The very word ‘death’ creates agony and fear. Even talking about it is considered inauspicious as we may invite it by even mentioning it!
Death is seen as an enemy. That is why in all the religions, in all the cultures, death is painted as black. In Hinduism, Yama is black. In Christianity, Satan is black. In Buddhism, Mara is black. In all religions, death is painted as black. We paint death as a villain, never as a hero. The idea of death is always approached with negativity. We feel death takes away everything from us. Whatever we want, whatever we enjoy, whatever we have, everything is just taken by force from us. So most of us live either in denial of death or in fear of it. We think, ‘Why should we think about it now? We will handle it when it arrives.’ Or we consciously avoid even thinking about it.
Somehow we always want to escape from death. From time immemorial, all the traditions, all the civilizations are trying in all possible ways to conquer death. Scientists are trying through medicines, which gave birth to allopathy. Siddhas and ayurvaidyans, the Eastern mystics, are trying through herbs, which gave birth to the whole siddha tradition and kayakalpa. The yogis are trying through mantras, which gave birth to Mrutyunjaya mantra and pranayama techniques. The Buddhist Lamas are trying it through meditation, which gave birth to techniques like Mahamantra meditation. Almost all the traditions, all the cultures are trying to conquer death, to go beyond death.
Why is the whole of humanity struggling against one thing, the only thing that is a certainty in all our lives?
Can we make the whole earth flat? No, it is a proven fact that the earth is round. But if we struggle against this fact, then there is something wrong in our struggle, in our understanding. It is the same with death too. Why are we struggling to accept the truth? Because of the struggle, most people die unable to accept death when it comes – just as they have lived, unable to accept life as it is.
Death removes this very foundation on which our identity is built, so we feel death snatches everything that is ours.
Why are we afraid of death?
We are afraid because instinctively we resist change and death is an abrupt change in life. The master Chuang Tzu says beautifully, ‘Man’s thirst for survival in the future makes him incapable of living in the present.’
We are afraid because we do not know who we are. We hold an identity of ourselves inside us, based on our family, relationships, job, wealth, social image etc. Death removes this very foundation on which our identity is built, so we feel death snatches everything that is ours.
Our understanding about death, or rather our misunderstanding about death, makes death a fearful, frightening experience. The man who resists death dies even while he lives. He dies every moment because he is tortured by the very idea of death. When I say ‘death’, I don’t mean only physical death. Losing anything is a form of death. Losing your comfortable life is one form of death, losing your relatives is another. Please understand that loss in any form is nothing but death.
There are two issues: the incident of death that happens at the end of our lives, and psychological death.
Real death happens only once, but psychological death, the fear of death, permeates our life. The idea and fear of death decides our entire life structure.
You may ask why people are so depressed and disturbed when they lose their close relatives. Even if you are not emotionally attached to them and in a sense are waiting for them to die you will be deeply affected by their death! It is more so when you are close to them, attached to them emotionally. Whenever your mother dies your whole left side will suffer. Whenever your father dies, your whole right side will suffer. Whenever your brothers die your hands will suffer. There is a deep connection between you and your relatives.
Every part of your body is connected to someone or the other. Your being is not an individual being. It is not alone, separate, as you think. We are all interlinked. That is why we undergo terrible suffering when we lose someone or something. Every missing that you experience, no matter of whom or what is what I call death.
All that we understand of death is that it is anti-life. Again because of our fear we think too much about death. We project our fear and see it as a giant figure. If real death is six feet tall, because of our fear we see it as sixty feet tall!
Fear of death is just the fear of continuity or discontinuity. We are afraid about the ‘what next’.
source: Living Enlightenment