Leela of Spiritual wandering
King Yayati and Lord Yama
The Avatār had a conscious and powerful death experience in Manikarnika Ghat on the banks of the flowing Ganges.
So often on the subject of death and before He leads people on to powerful death meditations, The Avatār recounts this story about the encounter between King Yayati and Lord Yama, the Lord of Death, that teaches how to avoid the incompletions with death in each of our lives; how ‘intensity while living’ is the key to achieving this.
There was a king called Yayati who lived for a hundred years. Then Yama, the Lord of Death, came to claim him. Yayati says, “No, no, no what is this? I am a king. I have so much to do. I have such a big kingdom and hundred years is too little. Please leave me. I cannot come now. I have not lived this whole life.”
Yama says, “What? Leave you where? I have never heard this statement, I never even allow people to talk this much. Pack up! This is totally new for me and there is no petition in my case. Straightaway I come and take people, that is all. If you don’t come, I’ll take you, that’s all. Nothing else. In my language I don’t understand all these words.”
Yayati says, “No, no, no please consider, do one favor, do one small favor.” Yayati tries to convince. I think that day Yama was in a good mood. He said, “All right, you are begging so much but at least some one of your sons should give their life for your sake.”
Yayati calls one of his sons. Son says, “Yes, yes, I’ll give my life, I have no problem, let my father live.” The son gives his life for Yayati. Yama extends Yayati’s life by another hundred years.
Next time when Yama came, again this guy started, “No, no, no please do something. You said you’ll come after hundred years but you came so quickly. I don’t think hundred years are over. Something is wrong with your calendar. Why don’t you check once more?”
Yama said, “Nothing is wrong with my calendar. Something is seriously wrong with your mind. Nothing can be done.” Somehow Yayati rolls on the ground, weeps and prays to Yama. It’s a very rare case. I’ve never heard Yama giving discount or Yama obliging anybody. Again, second time he accepted, “All right, I’ll take another son if he is willing to give up his life and let you live hundred more years. Last extension, but be very clear. You can’t ask for extension anymore. Done, nothing more.”
When Yama comes a third time, again this king Yayati wants extension. Yama says, “No, this is too much, now nothing can be done.” Then Yama gives some teachings to him, beautiful teachings. He says, “You cannot put the fire out by pouring oil into it. You cannot feel fulfilled by offering sense pleasures to the senses. You cannot feel that you are ready if you never lived intensely. Living intensely is not about fulfilling your senses, pouring pleasures into your senses, or living as you wanted. This is not living intensely. When you live intensely, automatically you will be liberated.”
Overcoming the fear of death
I always tell our ashramites, “Do mistakes with creativity. Do some new, new mistakes. Don’t do the same old mistakes. Even to do new mistakes you don’t have intelligence!”
Therefore, it is not today that people have become afraid of death. From time immemorial this has been the case. Even our Purāṇas is full of stories on the fear of death. Simultaneously there have been techniques developed by our inner scientists on overcoming death. The best of these techniques focus on removing the fear by facing the fear. They taught how to experience death to overcome the fear of death.
Many Masters have used the technique of experiencing death consciously as a tool for enlightenment. The understanding that all that death takes away is the perishable mind body and that the spirit lives on is the deepest spiritual experience one can have. Krishna says in the Gita to Arjuna that the immortal spirit moves from one body to another in the same way as we change one dress for another. The realization that death is a mere passage and not an end by itself allows one to relax in life and enjoy the journey.
In Vedānta, the death meditation is the most used technique in preparation for enlightenment. The Kāṭhopaniṣad describes this technique wonderfully. Everybody before taking Sanyās has to go through this technique. In Buddhism, before being initiated into Sanyās, one has to do is sit in the graveyard for three months and watch dead bodies being burnt and visualize that one is also being burnt. If one has that much courage one can go and sit in a graveyard and see dead bodies being burnt.
The death experience of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi
In addition to narrating His own death experience, The Avatār always describes the powerful death experience of His predecessor Bhagavan Ramana Maharishi which led him to almost immediately move from Madurai to Tiruvannamalai, where he established his mission and prevailed as Paramaśiva’s representative, as the living Guru for millions of seekers who spontaneously sought him out.
That single experience in that moment, the experience of the truth, shook him completely and he realized he was not just body and the moment he understood that even after his body dying there is something in him that is not dying, the fear left him forever.
Let Me describe exactly what happened with Me, when I had experience with this technique. I always used to think that I should have the experience of death and face death directly, face to face. But some how that thought never became a priority. Somehow it was getting postponed till I went to Varanasi. Varanasi is the holy city for Hindus. It has a huge floating population of pilgrims. Nearly 300,000 people per day enter and go out and every day 300 dead bodies are burnt in one place. This burning place is called Manikarnika Ghat. It is traditionally believed that if somebody dies or somebody’s body is burnt in that area their spirit will be liberated and they will have direct enlightenment.
Not only it is traditional belief, Ramakrishna confirms it from his own experience. He says, “I saw very clearly Mahādeva himself going to every fire and blessing the spirit, unclutching it from the body mind and liberating it.” So you can’t say it’s a mythological belief, it’s a solid experience of an enlightened Master.
I decide to watch the ‘unbroken fire’
I had the fortune of going to the Manikarnika Ghat. Traditionally it is not only believed, but it is true that, for last 2000 years the fire in that ghat has never been put off. Whether it rains or shines or floods or what ever it is, the fire to light the funeral pyres burns constantly. People will not bring fire when they come to the Manikarnika Ghat with the dead body. From the fire that is continuously burning in one point in that Ghat, the fire will be taken to light the funeral pyre. It’s an unbroken fire.
