The Quality of Death


chapter 3

The Quality of Death

No two people in the world live their lives the same way. Similarly, no two people die the same way. People may die in the same situation, of the same cause, but still they don’t die the same way.


Types of Deaths

Now, are there some deaths that are good and some others that are bad? You must know that no two people in the world live their lives the same way. They may be siblings, living in the same house and doing the same things, but even then their experience of life will not be the same. Similarly, no two people die the same way. People may die in the same situation, of the same cause, but still they don’t die the same way. Right now, if the sky falls upon us and all of us get crushed under it and die, still, we will not die the same way.

It once happened: a rich man built a big house for his family. It has been a tradition in India that when you build a new house, you want to welcome some sage or saint or yogi to your house. They don’t do it any more because today there is too much housing and not enough yogis. So this man invited a yogi to his house. They welcomed him like a king and did pada pooja  and many other poojas. Then they served him a great meal. Then when the time came to leave, the husband and wife bowed down to him, asking for a blessing, as per the tradition. The yogi raised his hand and said, ‘First, may your father die, then you die and then your children die.’ Hearing this, the man became furious. He said, ‘What nonsense! We invited you to our new house, treated you like a king, fed you well and you say that first my father should die, then I should die, then my children should die? What is this rubbish?’ The yogi was shocked, ‘Why, did I say something wrong? Is it not good if your father dies first, then you die and then your children die? That means life will be in its natural cycle. Before your father dies, if you die, that is not good. Before you die, if your children die, that is not good at all. So first your father must die, then you must die, then your children must die.’

In recent times, there has been growing awareness about the quality of death, and just as there is a Quality of Life Index, people have created a Quality of Death Index too. Furthermore, as people create ‘life goals’ for themselves, there is growing awareness that one should set ‘death goals’ as well. This is a welcome change; however, they are working with a very superficial understanding of the quality of death, as such. People think that if one is free of pain and suffering, if one does not struggle with it, if one does not die suddenly and if one does not die alone but instead is surrounded by loved ones while dying, then it is a good death. On the other hand, they think if someone dies suddenly or violently, then it is a bad death. These considerations are very medical and social. Existentially, they are not very significant.

In India, deaths were classified taking into account deeper and existential factors as to how the death occurred. This is important because it has a considerable impact on what happens after death and what kind of assistance can be provided to the person who has died. Traditionally, in India, people classified deaths as only two kinds—timely death (Su-mrutyu ) and untimely death (Akaal Mrutyu ). If a yogi left his or her body consciously at the age of thirty, we don’t say it is untimely. It is timely for them because they decide the time.

We call a death untimely when someone has intent to live, that is, they still have Prarabdha Karma to work out, but suddenly something strikes them down and they die. Their body collapsed when the intent was on full scale—this is an untimely death. If intent itself has gone away, it is not untimely; it is very timely for that life. Chronological age, whether you are thirty-five or sixty-five or ninety-five years old is not the point. The criterion is that the intent is gone. Then, in terms of life, it is a timely death. I cannot give you an accurate percentage, but I think we can easily say that more than 80 per cent of the people do not die a natural death or a timely death any more. Their death is unnatural or untimely because they die while their intent is still on. This is unfortunate, and it has a bearing upon how the death happens and what happens after that.

In a natural or timely death, Prarabdha Karma, or the information that runs the life, runs out and life becomes feeble. When the information runs out, life peters out slowly and this is not torturous. This is very beautiful. When your Prarabdha Karma runs out, even if you lived a bad life, the last few moments will become very peaceful, wonderful and perceptive. Suddenly, you will see people become so wise. They are not attached to anything around them; they show an extraordinary sense of maturity—something they failed to show throughout their life. This is because it is a natural death. Natural death is not a bad death. It is a good thing for you and a good thing for those you are leaving behind because you are not being forced out of your body. For this to happen, you need to empty your Prarabdha Karma before your body wears out.

How rapidly you empty your Prarabdha Karma depends on how quickly you move from one aspect of life to another. If you are eighty and still think like a teenager wanting to romance someone, your Prarabdha Karma will not run out. If, at eighty, you are not rid of what you should have done at sixteen or eighteen and you still want to go sit on the street side and watch women walking by, then your Prarabdha Karma will not run out. Now, it will not matter if you live to be a hundred, you will still die an unnatural death because the body will run out, but the Prarabdha Karma will not. If a person dies naturally, he or she clearly knows that they are going to die and you will see they will display extraordinary wisdom. That possibility is being completely obliterated in the so-called modern society because everyone is trying to be immortal at any cost, and they will die a bad death because of that. You can die well only if you accept your mortality.

There is another kind of death, called Iccha Mrutyu(loosely translated as ‘death by choice’), which, in a sense, is not death, but actually the transcendence of the cycle of birth and death. This can happen when a person is into spiritual sadhana and has achieved such a mastery over their energies that they are able to untangle their life energies from the physical body without damaging it. The person has understood where the keys to his or her karmic structure are and is able to dismantle it completely. Such a person becomes truly no more. This is considered the highest kind of death. This is also referred to as Mahasamadhi in the Hindu tradition and Mahaparinirvana in the Buddhist tradition. In English, we simply call it Liberation, meaning one has become free from the very process of life, birth and death. One has become free from the basic structures of body and mind or free from the karmic structure which holds these things together. To use the earlier analogy, one has burst the bubble completely. This is the ultimate goal for every spiritual seeker.

Predictions of Death

One of the most common questions people have for astrologers and fortune tellers is: ‘How long will I live?’ ‘When will I die?’ If life follows a certain rationale, then is it possible to determine when it will end as well? More precisely, we saw how it is karma, the software of life, that determines the span and the nature of life. So is it possible to somehow read this and be able to predict death?

