Death and Transformation - Talk 1 (Radio program)
|Death and Transformation - Talk 1|
|by Loretta, 2019 (1:03:12)|
|Listen on Auroville Radio →|
- 1 “Life only is, or death is life disguised”
- 2 Mother helped people through the death process
- 3 What is death?
- 4 The subtle body and the centralizing consciousness
- 5 Infusing positive, creative attitudes into our own cells
- 6 The spirit of death
- 7 The parts of our being return to their rightful plane
- 8 How to be conscious in death
- 9 Q & A
- 10 See also
Good evening to everybody. I'm so glad to see you all here. Doing the research on this topic has been really fabulous. I learned so many interesting things, and I'm really glad to share them.
“Life only is, or death is life disguised”
Mother and Sri Aurobindo taught a lot about death. But they never spoke of death by itself. Every time they spoke about death, they spoke about life. And most of the time they also spoke about change and evolution and transformation.
One of Sri Aurobindo's poems is a kind of summary of the position they have, about death. It goes like this:
Life and Death
- Life, death, — death, life; the words have led for ages
- Our thought and consciousness and firmly seemed
- Two opposites; but now long-hidden pages
- Are opened, liberating truths undreamed.
- Life only is, or death is life disguised, —
- Life a short death until by life we are surprised. 
People who are doing Yoga start to get the idea that they want to go consciously through their next death and rebirth. I know I did, when I first started learning about Yoga – I thought, “what a good idea!” And there's a lot of information that they give about how to do that.
Up to now, the only way that people couldn't be totally controlled by death was at least to be able to go consciously through the death process. But it looks like that we won't have to do that, in the future. And how soon that future comes is partly up to us. Mother was very clear that she wanted everyone in the Ashram, including all the children in the Ashram school, to be working on themselves in this area. To do everything within their own bodies, and within all the subtle regions of their being, to get to the point where you just don't need to die anymore.
So they came here to bring the new consciousness, the one that everyone is talking about now all over the world; and it's more than 100 years ago that they knew about it, that they started with it, that they said this would happen – and in fact it is happening.
One of the results of the new consciousness is going to be that all will undergo a much faster evolution than the evolution that Nature has given to man so far (which is much, much slower). But right now, not having to die is a ‘work in progress’. It was Mother's work in progress, and she left us a huge amount of information. And if we take in on as our work, what we have is ongoing delight, instead of death. And that's what so nice about the whole process – because in fact, what is death? Well, it doesn't matter. Because we go on to delight.
Mother helped people through the death process
In her Agenda, Mother spoke of her long interest in death, and her long interest in the death process. She says that when she was about 20 years old, she started working in the subtle planes to help people when they died. She said she had no training in occultism, she had never read anything about occultism; but she had certain conscious experiences at night, very conscious, looking at the people after they left their body. And she said she didn't know what she was doing, but she knew how to do it. And she just did it.
When she was 26, somebody introduced her to the teachings of an occultist named Max Théon. He had written a lot about this. And so she read and understood many things that she hadn't realized before. And she said once she had this kind of conscious knowledge, she began to work quite systematically in a region between our terrestrial atmosphere of earth and the psychic atmospheres, the higher atmospheres that people start to go through. And she worked first in the lowest vital plane, the plane where it's most difficult. And she constructed a bridge so that people would have a safe passage after they passed on through this worse area of death. And she said that it was a very difficult place. People who had occult knowledge, or who were just a little awakened, had a rough time going through this part.
So in 1904 she went to Tlemcen to meet Max Théon and his wife. And his wife, Alma, was a very experienced occultist. She knew many things, and one of the things that she told Mother is that this work that she was doing, to help people after death, was part of the work that she had come here to do. And she said that anyone with a slightly developed soul – with a slightly developed psychic being – would be able to see Mother's light. And when they die, they will go to Mother's light, automatically, at the moment of dying, and Mother will help them to pass through the death process.
Mother said that the particular work of people coming to her when they left their body was a constant work for her. She mentions it in the Agenda many times. She talks about different people who pass away in the Ashram; they come to her for various reasons and she says what she does with them. And she talks... you can kind of get the feeling, the way she says it, in a very matter-of-fact manner: it's really not a situation where it's anything special. We think, “wow, it's so special!” and for her it's just what she does – automatic action, what she does in her day.
