In this series, we explore the application of esoteric truths in everyday life, with renowned teacher and Wanderlust presenter Swamiji. Learn from luminaries like him at a Wanderlust Festival this summer!
Approximately 5,000 years ago a large number of sages gathered together in India to discuss ways they might help people find harmony, direction, and purpose in their lives. They wanted to provide understanding to a troubled society of the rhythm of life and death, and give them guidance on the specialty of human life, highlighting its extraordinary potential.
After much discussion, they decided to take this matter to Guru Sootaji, a Spiritual Master of great renown. Arriving at the Guru’s hermitage, the sages humbly requested his advice on how best to help humanity.
Guru Sootaji responded:
This is the Age of Kali, the Iron Age of Materialism, where confusion predominates because spiritual awareness is suppressed due to excessive preoccupation with the external physical world. This material infatuation diminishes sense of self, creating unease and discordance. So long as individuals remain unaware of the true nature of their soul, the atma, so long will they be troubled by life’s events.
The human lifespan is short and can end at any moment. From the newborn baby to the mature adult, no one can be sure when death will visit. It is the constant companion with which all must live.
If life is to have meaning and purpose, it is essential to contemplate on the mysteries of the soul. By understanding its true nature, the agonies and fears of the mind will subside, the purpose of birth and death will become known, and human life will be recognized for the infinite grace of divine presence that is ever present with it.
Guru Sootaji’s teaching, if carefully understood, is a soothing balm. His advice is for everyone because we all live with the prospect of death at all times. It is always occurring around us in one way or another; it is our constant companion. The cause of death is boundless in its expression, and all living entities are subject to its will, be they animal, bird, plant, sea life, or human. Old age, cancer, tragedy … numerous are the tools death uses to bring life of an individual body to an end.
Amazingly, even though birth and death are as much part of our life as is breathing and exhaling air, it continues to confound us.
Whenever we witness a birth or a death we are in wonderment of it. At such times even the greatest cynic experiences a sense of life holding a secret promise of being something more, of being bigger and more beautiful than we know. Amazingly, even though birth and death are as much part of our life as is breathing and exhaling air, it continues to confound us. We marvel at it, and we are fearful of it. What is this mystery that so relentlessly confronts us?
Concerning death, the Bhagavad Gita says:
“Only the material body is perishable; the embodied soul within is indestructible, immeasurable, and eternal.”
Of the soul, the Brahma Sutra states:
“Just as applying sandalwood to your forehead cools the entire body, similarly, the soul, although residing locally in the heart, infuses its consciousness throughout the body.”
Further, the Bhagavad Gita says:
“The soul is neither born, nor does it ever die; nor having once existed, does it ever cease to be. The soul is without birth, eternal, immortal, and ageless. It is not destroyed when the body is destroyed.’
“As a person sheds worn-out clothes and wears new ones, likewise, at the time of death, the soul casts off its material body and enters a new one.”
“Just as the embodied soul continuously passes from childhood to youth to old age, similarly, at the time of death, the soul passes into another body. The wise are not deluded by this.”
For the enlightened soul whose illusion has been dispelled, this fear of death vanishes.
The illusion of death is created because we identify ourselves with the body. It is because of this illusion that we fear the experience of death. For the enlightened soul whose illusion has been dispelled, this fear of death vanishes.
When death is witnessed as a result of mindless violence—as has been in the news too much lately—it shakes us to our very core, for it brings up many questions of not only why it happens, but it also brings into focus the question of our mortality. Of our very existence. Without answers, without understanding, it is frightening indeed. This is why learning to distinguish between the physical and spiritual nature of life is so important.
There is much to learn about the soul, including why it migrates from one life form to another. These are deep subjects that will take time to understand and practically benefit from. I spent many years in India doing so, learning from a legendary Spiritual Master. From experience, I have found the journey to be extraordinarily inspirational, and immensely practical as a guide in day-to-day living. But the most encouraging thing I learned is that the essential nature of the soul is love. Love is the foundation on which everything depends. It is the motivational force that compels us to participate in life. It is the supreme power that draws us ever forward to experience it in its fullest. The journey, however, has many twists and turns, but underlying this sometimes rocky road is the infinite well of love that even the greatest of wise men and women bow their heads in profound gratitude.
Life is the most wondrous thing and death does not signal the end of it. It is but a transition that needs to be understood. Take heart, have courage, live life with all the bounty it brings. This is possible if you invest time to understand and experience the eternal life-giving power that is the heart of your soul. If you do, the very mystery of life will be revealed to you and fear of death will no longer trouble you.
- Life and death are natural occurrences, just as night and day follow each other, so does birth follow death. There is no need to panic. Trust in the natural order and beauty of this spiritual occurrence.
- It is the body that perishes, not the soul. The soul is an eternal power and can never end.
- The heart of the soul is infinite love. It is infused with the divine power and presence of the Divine One that lives within every soul. You are never alone.
- Fear arises simply because we forget we are the immortal soul.
- Take time out every day to sit and contemplate on the soul. Bring to mind that by its presence the body is conscious, sentient, alive, and vital. Be grateful, be happy in this knowledge.
- When it is time for the soul to move on, accept this, surrender to it. A beautiful life is one that is filled with faith that everything is as it should be.
Swami Govindananda (Swamiji) is the founder of Ji Living. A New Zealander, he lived years in India learning philosophy and meditation at the deepest levels from a renowned Master. Through his Seven Steps to Self Understanding online video and meditation series at jiliving.com, he illuminates the wisdom that lies at the heart of yoga. A presenter at Wanderlust festivals and yoga studios, he embodies positive spirituality and gives inspirational insights into the significance of human life. Swamiji is known for his wisdom, his gentle, humorous nature and ability to tell great stories.