Can we understand the full meaning of life and death?

Life and death are not divided; they are one. Similarly can the mind be completely nothing, with no residue of the past? Whether this is possible or not is something we can inquire diligently and vigorously. But if the mind merely clings to what it calls living, which is suffering and tries to avoid the other, then it knows neither life nor death. So the challenge is to free the mind from the known, from all the things it has gathered, acquired and experienced- to make it innocent and thereby understand that which is unknown-death. 

 

The coronavirus (COVID-19) was declared a pandemic in March 2020. Currently, the number of infected individuals and the mortality rate continue to rise in India and worldwide. Indian authorities have taken some preventive measures to control the spread of the virus. Some of these measures, which have been implemented or will need to be implemented, can be expected to have a significant impact on other sectors of society, such as the labor market and the economy. Reports of termination of employment, bankrupt companies, and stock market fluctuations have already been recorded. The number of such reports are likely to increase as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts an economic crisis, which will, at the least be as extensive as the crisis of 2008.

 

Losing near and dear ones to suicide is a rising crisisThe involuntary social isolation imposed to reduce the spread of the virus entails suffering and is a risk factor by itself. These measures reduce the chances of closely connected persons to recognize and stop a potential suicide attempt. Furthermore, there is a large body of scientific literature showing that several factors related to a potential recession increase the risk of suicide. Such factors include unemployment, increased social inequality, economic loss, or loss of property. Attempting suicide is particularly high for those who have accumulated toxic medication (e.g., paracetamol) for preventive purposes and who fear the onset of prolonged social isolation.

 

To find out what is death there must be no distance between death and youyou must understand the significance of death and live with it while you are fairly alert, not completely dead, not quite dead yet. Death is the end. Your body, mind, work, ambitions, the things that you have worked hard for and want to do, things you have not finished yet, things you have been trying to finish – an end comes to all of these when death arrives. What happens afterwards is quite another matter; that is not important because you will not inquire what happens afterwards if there is no fear. Then death becomes something extraordinary, not sadistically, not abnormally or unhealthily, because death then is something unknown, and there is immense beauty in that which is unknown. These are not just words.


 

We are talking about death to the things that your mind clings to.So to find out the whole significance of death, what it means, to see the immensity of it, not just the stupid, symbolic image of death, this fear of living and the fear of dying must completely cease, not only consciously but deep down. We try to give significance and meaning to our empty lives. We ask, ‘What is the purpose of living?’ because our own lives are shallow, worthless and we think we must have an ideal to live by. This is nonsensical. Fear is the separation between death and life. What does death mean actually, not theoretically? We are not discussing theoretically, we are not discussing merely to formulate an idea, a concept. We are talking facts, and if you reduce a fact merely into a theory, it is your own misfortune. You will live with your own shadow of fear and your life will end miserably as it begun miserably.


 

You have to learn to live with death. Not a method-you cannot say, ‘Tell me the method and I will practice it and I will live with death.’ That has no meaning. You have to find out what it means to live with something that must be an astonishingto actually see and it, to be aware of death and of which you are so terribly frightened. What does it mean to live with something which you don’t know? I don’t know if you have ever thought about it at all in that way; probably you have not. You being frightened havetried to avoid it or you jumped to some hopeful ideal or belief and thereby avoided it. You have to find out the meaning of death, and whether you can live with it as you would live with your wife or husband, with your children, your job, your anxiety. You live with all these, don’t you? You live with your boredom, your fears. Can you live with the unknown?



So when you really have the perfume of this thing, in your breath, in your being; not on some rare occasions but every day, waking and sleeping, then you will see for yourself, without somebody telling you, what an extraordinary thing it is to live, with actuality, not with words and symbols, to live with death and therefore to live every minute in a world in which there is not the known, but there is always the freedom from the known. It is only such a mind that can see the truth, the beauty and that which is from the everlasting to the everlasting.

 

The Coronavirus crisis has created a ‘perfect storm’ and the emotional impact has become a global psychological pandemic for chances of suicide as job losses soar and people are isolated in their homes. 


The realization of the non-availability of vaccine and/or effective antiviral drug against SARS-CoV-2 virus, and understanding that social distancing and quarantine/self-isolation is the only available remedy to us, the governments were forced to declare lockdown worldwide.

 

With recent suicide reports we can anticipate the rippling effect of this virus on worldwide suicide rates. However, the basic psychology and inability of the person and the mass society to deal with the situation are the major factors behind these pandemic related suicides.

 

As millions of Indians lose their jobs and economists predict a slow recovery, mental health professionals warn that the prolonged financial and personal stress caused by the pandemic increases the risk of suicide, especially in people already grappling with depression and anxiety. The soaring unemployment rate and stock market losses caused by the pandemic, combined with millions of people quarantining at home alone creates the “perfect storm” for an increased risk of suicide for many people. Many of us have been touched by suicide with the loss of a loved one, family member or friend. 

 

There are many factors alongside and including depression and mental illness that influence a person’s decision to go through with suicide: chronic ill health, guilt, trauma or substance abuse. The tragic fact is that many of those who consider suicide don’t really want to die; they just don’t know how to deal with the pain they’re experiencing. 

 

A study reported that social isolation could lead to hypertension, inflammation, physical inactivity, smoking, and other health risks. There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators.But is loneliness really increasing? Or is it a condition that humans have always experienced at various times of life? In other words, are we becoming lonelier or just more inclined to recognize and talk about the problem?These are tough questions to answer "Regardless of whether loneliness is increasing or remaining stable, we have lots of evidence that a significant portion of the population is affected by it," "Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need—crucial to both well-being and survival."Among the contemporary chaos, one prediction can be made with confidence. The coronavirus pandemic will soon lead to an outbreak of highest suicide cases

 

I know feeling utterly alone and abandoned can make one think one has run out of options. A few times since I started social distancing, I’ve curled up in a ball and sobbed, weighed down by the feeling of isolation, the feeling that I had locked myself into a tomb. In a lot of ways, I feel I’m slowly returning to the space I was in at my worst. And I’m terrified. Still, I know staying at home is the best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. I may be in danger because of my psychiatric conditions, but sheltering in place, I tell myself, is how I will keep myself and my loved ones safe. That doesn’t mean I’m not fighting like hell. And that every day, the government makes it more difficult. 


By Dr Jagannath Patnaik 

Educationalist and Spiritual Mentor

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