She also said that this work gave her a lot of experience – “a considerable number of experiences,” she said – considering what happens to people when they leave their bodies. And also when they take new bodies. She said that part of her work here was to conquer death. And she made up a new phrase: “the death of death” (which she liked very much). The death of death.
And she always talked about death in the context of her work to transform her body – to get the cells of her being to have the kind of consciousness that wouldn't need to die any more. We're going to approach the issues concerning death through Mother and Sri Aurobindo's answers to these age-old questions that everybody has asked. And we'll start with the first question which naturally comes to mind, which is: what is death?
What is death?
Sri Aurobindo said that the very nature of our soul is something that is put forth from the Divine to support the evolution. Each one of us are born in a body to do that. We evolve, but we support the evolution. We must continue to take birth, until the Divine's purpose in evolution is accomplished. That is our job. One of our lives is just a brief episode in a long history of spiritual evolution, in which the soul – our soul – follows the curve of the line set for the earth. And it passes through many bodies to complete this work. And its way in our body, what happens in our body is we evolve out of material inconscience: the dense unconsciousness that makes up our physical bodies. We evolve out of that to become more and more conscious on the way to the full consciousness of the Self, the All. And in India that's called the Atman, the great Self with capital ‘S’, the All.
Sri Aurobindo said death is necessary as a process of life, because “eternal change of form is the sole immortality to which the finite living substance can aspire and eternal change of experience the sole infinity to which the finite mind involved in living body can attain”. But he said this a long time ago (!). Because now we know that that's going to change, and we will see what the change is – which is absolutely fascinating.
So, the change of our form so far, when we have had to take a new body, is always necessary because nothing ever stays the same. The very nature of time and space demand a variety of experiences.
Mother and Sri Aurobindo use the term ‘supramental transformation’ in the context of speeding up the pace of universal evolution to a very great degree. Then there would be a complete change in our physical body in a very short time, as the new supramental forces were manifesting here. But they also said that universal evolution is an endlessly ongoing transformation, at the slow pace of universal nature. We never stop being transformed. Leaving the body by dying, and then being reborn, are part of our endless transformation.
So it's a whole different way of thinking about the process. You can't call death a ‘denial of life’, you can't call it the end of life: it's part of the ongoing experience of life. We wear out our bodies, and we have to come back and take new ones, to play our part in the curve of progress that's set for the earth.
When people hear the word ‘transformation’, they tend to focus on the descriptions of the supramental transformation. This is the end result of the speeded-up transformation that now can take place with the new Force. But it helps to remember that we're always being transformed by universal evolution.
And Mother and Sri Aurobindo emphasize that we do not cease to be because our physical body ceases to be. Mother explains that there is really no such thing as the ‘end’ of a person, the end which we call death. And here's a sentence that's so incredible – Mother's words are always so incredible – this is what she says:
- “It's just an appearance of disappearance, based on a limited outlook. But there is no radical change in the vibration of consciousness.”
Consciousness is immortal, by its very nature. Sri Aurobindo said more than once that his experiences led him to believe that actually some presence – of everyone – is always here. Even if people take this path of leaving the creation, the Buddhist path where you go into Nirvana – he says that finally he believes there's always some imprint or some presence of us, as long as there's any kind of manifestation. He once wrote to someone:
- “There is nothing to grieve about as death means only passing over to another country — to which you probably go very often when you are asleep.”
- “Of course, that is the real fact — death is only a shedding of the body, not a cessation of the personal existence. A man is not dead because he goes into another country and changes his clothes to suit that climate.”
The subtle body and the centralizing consciousness
Sri Aurobindo said that in death, we go out of this physical frame in another kind of body – which is not physical. You are the same person, the same consciousness.
He describes this in Savitri. Savitri's husband, Satyavan, dies in her arms, and she will not let him go – she is holding onto him. And Death tells her, “Unclasp!” He says that he is suffering and that she must let him go. So she draws back her heart's fire which is holding onto him. And she releases his body from her arms, and she stands waiting for what will happen next. And Death leans down to touch Satyavan, and Sri Aurobindo writes:
- “And, like a dream that wakes out of a dream,
- Forsaking the poor mould of that dead clay,
- Another luminous Satyavan arose,
- Starting upright from the recumbent earth
- As if someone over viewless borders stepped
- Emerging on the edge of unseen worlds.”
