On Fearing Death

This article explains how to deal with the fear of death.

I’ll start with a couple of quotes from Shakespeare (Julius Caesar):

CAESAR: Cowards die many times before their deaths: The valiant never taste of death but once. Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, It seems to me most strange that men should fear, Seeing that death, a necessary end, Will come when it will come.

Later in the play Cassius says:

CASSIUS Why, he that cuts off twenty years of life Cuts off so many years of fearing death.

BRUTUS Grant that, and then is death a benefit. So are we Caesar’s friends, that have abridg’d His time of fearing death.

Another quote is from Alan Watts’ autobiography:

For every sentient being is God – omnipotent, omniscient, infinite and eternal – pretending with the utmost sincerity and determination to be otherwise, to be a mere creature subject to failure, pain death, temptation, hellfire and ultimate tragedy. One of the most intelligent, pleasant and scholarly men I know devotes himself to the creed that a noble human life is simply courage in the face of inevitable disaster and annihilation. But I won’t argue with him, any more than I would argue with a fish for living in the sea. It is his game his style, his posture; and he does it very well.

So the quote from Shakespeare points out how universal is the fear of death. That helps us accept the same. The second is a description of Alan Watts’ philosophy that we can make our own, if we wish, by believing it.

The third conceptual tool is the Serenity prayer:

… To accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference.

If the death is universal and also the fear of it then it makes sense to accept it. This is something you and I cannot change.

The fourth conceptual tool is the understanding that we are all identified with the BMI (Body-Mind-Intellect). None of us are the BMI. But since we are identified with the body there is fear.

The fifth conceptual tool is the understanding that, as we age and grow old, there will be some amount of anxiety and regret. Life is suffering and we are identified with the body so anxiety and regret is also something that we need to accept.

It Is also necessary to ponder or remind ourselves of some concepts repeatedly. The concepts are:

  1. That the BMI is not the Self. I got this concept from Paul Brunton’s book – Quest of the Overself.
    If you don’t want to read then the following are some excellent videos that will convince you of the above thesis
    Total listening time of all three videos is well  over three hours. But isn’t it worth it to free yourself of the fear of death?
  2. That the fleeting world is a dream. You can convince yourself of this fact by reading the second chapter of the book The Mandukya Upanishad by Swami Nikhilananda. I haven’t read the book myself but it was recommended to me by a learned person and Swami Nikhilananda is from the Ramakrishna Mission.
  3. The following shloka of the Bhagavad Gita is also relevant – Just like casting off worn-out clothing and putting on new ones, that which is embodied casts off worn-out bodies and enters others that are new.
    I think that these should be sufficient to convince us intellectually that death is not to be feared. We will still suffer from anxiety of course – as we are identified with the body – but we will be able to keep that in check and lead a normal life.

So how best are we to live. The Bible says it best:

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for. the morrow shall take thought for the things of. itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

The Chinese sage Chuang Tzu also exhorted us to do the same thing. Here is a quote from him:

The birth of a man is the birth of his sorrow. The longer he lives the more stupid he becomes, because his anxiety to avoid unavoidable death becomes more and more acute. What bitterness! He lives for what is always out of reach! His thirst for survival in the future makes him incapable of living in the present.

In a nutshell – Enjoy and relish life in the present moment. That is also a gateway to the Divine according to Buddhism.

 I hope you enjoyed this article and it will be helpful. Please explore this site for more articles and let me have your comments. Feedback from my readers keeps me going

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