Now, just as karma is impressed upon your physical body and mental body, it is also impressed upon your energy body. As the allotted karma, or Prarabdha Karma, is reaching completion, the pranic body’s ability to hold on to the physical body recedes. Life, as you know it, which is physical, will begin to lose its vibrancy. At the same time, the subtle body gathers more vibrancy because the physical body is losing its grip on the subtle. This is the reason why you might have noticed that sometimes even a person who has lived a gross life seems to carry an ethereal peace about them during the last few days preceding their death. Such a person, you will see, suddenly becomes wise. This usually happens for people whose awareness becomes acute. However, if someone is dying a natural death, then with a little bit of awareness—at least six to eight months in advance—one can clearly see it coming. Actually, many people unknowingly start talking about it. They start making strange statements and behave strangely. This is not out of psychological degeneration; unconsciously they blurt out this and that. Later on, after they are dead, people look back and say that he or she had said this or did something which was indicative that they were aware of their impending death. An uncle of mine even knew the exact date and time of his death.

Death is not something that will happen suddenly; it builds up over time. Many a time, the body is setting forth the process. The person may not be fully conscious of it—the mind may not be alert enough to grasp it, but the body speaks it in many ways. Apparently, there have been some studies examining the blood work of people who were killed violently—through crime or accidents. Their blood tests were done on a whim or just by chance or, for some other reason, a little prior to their death—no one knew they were going to die, but by chance, they got it done. And those reports were found to be completely haywire. They spoke a different language altogether. I don’t know how far this is true, but this sort of thing is quite possible because it may have nothing to do with the physiological problems. As the body approaches its end, the entire body starts speaking the language of death at that time.

So is it possible to predict death? Yes, it is possible, but it is very limited and highly exaggerated. If I see a coconut tree, looking at the age and the health of the coconut tree, I can say when it will first bear flower, when it will bear fruit. I can also foretell approximately when it will die. I can tell you all this right now, but in between now and that time, if you chop the coconut tree down, the prediction becomes false. This is true for human beings too. Whatever the horoscopes say, someone can die just like that. A whole lot of people in the world died yesterday in an accident or from disease or some such thing. Do you think all their horoscopes said they were going to die yesterday? No. They all said ‘long life’, but they died at twenty-five.

You may have heard of this: traditionally, in India, before one marries off their children to someone, they always scrutinize the horoscopes of the two people. They do this because they want to make sure that the temperaments of the two people are compatible. They also want to make sure that their children have a long and prosperous life. Yet, it has happened many times that even after all this, the man who they got their daughter married to died in a few days. Of course, if they were able to know that he was going to die in three days, they would never have got their girl married to him. This is not to say that there is no basis to these calculations. It is just that these calculations are very limited in scope and their significance is exaggerated.

One’s death is usually set in relation to one’s solar cycles, which are approximately twelve years each. In other words, the phase or segment of the solar cycle in which you will die is largely set. The day and time are not very relevant because it need not necessarily happen exactly like that. You can take a few more breaths, or some medic may pump something into you, and you may live a little longer. All these things can happen. But if you have the necessary perception and look at a person, it could be easily determined as to which segment of the solar cycle he or she will go in. It has happened that it looks like the person is going to die by such and such time, even their medical parameters indicate death, but still I have said they are not going to die now. That is because they are in the wrong segment of their solar cycle to die. Even in their designated segment, if they pass just that ailment or situation, they may not die because the death may get pushed for some more rounds.

There are many Indian historical stories where people have chosen a certain time to go. Not just very accomplished yogis, even kings and others have chosen when to die. I am sure everyone has heard of Bhishma,  of course. He was completely shot up with arrows during the Mahabharata war. (That he was lying on a bed of arrows is more of a poetic expression of the fact that he had many arrow wounds.) Yet he hung around until that time because his segment had not come. He wished to die in Uttarayana  because he wanted to leave in a certain solar segment.

Predictions are basically about estimating the probability of an event occurring, based on certain things which could turn out to be accurate. Right now, I can look at the sky and say if it will rain today or not. I have been right 90 per cent of the time but sometimes I was wrong. It is the same thing with life. There is no perfect estimate, but the more knowledgeable you are, the more accurate your estimates can be. Predicting death is also like this.

This is like if you look at the speed, the angle, the ambient conditions and all that, you can with some certainty say where the projectile will land. Rockets, missiles, artillery fire or a golf ball are all worked upon by adjusting the angle and the speed of the projectile. Similarly, reading your energy, how you are working out your Prarabdha Karma and various other aspects of you, we can say, ‘Okay, this is how the trajectory of life will be.’ Based on this, in this culture, it was common for someone who was well versed with these things to look at someone and say death is nearing for this person. So they would say, ‘You better go to Kashi  now.’ But some people went to Kashi and ended up living there for twenty or thirty years. That has also happened.

With elaborate calculations, one can say this is how many years your body will last. But in between, if you start doing Inner Engineering, you can surprise the guy making the prediction, because those practices can change the trajectory of your life and he was unable to factor that. This is why, traditionally, astrologers said: ‘If you are on the spiritual path, we will not make a prediction for you.’ Because with spiritual practices, you are tampering with these calculations. You may die sooner or much later. All the other things he said also may happen or may not happen.

Predictions may be accurate or off the mark, but when death is imminent, it can be perceived in different ways. If you are around animals, you will see that certain animals can sense death. Dogs, cats, cobras and many other carnivorous animals can also smell death because, in a way, death has a smell. All the subtler aspects of the physical have their own smells. All carnivores have a special sense of smell because their entire survival process is in their nostrils. They have hearing and vision too, but these are not as keen as their sense of smell. If they want to know something, they don’t look—they just smell it out. So because they have such a keen sense of smell, most carnivorous animals know the onset of death. They can even smell death in advance. Not months ahead, but within forty-eight days it can definitely be sensed. Human beings can know it too. For example, with the kind of diet our brahmacharis eat, very easily one can develop a very keen sense of smell for these kinds of things.

Once the vayus  start exiting, there is a certain smell to them. This is something even modern science is finding out. They have found that humans have a unique ‘death smell’ which can be used to train dogs to find human cadavers. They have isolated some eight key chemical compounds that make up the human scent of death. They say humans share this with pigs, for whatever reasons!

