by Dr. Parimala.
Life is not always nice to all. But still, we live. Like many others, I was not so happy with my life until I realized, ‘good heavens, I am still alive!’ I am an accident survivor and I have started to wonder at the way life triumphed over my own death. It’s amazing that for all we have read and heard about the ephemerality of life, it is only when we are struck by the sword of death that we truly understand the idea.
Opposite values are complementary, so a near-death experience makes one reflect upon life more emphatically and perhaps to resolve to use every breath bestowed upon you scrupulously and judiciously. ‘Count your breath’, that’s the case of any patient put in the ICU and artificially respiring while their loved ones gaze anxiously at the door of ICU so that they are permitted to have a glimpse of them.
So amazing is the role of this one breath, that at the instant a person breathes his last he/she becomes a body. After the unseen air escapes a human, the body becomes an inanimate, infected corpse that is not even kept inside one’s house. There is a custom that the inhabitants of the house have to vacate the house if somebody dies in it. In the olden days, the elderly were asked to sleep outside the house for this reason. The land was acquired from siblings fighting for a larger share, unwilling even to part an inch of the rightful land, taking so much pain for arranging for funds, inspecting every small aspect in constructing a house; in that same house, the man lies outside on a tattered bed. What an ironic life gifts to this fragile body.
Not only the physical body but also the relations associated with this body and birth are transient. They are as momentary as a water drop on the lotus leaf or the touch of the mimosa pudica (touch me not) plant. The same relations who loved me for being cute, today pity me for my disfigured face. What have I lost? Is the beauty in me gone? This would however have been gone when I would age, then what am I unhappy about. The people who pity me don’t support me to cope with my sudden loss. Was the disfigurement of my face inflicted on me purposefully or unintentionally? Beauty and ugliness both exist in me? Or is it the perception in the onlooker’s eye or mind?
To all these questions I wanted answers. After the fight for survival at the hospital ICU, I felt pain in my physical body. After running my hands over my face to see if I was alright. I realized that one of my eyes was injured. I did not cry, I did not scream. But I wondered whether it was really me? I had pity for my body which was bearing so much pain. Every day I gradually travel from self-pity towards the strength to face my adversities with faith and patience. The self-pity in me vanishes and at times I feel strongly unattached to this mortal body.
Why did the breath not leave my body even when it was under so much pain? Is it just a blip of life to fleetingly observe how my body would look if at all breath escapes in reality or failure of death to clasp tightly its arms around me? If this is all a play of this unseen breath than what is this body, so high and huge; which I adorned with all the best things I could afford.
I was restless, depressed, and frustrated. None of my questions were answered. It took time for me to realize these questions of mine have no answers externally but are to be pondered and dealt with within. After much struggle outside, my tears learned the art of silence and my mind learned that of introspection. The conflict was not with the external world but within me. How I deal with this conflict defines the real me. This may happen to each in their own way, at their own time to realize the smaller realities being so obvious yet not perceived and recalled on encountering the need.
Desire is so strong, for even after experiencing near death, I still rejoice in pleasures and feel sad in pain. Similar in strength is anger, which does not permit me to forgive the one who has inflicted this pain and a great loss to my life. Mind loiters between past memories of good health and ambiguity about facing an uncertain future. Amidst these continuous thoughts glorifying my own past and fearing the future I found the small gap between these repeated cycles. This gap was so peaceful. There was nothing there. No questions or queries, no demands or regrets, and no repentance. If I could just hold on to this state, it would be just joy.
We venture to swim against the current,
Just to be pushed away for that moment,
Deceiving yourself as the doer of all actions,
Unable to picture we are merely receivers
With limited freedom and choice for control.
Yet limitless and all-pervading is each Soul,
This state to be deciphered with silence alone.
Practice constantly the art of the inward journey
Which takes you to your ultimate Resolve.
The human mind is the most pliable element on this earth. It adapts itself to any sort of situation. It is faster than meteors and supercomputers. Tap into the mind and make constructive use of it, rather than wasting it in hatred and anger, desire or attachment to a person or object. While writing this the thought of not limiting myself to this physical body lingers strongly. Though I had read about human existence in five realms or sheaths well known as Pancha kosha, I wasn’t able to imbibe the fact nor think beyond myself as this body. The mind was as usual swaying like a smitten soul. Body and mind behaving as two different entities.
Pancha is five and kosha is the covering or sheath enclosing the human body. So health is not limited only to the anatomical body. It exists beyond and is influenced by all these sheaths. These five sheaths are: Annamaya kosha – physical sheath; Pranamaya kosha – life energy/vital sheath; Manomaya kosha – mental sheath; Vijnanamaya kosha – intellectual sheath and Anandamaya kosha – blissful sheath.
Thoughts are our investment for future,
To create or mar is in the hands of our
Attitude, positive it is much the better.
Heed your thoughts, save their vigor,
Don’t let loose and scatter them hither.
Emotions that are powerful create turbulence in our mind in the form of strong likes and dislikes – creates passion — causes imbalances in the mind, homeostasis. Diseases result in the Annamaya/physical sheath. This forms the basis of numerous Psycho-somatic illnesses of modern-day. Modern research limits itself to establishing a positive correlation of any disease to many factors – hereditary, dietary, environmental, or occupational. It does not dare say that any one factor is the causative factor until it is certain.
Every one of us has the inner,
Most of it often goes unheard;
Knowing oneself from the interior,
Is the ultimate purpose of existing here.
Conscience is what all have to fear
For we know what we are.
Journey to the inside may be shown by culture,
Threading down the lane is our fervor.
The eager I’m to know myself,
The quicker I reach the Self.
As we go subtler from the gross to the granular elements expansion increases. We are free to make choices of right or wrong actions and be responsible for our acts. More complex is the Karma or action philosophy as talked about in Bhagavadgita “gahana karmano gatih”. It is only knowledge that can take us beyond all mutually complementing dualities and satisfactorily answer existential queries.
So engrossed is the mind the thoughts as a wild goose chase of alternate stimulation or excitation and grief with regular kindling and rekindling of desires, resulting in terrible entanglement. Desire backed up by the hope of achieving it one day is the true culprit for being caught up. Realizing the impermanence of transient sensual pleasures, we should strive to seek the permanent truth, that which does not change itself but remains a witness to everlasting change.
Life is a flowing river; on the path
We ought to encounter pebbles,
Boulders, valleys with flowers;
It flows but stops never, until
Purpose meets its end.
River keeps moving, situations
Befall without warning; bliss may
Be blessed without asking
Worse may all of a sudden encompass;
Life is all about experiencing the unforeseen,
Facing the blues daringly and scenes,
Of glee may seep in between, avoiding
The tedious and wearisome routine.
All of us experience the pair,
Troughs and highs in vivid measures
Of course it’s different and particular,
Enduring is all in our share;
Pray oh blessed soul to cross,
The lures of the universe dispassionately
With equanimity in pains and pleasures.
Heart, be at peace until we
Reach the purpose we seek.