- “Such seemed he as if one departed came
- Wearing the light of a celestial shape
- Splendidly alien to the mortal air.
- The mind sought things long loved and fell back foiled
- From unfamiliar hues, beheld yet longed,
- By the sweet radiant form unsatisfied,
- Incredulous of its too bright hints of heaven;”
- “Only the spirit knew the spirit still,
- And the heart divined the old loved heart, though changed.”
Mother's teachings about death express the truth as she has realized the truth of death – and its truth of transformation. And when it comes to us with her consciousness, the words, and the way she puts her words together – the way she says them – speak truth for us. We can feel it. We can feel it vibrating in us. We know it's true.
So Mother beautifully explained something, which I'm going to read. Because there's no point in paraphrasing it. One of the reasons why we die:
- “Death is the consequence of the decentralization of consciousness contained in our body. It is only when the consciousness contained in our cells is decentralized that we are dead. The central will of our physical body gives up wanting to hold our cells all together. The central will accepts to dissolve, and then everything that was held in our body has nothing to hold it together anymore, and over a period of time it all scatters.
Our very cells are held in their form by this centralization of consciousness in them. And so long as that power is there, the body cannot die.
This centralization is produced by nature. Its consciousness is mechanical. We have to replace nature's mechanical centralization of consciousness by a willed centralization of consciousness that comes from the inner presence of the Divine in us.”
And that method, which we'll go into more clearly tomorrow, has all to do with our psychic being, and all to do with how that consciousness – the divine consciousness – manifests, comes forward, organizes, and becomes us. So when that happens, it is the Divine Will that is our centralizing consciousness that holds all our physical being together.
The source of the decentralization comes from the inconscient. It is the resistance of inconscient matter that makes up our physical form. So here is what we can do to change it. Mother teaches that as long as we can completely substitute the real vibration of aspiration for progress and transformation – the aspiration, “this is what we want: progress and transformation” – if we can substitute that for the vibration of deterioration and decentralization, there is no need to die.
And we have no idea how much we think about the fact that we're going to die! When you start looking at it, all of a sudden you realize there are all these thoughts going on in there. And you start to think, “Well, why do I have to think like that?” Mother did a lot of work in the subtle planes to take those thoughts out. And she talked about that. She talked about the strength and the amount of these kind of thoughts there, and how hard it was on her, when she had to work on changing herself.
So it's a constant inner work, and when you become conscious of it, you see: you start making excuses. “Oh yeah, well, I'm getting older...” and “Oh, well no, it doesn't work anymore...” – but you don't have to do that. You can always go the other way.
She says that there are many causes for the decentralization; but they're all causes which we might call ‘psychological’. And to die, we have to accept the cessation of the centralization of consciousness in our physical form. We have to give our consent. Which says a lot for the whole process. There's always a moment where we agree to die. And we'll see that again in other classes too. There's always a moment when we say, “All right. All right! It's too much.” (Or something.) And it happens.
We tend to think of dying as one experience that everybody has. But Mother says that everybody really dies in his own way. There are categories of cases of death, but there are as many kinds of death as there are people; and anything is possible. Mother gives one example of why we accept decentralization: we have a sense of irreparable disharmony. Or we have a sort of disgust at carrying on the effort at coordination. Like we have a sort of disgust at carrying on anything in life. And then, the will to maintain the cohesion, the centralization, abdicates – it gives up. And then there's nothing left that wants to hold us together any longer, and we dissipate.
But it's only when the body starts to decompose, that you realize that the body is dead. Only when there is decomposition – not before. As long as there is some kind of consciousness, on any plane of the being that belongs to the body, the body retains some kind of conscious life. When people are dead, according to the current medical definition, Mother says there is still a 7-day period in which everything in the body disperses. And it's not good to burn the body, or to do anything like even burying the body, before this 7-day period is over. Mother told some stories about ashramites who'd been in accidents and lost their body, and they didn't know. And they actually came running to Mother, saying “what happened to my body, where is my body?” And she had to deal with that.
Now here in Auroville, we have Farewell. We have these wonderful people who just bravely went ahead and created a place where people can choose to keep their body for seven days after they go. If they want to do that, that can happen. If their family chooses that for them, that can happen. And there are Farewell teams who then take care of when there's a cremation or there's a burial.
