Dealing with the Loss of a Loved One-2

Acceptance is the key. I am not talking about accepting their death, I am referring to accepting the fact that it is painful for you, that it is hurting you, and that everything else is simply a theory. Allow natural healing to take place, allow your emotions to outpour, give yourself an outlet. You can’t afford to have them bottled up, that will make you angry and eternally sad. If you allow Nature to help you absorb and accept the loss, you will find it easier to live without their physical presence. Just like happiness, like laughter and joy, sadness and sorrow are basic human emotions. These make us who we are. Do not curb them, be natural, be yourself.

What do you do when you are happy? You laugh. Is it not perfectly normal then to cry when you are sad, when you are missing their presence?

A realized Zen master was seen crying at the funeral of a man. Most were somewhat surprised, they thought the master had risen above the human emotions. It was an unusual sight to see a monk cry. A child went up to him, tugged at his robe and said, “Why are you crying?”

“He was my friend,” the master said. “I’m crying because I’m sad.”

If their thought makes you cry, just cry, let it out. Don’t hold it back. Some may advise you to focus your attention elsewhere, to go out, to forget and move on etc. You can adopt any method, any philosophy, any theory that makes you feel stronger and better but the truth is, you can’t fake your emotions, you can’t lie to yourself. The greater the number of memories you have with the one you lost, the harder it is to forget them. No matter how intense the heat, puddles dry up quicker than ponds whereas oceans never. How long it will take you to move on depends on whether your store of memories is a small puddle or a gigantic ocean. You are going to miss them on their birthday, their death anniversary, on your own birthday, on other important events, on small incidents. This is natural. Let it be. You may as well make them and their memories a part of your life. After all, death is the other side of the life. You are standing at one end of the river and they on the other, you are on this side of the horizon, and they on the other. Horizons don’t disappear nor the river of time ceases to flow.

Our emotions make us human, positively directed, they make us divine, misdirected, and they bring out the devil. Self-realization does not mean you lose all human emotions. To the contrary, you become so compassionate that you could cry at the slightest pain of others.

“O Ananda!” said Buddha, “parting from the loved ones is inevitable.”

Om Namah Shivay

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Dealing with the Loss of a Loved One-1

Over time, ponds may dry up, but they don’t disappear. Healing takes time.

Sometimes people share with me heartbreaking incidents of how they lost their loved one. There are those who lost their son or daughter, a sibling or a parent untimely or unexpectedly. Many a time, it is so gut-wrenching that even as an objective listener my eyes well up. The shock, the trauma, the pain is unbearable for them, almost like it would never heal. They ask me what can they do to get over the pain. Let me share with you how I see it.

Death is inevitable. Everyone we know will die one day. All of us are on a train and each one of us must get off eventually. Some disembark sooner and others later than us. We know it is only a matter of time yet it can catch one off-guard, like someone emerging in front of you out of nowhere. When one is mentally prepared, when one sits in expectation, in anticipation, it becomes relatively easy to prepare for even one’s own death. This is rarely possible though. We may get the time to prepare ourselves if the loved one is terminally ill but it still doesn’t mean we have come to terms with it. The one who is gone is gone, the ones left behind face the greatest challenge, greater than the death itself.

Various religions offer different perspectives. Some promise rebirth, others, heaven, some salvation and so on. All those are theories, their rewards of promises may inspire an individual to do the right thing while living, they may offer consolation to those left behind, such promises remain unproven claims though. Nothing beyond that. While on the topic of death and bereavement, I could quote you from Bhagavad Gita, from Bible, from Buddhist texts and the rest but I do not wish to offer you consolation, it is not my aim to introduce you to some philosophy. Instead, I just wish to share my own thoughts.

First and foremost, I want you to know that you will never be able to forget them. Any efforts you specifically direct at forgetting them will only make you miss them a great deal more. This is the harsh truth. And why should you forget them? Would you like to be forgotten when you are gone? When you begin to understand and accept the fact that the departed one has a permanent place in your heart, in your memory, in your life, a subtle healing begins. Do not force yourself to erase them from your memories, to exclude them, just let it be for a while, let Nature take its own course, let it settle. Bereavement heals one over time.

