Most of us are afraid of dying. One can try to combat the fear of death by concentrating on death as a practice. Recently I heard of a monastery where the monks were not supposed to talk at all, except for when they met each other they said, “Remember, brother, that you are going to die.”
What goes on in these people’s minds? What are they doing in this exercise? Essentially the resistance to being here now is the fear of dying and losing all that we know about ourselves our whole history. So can one work with this fear directly, listening openly, vulnerably, dying to ideas as they come up about myself and the world? No idea,
not being anything, no grasping to be somebody, not anything when that happens freely there is no fear of dying, because this is what we really are, what we were before we are born, and what we will be when we die.
It is our true state. Now. There is nothing fearful about it.
Q: Do you ever think about your own death?
Packer: Sometimes. I wonder how it will be. At the moment of dying I will not be the way I am right now, living. There will be a total letting go of the need to continue. I am sure of that. And that takes care of itself.
Q: How can you be so sure?
Packer: More and more the concern about death and dying is totally absent. There is just the vastness of purely being here that knows no story about itself. And then there are times when I am thoroughly enjoying being with somebody, or sharing a wonderful meal, or smelling the new spring flowers. And, at such a moment, thoughts may arise, “Oh, someday I may not have this anymore. This marvelous view here of the
hills and the snow-covered trees.” Then there could be a twinge of either sadness or nostalgia. Seeing that fully is the dying. At the moment of dying you simply do not want things anymore, there is a totally different space.
When we say we are “aware” of our minds and bodies, can this really be so? Are we not merely aware of a subtle master-image that has arisen in the mind that represents our current body-mind state? How, indeed, could it be otherwise?
In other words, one subtle representation–the sense of “me”–is aware of another subtle representation–the body-mind state. And both representations take themselves as “real” in a very basic sense.
To add to the mind-boggling-ness, neither of these representations is in “my” control. Both spontaneously arise and die down in the neurological storm that is reality.
I think this applies to awareness of the so-called external world as well. When we see a leaf or a chair, we are seeing something that is a massive construct of the brain. The brain fools us into thinking that we are seeing something as it is. But consider this:
- a different organism, with a different brain and different sensorial structures, will perceive a leaf very differently from me
- the appearance of richness in the visual field is illusory. We perceive in detail what is in focus in front of us; at our peripheral vision, we cannot make out colour changes
- we all have a blind spot that the brain is masking, and it is filling in details from the surroundings, rather like Photoshop
This list can go on. I guess the question in my mind is: when we say we are aware of reality, what exactly do we mean?
M: The dreams are not equal, but the dreamer is one. I am the
insect. I am the poet — in dream. But in reality I am neither. I am
beyond all dreams. I am the light in which all dreams appear
and disappear. I am both inside and outside the dream. Just as
a man having headache knows the ache and also knows that he
is not the ache, so do I know the dream, myself dreaming and
myself not dreaming — all at the same time. I am what I am be-
fore, during and after the dream. But what I see in dream, I am
Q: It is all a matter of imagination. One imagines that one is
dreaming, another imagines one is not dreaming. Are not both
M: The same and not the same. Not dreaming, as an interval
between two dreams, is of course, a part of dreaming. Not
dreaming as a steady hold on, and timeless abidance in reality
has nothing to do with dreaming. In that sense I never dream,
nor ever shall.
Q: If both dream and escape from dream are imaginings, what
is the way out?
M: There is no need of a way out! Don’t you see that a way out
is also a part of the dream? All you have to do is to see the
dream as dream.
Q: If I start the practice of dismissing everything as a dream,
where will it lead me?
M: Wherever it leads you, it will be a dream. The very idea of
going beyond the dream is illusory. Why go anywhere? Just
realize that you are dreaming a dream you call the world, and
stop looking for ways out. The dream is not your problem. Your
problem is that you like one part of your dream and not another.
Love all, or none of it, and stop complaining. When you have
seen the dream as a dream, you have done all that needs be
Nisargadatta on dreaming and reality
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
One of my favourite poems; it captures so well the intersection between mortality and eternity, in a flash of words.
There is a musical rendering of this poem by the group Salamander Crossing which is stunning. Click here.
The most common misconception about liberation is that it is something an individual can gain. But liberation is a loss—the loss of the sense that there ever was a separate individual who could choose to do something to bring about liberation.
When it is seen that there is no separation, the sense of vulnerability and fear that attaches to the individual falls away and what is left is the wonder of life just happening. Instead of meaning there is a squirrel motionless on a grey tree trunk, legs splayed, head up, looking straight at you. Instead of purpose there is the astonishing texture of cat’s
fur or the incredible way an ant crawls over a twig. The loss of hope is no loss when it is replaced by the moorhens bobbing on the lake.
When the sensation that I am in control of my life and must make it happen ends, then life is simply lived and relaxation takes place. There is a sense of ease with whatever is the case and an end to grasping for what might be.
Arranging thoughts in the order of value, the ‘I’-thought is the all-important thought.
Personality-idea or thought is also the root or the stem of all other thoughts, since each idea or thought arises only as someone’s thought and is not known to exist independently of the ego. The ego therefore exhibits thought-activity. The second and the third persons [he, you, that, etc.] do not appear except to the first person [I]. Therefore they arise only after the first person appears, so all the three persons seem to rise and sink together.
Trace, then, the ultimate cause of ‘I’ or personality. From where does this ‘I’ arise? Seek for it within; it then vanishes. This is the pursuit of wisdom. When the mind unceasingly investigates its own nature, it transpires that there is no such thing as mind. This is the direct path for all.
The mind is merely thoughts. Of all thoughts the thought ‘I’ is the root. Therefore the mind is only the thought ‘I’. The birth of the ‘I’-thought is one’s own birth, its death is the person’s death. After the ‘I’- thought has arisen, the wrong identity with the body arises. Get rid of the ‘I’-thought. So long as ‘I’ is alive there is grief. When ‘I’ ceases to exist there is no grief.
Yesterday I had a migraine, for almost 24 hours. Ramana suggests that, when we are ill, we should meditate on the feeling “Who is ill?” I valiantly try to do this when I am in the throes of the malaise, but it is next to impossible. Therefore, I feebly wait for the waves of pain to pass before attempting any enquiry of the “Who am I” variety 🙂
But the overall point is well taken. We need to relentlessly and non-verbally ask the question, who is the centre of all experience? And, what is the relationship between the experiencer and the experience? Probably, this is our best chance of dissolving the habitual dualistic vision of ourselves in the world.
And eventually, this might work during migraines as well. Who knows.