Sunday, April 27, 2008

Preparing for Death

One of the great advantages of becoming older is the clarity one gains regarding death. As the body begins to act and react in ways which it never did before, one is forced to look at various aspects of life that were never quite as "in your face".

Death, to most, has an ominous sound to it. It is depicted as the Grim Reaper, the skeletal figure draped in black. People flee from it, consider it an inappropriate conversational topic, skirt around the issue, joke about it, etc. But as one begins to actually lose energy, experience more aches and pains, as well as seeing the loss of a gradually increasing number of friends and relatives, the unquesionable reality of one's own physical demise becomes apparent.

There is a wonderful story in the Indian epic Mahabharata where the King Yudisthira is given 100 questions by Dharma, the Lord of Death. One of the questions is, "What is the most wonderful thing in the world?" to which Yudisthira answers, "That every day, people see others dying around them, and yet they think, 'I will never die'". And that was in a time when people did, in fact, see people die around them. Now we rarely see it. People are born in hospitals and die in hospitals or hospices. Then everything happened in the home. So, people would see others die, and yet there is a sense that I will never die. In truth, you never will. Oh yes, the physical will stop functioning, but that is just the manifestation which you call [insert your name here]. But what is prior to that will never die, as it is 'aja' - unborn! (If you didn't know what Aja meant, now you know.)

Now, it's not exactly like you have to be prepared for death - after all, it will come when it comes, whether you are prepared for it or not. However, if you knew that you had, oh, say, one day before you absolutely were going to die, what would you do? How would you prepare? Would you try to see some great sites, party out, make your own form of 'Bucket List,' or would you take a more contemplative approach?

Anyway, just something to 'contemplate.'