By Wes Annac, Culture of Awareness
Death confronts all of us at one point, whether we face our own mortality or the mortality of someone we’re close with, but most people don’t know that it isn’t the end of life. We’re conditioned to think our loved ones are gone when they pass away, when in reality, they’re just as alive as ever in a different place.
We empower death when we fear it, and we can transcend that fear with the understanding that we live in a deeply spiritual reality and our plane of existence is just one out of many, which all boast life in different forms.
There are lower and higher realms of consciousness beyond our reality, which we can access with meditation and other spiritual practices. When we begin to approach enlightenment, we start to understand that there is no death as we perceive it – there’s only the move from one state of consciousness to another.
If we achieve enlightenment in this lifetime, we can transcend reincarnation altogether and assure that we never have to come back to this sphere again.
We can still come back if we want, but I’m sure most of us will remain on the higher vibration we’ll have finally reached. After all of our hard work to get there, I’d imagine the last thing we’ll want to do is come back to earth and start the process all over again.
Bodhidharma reminds us that this life, and everything in it, is an illusion that we can understand and subsequently transcend with awareness.
“Life and death are important. Don’t suffer them in vain. There’s no advantage in deceiving yourself. Even if you have mountains of jewels and as many servants as there are grains of sand along the Ganges, you see them when your eyes are open.
“But what about when your eyes are shut? You should realize then that everything you see is like a dream or illusion.” (1)
He also encourages us to steer clear of distortion and delusion.
“Don’t hate life and death or love life and death. Keep your every thought free of delusion, and in life you’ll witness the beginning of nirvana, and in death you’ll experience the assurance of no rebirth.” (2)
To ‘transcend life and death’ is to open up to a higher sphere, he tells us.
“Transcending life and death is leaving home. Not suffering another existence is reaching the Way. Not creating delusions is enlightenment. Not engaging in ignorance is wisdom. No affliction is nirvana. And no appearance of the mind is the other shore.” (3)
Keeping the mind open, which purifies the thoughts and allows us to access the heart, will help us steer clear of any illusions that try to take us off of the enlightenment path, and it can be easy to lose ourselves in the earth’s convincing distractions.
It’s worth pointing out that this reality does offer some things that can help us along the journey, but we’re learning to steer clear of the things that hurt us as we keep our ultimate goal – Source consciousness – in mind.
We aren’t here to lose ourselves in the glimmering materiality that confronts us on a daily basis. We’re here to access our higher consciousness and use the awareness that results to show the way for others, and if we stay diligent and work hard to awaken the world, we’ll be ‘rewarded’ for our efforts when our mission’s complete.
The reward will come in form of an inexplicably pure, blissful state of existence, and we can introduce ourselves to this existence with tools like meditation. In doing so, we’ll begin to wipe away the convincing illusions that have kept us from traversing our path, and we’ll help others do the same.
Ramana Maharishi reminds us that no fear – even the fear of death – can touch us when we’re truly aware of our spiritual nature and the interconnectedness of all things.
“How shall the wise man, who desires tranquillity, wait for old age, when he knows not when the time of death will be?
“When death stands ready like a hunter, with old age as his weapon, and diseases scattered about as his arrows, smiting down living creatures who fly like deer to the forest of destiny, what desire can there be in any one for length of life?
“When does that fear seize you? Does it come when you do not see your body, say, in dreamless sleep or when you are under chloroform? It haunts you only when you are fully ‘awake’ and perceive the world, including your body. If you do not see these and remain your pure self, as in dreamless sleep, no fear can touch you.” (4)
Only when we’re ‘awake’ (i.e. an active part of the waking, earthly world) do we fear death or anything else.
When we’re submerged in our higher consciousness, which takes place in dreamless sleep and deep states of meditation, we have no fear because we’ve returned to the center; the nothingness that we came from and will permanently return to when we’re ready.
It’s hard to fear death when we realize that emptiness is our true nature and the true nature of our creator (the Father). The Father is the most transcendent consciousness that could ever exist, and the labels ‘transcendent’ or ‘consciousness’ don’t describe Him very well.
No labels can describe the Father’s transcendent emptiness, and at some point (which is determined by our inner work), we’ll return to this infinite nothingness.
Almost every genuine spiritual source throughout the ages has told us this, and dreamless sleep is one of many things that allows us to temporarily reconnect with the Father and His emptiness, which reminds us that we have nothing to fear.
Fear is a product of the physical illusion we’ve convinced ourselves is reality, and the transcendence of fear is the first step to developing our greater awareness.
The best way to kick start the process is to realize that we’re infinite spiritual beings who are eternally connected with the Divine Father and Mother, and things will crystalize from there as long as we commit to the path.
Ramana Maharishi also points out that it isn’t the physical body we’re afraid to lose – it’s the conscious awareness that exists within and around it.
“If you trace this fear to the object, the loss of which gives rise to it, you will find that that object is not the body, but the mind which functions in it and through which the environment and the attractive world is known as sights, sounds, smells, etc.
“Many a man would be too glad to be rid of his diseased body and all the problems and inconveniences it creates for him if continued awareness were vouchsafed for him. It is the awareness, the consciousness, and not the body, he fears to lose.
“Men love existence because it is eternal awareness, which is their own Self. Why not then hold on to the pure awareness right now, while in the body and be free from all fear?” (5)
We’ll never lose our consciousness, because we are consciousness.
