Sri Chinmoy: It depends on the individual. If the individual has not prayed and meditated and has not followed the spiritual life, then it is really painful to part with this life because he does not want to surrender to God’s Will. First of all, it is not in him to know or feel what God’s Will is. Also, he does not feel God’s conscious Protection, Guidance and Concern, so he feels that he is totally lost. In this world he cannot do anything; in the other world all is uncertainty. If there is no aspiration, there is tremendous fear, for ordinary people feel that death is something totally unknown. They do not know where they are going. But seekers know that they are going to the Supreme, to the Lord’s abode. It is temporarily unknown to them, but that consciousness, that plane, is a realm of peace and rest. It belongs to the Supreme, their Eternal Father. So they have no fear.
Then, of course, there is physical pain. At the time of death, even right up to the last moment, if somebody is suffering from a disease and if he cannot throw this disease into something higher or deeper, naturally his last days will be extremely painful. Even the last moment will be very painful because the death-being will come to him in a very destructive form. The death-force, death-being, appears before each individual in a different form according to his soul’s achievement and realisation on earth.
Ordinary people who are not aspiring, people who are absolutely wallowing in the pleasures of ignorance, will feel death as a terrible, ruthless being, a dark and awful figure. Sometimes the death-force has many subordinates which come before the dying person, and people very often see tigers or unimaginably huge beings, and become frightened. But sincere seekers see their spiritual Master or a luminous being, like an angel, taking them in a chariot. These seekers have worked hard on earth for many years and now Mother Earth consciously wants to offer them her blessingful and divine gratitude. Their Inner Pilot or their Guru takes them, but they see the benign Hand of God right in front of them, carrying them in His Golden Boat to the other Shore. Some people see their long-departed relatives at the actual time of death. Their dearest ones come, and it is just like somebody who knows the way taking them to a new world.
When we are caught by the fetters of ignorance there will be pain both within us and without us at the time of our physical death. This pain is due to the ignorance in the human mind and human body which prevents us from entering into the realm of death and then going beyond the realm of death consciously and deliberately. But if the veil of ignorance is removed, then there can be no pain, either in death or in the world-atmosphere. If we can enter into the root of our suffering and pain — which is ignorance — and if we can transform ignorance with our soul’s Light, then death will be just like a passage leading us to another shore. This other shore is the Light Eternal which guides, protects, shapes and moulds us through eternity.