Death? Not me!

In Czech we have a saying: “Pokud nejde o život, tak jde o hovno.” (freely translated as “If your life is not in threat, don’t give a shit.”) However, the science of yoga tells us that even if your life is in threat, it shouldn’t cause much havoc inside of you.

Abhinivesha, fear of the unknown or fear of death, is one of the 5 kleshas, impediments on the spiritual path. In the second chapter in the Sutra #9 the rishi Patanjali says, that abhinivesha is the source of all other kleshas (dwesha – despising, raga – liking, asmita – ego identification, avidya – ignorance). Abhinivesha, the fear of death is imbedded in all regardless of gender, cast or creed and becomes stronger with progressing age mainly because of the identification with our physical body. The yogic science says that if we cannot overcome this fear, we are bound to the cycle of rebirth.

As a white European woman who grew up in the time of falling communist regime in Eastern Europe and experienced the boom of consumerism afterward, my life in India has made a significant crack in many learned concepts of human existence. I am deeply thankful for this as I think only then my real spiritual journey began regardless of the previous years of yoga related studies.

As each one of us, I was predetermined by my own culture and way of upbringing where death was something taboo and should be hidden in the dark dusty storage room. Whereas in India death is omnipresent and literally part of life 🙂 My first personal encounter with the concept of death was when I was 12 years old and my grandfather died. My mother would come up to me and said: “We have sad news, your grandfather died. Funeral will be held next week.” As a child, you measure your sorrow with the amount of time that person had spent with you and as my grandfather was ill during the last years of his life, I thought I didn’t miss him much. The only thing that I remember clearly and that I have thought all over again at further stages of my life is that my parents didn’t want me to attend the funeral. Maybe because it was said and I would see people crying? The general concept applicable to various situations: if you keep away from something or forbade something, it will come running faster towards you. Therefore my suggestion: Let death again become part of our lives from childhood on.
Later on, when I started living in India, I had my first “live” dead body experience. The father of my neighbor died and we were invited to the funeral. My husband (an Indian) couldn’t believe that it was going to be my first funeral. He attended hundreds of funerals and thousands of weddings in his life. As I stepped into the funeral home I saw a fridge installed on the floor with the dead body inside and all women sitting around in mourning. The men were all assembled outside talking quietly. This was the time to pay your last prayers to the deceased. Rather than “dead silent”, it was peaceful in the room and the direct death experience was not bad after all.

Another situation happened just a few days ago which made me reflect back on the topic of death. One lady from the Netherlands came for a few days yoga retreat at our ashram One day there was a dead dolphin on the beach which probably got caught in one of the fishing nets or the propeller of one of the fishing boats. With a sorrowful expression on her face, she started explaining how sad the sight of the dolphin was. See, how programmed we are that even at the sight of a dad animal we experience that much sorrow inside. It is a sad sight, no doubt, but do we have to suffer because of it? Does is bring the dolphin back to life if we feel sad and regretful? I would like to serve you just a few “appetisers” for reflection because most of the time we are taking our emotions and experiences as the fundamental truth. Death is the other side of life. Communicate death to your children, involve them in discussions. Let them know that if you were born one day, your time of death will also some. By the way, have you ever thought about what our planet would look like if there was no death? 🙂