Are You Afraid of Death?
This is a question I have either been asked, or heard others ask, innumerable times. From person to person, answers to this question vary from yes, to no, to I don’t know, and other similar vagaries of uncertainty, denial or self-deceit. Mostly, we just don’t want to think about it. But then someone close to us dies, and there it is, glaringly conspicuous in its full glory without so much as a word, much less a question, and the mind goes to work to bury it asap. (The mind can be amazingly efficient with its burial processes.)
Those who contemplate this question sincerely will most likely sense a disquieting quiver of trepidation buried somewhere deep inside. This is fear. With very few exceptions, those who actually do bother to contemplate this question seriously, and are able to be honest with themselves, are aware of this sneaky little quiver that tells them that they are afraid of death.
It has been said that even the sages experience this quiver of fear when the time of their death becomes known to them, but being sages, upon letting go of all attachment to the body, they quickly establish equilibrium, all fear abandoned. They know that this fear is coming from the body itself, that they are not bodies, and they know that what comes next is preferable to their current situation. They know this because they have already been there by means of a certain spiritual practice.
Most of those who have had after-death experiences—people who are said to have died for a short time and come back to tell about it—speak of a light that is filled with love, acceptance, family or other loved-ones welcoming them, other notable characters, even God or some “voice” giving them a choice to stay or go back. The scenarios vary, but they have one thing in common: They tell us that they no longer fear death, that there is nothing to fear.
In some after-death experiences, individuals have been “dead” considerably beyond what is medically accepted as an amount of time in which the body can be revived without permanent disability. There are people who have proven this generality to be just that, a generality that doesn’t apply to everyone.
What Is Death, Anyway?
Death takes place when the life force leaves the body. The life force leaves the body when you do.
What about breathing, heartbeat, brain activity, all those things that stop beeping on the monitors?
Through a certain spiritual practice, there are times that these bodily functions stop, sometimes for long periods of time, and you don’t die. So it stands to reason that not breathing and having no heartbeat are, by themselves, not necessarily indicative of death.