Conversation between God of Death and a person on his death bed. The time for dying has arrived and along with that God of Death too has arrived.
Person: Who are you?
God of Death: I am the god of death and have come to take you away.
Person: (Feels a chilling effect because of fear of death but still has the courage to ask) Can you tell me what is death?
God of Death: Before I answer your question, please tell me a few things.
God of Death: What is your age? Tell me something about your life journey. Which religion do you follow? Are you feeling satisfied with how you lived your life till date?
Person: I’m almost 90 years of age. I was born into a Christian family, but after the divorce of my parents, my mother married a Jew and I was brought up as Jewish.
At the age of 19 when my mother died, I fled home and joined some hippies. I got disillusioned with the hippie culture after spending almost 20 years with them at different places in the world. I decided to visit India on suggestion of one of my Buddhist friends. After going to India I decided first to visit all the important religious centers, including ashrams, monasteries and temples of all the prominent religions like Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism, which all originated in India. I spent almost 20 years in ashrams and monasteries in company of Buddhist and Hindu religious figures and their followers.
Then I returned back to UK, my home country. I got married at the age of 60 and have 2 children aged 25 and 20. The elder lives with my estranged wife in USA and the younger works for a company in Australia. I’m not in contact with any of my sons nor with my wife since 15 years. I have earned enough money and have a beautiful bungalow, but I preferred to stay in an old age home. I was detected with renal cancer 5 years back for which my treatment is going on in this hospital, but the doctors have lost all hope. This is in a nutshell, the story of my life. About your question of being satisfied with my life, I am a little bit confused. I am not sure at all whether I feel satisfied or not.
God of Death: Let’s see. It means you have known 5 to 6 religions. Can you briefly tell me what did you learned from those religion about life from those religions?
Person: Yes, Christianity and Judaism taught me that there is a big Boss called God, looking down from the sky all year round and we are supposed to follow rules made by Him, preached in churches and synagogues. From Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism I came to know the law of karma and that the purpose of life is to get enlightened. For 20 years, I studied wholeheartedly, meditated, prostrated and practiced a lot as per instructions of highly recognized religious figures in Hinduism as well as Buddhism.
God of Death: It means you are a learned seeker, a pandita with a lot of experience in various practices. Why did you not continue with those practices? You might have got enlightened and out of the cycle of birth and death.
Person: Honestly speaking, I have a scientific bent of mind as I live in a scientific world while everywhere I was taught and forced to believe and practice. They used to say it may take millions of birth to get enlightened. Once I questioned, “If I cannot even remember my last birth, how am I to believe in the idea of millions of lives?”
The second question I asked was, “If there is no entity or self, who has taken birth, who is going to die and, in turn, who is going to take birth again and again?”
I raised many such basic questions, but unfortunately none of the answers from any of the religious figures quenched my thirst. When these basic burning questions were not answered, what is there to say about getting enlightened? So I returned back to UK thoroughly disillusioned with those ideas. I got married, started a business and earned a lot of money.
God of Death: Now, please forget everything about your life, because it’s time of die. Let me ask you a few more questions?
Have you ever thought about who you really are, apart from memories, name and various labels given by the society? Where are you right now? In which part of the body? If that part where to be removed or replaced, would you cease to exist?
Person: Honestly speaking, I do not know who I am other than various labels, including the name given to me. It appears that I am in this body which is lying in this hospital bed. I am not sure in which part of the body I am, because looking into the scientific development it appears that every part is replaceable and transplantable. I am not even the brain, because in coma people continue to exist, albeit without functional nervous system. The only possibility which seems to be left, is the vital breathing which when stopping, one can be said to have ceased to exist, but that is a verb, a process, and not part and parcel of the gross body.
God of Death: Does this mean you don’t know who are you and where are you?
God of Death: Now let’s discuss what it means to die. Understand the workings of this organism. Imagine you were brought up in an environment where you were not taught any alphabet or words. You had just this working mind, which is inbuilt in every creature for its survival. That working mind does not think in terms of words or sentences. Its workings is entirely based upon electrical impulses produced by light, sound, touch, taste and smell, striking the sensors of the sense organs, which send impulses to reach the brain. The nervous system and the body act and react instinctively to these impulses as per memories and instincts. Do you think the language is one of the basic needs of an organism to survive?
