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25 December, 2010


The universe displays a graceful progression of events. All evolution follows a perfect sequence of rise and fall. A rhythmic motion of construction and destruction. Night follows day and day follows night. The seasons appear and disappear in regular succession year after year. Birth, childhood, youth, old age and death make a progressive chain. Cause and effect project themselves endlessly. The law of causation works with mathematical precision. Yet people hold fanatical beliefs that there is no life after death or that there is. Such irrational beliefs lead you nowhere. The subject of birth and death is deep, unfathomable. You cannot dismiss it thus by such speculative notions. You must study the subject carefully. Death and birth are merely a change of state. A movement from one experience to another. There is nothing terrible, abominable about death as people view it.

Birth and death are two sides of a coin. There can be no birth without death. And no death without birth. Morning dies. Evening is born. Evening dies, night is born. Night dies, morning is born. This chain of birth and death goes on perennially. So does the chain of birth, growth, decay and death continue. The phenomenon of birth and death brings about change. The world is in a continuous flux of change. Creation and destruction are the warp and woof of the world. The play of these two powers maintains the mineral, vegetable, animal and human kingdoms.

Creation, destruction and maintenance are three facets of the same phenomenon. They are not separate from one another. In the chain of creation and destruction of the different facets in the day, the day is maintained. Likewise in the appearance and disappearance of the seasons, the year is maintained. In the progressive ages of life, the individual is maintained. The entire universe therefore is an expression of the three powers of creation, destruction and maintenance. The devotional people find it difficult to conceptualise the precise manifestation of nature. So the scripture has personified these powers as gods. Brahma as the god of creation. Shiva as the god of destruction. Vishnu, god of maintenance. Also indicated to the intellectuals that they are one by combining the three gods in the form of Dattatreya.

Some believe that when a person dies nothing remains. That death is the end of the personality. And that there is no trace of him thereafter. Others disagree with this view. They do not consider death as finality. They believe in the continuity of life. And that the present incarnation is only a link in the chain of his entire life. Yet others posit the existence of imaginary realms of heaven and hell where they believe humans go to after death. These beliefs are not based on rational analysis and derivation. Instead, you must collect relevant data, study them carefully and draw intelligent conclusions from them. Only then would you get a clearer idea of the phenomenon of birth and death.

There is another strange phenomenon concerning death. Though death is inevitable and everyone knows that all living beings are certain to die, none believes it in practice. Young or old, healthy or unhealthy, even the terminally ill feel that death is far away. It is a wonder that nobody practically believes in death. Even at a ripe old age people keep amassing wealth, enlarging their worldly relations, behaving as though death would never take hold of them. Intellectually they may concede. But from a practical point of view they ignore their imminent end. It seems paradoxical. On the one hand a person is so certain of his end. The very thought of death sends a quiver through his entire frame. His body turns cold at the mere mention of death. While on the other it does not seem to bother him at all. He writes poetry, flourishes his art of portraying death! What could be the reason for this paradox? How is that the looming danger of death does not actually impede, disturb his life? Everyone expects to live on and on without being concerned about the end. The reason for this innate assurance of longevity is the immortal nature of the Self within. Every human being is quintessentially the Self. That being so, Its immortal nature colours his material layers. Which makes his individuality assume a sense of immortality. And keeps him free from the thought of death.

Source: Vedanta Treatise by Swamy Parthasarathy

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