Grief has two key elements, namely, shock and denial. When you lose someone suddenly, to an accident for example, it takes much longer to get over the shock. Primarily because Nature did not grant you the time to get ready, to prepare yourself mentally. We slip into a state of denial and disbelief. That leads to an inner resistance. And such resistance leads to inner struggle, depression and melancholy. When you lose someone to a terminal illness or someone who battled for life for a long period before they passed away, the shock and denial is not any less, it is just of different type. Either way, it is traumatic. Imagine losing a limb, no matter how dexterous or perfect the artificial limb, it can never match the original. The void created by the death of someone can only ever be partially, imperfectly filled.

Om Namah Shivay

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Gift Someone Life As You Die

It’s time for serious introspection. “Scores of people die every year waiting for organs, but nobody cares,” lamented Jack Kevorkian, the famous US pathologist. It’s typical India apathy playing out when we keep those in need (of an organ transplant) waiting forever, and in vain. There are many among them, like young Faisal from Ahmedabad, who wastes precious money and time in taking interim measures. He spends hours undergoing dialysis every week at a city hospital, when he should be at school, or better still, playing with his friends. The cure to his suffering is a kidney transplant. Alas! The situation is grim. There are too few givers for too many takers. One shudders to anticipate Faisal’s fate. More than five lakh people die every year for want of one organ or the other due lack of donors.

To give is to receive. Giving is central to all religious faiths. The value of life is not in its duration, but in its donation. It’s not important how long but in how many people you subsist.. Donating wealth is great; donating blood is greater. But greatest of all the gifts is a human organ. It is simply gifting life. In a way you play god. Organ donation is one of kindest, noblest acts of compassion and selflessness. It’s only when we give a part of ourselves that we truly give. One should not lose sleep over who gets the donated part. Will you ask questions if you or a near and dear ever needed one? That’s it.

Let me clarify: you are not giving the organs right away but, for the present, only pledging them. They get harvested only when they turn unneeded by the owner in case of a brain, accidental or natural demise. After death, our body is no more than a waste. ‘Dust thou art to dust returneth’. But it can be a treasure-trove to those moving back and forth between life and death, going through excruciating wait for an organ transplant. An angel like you can turn their gloom into hope. Do you believe in miracles. I do. There is one a dead body, that includes yours, can perform. It can give a new lease of life to eight fellow beings, long after you are gone. Imagine the prospect where a blind sees through your eye and your heart beats for a young life, literally. The sheer reflection of giving someone hope should spur you on.

Organ donation suffers for the myths we inherit and nurture. Another reason for huge demand-supply gap is our lackadaisical approach towards all things salient. We think we are here for good even as others around us take a bow through God’s, timely or otherwise, intervention. Many of our noble intentions remain on the drawing board for this one damning weakness. The thought of organ donation, like many such others, resonates continuously with us but someway remains just that, a thought. We develop amnesia when there is time for action. As an upshot, there are 1,50,000 hopefuls awaiting a kidney transplant against a measly 5,000 people who have registered to donate them. Roughly 18 patients die every cruel day due lack of organ donors. It calls for serious introspection.

An organ transplant is the only hope for a multitude of patients suffering from life threatening diseases. But there simply aren’t enough organ donors. And it is this uncertainty of finding a donor that leads to despair often greater than the illness itself. Let us put ourselves in their shoes and picture how it feels. They wait for humanity’s intercession to pull them out of death’s jaws. And we cling onto a kidney, liver, heart et al that is not entirely ours, and what is more, is redundant to us once our soul takes flight. All our possessions, body included, are a creation of ‘cause and effect’, giving all around us partnership rights over them. We are not sole owners but a trustee. Use them and pass on.

Have I been able to talk you into it. I hear a yes! Now don’t procrastinate. ”He gives twice as much good who gives quickly,” said a saint. If you are convinced, convince others. File your own registration as a donor right away. Kill the wait before it kills someone faraway.

