A Practical Guide to Death and Dying – part 4

John White – USA

[A Practical Guide to Death and Dying was originally published by QUEST books in 1980. This particular version was previously published in the Theosophical Digest, y1992 v4 i2-p90.] 

Dying the Good Death — The Final Hours of Saints and Heroes 

Medley APG 2 Dying Buddha

In 1963 an extraordinary East Indian spiritual teacher named Govindananda died at age 137. He had lived an incredibly strenuous life, actually journeying around the world by foot. Many heads of state were his friends, yet he lived humbly in a small jungle hut. When he became aware that it was time to die, he spoke quietly to a few disciples with him, gave a final blessing – “Live right life, worship God” – lay down, rested his head on his right palm in his usual sleeping position, and simply stopped breathing.

One of the remarkable things about saintly people is that even their deaths are often acts of inspiration and love. After showing us how to live – selflessly and in service to others – they show us how to die –  fearlessly and with dignity, strong in faith to the end.

Gautama Buddha, well into his eighties, continued teaching and preaching to the end. When he felt himself dying, he told his faithful disciple Ananda, who began to weep. The Buddha admonished him, “Have I not already, on former occasions, told you that it is the very nature of things that we must separate from them and leave them? The foolish man conceives the idea of ‘self [personal self or ego], the wise man sees there is no ground on which to build it!”

Disciples gathered around the Buddha and he delivered his Dying Sermon. He ended his farewell address with these words, “Behold now, brethren, I exhort you by saying: Decay is inherent in all component things, but the truth will remain forever! Work out your salvation with diligence.” Those were his last words. Then the Buddha fell into deep meditation and entered nirvana.

Read more: A Practical Guide to Death and Dying – part 4

Women and Spirituality: Mary Magdalene

Ananya Sri Ram Rajan – USA  

Medley W and S 2 mary magdalena 1014x487

Now known as the Apostle of the Apostles’ by the Vatican in 2016, dear Mary Magdalene has come a long way. Originally known in the Bible as a repentant woman whom Jesus cast seven demons from, she was thought to be a prostitute. For years, Mary Magdalene has been an enigma in the life of Jesus. Did she really exist? Was she a prostitute? Was she the physical lover of Jesus? These questions say more about us as a humanity and our inquisitiveness than anything else. Perhaps it is our need to view Jesus as a human being no different from ourselves, living a human life with human desires. But the controversy over Mary Magdalene and her relationship with Jesus has been one of curiosity for many—scholars, theologians, and feminists to name a few.

Cynthia Bourgeault’s book, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity(2011) provides an insightful look into the mysterious being known as Mary based on the canonical and Gnostic Gospels, as well as other teachings and research. Her goal in the book is to “reclaim Mary Magdelene’s legitimate role as a teacher and apostle.” (Considering this, I wonder what influence Cynthia’s work had toward the Vatican’s decision.) Bourgeault looks at Mary from three different aspects: as the Apostle, as the Beloved, and as the symbol for the Unitive Wisdom. It is from these different views that we are able to look at the role that Mary Magdalene plays as a woman, a disciple, and a teacher of the Wisdom Tradition, guiding individuals in their spiritual journey. 

Read more: Women and Spirituality: Mary Magdalene

Religious involvement deters recreational and medical marijuana use, researchers find


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Although marijuanause for medical and recreational purposes is at an all-time high in the United States, a team of researchers led by a Florida State University professor has found those who hold strong religious beliefs are choosing to stay away from weed.

FSU Associate Professor Amy Burdette and her team found that individuals who regularly attend church and report that religion is very important in their daily decision making are less likely to use marijuana recreationally and medically. The study was recently published in the Journal of Drug Issues.

“Our study confirms previous studies of recreational marijuana use,” Burdette said. “However, I believe ours is the first to examine the association between religiosity and medical marijuana use.”

Read more: Religious involvement deters recreational and medical marijuana use, researchers find

Conflict, Continuity and the Expansion of Consciousness

Tim Wyatt – England


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As much as many spiritual people dislike and deny the fact - conflict has always been central to human existence and conduct. It has been one of the painful but principal drivers of progress. Without this constant interplay between discord and harmony, individuals, societies and civilizations would have remained static and non-dynamic. Individually we need challenges to perpetually push against. For those choosing an accelerated path to spiritual development, conflict is a permanent feature and the challenge is to use it creatively.

It may be obvious but as esotericists we always have to thoroughly question everything. We are obliged to search out the inner rather than the outward exoteric causes of events by applying timeless cosmic laws such as The Law of Polarity or the twin Laws of Karma and Reincarnation rather than transitory human ideas.  We are interested in the deeper occult meanings of things rather than obvious outward explanations. Often we are at variance with the fads and fashions of the time.

This can lead to isolation and alienation leaving those who dissent very unpopular because they do not choose to follow the herd. The herd, by the way, is always reactionary and usually wrong. It has an almost limitless capacity for ignorance and discord.

