Can we ever go beyond the fear of death?

By Ayushman Singh Jamwal

The surge in Covid-19 infections is again pulling us back into the confines of our home. We are seeing technology working to erase distances to allow relationships and industry to function in some capacity; we are also witnessing the rise in death and despair all over even as the silver bullet is on its way.

Many of us have seen all kinds of beautiful and unfortunate things in the world. From acts of great kindness, love and the marvels of nature to the darkest shades of humanity – all have become a part of the human experience universally. We can’t experience the world in any other way except through sight, sound, smell, touch and taste, and none of it is everlasting either. So, have we as humans experienced everything this world has to offer, locked in a cycle of pleasure and pain? Do we now see the afterlife as an experience on another plane, something that can open up a new world for us?

Death is no more a taboo it seems. Our seclusion amid its reign has given it a place of bittersweet eventuality, a sense of passivity hitting closer to home, eroding our programmed fear. As the fragility of life becomes our reality, we can’t help but turn to the philosophers who contemplated death as the next frontier of the human experience.

Since the time of Socrates, the idea of death being a passage to another life has engaged us, prompting philosophers to do what they do best – cultivate the mind – as they feel it would best serve them in the realm where the body is irrelevant.

Epicurus came up with the ‘you only live once’ (YOLO) philosophy, simply terming death as a natural end of sensation, advising us to feel everything the physical realm offers to maximise the sensory experience.

In the pursuit of sensations, does humanity shed its fear of death, accepting the reality of the inevitable? The demon of impermanence is in us all, as forgetting about things renews their wonder. Similar to Epicurus, Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zhou believed that death should be celebrated as a milestone in the circle of life, sending off people on a great journey they were fated to embark on.

The pandemic has made us all Kisa Gautami, the woman who approached the Buddha to revive her dead son. The Buddha asked her to bring back mustard seeds from a home in her town that had not seen death. Her journey door to door awakened her to the inevitability of the cycle of life, helping her to make peace with the resonance of grief emanating from the love for her child.

Death is the next door and that is no more true than today. Our isolation is robbing us of many interactions that water our lives and sustain our spirits. In a world of travelled roads, death is the last unprinted snow. As it emerges from the shallows of dread, it takes its place as a natural part of our existence, free of fear, compelling us to cherish the sensation of life and also marvel at what the afterlife offers.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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