Appointment with Shiva…

d024606e3edfab5bda46958ed34de59aOne recent morning I was riding to Ramana Ashram along Bangalore Road when I saw ahead of me a stationary public bus and a swelling crowd, including policemen and their vehicles—clustering around a white female lying motionless in a vermilion pool of blood on the side of the road. From a distance she looked so like a close friend of mine that I let loose a silent scream and involuntarily hit the brakes—right in the middle of the road.

A grim policeman waved me over to the side. I obeyed like a robot, struck dumb by a mélange of dark emotions. A cop who seemed to be in charge asked if I knew the dead girl—he wanted me to identify her. They had no clue, of course, what a coward I am in certain visceral ways. Too shaken to look at her face, I suggested instead that we identify her by inspecting the contents of her bag. Inside her faded cloth bag, we found a diary and a cell phone. And so we discovered that the name of this lovely girl, killed by a bus driver in a lethal hurry to reach his destination, was Miriam Franziska, and that she had recently arrived here from Berlin in order to savor the varied pleasures of Tiruvannamalai.

The last time I had witnessed such a death was as a teenager in Bangalore, when, right before my horrified eyes, a lorry hit a motorbike head-on: a sight ghastly beyond description because the victim flew into the air with the impact. I had screamed then too, and closed my eyes for long moments, although I was driving and my little nephew was with me. Fortunately our guardian angels too were hovering, or there would surely have been more fatalities due to my unhinged behavior.

SHIVA AS BLUE GODComing on top of so many deaths in my personal life—two beloved brothers who died in separate tragic accidents, both my parents, several close friends, a surrogate mother who suffered a fatal heart attack while driving her car in Washington DC, and more who shall remain nameless—I find that I have become both immunized to distant death and highly vulnerable to the passing of those whose lives come to an end so abruptly and brutally.

This twenty-three year old had made a note about a yoga class she planned to take on the second page of her diary…this is what I think I saw anyway, since my eyes were blurred with tears. It was a class she never would take, I remember thinking bleakly. So much unfinished business…so many joys and sorrows missed…and yet, her physical existence came to end in the shadow of the sacred hill Arunachala, whom millions consider the living embodiment of the Great God Shiva, the Destroyer in the Indian pantheon. It is said that to die here is a wondrous blessing…which leaves me with the lingering thought that only the Omniscient know for sure why the Destroyer stole back this beauty’s soul in so cruel a fashion—in the time and the place that He did. In the world of the Spirit, there are no accidents.

I have been praying for her family ever since—I know from personal experience that it is blood relatives who suffer the most excruciating knife thrusts of grief. Spirits set free by Death, unless reborn instantly, are no longer subject to the pangs of earthly life; it is the ones left behind who have to come to terms with their passing. My heart goes out to all those who will miss the living flame of Miriam’s presence.

Later that day, I thought of a young woman who is still trying to make peace with a tragedy that happened over a decade ago. She is alive and breathing and definitely on a spiritual path, and yet she refuses to speak or connect with other humans; her constant unrelieved mourning has turned her into a zombie. And this vital young Berliner, who had probably lived life to the fullest and yearned to plunge into more rich adventure, is no more in her physical body. Such is the irony of life on this incredibly disturbing planet.

angel Ultimately death is a wake-up call to make the most of our precious human lives—for no one but the sage knows when the end will come. As Don Juan said to Carlos Castaneda, we must live as if Death is looking over our shoulder; far from being morbid, this is the most perfect advice a spiritual master can provide.

Buddhists have a Death Meditation covered in three simple points: 1) that death is certain for all beings; 2) that the time of death is uncertain—babies die, teenagers die, adults die, the old die—we have no fixed lifespan; 3) and that when we die, all that remains is our eternal consciousness. The point, of course, is to focus on what is truly important while we still have a physical instrument at our disposal—rather than to waste our incredible potential by, say, amassing wealth or seeking fame and status in an ephemeral world.

It made me so happy to hear from a friend who knew Miriam and admired her artwork (yes, Miriam was an artist and a singer) that she was a gentle and talented woman who was certainly not wasting her time on earth. Her passing makes me realize yet again why it is vitally important that I watch how I live—for as I live, so shall I die. May Arunachala hold you in his embrace, beloved Miriam, and whisk you away to a realm of consciousness way beyond all mortal concerns.

Greetings from the sacred mountain Arunachala, who reveals to those who are willing to transcend the mundane that we are much more than body, mind, emotions and personal history—that we are no less than the Absolute, the Self, whose nature is pure existence, pure consciousness and pure bliss!

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25 thoughts on “Appointment with Shiva…

  1. Thanks for that Mira, so very sad. Yes, it is now the family who will suffer with their grieving. Thanks for reminding us all to have gratitude for this precious life, Love your writings.

    • Miriam had many who loved her deeply. I did not know her while she was in her body but am getting to know her from all the beautiful comments. Hope you are well, darling Kami. Om!

  2. Very true..death is certain and no one knows when it will come. This was a tragedy…but more for the relatives. For Miriam, in a way, she is blessed…no more cares or suffering , direct entry into the heart of Arunachala and sat-chit-ananda.

    Thanks for the reminder..hope you are well.




  3. Dear Mira, this is a heart rending post and such a powerful reminder to live as we wish to die, though who can tell when death embraces us. And your quote: Carlos Castaneda, we must live as if Death is looking over our shoulder. They really are two sides of the same coin. You’ll never lose lose your empathy to grim accidents or those who are distant.
    May Miriam rest in peace and may her family and friends remember her joy for life and mourn the death of this vibrant woman.

