As students of yoga, our approach to right living and a thirst for truth is equal to how satiated we become by our practice. As a result, we continue to sip from the vast ocean of wisdom that the great Yogi’s unveiled to reach liberation. Their quest, like the Buddha’s, was not a selfish act but one of pure compassion; that all sentient beings may be free from the karmic cycle of birth and death known as Samara. In the west, this ideology of reaching nirvana or uniting with the source of all creation is often frowned upon and has been tainted by many religious doubts and hypocrisies.
To the layman, cleaning up one’s act and living a harmonious, fulfilling life, is perhaps easier to grasp than looking at the taboo of death. However, the ancients knew that the time of death was, like birth, a significant polarity point in one’s life. Much as the map of one’s life is determined by the genetic imprint of the parents, so too is the ongoing journey of the soul (Jiva) at the time of death. In the Tibetan art of dying, known as the Bhardo Thodol, it is said there is an intermediate state where conscious awareness continues for a period of 49 days after the body loses its life force. Here the deceased are capable of recognizing confusing and often frightening Bhardo visions as a reflection of their mental state and the way they have lived their lives (karma).
Of course, atheists endeavour to sweep such ludicrousness under a door mat of disbelief. They would prefer to continue the fight for control of their destinies as if they are immortal. Yet, on a day to day basis, life reveals that we have little or no control on the grand scale of things. Think about it, what has happened in your life that you did not expect; did not want to happen or would have avoided at all costs, and yet…
Cultivate the mind of a yogi
To cultivate the mind of a yogi or acquire a Buddha nature is something that even the most unpractised seek to attain in their daily lives. Why, because peace is the natural state of existence, and whenever we are outside of this we strive to change things. We may seek to have more, become more or even swap the cards of life that we have been dealt completely. Whatever the case, when out of harmony or dissatisfied with ourselves we seek to change things. Knowing this brings about the importance of acceptance. Each time we accept our current state of play we become unified with the timeless void from which we belong. It is during such moments of peace, where the vacillating waves of mind no longer distract us that we feel most at home. Here, the hankering after material processions seems insignificant, and the battle of holding onto unwavering happiness ceases.
Find the time to die every day
In order to instill peace in the world, the ancient seers of India and Tibet opened a gateway of knowledge, for us to pass through. They did this by sharing the alchemy of life and, at the cringing faces of most, death. Of course, modern science and quantum physicists now prove their findings are mysteriously accurate. However, to face death, or even mention the word, rears up waves of resistance in both laymen and aspiring yogis alike. However, to face the ‘enemy’ of death, and welcome it as part of your evolutionary process, is perhaps one of the most beneficial practices you can do.
‘Momento Mori’ is a Latin phrase which practicing Monks often use to greet one another. It literally means remember death, remember that you are going to die so cherish this day like it’s your last. In Sirvasana, the corpse pose, we are taught to do die a little. If our practice serves us well, here we enter the state of Yoga Nidra or yoga sleep. This is a journey destined for astral plains and beyond, where the veils of the physical world diminish. Like the rolling up of a yoga mat, we shed the carcass of the body before its more subtle layers known as the koshas. Here, in pretend preparation for the dissolution of the elements, we get a taste of pure awareness without the bondage of the physical form. The elements dissolve back from where they came: earth melts into water; water dissolves into fire; fire transforms as air and then air into ether (space).
Such a process is often felt by patients when death is imminent. A sudden heaviness in the body is often reported (earth); before a cold sweat (water); this then leads to clammy flu-like symptoms (fire); before a tingling sensation around the throat (air); finally there is no feeling, as the vital life force moves beyond the thinking mind (either). Practitioners of yoga clearly identify with such elements when studying the chakra system and, as a result, they seek to refine this human/cosmic intelligence. We call this Yoga in action, and when mastered correctly it promises the ultimate goal of Samadhi, a state of blissful light profusion.
Spiritual Mumbo Jumbo
Of course, in the eyes of many, such mumbo jumbo again rears the ugly head of doubt; a trait that incidentally was recognized by the yogi masters as the root of all human dissatisfaction.
However, it is proven, during such rehearsals for death the mind, body and energy system seem to transcend somehow and, when consciousness remains, a new state of reality comes to light. It is here where the thinking mind cultivates the acceptance, a trait most valuable at the time of the inevitable. By accepting that the form, to which we are so attached and often obsessed about, is both impermanent and transient we loosen our fears about life – and death. The process reveals the value of every wakeful moment and, as a result, our relationships and the rest of our life’s journey are significantly enhanced.
‘Where is there delusion when truth is known? Where is there desease when the mind is clear? Where is there death when the breath is controlled, Therefore surrender to yoga’
Artwork: theishafoundation.org and yogiramalingam.org