Fear Of Death and Human Sufferings (Foundational Episode)
Tajima no Kami was fencing master to the Shogun. One of the Shogun’s bodyguards came to him one day asking to be trained in swordsmanship.
“I have watched you carefully,” said Tajima no Kami, “and you seem to be a master in the art yourself.
Before taking you on as a pupil, I request you to tell me what master you studied under.”
The bodyguard replied, “I have never studied the art under anyone.”
“You cannot fool me,” said the teacher. “I have a discerning eye and it never fails.”
“I do not mean to contradict your excellency,” said the guard, “but I really do not know a thing about fencing.”
The teacher engaged the man in swordplay for a few minutes then stopped and said,
“Since you say you have never learned the art, I take your word for it. But you are some kind of master. Tell me about yourself.”
“There is one thing,” said the guard.
“When I was a child I was told by a samurai that a man should never fear death. I, therefore, faced the question of death till it ceased to cause me the slightest anxiety.”
“So that’s what it is,” said Tajima no Kami.
“The ultimate secret of swordsmanship lies in being free from the fear of death. You need no training. You are a master in your own right.”
Explanation Of The Wisdom
“A man who thinks that death is the enemy can never be at ease, at home, that is impossible. How can you be at ease when the enemy is waiting for you any moment?” – Osho
In our case, swordmanship that is discussed in this story corresponds to a happy life. It appears that if one can become a master of swordmanship by eliminating his fear of death, we must do something similar to lead a life without anxiety, dissatisfaction and sadness.
Understand that life is fleeting. And although we don’t come into this world knowing exactly how long we will have here, we do know that our time, in fact, is limited.
Have you ever deeply contemplated how all of your sufferings are intimately connected to your fear of death?
Why does this happen?
Because the fear of death is actually intimately connected to your sense of self (ego).
If there is no self to die, you would have no reason to fear death.
When you career takes an unexpected turn, you suffer because that would mean you have to deal with lack of resources in the near future which would pose a threat to your survival.
When you become too sick and when there is an immediate danger of death, your whole life, worries, anxieties, regrets all become meaningless.
When your relationship partner breaks up with you, you suffer because that would make your lonely and pose a threat to your survival. Human species have this innate fear of abandonment and loneliness. In our cave man days, one could not survive on its own.
Can you see how all of these actually relates to your own survival and sense of self?
Death is absolutely assured. There’s two ways you can take this. The first is, you can see death as an enemy to be feared, and what we fear we empower.
The consequence of seeing death in this manner is that you live each day in fear that death will come and life has not happened yet.
There’s all these things that are supposed to have been done, supposed to have been accomplished, and god forbid death comes knocking before we’ve even got a chance to live our life… the life we think we SHOULD have lived.
The second way we can approach dying and death is to completely surrender to it. When we surrender to something, the conflict ceases to exist.
How can death fight us if we have surrendered to it? In this way, we get to appreciate life for what it is, while it’s happening in the present moment.
We realize the mortality of the physical body that not only we inhabit but also that our loved ones inhabit, and in doing so, we start to appreciate our time here on this earth as an amazing experience and our time with our loved ones as something to be appreciated and treasured as they are happening, not just something to wish we would’ve appreciated after they are gone.
Life becomes one spontaneous joyful experience after another, although ultimately, an experience that cannot last forever. The fear of death may seem impossible to overcome because many of us are so attached to who we think we are here in this world, our personalities, our possessions, our families, our jobs… all the things we have “acquired” since we’ve been born.
However when we see life from a more spiritual standpoint instead of the physicality of our body and external reality, we may discover that there is in fact a part of us that not only is not afraid to die, but actually sees death as just another beginning to something bigger and better. How does one get in touch with the part of themselves that is not afraid to die?
“People are not afraid of death, they are afraid of losing their ego. Once you start feeling separate from existence the fear of death arises because then death seems to be dangerous. You will no longer be separate, what will happen to your ego, your personality? And you have cultivated personality with such care, such great effort, you have polished it with your whole life and death will come and destroy it.” – Osho
At our purest essence we are a field of pure presence, a part that is and always has been a part of the eternal universe. To this part of ourselves, the one synched up with eternity and infinity, a human life span of about 80-90 years feels like a minute or two.
This part of ourselves is a part of the all that is, it was never born, and it will never die. So if this is who we are in our purest and most simple form, what part of ourselves IS afraid to die?
Only things that “began” can come to an end, only things that are “born” can die. The part of ourselves that was born, was of course our body which includes the brain which houses all the thoughts, ideas, and beliefs of who we THINK we are.
The mind houses all the labels and attributes we attach to ourselves. Since the mind is a part of our physical body, which was born, it also is mortal.
The mind can be very useful and of course we need it to navigate our way through the world, but when we become too attached to the thoughts in our head vs. our eternal self we start to not only believe in, but also fear our own mortality just like the mind does.
The problem with this is we are NOT our mind, we are not our thoughts. We are the eternal presence behind them, the observer of this “movie” we call life, so to speak. With this realization, comes an amazing sense of relief.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality, let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like” – Lao Tzu
Maybe all this ‘life and death’ stuff isn’t as serious as we’ve all made it out to be. If we look at it as if we are just here for the ride, an actor in the “play”, so to speak, death doesn’t seem so final.
It becomes just another part of life. We enjoy our family and friends and houses and cars and money while we are here of course, but we also understand that in the end, we do not get to take these things with us.
It doesn’t mean we don’t experience sadness when one of our loved ones leaves this world, but if there’s a part of us that knows that we are eternal, we know this about them as well.
Which means, yes their physical body may not be here, but they are never really gone… their true self, that is. And if we’ve learned anything from the countless accounts of near-death experiences, it’s that death doesn’t really sound that bad.
In fact, most people say it was so amazing, that they didn’t want to come back… which is something else we can find peace in. As with any great play, there is a time when the production must come to an end.
If we know this coming into the play, we can focus on making the “play” of our life the amazing, interesting, joyful experience we can and when it’s all said and done, we leave grateful for the experience of it all… but can rest peacefully knowing that nothing left behind was really “ours” to begin with.
There is only one way to put this wisdom into practical living: start a daily meditation practice and start an investigation towards enlightenment.
Theory, debates, reading, listening, talking, arguing and knowledge will only get you so far.
You must “walk the talk”.
If in doubt, remember the priceless wisdom.
“Meditate on the breath (mindfulness meditation to build concentration and awareness skills) and then self-enquire (the teachings of Ramana Maharshi) until you are free of all psychological sufferings and ego. (aka enlightenment)
Do this every day and trust in the process that eventually your mind will be healed.
Because all good things require training and patience.
Know that as long as you do the work, the results will eventually follow.”
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