The Fear of Death

My husband and I did another discussion video. This is a subject I’ve been planning to talk about for a long time and we finally got a chance while Garrick Ravi was napping. So today Brad and I are talking about the fear of death…

Ambaa: So let me give a little introduction about what we’re talking about today. I am terrified of death.

INTRO

Ambaa: …and it doesn’t really make sense because in The Gita, Krishna talks about how death is nothing to be afraid of, and it’s just a part of life, and your soul will go on, and all that kind of stuff. Like he very specifically says not to fear death.

And, to be clear, I think that of all of the religious explanations of life and death, Hinduism makes the most sense. It fits the evidence the best. It eliminates a lot of the– well, Eastern in general. You know.

Brad: Okay, yeah, ’cause Hinduism isn’t the only–

Ambaa: Like reincarnation and stuff. Like it’s not that I think “Oh, I’m wrong, the Christians are right and I’m going to be punished in hell. There’s zero part of me that has any, ANY, thought that there’s a hell. I mean, that is just beyond ridiculous. The thing that I fear is that the atheists are right and we just end.

BUT, the funny thing about my fear is I am equally terrified of ceasing to exist and existing forever.

’cause forever is a really, really long time. And that scares me. I guess I’m afraid I’m going to get bored.

Brad: [laughter] But there’s so much to do.

Ambaa: But it’s for EVER. Ever, ever, ever, ever. It’s like the monkeys typing on the keyboard that will eventually produce Hamlet. Like eternity is you will run out of things.

Brad: Yeah, but it’s not like you’re typing on a keyboard. And you have these breaks, which seem like eternity of being in the One.

Ambaa: But what about once you achieve moksha and you’re unified with God? Then you don’t anymore, right?

Brad: Um, until, and this is my interpretation of Hinduism, until Brahma decides to create another world. Then don’t you go through it again?

Ambaa: I don’t know, I guess.

Brad: Or are you one with Brahma forever after that?

Ambaa: Um, I guess the promise is that you will be forever after you go through all of the shit of like–

Brad: –The Kali Yuga?

Ambaa: –thousands of lifetimes of working towards this and working really hard and you finally get there. I think that’s supposed to be final.

Brad: Mmm-hmm.

Ambaa: And I know that I have to just trust that of course it will be how it’s supposed to be and I won’t hate it…but I’m really scared!

Brad: Well, if anything’s going to keep you from moksha.

Ambaa: Moksha’s like “why you talkin about me?”

Brad: Yeah. [to camera] Our cat’s named Moksha. I don’t know if you know. So, I’m not as afraid of death. I mean, I’m sure I will feel fear. When I am presented with the prospect of my own death, which thankfully–oh no, wait. I almost died once. I was pretty cool.

Ambaa: In that car accident?

Brad: Yeah. In the car accident. Although at that time, when I thought I was about to die I had that thought, “no, I’m not actually going to die.” And I simply knew that. And I wasn’t even hurt, so hey, it worked! But as far as religious belief goes, in terms of what happens after one dies, I agree that it makes the most sense that there’s reincarnation. And I also agree the second most likely thing is that there is simply nothing. But I have a broader idea, I think, of what reincarnation can mean. And I think it can pretty well overlap the atheist nothing…and here’s why: So in Taoism–

Ambaa: –This is about to be so Buddhist.

Brad: No, it’s Taoist!

Ambaa [laughter]: But you said “nothing.”

Brad: I know. So in Taoism, there is this belief in three fundamental things that make up all things: humans, rocks, trees, everything. [SIDE NOTE: Yes, this does sound like the gunas] Chi, Jing, and Shen. Chi is what animates, Jing is physicality, and Shen is spirit. And so, when one dies their Chi has gone into all the things they have done. They’ve used that animating energy up. They’ve distributed it so that’s still out there. The Jing is very easy to deal with, that’s the body and the body will eventually rot and rejoin everything else that is the earth, in this case.  And it becomes very Yin. And the Shen, the Shen rejoins the field of Shen, the universal consciousness….Unless one obtains Taoist immortality and combines Yin and Yang within their Shen and then, oh it’s a whole thing. But then you can come back as an immortal and stuff. But as a householder there’s very little chance of that happening for me!

Ambaa [laughter]: Very, very little, yes.

Brad: Yeah, you’d be disappointed if I went through that.

Ambaa: Yes, I would.

Brad: But philosophically, you know in terms of western philosophy, death has never really scared me all that much either. I think Heidegger (despite his political beliefs) had a pretty solid way of dealing with death. He called it “being towards death.” Now, Heidegger was German so that’s all one word, of course. And that was to look at and acknowledge that one day you will die but not dwell on it. And try as much as possible to not let that fact influence your actions too much. Don’t try to avoid death, don’t try to embrace death. Just have a neutral attitude toward death.

