I asked Acharya what is the one piece of advice he would give men and women my age who have been workaholics and success addicts—special, not happy—and who tremble at the thought of leaving grihastha*. He paused for a long time. “Know yourself,” he finally said. “That is all. Nothing else. Nothing else can release.” “How?” I asked. “By going within,” he replied. “When your mind is quieter, you will find that treasure waiting for you within.
– Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life Arthur C. Brooks
*grihastha : ”the second stage in the Brahmanic ashrama in which a man assumes the duties and responsibilities of a householder.
There is still a widespread denial of death in Western cultures. Even old people try not to speak or think about it, and dead bodies are hidden away. A culture that denies death inevitably becomes shallow and superficial, concerned only with the external form of things. When death is denied, life loses its depth. The possibility of knowing who we are beyond name and form, the dimension of the transcendent, disappears from our lives because death is the opening into that dimension.
People tend to be uncomfortable with endings, because every ending is a little death. That’s why in many languages the word for “good-bye” means “see you again.”
Whenever an experience comes to an end – a gathering of friends, a vacation, your children leaving home – you die a little death. A “form” that appeared in your consciousness as that experience dissolves. Often this leaves behind a feeling of emptiness that most people try hard not to feel, not to face.
If you can learn to accept and even welcome the endings in your life, you may find that the feeling of emptiness that initially felt uncomfortable turns into a sense of inner spaciousness that is deeply peaceful.
By learning to die daily in this way, you open yourself to life….
Whenever death occurs, whenever a life form dissolves, God, the formless and unmanifested, shines through the opening left by the dissolving form. That is why the most sacred thing in life is death. That is why the peace of God can come to you through contemplation and acceptance of death.
The ego would have you think that it’s responsible for your survival. Ego says, “If I wasn’t so clever . . . if I didn’t remind you to take your vitamins and all, you’d be deader than a mackerel.” The downside of duality, then, is it creates the illusion that there’s a separate I that is the cause of everything—that there’s a personal I, separate from the infinite oneness of totality. The core of the ego is this self-centered point, which one assumes to be the cause of everything. As long as you believe in causality, you are stuck in a duality of “a this causing a that.” The pathway to enlightenment through non-duality dissolves the opposites.
“Nobody’s going to do your life for you. You have to do it yourself, whether you’re rich or poor, out of money or raking it in, the beneficiary of ridiculous fortune or terrible injustice. And you have to do it no matter what is true. No matter what is hard. No matter what unjust, sad, sucky things befall you. Self-pity is a dead-end road. You make the choice to drive down it. It’s up to you to decide to stay parked there or to turn around and drive out.”