You can even smell a ghost because a ghost is just a subtle physical form that can be smelled. All dogs can do this. When there is a ghost, they start barking because they can smell the ghost. They cannot see, but they can smell it, so they get confused. They go and sit in one corner, put their tails between their legs and bark. They can see that nothing is happening around, but there is some activity going on, which makes them very nervous.

Yet smell is not the only indicator of death. You can even see death coming. This happened with one of our residents at the Yoga Center. Just before a large event in Erode one day, I was talking to three or four of our teachers about the arrangements for the event. This resident, who was also a teacher, was standing there. His wife was also a teacher, and she was there too. I looked at him and I did not do anything. I simply ignored him. Now, I never ever look at a person and ignore that person. That is not in me at all. Whoever they are, at least I will nod or do namaskaram or smile at them. I will definitely acknowledge their presence in some way. Always. So, after the event, suddenly this incident came to my mind, ‘Why did I do this? I did not acknowledge him.’ I thought, ‘Why?’ Then the next evening, I asked, ‘Where is he?’ They said, ‘He has gone to the Himalayas.’ I let it pass; I did not pay attention. You know, in our lives, there is no time to dwell upon anything, given the pace at which events happen at Isha. If there was a little time to dwell upon it, it would have been different. I thought about this and I left it. Three days later, he just drowned in a stream in the Himalayas.

When he was in front of me, there was a certain lack of presence that was so glaring that I did not respond to him physically standing in front of me. When there is an imminent death, the defined boundaries of the body will be somewhat diffused, which will dilute one’s physical presence in our vision. The experience of the physical is essentially because of its defined boundaries; when that is diffused, our visual experience is lowered. If I had not been so focused on going on stage for the event, if I had paid a little attention, I would have just told him. And normally—at least it was so at that time—if someone wanted to go to the Himalayas or such places, they would always tell me and go. But these people—the resident, his wife and a few other people—decided to go without telling me. His death happened accidentally, but if it had not happened that way, it would have happened some other way. He was heading for it, and it was so visible, but I did not pay enough attention at that time.

So then are there signs that a common man can observe to be able to predict one’s death? Yes, definitely. The transition from life to death is a transition from a certain level of dynamism to a certain level of inertia. When this happens, there are certain things you can certainly notice within yourself. There are certain sure signs which can tell you, but it is such a complex process, it can always go wrong. Another reason why this is difficult is that people are no longer sensitive to what their body expresses on a daily basis. The body keeps changing all the time—even on a day-to-day basis, even within the day, the body is changing all the time. With everything, we have become modern, so we don’t know a thing about these aspects. Most people don’t even know when it is a full moon or a new moon without looking at the calendar. But the body clearly reads these things. If you are able to read these expressions, you will definitely know where the body is heading.

Some very simple signs are very noticeable in the sense organs. For example, a person for whom this transition towards death has begun will not be able to look at the tip of their nose. Even a person with a short nose can still look at the tip of their nose in normal conditions, but when the process of death has started, your eyeballs will not focus. For those who are practising Bhrumadhya Sadhana ,  they will suddenly see that the eyeballs will wander like they are loose. They cannot go there. With breath also, it is very noticeable. When you breathe, if you observe carefully, you will see that once the process of death is near, the breath will not go into the lower lobe of the lung. You will breathe mainly from the middle and upper lobes. It is to help the organs shut down one by one. But maybe you are an asthmatic, or someone who breathes like that most of the time, so you don’t have to think, ‘I am going to die.’

If you are very conscious of the different agnis  in the body, you will notice when certain dimensions of fire are gone. Once it is gone, you know it is only a question of a limited amount of time. Foreseeing death up to four to six months is very much a possibility. So at that time, if you become meditative, you will go peacefully and joyfully, and the shutting down will happen well. Otherwise, if you fight it and do this and that, you will leave in ugly ways; it may become painful and disturbed .

I can say a few more things about it, but we must understand the consequence of what we say. People will not keep this to themselves. They will look at someone, and if their beard looks a little yellowish, they will make a prediction that this person will die in three days because someone told them it is a sign. They will not keep quiet about it. They will tell this person and everyone around him that he is going to die in three days. They will even gather around him just to watch the prediction come true. Just the level of confusion and nonsense they will create will be huge. And if this person does not die, they may think they have to help him! I am not saying there is no relevance at all to knowing when one will die. We could also help people a little more with this. But there is no saying how people will use or misuse these things or confuse themselves completely. Above all, if they notice some signs in themselves—right or wrong—they might think they are going to die in three days. And instead of becoming more peaceful and calm, they will become fearful. All this is possible.

This is why it is said that you must be ready for death every moment of your life. You should live your life in such a way that if you were to drop dead the next moment, you still have ended it reasonably well. You trying to deal with it at the last moment is not the way. Moreover, if you understand that you are mortal, you look at it all the time. And if you are looking at it all the time, you will notice it. When it is time, you will know how to sit in a conducive place and die. That is the best way.

Negative Energies

Using negative energies to cause harm to someone else is a very ancient practice in the world. In India, they made a whole science of it. Of the four Vedas, the Atharvana Veda is all about occult practices. It also talks extensively about how to use the energies to your advantage and to someone else’s detriment. It explains how if someone who has mastery over this wants to use it, extreme suffering and even death can be caused. There is no doubt about it. One simple way people try to hurt others is through a curse. Now, what is a curse? It is a certain level of black, negative thought that is directed towards you. Because of this, you become sick. When this happens, if you don’t find a good doctor, you can become mentally unstable or even die. In the olden days, most people who became mentally unstable would die in a very short time because they would do something which would kill them. Either that or they would not eat and just run themselves down. Only a certain kind of people who were in a state of peaceful madness or pleasant madness would last long.

It is possible for curses to even kill the person who curses. If they don’t know how to let out the poison they generate, it could kill them. Or it could kill someone else. Right now, let us say, someone wants to curse you to death. They have generated a certain amount of blackness in their minds and let it out, but you happen to be a little away, or in some way, you are not available to this. Another person who happens to be close by may receive the curse and die instead. This is like every time you fire a gun, it is not necessary you hit the person that you aim at; you may hit some bystander. In fact, it is a bystander that gets hit most of the time.

