By David Matthew Brown
Q: I have recently lost someone in my family to death, I found myself scared about my own death, what is death?
A: What is death? We spend most of our lives looking away, running, suppressing, hiding, and so when death comes it is a fear of something not explored. Fear is unexplored territory. So when it is in our face if we don’t want to know what we fear. But the fear again is uninvestigated. Just like a reaction. So death needs to be questioned, investigated, looked at, not kept away as though there is no end. Media, newspapers, magazines, and entertainment make death into a fairy tale.
Solders are not seen in death bags, death is not seen on TV, families don’t talk about death, and the simple fact is it is happening. Like fear. Nobody wants to look at it. It is easier to pray and ask God to take away the pain so the person will not have to experience the grave. It is easier to blame a God for death then look at our own creations. So lets look at death. What is death? It seems that something has ended, but what has ended? Time? Body? Mind? What do I believe death is? This body seems to be without life, and feels cold. But where has the identity of you gone. Where is David Matthew Brown? Where is he? Is he here? His body is here. But what happened?
The identity of the body is gone. But that identity was formed by thoughts and feelings, which formed a self- image in life about whom David was. So all the experiences, past, memories, beliefs, spiritual or not spiritual, conditions, language, family, friends, stories, country etc…that made this life called David Matthew Brown all of have stopped, ceased, and where did they go? Is it that we are scared that our identity, which we have spent, cultivating with ideas, images, thoughts, and feelings; will no longer exist, if that is the case then that would lead one down the path to ask the question, who am I without death? Who am I without identity?
Identity would presume that you are something, and after death you appear to be nothing. Just like everyone else. So what is death? It is the loss of identity, and if I am identified with you in my life, then I have stories that are good and bad that make our connection dependant on each other, real. But now you are no more physically. So there is no one to attack, love, blame, etc. Except these stories of what was, what used to be, the past, what I know or thought I knew about you, and now I must look at it. All of it is dying in front of me and all I can do is be present. Watch all the identities falling away. But all I know is this and you and the world and ideas. Another question arises, if I have an identity to a job, person, drug, food, body, then who am I without it?
Free. You are in a state of freedom. So death leads you to freedom. Religions want you to believe that that freedom can’t happen till you physically die. And when that happens in the future, then you will enter eternal life, heaven, another realm, and meet who ever you meet. And yet, whether that belief is true or not for you, when we investigate death, we arrive at complete freedom. Freedom from need, freedom from our own identities, freedom from relationships, freedom from money, freedom from success, freedom from fame, etc…Well you must be thinking, what is wrong with any of these things, nothing. They all have a place in society, but they are not who you are. Each day we die. We die to what we know, knowing is death, the past is dead, and we only have now. Simple. But the intellect wants to identify with something, to be something, to be accepted, and so it brings us to the next question, everyday I feel insufficient, this feeling permeates my day, and I find myself comparing, contrasting, and I want to feel sufficient, how can I feel sufficient?
Everyone wants to be something, wants affection, wants love, wants, and with those wants come “should be”, “this shouldn’t”, “why am I here”, “How did I get here”, and so forth. Rather than feel the insufficient part and investigate it, we create an identity that masks the insufficiency. The identity is created by how others see us and how that makes us feel. If in fact, when I was younger, and growing up, and my parents punished me through physical forms such as slapping, then I may look for punishment throughout my life. Creating an identity where I become successful and then punish myself for such success. Or I know violence. In both cases the old form doesn’t work anymore. So we must investigate the idea. But when it comes up we are taught to run, because people may find out that I am insufficient. That our identity doesn’t match up with our sense of self. But our sense of self is built on a false premise, which we believe is who we are.
So we create traditions, mantras, gurus, religions, organizations, political governments, government, economy, from insufficiency, and as they crumble, because they have too, we panic. We panic because again we are going to be seen, and so we suffer this betrayal of our selves. Suffering is a betrayal. We only suffer when we don’t want to investigate what we are saying to our selves and doing to others. So death comes upon us. The identity as individuals and as a whole suffers collectively as everyone grasps to discover what is happening. And what is happening is a self -created identity that has failed to look at its own creation, which must be die.
Identity to self -creation will always end in death. It is the way ideas are formed. A computer was made and now something better comes to destroy the old computer. We are caught up in the past, identified on how others see and care about what we have created. So we say, “I am a scientist, I have important information that you don’t have.” Well when the scientist retires, leaves the job, what is he or she now. Like everyone else, insufficient, suffering, and yet if the scientist can simply look at the insufficiency then he or she would realize that the present moment is life itself. That thought doesn’t exist in the presence. The mind is used on occasion, there is no identity to a past, future, that there is only now. There is nothing to get to, move to, run to, run from, hide, be dishonest, but a place which can only be found now.
Life is simple, and death is simple, and that they are choice on how to live, only made when investigated. Explore it for yourself. Look at your fear, question it, and get the answer to what it is telling you. It wants you to explore it. Not run, hide, blame, complain, pass judgments, and react too. Without exploring death and fear, we form groups, beliefs, religions, organizations, governments, societies, and schools.
You must always be acting from now, but you first must die to what you know. A violent man must admit he is violent. Then inquire on all the ways that he is violent, in order to dissolve violence. We can’t understand peace, love, and compassion till we investigate the thought about each one and arrive at what they actually are, freedom. Death is the release of something created, attachments, and the acceptance of now. Which is always new, never old, and exciting. And yes that radical change can happen right now.