DEATH - A SPRINGBOARD FOR FREEDOM

By Venugopal Acharya (Vraja bihari dasa) - 9.1 2019

“Preparing for death is one of the most empowering things you can do. Thinking about death clarifies your life.” – Candy Chang (Chinese actress ) Mr. Abdul Rehman refused to vacate the flat. Everyone in the government colony-where I grew up as a child- knew he was occupying the house illegally.

After serving for forty years in the company, he retired as a senior Director in February. Yet he and his family stayed in the same house even a year later. The rule in these residential colonies: an officer vacates the house when he either retires from service or is transferred to another state. He is allowed to keep possession of the house and use facilities of the colony for a maximum of three months, post retirement. It’s expected that he’ll make alternative arrangements before retirement, and as soon as his tenure ends, he gracefully shifts to his own house.

But Mr. Abdul was different; he was brazenly audacious to hold on to something that didn’t belong to him. He reasoned to the government officers that he’s trying hard to get another house, and would vacate this shelter soon; he merely capitalized on bureaucratic confusions. The grapevine was abuzz about his political connections. Being a senior government officer, he ought to have some decency. No one in the colony lived as shamelessly as Mr. Rehman; he was the butt of ridicule.

Three years later, with political equations changing in the country, he was disgracefully thrown out of the colony. Is our plight different? We too ‘retire’ one day; death brings an end to all that we have done in our lives. We can’t protest, “I stayed in this ‘house’- the body-for the last seventy years, and I refuse to leave now.” If we are part of this world, there’s a rule we all need to follow-we vacate our bodies when it’s time to. Therefore it’s smarter to plan early; use death as a springboard for more freedom, and a better life.

Unlike Mr. Rehman who was allowed to use facilities for some time even after retirement, we are disdainfully stripped off all pleasures this body can offer. We may bribe some officers or use political connections to hold on to things of this world, but when it comes to death, we are all insignificantly equal. Even if you are a senior director, death makes no exception. An Italian proverb says it better, “After the game of chess, both the king and the pawn lie in the same box.” You may be the richest man, living in the most expensive penthouse, surrounded by the best nurses, yet death comes without mercy. At that time a wealthy billionaire can’t bribe ‘death’; a strong man can’t wrestle death to submission; a beautiful woman wouldn’t be able to charm death; and an intelligent scholar would fail to defeat death in argument. No point fighting it out; let’s plan another ‘dwelling’ for our lives, post ‘retirement’.

Let’s plan for death by living now Many lead their lives in regret of the past, confusion about present, and fear of the future. Frustration at the moment of death is a natural by-product of such a missed life. If one lives his or her life wholly and responsibly, then, as Mark Twain said the man who lives fully is prepared to die any time. A director of a government company who lives a conscious life is prepared to vacate his flat, and retire with grace and dignity. Life is tough, even for the successful and famous. I once heard an anecdote of Mr Life’s conversation with Mr Death.

 “Why do people love me and hate you?” asked Life and Death replied, “Because you are a beautiful life, and I am a painful truth.” Sylvia Plath was a highly acclaimed American writer and poet, and a winner of Pulitzer Prize. Still at the young age of thirty, she committed suicide. Ironically, she had said in one of her works, “Dying is an art, like everything else.”

Ernest Hemingway, another successful novelist and Nobel Prize winner shot himself dead, after having tried to end his life, a few times earlier as well. He too had said earlier that although details vary, all our lives end the same way. If Mr. Rahman, during his forty years of service had planned and invested in a house that he’d settle in eventually, he would have happily vacated the old house on retirement. Similarly if during our sojourn in this world, we plan and invest daily, for a life after death, we’ll be ready when old age, diseases and death eventually strike. We’ll happily leave this world to a life of eternity, freedom and bliss. Emily Dickinson said it poetically, “Because I could not stop for death, He kindly stopped for me; the carriage held, but just ourselves and immortality.”