In last chapter I discussed briefly the death of ego in its relation to the enlightenment process. I explained that ego is deeply connected with samsara, cause of most human suffering. Most people are not willing to give up on their egos but sometimes the reality forces the change upon us. Every time we are faced with events that “break” us and make us feel as though our lives were ruined what we really face is a powerful resistance of our ego. Our egos demand that things would stay the way they were before and it refuses to accept changes. Events like death of a loved person, loss of precious property, natural disaster etc. are examples of how the outside forces can disturb our lives. We can not control these things and very often we can not prevent them from happening. When something like that happens many people suddenly feel as though all their pride and self- boost were wiped away. They can not pretend to be in control any more. These are the moment when human ego gives up. Pain of the loss is so severe that the only way to deal with it is by acceptance.
How much we learn from what happened to us is another thing all together. Some people prefer to believe that every event in our life is directed by higher forces, others prefer to believe that everything happens randomly. None of these attitudes bring many advantages on its own. As long as we passively wait for what the life brings us and we don’t make effort to move forward we will feel hopeless and powerless. Only thing that makes a real difference to our perceived quality of life is our reaction to the unpredictable or undesired events that we face.
Death of ego can be a very slow and painful process but it is unavoidable. Physical death of a person completes this process. No matter how powerful someone’s ego is during their lifetime its existence is linked directly to the lifespan of the physical body it inhabits. Buddhist mystics believe that because of that death is a terrifying experience for most people. Last seconds of an average person’s life are spent in the agony when their mind finds itself slowly drifting away from everything it has always been connected with. All their belongings, achievements, even memories are falling away from them and there is no way of stopping it from happening*. This is why Buddhist mystics spend all their lives training preparing themselves for the conscious dying. They believe that physical death is the final and biggest initiation of a person’s life. When properly prepared one may experience death as a journey- similar to the shamanic journeys. Although unlike with all previous journeys time traveling consciousness never comes back to its physical body but instead it moves on to the higher forms of existence.
Since none of us can avoid physical death it seems prudent to try being prepared for it. Unfortunately our culture not only denies such a need, it also treats the very topic of death as a taboo. Death is always seen as a tragedy and never as a positive thing. Our culture is based in the reality of human egos. The realisation that the world of ego is just an illusion brings realisation that death itself is also illusionary. Our perceived separation from the surrounding world makes us feel as though we were an individual being born at some time and place and living independently of its surrounding world. If we manage to make our consciousness shift onto a “higher” planes of existence we experience ourselves as part of the great whole- part of never ending movement of energy within the universe.
Matter and energy constantly move and shift from one shape onto the other. We are no more than one of those shapes. When you think of yourself as an element of universal movement you perceive yourself as limitless, infinite being. In my opinion this vision is a lot more beautiful than Christian concept of heaven as a static world that allows our egos to live indefinitely in their present forms. Personally I consider such an option as incredibly boring.
If you think of death as merely another CHANGE it becomes more apparent why it is so difficult for us to accept. As I mentioned previously we usually don’t like any changes that we can not control. Mental preparation for death could therefore start by conscious training towards more flexibility and tolerance of all changes that come our way. To make this process more pleasurable we can start practicing what I would call “expansion of a reality tunnel”. The more ego-less states we experience every year/month/day the easier this process becomes. Strong meditative or ecstatic states, powerful trances and other mind-altering techniques help us to detach from our everyday egotic self. They help us to break out from our attachments and awaken more open child-like attitude to life. Altered states of mind help us to break out of our everyday life mode of thinking and help us to see ourselves and things around us from a different perspective. Intentional inducing of such states can help us to speed up the process that could take us years to achieve otherwise. In many ways it is a sort of spiritual short-cut.
It is worth pointing out that these techniques aren’t always as successful as we would wish them to be. That’s because each time we recover from a trance/mediation we immediately come back to our egotic self. If our ego/our belief system are very strong it can take a lot of reprogramming before they finally give up.
*Although that doesn’t match many reports of the close to death experiences when people report traveling through a light tunnel and are filled with the feeling of bliss