Every Saturday, I send out this special post with a few ideas I am reading and thinking about. Plus, a question I am meditating on.
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Book I’m Reading – With the End in Mind
I never saw Papa reading a book. Yes, he read a lot of magazines and stuff online, but I don’t remember when I saw him with a book to read the last time. So I was surprised when I found out about this book he started reading some time back, recommended by my doctor friend who was treating him.
The book is titled With the End in Mind: Dying, Death and the Wisdom in the Age of Denial, written by Dr. Kathryn Mannix who has spent her medical career working with people who have incurable, advances illnesses. The book contains stories about the process of dying and makes a compelling case for the therapeutic power of approaching death not with fear but with openness, clarity, and understanding.
Papa highlighted a few passages, and here are the ones that give me comfort because I know he read them and found them valuable in his own journey of approaching death –
A lot of what is written in the book happened with Papa in his last few days, which eases my pain a bit knowing that he was somewhat prepared for what was coming, and thus was at peace.
Knowing that he never read books, I never imagined that I would get to keep one as a memory of Papa. It was the first book he read in many years and the last he read ever. And that makes it super special to me.
Thought I’m Meditating On
I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive. ~ Joseph Campbell
A Question for You
Meditation on mortality (that we are going to die one day) is one of the oldest practices in all Buddhist traditions. In the words of the Buddha, “…of all the footprints, that of the elephant is supreme. Similarly, of all mindfulness meditation, that on death is supreme.”
But why should we contemplate our own death while we are still alive?
“It cures you,” the Bhutanese say. Not just the Hindu and Buddhist scriptures, even Stoicism talks about Memento Mori that is the practice of reflection on mortality, especially as a means of considering the vanity of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits.
Now, the thing about meditating on your own mortality is that it doesn’t make life pointless. Instead, knowing that you will die one day creates priority and thinking about it helps you live with a more positive perspective. So you can focus on what’s important.
Death is, however, a subject mostly shunned by our cultures and societies. Nothing explains this resistance better than what the American actor and comedian Woody Allen said in one of his movies, “It’s not that I’m afraid of dying; it’s just that I don’t want to be there when it happens.”
So my question to you is — Are you meditating on your mortality in some way? If yes, what have you experienced? If no, when are you starting?
Enjoy your weekend,
Rahul Jana says
To understand mortality deeply, one should read WHEN BREATHE BECOMES AIR by Late Dr. Paul Kalanithi.
This book will serve the stepping stone to understand mortality.
CARLOS DESOUZA says
Excellent book, I agree.
Jay H. Savla says
Jainism has a well laid down process to embrace death. The process is called Sallekhana Santhara. In this process the Saadhak gradually reduces his four Kashays – Krodh, Maan, Maya & Lobh and wins over his Vishays i.e. attachment with worldly pleasures or subjects of our five indriyas. This is done with the help of Tap – systematic fasting. Eventually, when he reaches a position where he realises that he has managed to get control over his Kashays and Vishays and gets completely detached with his loved ones and his worldly possessions, he moves forward to the final step. The final step is fasting till death.
Every follower of Jainism prepares his mind daily with the aim to do Sallekhana at the end of his life. In Jainism this is highly regarded. It is also considered as a very important step towards attaining Moksha.
If you interested to know this in further detail you may feel free to write to me.
Learnt something intresting, knowing cultural praactices of other religions and many more.
Please write further I would love to know
Jay H. Savla says
You may please share your email id so that I can share a detailed note on this subject via email. My email id is firstname.lastname@example.org
Manaswini Parab says
Yes I am meditating on my morality by transforming reactions to response just like by turning one side of coin to the other side of the coin. No matter heads or tails main is the body . And I do with it
R K Chandrashekar says
Reminds me of the book, The last lecture’ by professor of Computer science at CMU, Randy Pausch based on his last lecture while suffering from pancreatic cancer. Again one of my favourite questions while interviewing senior people was: if you are told that you would live for only the next 24 hours, what would you do – what would be your priorities and who all would you speak to.
Personally speaking , i have over the last few years graduated to valuing experiences over possession.
For the past few years, i have been working on a siblings tour, which for some reason or the other has not materialised. Pushing 68, the youngest, the eldest left us 12 years ago, another ,a cancer survivor of 10 years, you can understand my urgency. Hopefully it should happen by Feb- March.. Life is ephemeral.. Let’s realise that every day..
CARLOS DESOUZA says
The Last Lecture is just not comparable to With The End In Mind.
Anyone who has to choose, should buy the latter without a second thought.
This is my view & others are free to disagree. My objective is to save people
time and money.
With The End In Mind is a superb book as is When Breath Becomes Air.
