That’s why Shankaracharya died at the age of thirty-three; the reason is that his body was not prepared to handle an event of such magnitude. But there was no need for such a preparation. If it appears necessary then it is all right; otherwise, no need to bother. If one has to work for years in order that the body may last for only thirty-three years, and if the body is saved to last for thirty-three years more, then the arrangement doesn’t prove to be of much benefit. If I have to work from the time I am fifteen until I am fifty, I will already have lost thirty-five years in preparation. Should I remain alive for another thirty-five years – till the age of eighty-five – the sum total of years that I will have “lived” will still be thirty-five. So it has no meaning.
If someone were to have said to Shankaracharya, “You could have lived for seventy years if you had practiced Hatha Yoga,” Shankaracharya would have replied, “But I would have had to work forty years for it. I find making such an effort unnecessary. I like to die at the age of thirty-three. There is nothing wrong in it.”
Hence, gradually Hatha Yoga lagged behind. The reason was that no one was ready to follow its long practices. But my feeling is, Hatha Yoga can come back in the future if its practices are followed with the help of science. As I see it, what took thirty-five years can now be completed in five years with the help of science. Time can be saved with the maximum use of science. However, it will be a while before the scientific Hatha Yoga can come into being. I believe scientific Hatha Yoga will be born in the West, not in India, because India doesn’t have any scientific environment at all.
So time can be saved, but it doesn’t serve any particular purpose. It might be useful to save time under very special circumstances, but that too will happen only on the gross level, the level of the physical body. For Shankaracharya it may not be useful to continue living but for others it can be. That’s why even if remotely, even if barely, Hatha Yoga is still meaningful. One could have said to Shankaracharya, “Granted that extending life is of no use to you. However, if you could live for thirty-five years more, it would benefit many people.” This is the only excuse which can bring back Hatha Yoga.
When the subtle body separates from the gross body, the adjustment between the two is interrupted. It is almost like once you take apart the engine of a car, you can reassemble it, but it does shorten the life of the engine. That’s why the buyer first makes sure the engine of the car was not dismantled before. Even if the engine has been put together exactly the way it should be, it does lose its longevity. The reason is that it cannot be the same – even a little change in its original adjustment affects the life of the engine.
Furthermore, in our body there are some elements that die very quickly; there are other elements that take a little longer to die. And there are some elements that refuse to die even after the man is dead. Even in the grave the dead man’s nails and hair keep growing for some time. They keep doing their job and take a longer time to die.
Death occurs on many levels. In fact there are several arrangements in your body which are automatic – even the presence of your soul is not needed for them to function. For example, I am sitting here talking to you. If I leave this room the talking would stop, but the fan will go on moving because the fan has its own arrangement – it has nothing to do with my presence.