Some people suffer unexplained levels of tragedies or disturbance after they visited a certain place. Everything goes wrong in their life. Then, suddenly, they recover one day and become okay. It is very dangerous to say these things because then people will start imagining things and create a lot of drama about it. But at the same time, it is very much possible that other influences that they are not conscious of have
touched them.

Today, you need not be too worried about people trying to harm you because there are not too many people who can do occult or black arts. Even if there are people who claim to do these things, they are of doubtful capabilities. In the past, everyone had a family witch doctor just as they had a family doctor or lawyer. This used to be so in southern India and to some extent in the north also—they would not do anything without consulting them. That tradition has more or less died out completely.

What we see of these things today is mostly exaggerated fear and little understanding of the tradition. Human imagination has no control and, unfortunately, there are many charlatans who are using fear as the key. If there is fear, negative impact will keep happening, because fear itself is black art. Otherwise, why would people get scared in a horror movie? They scream, they hold hands in fear, some even get up and run away, when we all know it is only light falling from the projector. If you simply keep your hand across the projector, the ghost is finished. Everyone knows this. Still, all the drama keeps happening. People are not acting scared; it is actually happening to them. So, in many instances, fear itself can work like black art—you don’t have to do more.

Essentially, the entire Atharvana Veda is about how to use your energies to create well-being or destroy one’s life. Because these arts are like double-edged swords; you can swing it both ways. Manifesting or avoiding illness, death or disaster is also possible. If one wants to be able to kill someone, it is not that simple. It takes a lot to actually cause death to someone unless they manage to put something in the food. I don’t mean a chemical poison; there are certain energetically charged forms that could be put in the food, which would enter the system. Depending upon how vulnerable you are to these things, accordingly, at that pace and intensity, these things would grow within you. As it grows in the system, it slowly destroys everything about the person. It can eventually cause death. But to be able to do this, one would need access to the person’s food. Without that, causing death to someone would take a lot. I think there are only a handful of people in the world today who could do that—as acquiring such capabilities will demand extreme striving and risk to their own well-being and life. This, fortunately, is a deterrent. Most of these people are using the psychology of fear to make things happen, but they can certainly cause a lot of disturbance. Beyond psychological factors, they can cause havoc in the energy system and in turn in the body.

In terms of disturbance, it is relatively easier to disturb people mentally. This is so especially for women. A woman has a greater biological responsibility of bearing a child and keeping the race going, so she goes through phases in her physiology, which makes her vulnerable at certain times.

In terms of harm, harming the body is not so easy to do. The body is an organism which is reinventing itself every day in so many ways. When I say reinventing itself, let us say, you eat 1 kilogram of food. Of this kilogram of food, at least about 300–400 grams become the body. So a certain reinvention and recycling is happening in the body. Because it is reinventing itself every day in a certain way, the body has protection of its own. If you want to do something to the body, let us say, cause some ailment to the person, it will take much more capability to do that than to psychologically freak someone out. The content of the mind keeps spinning on old things, so psychologically freaking someone out is the easiest thing to do.

Of the five elements that make our body, water, because of its liquid nature, is the easiest to influence. In the science of bhoota shuddhi , thought, emotion and blood are all under the management of the water element. Considering their vulnerability, it is natural for evil intentions to aim towards the water element in our system. If someone wants to do something physiologically, the easiest thing to affect is the blood. When someone is under some kind of negative energies or that kind of influence, their blood work will go crazy. This is always the sign. This is not in any way connected with any of the organ functions. Every day, it will manifest differently because blood is the flowing part of who you are. After the mind, blood is the most susceptible thing. The next thing that can be affected is your liver or your kidneys because, once again, certain things flow through these. But if someone wants to cause a heart attack to a person, that is very difficult, because the heart just pumps—there is no chemical process. Sometimes, there are certain types of people who manage to cause neurological disorders also. But by and large, these are the main kinds of harm they can cause to a person.

In the twenty-first century, it is very hard to believe that such things are possible, but unfortunately they do exist. Above all, it is vulnerability of fear that generally does a large part of the work. If one, either through devotion or meditativeness, comes to a sense of fearlessness, that is the simplest way of being above such base arts.

                            How to Get Rid of Negative Impact

If one is already suffering from the ill effects of the black arts, what is the best way to rid oneself of these effects? There are many ways to sort out these situations; one simple way is to be in the space of the Dhyanalinga for three days. If you notice, there are two shrines at the very entrance of the Dhyanalinga—the Vanashree and Patanjali shrines. Together, they form a 15-degree angle with the Dhyanalinga. This is created so that these negative influences are just taken care of as people enter the space, even before they seek anything else. If people just walk in that space for about 60 or 70 feet towards the Dhyanalinga, these negativities will be removed.

A human mind is a structure with a million rooms. When one accidentally breaks into a new segment of one’s mind, what they know or do not know and their basic character may change; sometimes even new languages may surface. And this could be easily misunderstood as being possessed by a new force. Once inside the dome, those who think they are possessed by some beings or who are impacted by the occult and such problems should sit either within the 15-degree angle in front of the Dhyanalinga or behind it. That space has been specially created to remove these influences. People who are affected by these negative influences should come to the Dhyanalinga on three specific days: one day before the new moon, on the new moon and the day after the new moon. They should offer a lemon on each of these days to the Dhyanalinga. They can also sit in the Linga Bhairavi  and do an abhishekam , and it will be over.

A Linga Bhairavi Yantra  can also definitely take care of it. If one has such a powerful energy form in one’s house, there is no worry. But the Linga Bhairavi Yantra has a limited range that is effective for only around 2000–2500 square feet. Even that depends on the layout of the house. Suppose a house is in a zigzag shape, then the fringes of the house may be out of range. The Linga Bhairavi Avighna Yantra may work for 4000 square feet, but, again, it needs to be centrally located in the house for maximum benefit. If people are in touch with it, negative energies will not individually affect them. That is for sure.

