QUOTE (Dhyana @ Jul 6 2006, 03:48 PM)
Old age and death are in the "nerding it" category. KC was the way, I hoped. When I could no longer defend my faith to myself, I was very freaked about being forced to wing my death. And not just that, but being forced to have this challenge hanging over me for the whole rest of my life. No weekend fun, in other words!
I am trying my best to relax, but I do think of old age and death very often, although it's counterproductive.
How do you handle it, Kalisurfer?
That is a very good question Dhyana, and I wish I could say, “Yes, I have a handle on Death, that I know exactly what will happen and that I have no worries about when it happens!” I can go back in time and remember my worries as a young Catholic, that I do everything possible to go to heaven and not be stuck forever in Hell or have to experience that temporary strange place called Purgatory. I mainly was worried that my whole family (except my alcoholic Uncle Gus who always told dirty jokes) would end up in Heaven and I did not want to be left behind! The devotee years brought some certainty into the picture again, I mean once you got initiated, followed the four regulations and did your service with love, well you were insured a good birth in a Vaisnava family if not one in a higher planet at least when the time came. Then of course comes the day of reckoning when you question this philosophy and become independent of a true belief system that puts the meaning of death at the front door once again with question marks attached to it.
I did have a near death experience when I was 19, though it was due to an overdose of drugs at the time and was full of hellish images and perceptions, it did conclude in a very peaceful state, the whole floating in a white light tunnel experience that you may have heard about, before regaining consciousness from the coma. At that time, I was pretty much an agnostic, giving up on my Catholicism, and according to any religious tradition, I was definitely a young sinner in terms of what I was doing in my life. But that experience drew me in into Eastern philosophy, and at least gave a basis for what it may be like at the time of death. No Yamadutta’s came in the end to throw my punk ass into some hellish planet, though no angels were present either. The experiences provided no answers, but seemed to give a personal overview that the experience may not be so bad as long as the cause is not some drug induced overload to the body and soul.
Reading the book “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying”
by Sogyal Rinpoche was a pretty intense look at the death experience from a Buddhist perspective. They have made it into a scientific art form, recognizing and knowing the stages of death, having certain prayers/mantras to say at these certain stages. With the help of a trained Lama, some Buddhist can pick their time of death, go into a Lotus position (if physically possible) and practice the procedures of leaving the body by lessening the breath and letting go of the organs that keep us alive. Their explanations of the different Bardo’s one goes through up and unto the mind essence merges with the final state, well…is pretty lucid and compelling. But I am not a practicing Buddhist, so I do not know how this could apply to me or to anyone who is not one.
Can we have death as a topic of mystery, without a clear explanation of what it is, will be like and what to expect and still come to terms with it without fear? Is death the greatest marketing agent for religious institutions? I ask these questions often.
I am moved when I read about how ISKCON devotees deal with leaving their bodies early, how they read a lot of Bhagavatam and Gita while listening to tapes of Prabhupada and kirtan, having devotees visit and chant with them, and how at the end, people chant and put Ganges water on them before they leave their body. I am unsure what I would do if I learned tomorrow that I had only a few months to live. Would I go back to a pure Krsna Conscious mode to prepare myself, or would I mix traditions in getting ready for the end?
It is such a personal intimate choice to make, but I do know that it will not be the end entirely, that the process of life in other states and forms will continue, but that is a personal belief, something based on that experience so many years ago.
I am sure anyone fixed in one belief would read this and shake their head in disbelief that I do not have much faith in one religions answer to the death experience. That is the chance one has to take when at war with fundamental absolutism and easy answers to the most perplexing questions a human can ask about…life and death.
I am continuing to learn about life and death, I absorb what all the traditions and non-traditions have to say about it. Yes, it means no free weekends with unlimited fun, but it also keeps the mystery alive without fear, full of possibilities and magic yet uncovered.
Now if I could only channel my fun loving uncle Gus and get some real answers!!!