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Lesson 286 - Yogic Dying  (Audio)

AYP Plus Additions:
286.1 - Can Karma be Eliminated Before Death?
  (Audio)

From: Yogani
Date: Mon Sep 18, 2006 2:47 pm

New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why This Discussion?"


Q: How does one die yogically? Yoga literature recounts anecdotes of gurus leaving their body gracefully, but without much detail. Are there secret techniques? Not thinking of leaving yet, but I'd just like a graceful, conscious ending when my time comes.

A: If there is a secret to "yogic dying," it is to become established in "yogic living."

It is like the old adage: "The question is not if there is life after death, but is there life before death?"

Of course, there is a lot of ritual surrounding death in the many traditions, perhaps epitomized by the "Tibetan Book of the Dead." Does all this ritual have value? Only if we have let go into the process of living -- to die before we die, so to speak. That is what yoga and all effective systems of spiritual practice are about.

The ancient scriptures provide prescriptions for "mahasamadhi" (death) -- how and where to sit, what mantra to use, etc. It is ritual, and generally only as effective as the believer makes it. The question is: What do we believe deep in our heart? That is what we should cultivate. Death is often a messy business - and we may not have the luxury of preparing the details for the moment. On the other hand, we can attend to our spiritual condition in the now, each day, and to the extent we have done so it will determine our condition at death, no matter how death plays out.

A practical approach to dying has come out of the modern "death and dying movement," inspired by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Stephen Levine, Ram Dass and others. There is some very impressive work there, and excellent writings. This work has helped provide a foundation for the excellent Hospice care system. In many respects, the new knowledge surpasses the ancient wisdom, because it has been made practical and useful for everyone. The most usable knowledge is the most advanced knowledge!

To get to the root of our preparedness for death we must answer the question: Can we accept what is happening, not necessarily at our imagined death, but right now in our daily life? This is the measure of our condition and our practice. We can know our condition today and each day, and make choices that will accelerate our spiritual growth. If we come to live our life in that way for long enough, then when death arrives it will just be another day in the life. Then we will be "graceful and conscious" at death, just like we will be on every other day.

The best education we can receive on death will be by spending time around dying people, surrendering into the moment. That is as close as we can get without actually going through it ourselves. If we have the opportunity to be with someone as they pass through the door, then we can develop a good feel for what it is. It is life-changing to be with one who dies.

Those who have had a near death experience may also be profoundly changed -- see the writings of Raymond Moody and others in this field of study.

So, if there is a secret dying technique, it is to cultivate human spiritual transformation as far in advance as possible, and gradually open to the subject of death when it arises. If we become abiding inner silence, ecstatic bliss and outpouring divine love, the rest will take care of itself. It is always we who choose, now and later. Now is obviously paramount, because later does not exist, except as a result of now -- a future now. This is why each day we engage in practices like deep meditation, spinal breathing pranayama, etc.

It boils down to what we are doing about our spiritual condition today and every day, right up to the end of our life. "Graceful and conscious" is as useful in life as it is at death. It is the same thing.

The guru is in you.

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Note: For detailed instructions on building a balanced daily practice routine with self-pacing, see the Eight Limbs of Yoga Book, and AYP Plus.

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