Having a Linga Bhairavi Yantra or Avighna Yantra may not be possible for everyone. So a simple fix is to come and spend some time at the Dhyanalinga. It is a big yantra. They can come and make use of it. If there is something very serious, where we think something terrible may happen to them, we can prepare some other device, but we have done that only once or twice. It takes lots of work to do it. It is not the good kind of work, not the kind of work I like. Consecrating an Adiyogi or a Devi or something like that is a joy. These are terrible things to do, but they are useful.

If there is strong sadhana, one does not have to worry about all these things. For such a person, all these things don’t matter. For example, if the brahmacharis sit in Siddhasana,  with their eyeballs rolled up intensely, it will all be gone in two minutes. Then one can go and sleep in the cremation ground and still be perfectly fine. They said Shiva always slept in the cremation ground to convey that it does not matter where the hell one is, when, internally, one is fully fired up. But for regular people who are constantly influenced by what is around them, periodic purifications are needed. Otherwise, slowly, inertia will set in.

These are not big things. But these small things can slow down people. This is happening to people all the time. You might have picked it up in so many places; you don’t know. It can come from the food that you eat, the places that you walk upon, or the air that you breathe. It could even be just the atmospheres that you went into or certain spaces that you came in contact with, and so on. It can make life difficult because, now, certain inertia has set in. It is extra weight, that is all. But if you have just a little extra load, you will see everything suddenly becomes much more effortful. So it is always best to do some sort of periodic cleansing of these things.

Traditionally, there were systems in this society where people periodically went through some cleansing. This is also the significance of people taking a dip in the river in all the holy places in India. You go and dip yourself three times in the river—in flowing water—it becomes a big cleansing. This is one reason why people bathed in rivers. It is a simple way to cleanse yourself from these influences. Of course, today, you cannot dip yourself in a river because flowing rivers are so few, and even those are highly polluted. But if there is a good river, and if you bathe every day in the river, that is a simple way of washing off everything. It is klesha nashana , where, instead of fire, you use flowing water to cleanse. A shower is not very effective for this because, in most places, the shower does not have that much volume of water to make a difference. Using at least a mug or a bucket is better. Teerthakund,  of course, will do the job. Rain is also good klesha nashana. Rainwater can do wonders to one’s energy. These are simple ways by which one can protect oneself from the little bits of negative influences that one may have gathered unconsciously.

Suicide: A Perspective

Suicide is one classification of death that has become a growing epidemic of our times, even though our generation of people have more comfort and convenience than any other in the history of humankind. Today, there are many studies that suggest a large percentage of the population has contemplated suicide at least once in their lives. Among these, a significant percentage of people have attempted suicide at least once. Currently, in the United States, more people kill themselves every year than those who get killed by homicide and war put together. And more people die of suicide than road accidents in recent times. This is an indicator of things going seriously wrong with humanity. So is there any reason or cause for so many people to feel suicidal? Well, there is really no good or bad reason to commit suicide. They just need a reason, that is all. And you can make any reason a good enough one if you want to. If you want, today, from morning till evening, you can find a hundred reasons as to why you should not live. As for me, I am always searching for a reason to live.  Otherwise, I have no reason. So it is not a question of higher or lower reason; it is just that people find a reason, something that pushes them sufficiently to do that.

For a majority of people, they feel suicidal because life isn’t happening the way they want. Except for medical reasons, the rest is largely because of unrealistic expectations. You are just a tiny speck in this Creation. If you look at yourself in the context of Creation as a whole, you are nothing. If you understand that you are nothing, you will be only too glad that things are happening to whatever extent they are. You will be too glad that when you are a bloody nothing—when you don’t know one thing from another, when you are sitting on this planet, in the middle of nowhere, in this vast existence—at least you are breathing, your heart is beating, you are living and everything is working out well. You don’t know anything, nor can you control it, nor can you manage it, but still it is happening well. So if you understand the real context of life, you would only be too glad to be alive.

It once happened: a salesman decided to venture into a new housing development. He thought no other salesmen would have gone there because it was a new development. He wanted to be the first one, the early bird. So he knocked on the very first house that he saw there. A lady came and opened the door. Without giving her a chance to speak, he slipped into her house, took a lot of cow dung from his bag and threw it all over the new carpet. He said, ‘See, I have a wonder vacuum cleaner. Watch this, I will clean this carpet without leaving the slightest odour. If I don’t do it, I will eat every piece of this dung myself.’ The lady asked, ‘Would you like some tomato sauce to go with it because we still do not have electricity in the house.’ If you feel you have a bad deal in life, and you should commit suicide because of it, what you really need is a little bit of tomato sauce. Eating just dung, you feel like dying. With tomato sauce, it tastes a little better, and then you suddenly want to live. There are many people for whom life is not happening the way they want it to, but they don’t turn suicidal because they have hope that tomorrow things will be better. The poor man on the street buys a lottery ticket, so he has to live for a month at least, until the results are out. He has the hope that when he wins the lottery, he will live like a king. After the results are out, there is the next lottery for him. This is how he keeps going. He does not turn suicidal. But for the rich man, the lottery has already happened, and he knows it does not make too much of a difference. There is a deep sense of hopelessness. It is not that you have to consciously seek suicide. You will become death-oriented because the experience of life has become unpleasant. It is only natural that you will try to dodge anything that is unpleasant. This is why, unless you make your experience of life very sweet, you will naturally become death-oriented, not life-oriented.

Fundamentally, people want to commit suicide because in some way they don’t know how to handle life. It is like you want to find a permanent solution to a temporary situation in life. That is all it is. Either they don’t know how to handle their emotions, thoughts, physical ailment, financial or family situation—there is something they don’t know how to handle. When you are trapped in that situation, it may look like it is the end of the world in your understanding. Essentially, you do not know how to handle a specific aspect of your life. So you think the best thing is to end life. It is ignorance, ignorance about the nature of life.

