How To Accept Death Gracefully
Summary: The word 'Death' instills fear in almost everyone - that's why everyone wants to cling to life forever, knowing fully well that if there is one certain thing in this life- that is 'Death'. Yet, we do nothing to prepare ourself for this one 'certain' thing. We must learn to accept death gracefully - and that can happen only when one understands that death is not end in itself, but just a transition for this life.
article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org
How to Prepare for Death?
Questioner: I have a question. A very dear friend of mine is in the final stages of cancer. Is there anything that can be done to help them go through this and get better?
Sadhguru: I am not saying this with any disregard to your friend, but I want you to understand that people need to die. When and how is the only question. If death comes to us, we will do everything possible to save ourselves, but if it goes beyond that, let us learn to die gracefully. Fighting with it endlessly – the way people are dying in western countries – is really a horrible way to die. Even though they are 85-90, they are staying in a hospital with pipes and needles all over them. It is okay if you die two years early, but it is more important to die peacefully and gracefully. Death is the last thing that you do in your life, so should you not do it gracefully?
Death is the last thing that you do in your life, so should you not do it gracefully?
We must learn to accept death as a part of our life. We are not wishing death, but when it comes, let us learn to go through it gracefully. What I see in the geriatric homes in United States is that many people are living beyond their death just because of medical support, and it is such a torture to themselves and to everyone. You should see the way they are being treated in some of the homes – after some time the people who work there get irritated because these people do not understand anything, have forgotten everything and lost their senses as they have lived beyond their time. Without so much medical input, they would have died gracefully at a certain point.
If someone’s body is broken beyond redemption, let us learn to die gracefully. Let us make the person understand that it is okay, we are all in the queue. I am not trying to make fun of someone’s illness but we should understand where one thing stops and the other thing begins.
Living and Dying Gracefully
Question: But Sadhguru, what about the people around them who have to see them die?
Sadhguru: This could be easily misunderstood because when someone loses someone who is dear to them, it feels like a piece of their life has been taken away and they go through various processes of grief, loss, and cherishing many things that they were. Not all of it can be articulated. But at the same time, we are not the first people to be born on this planet, nor are we going to be the first ones to die on this planet. In our lives, we do not know whether we are going to get educated, married, bear children or do many things in the world or not. But we know one thing for sure – that we are going to die. Though it is such an obvious thing, we are not able to come to terms with it.
Someone was asking me, “Sadhguru, how do snakes die – where do they die? Because we do not ever see a dead snake unless it is killed by someone.” Particularly cobras, when they know they should die, they will withdraw, find one perch somewhere, go sit there and will not eat for over eighteen to twenty days. They will die there quietly.
A slithering creature has that much awareness that it knows how long this body should be on and when it should go. Similarly, your life and every other life has this consciousness as to when it should exit this body. Either because we broke the body in some way or because the necessary intensity does not exist anymore in the body to sustain life. As long as it is here, we will do everything to preserve it and hold it and keep it with us because we cherish and value that life. But once it leaves, we must respect that, because that life has chosen to leave.
When I say “life,” I am not referring to the person or the variety of thoughts and emotions and activities that person was involved in. You as a person never want to leave, because you want to be an endless psychological drama. But life wants to leave at a certain time. Whether you like it or not, life wants to leave because it does not want to be trapped in the physical form that you have gathered forever. It enjoys the physical form only for a certain length of time. After that, even if everything is well, many lives leave. You will see this particularly in India; Yogis will decide when to leave. When they are very healthy and well, they sit down and they leave. Other people think, “Why? He was healthy, why should he leave?” Do you want to get sick and die? Do you want to suffer in the hospital for three years, and then leave? That is not the only way to go.
What purpose does it serve if you stretch a life which is about to exit now, for another three months will all kinds of life support?
The last thing that you do in your life is death, so is it not very important that you do it gracefully? Is it also not important that other lives who are around us, when their time comes, we must facilitate that they must be able to leave gracefully? What purpose does it serve if you stretch a life which is about to exit now, for another three months will all kinds of life support? It just means that you are ignorant about the nature of life. You want to cling to something that you know, and you do not want to know anything that you do not know. You know this person, you have enjoyed their personality, but you have not touched the nature of their life – because unless you touch the nature of your life, you cannot touch the nature of another life.
So we do not have to talk about death or prepare for death. What we need to do is to experience what is beyond what you have accumulated as this body and mind. If you sit here right now and experience the life that you are beyond these accumulations, you will have absolutely no issue with any aspect of life, which includes death. We must understand that mortality is the fundamental reality of our existence. If you do not come to terms with this, you do not know any other aspect of life in reality, you know only the drama. Because this is the most fundamental nature of our existence – that we are mortal. When we are born, it is declared that we are going to die. The only question is when. I bless you with a very long life, but when you die, you must die gracefully.
Old Age Can Be a Blessing – Excerpt from Death: An Inside Story
Every creature in the world, except man, seems to know how to die gracefully. If you walk in a forest—even in one that is rich with wildlife—unless it is an animal that has been killed by a predator, you will not find a carcass just lying around like that. Why the forest, even in the cities, where the birds are mostly crows these days, you will not find a dead crow just like that. They all know when it is time to die, so they withdraw to a quiet place and gracefully die. It is only the human being who is oblivious of this and dies in a manner that is becoming increasingly graceless. When death comes, people who did not know how to live will definitely have problems with how to die.
In many ways, old age can be a great blessing because the whole experience of life is behind you. When you are approaching death, it is an opportunity, because when energies have become feeble and they are progressing towards dropping the body, it is much easier to become aware of the nature of your existence. When you were a child, everything was beautiful, but you were eager to grow up because you wanted to experience life. When you became youthful, your intelligence got hijacked by your hormones. Whatever you did, knowingly or unknowingly, it just pushed you in that direction. Very few people are capable of raising their intelligence beyond the hormonal hijack and looking at life with clarity. All others are trapped in it. During youth, when the body is vibrant, it is very difficult to make yourself aware because you are so identified with your body that you do not see anything beyond that.
..in every step that you take, age is telling you, “This is not forever.”
However, as you age, this recedes. As the body loses its vibrancy, you become more and more aware because you cannot identify with that body which is receding. When you come to old age, all the longings are over and the experience of a whole life is behind you. So once again, you are childlike, but you have the wisdom and experience of life. It can be a very fruitful and wonderful part of your life. If you take care of your rejuvenation process well, old age can be a miraculous part of your life. Unfortunately, most human beings suffer their old age simply because they do not take care of their rejuvenation process properly. In their old age, very few people can even smile. This is because the only thing that they knew in their life was the physical body. Once the body begins to recede, they become despondent. It might not have become diseased, no terrible cancer needs to have come, but in every step that you take, age is telling you, “This is not forever.” If you establish yourself in other dimensions of experience, the body becomes an easy thing to handle. Old age and even death can be a joyful experience. For this, you need to know when to leave and exit gracefully