English poetry has a good deal of philosophy (but there is very little of poetry in Western Philosophy which, for the most part is dialectical when it is not speculative!) By way of random-sampling, let us take an observation of William Shakespeare on the subject of Death occurring in his play King Lear :


           Men must endure                                                               

                                    Their going hence

                                    even as their coming hither;

                                    Ripeness is all”.


The same sentiment is delineated in a Tamil poem in the anthology Naaladiyar :


                                               Even as birds

                                                   leaving behind

                                               their nests on trees

                                                  and flying away      

                                              to a far-off distance                                 

                                                  not looking back

                                              on their erstwhile shelters;


                                              humans  too

                                                   appear in a home

                                               without asking

                                                  as kith and kin

                                               and then quit

                                                without notice

                                              bequeathing only

                                                their lifeless bodies

                                             those that were

                                                their near and dear

                                            for the while

                                                 of their brief sojourn !            


            Kannadasan of the 20th century says in a lyric of his :


           “The concluded tale

                       does not continue

                       in the tome of the Almighty;

                       and the continuing story

                       does not come to a close

                       in the home of the human”


            So much has been said on the inevitability of Death and yet men dread the very prospect of their end. However much they play the ostrich, they cannot avoid or postpone Death. Does not this futile attitude on his part defy all reason and logic ? Asked what is the oddest thing observed on Earth Yudhistra tells Yaksha on the banks of the poison-pond: “Every man actually sees his relatives, friends and others die one after another. And still he proceeds as though he is permanent. Is this not the strangest phenomenon in the world ?”


            The ground-situation being such, what is the reason that man dreads Death ? The straight answer is that Death is unknown and something not known would definitely generate fear in the mind. The only way to dispel this fear is to make the unknown known. You are afraid of the dark because you do not know what are the world objects before you. If you light a lamp and turn its beam around you, would not the fear of the dark vanish straightaway? Let us now embark on the means to overcome the fear of Death.


            Our living is actually only an event between two points – Birth and Death. At the point of conception, the embryo is less in dimension than the fullstop on this page. In fact, it is only a group of energy-particles which constitute the life. That small dot has been burdened with the imprints bequeathed to it by its father and mother. It is a case of the palmyra-fruit being placed on the tiny head of the proverbial sparrow. It should unburden itself of the unwanted load and for this purpose it assembles for itself a set of internal and external organs and limbs during the 300 days of its incarceration in the uterus of the mother. And then it arrives into a hostile world as a baby, here to contend with heat and cold and disease and old age.


            Have you ever wondered why an infant cries at birth? This question was put to me by a school teacher at a public meeting and I answered : “The reasons for the baby’s cry of anguish are two-fold : (i) as long as it was sojourning in the womb of the mother it was floating in a state of weightlessness. But now the pull of terrestrial gravity gives it the fear of loss of support. (ii) it knows inwardly that it has to live out the span of 75 years or so battling with its environment. Would not these two-fold reasons make the stoutest heart tremble in fear ? Soon after arrival the baby starts experiencing the world through its senses. The immediate effects are pleasure and pain and so its consciousness gets restricted and stagnated and the purpose of birth is lost sight of.


What is the purpose of birth, Sirs? The soul or the life-energy should purge itself of its impurities or stigmas, which are, induced qualities so that it may regain its inherent nature, which is purity. A life span was given to it by the Totality of Nature only for this purpose. Through forgetfulness of the mind intoxicated with world objects the soul stagnates in the intermediate stage, which is the world that is in the nature of a chatram or choultry. Human misery is only an index of this stagnation. When the allotted life span is wasted in this manner the life-energy laden with uncleared imprints has to quit the physical body, which is no longer in a condition useful to it. This point is Death. It would now be clear to you that the journey of the life-energy continues even after the dropping of the physical body.


            What should we now do in the present context ? The course is clear, Dr.Watson, as Sherlock Holmes the master of deduction would say. Do not add to the imprints on the soul but endeavour to clear the burden, which is done through enduring pleasure and pain experiences, not hankering after pleasure and not moaning and cursing over pain. The basis for any action or word is only Thought and you should ensure that there is purity at the thought level itself.  An ignoble thought is a sin, I say. Now you will understand what Adi Sankarar wants us to do by way of homework, in the latter half of Verse 28 of his anthology BhajaGovindham’ :


Sense-enjoyment does yield

                                    immediate pleasure of course

                        but the delayed result is

                                    disease in the body.

                        Having known that death

                                    is certain in this world,

                        how is it that you

                                    have not stopped sinning ?


            By adopting the method given out in this Message, you would actually be restructuring your personality and rendering it ready for elevation through Enlightenment. The bonus in the process is that you would overcome the fear of Death once and for all. This is a guarantee, this is a warranty and this is your Magna Carta.


(Tamil poem from the anthology Naaladiyaar  and Sanskrit verse from the anthology BhajaGovindham

rendered into English by Sage TGN)


                           - Excerpt from Sage TGN’s Talk on Bhaja Govindham: Certainty holds no Fear

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