Death is not the end but only the culmination of one’s whole life, a climax. It is not that you are finished but you are transported to another body. That is what the easterners call “the wheel.” It goes on turning and turning. Yes, it can be stopped, but the way to stop it is not when you are dying.
That is one of the lessons, the greatest lesson I learned from my grandfather’s death. He was crying, with tears in his eyes, and asking us to stop the wheel. We were at a loss what to do: how to stop the wheel?
His wheel was his wheel; it was not even visible to us. It was his own consciousness, and only he could do it. Since he was asking us to stop it, it was obvious that he could not do it himself, hence the tears and his constant insistence in asking us again and again, as if we were deaf. We told him, “We have heard you, Nana, and we understand. Please be silent.”
In that moment something great happened. I have never revealed it to anybody; perhaps before this moment was not the time. I was saying to him, “Please be silent” – the bullock cart was rattling on the rough, ugly road. It was not even a road, just a track, and he was insisting, “Stop the wheel, Raja, do you hear? Stop the wheel.”
Again and again I told him, “Yes, I do hear you. I understand what you mean. You know that nobody except you can stop the wheel, so please be silent. I will try to help you.”
My grandmother was amazed. She looked at me with such big, amazing eyes: what was I saying?
How could I help?
I said, “Yes. Don’t look so amazed. I have suddenly remembered one of my past lives. Seeing his death I have remembered one of my own deaths.” That life and death happened in Tibet. That is the only country which knows, very scientifically, how to stop the wheel. Then I started chanting something.
Neither my grandmother could understand, nor my dying grandfather, nor my servant Bhoora, who was listening intently from the outside. And what is more, neither could I understand a single word of what I was chanting. It was only after twelve or thirteen years that I came to understand what it was. It took that much time to discover it. It was bardo thodal, a Tibetan ritual.
When a man dies in Tibet, they repeat a certain mantra. That mantra is called bardo. The mantra says to him, “Relax, be silent. Go to your center, just be there; don’t leave it whatsoever happens to the body. Just be a witness. Let it happen, don’t interfere. Remember, remember, remember that you are only a witness; that is your true nature. If you can die remembering, the wheel is stopped.”
I repeated the bardo thodal for my dying grandfather without even knowing what I was doing. It was strange – not only that I repeated it, but also that he became utterly silent listening to it. Perhaps Tibetan was such a strange thing to hear. He may never have heard a single word in Tibetan before; he may not even have known that there was a country called Tibet. Even in his death he became utterly attentive and silent. The bardo worked although he could not understand it. Sometimes things you don’t understand work; they work just because you don’t understand.
No great surgeon can operate on his own child. Why? No great surgeon can operate on his own beloved. I don’t mean his wife – anyone can operate on his wife – I mean his beloved, who certainly is not his wife, and can never be. To reduce your beloved into your wife is a crime. It is of course unpunished by law, but nature itself punishes, so there is no need for any law.
No lover can be reduced into a husband. It is so ugly to have a husband. The very word is ugly. It comes from the same root as “husbandry”; the husband is one who uses the woman as a field, a farm, to sow his seed. The word “husband” has to be completely erased from every language in the world; it is inhuman. A lover is understandable but not a husband!
I was repeating the bardo though I did not understand its meaning, nor did I know where it was coming from, because I had not read it yet. But when I repeated it just the shock of those strange words made my grandfather silent. He died in that silence.
To live in silence is beautiful, but to die in silence is far more beautiful, because death is like an Everest, the highest peak in the Himalayas. Although nobody taught me, I learned much in that moment of his silence. I saw myself repeating something absolutely strange. It shocked me to a new plane of being and pushed me into a new dimension. I started on a new search, a pilgrimage.
From Glimpses of a Golden Childhood, Chapter 15
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