On Death and Dying: Words of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi
Bhagavan Ramana as a youth
The devotees know that Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi had an intense experience of death in his seventeenth year. After the experience ended, he was established in the realisation of his true Self and the illusion of death died forever.
Here is in part Bhagavan’s description of what happened:
“The shock of the fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to myself mentally, without actually framing the words: ‘Now that death has come; what does it mean? What is it that is dying? This body dies . . . But with the death of the body am I dead? Is the body I? . . . The body dies but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. That means I am the deathless Spirit.’ All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me vividly as living truth which I perceived directly. . . From that moment onwards the ‘I’ or Self focused attention on itself by a powerful fascination. Fear of death had vanished once and for all. Absorption in the Self continued unbroken from that time on.”
Shortly after that experience, Bhagavan left for the holy hill of Arunachala and spent the next 53 years in that vicinity.
In those years, people often asked him questions about death.
Here, as recorded in the book “Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi”, are a few words he spoke, from the depth of his experience, on death and dying.
MOURNING IS NOT the index of true love. It betrays love of the object, of its shape only. That is not love. True love is shown by the certainty that the object of love is in the Self and that it can never become non-existent. There will be no pain if the physical outlook is given up and if the person exists as the Self.
There is no death nor birth. That which is born is only the body. The body is the creation of the ego. But the ego is not ordinarily perceived without the body. It is always identified with the body.
If a man considers he is born he cannot avoid the fear of death. Let him find out if he has been born or if the Self has any birth. He will discover that the Self always exists, that the body which is born resolves itself into thought and that the emergence of thought is the root of all mischief.
Find where from thoughts emerge. Then you will abide in the ever-present inmost Self and be free from the idea of birth or the fear of death.
Recall the state of sleep. Were you aware of anything happening? If the son or the world be real, should they not be present with you in sleep?
You cannot deny your existence in sleep. Nor can you deny you were happy then. You are now the same person speaking and raising doubts. You are not happy according to you. But you were happy in sleep. What has transpired in the meantime that happiness of sleep has broken down? It is the rise of the ego. That is the new arrival in the jagrat (waking) state. There was no ego in sleep.
The birth of the ego is called the birth of the person. There is no other kind of birth. Whatever is born, is bound to die. Kill the ego: there is no fear of recurring death for what is once dead. The Self remains even after the death of the ego. That is Bliss – that is immortality.
Training the mind helps one to bear sorrows and bereavements with courage. But the loss of one’s offspring is said to be the worst of all griefs. Still it is true, pain on such occasions can be assuaged by association with the wise.