Mother very clearly explains Nature's need for death in the transformation process. The whole universe is always advancing toward a state of perfection that's continually changing. Therefore everything in us has to advance at the same pace as the universal evolution. All the planes and parts of our being, from the most subtle to the most gross, have to follow this progression. But the higher up the scale one goes, and the more subtle the part, the closer the rhythm of advance resembles the rhythm of advance of the universal progress of transformation.
But our physical is rigid by nature; the whole physical world is rigid by nature. And the strongest characteristic of our physical body is intertia, holding back, resistance. Our body therefore is less conscious than our inner parts, and therefore it has less plasticity, and less receptivity. So there's a constant disequilibrium between the rhythm of our inner evolution and the rhythm of the body's evolution. Our physical body cannot keep up with the rhythm of universal progress. This lack of balance, when the body can't keep up, ends in rupture. Mother explains how to overcome the body's slower pace of progress. If we can infuse enough consciousness into our physical matter, to follow the same rhythm – if our bodies could become plastic enough to follow the inner progression – the rupture of balance wouldn't occur, death would no longer be necessary. And she does give ways to do this. It all has to do with the work of the psychic being.
So we should open ourselves to the new consciousness, the new power which is manifesting now. Because this consciousness carries within itself the capacity to infuse the vibration which can transform the physical substance, and make it more subtle, and more plastic, and more progressive. This supramental consciousness is the new consciousness, is the new change, does the new change, carries the new change.
And Mother also tells us what will overcome the inertia. She says that now, our body is so lazy it needs to sit down and rest after it has made and kind of progress. But if our body felt within itself the ardour to always do better, to become more beautiful, more luminous and clear, if the body wanted to be eternally young, it could escape death. And we always have that famous saying of Mother's:
- “Remain young, never stop striving towards perfection.”
Infusing positive, creative attitudes into our own cells
So the solution is to work with our body, to make it better and better; to improve all its functions and capacities, and to infuse these positive, creative attitudes into our own cells. Then, they willingly and consciously participate in the evolution.
So again what do we have? The way to get beyond death is to change attitudes. It's always to change our attitudes, to see what we're conscious of. To change how we're conscious of things.
Mother also spoke of how to deal with physical pain. She said that when there is a pain somewhere in the body, it is something disorganized for some reason or other, so it no longer works properly. If we have a deliberate, willed vision and conception in faith and in consecration to the Supreme, then we know that the disorganization is the Supreme's deliberate willed work. We know that everything happens for the best at the moment, and the Supreme thinks that for Him it's the best way to transform the thing, in order to have the necessary progress. This idea, if we put this in our cells – if we put this aspiration, this consciousness – immediately there's a connection to the Supreme and it starts to get better. There's an immediate change.
In many places she says the best way to overcome pain and suffering is to surrender to the Divine. And here's a kind of pathway to do it, here's a very particular point you can think about to do. Sometimes we can get a little lost – “what's the practical thing?” And the practical thing turns out to be totally simple. Totally simple, totally straightforward.
We have some more interesting information about Mother's own experience to add to our understanding of the whole death process. She said that we attribute circumstances to our psychological reactions. We see everything through the way we've reacted to it. So this is where our feelings about things come, this is where our judgments come; this is how we make things bigger than they are. It's through our own psychology that we're seeing these things. And I guess again it's attitude. She says everything is really very simple in its truth. And the human consciousness complicates everything.
She spent several days in a state of knowledge-consciousness where she saw very clearly that death is just a shift of consciousness, from one mode to the other. It is simply something evolving; and we, in our false consciousness, make a huge drama out of it.
The spirit of death
Mother also said that one of the reasons we die is because the subtle being whom she calls the ‘spirit of death’ comes to take us. And this is an idea that's in so many cultures: that something that looks like death, it is death, comes to take us. It's in the myths and legends of so many lands and so many times. And there is a truth in it. There's an actual truth in it. And we're going to see that Mother even has a solution for this. We can do something about this (!).
