Updated: Dec 13, 2021
The above couplet in Asa Di Vaar is heard, by many of us, on most mornings, in Gurudwaras or homes. Awe-inspiring, full of wisdom, eternal truth, the only constant in the everchanging world, it’s a fact, the reality, are some of the comments, observations, debate, we furiously engage in.
We believe that we have understood this fully, completely, and are now ready to face this fact, with open eyes, in complete harmony, in total stillness. Yet when I hit the roadblock, where death is staring blankly, nakedly, at me, all wisdom that I professed evaporates, disappears, dissolves.
I start struggling, getting panicky, creating a furore all across, running helter-skelter, meeting even soothsayers, astrologers, guys who profess that they can see the future, to know what lies ahead for me. No issues for me in believing and following their recommendations of these Godmen, one who claims that they can delay the inevitable. And here I go, invest (waste) my effort, money, time and energy in doing what shouldn’t be done.
And if the situation persists, or deteriorates further, I religiously start the blame game with Gurus — they simply are stoned, have no feelings for a helpless victim like me are my cribbings.
Are these the virtues of a courageous person — a person with integrity, a Sikh, a being?
Let’s reserve our comments as of now.
Let’s now try to understand better ‘Why there is a fear of death'
Death is the eternal truth; it’s the only eternal question, consequently worth asking.
Everyone is afraid of the known and the unknown, fear is creeping in us. Sitting or standing, sleeping or waking, the fear continues. There is a fear in all our behaviour and in every thought and deed. There is a fear in love, in hate, in virtue, in sin – in everything and anything that we can think of.
It is as if our whole consciousness is created of fear. What else are our beliefs, concepts, religions, and even gods, other than fear?
What is fear!
Many forms of fear are there but the fear of death is the only one- the apex, the most feared fear. This is the basic fear. At the root of all fear is the possibility of being destroyed, annihilated. Fear means the apprehension of not being, of disappearing.
Effort goes on for the whole life to escape from this anxiety. All efforts are directed to avoid this basic insecurity.
But even after racing through one’s entire life, ‘being’ does not become assumed. The race comes to an end, but insecurity remains the same. Life is completed, but death cannot be avoided. On the contrary, what appeared to be life turns into death, on its completion? Then one comes to know it is as if there was no life at all, only death was growing. It is as if life and death were the two polarities of death itself.
Why fear this death?
Death is unknown; death is unfamiliar and if that being so, how can it be feared?
What connection can there be with someone that is unknown, alien or a stranger?
In reality, what we call fear of death isn’t fear; it simply is the fear of losing what we know as life. It is the fear of losing what is known. We have identified ourselves with what is known. That alone has become our’ isness’, which alone has become our existence.
My body, my wealth, my prestige, my relationships, my conditioning, my beliefs. My thoughts –all these have become the life of my ’I’. Death will take away this ‘I’, that is the fear.
All these are being accumulated in order to avoid fear, to gain security. But just the opposite happens- the very apprehension of losing these, becomes the fear.
On the whole, whatever man does turns against the very goal for which it has been done. All steps taken in ignorance for attaining bliss, take one to misery. The path taken for reaching fearlessness leads one to fear. What appears to be the attainment of the self is not the self. If one is able to wake up to this truth- if I can know that I am not what I have understood as ’I’, and even in this moment I am different and separate from my identifications – the fear disappears, evaporates, diffuses, finishes.
In order to know this truth, no ritual, no technique is to be followed. One has only to know, only to become awake to everything one understands to be ‘I’, and with which one has become identified.
Waking up breaks its identification. Waking up separates the self from the other. The identification of the self with the other is fear, and the realization of their separateness is freedom from fear. Is fearlessness.
Let’s take a step backwards and revisit the times when the fifth Master Guru Arjan Dev ji Ji – was clear that the present ruler at that time was intoxicated in the arrogance of power, one up to ship, fanatical thinking, devoid of any sense or reason. And had a sinister motive – for which he was hell-bent to take life too.
Wasn’t same the case at the time of Ninth Master Guru Tegh Bahadur was ordered to be executed – again, by a tyrannical, whimsical, power intoxicated, ruler, who thought, believed, behaved, that he was the only blessed one- who understood fully the message of his prophet, consequently was justified in doing what he was?
Both these masters didn’t flinch a moment while facing execution, they were poised, calm, still. For them death wasn’t anything to be feared, it was simply a completion of a journey called life – a life of intensity, of celebration, a life for serving humanity, a life connecting people to their self, their being, a life where God manifests in each soul.
A mission accomplished- an objective achieved a purpose that was higher than oneself, a task that was enriching, of value, of substance. For them, their goals were so worthy that it was glorious, even to die for them, willingly.
Are they dead or have they risen up in our thoughts, they are omnipresent everywhere, they are inspirations, they are celebrations, they are poetry, they are what life is to be, they are what we need to be, they are here and everywhere, they are in the now. Each moment one can feel them, experience their touch, their coaching, mentoring, guidance- their love, care, affection.
They are beings of wakeful intelligence.
Now let’s pause, reflect, ponder, where am I and where I ought to be?
Death is the bride of the brave, death isn’t something to wait for, death is what we need to be walking towards – walking in celebration, joy, ecstasy, experiencing fullness and richness on the way, singing, dancing and adding value across the spectrum for all and sundry.
Because one who rejoices in death is the aim of a Guru’s Sikh.
He has everything to gain in accepting death with grace, loses only his ego, opinions, beliefs- he simply has emptied himself. It’s a state where the seeing and seeker cease.
That to me is my limited understanding of the verse’ Jo aya so chalse, sab koi aaye baari hai’.
By Late K S Ahlualia (Executive Coach and Mentor - Excalibre)
Disclaimer: Kindly note that the above blog has been submitted by members in their individual capacity.