Last night a man breathed his last. Today people mourn at his door.
At such moments a memory of an event in my childhood arises in my mind. It was my first visit to the burning ghats. The funeral pyre had been lit, and the people were chatting in small groups. The village poet said, “I am not afraid of death. Death is a friend.”
Since then I have heard this same assertion in different forms from different people. I have also looked into the eyes of those who say this and have found that these fearless words arise out of fear.
Nothing changes just by giving death beautiful names. In fact, the fear is not of death, the fear is of the unfamiliar. What is unknown creates fear in us. It is necessary to become acquainted with death. This acquaintance brings one to fearlessness. Why? – because it is through acquaintance that one comes to know that there is no death for that which is.
It is only the personality, which we have taken to be our ‘I’, that shatters, that dies. It shatters because it is not. It is only a composite, a joining of a few elements. As this disintegrates, the personality shatters. This is what death is. Hence, as long as personality is taken to be one and the same as the true self, there is death.
Move deeper from the personality, and as you arrive at the true self, deathlessness is attained.
The path of this journey, the penetration from the surface of personality to the core of the self, is religion.
It is in samadhi, enlightenment, that acquaintance with death happens. Just as darkness ceases to exist the moment the sun rises, so death ceases to exist when samadhi is attained.
Death is neither an enemy nor a friend, it simply does not exist. One needs neither to fear it nor not fear it, one has only to know it. Ignorance of it is fear, knowing it is fearlessness.