What exactly do we mean by ‘death’? What is it that is going to die?

Woman and astral body


The evidence that death exists is right there in every exhalation. Yet isn’t it true that we can only say that in relation to the body that is being breathed?

A doctor regards as dead a person whom he observes is no longer breathing, whose heart has stopped and who is no longer able to communicate, who is no longer part of this world, no longer part of life, as those around the bedside know it. Like the rest of us, he has no knowledge of what might be happening beyond what he can see.

The mystics have quite a different take on death. They maintain that we are more than a bodymind. That what we can observe is just the container in which we, as consciousness, are living. That that container comes with a ‘use-by’ date: when its time is up it dies. That consciousness can and does exist independent of the package we call our person.


My money’s on the mystic, not the medico. And this is why….


Many people, who may not be mystically minded at all, can personally attest to the fact that it’s possible to exist independent of the body, that there is life outside the body. During a car crash, on the operating table, or in deep meditation, they have experienced leaving their body and even being able to see it lying there – on the ground or in the theatre. With just a thought such as, ‘I want to go back into my body,’ they’ve been able to slip right back in.

Such an experience of course takes the fear out of dying because it makes clear that the death of the body is not the end of one’s existence.

You don’t need to wait for an out-of-the-body experience of your very own to share that understanding. Those of us who are meditators can regularly and voluntarily move into a space where we experience ourselves as separate from our corporeal selves, as far vaster than our physical or mental selves. Where even to say that then ‘I experience silence and stillness… a great peacefulness and I feel so vast’ is not it. The ‘I’ itself evaporates. There is a merging into a silence, a stillness and a peace that is without boundaries…. There are no definitions – of body or mind, of personality, of time or space.


To truly get it you need to have been there.


The OSHO Sammasati approach is empirical. It doesn’t offer consolations in the form of the belief that you are not your body, but points to a way you can experience this for yourself. Until you have tasted that for yourself, our suggestion is to take whatever you might read on the subject as a working hypothesis; that is, in the spirit of ‘That may be so: I’ll give it a go and see what my own experience is.’

One of the most basic meditation techniques we feature is Watching the Breath. There are many methods that will do the trick and, being very simple and taking little effort, this one is a good place to start. Practise it for a minimum of 40 minutes in one sitting, for 3 months or so. The key is to do it without any expectations, not waiting for any particular experience, but – like any good scientist – with an attitude of openness, willing to give it your best shot.

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