This is the wonder! When the yaksha asked Yudhishthira, “What is the biggest wonder in this world?” he replied, “People are dying every day and yet each one wants to be deathless.” When no one has become immortal yet, how can you be the first one? People are afraid of death because they think it is the termination of the chapter, the end of the book. They do not believe that they will continue to live even after death. They see a body being burnt to ashes and think that everything has ended and that they will end up like that.
People believe in ghosts, vampires and spirits, but they do not believe in rebirth. They hesitate to believe in rebirth, but by believing in ghosts they infer the continuation of the atma, even after the death of the body. To become a ghost, the atma, the spirit, has to survive, even after the death of the body. When you see the complete destruction of the body after death, then who becomes the ghost? Surely not the body. Obviously that which is other than the body becomes the ghost. When man realizes that he continues to live in spirit, even after the death of the body, then there is no fear of death. When he sees death as a process of changing into a new role, a new life, a new opportunity, new karma, a new model of the body, which is free from its present afflictions, then he becomes free of fear.
Now my body is old, it is a 1923 model. So why should I have any difficulty in leaving it? In this body I can neither play golf, football, hockey, badminton, tennis or basketball. I can neither marry nor dance, nor can I enjoy good food or drink. In spite of this, man clings to his old model and is not willing to let it go. He thinks, “It doesn’t matter if the house is filthy and full of mosquitoes, if the roof is leaking and the windows are falling apart. Still I prefer to live in this same useless house. Where can I go if I leave it?” But that is wrong.
When your karma with that body is over, you should not regret it. I am not talking about untimely death or death at a young age. I am talking about death in old age. Everybody should book his ticket for the new world by the age of sixty-five or seventy. Even if God says to you, “My boy, your reservation is not yet made; all the seats are booked”, you should make an advance payment. Wherever there is a vacant seat, leave this world to take it. Birth is indefinite and uncertain but death is a definite certainty. There can be no two opinions about this, yet everyone is frightened of death. This is the biggest wonder of the world.
Rikhiapeeth, 24 December 1996, first published in Bhakti Yoga Sagar Vol. 4
After marriage come children. When a child is born to you, call it your disciple. I have many disciples whom I consider to be my children. Swami Niranjan and Swami Satsangi can be considered as my son and my daughter, but they do not dance on my head. These children do not demand any rights, and if I die tomorrow I won’t have to leave them any inheritance. They won’t get any money out of me at all, because I am a vagabond and I will die a vagabond. When I die, what will Swami Niranjan get out of me? Just one loincloth! These are my disciples, my mentally conceived children, just as Vashishtha was the mentally conceived son of Lord Brahma.
One type of child is conceived in the womb and the other in the soul. Christ was a mentally conceived son and that is why he is said to be immaculate. A mentally conceived son is one who is born without the union of fluids from the male and female body. Christ was born from Mary, not through her union with Joseph. Such a son is mentally conceived, but the child born through physical union is not. So these are my manas putre, my mentally conceived children.
As far as the conducting of death ceremonies and rituals is concerned, people go on doing it. What will anyone do for my death rituals? My karmas will conduct death rituals for me. If you depart without doing any good karma and your son does rituals thereafter, how is it going to liberate you? For example, you can deliver good food to your son in prison, but this cannot reform him or free him from the sentence which has been passed. Similarly, when you die, only your karmas are carried along with you. The karmas that you earn in this world today will be carried along with you. The benefits from donations made at the time of death rituals are confined to the pandits and clergymen. In that way rituals are good, at least someone benefits. But the idea that if you don’t have a son you won’t be dispatched properly after death should be forsaken. People should try and free themselves from such beliefs.
Rikhiapeeth, November 1995, first published in Bhakti Yoga Sagar Vol. 3