We aren’t our physical bodies – we’re the inherent awareness that lives within them. We aren’t the things we see or hear, the thoughts we think or the emotions that rage within, though in a sense, we are the mind that thinks them and the consciousness that feels them.
We’re the silent, contemplative, deeper awareness that most people have yet to understand or access. The journey will get easier when we can realize this, and liberation comes with the realization that we don’t have to be attached to the body or the thoughts and emotions that come with it.
The flesh is a vehicle for the expression of our consciousness in a lower dimension, and the best way to find enlightenment is to invest all of our attachment in our true Self and our true home, which is the emptiness of our higher consciousness.
Maharishi displays the eternal nature of the spirit in a musing about his own impending death.
“They say that I am dying, but I am not going away. Where could I go? I am here.” (6)
Franklin Merrell-Wolff points out that most people spend their whole lives attached to the material plane. They might crave enlightenment at the end of life, but by then, it’s too late to achieve in their withering body.
“The personal life is centered upon the world-field; though it is a doomed life in any case since, inevitably, Death reaps all here. Still, the personality never quite believes this and strives in its feebleness to will its continuance in the outer world, until in ripe old age it craves rest, even though it be at the price of extinction.
“But when this hour of tiredness has come, it is already too late to achieve the Awakening in that body, for this Awakening calls for a profound, though possibly subtle, virility.” (7)
If we wait too long, we’ll have to accept that we can’t achieve enlightenment in our current body. It all depends on the extent to which we invest ourselves in our spirituality while we’re here, and for those of us who are young and have a lot of years on earth to look forward to, plenty of time is still available to devote ourselves wholly to spirit.
For all we know, we spiritual youngsters could achieve enlightenment or ascension in our physical body, but if we slack off or decide to focus more on the external than the internal, we’ll fail to take the opportunity that’s before us.
We have the potential to explore our higher consciousness from within the human body, which is something that the majority of people on earth, past and present, have been unable to do.
We even have help from various gurus and spiritual teachers, and as long as we can use our discernment and remember only to accept what intuitively resonates with us, their advice could very well help us.
We also have a plethora of spiritual writers who’ve made it their mission to write about the higher consciousness that’s making itself known to all of us, and no matter how we want to assist in humanity’s awakening, the best thing we can do is stick with it and stay diligent.
Some spiritual teachers discourage consistency, but I think it’s an important trait when it comes to spiritual work. We’ll want to work as hard as we can while we’re here if our goal is to help others, but if we also want to achieve enlightenment in our current body, we’ll want to stay diligent with our personal inner work too.
Or, we can let any diligence and consistency fade into the background and do whatever we feel like doing, and in all things, we have to do what works best for us. Even when it comes to spiritual teachers, we have to find the teachers who help us and keep our distance from teachers whose advice doesn’t resonate.
Adyashanti tells us that death not only represents the end of the physical life – it represents the end of a sense of self that’s separate from our true Self; our God Self.
“Death is a mystery that refers to both the end of physical life as well as the psychological death of a separate self, which is the hallmark of true spiritual transformation.” (8)
I’d imagine physical death is one of the most helpful yet jarring ways to bring an end to our sense of separation from our creator, and provided we were already somewhat aware in life, our greater awareness will flow when we’re no longer incarnate in a realm that blocks that awareness.
Of course, the physical realm, with all its distraction and uncertainty, doesn’t have to block our reception of our higher consciousness or awareness, but enlightenment can be hard to find in this lower vibration.
Departing the physical can allow us to explore the higher (or lower) states of consciousness we transition into when our earthly sojourn is over, and this can give rise to a renewed understanding of who we really are and why we’re doing all of this, which is to remember ourselves as our own creator.
As these passages have affirmed, we have no reason to fear death or anything that comes with living in this illusion we call reality. With diligent inner work, we can rediscover our Christ consciousness and the fact that all of our pain and fear stem from a false perception of ourselves as separate from the bigger picture.
We’ve never been separate from the universe – both inner and outer – or the supreme emptiness that created it, and our evolutionary process is taken to the next level when we start to understand this.
We can evolve our consciousness from right here on earth, as opposed to having to leave, but it requires the willingness to truly live our lives for love, spirit, and our infinite creator.
It might require a complete overhaul of the way we’ve lived our lives up until now, but any personal changes we have to make will be worth it when we’re once again mired in the bliss that comes with the disciplined exploration of our eternal emptiness.
- Red Pine, trans., The Zen Teachings of Bodhidharma. Port Townsend, WA, Empty Bowl, 1987, 6-7.
- Ibid., 29.
- Ibid., 24-5.
- S.S. Cohen, Guru Ramana. Memories and Notes. 6th edition. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1993, 39.
- Loc. cit.
- Munagala Venkatramiah, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi. Downloaded from http://www.ramana-maharshi.org/books.htm, 31 August 2005, Chapter 4.
- Franklin Merrell-Wolff, Pathways Through to Space. A Personal Record of Transformation in Consciousness. New York: Julian Press, 1973, 37-8.
- Adyashanti, http://www.members.shaw.ca/adyashanti/, 16 May 2004.
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I’m a twenty-one year old spiritual writer, blogger and channel for the creative expression of the inner universe, and I created The Culture of Awareness daily news site.
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