From all around the place from wherever whoever dies, they will start walking, carrying the dead body from their place. They will be chanting the mantra, ‘Ram naam satya hai, Ram naam satya hai’, which means that ‘the only truth is God’s name’. By evening they will reach the Manikarnika Ghat.
If you see one body being burnt rarely once in a while, you will have that fear, but there what you see is unimaginable. No ritual or anything, they will bring the body, straightaway they will dip the body in Ganga three times chanting, ‘Ram naam satya hai, Ram naam satya hai, Ram naam satya hai’. They will bring the body out from the water, by which time fire will be ready and the wood will be arranged for the pyre.
Actually they will be continuously arranging the wood even if the bodies are not coming; I asked them, “Why you are arranging continuously?” They told me, “You don’t know Swamiji, in half an hour 200 bodies will come!” Their accounts are correct, they know for sure! The bodies come, they arrange, and they give tokens based on the entry. One funny thing, no relatives stay there and do any ritual. They dip the body in Ganga and then throw the body on the wooden pyre and go away, that’s all. The people who maintain the Ghat take care of the rest. They don’t know how long it will take for the body that was brought to be put in the fire. It’s like a queue system, continuously going on!
All I did was to decide, ‘Let me sit here and see what goes on’, and I sat. In just an hour, death was no more a strange incident that happens once in a while for some relative or friend. It became like, ‘Ok, next, that’s all. Next, that’s all’. All sizes, all genders, all ages, all kinds, all colors, all communities, and all religions also come here.
I lose my respect for death itself!
When continuously you see the dead bodies being burnt, you actually lose respect for death. Now you have too much of respect, too many fearful ideas about death. It is nothing but that the breath that went inside did not come out, that’s all. Nothing much can be done about it. You cannot rewind it or fast-forward it. When you know for sure that everything is going to leave you, then the respect for ego just drastically drops. I am too sharply intellectual and honest, so straight away the respect for ego dropped.
I decide to experience death consciously
Then I decided, “After all I am going to die. Let me have the death experience now itself and live without the death fear. Either that or let me die. That’s all. But I have to experience death.”
There is a small Shiva temple around the corner and a small tower above the temple, I went and sat in that tower so that nobody will disturb Me. From there I started seeing the dead bodies being burnt. I still remember the strong click that happened in Me when one elderly lady’s body was being burnt. She had a big belly, the cloth was burning and the fat that was in the belly started burning and melting and flowing. I apologize for describing too vividly. I could see clearly, because of the fat flowing the fire was burning intensely. That gave a very strong click into Me and said, “God! Yes, it is the same way that it’s going to burn when I die and the same thing is going to happen to this body also. Let it happen.”
That click, that realization opened up a deep fear of death in Me. When that fear spread all over My body, I faced it consciously. I could experience very clearly the fear spreading all over the body and when the fear met My awareness, when it hit My awareness that became ‘death experience’.
Fear with awareness is ‘death experience’. Fear with unconsciousness is ‘fear stroke’
Whenever your fear is suppressed, it stays inside you as a suppressed fear. Whenever it comes out and you are not consciously facing it, it becomes a fear stroke. The fear stroke shakes your whole nervous system and breaks it down. If it is faced consciously it becomes death experience.
I was able to see very clearly that when I faced the fear that rose in Me consciously with awareness, it became death experience. The body is dead, it’s not moving. For two and a half days I stayed up in that temple upstairs without food, or water, or thoughts or questions. No doubt, My body was still there. Only after the experience I realized that two and a half days had passed. I could see with closed eyes that My body was dead and there was no movement.
I realise I am beyond the body. I experience Lord Vishwanath as living energy!
Suddenly after two and a half days the click happened, “God! Body is dead but I still exist. I am still here.” That clarity, when it clicked became such an intense ecstasy. The fear of death left Me once for all. It becomes such a deep ecstasy, such a joy, such bliss, and I slowly opened My eyes and I was able to move the body. The first thing I felt was such a deep ecstasy and gratitude. I went down to the Ganga, sprinkled little Ganga water on Me, and filled some Ganga water in the water pot and, and collected a little ash from the pyre. I went to the Viswanath temple, put that ash on the Śivaliṅga and did the pūjā with deep gratitude. I saw that Lord Viswanath was alive!
Understand, because I died, Viswanath became alive. Till the day before, because I was alive, Viswanath was still a dead stone. I always felt, to touch this stone 300,000 people are coming everyday from all the way, what foolishness? It is a strange thing, but when you touch the deity by yourself you start losing respect. In South India you can’t touch but in North India you can touch the idols yourself. I always felt it was a stone, because I was alive. But when I died, I saw clearly that he is alive. I can say this is one of the strongest experiences that transformed Me leading Me towards My enlightenment.
Death meditation techniques
The Avatār has incorporated the technique of death experience in many of His flagship programs, leading people into conscious death-experience. Fear of death is the fear of loss of identity and when one loses that fear through an experience of visualizing the loss of identity, all fears dissolve. In His powerful energy Presence, He conducts the death meditation technique where the fear of loss of identity happens beautifully. The actual deaths of many who have undergone these programs are described by their relatives as miraculously conscious and joyful deaths.
The Avatār says, “At the time of leaving the body if you can tune yourself to consciousness, if you can tune yourself to thoughtless awareness, conscious experience, you will simple see, your life is a conscious experience. You will be able to cross this ocean of samsara – birth and death – or this ocean of samskara – ocean of all the 7 (energy) layers (that harbor fear, greed and other emotions), beautifully and peacefully.”