DEATH – Vivekananda Quotes

DEATH

This is a matter of considerable interest to me, as I cannot live for ever.

Here are some thoughts from Swami Vivekananda, a great commentator on Hinduism.

  • Be true unto death.
  • Birth is re-composition, death is de-composition.
  • Death comes to all forms of bodies in this and other lives.
  • Death is better than a vegetating ignorant life; it is better to die on the battle-field than to live a life of defeat.
  • Death is but a change.
  • Death is but a change of condition. We remain in the same universe, and are subject to the same laws as before. Those who have passed beyond and have attained high planes of development in beauty and wisdom are but the advance-guard of a universal army who are following after them.

 

The mystery of religious faith

As a metaphysical Hindu and a functional church-attending Christian, and who is also a freethinker in matters religious (that is, I believe that the major religions are equal in their offerings), I found the following extract from The life of Pi by Yann Martel (pages 48/49) the clearest delineation of the core of Hindu belief.

“The universe makes sense to me through Hindu eyes. There is Brahman, the world soul, the sustaining frame upon which is woven, warp and weft, the cloth of being, with all its decorative elements of space and time. There is Brahman nirguna, without qualities, which lies beyond understanding, beyond reproach; with our poor words we sew a suit for it – One, Truth, Unity, Absolute, Ultimate Reality, Ground of Being – and try to make it fit, but Brahman nirguna always bursts the seams. We are left speechless.

But there is also Brahman saguna, with qualities, where the suit fits. Now we call it Shiva, Krishna, Shakti, Ganesha; we can approach it with some understanding; we can discern certain attitudes – loving, merciful, frightening – and we feel the gentle pull of relationship. Brahman saguna is Brahman made manifest to our limited senses, Brahman expressed not only in gods but in humans, animals, trees, in a handful of earth, for everything has a trace of the divine in it.

The truth of life is that Brahman is no different from atman, the spiritual force within us, what you might call the soul. The individual soul touches upon the world soul like a well reaches for the water table. That which sustains the universe beyond thought and language, and which is at the core of us and struggles for expression, is the same thing. The finite within the infinite, the infinite within the finite.

If you ask me how Brahman and atman relate precisely, I would say in the same way the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit relate: mysteriously.

But one thing is clear: atman seeks to realise Brahman to be united with the Absolute, and it travels in this life on a pilgrimage where it is born and dies, and is born again and dies again, and again, and again, until it manages to shed the sheaths that imprisons it here below. The paths to liberation are numerous, but the bank along the way is always the same, the Bank of Karma, where the liberation account of each of us is credited or debited depending on our actions.”

When I collect my wings

It is a satisfying thought; that when I am ‘deaded’ (as my then Greek landlord’s 4-year daughter used to say), I will be sent a pair of wing to take me into the heavens – to my new home. Would I need to remember Icarus, the lad who flew too close to the sun? I do, however, like the thought of flying high, like an eagle. Yet, as my father advised in response to that hope, ‘Of all the birds, the eagle flies highest; but he flies alone.’ O.K. that would suit me: even at an early age, I realised that I may be destined to become a loner, thereby being able to fly high in any direction.

Is it then significant that I was born in the (Chinese) Year of the Dragon? Unlike those who believe that you are what you are because of when you were born, I prefer the view that you were born when you were because of what you are. That is, the time and date of your birth reflects your innate nature and (possibly) your path of destiny (in the broad). This path, no matter how it was set, has to allow for a degree of free will, as well as for chance events or influences, or for pre-programmed interactions and intersections, has it not?

As I wrote in the conclusion to my memoir, The Dance of Destiny, referring to the flight of dragons in the context of human folly: They soar into the sky of solitude, and simultaneously sink into the sea of humanity, as they sing the songs of significance about their true home, that ocean of consciousness which unites all existence and non-existence

What will the higher beings in my next abode say when they meet this new arrival who was described in relation to one of his books as ‘an intellectual who cannot be categorised’? Or, do they already know that I am only an eagle thinking that I am a dragon?

 

The wisdom of the ancients

I remember that, at about 8 years of age, I asked my parents about the origin of the universe. This was a time when, before bedtime, my family often sat outside our home in the dark, and wondered at the beauty and apparently complexity of a sparkling sky. Their response? It has always been here, with neither beginning nor end. What an entrancing glimpse of reality, in the midst of a life of material insecurity!

While traversing the mechanistic perception of all that is in the universe by the modern Western world, throughout my life, my wonderment has continued. I remain unsatisfied by the changing speculative explanations or theories of modern science. Instead, I have been entranced by the myths from all over the world about the inexplicable complexity of the Cosmos. I recognise that enduring myths originating in ancient, long-gone civilisations will reflect some history, while offering explanations of the mysterious.

I have also been challenged by the claim (read The Upanishads by Ecknath Easwaran) that the mind is only an instrument of consciousness.

Those of us who are spiritual know that, since we humans are co-created, we are interconnected; that is, bonded to one another (at least, in intent). Similarly, the recently discovered principles of quantum physics has led to free-thinking cosmologists working in that discipline to postulate that the interconnectedness of all matter and events (the ‘oneness’ described by mystics in many cultures) is actually conscious, possibly intelligent. These heretics of science may take us to a real understanding of existence.

Indeed, in his autobiography, Paramahamsa Yogananda wrote of his wonderful experiences of cosmic consciousness in a state of ecstatic joy when “ … the entire Cosmos … glittered with the infinitude of my being.”

Modern science may yet accept that those who came before us may have glimpsed reality in a way not practised by us.

Mankind in the universe: can science help?

 During my youth, when I remained curious about what human life is all about, the scientists offered us a stable and durable universe. It was good to know that. Life for an immigrant family in a British colony was somewhat hazardous. Psychological stability can be a relatively scarce commodity.

Then, however, came the Big Bang Theory – effectively something from nothing! There went all that stability and durability. This was followed by the possibility of a Big Crunch, as well as mini-Bangs and mini-Crunches. To me, this is a ghost-like version of the Hindu cosmology, except that we now have complex maths backing up some scientific observations and deep speculations, whereas the more complex Hindu version cannot be tested. It talks about cycles of 8.64 billion years, and even a bigger cycle of 3.11 trillion years. I am left in wonderment.

One can surely ask how some ancient peoples came up with such complex thoughts, as well as measures of the cosmic world which have reportedly varied little from recent scientific observations. See chapter 10 in ‘Musings at Death’s Door’ (On the Cosmos).

Modern science is, to me, so full of speculative and tentative conclusions. How useful is it in telling us about all that which encompasses us? Surely we have a long way to go, in the reported light that only about 4% of all matter in the Heavens is visible. Dark matter and dark energy are postulated as representing the rest. If matter is convertible to energy and vice versa, what is this 96% doing?

Then there is the Hubble Telescope. There is much reliance on what it shows us. But, what if what it shows is equivalent to the size of my thumb nail against the totality of all the surfaces on Earth? (Yeah, yeah, I do realise that infinity cannot be so circumscribed.)

So, can we really claim a place, or a role, in the universe we cannot even describe?