Q: My best friend was killed in a car accident recently, and her sudden death made me realize that I’m afraid of dying. Does it hurt?
A: No, death doesn’t hurt. Death brings peace and takes away our pain. What does hurt though is fear of death. If we can overcome that, death isn’t painful. Many forces in nature are very loving, and death is one of them. It is Mother Nature’s final remedy—the most loving, kind, and generous of Her forces. Yet fear of death haunts our mind.
As you are discovering, fear of death is quite painful. It has two ingredients: fear of loss and fear of the unknown. Fear of losing what we have and what we know ourselves to be is the main ingredient. When we die, anything we identify with is completely wiped out—our thoughts, our feelings, our learning, our attainments, our memories all vanish. From our standpoint, when we die, our children die, our spouse dies, our friends die, our possessions die, our net worth dies. All of it disappears. That’s scary and painful.
If I don’t have a body, if I don’t have senses, if I can’t breathe, if I don’t have a mind, then who am I?
This pain is intensified by uncertainty. We don’t know what comes after death. Will I continue to exist? If so, what will my existence be like? Most of us have no experience of the core of our being—the part of us that is utterly independent of our body, breath, mind, and senses. That is why, as we approach the moment when death separates consciousness from our familiar physical and mental selves, we panic. If I don’t have a body, if I don’t have senses, if I can’t breathe, if I don’t have a mind, then who am I? How am I going to be? This deep uncertainty breeds fear of death.
Meditation destroys this fear by giving us access to the vibrant core of our being, which is completely independent of the body, breath, and mind. This direct experience engenders an unshakeable faith in a dimension of reality much deeper, more profound, and more fulfilling than anything connected with material existence. It infuses our heart and mind with confidence that we are eternal. In the light of this experience, our fear of death dissolves.