She spoke in detail, and what she said is so well put-together that I'm going to read it to you. I think it's the best way. She says:
- “It's an extraordinary organization. You can't imagine how organized it is! I think there are many of those genii [spirits] of death, hundreds of them. I met at least two of them. One I met in France, the other in Japan, and they were very different. Which leads me to believe that depending on the mental culture, the education, the countries and beliefs, there must be different genii. But there are genii for all manifestations of Nature: there are genii of fire, genii of air, water, rain, wind; and there are genii of death. Any one genius of death is entitled to a certain number of dead every day. It's truly a fantastic organization. It's a sort of alliance between the vital forces and the forces of Nature. If, for example, he decided, “Here is the number of people I am entitled to,” say four or five, or six, or one or two (it varies from day to day), if he decided so many people would die, he'll go straight and set himself up near the person who's going to die. But if you (not the person) happen to be conscious, if you see the genius going to the person but do not want him or her to die, then, if you have a certain occult power, you can tell him, “No, I forbid you to take this person.” That's something which happened, not once but several times, in Japan and here.”
And she's not saying it, but you know that this is what Mother did, to make the spirit of death go away.
- “It wasn't the same genius. Which makes me say there must be many of them.”
And then Mother imitates the conversation to have with the spirit of death.
The person says: “I don't want him to die!”
And death says: “But I have the right to one death.”
And the person says: “Go and find someone who is ready to die.”
And then Mother goes on:
- “But I have seen several cases. Sometimes it's just a neighbor who's suddenly in place of the other. Sometimes it's just an acquaintance. And sometimes it is an enemy. Naturally, there is a relation, good or bad, of neighborhood of anything else. But there is a relation, which looks like chance.”
And here is Mother's advice for someone who is dying, about how to make the spirit of death go away. When someone is dying, and knows that they are about to die:
- “Two things are needed. First, nothing in your being, no part of your being, should wish to die. That doesn't often happen. You always have, somewhere in you, a defeatist: something tired or disgusted, which has had enough, something lazy or which doesn't want to fight and says, ‘Ah, well, let it be over, so much the better.’ That's enough – you're dead. But it's a fact: if nothing, absolutely nothing in you consents to die, you will not die.”
And that's the second thing:
- “For someone to die, there is always a second, if a hundredth part of a second, when he consents. If there isn't that second of consent, he will not die.”
- “Usually one gives way, because one must struggle. One must be strong. One must be very courageous and enduring. One must have great faith in the necessity of life.”
And an example she gives:
- “Someone who feels very strongly that he still has something to do, and he must absolutely do it. But it has to be someone who is sure he has not within him the least bit of a defeatist somewhere. Someone who knows that he's not going to just yield and say, “Ah, it is all right.”
The more conscious we are, and the stronger we are, the more control we have. We have to give our consent for the decentralizing of our being at death; we have to give our consent, or the spirit of death cannot take us.
The parts of our being return to their rightful plane
So all this information gives us an overview and an understanding of what death is, in the reality of our living in a physical body. And it brings us to the next question: What happens to us when we die?
In order to have the answer, we have to know what we are made of, living in our human body. Then we can understand clearly what happens to every part of us.
Sri Aurobindo defines ‘spiritual practice’ as being conscious on all the levels and planes of our being. Mother and Sri Aurobindo created a sort of three-dimensional model, with a very simple vocabulary, so that they could talk about what we are made of, and teach us how we can change. I've already been using these words, because Mother and Sri Aurobindo use them all the time. And now it's good to be really clear. Most of you I think know, but there could be some people here who are not clear on the definitions, so here we are:
We are made up of four observable and definable layers or planes of consciousness. These planes of consciousness have a lot of gradations that fade into each other, as they change into the next plane. These planes become less subtle and more gross as they move out from the center of our being, going out toward or physical body.
Our soul is at the center of our being, with its conscious connection to our divine origin. Around it is our psychic being, if it is developed. And the development of our psychic being is so important in the whole process. It plays the major role in death and rebirth, and it plays the major role in the future of death.
So if we move out from our innermost subtle level, where our soul is, we move into something more dense: we have many levels and kinds of thoughts. This is our mental being, all of our thoughts, everything that we think and where it comes from. And our mental being also receives thoughts from the outside.
Then we have something a little more concrete, but still not physical: and that's our life-energies, our feelings and our willpower. This is our vital being. Our vital being also receives vital impulses from the outside.
