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15-The Last Change

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Kathopanishad-Page 15
p 183-189

The Last Great Change

[183] There is another very personal implication of this theory of reality. Death too is a process, continuing and ever present. As soon as we are born, Death is waiting for us. He holds our hand and walks with us throughout our life. Parts of our body are dying every moment, but we are not involved in it - this is the essence of Death's message to Nachiketaa. True, the Jeev dies. The Gross and Subtle bodies are subjected to change, they will have to degenerate some day. But we Purush live in some other region - a region, not of shadows, but of perpetual light.

[184] We can find this region by learning to withdraw consciousness at will from our senses and mind into undifferentiated consciousness. This is exactly the skill we acquire in meditation - over a period of years.

Surprisingly enough the same thing happens in the process of death also. When death overwhelms the body, consciousness is withdrawn from the physical level, along with the Praan that has kept the body functioning. First it is withdrawn from the senses into the mind (as in sleep state), but now they are closing for the last time in this body. Finally as the body begins to fail, the Self gathers up all Praan from the mind and abandons the body completely. In this final consolidation, all our consciousness is collected into the "I"-thought, and all desires merge in the deep underlying desire of our lives.

In sleep, researchers say, that in one night we pass in and out of two different stages. One is the state of dreaming, and the other one is deep sleep - a dreamless state in which as the Kath Upanishad says, "Consciousness is withdrawn not only from our body and senses, but also from our mind." At this time our mind is completely still and we rest in the lap of the Self. In other words our Ego process is also suspended. We cease to be a separate personality. Upanishad says, "In this state, nobody is king or poor, old or young, man or woman, learned or ignorant".

But when we wake up, we are the same person again. Sanskaar have gathered into the Self, Praan has returned to the Subtle body, the mind-process has started up again and we are back with all our wishes and desires and hopes and fears.

What does it mean? That we die several times every night. The Ego is suspended, so where do we go? It is much the same when we leave our body to die - Sanskaar are withdrawn into the Self, and Sanskaar are forces and forces do not die. Like seeds, our Sanskaar germinate again and life begins again in a new body and mind to fulfill our desires from where we left them, just as we wake up every morning and start our life again from where we left it the previous day - as not quite the same person, yet not as a different person either. Our Jeev reaches out for the new body as the old one dies.

The consequences of this concept can be very strange. Some people believe that, that is why  one should die in the midst of pleasure so that they may start their new life where they left it. But for this to happen, parents, siblings, standard of living etc all conditions have to be exactly right, otherwise these Sanskaar will not flourish. But other Sanskaar also need to be accommodated. Although it is terribly complicated but still the point is right. Whatever body we will get, it will be ideal for us to work out our Karm and learn to master our desires.

In fact, Subtle body has to get the right kind of physical body for all the forces of personality to work together. If an AC equipment is plugged into a DC outlet, or a 110 volt equipment into a 220 volt outlet, the combination will simply not work. There may be any hazard to such a combination - as it is often a major problem with organ transplantation. The parts may look the same still they are different because they are the part of two different body systems - as a VW part to fit into a Toyota.

Just as we choose our body, we choose the time and place too. For example, this Kali Yug is the age of all kinds of ill-wills. Whoever is born in this time without any ill-will, he chooses a wrong time to born. But still we cannot blame the time or our parents one hundred percent for our Sanskaar. All that what we are today, is the result of what we have thought. Whatever mess we may be in, we are responsible for it through our own thinking and doing.

So if we are responsible for our present situation then we can be responsible for making improvements in that situation. Attain self-realization whether we believe  in one life or many. But once personality is understood as a process of Sanskaar, the theory of incarnation gives a very convincing explanation of death and what happens afterwards.

Death is really a kind of sleep - a dreamless sleep. The purpose of both - death and sleep - is two Rs - rest and recuperation. Prashn Upanishad says - "As a thither bird grows tired of flying about in vain and settles down at last on its own perch, so the mind, tired of wandering hither and thither settles down to rest in the Self in dreamless sleep." It is the same in death.

But there is a kind of intermediate state between lives - called 'Bardo' in Tibetan Buddhism - in which we get a chance to recover from the fatigue of one life, review our past performance and prepare to enter another life. If we have not made the best use of our past life, we have another chance.

Reincarnation seems completely compatible to biological evolution. The Jeev enters life at the lowest level of evolution and passes through more and more complex levels of consciousness. Once we attain the highest state (human being), for better or worse, we can never be put back. Life is like a school. Here we work out our Sanskaar until we stop repeating the same mistake. So nobody else is there to promote us except ourselves. Besides, the school has to adjust everyone, even if he has been in the same class for several lives.




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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 06/09/11