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Lesson 286 - Yogic Dying (Audio)
AYP Plus Additions:
Can Karma be Eliminated Before Death? (Audio)
Teaching Yoga in a Hospice Environment
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
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
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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