Learning from death — vairAgya

I am not a Nachiketa who learned supreme truth from lord of death — yama. But I have some learning from deaths of those close to me. This is going to be slightly longer post as I need to visit several instances of death.

Both my grand fathers passed away before I was born. The first death came with my maternal grandmother’s expiry when I was young. She was a very devout lady who loved everyone came in touch with her. We spent a lot of summer holidays in her company and I probably not understood what is death by then.

Then a closer encounter with death is along my maternal uncle’s wife and the uncle who is the only brother for my mother. They are a very interesting couple who have done a lot of things in life and I am closely associated to the family at the time as I used to live in their house doing my undergraduate course. I have actually took the news to my aunt on this occasion. That gave me a distinct experience.

Then came a real blow in form of a death of my brother in a road incident followed by a neurological disorder. He was elder to me by a decade. He guided me in each instance of my life, loved me, played with me and more than everything gave me lot of confidence and protection in the life thus far…

Next came my paternal grandmother’s death just weeks before my son’s birth. She is very unique in many ways. A real disciplined lady who disciplined us very well.

The greatest game changer is my father’s death. I got a phone call early hours from India to UK where I was residing for about 4 years! Arrived in my native place within 30 hours of the news and carried out the duties to be performed as per the prescribed injunctions in shastras. Having no idea of my own tradition, never visited a cremation ground earlier as I was not allowed to do so, this turned all my knowledge upside down. My fathers large collection of books, notes came into my possession that changed my perspective towards life permanently.

Then I heard a news about one of my classmate who studied graduate and postgraduate courses with me passed away at a very early age. I heard this news nearly after one year of actual incident that happened. But, the news really left me disturbed for a while.

Then the final blow came in the form of my mother’s death few years back. She was a very philosophical soul advanced in spiritual saadhana. Her demise taught me a lot on how to cope with the unexpected.

Six months back, my cousin, second son of my uncle passed away. Several reasons attributed for his death — health, lifestyle etc., but a great loving soul who lived life as per his wish, a unique manner left this world.

Just ten days back, his brother, first son of my uncle passed away. Very devout, religious, studied in shastras, an introvert, a lecturer of economics, who maintained his health very cautiously passed away with a sudden heart attack leaving all of us in surprise.

So, what is certain is death. One should attain the supreme goal of life before this unknown event hits. Living judiciously, performing duties diligently, upholding one’s own dharma, helping others if one can; not harming others in anyway; not being afraid of death are fundamental virtues. Faith in supreme reality along with developing virtues is what death teaches… That is what I feel after encountering death at several instances closely.

This is a note just to remind myself of this teaching…. This is no way a teaching of vairagya (detachment) just after visiting burial ground; nor vairagya just after prolonged labor pains. This is more permanent vairagya