This article is graciously provided for republication by the author, Swami Nityamuktananda Saraswati (Dr. Christa-Maria Herrmann), German by birth, naturalized British, originally studying Theology, her university studies soon expanded to Education, Psychology, Philosophy and Art and Design (Ceramics). Different teaching jobs (in colleges and universities) in various countries followed. At the center of her studies (as well as her teaching) was always the subject of 'Self-awareness'.
This seems to me the political correct phrase nowadays to use when someone "died". Now what does it mean... the crux, like always lies in the words. We use words to express meaning - but more often than not, we pick up words habitually without concern about their meaning?
"Passing" means from one place to another; and furthermore, there must be something that passes! Usually what is meant is someone passes over from one state of being to another state of being. And in the way we use the word nowadays, it refers to crossing over from life to death.
However, we know that life and death are connected from the moment we come into existence; we exist so we are on the path to death. Life and death are One, like in-breath and outbreath are one; none can exist without the other. In fact this is very real, every moment within us cells are constantly born, created, and dissolving, dying. It's a permanent process of change, we live and die at the same time! So there cannot be a "passing over", from one state of being into another, just like the river flows, its movement is continuous there are no section, where we can say it moves from this water into that water.
Now let's look at another aspect? Who are you? Look at yourself (or any other person), there is your hand... is that you? There is your body, is that you? There is your past, your story? Is that you? There is your job, is that you? Think!
The problem is that we think we know who we are? We know we are a certain body, with a certain history, persona etc. But look closer. Once you understand who you are- you will understand life and death!
How do you know any- "thing"? Every- "thing" you know, you know in one way or another through your senses. We perceive ourselves, others, the world - via the input from our senses; then our brain computes/assembles the info and we get attached; considering as "real" the image our brain has generated, and we live and act within that framework. We identify with that image!
But now comes the exiting bit: What enables the brain to create this infinite complex picture, what gives the senses and the brain, the capacity to function in this way, building our world? It is certainly not self-generated, it is the life-force; a force beyond our individual entity, that in the world of Yoga is called prana (see: Prashnopanisad); or in other concepts, divine energy, conscious energy etc.
Let's retrace our steps. Our world exists in a certain way, because we see, hear, smell etc... and the brain assembles what the senses perceive and so we build our world, where there is Julie the dog, daffodil the flower and - Mrs Smith, who has this kind of personality, this kind of job, plays this role in my life - is my friend/mother/child.
That we can do this, comes because through us flows an energy (just like electricity flows through all heaters, lamps, fans etc. A power that is not identical/limited to the form (fans/lamps) but never the less makes them work, acts as the form; flows through the manifestation of form.
Because our brain works through a very limited perception (any cat/owl can see better than we; any dog can hear better); we see only a limited form, not the energy behind. Let's try to understand this from a different angle:
Look at your hand, a leaf, or another person's dear face; what do you see? Form, colour, shape, skin, may be some blood-vessels underneath. This is what your eyes perceive, the gross manifest form... of yourself, your loved one, a plant!
Now take a microscope, and look at the same thing! What do you see? Cells, myriads of cells. Now take a bigger microscope... what do you see? Floating molecules working together, interacting, moving together, moving apart... exchanging information -
Take a bigger microscope, what you see: atoms, photon, quarks... etc...; take a bigger microscope and what do you see? Energy vibrating at a certain frequency creates bundles which vibrate together.
Such vibrating energy is light; light carrying information; each ray of light is intelligently interacting with others... light within light All waves are simply momentary expressions within the same ocean of light!
Now step away from the microscope and allow the impact of this view to touch you. Realize, that infinite closer viewing than our limited instruments (we call eyes) allow to see, what exist as you and the rest of the world and that is made of intelligent energy vibrating; another name for that is light. Meaning what you essentially are - is light... and yes as an individual you are light being energy vibrating with a certain song, creating a melody, being part of an orchestra that is life, light, love; a wave in the ocean of light.
As you take your eyes of the miles long microscope (this is real physics, folks at the same time as Yoga philosophy!) you become aware again of the atoms swirling, and gradually your vision becomes gross enough again to see cluster of biological cells , skin, body , person. And as you see the form, your brain enters the scene with its interpretations and attachments, feelings of remembered habits and conditions and so - what you see - appears in time again as a person... be it yourself or another person, or a cat, or a flower.
