Losing a near and dear one can be extremely painful and the pain can feel unbearable and never-ending.
During times of crisis, I found solace in the following words.
I sincerely hope and pray that these lines help others as they helped me find peace:-
Understanding Death and Loss
Excerpts from the writings of Paramahansa Yogananda
Though the ordinary man looks upon death with dread and sadness, those who have gone before know it as a wondrous experience of peace and freedom.
At death, you forget all the limitations of the physical body and realize how free you are. For the first few seconds there is a sense of fear — fear of the unknown, of something unfamiliar to the consciousness. But after that comes a great realization: the soul feels a joyous sense of relief and freedom. You know that you exist apart from the mortal body.
Every one of us is going to die someday, so there is no use in being afraid of death. You don’t feel miserable at the prospect of losing consciousness of your body in sleep; you accept sleep as a state of freedom to look forward to. So is death; it is a state of rest, a pension from this life. There is nothing to fear. When death comes, laugh at it. Death is only an experience through which you are meant to learn a great lesson: you cannot die.
Our real self, the soul, is immortal. We may sleep for a little while in that change called death, but we can never be destroyed. We exist, and that existence is eternal. The wave comes to the shore, and then goes back to the sea; it is not lost. It becomes one with the ocean, or returns again in the form of another wave. This body has come, and it will vanish; but the soul essence within it will never cease to exist. Nothing can terminate that eternal consciousness.
Even a particle of matter or a wave of energy is indestructible, as science has proved; the soul or spiritual essence of man is also indestructible. Matter undergoes change; the soul undergoes changing experiences. Radical changes are termed death, but death or a change in form does not change or destroy the spiritual essence.
The body is only a garment. How many times you have changed your clothing in this life, yet because of this you would not say that you have changed. Similarly, when you give up this bodily dress at death you do not change. You are just the same, an immortal soul, a child of God.
The word “death” is a great misnomer, for there is no death; when you are tired of life, you simply take off the overcoat of flesh and go back to the astral world.
The Bhagavad Gita speaks beautifully and solacingly of the immortality of the soul:
Death is not the end: it is temporary emancipation, given to you when karma, the law of justice, determines that your present body and environment have served their purpose, or when you are too weary or exhausted by suffering to bear the burden of physical existence any longer. To those who are suffering, death is resurrection from the painful tortures of flesh into awakened peace and calmness. To the elderly, it is a pension earned by years of struggling through life. For all, it is a welcome rest.
When you reflect that this world is filled with death, and that your body, too, has to be relinquished, God’s plan seems very cruel. You can’t imagine that He is merciful.
But when you look at the process of death with the eye of wisdom, you see that after all it is merely a thought of God passing through a nightmare of change into blissful freedom in Him again. Saint and sinner alike are given freedom at death, to a greater or lesser degree according to merit. In the Lord’s dream astral world — the land to which souls go at death — they enjoy a freedom such as they never knew during their earthly life.
So don’t pity the person who is passing through the delusion of death, for in a little while he will be free. Once he gets out of that delusion, he sees that death was not so bad after all. He realizes his mortality was only a dream and rejoices that now no fire can burn him, no water can drown him; he is free and safe.
The consciousness of the dying man finds itself suddenly relieved of the weight of the body, of the necessity to breathe, and of any physical pain. A sense of soaring through a tunnel of very peaceful, hazy, dim light is experienced by the soul. Then the soul drifts into a state of oblivious sleep, a million times deeper and more enjoyable than the deepest sleep experienced in the physical body….
The after-death state is variously experienced by different people in accordance with their modes of living while on earth. Just as different people vary in the duration and depth of their sleep, so do they vary in their experiences after death. The good man who works hard in the factory of life goes into a deep, unconscious, restful sleep for a short while. He then awakens in some region of life in the astral world: “In my Father’s house are many mansions.”
Souls in the astral region are clothed in gossamer light. They do not encase themselves in bundles of bones with fleshly covers. They carry no frail, heavy frames that collide with other crude solids and break. Therefore, there is no war in the astral land between man’s body and solids, oceans, lightning, and disease. Nor are there accidents, for all things coexist in mutual helpfulness, rather than antagonism. All forms of vibration function in harmony with one another. All forces live in peace and conscious helpfulness. The souls, the rays on which they tread, and the orange rays they drink and eat, all are made of living light. Souls live in mutual cognizance and cooperation, breathing not oxygen, but the joy of Spirit.
