How Death Taught Me The Art Of Living
It was August 2005 I received a phone call from my elder brother. It was early in the morning, and the timing of the call was unusual. I was seated at my study table (I was in Islamabad, Pakistan for study purposes). My intuition told me that something bad had happened. (My father was critically ill, but he had survived several times as he was only in his fifties). I picked up my phone with a heavy heart and praying that my intuition should be wrong. My brother started the call with greetings and asked me how I was and how my studies were going. However, the next sentence was a thunderbolt as he told me that the father was not breathing I should instantly leave for Faisalabad. (a city of Pakistan)
Since the death of my dear father, a new phase of my life has begun. True, the early days after his demise went by in disbelief as no one was ready to believe that such a tragic event had occurred in our family. At times I would think as if I had seen some horrific dream. But the reality of death left me with no choice but to accept that dying is as an integral part of life as that of living.
During this time, my mind was intrigued by the questions such as; what is the phenomenon of death; what is the meaning of life; if life is so unpredictable, what is then the point in investing so much energy, time, and money, making it better.
Pondering all the above questions drove me to learn about the philosophy of life. For me, the death of my father was not only an incident, it was a turning point in my life. It left me more mature. I was feeling a bit more responsible as I began to seriously think about shouldering the responsibilities of my mother and younger siblings.
Now, whenever I think about death first thing that comes to mind is a universal phenomenon that death is not sad itself. For example, the death of seed results in the birth of a plant. If the seed doesn’t give its life, no life can emerge from it.
So, believing death as a final annihilation does not coincide with what we observe in the laws of nature. For example, when I see that when the earth becomes dead after the dry season, rain follows, and likewise hardship follows by a good time.
Death seems to be only a transition from one stage to another. So, what Buddha says about the concept of rebirth seems true. The paramount thing about the teaching of rebirth is that life continues despite undergoing disastrous events.
In addition, death and life seem significant beyond their appearances, perhaps more significant than we know. The whole of my life, my experiences, relations, life phases, or even jobs underwent transitions, leaving me more enlightened and confident.
As I look at my life in retrospect, I realize that physical birth and death are merely two incidents of our lives that take place on specific dates. However, the significant thing is the ever-changing process in which every human, thing, relation, phase of life continue to change. This universal law of change seems to work in every aspect of life — body, feelings, perception, mental formation, and consciousness.
Digging deep into the question of death, another thing that comes to mind is that what we think or do impacts our lives, like the law of cause and effect. A thing may change its form, but the inherent energy never dies and continues in every new shape. For example, a cloud may change into rain or snow, its inherent energy exists in every form.
Moreover, based on my observation, I believe that the principle of cause and result is at work in this universe. As we see, every past moment is inextricably linked with the present moment. For example, yesterday’s weather is linked with today’s weather, or our present physical health is the continuation of our past health condition.
Even our decisions of the past affect our present and future. For example, a few years ago, I decided to hone my writing skill. With each passing day, I continued to grow as a writer, and during this journey, my old version continued to die, and I survived as a better writer. (I am still learning)
Looking back at my life, I have seen many precious things and ideals perishing in front of my eyes, leaving me more enlightened about the reality of things. So far, I have worked as a researcher, teacher, translator, and writer. All of these were my dream jobs. However, as I shifted from one position to another, I progressed from a lower level to a higher level.
In childhood, my view about relationships with my family and friends was entirely different from what I have now. However, as I grew older, my worldview changed during different phases of life. Each stage of life taught me new things about human behaviors in different scenarios. Many close relations and friends whom I considered trustworthy proved to be otherwise.
In short, endings are not always bad. Many times they are just the beginnings of new phases. So, my aim in life is that as long as I am breathing, instead of worrying about losing my physical life, I will focus on living it to the fullest. I will try to be useful and compassionate and make a positive difference in the world. So, my friend, Carpe diem!