The separate objects that we are aware of in so called "normal vision" are really all shared light, shared luminous intelligent energy. In short: ultimately there is only energy, there is only light (and you can give this extra-ordinary ultimate energy any name you like! Purusha, Brahman, Christ-consciousness, Biami, Allah , God).
You are ultimately a ray of light and so is everyone else. Now , from here - what does death mean? It doesn't exist! The wave changes its frequency, it merges back into the ocean, the ray of sunlight merges with sun-light; nothing has changed... water is wave, water is ocean! Ray is light, light is rays!
Death means the cluster or bundle of light, changes its associations/frequencies, but it remains light! Our mind cannot keep up! It is such a limited instrument, it cannot perceive the subtle change of vibration because it cannot not even perceive the light which is the building material. Because our mental equipment is not able to perceive the subtler bodies, we attached and identified with the grosses manifest form only- think the being, (the wave) has gone); it appears to our limited mind as though the wave has died... even though its mass of water has merely sunk into the ocean so as to rise again with the next current!
You see, it's due to our mental limitations, that it appears to us as though 'someone " has been lost, is "dead". Think; the life-force (the water), the light never dies... it cannot. Energy never gets lost!
The form alone changes. That is amazing: think, when the water drops into the ocean, has it lost its life, or gains the entire ocean...? (Even if humanity dies out, the high frequency energy/consciousness/ prana will not; it will simply find different ways of expressing itself ! What a sobering thought!)
Life-energy, prana; conscious energy - the two forces of Yoga, we know as Purusha and Prakriti will ever exists in union, as long as this universe exist; they are it! Therefore in yogic thought the understanding is, that "life" is eternal (do not confuse it with the limited vision of biological life as we know it)! We, life-forms are in essence immortal. Life-energy, consciousness, intelligent energy simply changes its own expression; (whether you sit or walk; smile or cry... it's still you... right? What is changed is your expression) that we perceive it as death, as final, as "the light going out..." simply is due to the poor instruments with which we perceive.
You could say: the "Me that sits"..., dies... when I get up and walk. It is really silly, right... because we can see that it's the same person who does both!
So you know that when form gets lost - nothing gets lost. When the gold ring is melted and cast into a broche... no gold is lost! If nothing is lost, why do you grieve, why do you mourn?
We mourn for our own loss?
But you have not lost anything; from Yoga (meaning Union) you understand that we are all One intelligent energy. In "ONE" there cannot be parts that can lose each other!
We know that!
Then know, what you understand with your head - with your heart; and realize that there never is separation, there is only one light, one consciousness, one existence .
So why do you still feel so sad if someone dies?
My friend let me tell you , you feel sad, because you know and are afraid - that you too will "die"! It's because of this "un-reasonable fear" - you grieve. You grieve not for another but for your own self!
But you never die either, so why grieve?
Because you identify with the limited vision of yourself and life! You too are a ray of light which that is eternal and will return to the light that is your original nature. This is the meaning of the 3rd Sutra of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. The life you know, the body you identify with, is on a temporary journey. My Tibetan Master used the example of going on a holiday... you stay in this guest house and all that, but then you leave and stay in another hotel... until your journey is over, holiday over... you return home.
Let me say it in another way: Every night you take of your clothes and go to sleep ( you leave an outer form behind); you fall asleep, forgetting your body, your status in life, your duties and obligations, your roles, your fame, your pain! ...There is no awareness of the world of forms your mind has created! Then, morning comes and you wake up; quickly your brain establishes again a picture of your world (actually you can train yourself to be aware, of this moment, when this is happening) ...and lives within it.
This is no different in process of what happens when you "die".
No fear necessary! Let go! The scriptures call the deep sleep, the little death!
Morning comes you are refreshed, ready for a new experience of life. You do not fear sleep, so why fear death? Are you sad when you go to sleep? No ! In fact you wake up happy and refreshed (if you went into deep sleep), you rejoice!
No fear, no sadness, no grief are necessary, all stem simply from our attachment to the lowest simplest manifestation of life-force. We are not this manifestation... we are THAT which manifest! That is why the one who knows... lives with joy; in bliss!
Learn to look at yourself and the world around you, with an expanded, inclusive vision, then anyone dying in your circle is a chance and a gift, so that you may learn to go beyond your limitations and attachments (which result in fears, grief and suffering), so that you may live your life from a point of appreciation and... deep joy!