“Friends of other lives easily recognize one another in the astral world,” [Sri Yukteswar said]. “Rejoicing at the immortality of friendship, they realize the indestructibility of love, often doubted at the time of the sad, delusive partings of earthly life.”
How glorious is life after death! No more will you have to lug about this old baggage of bones, with all its troubles. You will be free in the astral heaven, unhindered by physical limitations.
When a dear one dies, instead of grieving unreasonably, realize that he has gone on to a higher plane at the will of God, and that God knows what is best for him. Rejoice that he is free. Pray that your love and goodwill be messengers of encouragement to him on his forward path. This attitude is much more helpful. Of course, we would not be human if we did not miss loved ones; but in feeling lonesome for them we don’t want selfish attachment to be the cause of keeping them earthbound. Extreme sorrow prevents a departed soul from going ahead toward greater peace and freedom.
To send your thoughts to loved ones who have passed on, sit quietly in your room and meditate upon God. When you feel His peace within you, concentrate deeply at the Christ center, the center of will at the point between the two eyebrows, and broadcast your love to those dear ones who are gone.
Visualize at the Christ center the person you wish to contact. Send to that soul your vibrations of love, and of strength and courage.
If you do this continuously, and if you don’t lose the intensity of your interest in that loved one, that soul will definitely receive your vibrations. Such thoughts give your loved ones a sense of well-being, a sense of being loved. They have not forgotten you any more than you have forgotten them.
Send your thoughts of love and goodwill to your loved ones as often as you feel inclined to do so, but at least once a year — perhaps on some special anniversary. Mentally tell them, “We will meet again sometime and continue to develop our divine love and friendship with one another.” If you send them your loving thoughts continuously now, someday you will surely meet them again. You will know that this life is not the end, but merely one link in the eternal chain of your relationship with your loved ones.
“The ocean of Spirit has become the little bubble of my soul. Whether floating in birth, or disappearing in death, in the ocean of cosmic awareness the bubble of my life cannot die. I am indestructible consciousness, protected in the bosom of Spirit’s immortality.”
He who lives the inner life knows that death is truly his resting-room. To him, death is anything but extinction. It is a meaningful departure. When our consciousness is divinely transformed, the necessity of death will not arise at all. To transform life, we need Peace, Light, Bliss and Power. We cry for these divine qualities. They cry for our aspiration. They are equally anxious to grant us everlasting life. But until our body, vital, mind, heart and soul aspire together, the divine Power, Light, Bliss and Peace cannot possess us.
The body has death, but not the soul. The body sleeps, the soul flies. The soul-stirring words on death and the soul in this chapter of the Gita, let us recollect. “Even as man discards old clothes for the new ones, so the dweller in the body, the soul, leaving aside the worn-out bodies, enters into new bodies. The soul migrates from body to body. Weapons cannot cleave it, nor fire consume it, nor water drench it, nor wind dry it.” This is the soul and this is what is meant by the existence of the soul. Now we shall be well advised to observe the existence of death, if there is any, in the momentous words of Sri Aurobindo, the Founder of the integral Yoga. “Death, he exclaims, “has no separate existence by itself, it is only a result of the principle of decay in the body and that principle is there already” it is part of the physical nature. At the same time it is not inevitable; if one could have the necessary consciousness and force, decay and death is not inevitable.”
What we call death is nothing short of ignorance. We can solve the problem of death only when we know what life is. Life is eternal. It existed before birth and it will exist after death. Life also exists between birth and death. It is beyond birth and death. Life is infinite. Life is immortal. A seeker of the infinite Truth cannot subscribe to Schopenhauer’s statement: “To desire Immortality is to desire the eternal perpetuation of a great mistake.” There is no shadow of doubt that it is the ceaseless seeker in man who is Immortality’s Life, for his very existence indicates the Supreme’s Vision that illumines the universe, and the Supreme’s Reality that fulfils creation.
Arjuna the disciple further learned: “Do your duty. Do not waver. Be not faint-hearted. You are a Kshatriya. There can be no greater invitation than that of a righteous war for a Kshatriya.”
A Kshatriya’s (warrior’s) duty can never be the duty of an ascetic Neither should an ascetic perform the duty of a Kshatriya. Also a Kshatriya must not follow the path of a world-renouncer. Imitation is not for a seeker. “Imitation is suicide,” so do we learn from Emerson.