Person: No. basic needs are only three. Food, water and sleep.
God of Death: This means one can survive well without language if basic needs, mainly food, water and sleep are met. Don’t you think that whatever you learnt in your 90 years of life is all useless at this point of death? Does this knowledge or experiences help at this point? Are they not creating problems at this time?
Person: This seems to be realistic. Language is not a need for life to express and continue itself. If I had no knowledge of anything including death, perhaps I would have been better placed at this moment.
God of Death: Think slightly further. Was it in your hand or control not to take birth? Is aging of the body under your control? Was learning or not learning under your control? Is it not true that except for motor organs, you don’t have control over anything whatsoever during the entire life, from conception to death? Do do you think knowledge is a problem?
Person: Yes, nothing is under my control except the movement of motor organs. Now they also do not work due to the disease. (He takes a pause). Why knowledge is problem I don’t know, but intuitively I know it is a problem.
God of Death: Is knowledge separate from you? Can it ever be erased? The answer is plain no. The problem is not the knowledge which is part and parcel of the organism, you, which may either be associated with ongoing electrochemical reactions in the body or in the genes, in DNA or whatever, but they are collectively called memories. It’s our training of the nervous system by society which makes the organism behave as if it is memories, rather than being aware of the fact that memories are just subtle tools to be used in daily life.
Unfortunately, this organism was never trained to think in this way nor taught about this fact. This unconscious behavior, as if organism is memories only, labeled as clinging to habitual patterns, ego, attachment with knowledge is the real source of all the problems and suffering, not so-called knowledge per se. Knowledge is just past, dead, inert impressions of past experiences and are not potent in doing anything on their own. These impressions become active only when mental energy is applied to them due to conditioning, as well as the demands of outer and inner circumstances and stimuli. This is similar to, but not exactly the same as reading the data on a hard disk by applying electrical energy when a demand arises. In this way you are just a bio-computer with a trained, conditioned nervous system in such a way that this organism can communicate in languages in which it has been trained. Hope you understand about your existence as a sentient being.
Person: Yes, this is very much true. I like it since it is logical as well as scientifically true.
God of Death: Let me explain what is going to happen in the so-called death with the help of facts and a few religious concepts. We have already agreed that you don’t know what and where are you. Religions also say there is no real self or personal identity. It’s all like space, emptiness, nothingness. We have also agreed that memories are just tools to be used by the organism. Hence, we are also not memories too. Can we safely conclude that even the idea of death has been given by others and become a part of your memories which may be useful in social life?
Person: Yes, now I feel a little bit more relaxed about death.
God of Death: Do you think any of your body parts or the body as a whole has anything to do with the memories, except for using them as tools?
Person: I don’t think so.
God of Death: Is it your daily experience that the body gets maximum relaxation in sleep when memories have subsided into oblivion? And does your body feel recharged when waking up?
Person: Yes, absolutely true. Without eight hours of sleep, I would become mad. Sleep deprivation may also lead to death because of a weakened immune system.
God of Death: Don’t you feel that it would be an excellent idea and state for this organism if memories, even in the awakened state would remain in oblivion, except for those memories which are needed in a particular moment so that consumption of mental energy can be minimized?
Person: Fantastic idea, is it possible?
God of Death: This is the sole purpose of all religious and spiritual activities. This state is also called spontaneous natural living like a newly born child, in whom memories needed in a particular moment get activated spontaneously, automatically, naturally, without anyone making an effort since there is no entity to make any effort. In fact, every organism and every human being similar in this way, except the so-called enlightened ones who live naturally and spontaneously with a realization of this fact that memories are just tools, and that we are not the tools. In these organisms, the unconscious attachment has vanished because of understanding the factual position related to memories. Since detachment from memories has happened in their case, they are free from dreams also, since attachment and desire are the reason for why dreams happen. The realization of this fact related to memories is the only difference between an enlightened one and non-enlightened one.
Person: Wow, now I understood the whole drama of life. May I get enlightened now?
(The person dies immediately after questioning)
Art by Mihoko Ogaki. Japan
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