Now, moving out to the most concrete part of us, we have our physical body, most dense, most solid. And if we were to move back in, the first subtle gradation is the subtle physical plane. And we're going to see: Mother's going to talk about the subtle physical plane later on.
So, every part of us is consciousness. We are made of the Supreme consciousness, who put forth his own power to become more and more dense, until finally to become his most unconscious part, which is solid matter. And that's this: our physical body that we live in.
Each plane of our being is a stage on the way. Each one blends successively into the next one, as we cross the boundaries between them. Our whole creation is a series of these mounting and descending planes of consciousness. There is a world soul, there is a universal vital, a universal mental, and a universal physical that we are made of. Our body receives from our mind and our vital. Our mental and vital being receive constantly from the mental and vital planes and give to these planes – but not our body, it's limited. Our physical bodies are made of earth, and live on the physical plane which is hard and rigid.
So it's clear that when there is universal evolution on any plane, it is also our evolution at the same time. This is how we're receiving the slow transformation of universal nature.
And here we can see why Mother said that if our bodies cannot keep up with the rhythm of universal evolution, it creates an imbalance with the mind and vital. And eventually the body is no good any longer, and it has to be changed for a new one.
Our vital being, if it knows how to get connected with the universal force, it can very easily have no retrogression. It is an immortal plane. Our vital being can continue to ascend. And the mental being, it is absolutely certain, is completely free from all degeneration if it continues to develop normally.
These non-physical parts of us always make progress, as long as they remain coordinated and under the influence of our most subtle part: our soul and our psychic being. Our psychic being and soul are completely connected with the Supreme in his eternal manifesting. So logically, they are part of him: they are keeping up. It's only this dense physical that slows down.
All who create mentally live in their mental activities. If their mental activity is constant, their mind can progress indefinitely. The mind in the human being does not stop functioning even when the physical instrument has deteriorated. If there is brain damage, the mind may no longer manifest its intelligence materially, but the mind progresses independently of the outer instrument. Nothing can prevent the mind from progressing, from continuing to grow.
And that says a lot about people who have Alzheimer's, or Parkinson's. When the instrument is damaged, their mind is actually totally clear. And I've seen that in nursing homes, where the people can't really function on the outer level, so they live in their inner being a lot more; but the mind is actually keeping up, and sometimes the consciousness comes to the surface, and they're right there. The mind is just fine, even though the body has a problem and the mind can't express.
So these non-physical parts of us always make progress, as long as they remain coordinated and under the influence of our psychic being.
People who have sufficient physical balance, who have not gone to excesses of any kind, who have not mistreated their body – never poisoned themselves, never smoked or drank alcohol, or things like that – they can keep their brain in relatively good condition. And they can express even in their outer condition, to the last end of their life. It's only in the last years of their life, if they make a kind of withdrawl into themselves, that they lose their power of expression. And again it's our will: we decide we're going to move in, we're not going to stay out in the outer world. And then the instrument doesn't work.
Since everything that we are comes from some plane, either psychic, mental, vital or physical, when we die, everything returns to its own rightful place in its own rightful plane. This is in one sentence to say what happens when we die. Everything we're made up of goes back to where it came from. We've seen that our body decomposes and returns to the earth; our vital breaks apart and returns to the universal vital; and our soul with our psychic being goes to rest in the world soul. There it will assimilate what it has learned and gained from this particular lifetime, and it will prepare for our next birth.
When we die, we go out through the top of our head. There are different places where one goes out of the body: when one wants to exteriorize in some occult way it's out through the central chakra, and also out through the heart; but when we die, we go out through the top of the head. And this is the process, but it's only part of dying. Mother says that when the psychic being leaves the body, the way it leaves depends on several things. It depends on the degree of development of the psychic being. It depends on the degree of development of all the other parts of a person's being. It depends on the conditions at death. And it depends a lot on how much of us is unified around our psychic being.
If we live with a spiritual effort, if we live with great goodwill, if we have a strong desire to do things well, and we have unselfishness and a will to progress, we live with our psychic being dominant in us. This is a psychic consciousness: a purity, a goodness, a kindness, tenderness and love. Everything that has become unified and organized around your psychic being stays with it when you die. If your psychic being is not very developed, when you die everything that you are scatters, and your soul and psychic being go to rest in the world-soul. Only the parts of a person's vital or mental which have been attached to this divine presence may remain attached to the soul as part of our psychic being, and they could manifest later, in later lifetimes, depending on the soul's choice in this resting time in the world-soul, when the soul makes all the decisions about what experiences there will be.
