Death, Rebirth and Moments that matter

September 16, 2013

Losing someone you care for is always difficult. What is probably more difficult is for the family and friends of a person who dies in the prime of his or her life.

We lost one of our friends, a wonderful lady, a loving mother and wife to cancer a few days back. Having lived in Muscat for a few years, the family moved back to India to facilitate her treatment. She fought hard and bravely faced all that was entailed but finally lost the battle. Our hearts go out to the bereaved family and pray that they are able to manage life with all the courage and fortitude that will be required.

Rest in peace my dear friend.

Moving on from that, I reflected briefly on the concept of rebirth, a subject that has attracted a great deal of debate, and this is what came to mind. The Sanskrit word for rebirth or reincarnation is punarjanam and samsara (the round of births and deaths or transmigration of the soul). Researchers have found that memories of past lives are most active during childhood, mainly between the ages of three and five.

I will now recount a short story. One little boy of about three was taken by his mother to Pantaloons Calcutta for the first time, to buy some new clothes. As they came upon the kids section and the mother asked for trousers with suspenders, the little boy turned towards her and said, "Yes Ma, I’ll take this pair because I always wear this particular type.'' But the mother knew that wasn't the case, as she had never bought them for the child earlier. So she asked him when exactly had he worn that particular style. His answer shook her to the core. "Always Ma. Remember when I lived in Bangalore? I was also wearing them the day I died." Despite being shaken by the answer, the mother persisted with her questions and soon had the name of the young man, who had died, as detailed by her little boy.

A few weeks and some phone calls later, it was confirmed that a young man of about 26 had been killed in a headlong collision with a truck in Bangalore. This had actually happened just the day before this little boy was born. What was also confirmed was that this young man always wore his jeans/trousers with suspenders. And her son loved playing with cars and bikes to the point of being obsessed. In fact, he still does.

This story is reproduced exactly as this young woman told me. Make of it what you will. One thing is certain, however, as the Bhagavad Gita says: Jatasya hi dhruvo mrityuh – for one who is born, death is certain. Perhaps what Manu wrote in Manusmriti could serve as the definitive answer: 'He who possesses true insight (into the nature of the world) is not fettered by his deeds, but he who is destitute of that insight is drawn into the circle of births and deaths'.

To close, I’m sharing some of my thoughts on what I'd rate as the meaningful things in life. Talking to your friends, and really 'listening' to what they have to say. Or sharing your own 'real' thoughts with them, without couching them in polite tones. Because one does so much of it in maintaining a 'public face' anyway!

Stepping into another person's shoes, and just for a moment realising where they are coming from, and why they think, feel and behave the way they sometimes appear to.(Sometimes to your irritation, perhaps?)

Standing up for another person's rights, because you realise that they aren't able to get what they really, really deserve. And having the courage to and persistence to ensure that you finish what you started.

Giving some of our time, and some of our enthusiasm to those who are lonely. For reaching out to a lonely person is probably the one of those things that make us realise how thankful we really ought to be for all those who we have with us today.