Oscar winning director Shekhar Kapur seeks answers about why we die, from yogi and mystic Sadhguru, as they explore the mechanics of life and death, and the process of dying.
Shekhar Kapur: Health and longevity are two things everybody talks about, but the messages that are coming across are quite diverse. So I have a question: when living beyond a certain age, is there something inherent in us that actually could keep us healthy or do we always need outside help from doctors and hospitals? If there was something inherent in us, then maybe I would believe that nature has an intention to keep us alive.
Sadhguru: If nature didn’t have an intention to keep you alive, you would be dead.
Shekhar Kapur: Yeah.
Sadhguru: Even now, you are alive not because of the medicine that you take or the hospital consultation and health check-ups that you have, but because nature still intends that you should live. It is because of the life process that you are living, not because of medicine. Medicine can play around a little bit. It cannot create life as such. The thing is, this very body that you carry was created from within, isn’t it? You provided raw material from outside, but the creation process happened from within. So, obviously, the source of creation or the manufacturer of the body is within. Trying to fix health from outside is a very effortful process. If you keep access to the innermost core, health will be a natural phenomenon. Thinking that it is something that you have to manage from outside is a very wrong perception.
Shekhar Kapur: And if I’m perfectly healthy, why do we die?
Sadhguru: You must live healthy and you must die healthy. “So even if you are healthy, why do we die?” Health has got nothing to do with death. Death will happen when your life energies lose their vibrance. To hold onto this body, a life has to be in a certain level of reverberance. As you age, as your karmic substance wears out, the intensity of the life process becomes feeble. If it becomes feeble below a certain level of intensity, it will slip out. This is called dying of old age. Someone who is medically healthy may lie down in sleep and exit peacefully.
If the life energies are still vibrant and they are capable of living, but for some reason you broke the body either because you crashed your car or broke your heart or drank too much alcohol, in some way you made the body inhospitable for life, then also life leaves. This is an unnatural death. This has its own consequences.
Another way, which is a very rare occurrence, is, your life energies became so intense that the physical cannot hold it anymore. If you leave out of intensity, an intensity beyond physical nature, then we say, you have attained. This is called mahasamadhi. If life energies become overly intense, you cannot keep the body. If life energies become feeble, you cannot keep the body. Only if it is in a certain band of intensity you can hold on to the body.
Shekhar Kapur: You’re making a big distinction between the body and life, as if life is something else and that’s something that everyone struggles with…
Sadhguru: You tell me. Did you accumulate this body?
Shekhar Kapur: Yes, I did, by eating.
Sadhguru: So, I’ll ask you again the same question. Whatever you accumulate can be yours, cannot be you, isn’t it?
Shekhar Kapur: Yes. Correct.
Sadhguru: So, I’m definitely making a distinction between what is you and what is your body because your body is just an accumulation.
The life energy or prana, carries a huge amount of information. This information is called various names but traditionally, we call this karma. Karma means ‘action.’ You can perform physical action, mental action, emotional action and energy action. You are performing all these four actions every moment of your life, awake and asleep. The residual impact of these actions is always being recorded, and a whole unconscious software develops. The life energy, the body, what you call as your mind, your chemistry, all of it is guided by a certain dimension of information. This past information of every single perception you have had, everything you have seen, heard, smelt, tasted and touched–everything that has gone into you–is recorded in your system. Most of this information that you carry within you is unconscious, and most of your software was created unconsciously. Whatever you can create unconsciously, you can also create consciously, but it would take a certain level of striving and application to do so.
Spiritual process essentially means we want to make all the things you created unconsciously, into a conscious process, because only if it happens consciously there is freedom. If it happens unconsciously, it is compulsiveness. The journey is from compulsiveness to consciousness, nothing else.
When a person dies, all the information–these are backup systems–that are on the chemical level, body level and mind level, are all dead. The only thing that leaves is the energy. This energy is concretized because of the information that it carries. If you take away all this information from the energy, it would just merge with the cosmos. This is what we call as mukti. It means we have found a way of shaving off all the information from this energy, which is your life right now. Then it will just merge. It has no form and shape anymore. The whole effort of the spiritual process is to get to that place, where you shed all the information and when you exit, you just merge–end game!
Sadhguru is a yogi, mystic and founder of Isha Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to addressing all aspects of human wellbeing through yoga programmes, and social and environmental initiatives.