By Gurudevi Nirmalananda
For weeks, I meditated at a cremation ground in Kashi, the holiest city in India. Liberation is assured for one who departs from this sacred city, so people go there to die. I went daily to the main burning ghat, alongside the divine Ganga (Ganges) River, for sunrise meditations.
On one day, a cremation fire shone brightly, flames leaping higher than I’d ever seen before. My guide said, “This was a good person.” The quality of the fire is determined by the quality of the fuel, even when it is a human body. Yoga’s goal is to make you shine brightly while alive. Yet your luminosity affects your death as well as your life.
Usually we focus on how yoga and meditation improve your life. However, once you’re born, death is certain. In between, quality of life matters. It matters a lot. Yet the quality of your death matters as well. Yoga and meditation help with both.
I went to meditate there because my Guru had repeatedly urged us to contemplate death. In facing death so deeply and tangibly, I became free from fear. And I found the current of life, ever flowing, present within all and beyond all. If you have attended a death, you already know it’s not an ending, but a passageway to another dimension. That’s why we say, “They left.”
While death is inevitable, it’s not predictable. When you truly understand this, you treasure every moment of life. Yet you tend to forget this. In an epic poem from ancient India, a wise king was asked, “What is truly amazing in this world?” He answered:
Every day, thousands of living beings die,— Mahabharata, Vana-Parva 313.116
but while living, one foolishly thinks himself immortal
and does not prepare for death.
This is the most amazing thing in the world.
Sometimes you just can’t see past your nose. When you’re so focused on the here and now, it’s not cosmic. Unfortunately, you’re focused on your needs and fears, or on your perceived needs and fears. Most yogis live comfortable lives, yet they focus on their discomforts. I’ll call it “being short-sighted.”
When you become farsighted, you can see your own future. And you can see options to change your path. It’s like having a cosmic GPS, showing you the route you’re on as well as some alternative roads. You get to choose the road, which also determines the scenery along the way.
Your future does include death as well as what leads up to it. Death is not what’s scary for most people. What’s scary is the…