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The Saturday Book Review: Preparing For Death
Title: Preparing for Death
Author: Arun Shourie
Publisher: Penguin/Viking (2020)
TNA Rating: *****
Till Death do us Part...is a common statement ,but do we really part. What is Death , the fear of Death , how one reacts or should react in the final moments , are issues and thoughts which have created tremendous trauma in the hearts and minds of all beings, since eternity. The one eventuality that we don’t want, or a unwilling to accept or prepared to face.
Is there a Soul, that is never born and never dies ? Is there life after death ? Is there rebirth ? Is there God? What is real and what is just Maya ?
Arun Shourie, scholar, author, former editor and minister takes us through a detailed examination of what the Greatest saints , teachers had to face and decide in their final days.
From the lives and the last days of The Buddha, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Ramana Maharishi, Gandhiji, Vinoba ji and his personal experience after a brain surgery , which he refers to as his stay in the ‘ departure lounge’ the ICU he takes us through a trajectory to explain the phenomenon ‘death’.
Through a detailed examination of religious texts and from the teachings of meditation masters, from santhara to sannyas, to practices by which we may tame our mind, Arun Shourie presents before us clues to ensure that we face our end with equanimity.
'What in their lives prepared the great saints for death? By definition as our days come to our end, we will lose control over our bodies. What is it that we may still be able to do, and must learn to control ?But can we do so with the help of some magic, or ritual, or mantra in our last hours? Must we not learn to do so early in life? If so, what all should we learn ? And how ?’
The Buddha and his last words , HE turns to Ananda ‘It may be that you will think:”The teacher’s instruction has ceased, now we have no teacher!” It should not be seen like this, Ananda ,for what I have taught and explained to you as Dhamma and discipline will, at my passing ,be your teacher’ And then the Buddha speaks the great truth ‘ Now Monks, I declare to you: all conditioned things are of a nature to decay-strive on untiringly'.
All beings in the world, all bodies must break up. Even the Teacher, peerless in the human world. The mighty Lord and perfect Buddha has passed away. In reference to Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa “ Suddenly the Master turned towards Narendra,(Swami Vivekananda) and ‘summoning all his energy’ said ‘O my Noren, are you not convinced! He who was Rama and Krishna is now Ramakrishna in this body-not , however ,from the standpoint of your Vedanta, but literally so’.
His passing away as witnessed. To The Mother ‘ You have come. Listen ,I am going somewhere across the water, a long distance.....don’t worry. They (pointing to the disciples) will look after you just as they are taking care of me. Keep watch over Lakshmi. She will be your companion’.
Ramana Maharishi when asked by a American devotee ‘ Bhagavan what should a devotee do at the time of death ?
A devotee never dies, rather he is already dead..What should a devotee do at the time of death?What can he do ? Whatever a man thinks in his life-time, so he does in his last moment-the worldly man thinks of his worldly affairs and the devotee of devotion and spiritual matters. But a Jnani having no thoughts of any kind, remains the same. His thoughts having died long ago, his body also died with them.
Therefore for him there is no such thing as death.” The book is full of insights to help us navigate the torrid reactions to death , to help us understand from the Religious scriptures and experiences of Masters how to handle the issue with calm, patience and confidence.
That we go nowhere and remain what we were and are “ I feel very clearly that there is someone within me...” Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa to Swami Vivekananda.
(The author of this book review is a Lucknow-based businessman, Chairman, MSME Confederation of Micro, Small, Medium Enterprise UP and Co-Chairman PHD Chambers of Commerce and the Founder Chair of Confederation of Indian Industry-Young Indians.)
This Book Is Available @ Universal Booksellers