In India, the concept of an immortal soul that gets reincarnated after death forms a central belief of the Hindu faith. This brings us to think about the concept of immortality, which is an idea that may seem irresistible to many, mainly because this notion removes the fear of death altogether. Most people are afraid of dying, be it either because of the thought of losing everything we have built in this lifetime, or due to the fear of the unknown. Death, however, is inevitable as far as our experience and knowledge of life on the earth are concerned. Yet, why do people constantly live in fear and denial of something that has proven to be unavoidable?
There are many answers to that question, ranging from dread to sorrow to the incomprehension of the unfamiliar. However, a lot of explanations, including the one about our soul, have risen to help humans overcome this fear. As Krishna famously explained to Arjuna in the Mahabharata, ‘just as the clothes that we wear do not represent the real state of our physical body, the state of our physical body does not represent the permanent nature of the soul that resides within it’. For instance, if a person buys a brand new T-shirt and loves how he/she looks while wearing it and he/she becomes so attached to that piece of clothing that after a while, it becomes a part of the person’s identity. Now when that T-shirt begins to fade with time, as it certainly will, the owner of the T-shirt cannot bear to part with it because they have not come to terms with the fact that the piece of clothing does not represent who they are. Similarly, when we start forming an identity for ourselves out of our body, we begin to fear losing it because we cannot see that beyond our body lies our soul which is our essence.
However, when given the ‘gift’ of immortality, people may realise that it makes life less precious and not many will then value time or the little things that give us happiness when we know we have limited time. The famous Marvel character, Deadpool, is also depicted as one such person who when given immortality, suddenly becomes ready for death. He also begins to hide his insecurities with humour and almost wants to die during certain points in his life. Deadpool, thus, is among the many stories that make us rethink what we always wanted.
Death and karma are also closely related as re-incarnation is believed to solely depend on our karma, that is, our actions and thoughts will yield the appropriate result from the universe. This is a widely held belief in Asia, especially India, Bhutan and other Hindu and Buddhist countries. This can be explained through a simple example. If there is a farmer who grows regular cotton and one who grows organic cotton, the first farmer will use pesticides, herbicides and other harmful substances to grow the cotton faster but in the process, this harms the environment. This also adds to the formation of his karma. The organic cotton grower, on the other hand, grows his crops in union with the environment and this also reflects in the fact that organic cotton is softer, uses lesser water and is of better quality.
Thus, death, immortality, karma and the soul are all mysteries that we, as humans, try to uncover and perhaps these are what help us enjoy the little surprises that life has to offer.
by NEHA RAJAN