In my perception, I would say about 5 per cent of people are committing suicide because of incurable diseases which they don’t know how to handle. It is so painful and horrible that they feel it is better to die. Another 2–3 per cent of the people are committing suicide because they are trapped in horrible situations—they are in a war zone, or in the hands of an enemy, or somewhere else where they are being super-exploited and have no way to get away from it. There may be another 10–15 per cent who are committing suicide for financial reasons because they feel trapped in a society which is ruled by money. They may have a family and end up without any money, and they just don’t know what to do with themselves. They will end up on the street and have a horrible life. They cannot think of themselves being like a homeless man out there begging for food and living; they just cannot imagine the indignity of that. So they commit suicide.

So about 20 per cent of the people committing suicide need to be treated compassionately because life has been cruel to them in some way. These are people who are being tortured by the world. The world is not compassionate to them, and they get trapped in certain kinds of debilitating situations. Unfortunately, they decide to take their own life, because, if they live, it is worse. For these people, it is the world that needs to be fixed. A lot of fixing is needed in the world because sometimes people do terrible things to each other.

There is also a small percentage of people who want to end their life just like that, not for any reason. They have nothing else to do today, so they want to end it. Trust me, there are people like that! I am talking about a life that just wants to end. They have no suffering, no depression, nothing. Simply, they feel like dying today. I could safely say about 2–5 per cent of the people have that tendency. This is another kind.

Then there are those on the spiritual path who think they should end it. When someone is spiritually evolving, a moment like this comes because your intellect is not able to grasp the profoundness of the experience that is happening to you. So, today, let us say, you sat down in meditation and felt like you were totally bodiless. Then the first thing your mind says is, ‘Maybe I am ready to leave.’ It will try to interpret it as, ‘It is enough; everything has happened.’ Really! There are people at the Yoga Center who keep writing to me every six months, saying, ‘I think I am just ready to leave.’ But when I ask them not to eat one meal, they struggle with even that!

These people must understand that their interpretation of what is happening is completely wrong because they don’t have an intellect capable of grasping what the hell is happening within them. For every little experience beyond the body, your mind or intellect may start saying, ‘Oh, I am ready to die.’ No, you are not ready to die. It is just that with any dimension of experience beyond physicality, you think it is death. You don’t understand there is a whole dimension of Existence, which is beyond the body, which is for the living—not for the dead. Unfortunately, most people enter that realm only with death, that is a different matter. But the nature of the intellect is such: ‘Okay, if this is not life, what else is it? This must be death.’ So these people think they should die.

People who are on the spiritual path who feel, every now and then, that their time has come, need firm guidance. This is why spiritual processes were always conducted tightly under the supervision of a Guru. Your spiritual process is not yours; it is his. This looks scary in the twenty-first century, but that much discipline needs to be maintained in spiritual seekers so that there is no question of you jumping into something because of the wrong conclusions you make in the process of your evolution. You should know that if life is not making enough sense to you, it is obvious that you don’t have enough sense. Instead of seeing that ‘I lack sense,’ you are projecting that life does not make sense.

Of the remaining people, there are those who kill themselves because they have a predisposition towards suicide. They want to terminate life even if there are no external stimuli for doing so. If you notice, there is always a small percentage of people who are suicidal no matter what you do. No matter how you counsel them or what treatment you give, they will keep going back to being suicidal over and over again. For some reason, in these people, their karmic software has developed a glitch, and it keeps attempting to shut down again and again. These are a different kind. For the rest of the people, their urge to commit suicide is fundamentally rooted in ignorance.

Usually, people who are struggling hard in difficult situations will never commit suicide. Even though a thousand things don’t happen the way they want, they will work harder, but they will not commit suicide. But people who sit in one place and think life is not happening the way they want will commit suicide because they are dwelling on that. Probably, more things in my life are not happening the way I want, than in your life. But I don’t dwell on that because I have a thousand other things to do. If you sit alone in a room and go on thinking about how many things are not happening your way, you will feel like ending your life. That is how it is.

However, for the majority of people, this thing about them wanting to end their life is just a lot of drama. Please see, whenever you feel suicidal, it is only because life is not happening the way you want it to happen. Today, if life is not going the way you want it to go, you want to end your life. But if things get a little better tomorrow morning, you will start making plans for the future. By tomorrow morning, if something is going right, you want to live, and you want to live long enough to have your third baby. You even want to have grandchildren. But when everything looks bleak, you think of suicide. This is a self-destructive game that you are playing in your mind; there is no existential basis to it.

Succour for the Suicidal

If you honestly look at it, in the grand scale of things, you are really of no consequence in this Existence. Whether a thousand bubbles are floating in the air or 999, what is the big difference? How many human beings like you and me have come and gone? But some people think they have a God-given purpose and God made them especially for something. Now, when things don’t happen that way, they will freak out because they have such grand ideas about themselves, they have become too important in their own thought process. Once you have become too important in your own thought process, you will be like a tyrant, super confident and bombastic. A diffident person will sit there and get miserable for the same reason. So between the two of them, who is more stupid? I think the miserable one is more stupid. But a tyrant can cause more pain. The miserable will cause pain to themselves, but the bombastic one will cause pain to everyone else. Well, I’m not chastising you for your stupidity, as the word stupid simply means to be amazed or stunned. When one is stunned by the drama that is happening in their psychological space, the phenomenal value of the life process will be lost upon them. So don’t be stupefied by your own psychological drama.

Most people who want to commit suicide do it not because the world is torturing them; it is because they are torturing themselves through their own thoughts and emotions. They drive themselves to this point, simply because they have not made an attempt to know anything about the fundamental nature of their own existence and the mechanics of life that they are. Silly little thoughts and emotions that they created become a Universe in itself. When their Universe begins to collapse, they think they must end their life. This is simply because there is no Asatoma Sadgamaya  in them. They are asatoma ; they have decided to live in darkness. Whatever you give them, it does not matter what, they will turn that into darkness, into a problem. You give them a spiritual process, they will make that also into a problem. Get them married, they will make that into a problem; get them divorce, they will make that into a problem. Get them educated, they will make that into a problem. Leave them uneducated, they will make that into a problem. Poverty, riches, wealth and everything they will make it into a problem because they are in ignorance. That is all.

