Now let my spirit meet the absolute
pervading all throughout the vital air,
and let my body be reduced to ashes.
O my mind full of ego and desires,
now remember your past actions,
remember your past deeds.
Let life merge into that from which it was born. Let the shape lose itself in that formlessness from which it was created. Let them be one in that pure consciousness of being. Let the body be mixed with dust, let it be merged into earth. In such a moment – and there are two such moments – the sage addresses his egoistic mind full of desires: “O my mind full of ego and desires, remind yourself of your past actions.”
There are two moments when this prayer may be truly offered. One is the moment of death and the other is that of samadhi, deep meditation. The one is when a person is on the threshold of death, and the other is when he is at the greater death – samadhi – ready to merge himself like a drop into the ocean. Most of the people who have explained this sutra have interpreted it with reference to the first moment – that of physical death. They have assumed that the sage is saying this at the moment of death, when his whole existence is going to be merged into that from where he came. But as I see it, this remembrance is not made at all at the moment of death, but at the moment of samadhi. It is not appropriate to the moment of death, because there is no precognition of death. You never know at what moment death will come. You know about it when it comes, but by that time you are already dead. As long as death has not come one does not know about it; and when it comes, the person who should know has already passed away.
When Socrates was about to die, his friends asked him the reason why he did not appear afraid, miserable or worried. Then Socrates said, “I think this way: as long as death has not come, I am alive; when I am alive, why should I worry about death? And who will be left to worry about death when it actually comes and I am no more? I shall be completely lost in death, nothing will be left behind, and if nothing of me remains beyond death, then there is no reason to be afraid of anything. On the other hand, if, as some people say, I shall not die even after death, then there is no reason at all to worry about death.”
As I said, this sutra is meaningful in two moments, either at the moment of death or at the moment of samadhi. But we have no idea at all of the moment of death – it is unpredictable, it cannot be foretold. It comes all of a sudden, at any moment. It may happen any moment, there is no foreknowledge of that moment, and this prayer can be made only when there is foreknowledge; that is, when the sage knows, “I am about to die, I am at the door of death.”