In Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. III, Great Master writes:
Man’s days are numbered. It is not known when they will end. Every day, every hour, every minute brings us nearer to that great final change, which is called death.
Steve Jobs, the American entrepreneur and co-founder of Apple Computers, spoke about this change, saying:
Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.
It does indeed. We see this change in nature, when plants die in winter to make way for new birth in spring. We see it in life, where the elderly die to make way for a younger generation. A year ends, opening up to a new year and new opportunities. And in spirituality, we learn that relinquishing the physical body makes way for us to enter a new realm of understanding and experience. Death of the old makes way for the new.
Yet, despite centuries of analyses, explanations and debates, death and what happens after it continue to be unexplained, controversial, and beyond the scope of our understanding. It remains a matter of belief. Many people have experiences which simulate death, but nobody ever comes back from death itself to tell us about it. And no matter how many times we ourselves have died, we do not recall the event.
Because of this total lack of information, the mystery of death both haunts and fascinates us, and to most people the finality of death is horrifying and frightening – hence their quest for immortality.
In The Path of the Masters, however, Julian Johnson gives us a different perspective. He writes: “Death is a glaring deception.… People fear death because they do not know what it involves.” He tells us that we can experience death now, through the spiritual system taught by the Masters.
This system of spiritual exercises, taught and practised by all the Masters, carries the student actually through the gates of death.… This solves once and for all the most serious problem which has ever confronted the human race – the problem of death and what lies beyond it.
The experience he refers to happens while we are still living in the body. The Masters refer to this experience as ‘dying while living’, which is possible during this very life. We understand and accept birth into physical life, which is the known, but we find death more difficult because it leads into the unknown. The result is that we focus more on life than we do on the process of death, relegating death to some distant time in the future. The early philosopher Plotinus echoes the Master’s advice. As the author of Return to the One writes: Mystics such as Plotinus urge us to live life with one goal in mind: that we die well.
This means that we should focus our attention on the process of “dying while living” – which is, through meditation, the ability to withdraw our consciousness from the body to the eye centre, where our true spiritual journey begins. The author of Mysticism, The Spiritual Path explains this: “Mystic transport takes us into a different world altogether and brings us knowledge of things which are different from our daily experience.”
Our meditation practice is preparation for this mystic shift, our transition from one world to another – from a physical state of being to a more subtle and very different experience. So why is it that, with such a promise, we persist in clinging to the restrictions of our attachments and worldly pleasures, rather than putting in the effort to take the leap into our spiritual future? We need to take heed of Maharaj Charan Singh’s words: “If you are in darkness now, then what else can you expect after death?”
Death will bring us to the edge of a new experience, a new discovery, a new process. How can we not prepare for this? This is the most important journey we will ever undertake. It is the journey not only to know God – but to become God. No small undertaking.
In With the Three Masters, Vol. I, the Great Master is quoted as saying, “When we go on a trip, we carefully plan our method of travel, our accommodation and eating arrangements and so on, but we make no preparations at all for our journey after death.”
Why is it that we neglect the preparation that is so essential for this journey? Do we really understand and accept the incredible opportunity that is within our grasp – if we would only grasp it? If we could see our past lives, we might cringe with fear at the thought of wasting this opportunity and not making full use of the good fortune the Master has given us now.
From the time we are initiated, our entire life should be a preparation for death. It’s up to us to use our inborn capability to undertake the journey into God-consciousness, which is our birthright. Although we are familiar with the concept of consciousness, it is still largely an unknown, possibly the most mysterious aspect of our lives.
Consciousness or Shabd is inherent in everything. When it manifests in a physical form, that form takes life. When consciousness withdraws, that form dies. Death is simply the withdrawal of consciousness from a physical form. The Masters tell us that we are much more than our limited consciousness, occupying one dense material body after another, somewhat like a hermit crab occupying empty gastropod shells.
In an article titled “On the Importance of Spiritual Knowledge” the author writes: “A human body is a unique structure that allows covering the distance between the state of ‘an ordinary person’ and the state of God.”
In other words, we have the ability to move from our everyday experience of consciousness to the highest, absolute level of consciousness – the refined spiritual levels far beyond what is experienced in daily life. As with most aspects of spirituality, however, these altered states remain merely an intellectual concept and are meaningless without the actual experience.
The Masters teach that the practice of meditation is a journey through these various levels of consciousness. It is a journey that will eclipse the barrier of death and will ultimately lead us to a direct experience of God, while still being in the body. We understand this intellectually, but we don’t appear to grasp or believe that this is really possible. If we did, we would be far more proactive in our efforts to attend to our meditation. After all, what can the world offer that even comes close to the promise of this mystic shift?
Developing the conscious awareness of who we truly are must take priority in our lives. The Master has solved the riddle of death for us. He has brought us to the threshold of possibility. We can move towards the Creator, the Shabd, God-consciousness, or we can remain immobilized where we are. Either way, death will find us.
The only certainty in life is that we are going to die. The uncertainty is that we don’t know when. And even though it is obvious that we must die, we’re often not able to come to terms with it. Rather than be traumatized by this prospect, we should, as Plotinus advised, aim to “die well.”
As Rumi wrote:
I died as a mineral and became a plant
I died as a plant and rose to animal
I died as an animal and I became a man.
Why should I fear?
When was I less by dying?
Quoted in Amit Goswami, Physics of the Soul