Ignorance in this context does not mean you don’t know nuclear science. Ignorance in this context means you don’t know a damn thing about the nature of your life. You are trying to live here without exploring a damn thing about the nature of your life. You are busy with your own thought with your own emotion, with your own silly little things that you are creating around yourself. You are living in your own Universe. You must understand that there is no such thing as your Universe. Your Universe is an illusion. So this is why I bless everybody that the sooner you are disillusioned, the better it is for you. People say, ‘Oh, I was disillusioned,’ as if it is a tragedy. No, it is a great possibility. With disillusionment, all your illusions got destroyed. Isn’t it fantastic? Another positive word for disillusionment is Enlightenment. Enlightenment is when all illusions collapse. Right now, you selectively keep some illusions and some you collapse. If everything collapses, you are Enlightened. If you learn how to handle your disillusionment joyfully, then there will be no suicidal thoughts.

A lot of people threatening to commit suicide are doing it only to get attention. Sometimes, it goes bad—they only tried to create some trouble for everybody, but it went bad. It is a terrible thing. It is also true that what people go through just before committing suicide is worse than the death that follows. So if somebody wants to commit suicide, people think, ‘Oh, they need sympathy.’ But if you approve of this, then every time there is a little difficulty, people will try to kill themselves. For every little bit of difficulty that someone faces, he or she will think it is the most difficult situation and want to go. The moment you bring this approval into the social structure and social psyche, too many people will start killing themselves. It is best that people understand this: you did not create life, so you have no business to take it either—whether it is yours or someone else’s. It is as simple as that. There are life situations; some are okay, some are not okay, some are horrible. Still, it does not give you the right to take a life because you are incapable of creating one. People who want to commit suicide need sympathy sometimes, but mostly they need a little treatment and very cautious levels of disdain.

Once it happened: a young boy and girl in a local college fell in love. They had really become very passionate and intense. Then, of course, coming from traditional families, the parents came in the way because of caste distinctions. They said, ‘No way. Over our dead bodies.’ Usually, this is a common proclamation the parents make. It is just a threat; they will not die. If the families do not oppose, most love affairs will fall apart. But the moment they resist it, it becomes like a cause. It is like they are fighting an injustice and people will rally behind them. So it went on and a big social scandal happened. When this happened, the lovers thought all this trouble is because of themselves, so they decided that they will end their lives. So they went up the Velliangiri Mountains.

On top of these mountains, there is a place where you can leave your body. From there, you have a clear 700–800-feet drop which will give you a free fall without touching anything before you are splattered on the rocks. Some people have discarded their bodies consciously,  others fall and do it. So the boy and girl reached the top and stood there, hand in hand. They were just about to jump, when the girl said, ‘Raju, I am so scared. You jump first.’ (Somehow the name of the idiot in all the romantic movies is always Raju!) The boy was in full form, so he said, ‘Come, hold my hand and jump.’ She said, ‘No, you do it first, then I will come. I will be right behind you.’ The boy had seen too many Hindi movies, and he jumped. The girl stood at the edge of the cliff and screamed, ‘Oh, Raju, I love you.’ Then she started thinking very pragmatically. ‘Now, Raju is gone. My love is gone. All of the problem is gone. When the problem itself is over, why waste one more life.’ So she walked down, and because she could not go back home, she came and settled down at the Isha Yoga Center. For many people who are on the verge of committing suicide, just one moment of distraction is all it takes to prevent it. Most people who managed to overcome that one moment went on to live for a long time.

Those who really want to commit suicide generally become quiet. In Yogic traditions, they say: if a person sits alone in a room in the dark, without lighting a lamp or turning on the light, this means that either they are going to commit suicide or they are going to become a yogi. Both are in a way connected. ‘I became a yogi’ means, in a way, consciously, I killed myself. Even the man who commits suicide has no intention of killing the body. He wants to kill himself. Because he does not know how to do it, because he thinks that the body is him, he hangs the body. Otherwise, he would have just hanged his persona. So if somebody sits alone, without light, with eyes open, you know they are heading for suicide most of the time. If it is in the world at large, maybe 1 per cent of the time, but if it is in the Yoga Center, we would say, 10 per cent of the time they are heading towards something else which is a bigger possibility. They may be just practising Samyama! 

Now, what can be done for people who chronically feel suicidal? Western science tends to look at suicidal tendencies only from the angle of psychology and physiology. Though their interventions are getting better, they are inherently limited to these two domains. In Yoga, the physiology and the psychology are only consequences of something deeper. Treating the consequences alone is like treating the symptoms and not the ailment. In Yoga, a suicidal tendency is considered the result of an aberration or distortion at the energy level of the person. For such people, only bringing a certain amount of exuberance to their energies will bring them out of it. There are tools and methods to do this, and it is possible to pull most people out of it. Time, energy and organization are the only barriers to this.

If bringing about exuberance in their energies is not immediately possible, the next best thing you can do is to become exuberant yourself. Is it not true that if you are feeling a little low sitting in a dreary office and you go into a beautiful garden, everything becomes wonderful and you are suddenly lifted up? So please be the flower for them. With some fragrance and beauty, even those who are feeling depressed or miserable will rise a little bit. Depression, grief and joy are all infectious. You have to make up your mind as to what you want to infect the world with. If you are exuberant and they are in your company, it can make a big difference. But today all you are willing to dedicate is a phone line. It may also help to an extent.

As I already said, you did not create this life. So you should not talk about ending it unless your identity as a separate being or a separate person has disappeared and you and the Source of Creation are the same. If you come to that point of evolution, then you can throw away your body consciously. You are allowed to do it. But you are not allowed to do it by damaging the body or by hanging from a tree. Once you are dead, we don’t mind burying you under the tree, but hanging from a tree is neither good for you, nor for the tree. Moreover, whether life has been a good deal or a bad deal, if you have a larger purpose, everything is a stepping stone for your ultimate well-being.

