A Short Guide to Death

Yama, Tibetan Lord of Death

It’s a known fact that humans are, statistically speaking, losing touch with their corporeal selves. Our bodies are collectively in a state of unmatched decay. To illustrate this in a simple fact that, quite frankly, makes me cringe every time I remember it, more than 35% of American adults are obese. That’s 1/3 of grown adults who, either by circumstance or by choice, have neglected their bodies to the point that they become a public health burden. If cared-for bodies are the sign of a vibrant spirit on both a collective and intellectual level, one imagines a 35% obesity rate not signifying much hopeful news for us on the spiritual engagement front. It is both a symptom of and a reason for our moral decay.

The purpose of this isn’t to demonize fat people, but to elucidate a lack of spiritual priority in contemporary society. Science has developed as a means to practical ends: industry, healthcare, defense, space travel, etc. Science is not used to explore metaphysics; it is used to explain and optimize the material world. As soon as scientists start trying to explain things that they can’t observe, they end up making entirely unsupportable theories even more ridiculous than those of astrologers, occultists, or practitioners of pre-modern ‘traditional’ sciences. As such, we live longer than other human societies before us, ie. we’ve increased quantity, but the majority of people spend their time living fat sedentary lifestyles sitting in front of flashy cultural images.

Science, as the developmental force behind industry, has led us towards lives of plasticine artificiality. It seems counterintuitive to say, but this is precisely because science is anti-death . Death is impractical— it’s bad for comfort, it’s bad for business, and it’s terrifying to the fragile psyche of the modern person who, unlike humans of past epochs, is unable to deal with even the slightest degree of discomfort. This inability to be uncomfortable reflects an aversion towards death, whereas spiritually rich traditions almost always help practitioners work towards embracing death as an inevitability. Instead of embracing death, suffering and discomfort as inevitable (and spiritually valuable) facets of human life, modern science and industry have attempted to negate them and has subsequently thrust the unknowing masses into a state of terrified sedentary anti-spiritual stupor.

Meditation practice puts us in touch with death. Sitting in black silence is, of course, spiritually symbolic of the process of actually entering the unknown void we perceive as existing after life. Meditation reminds us that, as autonomous esoteric creatures, we possess a mysterious metaphysical defense system that can be accessed at any time and does not require external software. This inner system is starkly antithetical to science; it is indescribable and unobservable. It puts us in touch with the spiritual forces of the universe; people of different races and cultures have termed these forces differently over time, but every esoteric religious tradition in both the East and West acknowledges their presence.

Through meditation, we get to meet death. We’re given the wonderful opportunity to look into the void and get comfortable. People who don’t take the time to do this end up remaining terrified by death and in their fearful paralysis take life for granted. This collectively leads to the spiritual and moral deterioration of large human populations, which is what we’re seeing today. Engagement with virtuality and materiality far surpasses engagement with the inner-self in popularity. As a result, people are unable to cope with themselves psychologically, spiritually and physically.

This is the real reason to meditate. Don’t do it because it will make you more efficient at your office job. Don’t do it because it will make you more patient with your kids. Don’t do it because it will help you quit smoking or watch less TV or drink less whiskey. Meditation will help with all these things, but it will do so by helping you confront the supreme truth of death and decay, and thus make peace with the ensuing discomfort. Once we make peace with death, we can devote ourselves to the act of living. Everything becomes more beautiful— even a simple tree or flower is a masterpiece to the awakened mind. This is the aspect of the religious tradition and experience that we have forgotten. Once this shift in perspective takes place there’s no need for narcosis or neurosis; one can simply be happy to be alive, and happy to know it will all end one day. That’s what makes it so special.

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