Conquering Death PDF Print E-mail

Ancient Wisdom: YOU ARE ETERNAL.

I exist. . . I will always exist
I am the eternal spark of life
Only temporarily in this mortal frame
The body will die
But I will never die.

If you erroneously identify yourself with your body, you will conclude that your existence will end with the de­struction of your body. But if you know that you are the eternal self within the body, you know that your existence will not end when your body dies.

In ancient Greece, the sage Socrates was condemned to death for teaching "strange doctrines." Shortly before So­crates drank the poisonous brew that would bring about the destruction of his body, one of his students asked him how he wanted to be buried:

"Then," said Crito, "we shall strive to do as you bid us. But how are we to bury you?"
"However you like," said Socrates, "provided you can catch me and prevent my escaping you." Then with a quiet laugh and a look in our direction he remarked, "You know, I can't persuade Crito that I am the Socrates here pasent, the person who is now talking to you and arranging the topics of our conversation; he imagines that I am the dead body which he will shortly be looking at, and so he asks how he is to bury me."

Because Socrates understood perfectly that he was not the body, but was the spark of life only temporarily inhabit­ing the body, he was not interested in what would happen to his body after he left it behind. This is wisdom. An enlight­ened person sees the body as a garment that he is only wear­ing and using temporarily. An enlightened person fully understands his identity as an eternal particle of life, unborn and undying.

Accurate and beautiful descriptions of the self can be found in the Bhagavad-gita:

which pervades the entire body is inde-structible. No one is able to destroy the imperish-able self.
Only the material body of the indestructible, im-measurable, and eternal living entity is subject to destruction; therefore, fight, O descendant of Bharata.
the self there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does the self ever cease to exist. The self is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval. The self is not slain when the body is slain.
is said that the self is invisible, inconceivable, immutable and unchangeable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body.

Your body has a beginning and an end; your body is subject to birth and death, but you, the spark of life within the body, are eternal. You have no beginning, nor will you have an end. The material body will cease existing, but you will never cease existing.
Why me? I'm only 25 years old! I have my whole life ahead of me!" This was the reaction of a woman who had just been told she suffered from leukemia and had one year to live.
Why was this woman so distraught upon hearing that she would soon die? The answer is obvious: she wanted to exist, and she believed she would soon cease existing. Because she falsely identified her body as herself, she thought that her existence began 25 years earlier, and that it would end in one year. Since most bodies last at least 60 to 70 years, she felt that she was being cheated out of 40 or 50 years of existence.
But if this woman had known the truth-­that her exist­ence didn't depend on the existence of her body, and that she would exist not only for another 50 years but for eterni-­ty-­then she would not have been so angry and afraid. The realization that "I am eternal; I will not die when my body dies" is truly liberating.

There is nothing in the world more inevitable than death; and there is nothing that causes nearly as much misery. The dying person suffers, and those who are attached to the dying person suffer. Yet all this suffering is unnecessary; it is due to ignorance.
Our bodies are dying – from the moment of birth. As our bodies grow, we gradually realize that death is inevitable, but we try to keep the thought out of our minds. We carry on as if we will be in this world forever – in this body forever. We diligently and conscientiously build our little kingdoms; then, as middle age sets in, most of us experience a crisis, realizing that our age of youth is gone forever – that time is moving, and moving fast. We become increasingly aware of our mortality, but we try hard to forget it. We continue to live here as if we will always liver here. We want to exist.
In other words, when our false identification of the body as the self and our knowledge that the body will ultimately cease to exist is combined with our desire to exist, this cause us to try to put the body’s imminent destruction out of our minds. For a person who falsely identifies the body as the self to remember that the body will one day be finished is for him to remember that he will one day be fi­nished. Such remembrance causes great anxiety, anger, and confusion over the "purpose of it all."

So we try to keep death out of our minds. We try to think that only other people die-­that only other people have fatal accidents, get cancer, and so on. We try to live a happy life, free from anxiety, but fear of death is always in the back of our consciousness. Thus, we are always in anxiety, usually without even knowing why.
This anxiety may come to the surface when you go to the doctor for some unknown ailment. Between the time the doctor does his tests and the time he tells you the results, you worry about how serious your ailment is. And you are never quite ready to hear the doctor say, "I'm going to be honest with you-­you've got a fatal disease."
If you are ever told that you have some fatal disease, you will likely respond with surprise. "What? Me? I'm going to die? No, it can't be true!" But what's the big surprise? Why should you be surprised if a doctor tells you that you are going to die? Don't you know that everybody dies? You do-­but you've stuck that fact in the back of your mind.

Clinging to the Body

If you are ignorant, you will cling to your body. You won't want to give it up. Even when the body is wracked by cancer or some other disease, you will cling to it as if it were the most precious thing.
Right at this moment, millions of people are in hospitals all over the world, trying to cling to their fatally diseased bodies-­clinging to the deceptively encouraging words of the doctors, who themselves are unable to understand or accept the body's dissolution.
Not long ago, a friend of mine whose body was only 28 years old was diagnosed as having one of the most serious forms of leukemia. Her doctors told her she would only live for another six or eight weeks if she didn't undergo chemo­therapy treatment. They told her, however, that if she did take the treatment, she would probably live for one or two years. Wanting to cling to her body for as long as she could, she took the chemotherapy treatment. The chemotherapy treatment, however, destroyed her body's ability to fight in­fections, and she "died" after only two weeks in the hospital. Even during her last sixteen hours, while her fever was very high and her pulse was very weak and getting weaker, the doctors kept encouraging her to cling to her body. The last words she heard the doctor say were, "Don't you worry. We'll have you bright-­eyed and bushy-­tailed in no time."