Now, everyone’s life is precious to them. It is naturally so. But if someone has gone beyond that and tried to take their own life, if they are still alive I would say an absolute No to suicide. But if it has already happened, we should respect their decision and leave it there. In spite of it being the most precious thing, if someone has taken the extreme step of taking their own life, it does not matter how silly it looks to you and me, we should respect their decision because that is how it is. But for those who are alive, you have no business to do that.

In terms of the karmic structure, in terms of the spiritual evolution of a being, suicide is 100 per cent unjustified—no question about it. You have to see every situation as a possibility to move towards freedom rather than getting entangled. If you use every situation as a stepping stone, then there is no question of suicide. If a spiritual process becomes active in societies, suicide can almost disappear completely, except in cases of pathological mental derangement. They might do something because it is not in their control as to what they do.

The Consequences of Suicide

For a person to die of suicide is a terrible way to go. But in terms of life, is there a difference in what happens to them after that? You must know, in terms of life, whether it is suicide or natural death or accident or whatever, it does not matter how you broke your body. Whether one broke one’s body by eating badly, or whether one smoked and smoked, or drank and drank, or fell in love with someone and broke their own heart, or simply shot oneself—for the Existence, it does not matter how it happened. They broke their body while the Prarabdha Karma was still on. That is all that life cares about.

However, it matters as to how one worked towards it. Let us say, someone smoked happily by choice and died. Someone else had some financial problem and became utterly miserable about it, and broke their heart and died. Here, the two deaths are very different things. The smoker is better off because he worked himself to it joyfully, while the other person did so miserably. Society will not like it that a smoker, drinker or drug addict can be in a better state when he dies than someone who is toiling endlessly. But that can happen because how one worked towards it is important. The existential has no moral compass. It is about life and the ingredients of life, not about social or psychological judgements. Socially, you may think that being above ten other people is a great thing, but this life does not think like that. Are you making a pleasant experience of it for yourself, or an unpleasant experience—this is all that life cares about and the consequences come accordingly.

You need to understand that either with suicide or with another kind of death, you are only killing the physical body. You can only kill the physical body, but with that, you are putting an end only to the Annamaya Kosha and the conscious parts of the Manomaya Kosha, that is all. You cannot end it completely. For that, you have to dissolve the subtler portions of the body, which needs something else altogether. Now, if you kill the physical body, the rest of the body, which is still intact, will try to find one more physical body. It will have its own scope and limitations—accordingly, it will choose the new body. It may immediately choose, or it may choose after ten years, or it may choose after a hundred years. The duration depends on certain factors. Till certain things are over, it will hang around; it cannot seek another body. It hangs around here and there not because you died of suicide or accidental death or heart attack, but because your allotted karma had not been finished before death.

Suppose your suicide is timed such that your Prarabdha Karma is almost over, then it is as good as a natural death. If you look at it on that level, as far as this body is concerned, whether someone kills you or you kill yourself, or if you overate and got a heart attack, or whatever—it does not matter. If you don’t live properly, you will get a disease and die. So would you call this a suicide? Society calls it suicidal. When someone is smoking away to glory, they say it is ‘suicidal’, but not a suicide. But if you jump off the mountain or if you hang yourself, only then we call it a suicide. But these are mere societal, technical and legal terms. In terms of life, did you exhaust your Prarabdha Karma or not? This is the only factor that matters and determines what happens after that.

This happened about thirty years ago. At that time, I had a coconut and mango plantation, which I had set up from scratch, in a very remote place. There was a very beautiful lake in front of my farm. Things were going well. There were no proper buildings there, so I used to pitch a tent and stay in it whenever I went to the farm. It was nice this way, I liked it. Those were my motorcycle days. Sometimes, I had some help who would cook something for me; other times I used to ride down about 5 kilometres to a little restaurant in the nearest village and eat something. One morning, I was riding down and, very close to the restaurant, I saw a group of people had gathered around a well. I stopped to inquire what was happening. They said a woman had jumped into the well and killed herself around 3.30 or 4.00 in the morning.

I sat there on my motorcycle, thinking a little bit about what could have happened in her mind, for her to walk out of her house at that time, in the dark, and jump into the well. She must have struggled with what would happen to her young children and all that. Whatever suffering she was going through, it must have been a great struggle to come to that decision. I am sure she would have definitely been terrified about jumping into the well. But still she went ahead and did it, probably hitting the walls on the side or falling into the water and drowning slowly. We don’t know which way it happened.

No one had ventured into the well to get her body out, so I volunteered. I went down the well with a rope for about 85–90 feet and saw her body floating about 3 feet below the water. She was a very young woman, maybe in her late twenties. Getting her out was not much effort: all I had to do was tie the rope to her body and come up. The villagers hauled her out.

Later on, I went on to my breakfast. From an early age, the moments when I munched on my food have always been moments of enormous depth for me. Here something else is happening—the food that you are eating is slowly becoming a part of yourself. Something that was not you is becoming you. Something which was in the ground somewhere else, in the market, in the vessel, on the stove, is suddenly becoming a part of you. It is a huge love affair, actually. Those moments have always been moments of enormous depth for me.

So I sat there eating my dosa, chewing slowly. At that time, this woman was still hanging around me. I got deeply involved with her. I was actually going through the whole process of her life—her pain, her fears, sufferings, and everything. It is very difficult to describe this. For almost three-and-a-half days, I sat at the farm doing nothing. I sat there under a tree most of the time, unmindful of the need to eat and sleep. When the people who worked for me felt I needed to eat, they would bring something and keep it in front of me. Otherwise, day and night, I just sat under this tree. And this woman was all over me.

When young people commit suicide, particularly in very great distress, they linger around for a long time. People are generally scared to go to or even pass through such places where this kind of death has taken place. But it is not the place; it is the person. If we handle the person, then the place is cleared. This is when a ritual like Kalabhairava Karma, which we will look at later, becomes very important.





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