Yoga on Death & Dying

Yoga on Death & Dying

Practical Teachings of Yoga

Swami Rama

Mantra dispels the fear of death and leads one fearlessly to the other shore of life.

—Swami Rama

Death is a habit of the body, a necessary change. But while we are alive we don’t pay attention to the importance of knowing how to die at will, nor do we prepare ourselves psychologically for that moment. From the moment of birth we constantly tell ourselves that the objects of the world are real and that our happiness and completion depend on material possessions. But there comes a time when we notice that the material objects we have acquired are drastically changing and falling apart, and that the same thing is happening with our relationships. We are disappointed with life, and at the same time we become deeply attached to our children and possessions. As old age approaches we are lonely and afraid. We think that death will be painful—but in fact it is not death, it is the fear of death that creates misery for a dying person.

The brain has a limited capacity to sense physical pain, and at a certain point it becomes oblivious to it. Thus, during death people do not suffer from physical pain as much as they experience psychological pain. So just as we have discovered ways to prepare the expectant mother to have a safe birth and minimize the pain during labor, we must learn the techniques of casting off the body without fear and pain.

Yogis have discovered several ways to cast off their body voluntarily and joyfully. There are many signs and symptoms of impending death, and evolved yogis know precisely when and at what time it will happen. They greet that moment joyfully, and they leave the body in the same way that ordinary human beings take off their clothes.

Some of the famous yogic techniques for casting off the body are hima-samadhi, casting off one’s body in deep snow; jala-samadhi, casting off one’s body in water; sthala-samadhi, casting off one’s body while sitting in siddhasana, the accomplished pose, and consciously opening the fontanelle; meditating on the solar plexus and reducing the body to ashes in a fraction of a second; and piercing the brahma randhra, also known as the brahma nadi.

A dying meditator attains freedom from fear and departs gracefully.

But even if you just meditate regularly and sincerely, you will find that your mantra is an eternal friend during the time of transition. Meditators cannot be lonely and afraid during the time of death, because they are accompanied by the mantra. It is the leader that guides them from this world to the next, and this realization comes a moment before death actually takes place. Thus a dying meditator attains freedom from fear, insecurity, and loneliness in this very lifetime and departs from this platform gracefully.

Source: “Swami Rama of the Himalayas” in The Himalayan Masters: A Living Tradition by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

Further Reading

The Himalayan Masters: A Living Tradition

Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

The Himalayan Masters: A Living Tradition explores the lives and teachings of eight prominent sages of this timeless tradition—men who knew how to be successful in daily life while experiencing the innermost truths of life here and hereafter. Pandit Tigunait brings the experiences and teachings of these great masters to life, with practical insights into how to discover and understand life’s richest secrets for ourselves. Purchase your copy of The Himalayan Masters: A Living Tradition and discover the perennial wisdom of the Himalayan sages.

About the Author

Swami Rama

One of the greatest adepts, teachers, writers, and humanitarians of the 20th century, Swami Rama (1925–1996) is the founder of the Himalayan Institute. Born in northern India, he was raised from early childhood by the Himalayan sage, Bengali Baba. Under the guidance of his master, he traveled from monastery to monastery and studied with a variety of Himalayan saints and sages, including his grandmaster, who was living in a remote region of Tibet. In addition to this intense spiritual training, Swami Rama received higher education in both India and Europe. From 1949 to 1952, he held the prestigious position of Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham in South India. Thereafter, he returned to his master to receive further training at his cave monastery, and finally, in 1969, came to the United States, where he founded the Himalayan Institute. His best-known work, Living with the Himalayan Masters, reveals the many facets of this singular adept and demonstrates his embodiment of the living tradition of the East.