Echoes from the edge (May be)

Saidas M. Ranade
August 18, 2013
Does a leaf, when it falls from the tree in winter, feel defeated by the cold?” – Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho.

Over a month and half ago I became very sick. A throat infection affected my thyroid causing Thyroiditis. I lost 15 lbs. in one month. My heart rate went up and I had fever. I was totally exhausted and had to rest most of the day for many days.

During those periods of physical rest, my mind was still racing. The thoughts of death and dying surfaced many times. One challenge was my own mental model of what I think would be a COMPLETED life for me. The other difficulty was fighting my own conditioning of how I was supposed to feel at the time of dying.

The idea of what makes one’s life complete is interesting. We dream and we plan. Death interrupts those plans. Or does it? Over the past many years I have lived a life of obsession. I wanted to make a positive impact on this world. Some would call it a character disorder. Well may be it is. This obsession forced me to be single-minded and focused. However in doing that at times I lost track of the big picture and important connections. Many American-Indian tribes have recommended that we live a life always keeping in mind the impact of our actions on the seventh generation. I realized that what matters most is not that I complete something but I take a step in the right direction and do the right thing each moment. There is no completion. It is simply a continuing journey. This notion of the seventh generation does not depend on my reincarnation or my reaping the benefits of what I sow. The model is about me being true to myself and making my small contribution in my own way to the universe as it continues to evolve. Since everything is connected who reaps the rewards is not as important as doing the right things now.

I have seen scenes of death in many movies, read books about dying and heard stories of how people died. Judeo-Christian religions speak about forgiving everyone and surrendering to God. Hinduism talks about not having any attachment. Buddhism has a whole book on dying. The Buddhist believe that the predilections of the soul which are formed as a result of habits stay with the soul and drive the process of the next birth. Since no one knows when the end will come, the Buddhist suggest keeping the soul free every moment.

The conflict between how I was feeling and how I was supposed to feel was interesting. My conditioning was suggesting I feel a certain way. I felt odd if my feelings did not match what was expected. I believe that this conflict or for that matter any mental conflict has adverse impact on healing our body. Our spiritual energy needed for healing leaks to close that perceived gap. Each one of us grows up under different conditions and contexts. Having experienced the conflict now I believe that it is important to be true to oneself and at the time of death simply feel and be. There is no right or wrong way to feel or be. For me images of a certain journey I had taken with my parents when I was young resurfaced and gave me contentment.

I also realized that over the past few years I had lost track of my core purpose. Having a sense of purpose is a catalyst to healing. The details of the future did not matter but knowing that I have unique gifts and a unique purpose, what mattered was that I was true to those gifts and true to my calling.

One thought on “Echoes from the edge (May be)

  1. No body lives forever, Sai. Well, not for the next 100 years or so – if one believes futurists like Ray Kurweil et al.

    At this point in time, Death is inevitable for all of us. To some, Death will come as retribution, to some it will come as liberation. But Death will come, no matter what.

    Contrary to what many people prefer to believe, there is nothing on the other side of Death. There is no shining light, no reunion with loved ones, no cauldron of boiling oil, no judgement, and there is no ascent or descent to any place. And alas, there is no return to earthly existence as well.

    For biological life-forms like us, Death is a full stop. We will not visit this world, or any other, ever again. Therefore, that makes our lives that much more precious, our time in this life that much more valuable.

    We put this time to proper use. And there is only way to do that – we do good. No matter how rich or poor we are, or how successful we claim to be, or how qualified we are, or how ‘spiritual’ we think we are – we do good. That is all that we can do. And that is all we need to do.

    Do small deeds, as much as your resources allow you to – but do good.

    As I write this, many of our elders from BARC, whom we grew up watching, are dying one by one. Almost every day, I get news of another death from Anushaktinagar or Chembur. My own father’s death occurred eighteen months ago.

    In each case, I know what people said after that person died. When my father passed, I was astonished at how many complete strangers called me to offer condolences and to tell me how much my father had done for them in their lives.

    And in the case of another gentleman from BARC who passed away recently in Bangalore, I was not surprised when several people expressed relief, yes relief, at the news of his death.

    My father died a poor man. The other gentleman from BARC died a fabulously rich man. Yet, my father’s death was an honorable one, and was met with grief. The other man’s death was met with relief. My father’s obituary was carried by the country’s foremost scientific journal (and is available on the Net). The other man’s obituary was not even written. My father left behind a reputation as an honorable, kind and forgiving man who changed the lives of innumerable people. The other man is known in BARC for his spiteful and vengeful nature.

    You see, at the end of it all, you have to leave behind everything you earned while alive – good or bad. What really matters is what you leave more of – good or bad.

    There is no God who will judge you. You alone, are your judge. And it is for you to judge how you wish to feel at the end of your life.

    Cheers … Srini.

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