A warrior’s duty is to fight, fight for the establishment of truth. “In his victory, the entire earth becomes his, in his death, him welcome the gates of paradise.”
Sri Krishna unveiled the path of Sankhya (knowledge) to Arjuna: “Arjuna, take them as one, victory and defeat, joy and sorrow, gain and loss. Care not for them. Fight! Fighting thus no sin will you incur.” The teacher revealed the path of knowledge (Sankhya). Now he wanted to teach the student the path of action (Yoga). Arjuna surprisingly learned that this path, the path of action, the second path, is fruitful and also will bring him deliverance. The truth sublime is:”Action is your birthright, not the outcome, not the fruits thereof. Let not the fruits of action be your object, and be not attached to inaction. Be active and dynamic, seek not any reward.” We can simultaneously kindle the flame of our consciousness with the lore of the Isha Upanishad: “Action cleaves not to a man.”
We have already used the term Yoga. What is Yoga? “Equanimity,” says Sri Krishna, “is Yoga.” He also says: “Yoga is skilful wisdom in action.”
Arjuna’s inner progress is striking. He now feels the necessity to free himself from the desire-life. Sri Krishna teaches him how he can totally detach himself from the bondage-life of the senses as a tortoise successfully withdraws its limbs from all directions. Sense-withdrawal, or withdrawal from the sense objects, by no means indicates the end of man’s journey. “Mere withdrawal cannot put an end to desire’s birth. Desire disappears only when the Supreme appears. In His Presence the desire-life loses its existence. Not before.”
This second chapter throws considerable light on Sankhya (knowledge) and Yoga (action). Sankhya and Yoga are never at daggers drawn. One is detached meditative knowledge, and the other is dedicated and selfless action. They have the self-same Goal. They just follow two different paths to arrive at the Goal.
To come back to the sense-life. Sense-life is not to be discontinued. Sense-life is to be lived in the Divine for the Divine. It is the inner withdrawal, and not the outer withdrawal, that is imperative. The animal in man has to surrender to the Divine in man for its total transformation. The life of animal pleasure must lose its living and burning breath in the all-fulfilling life of divine Bliss.
Katha Upanishad declares the rungs of the ever-climbing Ladder.
Higher than the senses are the objects of sense,
Higher than the objects of sense is the mind,
Higher than the mind is the intellect,
Higher than the intellect is the Self,
Higher than the Self is the Unmanifest,
Higher than the Unmanifest is the Supreme
Highest is this Supreme, the Goal Ultimate.
We have seen what happens when we go up. Let us observe what happens when we muse on the sense-objects. The Gita tells: “Dwelling on sense-objects gives birth to attachment, attachment gives birth to desire. Desire (unfulfilled) brings into existence the life of anger. From anger delusion springs up, from delusion the confusion of memory. In the confusion of memory the reasoning wisdom is lost. When wisdom is nowhere, destruction within, without, below and above.”
The dance of destruction is over. Let us pine for salvation. The disciplined, self-controlled aspirant alone will be blessed by the flood of peace. Finally, the aspirant will be embraced by Salvation, the inner Illumination.
The Sanskrit editions of the Gita name each chapter as a particular form of yoga. However, these chapter titles do not appear in the Sanskrit text of the Mahabharata.Swami Chidbhavananda explains that each of the eighteen chapters is designated as a separate yoga because each chapter, like yoga, “trains the body and the mind”. He labels the first chapter “Arjuna Vishada Yogam” or the “Yoga of Arjuna’s Dejection”. Sir Edwin Arnold translates this chapter as “The Distress of Arjuna”
- Gita Dhyanam: (contains 9 verses) The Gita Dhyanam is not a part of the main Bhagavad Gita, but it is commonly published with the Gītā as a prefix. The verses of the Gita Dhyanam (also called Gītā Dhyāna or Dhyāna Ślokas) offer salutations to a variety of sacred scriptures, figures, and entities, characterise the relationship of the Gītā to the Upanishads, and affirm the power of divine assistance. It is a common practice to recite these before reading the Gita.
- Arjuna–Visada yoga (The Distress of Arjuna contains 46 verses): Arjuna has requested Krishna to move his chariot between the two armies. His growing dejection is described as he fears losing friends and relatives as a consequence of war.
