Venkatraman was born into a middle-class south Indian family. One day, while still in school, he was consumed by a terrible fear of death. Instead of running to the frig for an ice-cream or a snack, or turning on some wild music or the television to distract him from his dread of the unknown, he lay down and simulated being dead. In a short while, he realized that even if his body were to dissolve back into the elements, his spirit would survive, for it was immortal and blissful. The fire of wisdom (jnana) burned down his relative self completely and he emerged from this experience as a fully awakened sage.
Many years later, a great man threw himself at the feet of the young sage; when Ramana answered a question that had been bedeviling him, and in such a way that his confusion cleared immediately, Ganapati Muni conferred upon him the title of Ramana Maharshi (which means, Ramana, the Great Sage).
Mundane life is so compelling in its appearance of reality that often we never transcend body, mind, emotions or who we are convinced we are in the external world. In other words, we fall irrevocably in love with a false identity, which is merely a covering for our Spirit. So playing dead has its uses, for a corpse has no identity and therefore the underlying truth of our existence can be experienced.
Someone recently sent me this incredible saying by a Chan master:
“Beyond meditation practice, there is attitude. A beginner must learn to cultivate what is called, “the poise of a dying man”. What is this poise? It is the poise of knowing what is important and what is not, and of being accepting and forgiving. Anyone who has ever been at the bedside of a dying man will understand this poise. What would the dying man do if someone were to insult him? Nothing. What would the dying man do if someone were to strike him? Nothing. As he lay there, would he scheme to become famous or wealthy? No. If someone who had once offended him were to ask him for his forgiveness would he not give it? Of course he would. A dying man knows the pointlessness of enmity. Hatred is always such a wretched feeling. Who wishes to die feeling hatred in his heart? No one. The dying seek love and peace. ~Chan Master Hsu-Yun
If we are wise, we will contemplate the fact that, at some point, without our permission, and usually without warning, our body and mind will dissolve back into the elements. At the second of physical death, all our assets and possessions are forgotten and left behind. Perhaps only then will we realize with a shock that all the negative emotions we have harbored while embodied, propelled by egoic fear and desire, are mere toxic phantoms that have led us astray. Unfortunately it will be too late, for once again we are at the mercy of powerful karmic forces and we have no power to determine what karma will be projected from our mountainous accretion to create our next incarnation. But, if today we accept that our true nature is nothing less than pure-existence, awareness and bliss (another name for love), then we can bring that realization into our lives today and walk confidently towards the blazing light.
Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who helps us as we walk the narrow path that leads into the heart of cosmic love!