22. Is death really our final destination?
Many people often ask, “Everybody dies. What is the big deal about life?”
Not everybody truly dies. Those who die in body, with God’s name on their lips, live forever in spirit.
There is a huge difference in life between death and immortality. A lioness carries her cub in mouth to transfer to a safer place. She may also hunt a deer and carry it in her mouth. It is the same mouth, but whereas the cub is safe and comfortable, the deer suffers in the jaws of death. Similarly, at the time of death the enlightened persons embrace death with grace, whereas ordinary people fear and suffer.
God is Time – both death and immortality; Being and non-Being. There is no end to God’s Divine manifestations, because He is Omnipotent, Omni pervasive and nothing exists outside of Him.
That’s why Bruhadaranyaka Upanishad (1.3.28) says
“O God, lead me
From untruth to Truth
From ignorance to Enlightenment
From death to Immortality!”
It was 15th August of 1947. Decades of persistent efforts of Gandhiji and other freedom fighters yielded fruits. The British agreed to give independence to India, but divided it on religious grounds. The whole country celebrated the day. There were singing and dancing processions and parades everywhere.
But Gandhiji was in faraway Calcutta striving for peace between Hindus and Muslims. Riots had again broken out there and he was in the midst of that fire. He stayed in a hut in a poor area. He wandered from street to street and house to house requesting people to stay calm. When all that failed he went on fast. This had the desired effect on the minds of the people. The leaders of both communities assured him that they would control their people. Gandhiji accepted that assurance and broke the fast.
Few extremists accused that he was a traitor who had sacrificed Hindu interests to appease Muslims. There was an assassination attempt from which he escaped unhurt, and continued his mission.
On the evening of 30th January 1948, Gandhiji walked out of his temporary residence at Birla House to reach prayer house. Weakened by fasts and tours, he walked slowly with the support of his two grandnieces. Hundreds of followers gathered to touch his feet, to get his blessings and join him in prayers. Gandhiji paused and folded his hands in traditional Namaste salutation. A person stepped out from the crowd greeting Gandhiji with folded hands. Then he drew a pistol and shot Gandhiji three times at close range. With bullets in chest and abdomen, Gandhiji died instantly saying ‘Hey Ram’ (Oh God). But he lives in spirit, forever.
Gandhi – Is death really our final destination?
The fight of Satyagraha is for the strong in spirit, not the doubter or the timid. Satyagraha teaches us the art of living as well as dying. Birth and death are inevitable among mortals. What distinguishes the man from the brute is his conscious striving to realize the spirit within. The last eighteen verses of the second chapter of the Gita which are recited at the prayer give in a nutshell the secret of the art of living. It is given there in the form of a description of a sthitaprajna or the man of steady wisdom, i.e. a Satyagrahi in reply to Aijuna’s query to Lord Kirshna: The art of dying follows as a corollary from the art of living. Death must come to all. – A man may die of a lightning stroke or as a result of heart failure. But that is not the death that a Satyagrahi can wish for or pray for himself. The art of dying for a Satyagrahi consists in facing death cheerfully in the performance of one’s duty… I believe in the immortality of the soul. I would like to give you the analogy of the ocean. The ocean is composed of drops of water; each drop is an entity and yet it is part of the whole, ‘ the one and the many’. In this ocean of life, we are little drops. My doctrine means that I must identify myself with life, with everything that lives, that I must share the majesty of life in the presence of God. The sum-total of this life is God. We may not be God, but we are of God. I want to say emphatically that we should not at all grieve over the death of one whom we consider a saintly man; and we should have a firm faith that it is only after his death that his true work commences, or rather begins to bear true fruit. What have been considered to be his great achievements during his lifetime will pale into insignificance before the future ones. Of course it is our duty to follow, up to the extent of our capacity, the good steps of those whom we respect as saints. – Gandhiji
Albert Einstein, a famous scientist said, “Generations to come, will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”
Gandhiji’s achievements were many. Each one of them, judged by the manner of its execution or by its results, would have made his name honoured anywhere in the world.
Gandhiji brought liberation from foreign rule to a fifth of the human race. And India’s freedom was, in a way, the harbinger of freedom to many countries in Africa and Asia. Several world renowned leaders such as Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, Junior Martin Luther King and Barack Obama of America and countless others drew inspiration from Gandhiji.
Of no less significance was what he did for those who were once despised as ‘untouchables’. He broke their centuries-old shackles of caste tyranny and social indignity. He insisted that freedom should be measured by the all- round social, moral and economic well-being of the millions who live in the villages.
His very death was an achievement in itself, for the martyrdom shamed his people out of hysteria of hatred and fratricide, and helped the new-born nation to consolidate on secular and democratic principles. But he stopped some of his co-workers who had formed a society named after him to promote his ideals.
There is no such thing as Gandhism, and I do not want to leave any sect after me. I do not claim to have originated any new principle or doctrine. I have simply tried, in my own way, to apply the eternal truths to my daily life and problems … The opinions I have formed, and the conclusions I have arrived at, are not by any means final. I may change them tomorrow if I find better ones. I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills. All I have done is to try experiments in both, on as vast a scale and as best as I could. In doing so, I have sometimes erred, and learnt by my errors. My uniform experience has convinced me that there is no other God than Truth. And if every page of these chapters does not proclaim to the reader that the only means for the realization of Truth is Ahimsa, I shall deem all my labour in writing these chapters to have been in vain. And, even though my efforts in this behalf may prove fruitless, let the readers know that the vehicle, not the great principle, is at fault. After all, however sincere my strivings after Ahimsa may have been, they have still been imperfect and inadequate. The little fleeting glimpses, therefore, that I have been able to have of Truth can hardly convey an idea of the indescribable lustre of Truth, a million times more intense than that of the sun we daily see with our eyes. In fact what I have caught is only the faintest glimmer of that mighty effulgence. But this much I can say with assurance, as a result of all my experiments, that a perfect vision of Truth can only follow a complete realization of Ahimsa. To see the universal and all-pervading Spirit of Truth face to face one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself. And a man who aspires after that cannot afford to keep out of any field of life. That is why my devotion to Truth has drawn me into the field of politics; and I can say without the slightest hesitation, and yet in all humility, that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means. Identification with everything that lives is impossible without self- purification; without self-purification the observance of the law of Ahimsa must remain an empty dream; God can never be realized by one who is not pure of heart. Self-purification therefore must mean purification in all the walks of life. And purification being highly infectious, purification of oneself necessarily leads to the purification of one’s surroundings. But the path of self-purification is hard and steep. To attain perfect purity one has to become absolutely passion-free in thought, speech and action; to rise above the opposing currents of love and hatred, attachment and repulsion. I know that I have not in me as yet that triple purity, in spite of constant ceaseless striving for it. That is why the world’s praise fails to move me, indeed it very often stings me. Conquering the subtle passions is much harder than the physical conquest of the world by the force of arms. Ever since my return to India I have had experience of the dormant passions lying hidden within me. The knowledge of them has made me feel humiliated though not defeated. The experiences and experiments have sustained me and given me great joy. But I know that I have still before me a difficult path to traverse. I must reduce myself to zero. So long as a man does not of his own free will put himself last among his fellow creatures, there is no salvation for him. Ahimsa is the farthest limit of humility. – Gandhiji