The Fear of Death

From Karma Yoga Book 3: Samsara, From the teachings of two great luminaries of the 20th century, Sri Swami Sivananda Saraswati and Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati

What is the cause of fear of death?

Swami Niranjanananda: People are not afraid of death, but of losing their associations with the senses, the environment, the people who surround them, with those things which they have created and are attached to. The fear of losing them is mistaken as fear of death. The fear of disconnecting oneself from these ideas and objects of identification is somehow confused with the fear of death. Nobody is afraid of death. It is just as enjoyable as sleep. It is only because of confusion and lack of clarity that one fears a survival without any association in life.

People are too insecure in life and develop associations in order to please the mind. Everything that one does in life is to please oneself. People believe that by pleasing themselves they will be happy. This has become an intricate process of pleasing and trying to find fulfilment and satisfaction in that pleasure, and has led to the development of associations with different objects, people, the environment, society, family and home. The mind becomes conditioned to associate and identify with these associations.

When one believes that the associations will not be there anymore, one develops fear. It is known as abhinivesha in yogic terminology – the fear of losing everything, the fear of dying and not being able to connect with life anymore. Life represents a sequence of associations, and death represents absolutely no association but being self-contained, withdrawing everything.

The body is a very intricate system. It is composed of matter yet what makes the matter tick is the energy within the matter. Padarth and shakti, matter and energy, both make up this human body. Once the energy is withdrawn from the matter there is nothing to hold the matter together anymore. Once the prana is withdrawn from the body there is nothing to hold the body together anymore, and the body decays. There is no other form of death, death is only physical. The mind remains alive and contains the karmas and samskaras.

The mind is a part of the soul. It is an integral part of the spirit. They are not two different things. The hand is part of the body. If it is not the body, it is part of the body. It has a function and a role to perform. Similarly, the mind is part of the spirit, it has a role and a function to perform. Spirit and mind travel together. It is possible that through awareness, understanding and experience, one can overcome such fears and insecurities in life and find peace and happiness.