In fact violence and cruelty are so deeply embedded in the human make-up – physically, emotionally and mentally – that eradicating this gallingly persistent human trait seems as dauntingly impossible as travelling to the most distant galaxy. One day both will be achievable – but each of us will have reincarnated many times before that time arrives.

Humanity has reached a pivotal turning point in its development and for many reasons – exoteric and esoteric – it appears to be in the process of tearing itself apart on virtually every level but especially politically, religiously, socially, economically and ecologically. This destruction is entirely normal and no doubt part of a wider re-configuration of ourselves and the planet. 

It appears we are approaching some kind of apocalypse or Götterdämmerung. But there’s nothing to worry about – it is a regular occurrence. As we know from that most Teutonic of German philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche – that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – eventually.

Read more: Conflict, Continuity and the Expansion of Consciousness

Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 25

Leo Babauta – USA 

Creativity and practicing deep focus

 “In order to be open to creativity, one must have

the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must

overcome the fear of being alone.”

by Rollo May (photo 

Medley Focus 2

Creativity is a fragile, elusive thing. If you don’t practice, it become rusty, blunted, something you fear from intimidation. If you let yourself get too distracted, other demands on your attention will make creating difficult. If you put too much pressure on yourself, creativity becomes shy, hides in the awnings as you sit there, stuck. 

And creating, as I envision it, is a broad activity that encompasses many things – writing and drawing and designing and painting and making music and taking photographs, sure, but much more. Creating can be almost anything: coming up with a fun lesson for students, finding ways to keep your kids from getting bored, coming up with new ideas for your small business, thinking of a crafted message that will help you reach new customers, hand-stitching the perfect suit, perfecting a pitch to a new client, preparing a presentation for a small audience, and much more.

Creativity killers  

So how do we nourish this creativity that most of us need on a daily level? It’s important to remember what kills creativity, first:

Distractions. The many things that pull on our attention that we’ve discussed in this book. Each distraction pulls us away from creating, and as we switch between creating and consuming information, and creating and communicating with others, we fragment our focus, we fragment creation itself.

Intimidation. When a task seems to large, daunting, we will shy away from it. It’s difficult to sit down and create when we dread a task. If we think we’re not good at it, we become intimidated as well

and often won’t even start.

Pressure. While you’ll often hear creative professionals say they create best under deadline pressure, the truth is most people have difficulty creating under pressure. Try creating when someone is watching over your shoulder – your mind has a hard time focusing, because you’re thinking of the person watching you. The same is true of other types of pressure – it distracts you, makes it hard to focus. There are a few exceptional people might be good at creating under pressure, but only because they’ve learned to focus despite these pressures. Mostly the pressure becomes motivation for them. For the rest of us, the less pressure, the better, because it allows us to relax and focus.

Lack of use. When we don’t create on a regular basis, it becomes intimidating. When we put off creating, and put it off, we lose some of the key habits (see below) that allow us to create. T

These creativity killers come in many forms, but forming the key creativity habits below will help us to deal with these problems.

Read more: Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 25

A Practical Guide to Death and Dying – part 3

John White – USA

Medley APG 2 to Death and Dying


[A Practical Guide to Death and Dying was originally published by QUEST books in 1980. This particular version was previously published in the Theosophical Digest, y1992 v4 i2-p90.] 

Meditation –The World’s Best Fear Remover.

Death has been of central consideration in all the, world’s major religious and spiritual paths, and each has worked out a variety of ways with which to eliminate fear of dying. Meditation is the principal method they use. It has been called “the craft of dying.”

Meditation is a means of personal and transpersonal growth. It is a time-honored technique – probably humanity’s oldest spiritual discipline – for helping people release their potential for expanded con­sciousness and fuller living. Also a technique for assisting in the en­lightenment process of directly knowing God or ultimate reality, meditation appears in some form in nearly every major religious tradition. The entranced yogi in a lotus posture, the Zen Buddhist sitting in zazen, the Christian con­templative kneeling in adoration of Jesus, the Sufi dervish whirling in an ecstasy-inducing state – all can be properly described as practicing meditation. Although the cultural or religious trappings may vary, meditation’s core experience is an altered state of consciousness in which your ordinary sense of “I” –  the ego – is diminished, while a larger sense of self-existence- merged-with-the-cosmos comes into awareness.

When your self-centered consciousness is dissolved, your true identity shines through. This is en­lightenment, cosmic consciousness, union with God. The experience is transforming. Your life changes because you realize the essential truth of what spiritual teachers, sages, and saints have said: Death as nonexistence is an illusion, there is nothing to fear, and it is only your petty little ego that generates the fear, along with the sorrow, greed, jealousy, pride, lust, and all the other sins, vices, and unfulfilling desires that make life miserable for you and for others.

Remember what Freud said: In the unconscious, every one of us is convinced of our immortality. Spiritual traditions reply to Freud: We are unconsciously convinced because, in truth, we really are deathless. The true self cannot die, being one with God, Brahman, the Tao, the all-creative Void. The true self is universal, cosmically conscious. There are no limits to it except the illusory one we create, called ego the false idea, which we nevertheless believe, that a separate, independent self is the essential “me” and “you.” Thatself – the ego – is indeed mortal because it has identified with a perishable body.