Ambaa: Yeah, and I think if I’m staying in the present moment and staying here and now as I should be, then everything is fine. It’s that fear of loss. It’s the idea that even though you’re going to be united in something greater…I don’t know, I guess I don’t trust it. And I’m afraid of losing you and all the good things I have in my life. You know, when you have something that makes you happy and you’re just terrified that it’s going to go away because all things change.

Brad: We’re pledged to each other for seven lifetimes.

Ambaa: And we’re renewing that every lifetime.

Brad: Yes, so we actually don’t know how many lifetimes we have banked. [laughter]. Do they stack?

Ambaa: I have no idea.

Brad: Okay. We should ask someone.

Ambaa: I’m sure somebody watching this will have an opinion on that.

Brad: I hope so, Internet, I hope so.

Ambaa: So, I don’t know if there’s a way for me to get past my fear of death and just be at peace and enjoy life etc. I don’t know. Like, I get almost comatose when I think about it too much. I have to actually talk without thinking about what I’m saying because…sometimes, like, I’ll read a book, like the end of Peter Pan did it to me, or watch a movie that will have something about the stretching on of time and I just COMPLETELY shut down. It’s very, very, very scary.

Brad: Yeah, it doesn’t affect me.

Ambaa: Yeah. I don’t know why it doesn’t affect you. I want to be like that! How do I be like that?

Brad: Um, well, I mean I think of infinity as an infinite number of moments: if I can be in one moment, I can be in any moment.

Ambaa: That makes no sense.

Brad: Why not?

Ambaa [singing Any Moment from Into The Woods]: Oh, if life were made of moments, even now and then a bad one. But if life were only moments, then you’d never know you had one. Sorry, that was completely irrelevant, I just couldn’t resist.

Brad: Yeah. The thing is the universe presents itself in so many varied and interesting ways and I am myself varied (and I like to think interesting) and so when the two meet it not only creates an infinite amount of potential, but an infinite number of things I could do.

Ambaa: So even with infinite time, you don’t think you’d ever run out?

Brad: Yeah. Because I’m not just a monkey sitting in front of a typewriter with a job to type and type alone. I mean, how many lives can a person live–

Ambaa: Well yeah, but again, eternity is ETERNITY.

Brad: Yeah, but…

Ambaa: You run out of typing to do, then you do the next thing for eternity, then you do the next thing for eternity, it still goes on.

Brad: Yeah.

Ambaa: You’ll still run out! Because it’s eternity! It doesn’t end!

Brad: Yeah, but neither does the variety of life.

Ambaa: Okay.

Brad: Wow, I’m the least Buddhist Buddhist today.

Ambaa: You’re saying what you need to to comfort your wife.

Brad: No, I actually think these things. But I’m really seriously Tao-ing out today. If I were to ever find that life were truly presenting with only suffering, then I have a way out that’s permanent.

Ambaa: You do?

Brad: Yeah, enlightenment. Buddhist enlightenment.

Ambaa: Oh. Buddhist enlightenment. It’s different from Hindu enlightenment in that…

Brad: In that you zero yourself out.

Ambaa: Yeah.

Brad: You eliminate your karma and that takes away the self because there is no actual self.

Ambaa: Yeah, and I think they’re actually the same thing when it comes down to it.

Brad: They have different implications.

Ambaa: But yeah, Hinduism is kind-of you become everything, you merge with God and you identify as the larger Self, as in the divine within you. You expand. So yeah your individual self probably does disappear because we get attached to thinking of ourselves as the small self, the ego, the things that are not permanent. And in reality what we are is bigger than that and we just become identified with what we really are and that ego side goes away. The Buddhists seem to say that, I mean, it’s the same thing in that the small side goes away. And I think in their view once you become everything there’s no “you” anymore. So yeah, I think that’s basically the same thing. It’s just Hindus don’t force you to think about your individual self going away really.

Brad:  It depends on the type of Buddhist. But for the Theravadans in particular there is no “oneness” to join. Once you end the self…there is no small self, there is no large Self, there is nothing.

Ambaa [rolls eyes]

Brad: Forever!

Ambaa: Yeah, that’s so unhelpful.

Brad: But there’s no suffering.

Ambaa: But there’s also no joy!

Brad: Yeah, but joy comes with suffering. [SIDE NOTE: There’s the Buddhist!]

Ambaa: But suffering comes with joy.

