The art of Living is the art of dying. A Sikh Perspective
During a social gathering when one person recited the above couplet, the thought enclosed in it hit me hard. It was mesmerising, immersing, dissolving. I transited from being somebody to nobody. Ignorance that had locked me inside till eternity, gave way to a celestial feeling – a feeling of expansiveness, flowering, being blessed, complete, fulfilled. This wasn’t a verse; it suddenly jolted me out from my slumber, brought me to a reality – of what living is all about.
Sikh ethos changes the goal posts what other believed as facts. For a Sikh, it’s not the living that matters, what matters more is, learning the art of dying. Masters’ teaches us death – the way to die, cause only that one lives, who has known, rejoices death, cause then only he will live his life – total and in totality. One who has agreed to die becomes worthy of living the supreme life. Only those who have known how to erase themselves also come to know how to be.
These may seem opposite, contradictory things, as mostly, we all have taken life and death as two polarities- yet interestingly, they are not. We have created a false contradiction between the two, which has produced fatal results.
Reflect: if we divide things that are essentially one into separate parts, contradictory parts – the ultimate result can be nothing but a creation of a schizophrenic, insane man. Great difficulty and trouble would arise if people were to believe that cold and hot are not only separate but contradictory things. In reality they aren’t contradictory, the simply are different degrees of qualifying the same thing. Our experience of cold and hot is not absolute, it’s relative. The distinction between them is of quantity not quality.
The great mystery of this universe is that you can present an equal number of arguments in support and of the opposing bricks used in its creation; consequently the dispute will never end since both bricks are used equally. Each one claiming to have built the universe with his own bricks.
Sikh ethos is not in arguing, or debating endlessly. The Masters saw the futility of these mindless, directionless discussions, where oration and manipulative skills, playing with sham logic and language, were the drivers. Intelligently they simply shifted the goalposts, exalted the opposing parties to move back a little – such that they can observe that the whole doorway was in reality, made of opposing bricks. And immediately there was a cease fire- cessation of all hostilities, arguments, high octaves.
Realisation dawned that the universe is infinitely integrated in the cosmos, yet unique. Everything is in place and there was place for everything. It is whole, complete, total and in totality. Nothing is out of context. It’s my thinking and belief that is.
Amusingly we all have created such dichotomies at all levels in our lives. And a belief in either of their parts provides us with a convincing supporting argument. Life is not to be lived alone, it needs to be investigated, explored, known in its totality.
Master certainly teaches me death. It doesn’t infer that he is against life. Reference is that death is the gateway to know life, to recognize life. Life and death aren’t contrary, whether he calls life as the art of dying or as an art of living, both means the same. It depends on how I observe it.
They didn’t stress on the popular note of art of living- instead they exalted us all to rejoice, dance and flower in the art of dying. Learning the art of living is strengthening ones attachment to life, in fact most of us are simply obsessed with life- so much so that even a trivial illness shakes us from our very roots.
Masters were clear- abundantly clear, that if I can earn how to die, accept it totally, willingly, then only life and death will stand before me equally, they will become my left and right foot. Then will I attain to the ultimate life-where neither birth nor death exist.
Taking this analogy further, endless and meaningless discussions, debates, are done to prove the existence of god. The fact is that there is nothing but God. Keeping this in mind, a religious person is one, whose life contains both opposite polarities of having and not having. He simply brings harmony between the two cause; he knows that religion ushers in harmony. And one who only believes in one of them, either God exists or not, lacks religious maturity.
Get out, move out of the lopsided life and thinking we are currently living in. Spring up from your sitting posture, as for ages you have been sitting solidly on the scale of life, converting everything into rock. Life has become solidified, the balance has simply gone.
Go ahead, invite death as well. Say,” come be my guest too, we’ll stay together. The day life agrees to live with death; it’s transformed into life supreme. The day one welcomes death, gives it a hug, embraces it, the matter is over! That day the sting of death departs. The sting lays in our running away from death, in our being afraid of it.
When a person comes forward and embraces death, death looses, it’s conquered, it’s annihilated, and the man becomes immortal. Now death simply can’t touch him- imagine what can death do to that that is willing and himself ready to die. Death dies in front of him.