- Sankhya yoga (The Book of Doctrines contains 72 verses): After asking Krishna for help, Arjuna is instructed into various subjects such as, Karma yoga, Gyaana yoga, Sankhya yoga, Buddhi yoga and the immortal nature of the soul. This chapter is often considered the summary of the entire Bhagavad Gita.
- Karma yoga (Virtue in Work contains 43 verses): Krishna explains how Karma yoga, i.e. performance of prescribed duties, but without attachment to results, is the appropriate course of action for Arjuna.
- Gyaana–Karma-Sanyasa yoga (The Religion of Knowledge contains 42 verses): Krishna reveals that he has lived through many births, always teaching yoga for the protection of the pious and the destruction of the impious and stresses the importance of accepting a guru.
- Karma–Sanyasa yoga (Religion by Renouncing Fruits of Works contains 29 verses): Arjuna asks Krishna if it is better to forgo action or to act (“renunciation or discipline of action”). Krishna answers that both are ways to the same goal, but that acting in Karma yoga is superior.
- Dhyan yoga or Atmasanyam yoga (Religion by Self-Restraint contains 47 verses): Krishna describes the Ashtanga yoga. He further elucidates the difficulties of the mind and the techniques by which mastery of the mind might be gained.
- Gyaana–ViGyaana yoga (Religion by Discernment contains 30 verses): Krishna describes the absolute reality and its illusory energy Maya.
- Aksara–Brahma yoga (Religion by Devotion to the One Supreme God contains 28 verses): This chapter contains eschatology of the Bhagavad Gita. Importance of the last thought before death, differences between material and spiritual worlds, and light and dark paths that a soul takes after death are described.
- Raja–Vidya–Raja–Guhya yoga (Religion by the Kingly Knowledge and the Kingly Mystery contains 34 verses): Krishna explains how His eternal energy pervades, creates, preserves, and destroys the entire universe.According to theologian Christopher Southgate, verses of this chapter of the Gita are panentheistic, while German physicist and philosopher Max Bernhard Weinstein deems the work pandeistic.
- Vibhuti–Vistara–yoga (Religion by the Heavenly Perfections contains 42 verses): Krishna is described as the ultimate cause of all material and spiritual existence. Arjuna accepts Krishna as the Supreme Being, quoting great sages who have also done so.
- Visvarupa–Darsana yoga (The Manifesting of the One and Manifold contains 55 verses): On Arjuna’s request, Krishna displays his “universal form” (Viśvarūpa), a theophany of a being facing every way and emitting the radiance of a thousand suns, containing all other beings and material in existence.
- Bhakti yoga (The Religion of Faith contains 20 verses): In this chapter Krishna glorifies the path of devotion to God. Krishna describes the process of devotional service (Bhakti yoga). He also explains different forms of spiritual disciplines.
- Ksetra–Ksetrajna Vibhaga yoga (Religion by Separation of Matter and Spirit contains 35 verses): The difference between transient perishable physical body and the immutable eternal soul is described. The difference between individual consciousness and universal consciousness is also made clear.
- Gunatraya–Vibhaga yoga (Religion by Separation from the Qualities contains 27 verses): Krishna explains the three modes (gunas) of material nature pertaining to goodness, passion, and nescience. Their causes, characteristics, and influence on a living entity are also described.
- Purusottama yoga (Religion by Attaining the Supreme contains 20 verses): Krishna identifies the transcendental characteristics of God such as, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. Krishna also describes a symbolic tree (representing material existence), which has its roots in the heavens and its foliage on earth. Krishna explains that this tree should be felled with the “axe of detachment”, after which one can go beyond to his supreme abode.
- Daivasura–Sampad–Vibhaga yoga (The Separateness of the Divine and Undivine contains 24 verses): Krishna identifies the human traits of the divine and the demonic natures. He counsels that to attain the supreme destination one must give up lust, anger, greed, and discern between right and wrong action by discernment through Buddhi and evidence from the scriptures.
- Sraddhatraya-Vibhaga yoga (Religion by the Threefold Kinds of Faith contains 28 verses): Krishna qualifies the three divisions of faith, thoughts, deeds, and even eating habits corresponding to the three modes (gunas).
- Moksha–Sanyasa yoga (Religion by Deliverance and Renunciation contains 78 verses): In this chapter, the conclusions of previous seventeen chapters are summed up. Krishna asks Arjuna to abandon all forms of dharma and simply surrender unto him and describes this as the ultimate perfection of life.