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Confronting Death

The very idea of death often scares us ‘ to death’: death is often something sad and terrible for us. This is not the case with saints: they often confront death bravely and that is what the Kathopanidhada expects from us. The Kathopanidhada says,” Dhiro na Shochati”, which means something to the effect that the intelligent do not grieve over death. For the Kathopanidhada, not grieving over death is a sign of intelligence.

But how can one fulfill this expectation? The way has been shown by the Kathopanidhada itself. How? In order to get the answer, let us closely examine the verse, which ends with the words “Dhiro na Shochate”. The first line of the verse runs like this: Ashariram sharireshvanavstheshvavasthitam

This line describes the soul as Ashariram Sharireshu, something that lives in the body and yet something that is without the body. It is because the soul is without the body that it can apparently leave the body and go anywhere in a subtle, invisible form. The line then refers to the soul as Anvastheshu Avasthitam, something that is neatly, constantly placed among the inconstant. While all the other parts of the body are unstable, the soul that is placed among them is stable.

While all the other parts of the body decay, the soul knows no decadence. While all the other parts of the body get old, the soul is always young and energetic. In this sense, the line refers to the soul as ‘Anvastheshu Avasthitam’.

The next line runs like this:’mahantam vibhumatmanam matva dhiro na shochati’.This line means something to the effect: the intelligent do not grieve over death because they identify themselves with this ‘Mahantam’, great and ‘Vibhu’, specially made soul. Why should the line refer to the soul as something great?

The reason is that the qualities of the soul, mentioned in the earlier line, make it great. Why should the line refer to the soul as ‘specially made’?The reason is that the soul can do certain things that the body and the mind can never dream of doing.

Here I would like to relate an incident from the Gurucharitra, a Marathi verse biography of Shri Narasinha Saraswati, who is supposed to be the second incarnation of Lord Dattatreya. He was born at a place called Karanja.

He subsequently went to Kashi, where he assumed ‘Sanyas’.On his return to Karanja, he was happily welcomed by the citizens. He was invited for a ‘Bhiksha’, as a lunch that has been offered to a sanyasi is often called, by many people. It was impossible for him to accept all the invitations. On the other hand, he did not want to hurt them by rejecting their invitations. So he assumed different forms of the same type, visited the houses of the invitees in those forms, and accepted the Bhiksha offered by them.

This means that the soul can assume different mortal frames of the same kind at the same time and work in them. Nay, more: long after the soul of Shri Narasinha Saraswati left the mortal frame, he has appeared in the same before some of his devotees and guided them. I have personally met with a saint called Shri Ramchandra alias Dutta Maharaj Kulkarni from Akole and heard from him that many years after Shri Narasinha Saraswati left the mortal frame, he visited the house of the former for three consecutive nights and guided the former.

It means that long after discarding the body, the soul can again assume the same and resume working in it. Such things are possible only for the soul, not for the body or the mind. So the second line refers to the soul as Vibhu, specially made.

If the soul is so greater than the body or the mind, it naturally follows that we should identify ourselves with the soul, not the body. That is what saints do and that enables them to confront death bravely. The Kathopanidhada expects us to do the same.

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