  4. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    A sombre note to finish of today. Death is something we rarely talk about and it is even more tragic when a young life is taken. Most of us in our 60’s have lived a rich life and whilst we know that it is inevitable we wish that we do have at least another 30 or even 40 years of health and vitality. I have found myself putting certain things off recently – but this has given me a wake up call… thank you Mira. And, Mira will be my guest next week on the Sunday Show and I am looking forward to the interview very much.

  5. Mira, such a moving and beautifully written post on the value of life through through the unsightly eyes of tragic death. My sympathy to you on the loss of your many loved ones; I can not begin to imagine. And to Miriam’s family, my love and blessings to them, always.

  6. I’m moved by this piece, Mira. It is a sad yet beautiful reflection on the mysteries of life. Perhaps it wasn’t an accident that you were on the scene. Few others would be so well equipped to ponder and mediate the event to others in such profound terms.

    • Ken dear, thank you — coming from someone as deeply reflective as you, I am honored by your comment. Thinking back to our brief time in Rishikesh, when I was reeling from so much suffering (I think that was the time I had lost two close people in my life and was trying to escape from the pain in a self-destructive way), I am so grateful I made it through so many dark tunnels. Now there is light and I love to share it. Much love!

  7. I do not leave a leave a response, but after reading a few
    of the comments on Appointment with Shiva | mira prabhu.

    I do have 2 questions for you if you don’t mind.

    Is it only me or does it appear like a few of these
    responses appear like they are left by brain dead folks?
    😛 And, if you are writing at additional online sites,
    I would like to keep up with you. Could you
    post a list of the complete urls of your social networking pages like
    your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

  8. Your words are beautiful, much of what you have written here resonates deeply within me. A comment above about you most likely having arrived at the scene of the accident by providence rings true in my heart. I made facebook friends with Miriam over a year ago. We met in the Cox and kings visa office in Berlin. She was preparing to return to India and I was heading over for the first time. She shared with me that she so loved India and she wanted to return to life here. I was intrigued as I had never been to India before. I told her that my girlfriend and I were going to live in Chennai for 10 months. She said that she was going to be staying in a village a little way from there and liked the slow pace of the country side. We asked her about the cost of accomodation and life in general. She was so helpful and had a collected and calm air about her. I remember her saying that she liked India much more than Germany. I am a South African by birth and my girlfriend is German. I understood what she meant after being in Germany for just a few months! Miriams calm, friendly and centered manner made an impression on me. Although we met for only a few moments she made enough of an impression on me to want to write a comment here. I noticed from her facebook page that she had met with an accident and did a quick google search which brought me to your blog. It was a shock initially as being knocked over is such a brutal way to die. I felt an urge to write some words down here as the way you write about your experience makes sense to me. It makes sense that she was under a ‘holy’ mountain. Now i am waffling a bit but I will try to express myself. I had one of my closest and best friends die in Mcleod Ganj near Dharamasala in 2010 I think it was. It was Dylans first trip overseas, having grown up in South Africa and never left its borders for his 36 years on this planet he was beyond excited to go to India. Dylan was a spiritual warrior, he was different to all my friends, he was the one who would openly hug me and tell me without hesitation or awkwardness that he loved me. I treasured his friendship and admired him. Dyl was ‘off the wall’, he had hiked the mountains all over Cape town, he feared no-one and was strong in many ways. He was also a gentle and soft soul at the same time. Dylan was never settled financially, like many of my group we never had ‘rich’ parents. Dylan saved all his money by working in the film industry for many months and finally bought his ticket to India. He was so excited! Dylan had booked an 11 day vipassna course which he completed and said was one of the toughest things he has ever done, mostly because he had to sit still and keep quiet for so long. Dyl was naturally a ball of energy at all times! After being in DharamasalsDharamasala for a few days aftr the course he made his way to Mcleod Ganj and a place called Triund I believe. He hiked up into the mountains on his own one day, about 12 kilometers out of the village. The weather started to take a turn for the worse and he sheltered in a small shephards hut for the night. Lighning struck the hut on this night and Dylan moved on to the next place, or died or whatever one thinks happens when we shake off our mortal coil . A local man found his body a day or so later and news came back to all of us back home that he had died. When i heard the news I was devastated and cried and cried. It was the first time that I had lost a close friend. We never knew what had happened to him and knowing DylanI naturally thought he had pulled some crazy stunt for the last time. Dylans mom, brother and sister flew over to Mcleod Ganj and Dylan was given a traditional Monks burial, in true Dylan fashion.

    I truly believe that things happen to certain individuals because of divine intervention. Your words about Miriam and the news of her death in the shadow of the mountain you mentioned brought a lump to my throat and make me ponder life and this ‘mad’ world we live in. So i dont know where i was really going with all of this but the way you wrote this piece and the heartfelt responses made me want to share my experience. May Miriam and Dylans souls forever rest in peace and may Miriams family have peace. I will leave India soon after being here for 9 months. The people have shown me kindness and love and I am forever grateful. Vanakkam, Namaste

    • Yango, such a beautiful and heartfelt message – and leaves me wondering what the karmic connection is between you and I too, since you mention another place where I lived for years – Dharamsala. Yes, I too have come close to death during my bizarre travels. (I am aware that westerners of a certain ilk are much more bold in moving around the globe, but for a woman from a traditional Indian family, such a thing is almost unheard of.) I made many mistakes and nearly died in the process – which is also why seeing Miriam’s lifeless body moved me so much. She too was on her spiritual quest. And fortunately she passed on here, with Arunachala to guide her spirit safely to a higher zone. I am glad we connected in this way. Thank you and god bless.

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