Why do we fear death and how do we overcome this fear and rise to a higher level of consciousness?
The fear comes primarily for two related reasons. The first is that we don't understand what death amounts to, and the second is simply that the life we are leading is going to end, author Sarada Chiruvolu writes in "Home at Last: A Journey Toward Higher Consciousness" (Amaryllis/Rs 399/pp 197).
"The prospect of almost any ending, such as the loss of a home, the death of a loved one, or the end of a personal relationship or a job, may cause fear and anxiety. But to know with certainty that one day we will no longer have this life that we have built for ourselves can be devastating," writes the Princeton-based Chiruvolu, who travels extensively to other countries and annually to India to work towards her mission of addressing most of the rudimentary needs of the people, because "if these essentials are not taken care of, then a detrimental cycle ensues".
"Apart from the deep-sleep state, we are in contact with our inner Divinity on only two occasions. One is when the subtle body departs and the gross body is dissolved at death, and the other when we are in the highest meditative state and attain enlightenment while still living in the physical body.
"In both cases we end up shedding the false identification of our existence, but only the latter involves realising the Self (Truth) while we are conscious. Because of this understanding, the fear of death vanishes when we experience a thorough awareness of the merge into the Absolute (void). Not having known or experienced this dimension beforehand is what causes fear at the prospect of death," writes Chiruvolu, who gave up a lucrative pharmaceutical career to pursue her spiritual calling.
In her own experience, fear lingered for some time until she was able to identify completely with higher awareness by merging repeatedly with emptiness. "It subsided only after the process of realization had been well-established and integrated completely through meditating and experiencing the void repeatedly. We must maintain and continue the practice of being with the new awareness while continuing all our activities. Though the mind may fluctuate in and out at times, a sense of control will come automatically and remain in that higher plane with the feeling of peace," the author writes.
How did the journey begin?
"I had practised Reiki for some time to help my husband with certain health issues which brought my interest in meditation to the forefront. From that point on meditation became a habit and a passion," Chiruvolu told IANS in an email interview.
There was a sudden radical shift in perception that took place within her that changed everything in the way she viewed life and its purpose.
"I felt a strange disinclination toward life in general and what the world has to offer and felt continuously something was missing in spite of having everything. That strangely took me on a deeper inner journey which was not something I had planned or worked on for years or anything. Felt as if it was preordained and was in a sense imposed on me. Suddenly my meditations took me deeper and deeper within and eventually to the final goal," the author said.
The book talks about the author's meetings with various self-realised individuals and her own experience of self-realisation. What exactly is 'self-realisation' or 'enlightenment'? How is a self-realised person different from an ordinary human being?
Self-realisation/enlightenment "is when actual shift from ego consciousness to consciousness of "Self" takes place. We reclaim and re-establish our connection with the source we all come from and realise our own essential nature of being and experiencing that connectedness. One might also describe it as tapping into that oneness of existence: 'The unification of everything'. That union is the purpose and the ultimate goal of human existence," the author said.
Noting that the purpose of human life is to self-realise, she said the compelled imprisonment of reincarnation will not be enforced. "It ultimately takes us to liberation. It is about how we all can reach that ultimate state of union with all of life. How an enlightened consciousness navigates and integrates our given life thereafter," she added.
Self-realised beings are different as their perception of life has changed. "From ordinary consciousness to permanently altered perception of reality, they are more capable of responding and expressing far better. By raising the awareness and perception they can taste larger slice of life. They do not look any different physically but they function with a heightened state of awareness and are able to use their highest potential with that utmost evenness and equanimity," Chiruvolu explained