Anand Narayanan says
Yes meditation may surely help in calming the nerves but in as a niveshak mode. This article i felt will bring sadness hence giving it a skip. A bit early for me but am sure will help those who are suffering for them as its a handle to latch on.
A K Lal says
Bhrama Kumaries has best solutions to these & all matters. Visit http://www.SpiritualHeals.com & watch the video on home page to solve your problems permanently by Spiritual Heals Research using powers from God directly
Death is a certainity, still we hardly ever prepare for the same, like an ostrich living in denial perhaps? or maybe some would argue, its futile to think about something you have no control over. Either way, one benefit of mediating on one’s mortality is that it certainly makes one value one’s current life.
Hindu philosophy keeps stressing on how Atma is indestructible and only changes forms, still the human life is very valuable since its attained after having lived 8.4M other life forms.
If its actually that valuable, makes one wonder what is a good life?
Is Life like an endless ocean and one certainly can’t touch all its shores in one’s lifetime, hence the necessesity for another life? what if one controls the desires and experiences true happiness, is that the path of salvation?
True Happiness in whatever form he/she is currently with a motive to be useful and continue working on something that keeps one usefully occupied?
Just thought out aloud.. thanks for the platform Vishal.
Dinesh Kumar Kunnathodi says
To read books on death, meditation, afterlife etc are good. It gives a kick and a solace…. But the freight remains. No book, no talks, or no philosophy works when one is confronted with death….
Death evaporates all your bookish knowledge. It demands resolution here and now!
Don’t just read books on meditation, meditate! Feel that you are a transient traveler on this planet and this very breath could your last one. That very experience pivots you irrevocably to the present moment. When it drives home with the certainty that life is ephemeral, no matter however long it appears or lasts, you have no choice but to be shakingly alert to the present. In that choiceless awareness what blooms is meditation……In that, sadness drops, fear drops and all clinging drops one by one……. There is nothing to be sad about, there is nothing to cling on because you don’t own anything nor you can claim anything ultimately……
I am very sorry to hear about uncle and a great loss to you and your family.
I believe that he lived his life happily and could see what is coming and gone peacefully.
Digonta Bordoloi says
I meditate to understand life, because when you understand life you will invariably understand a little about death, as it is the other side of the same coin. So better to take a closer look at the side you can see… 🙂
Love & light…
Anuroop Nath says
Extremely sorry for your personal loss. My heartfelt condolences.
One episode from Mahabharata is Yaksha Prashana. This one particular question was always intriguing –
Yaksha: “What is the greatest wonder?”
Yudhisthir: “Every man knows that death is the ultimate truth of life. However, he wishes otherwise”.
And that’s how most of us are living, ignoring the reality as we see. Each individual’s journey is a hero’s journey but the direction is something each has to ponder for himself.
Indic thought has always been a life of contemplation. Unlike Western thought (one life, achieve/ accomplish), here we were guided by our ancient culture and wealth of spiritual knowledge to lead a life of action, gyana or bhakti (many lives, rebirth / use it judiciously to reflect on reality). The ancients had figured it out and left the templates for us.
I like your writings and it’s hovering to get more meaningful & deeper as days pass. Life is a great teacher.
Kindly forgive if this sounds judgemental for that’s not the intent, however, lean into reading some real Indian spiritual teachings will provide you the much needed solace and restfulness you seek.
Time to open up the Ashtavakara Gita presented to you a few years back. Maybe it is hanging in your bookshelf for a future (this) day. The teachings are tough to comprehend even on multiple passes.
Or can simply read the greatest life management book ever written a.k.a. Srimad Bhagavad Gita (eschew Iskon version) and get what so many got before you.
We can connect if this sounds helpful.
Good luck and God bless.
Rajdeep Saha says
I am experiencing the upcoming death as my 6 yr old boy suffering from a fatal brain tumor & may die in a few months. After his diagnosis I am involved in some spiritual practices under an enlightened master & they make me experience death meditation but I couldn’t find anything after the instructions. They said it’s very powerful meditation and shouldn’t be done at home.
C. P. Jhawar says
Extremely sorry for your personal loss.May his soul rest in peace.
Thankful to you for this eye opening post.
Till this question remains unanswered to me that in what state one proceeds for his
Journey after death.
Madhav Mokashi says
I was recently invited for the “Varsha Shraddha lunch” of a relative. I always used to be in 2 minds about attending such events. But then I came across very old Marathi book “हिंदू धर्म जसा आहे तसा” . It says if birth of a person is an occasion for celebration then death of a person is also an occasion for celebration. Varsha shraddha/tervi etc. functions are celebrations where in you eat ladoos. After reading that book I gladly accept Tervi/ Varsha Shraddh invitations these days and celebrate it by eating ladoos there. Only thing is I don’t want my own tervi to be celebrated soon yet 🙂