Part II: Is death the end?
Is death the end?1Death is not the end. Death can never be the end.
Death is the road. Life is the traveller. The soul is the guide.
When the traveller is tired and exhausted, the guide instructs the traveller to take either a short or a long rest, and then the traveller’s journey begins again.
In the ordinary life, when an unaspiring man wallows in the mire of ignorance, it is the real victory of death. In the spiritual life, when an aspirant does not cry for a higher light, bliss and power, it is the birth of his death.
What can we learn from the inner life, the life which desires the extinction of death? The inner life tells us that life is soulfully precious, that time is fruitfully precious. Life without the aspiration of time is meaningless. Time without the aspiration of life is useless.
Our mind thinks of death. Our heart thinks of life. Our soul thinks of immortality. Mind and death can be transcended. Heart and life can be expanded. Soul and immortality can be fulfilled.
When the mind and death are transcended, man will have a new home: Light, the Light of the Beyond. When the soul and immortality are fulfilled, man will have a new goal: Delight, the transcendental Delight.
Today man feels that death is an unavoidable necessity. Tomorrow man will feel that immortality is an unmistakable reality.
Unfortunately, most of us cherish wrong conceptions about death. We think death is something unusual, something destructive. But we have to know that right now death is something natural, normal and, to some extent, inevitable. Lord Krishna tells Arjuna: “O Arjuna, certain is death for the born and certain is birth for the dead. Therefore what is inevitable ought not to be a cause for thy sorrow.”
The Chandogya Upanishad tells us something significant: “When the hour of death approaches, what should we do? We should take refuge in three sublime thoughts: we are indestructible; we can never be shaken; we are the very essence of life.” When the hour of death approaches us, if we feel that we can never be destroyed, that nothing can shake us and that we are the very essence of life, then where is sorrow, where is fear, where is death? No death.
Sarada Devi, the consort of Sri Ramakrishna, said something very significant: the difference between a spiritual man and an ordinary man is very simple. Easily you can know the difference between the two. An ordinary man cries and sheds bitter tears when death approaches him; whereas a spiritual man, if he is really spiritual, will laugh and laugh when death approaches, for to him death is fun, nothing else.
Here we have to say that a spiritual man enters into the cosmic game; he becomes a conscious instrument of the cosmic game. That is why he knows that death is not an extinction. It is only a short or long rest.
Again and again we shall have to come back into the world. We have to work for God here on earth. There is no escape. We have to realise the Highest on earth. God will not allow us to waste or squander the potentialities and possibilities of the soul. Impossible.
Kipling’s immortal utterance runs:
As long as the red Earth rolls.
He never wasted a leaf or a tree.
Do you think He would squander souls?"
Each incarnation is leading us towards a higher life, a better life. We are in the process of evolution. Each incarnation is a rung in the ladder of evolution. Man is progressing consciously and unconsciously. But if he makes progress in each incarnation consciously, then he is expediting his spiritual evolution. Realisation will take place much sooner for him than for those who are making progress unconsciously.
We know that we started our journey from the mineral life and then entered into the plant life. Then we entered into the animal kingdom. From there we have come into the human world. But this is not the end. We have to grow into divine beings. Unless and until we have become divinised and transformed, God will not be satisfied with us. He can manifest in us and through us only when we are totally transformed and fully illumined. So when we think of our evolution — inner evolution and outer evolution — we should get abundant joy. We lose nothing, nothing in so-called death.
Jalalu’d-din Rumi most beautifully and soulfully tells us about evolution:
A plant I died and rose an animal;
I died an animal and was born a man.
Why should I fear? What have I lost by death?"
What is death after all? Death is a sleeping child. And what is life? Life is a child that is playing, singing and dancing at every moment before the Father. Death is the sleeping child inside the heart of the Inner Pilot. Life is inspiration. Life is aspiration. Life is not the intellectual mind. Life is not a game of frustration. No, life is the message of divinity on earth. Life is God’s conscious channel to fulfil divinity in humanity on earth.
There is much truth in Confucius’ saying: “We do not know life. How can we know death?” But I wish to say that we can know life. If we realise life as God’s embodiment of Truth, Light, Peace and Bliss, then we know what life truly is and recognise death as nothing but a rest — one necessary at the present stage of evolution.
There will come a time when rest will not be necessary at all. Only Life will reign supreme — the Life of the Beyond, the Life of the ever-transcending Beyond. This Life is not and cannot be the sole monopoly of an individual. Each human being has to be flooded with this Life of the ever-transcending Beyond, for it is here in this Life Divine that God will manifest Himself unreservedly — here, here on earth.
DR 24. On 9 November 1970, during his first European lecture tour, Sri Chinmoy delivered this lecture at the University of Kent, Canterbury, England.↩