Meditation is a powerful means of exploring mind and spirit – the most powerful, in fact. The aim of meditation is clarity of consciousness.It helps you to be aware of reality fullyso that your thoughts, feelings, and behavior are free and appropriate, not programmed by anxiety, desire, hatred, prejudice, social conventions and so forth. It does this by deautomatizing and deconditioning you.

How does meditation do this? It creates a sort of mental distance between you and your mind’s activity in which you can observe it with detachment. Meditation also extends your awareness so that you can actually begin to see thoughts and feelings come into existence. It shows you deeper aspects of mind than you are ordinarily aware of. Thus, the experience of meditation allows you to disidentify with your thoughts and feelings. You havethem, but you are notthem, just as you have a car but are not your car.

Read more: A Practical Guide to Death and Dying – part 3

AIl (artificial intelligence) systems shed light on root cause of religious conflict: Humanity is not naturally violent


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Artificial intelligencecan help us to better understand the causes of religious violence and to potentially control it, according to a new Oxford University collaboration. The study is one of the first to be published that uses psychologically realistic AI – as opposed to machine learning.

The study published in The Journal for Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, combined computer modelling and cognitive psychology to create an AI system able to mimic human religiosity, allowing them to better understand the conditions, triggers and patterns for religious violence.

The study is built around the question of whether people are naturally violent, or if factors such as religion can cause xenophobic tension and anxiety between different groups, that may or may not lead to violence?

The findings reveal that people are a peaceful species by nature. However, in a wide range of contexts they are willing to endorse violence – particularly when others go against the core beliefs which define their identity.

Although the research focuses on specific historic events, the findings can be applied to any occurrence of religious violence, and used to understand the motivations behind it. Particularly events of radicalized Islam, when people's patriotic identity conflicts with their religions one, e.g. the Boston bombing and’London terror attacks. The team hope that the results can be used to support governments to address and prevent social conflict and terrorism.

Conducted by a cohort of researchers from universities including Oxford, Boston University and the University of Agder, Norway, the paper does not explicitly simulate violence, but, instead focuses on the conditions that enabled two specific periods of xenophobic social anxiety, that then escalated to extreme physical violence.

Read more: AIl (artificial intelligence) systems shed light on root cause of religious conflict: Humanity is...

A Practical Guide to Death and Dying - part 2

John White – USA


Medley A Practical 2

[A Practical Guide to Death and Dying was originally published by QUESTbooks in 1980. This particular version was previously published in the Theosophical Digest, y1992 v4 i2-p90.] 

How Will You Be Remembered? — Writing Your Own Obituary.

An obituary is an objective statement of fact. It is both a death notice and a summary of the person’s life. You are now going to write your own obituary, stating the facts of your life as they are to date and — using your imagination — as you’d like them to be for the rest of your life or, perhaps, as you’re afraid they’ll be. Obituaries are usually not very long, so this isn’t a major writing assignment. But it is a major assignment in terms of life assessment— your values, your relations with other people, your accomplishments, success as a provider, spouse, parent, friend, and citizen.

Right now is a good time to take stock of your life. Have you been a “friend to man”? How will your spouse remember you? Your neighbors? Your work associates? Who will eulogize you, and what will be said, and will it be sincere? If you have children, what character development and values have they learned from you, consciously through your training or non-consciously through imitating your example? If you are in some kind of supervisory position in business, education, or the military, how will those under you regard your passing? In short, who will miss you and what will be the effect of your life on the world?

If death seems fearful because your life will have been meaningless, whose fault is that? Isn’t it clear that the meaning of your life is entirely in your control? It grows out of your values, your character, your relations with others, your accomplishments, your sacrifices, and your gifts of love, honesty, tolerance, sympathy, understanding, helpfulness, courage, fairness, loyalty, courtesy, cheerfulness. These are not commodities to be bought and sold. They are yours, entirely within your control. They are the basis of meaning in your life. Without them, human existence is cruel and bleak, no matter how wealthy or famous or powerful you might be. Consider this as you write your own obituary. When you have finished, think deeply upon this:

“My death will be reported like this someday. Will my life have been worthwhile?”

If your obituary leaves you feeling unsatisfied, remorseful, angry, disappointed — anything less than serene and tranquil — then think deeply upon this: It is within my power to change it by changing my life.Don’t mistake a change in your outward circumstances, however, for the kind of change I’m talking about here. Perhaps part of your fear of dying involves guilt over a wrong you committed — say, an insult or lie. If so, you should correct it and clear your conscience. This is not only morally right, it is also in your own best interest because it will relieve you of some of the death-fear you harbor. As Dr. Bernie Siegel, author of Love, Medicine and Miracles,says, “Don’t wait until you’re going to die to start living.”

Read more: A Practical Guide to Death and Dying - part 2

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