If you live a life of desire, a life of passion and impulse, you live with your vital being dominant in you. If a person's vital being is only a medley of unorganized impulses, there is nothing that stays together. And the different personalities that we are fall apart, and they return to their suitable environments.
If you live a life of mental activity, your mind is dominant in you. If your thoughts and ideas and mental formations are disorganized, your mental being will just disintegrate.
These vital impulses and mental formations could go into the general pool of vital impulses or mental formations, which means that they can be picked up by other people when they take birth; or they can be picked up by people because of their thought processes and the way they interact with each other; or they could find their place immediately in someone already existing on earth.
If you live exclusively in your physical consciousness, when the physical disappears, you disappear at the same time. It's finished. Then when you're about to leave your body, everything disperses. Your consciousness isn't there; you don't know anything about it.
How to be conscious in death
So finally, for us to be conscious in death, we have to be conscious in life. The way to do this, is to have this developed psychic being. And Mother says what happens to our physical body depends on our inner attitude at death. When our physical being is fully developed, when we have worked consciously in our own body, and also worked to infuse our body with the higher things from the other parts of our being, it will develop its own subtle body. So our body actually makes another development – and this is what Sri Aurobindo calls our ‘true physical’. And I'm going to tell you something here that's actually from the next lecture, because I think it will help.
We're talking about this transformation, and adhering to the psychic being, how do our parts get connected to the psychic being – we don't do this. This is done by the force of transformation, of the nature of the psychic being itself. So our work is to be good (!). To be good in every way; to figure out where we are inside that isn't going forward with progress, and isn't doing all these things, and to talk all these parts into it. And the nature of the psychic evolution (and you could say ‘transformation’, ongoing transformation) is then to pull these things to it. And to form itself.
So this true subtle-physical body, if we can have one, will infinitely surpass the limits of our gross physical body. It will be supple enough and have enough plasticity and balance to be able to adhere to the inner part of our being. Then our true physical will be capable of following the soul when it leaves the body at death. And here's the kind of perfect picture Mother gives:
- “If you are fully organised and converted into a single individual...”
With one consciousness, and one will, not just a collection of more-or-less disorganized thoughts and impulses –
- “...then you will be conscious after death and preserve a continuity.”
You have grouped around your central psychic being “a fully developed and organised mind, an absolutely surrendered and collaborating vital and an obedient, docile and supple physical being.”
Q & A
So now we have a pretty good idea of what death is, and why it has been needed throughout the ages. We know what can happen to us when we die and we have to leave our body; and we also have some idea, a beginning idea, of what we can do to help our own transformation and freedom from the death process. So tomorrow we're going to learn more about this; how to develop our psychic being; we'll see how we take rebirth; and exactly where all this takes us. And what is the future of death. What is it that Mother so sweetly calls ‘the death of death’. And tomorrow we'll also talk about Mother leaving her body.
So we're going to pause the conversation – this is not an end, it's a pause in the conversation. And I would love it if anybody has questions.
What about when someone commits suicide?
- Ramanarayan: You said that the kind of death is depending on the development of the psychic being, on what stage it is in. My question is about those who do suicide. That is also death, correct? So do we consider that their psychic is not developed, that is why they do suicide – and suicide is a kind of cowardice, it is said? Could you please enlighten us?
I can't make that judgment and say there is no psychic progress if someone commits suicide. But I sure think so. That has to be my opinion: because someone with their psychic being more forward is a much more positive person. And someone who actually inflicts enough harm on their own physical body has got to be pretty dumb. And in really bad condition. And open to so many lower forces.
Sri Aurobindo and Mother both say that when that happens, you go to very terrible places in the inner worlds, because of all the lower forces that you have been gathering in yourself to do this. And we'll see tomorrow that whatever we have drawn to us in life, we tend to draw to us in death. So if we have a lot of negative attitudes, we draw more negative vital thinkings and feelings when we die – we are drawn to those places in the subtle worlds.
So suicide is... I would call it a big mistake. And not something I think a developed psychic being would make.
