your comments I realise how shallow has been my blog, and how I have missed imp points which add value to the subject per se
      I am sue your points will shape my thinking and will find reflection in some of the later blogs I write
      ( this is very much like the famous repartee between Oscar Wilde and James Whistler. James said something brilliant {like you have now} Oscar Wilde said,” I wish I had said that” to which Whistler’s retort was, “You will, Oscar, you will”. So pl allow me this liberty to repeat your thinking)

      I think Death is an enigma as we really do not know what happens when we die. The uncertainty and lack of experience, makes us fear the unknown. No one comes back to tell the tale and we all must pass that door and experience it ourselves, possibly too late. Though Moody and other researchers have published things around near death experiences and experiences of people who “returned” can we use that as a guide? no! just as our religious scriptures tell us so many things about life and death, do we accept in toto? No. we want to experience ourselves. By which time often it is too late to “mid course correct”. So what you write is NOT AT ALL theoretical. All these are ripples in the pond and they will indeed shape our reality and future.

      I have never worried about whom I will leave behind. I have always managed to shut myself off from others’ fate and feel each one of us have to find own solutions. Does this mean I will not provide for Vinita & Rashmi. Of course not. In my life I will do what I can, with the full knowledge that their life after me is totally theirs to lead. Yes we will care and we will do what we can but afterwards it is their call.

      Loved the concept of न्यारा और प्यारा. Will keep this as one of the guide posts as I live my life further.

      Once again thaks for your though provoking comments and the embellishment of my thesis.
      I end with the caveat; I wish I had said what you did. But I know I will

      Love always
      vikas

      Like

      1. Dear VS:

        You overwhelm me with your generous expressions …!!

        On any topic different minds have different perspective. You or anyone, cannot treat a subject in its totality.

        And when a thought provoking piece draws attention of readers ,it is bound to attract newer angles..leading to the embellishment of the original concept.

        The credit should rightfully go to the original author (you in this case and in many other blogs of yours) who takes up such subjects of great import and shares his honest thinking on the same.

        I must admit that my views have their grounding in the extensive spiritual studies and discourses that I am fortunate to undergo at the Brahma Kumaris .
        I too love this concept of न्यारा और प्यारा. If you ask any BK, s/he will be very familiar with the same as this aspect is emphasised in the classes over and over again.

        I agree that once we are gone, the family members have to be on their own and as such that is not the aspect to be worried about. Each person comes with his/her own baggage of karmas and they will naturally lead their lives in their own ways. My point was that one of the fears of death is that we will no more be able to enjoy the togetherness that we have become used to.

        Thanks again for your lavish words of praise while also looking forward to the next ‘gem’ from your fertile mind!!

        Like

      2. JLS
        thanks for your comment
        took me a while to respond as after a 3 week hiatus, I have been travelling every week for 3 weeks and will make the last official trip this month tomorrow

        Topics I choose are what bothers me and keeps niggling at the back of my head
        so I can well imagine that the same thoughts trouble all thinking individuals as finally we are all bound in the same human condition

        I always tell Vinita she is privileged as due to her faith, she has a strong anchor
        and when the questions become too strident, she can always hide behind, ” this is His Will”
        Those of us who have no or less faith are buffeted by the challenges and questions much more so than the Faithful
        I suppose that is why the Bible calls them the Blessed

        Yes we come from different perspectives on the same topic
        but the beauty is with our mutual affection and respect, we can hear a differing POV and appreciate the difference

        that is why I look FW to your comments as they always open a new channel of thought
        I hope i am able to continue to engage and entertain readers like you
        who correspondingly add value to me

        Let us keep the dialogue flowing

        Like

  12. Dear Vikas dada,

    Thanks for sharing the blog.
    My usual (you may call it reflex by now) response to such conflicting thoughts is like, “Do you want me to be honest, or do you want me to be nice?”
    … and then I let the other person choose/decide, which version suits them at that point of time.

    But here, I’ll have to make an exception, so I’ll post both the ‘nice’ and the ‘honest’ responses…
    … your blog, your choice which one to keep… 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼

    Like

    1. Always be honest little brother, always be honest. That will help me be true to the road.
      You wrote Honest or Nice
      but where are the detailed comments
      pl oblige
      I promise I will take both seriously
      and deliberate on them to enlighten and enliven my path

      Like

  13. 👍 Vikas. Thru this write up you have beautifully brought out the meaning of life. We should all fear when we want to live for ever and the only person to mourn for us would be our life partners we presume. We will never know and neither may want to !!! Awesome blog, keep at it!!!