Let me conclude with couple of beautiful lines of Henry Burton: Have you had a kindness shown? Pass it on; ‘Twas not for thee alone, pass it on.

Om Namah Shivay

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यहाँ लगती है यमराज की अदालत : यमराज मंदिर

एक मंदिर ऐसा है जहां मरने के बाद हर किसी को जाना ही पड़ता है चाहे वह आस्तिक हो या नास्तिक। यह मंदिर किसी और दुनिया में नहीं बल्कि भारत की जमीन पर स्थित है। हिन्दू धर्म के अनुसार यम को मृत्यु का देवता माना जाता है. यम सूर्य के पुत्र है और उनकी माता का नाम संज्ञा है. उनका वाहन भैसा है और उनके सन्देश वाहक कबूतर, उल्लू तथा कौआ है. कहा जाता है की हर प्राणी को मृत्यु के पश्चात उसे यमलोक जाना पड़ता है जहा उसके कर्मो का हिसाब-किताब होता है.

लेकिन आप को जानकर हैरानी होगी की उनके पास जीते जी भी पहुंचा जा सकता है. मतलब यह की भगवान यमराज का एक मंदिर है जो दिल्ली से 500 किलोमीटर दूर हिमांचल के चम्बा जिले में भरमौर नामक स्थान स्थित है. इस मंदिर की खासियत यह है की यह मंदिर पूरी तरह घर की तरह बना हुआ है. परन्तु लोग इस मंदिर के अंदर जाने से घबराते है. अनेक भक्त मंदिर के बहार से ही मंदिर को प्रणाम कर चले जाते है. लोगो की मान्यता है की इस मंदिर में मृत्यु के देवता यमराज निवास करते है. इस मंदिर में एक खाली कमरा है जहा यमराज के सचिव चित्रगुप्त रहते है जो जीवात्मा के कर्मो का लेखा-जोखा रखते है.

कहा जाता है की जब किसी प्राणी की मृत्यु होती तो यमदूत उसकी जीवात्मा को लेकर चित्रगुप्त के समीप इस मंदिर में पहुँचते है और यहाँ चित्रगुप्त उस जीवात्मा के अच्छे व बुरे कर्मो का विवरण देते है. उसके बाद यमदूतों उस जीवात्मा को एक और कक्ष में ले जाते है. इस कक्ष को यमराज की कचहरी कहा जाता है यहाँ पर यमराज आत्मा के अच्छे-बुरे कर्मो के अनुसार अपना फैसला सुनाते है.

इस मंदिर में चार प्रकार के अदृश्य दरवाजे है जो स्वर्ण, रजत, ताम्बा और लोहे से निर्मित है. यमराज के फैसला आने पर यमदूत आत्मा को इन दरवाजे से स्वर्ग और नरक की और भेजते है. गरुड़ पुराण में भी यमराज के दरबार में चार दिशावो की और चार दरवाजों का उल्लेख किया गया है.

यह दुनिया का एकलोता मंदिर है जो यमराज को समर्पित है .यम देवता की पूजा करने से आकाल मृत्यु का भय नही रहता . नरक चतुर्दशी – जो दिवाली से एक दिन पहले आती है, को यमराज की पूजा होती है !

Om Namah Shivay

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An Uncomfortable Pause-1

I always try my best to answer any question I’m asked, as directly as I can. But, there are some questions I’d rather not answer. No, not that I don’t have anything to say but because the truth is often discomforting for the questioner.

Last year, during my overseas travels, a couple approached me for a private audience at the end of my discourse. I was extremely pressed for time and wasn’t giving anyone more than five minutes. They weren’t penciled in my diary in advance. Yet, I asked the person who was assisting me to schedule them in.

They were let in and the door was shut behind them. There was no smile on their face, they came, sat down meekly, and kept quiet for the first couple of minutes.

My inner voice said that they needed more time. Theirs was no ordinary problem. I got up and told my timekeeper waiting outside to set aside 20 minutes.

