In Eastern traditions, the state of consciousness at the last moment of life is considered so crucial that you spend your whole life preparing for it. Mahatma Gandhi, the great Indian leader, walked into a garden to give a press conference and was assassinated. As he fell, all he said was “Rām!” the name of God.
Meher Baba proclaimed, “The divine Beloved is always with you, in you, and around you. Know that you are not separate from Him.”
Aldous Huxley says so beautifully in his novel Island, “So now you can let go, my darling…Let go…Let go of this poor old body. You don’t need it anymore. Let it fall away from you. Leave it lying there like a pile of worn-out clothes…Go on, my darling, go on into the Light, into the peace, into the living peace of the Clear Light.”
Making peace with death and being fully in the moment allows you to lose yourself in love – in the love of the beauty and awe of God made manifest, in loving yourself and everything else, the suffering, the pain, the joy. In the eternal present of the moment you are free of time. Then if death is the moment, that’s the moment. When you are in that place of openness, it’s all possible. At the moment of death, you are surrendering and being cradled in the arms of God. If we let go lightly, we go out into the Light, toward the One, toward God. What grace!
One dies as one lives. What else can better prepare you to die than the way you live? The game is to be where you are – honestly, consciously, and as fully as you know how. Once you have awakened, you can’t fully go back to sleep. Regardless of what happens in the world, I’m still going to follow Maharaji’s instructions every day – to love everyone, serve everyone, and remember God – love, serve, remember.
There comes a point where you really want to clean up your act. You start to look for the fire of purification. That’s when it gets very interesting, because suddenly you’re looking for those situations that push your buttons. You take a deeper look at the roles you pay in your incarnation – your responsibilities to parents, children, country, religion, friends, yourself – and work on bringing them into harmony with your deeper being.
Part of your relationship with yourself is taking responsibility for the care of your body and doing the things that promote good health. The body is the temple of the soul, the temple of your spirit. It is the vehicle for you to stay in this incarnation and become a fully conscious being – the vehicle for you to become one with God. Honor it. Take care of it. I was not fully conscious in the way I dealt with my body, and I paid a big price with the stroke that I had.
As you quiet your mind, you begin to see the different components of your being and which ones are out of harmony. For example, at times you can feel that your body is pulling on you. It’s draining your energy, or the muscles need strengthening or relaxing. Remembering that your body is the temple of your spirit, work with it, doing things that release or balance energy. Hatha yoga, the yoga of energy, can be used as a path to the soul. Forming an asana is talking to God. Also be mindful of what you are putting into your body. The human body is a manifestation of God. Honor it.
Much of spiritual work is slowing down enough to let our minds come into harmony with our hearts. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna, “Give Me your mind and your heart and you will come to Me.” It is as if he is saying, “Always think of me, always love me, and I will guide your heart and your actions.” If, as I do, you follow the path of guru kripa, the grace of the guru, the same applies. Let your love and devotion guide the heart. Let the thinking mind be balanced by the bhakti heart.
Being here now is experiential. When you are in the moment, time slows down. In this moment you have all the time in the world. But don’t waste a moment. Who you really are is beyond time. When Christ says, “Look, I am making all things new,” it’s the same as when you’re living in the here and now and you start fresh in every new moment. When you are really in this moment, this is all there is. And the moment of death is just another moment.
- Ram Dass
Photography by Nathan Chesky (follow him on Facebook)
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