Death seeks only those who run away from it- a person eluding death will continue to be defeated; his entire life will be a lifelong story of defeat. One who embraces death will instantly triumph over defeat. It simply will no longer exist in his life. His life simply transforms into a triumphant journey.
Reflect: one who takes poison willingly, lovingly, joyfully- the poison becomes nectar for him. One of the most profound truths of life is that the man who accepts poison lovingly is a man transformed. Divinity personified. It’s like one who has accepted darkness, finds astonishingly that the darkness has become light.
And one who greets pain with open arms, experiences that there is no pain at all – it simply is celebration for him. Only happiness remains for him.
For one who accepts his state of agitation and agrees to live with it, the doors of tranquillity and peace are thrown open. Get clear one who says that wants to attain peace, can never become peaceful, because to say I want to attain peace, is, in fact, looking for disturbance. Man is restless as he is, and yet there are some who create a new restlessness by saying’ we want to be peaceful’.
To be peaceful one needs to have peace with restlessness.
One who accepts restlessness in its totality, one who says ‘ come stay with me, be my guest in this very home’ suddenly finds restlessness has departed. His mind quietens down.
How can restlessness last if the mind is attuned to peace.
Get out of the self created ego- I have come to conquer death. Instead of conflict learn how to die. Why run away from death, accept it, welcome it, remember the Master has given me the key to be victorious over death.
Rejuvenation is not the key for attaining victory over death. No matter how much you go through a process of rejuvenation, you will still have to die. The body is sure to die. Rejuvenation can at best push the death a little further away- it’s like problem getting elongated over a longer period. Yet the suffering you could have finished in 70 years will now get prolonged to 700 years. They will be stretched that much, multiplied. Nothing more shall and will happen.
The meaning of life comes with living, totality and in totality. An individual who lives so totally in one moment – more totally than another man could even in an infinite number of lives. It’s a matter of living, and only a man who has no fear of death can live- otherwise how can he live?
The fear of death keeps man trembling – he never stands still; he keeps running all the time.
One reason, we all are obsessed with speed – thrilled, insisting on accelerating all the times, it’s simply escapism. He simply is so scared, so afraid; he wants to get away as soon as possible. He feels he would be better off anywhere except where he presently is.
Man is unable to live; that’s why there is so much running around and about. He wants to go on adding more power to his vehicles, so he can reach faster, Ask where is he going, where he wants to reach and his answer will be’ I can’t tell you right now, I don’t have time- have to get there sooner than ever.
Fear is that on one hand we are unable to live fully and on the other hand fear of death is impenitent present. Both things interconnected. The man who’s is afraid of death will not be able to live his life; he will remain terrified of death.
The ecstatic way to live is, I accept death, invite death and say’ come one, I’ll worry about living later- first you come. Let me be finished with you so the matter is over once and for all. After that I’ll live leisurely. Let me take care of your first, then I’ll settle down and live comfortably.
One who accepts death in this way comes to halt immediately. His speed disappears.
Biggest secret of life is to learn how to die, how to accept death. Let the past die every day. Let us die every day. We don’t let yesterday die. A 70 year old man keeps the happy memories of his childhood alive, his childhood is not dead, he still carries the desire to return to his childhood. He is too old to move, bedridden, yet he is thinking about the same things- dreaming of seductions, lusts, desires although none of them are the same now. The pictures are still moving before his eyes, nothing has died.
Interestingly we never gather the courage to die, we never let anything die, consequently everything piles up. We don’t let the dead be dead, bygone, instead we amass it like a heavy load. And then it becomes impossible to live under its weight.
So one of the keys to the art of dying is: let the dead be dead.
Leave the dead behind, so that you can attain to life is what Master taught me.
Am I ready to die now, extinguish myself, dissipate myself, dissolve myself, from somebody to be a nobody, who has no past, no future, only an expansive, celebrative, flowering, dancing ecstatic present- till eternity?
That my folks is my limited understanding of the couplet Maran Munsa Sura Haq Hai, jo hoi Maran Parwano.
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