Brad: Yeah, so this is why I’m not just Buddhist, I’m also Taoist.

Ambaa: I’m willing to put up with some suffering for all of the joy.

Brad: Yeah, for right now I am too. Sorry for the act of blindness, guys. [SIDE NOTE: I don’t know what that means]

Ambaa: So my parents used to tell me that it’s natural in human beings to fear death, to fear ending, because there’s a part of us that knows that we don’t end. So because we’re identified with the small self and that does end we become afraid. But somewhere in us we know that there’s a part that goes on.

Brad: Unless you work really hard to make it not go on…Actually I have both ends. In Buddhism it’s “unless you work really hard to make sure you don’t go on” or in Taoism you work really hard to make sure everything goes on.

Ambaa: The immortal.

Brad: Yeah.

Ambaa: You’re just…

Brad: I’m hedging my bets.

Ambaa: Yeah. Having it both ways! I didn’t want to use that phrase because that’s the one that everybody always uses like, “Well you should become Christian ’cause WHAT IF?! What if there is a hell and God’s gonna punish you. Hedge your bets and become Christian just in case.” To that I say: There’s a lot of faiths with a lot of different things that they say and you can’t practice all of them “just in case.”

[camera problem]

Brad: When Pascal’s wager comes up I always like to say “Exoflip,” which, Christians, you should know is a curse that I have just laid upon you. If you do not have me lift the curse, then you are going to suffer an eternity in hellish marshmallow-scape. The best way to lift the curse is to send me $500 via Paypal. I’ll have the link down in the comments. And just let me lift this curse from you because really it’s awful there—

Ambaa: You better do it. Just in case! You just don’t know.

Brad: Yeah, just in case. That’s about how much a threat of hell from someone affects me. Just so you know how it feels.

New to this blog? Check out these posts:

What Makes Me A Hindu?

Did I Start Out Christian?

Why Am I Called “The White Hindu”?

New to Hinduism? Learn more here:

Hinduism 101: What Do Hindus Believe?

Can I Convert To Hinduism?

Your First Visit To A Hindu Temple

Super Simple Daily Puja

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Agni Ashwin

    Hedging your bets, eh?

  • Donald M

    Eternity is confusing. An interesting way to look at it as “timeless” or outside of time, not related to time. So, it isn’t a long, long time, but not within the confines of time at all. Time is tied to the creation because once there is a creation, there had to be a time before the creation. But, in moksha, nirvana, samadhi, one is not in the creation, and there is no time. It is like a meditation in which you really rest and find that a lot time just disappeared. Where were “you”?

  • surya

    for me fear of death is stemming only from the worry of welfare of my children getting compromised. I want to live until they grow up old enough and be able to live on their own in my absence. Once I reach and cross that stage Iam more than happy to quit. Life is boring and even punishing it cant go on forever. The party must end for my sake and for the world’s sake. Living forever is the worst punishment one can get imposed on. Absolutely horrendous. Dont get me wrong, Iam not suffering from abject poverty or suffering from multitude of ailments or some such.

  • http://florforhillary.blogspot.com/ Eddie Bryan

    Fear of death. My philosophy teacher once said it may be the basis of all fears. I guess there is a lot to that, but what dies? The body dies. The brain is part of that. We see the newborn baby and what does it know? It has to be taught everything (that is it needs to be conditioned about what is real and what is not) all over again. So, is the idea of reincarnation really superior? I can’t say I am a Christian. I have read this book that extols the virtues of Christianity while disagreeing with it extensively, the Urantia Book, I have told Amba about it before. Well, I talk of it often. It says Jesus never preached reincarnation but it also says there is no Hell and that Mary wasn’t a virgin and that Jesus didn’t walk on the water and that spirits attending to him really caused the miracle of water into wine at Cana. It’s tough for me. Do you think you were somebody in a previous life? Was it someone extraordinary? I wonder if our imagining previous lives isn’t just a tool of our ego to not give it up. I read a lot Ram Dass, Love Serve Remember, at Facebook. He was just talking about the ego today and how it doesn’t want to be given up. Yes, there is a lot of talk of ego. I follow Siddha Yoga, a spiritual master named Gurumayi and I was wondering, in Siddha Yoga they often say their discipline is not Hinduism. They revere Kashmir Shaivism as the highest philosophy and worship Kundalini Shakti. Yes, they teach that reincarnation is a reality but why are they not Hindus? Gurumayi herself has said she is Hindu but somehow that is apart from the yoga. In Siddha Yoga they say the Guru who is all pervasive and the Supreme Self assumes a body for the need of devotees. So, somehow does that relate?