Death: Terror or Teacher

What is the one event that will surely take place in every person’s life? Not marriage, as many decide to stay single; not parenthood, as many remain childless; not education as many continue to be illiterates.

One may be surprised and even shocked to realize that the one definite event in a person’s life is DEATH. The ratio is staggering: one out of one person dies! Every walk to the crematorium or cemetery suggests that one day you will be carried in a similar way. Therefore, it is essential to have an adequate understanding about death. In fact, it is good to be prepared to face it. This is not encouraging suicide or euthanasia but to make every effort to meet the event with satisfaction, hope and dignity. The very thought of death can either create terror or become a teacher.

Death is the equalizer of all – someday all will die. Even in this scientifically advanced era, death is unavoidable, inescapable and the ultimate variable in life. It is not a temporary transition but an eternal destiny; therefore, death terrifies some, while others use it to plan their life. Solomon, the wisest man in history, exhorts not to fear, tremble or run at the reality of death but urges to come to terms with death now so that one can get real about how to live life (Ecclesiastes 9:1-10).

The age old Indian prayer found in  Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28, Lead me from the unreal to the real, lead me from the darkness to the light, lead me from the temporary to the Eternal (Asatoma satgamaya, Tamasoma jyotirgamaya, Mrityorma amritamgamaya), emphasizes the aspiration for eternal life, which is beyond death. The prayer seeks hope and assurance regarding immortal life that comes after death. For a person who has such hope and assurance, death is the teacher that prepares him or her to enter into immortality.

But how and where did humans lose that hope? The Bible is unequivocal in saying that death is the result of sin (“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…” – Romans 5:12). Therefore, only someone who could defeat death and make peace for human sin can give assurance and hope, which according to the Upanishad has to be provided by the expected guru.

The answer to the prayer and the assurance of immortality has come to humanity in and through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ died for the sins of humanity and rose again on the third day, which happened as per the plan (“…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Further, Jesus answered the prayer for immortality in his promise, “…Whoever hears my word … has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24) A person who believes in the guru will repent that he/she is a sinner both by birth and deed, will acknowledge that the penalty was paid by the sinless guru, and will have hope that one day the guru will come back to take him/her home and death becomes only a transition into immortality. (“He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own …” Philippians 3:21).


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