An Ancient story that tells about the concept of death in Hinduism. Time takes the form of a man and gives a sermon to a grieving father on what is death and how to cope with the death of loved one.
“Interpreted from the Indian philosophical scripture Yoga Vasistha” – Concept of Death in Hinduism
WHAT IS DEATH IN HINDUISM: Time gives a timeless sermon
A long time ago, a sage had accumulated much merit on account of his immense self-control, performance of good deeds and his austerity. The sage had mastered all his senses and controlled all his negative emotions.
One day, his son who was twenty-seven years old, died in an accident. The Sage fell into a state of deep grief and all his wisdom could not help him understand what is death and why did his son die in his youth. The pain was unbearable for him and the shock of this cruel act of fate too much for him to fathom. His grief transformed into rage and the sage decided to curse Time, whom he held responsible for his son’s untimely death.
Time, who is neutral and detached, realizing that the sage was in a state of grief and hence in an agitated mind, made an exception and appeared before the sage in a physical form. The sermon given by time, provides a deep understanding of what is death and how to cope up with someone’s death.
The bereaved father, with hair disheveled, eyes puffed and eyes moist was performing the ceremony that would transfer all the merit he had accumulated in the form of a curse to Time. At that moment, Time appeared as a man with a sword in one hand and a noose in the other.
The concept of Death in Hinduism
Calmly and in an unfaltering voice, Time spoke to the Sage: “O Holy sage, I salute you at the life of control, discipline and goodness that you have lived. It is my nature to be appreciative of people who live a pious life with a worthy sense of conduct and without harming others. Listen to my words for it is my attempt to pacify you. It is but natural, that in this state of grief you are reacting out of anger and want to trade all your accumulated merit by wanting to inflict pain on someone else.
Sometimes a single action can wipe out an entire life’s discipline and goodness. O Sage, why and who are you going to curse?”
The Sage was surprised at the sudden appearance of the man who claimed to be Time and momentarily became passive.
Time continued, “Listen to me before you lay your curse and expire your accumulated merit in this life. I am immortal and unaffected even at the time of cosmic dissolution. This has been ordained as my role in the creation, and there is nothing your curse can do to me. I as Time destroy countless beings on this earth. I also cause death of Gods who preside over the universe. O Holy Sage, your son has died untimely and your grief is justified. But you have to realize that I am the consumer and every species on this earth is my food. This is an immutable law set by creation.
This law is beyond your personal likes or dislikes. Just as the nature of fire is to flame upwards, and the nature of water, is to flow downwards, my nature is to consume.
Try and understand what is death after hearing this truth from me. The nature of the self is to reside in everyone. The same self is in me, in you and was in your son. The self alone is the doer, the enjoyer, the enjoyed and the weeper.
You are a wise man who has been overcome by grief. Before committing any action, remember that there is neither doership nor non doership here. Just like flowers from a tree come and go, creatures are consumed by me so that they can come again.”
Time continued speaking to the sage, “Let me tell you a secret O Holy sage:
I am naturally inclined to consume species and bring them back again as per the results of their past actions (KARMA). I kill no one and I give birth to no one.
Some people hold me responsible for their anxiety, some for the deaths of their loved ones, some for the sorrow brought about by unrequited love, some for their mental agonies and others for their poverty. I am beyond all this.
Just like when the surface of the lake is agitated, the moon appear to be agitated, people are deluded that time is responsible for their deaths and lives. O Sage, since you have wisdom, moral courage and self-control, let me tell you one more thing. This physical body that you have is actually insentient and its natural inclination is to destroy itself. The mind is sentient and its natural inclination is to evolve. So the one you think is dead has just left the physical body while his consiousnesses is everlasting.
A disturbed mind will always make the urges of the physical body powerful and a pure mind will always make the seeker turn towards truth and clarity of thought. Hearing my words, it is upto you to choose now, O wise sage.”