    Like

    1. AMK
      many many thanks for your words of praise
      I think the blog helps me connect to my family and friends
      and that comfort which we share ensures that all comes out well
      encouraged by your comment will certainly keep writing

      Like

  14. Hi Vikas

    A virtual 360 deg view of a subject which every one at our age has dealt with.

    Death is a nebulous subject since no one knows for sure what will / has happened to the deceased but every one has illusions about what will happen , based on a belief system which is embedded by their past experiences and teachings.

    Richard Bach’s quote from Illusions is relevant.

    What the caterpillar calls the end of the world , the master calls a butterfly.

    And this caterpillar is not only the person who accepted the Almighty’s invite , but also all those near and dear ones.

    Each one is effected in ways which change their lives forever.

    And is upto each one to paint /visualise the butterfly.

    Look forward to your next blog.

    Nikhil

    Like

    1. Nikhil bhai
      indeed this is something which affects each and everyone of us
      and we are at a stage and age when this MUST be top of mind as the Grim Reaper is already marking our houses
      how we deal with that is what will determine whether have a peaceful death or not

      Maybe the fear of the unkown is what keeps us wary of Death and the fact that we are so much in love with materialistic comforts and happenings
      I remember my mother was so much in love of life and her dear ones that she talked of seeing her Great Grand-daughter’s marriage. Once she even talked about what should be done on the 13th day ceremony of my youngest sister, her own, youngest child. Being the family we are we never stopped teasing her about it and saying she will outlive all her children. Alas it was not to be

      Indian society is so strong in terms of beliefs and teachings that we all carry a lot of emotional baggage as soon as Death is mentioned. The taboo of attracting death if one speaks of it further helps drive this subject down, possibly to depths lower than the Nether World

      Rajneesh, Buddhist Philosophy, The Tibetians have tried to socialise this subject but still it is in the shadows. Indeed the right time to remember Richard Bach and reiterate that no end is permanent, even a full stop is just a pause before you start the next sentence

      I have 3 drafts in my folders, so the next blog will come soon. I have now settled on a cadence of writing once a month. So pl wait till Oct
      meanwhile heartfelt thanks for taking my blogs so seriously and writing your comments without fail
      they do motivate me to stay on the road

      Like

  15. Yuval Noh Harare in his books HOMO DIUS and 21Questions for 21 Century has written extensively and meaningful about the topic in question. All fears or doubts about Death get cleared.

    Like

  16. Exceptional write up!
    Acceptance,that like tax,death is inevitable is critical.Therefore,accept it as reality.
    How we lead our lives between the terminals, the birth n death, is critical.
    He mrutyu mai to tere sath pal pal rehata hu. Give me the wisdom to lead life that is meaningful and courage to accept what is ordained by Him.

    Like

    1. Suresh ji
      You are one of my most consistent readers and firm supporters
      many thanks for being there and commenting which helps me like a GPS to stay true the path

      Yes indeed the only trick is to accept and keep true to your destiny
      and not fret the waves
      if we can not stress the small waves we will make our and our dear ones lives more enjoyable
      till we are here

      Like

  17. This is certainly one of the best perspectives I have ever come across about the touchy topic of death. Death is not that one moment we die, but the several moments we suffer in our own head while we are physically alive. Gave me a new perspective about life. Brilliantly written sir!

    Like

    1. My dear Bong Friend
      What Bengal Thinks today, India thinks tomorrow
      So your liking my writing means a lot to me
      Your words of praise make me feel good about the writing
      Unfortunately for you, this means I am now motivated to write more
      and bore dear friends like you to read, and write in
      Thanks

      Like

      1. Thanks sir … If this means you’ll write more, my comment us worth it. Apologies for my delayed responses on the blogs… I usually take my time to read and comment as I like to read very slowly and contemplate each point as I go… So look for a leisurely time to read 🙂

        Like

  18. Good compilation. We should celebrate the life of those who are living and certainly the life of those who are dead. Every one leaves something to be celebrated!

    Like

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