“20 minutes?” He exclaimed.
“Yes. 20 uninterrupted minutes. Maybe 25.”

I took my seat again. Another minute passed and this gentleman began crying. Loudly. Somewhere, I knew this was healing taking place and I let his tears roll for the next little while. All this while, his wife kept looking at me quietly. She too was crying silently. Eventually, he wiped his tears, composed himself and heaved a deep sigh.

“Swami,” he said, “We, we,” and he burst into tears again. They both were crying now. Getting up from my seat, I went up to them and stroked their heads. Like a parent strokes a child’s.

“It’s okay,” I said, “whatever it is, I’ll help you deal with it. Your loss is irrecoverable but there’s light.”
“Oh, you know, Swami, you know everything.” And they cried even more.

I let my hands remain on their heads and prayed for peace. They calmed down.

“Swami,” the lady spoke. “It’s the first time he’s crying after five years. I had been worried for—”

“No, let me speak,” the man intervened. “Today, I want to tell my story. It was my 50th b’day, Swami. I had two sons and two daughters. We all went out for a family dinner and had a great time. Everything seemed fine, we came back home. The next morning, my eldest son didn’t come out of his room. We got worried after a while and broke open the door. He was resting against the bathtub, in his own blood. He had slit his wrist.”

He began sobbing again. I handed him the tissue box. He shared more details about the suicide note his son had left behind and other things that were going on in his life. They never went out to dine again or celebrate any occasion, he said.

“We are ardent Catholics, Swami,” he added. “He never missed the Sunday service. He knew that suicide is a sin. He was a brave kid, why did he act so cowardly, Swami?”

I felt their pain. There is no grief greater than the grief of a parent who has to see their own child go before them.

“Everyone thinks we are responsible for his death,” he continued. “I feel guilty. Was I a bad father? Why did he do this? He was only 24.”
“Do you want to know the truth as I see it?” I said. “Or, do you want to hear what the holy book says?”
“We believe you, Swami,” they said. “Give us ‘the’ truth.”

It’s true that most religions regard suicide as a sin. It’s considered self-murder in Christianity. Hinduism too calls it atmahatya, self-murder. Scriptures in various religions refer to our body as a temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 or Bhagavad Gita, 17.6). All this is fine (even though I disagree with the assertion that suicide is self-murder), the truth is religions can be so dry and out of place in the face of real grief. This was not the first couple I met who had lost their child to suicide, and like every other such time, I didn’t want to quote books, however holy or godly.

“Your son committed no sin,” I said. “The cause of death can be any. We are all traveling on the same train. Each one of us has to get off at some station. Some disembark earlier. They break their journey sooner. That’s what death is, it’s a break, a pause, albeit a deeply uncomfortable pause.”
“If you believe me then let me tell you,” I continued, “I don’t believe suicide is a sin and I don’t think it’s a cowardly act. Your son is not in hell, he hasn’t been denied heaven. His soul will simply find a new home.
“And you are not responsible for the death of your son. The idea to take one’s own life arises from deep depression, it’s the most devastating outcome of a mental disorder. Just like a doctor is not responsible for a patient’s cancer, a parent can never be responsible for a child’s death by suicide.”

“Swami,” the father said, “I had an argument with him a week earlier, but I thought we had made up.”
“Was it the first time that you had an argument?” I asked.
“So, argument wasn’t the trigger or the cause. It was his own state of mind.”
“Your loss is immense,” I added. “The wound is deep. It’ll take a very long time to heal. No one can replace your son. But, by not living your life, don’t you think you are doing injustice to yourselves and your other children?”

The energy in the room changed instantly. It was as if they woke up from a bad dream. Suddenly, they realized that by only mourning their son’s death, they were denying the gift of life to their other children. It was a moment of epiphany.

“Oh Swami,” he said, “I feel a big load is off my chest. You are right. We must live for our other children, for ourselves, for our Savior.”

They both smiled. They looked at each other lovingly and then at me and laughed softly.

Om Namah Shivay

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