The kind people who are drawn to the Ashram and Auroville
- Ramanarayan: The people who are drawn together here have been together for many lifetimes, and so that means they are evolved psychic beings, in my understanding. And we have seen that people in Ashram also have done suicide, and in Auroville. So how, if they are not developed psychic beings, then how did they come... it is contradictory for me.
I can explain that a little bit differently. Ashram and Auroville both were places of a tremendous concentration of work by Mother and Sri Aurobindo. And so often there came to Ashram very undeveloped people. Very difficult people, and people who gave a lot of trouble to other people; and each one of those was an area of particular work for the Mother's universal work of transformation.
Mother spoke most specifically to the children in the Ashram school, and to many of the ashramites gathered around in the playground, in her Wednesday night talks. And it is to them that she said “we have all been together before”. She said, “you may not know it; but I know it.” And there are many people here – I know people here, in Auroville – who know they have been with Mother before.
So what you have is a spectrum. You have those people whose psychic being is developed enough to be so attracted to Mother that they take this birth; they're ready to take the next step. Many people are here because they're ready to take the next step. They've taken birth for the transformation. Sometimes people know – they have a conscious experience of Mother's promise that this is the birth that they will do this. So that's one kind of person. And then there's a whole bunch of different kinds of beings; I would say they're beings concentrated in a different area – maybe of the vital, say, a very dark area, or of the mental, something – that are brought here so that they can get a particular conscious working in them, by the transformational forces.
And I know that when someone had to be sent away from the Ashram because they were so bad that they couldn't stay, the Mother was very unhappy. She didn't want them to go. She worked with everybody, and this was her work.
Vallanur, whose body disappeared at death
- Palani: You would have heard about Vallanar, who was living in Vaddalur, near Neyveli. He is a saint who lived in Vadallur. They say that at the last moment, he didn't die: he closed the door, and his body vanished. How did he do it?
Good for him! What a fabulous person, if he could do that.
There are so many stories in this wonderful culture, in India, about these great yogis and saints doing all these things. And there are even stories in the Bible, not so many, but they take our heart away. And tomorrow we'll hear a little more about consciousness and doing things – but you could say it's a mechanical science. There really are things, and you really do things – it's just that, especially coming from the West, we've never heard of this. You people here in India have grown up with it. So you have more comfort in it. For us it's wonderful, something really special.
Fear of death vs. fear of suffering
- Sehdev: As people are living longer and longer all over the world, two of the most pervasive fears, that we hear about, are the fear of death and the fear of loneliness and suffering. And we (certainly in some countries more than others) spend literally trillions of dollars to keep them going. There's a book that came out three or four years ago called Being Mortal, by a doctor in the United States, an Indian doctor, ___. And there are many people who are really begging not to continue life – because they suffer. The suffering is not so much the fear of death itself, but the fear of suffering. How do you address it? It's an existential fear; how can it be washed away as easily as you seem to do?
Well, no – I have a fear of suffering too. I'm not afraid of death. But the idea of going through a whole lot of misery before death is something I'm not comfortable with. And the answer to that is the same answer that comes all through Mother's teachings. We have to work with everything we have, so that doesn't happen. It's very subtle.
You start looking at the way you think, and what you're doing with pain, and how you think about yourself at every moment, how you think about the way you eat food, how you regard things: are you properly exercising your body, what are you eating, how do you feel when someone hurts... and the ultimate solution is to constantly put this new consciousness there and work with it. And it does work. I'm sure there are all kinds of people in the room here who could say they've had at least some experience with this. And the bottom line is you don't give up. And you make your life good. And you make your life healthy.
There's the fear you can be in an accident, someone can put you in the hospital – I think the hospital will kill you before anything else. But you have to have a life of aspirations that these things don't happen. And so you have to be the hope. And the work. And all the good things. Because what you are, attracts from the outside, and you get more of it.
- Collected Poems, p.216
- The Life Divine, p.206, “Death, Desire and Incapacity”
- Letters on Yoga – I, p.529
- Savitri, p.576, “Towards the Black Void”
- Words of the Mother – III, p.175
- Mother's Agenda 1968, 7 September 1968
- Ibid. (audio recording only)
- Questions and Answers 1929-1931, p.145
- Questions and Answers 1956, p.336