Note: Swami Veda Bharati wrote the Preface to the book Opening to Dying and Grieving: A Sacred Journey by Ron Valle and Mary Mohs. This is that preface.
We fail to erase "death" from our writings of our fate; we fail to delete it from the programs in our minds. The undying myth called death revives itself, raises its fearsome hood, as though a reality, each time a creature makes the (re-)appearance called birth.
Each time the Master Alchemist prepares, plans to alter our wrinkles into the freshness of a new infant's smooth skin, we cry out, "Death!" Each time the Master Builder seeks to demolish an old decrepit chamber and make for us a new one with better amenities, we shout out, "Death!"
The theologians debate about the best means to kill the elephant who is not in the room, nor in the forest. They sharpen their word-darts, wishing somehow to be able to shoot them at the no-elephant so it would not pick us up with its only-in-myth-hanging long trunk and trample us with the shadow feet of fear. Sages and masters, prophets and saints, for a thousand generations, have sung to us the songs of our immortality, but we won't listen, so enamoured are we of our favorite myth, the myth of death.
In the Katha Upanishad, Nachiketa demolished it. Bhishma asked, “What can death do to us (kim no mrtuh karishyati)?"
The sage Sanatsujata of the Mahabharata, blessed to remain a child perennially, stated categorically, "There is no such thing as death (na mrtyur astu).”
The Vedas, Upanishads, the Bible, other scriptures, Lao Tsu, and Socrates all showed us the key to press to delete the program called death from our minds. But we just refuse, and still run around in panic, crying and shouting all over the city streets, "The sky is falling. Death! Death! Death is on its way!”
Everyone prays, "May I not die," but the Vedic sage prays:
May I not, O Lord of Universal Law,
Re-enter this house of clay.
(Mo shu varuna mrnmayam
Graham rajann aham gamam)
And when the Buddha opened his eyes upon reaching enlightenment, what were the first words that he uttered?
"I have seen you, O house-builder.
You shall build me no more a house!”
My own master, Swami Rama, before demolishing his old house so that he may live only in a house whose building blocks are Light, has tried to delete death from our minds in his book Sacred Journey, but, reading, we read it not.
May this book, herewith presented, help many to de-program the concept of the myth of death from their minds. May the non-natus, ever unborn (a-janma), non-geriatric, un-decaying, unwrinkled, never aging (ajara), non-mortal, never dying (a-mrtyu), in them come out yelling now, whispering then, silent again, "Here I am! Know me as it is I who is you, eternally immortal." Death, that was not, never was, an entity, remains banished to be so. It was ever a vikalpa,1 a verbal fantasy without an object.
Ron Valle and Mary Mohs, both longtime meditators, have chosen to share this wealth and give a selfless service to aid in every seeker’s contemplations. With all blessings that the re-cognition (praty-abhi-jna) of our non-mortality confers.
Swami Veda Bharati
(formerly Usharbudh Arya, Ph.D.)
Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama
Rishikesh, India, August, 2005
1The Yoga-sutras of Patanjali 1.9, Swami Veda Bharati’s Commentary.
The stock example of a vikalpa is given in the texts as:
Here goes the son of a barren woman.
He has worn a crown of sky-flowers.
Having bathed in the waters of a mirage,
He carries a bow made of a hare’s horns.
Ron Valle, Ph.D. has served as a psychologist for over 25 years, specializing in clients with chronic pain and stress-related disorders, and with individuals facing a life-threatening diagnosis and their families. Professor, counselor, supervisor, and author, he currently serves as a director of Awakening: A Center for Exploring Living and Dying and is the senior editor of both Phenomenological Inquiry: Existential and Transpersonal Dimensions and Metaphors of Consciousness. Ron has worked with the dying and grieving on a volunteer basis since 1982. A long-time practitioner and teacher of meditation, Ron developed An Integrated Therapy Program for Transforming Stress and Pain while co-director of an outpatient university hospital pain clinic.
Mary Mohs, L.V.N., M.A., R.Y.T. has her Master's degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology. Her life's work has included being a nurse, working with the dying and grieving for over 20 years, and serving as a drug and alcohol counselor. Her extensive study of both Eastern and Western spiritual philosophies and approaches to life has deepened her understanding of her own spirituality, and reflects her interest in the commonalities in all of the world's religions. Mary serves as a director and co-founder of Awakening: A Center for Exploring Living and Dying, and is the author of a number of papers addressing living, dying, and grieving with awareness.
Awakening: A Center for Exploring Living and Dying is located in Brentwood, California, USA. For more information: http://www.awakeningonline.com/