In the last blog post of our mini series ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ we’ve discovered that science has no proof for death is putting an end to life. Now we’re looking at what ancient wisdom schools have to say.
The Upanishad’s are the oldest wisdom teachings, dating back 5000-7000 years. The written form are several text books conveying the path to Self-realisation, the many layers of life and how to lead a meaningful life. These timeless books are looking at life and death in great depth, as this is the most important topic when asking the question: who am I – really? The question that put everybody who’s seeking the Truth on a path deep down to discover one’s Self.
The general dictum in the Upanishads: Jatasya maranam dhruvam explains that death is inevitable to a person who is born. That meaning, birth and death belong together like light and shadow, one cannot exist without the other. They are inseparable and life itself is not touched by neither, birth and death.
The necessity of death to one how’s born is stressed in the Bhagavadgita which is considered to be the quintessence of the Upanishads. Lord Krishna speaks here to Arjuna to teach the mighty warrior how to lead a meaningful life, he says: ‘To one that is born death is certain and certain is birth for the one that has died. Therefore for what is unavoidable, you should not grieve.’
The French Philosopher Pierre Chandain put it like this : ‘We are not physical beings having spiritual experiences, but spiritual beings having physical experiences. By loosing the body one looses nothing: man looses nothing in death. A soul passes in this body through childhood, youth and age, and is then taking on another body.’
This parable in the Upanishads puts it to the point:
‘A boy asks his father: “What is the Self, that is neither born nor dying? “
The father answers: “Place this salt in water and bring it here tomorrow morning”.
The boy did.
“Where is that salt?” his father asked.
“I do not see it.” answers the boy.
“Sip here. How does it taste?”
“And here? And there?”
“I taste salt everywhere.”
“It is everywhere, though we see it not. Just so, dear one, the Self is everywhere, within all things, although we see it not. There is nothing that does not come from it. It is the Truth; it is the Self supreme. You are that. You Are That.”
The ancient gnostic wisdom teachings of Christianity explain life and death like this: When there is a birth—for example, a new year beginning—that was only made possible by the ending of something else. The great cycle of beginning and ending is the basis of all things, on every level of nature. Everything begins and ends in great cycles. No matter where we look in nature, at any level of the universe, we find beginnings and endings, yet also we find neither begins nor ends. Just as the old year has ended and a new one has begun, things continue, but changed to some degree. The continuation is called ‘life’. The beginning is called ‘birth’ and the ending ‘death’.
Following this thread of thought it means that all beginnings and endings are great progressions or movements of energy. Those movements of energy form a continuum, a flow that has no beginning and no ending, but is a series of beginnings and endings. Our mind struggles to grasp the infinite, and yet time is exactly that. It is an infinite circle. It has no beginning, it has no ending, but it is a series of beginnings and endings. This clue is at the very heart of Gnosis: the comprehension or cognisance of birth and death as a cycle, propelled by Life itself. Whether a person is called Gnostic, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, or Christian is irrelevant, death is merely a destination to look forward to and not a threat, it is looking at it as a start of something new when the old comes to an end. Real spiritual work is a continual process of radical psychological death, in which all that is illusion, all that is false, dies, and what is born is truth, recognising that what is real.
A course in miracles says about life and death: “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists” . This is one of most important messages in this teachings of rather modern times, meaning that death is not real and therefore not a thread. What is real, the Self, cannot be threatened. “And therein lays the gift from God” it continues, comforting us that we have been given everlasting life and do not need to fear death, since it is not real (to the Self).
Wherever you look in ancient (and modern) wisdom teachings, they always point at the same fact: birth and death is creating a cycle of life experiences, while life is untouched by it. The Self is what lives on through all this cycles, enhanced by the experiences we often falsely call ‘life’, which is better defined as a ‘life-experience’, as Eckhart Tolle suggests in his best selling book ‘The Power of Now’.
To conclude part 2 of your enquiry in ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ it is safe to say that not only science has no proof that death puts an end to life, all ancient and modern wisdom schools teach us that life lives on through all cycles of birth and death, an everlasting life, or ‘Amritam‘ in Sanskrit.
How do we perceive this with our own senses? We will answer the question in part 3. So stay tuned and ponder on ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ and how you have come across it in your own life or the life of someone you know.
‘Om – Asatoma Sad-Gamaya
Tamaso Maa Jyotir-Gamaya
Mrytyor-Maa Amritam Gamaya – Om’
Om – Lead me from the untruth to the Truth
Lead me from darkness to light
lead me from death to immortality – Om