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Archive for July 4th, 2012

Date: 04 Jul 2012 21:16:47 -0000
From: “Murlidhar Deva”
To: am-global@earthlink.net
Subject: How to Deal with Death

Baba

== HOW TO DEAL WITH DEATH ==

Namaskar,
This letter addresses – in a universal manner – key points for helping those grieving or suffering the loss of a loved one. Here we shall review Baba’s teachings on this important matter and understand our Ananda Marga perspective.

BABA’S HISTORIC DISCOURSE

In one of Baba’s special discourses from Ananda Vacanamrtam, Baba gives clear-cut guidelines for how to deal with death. So this letter is exclusively directed toward those undergoing any terrible life calamity, especially helping those grieving the loss of a loved one.

Baba’s main ethic is that in a psychological way, people’s minds should be goaded away from sorrow. Those in mourning should not be forced to suffer unnecessarily. In His discourse, Baba gives us so many practical guidelines for how to help a grieving family.

Acknowledgement of their sorrow and diverting the mind upwards are two of the key elements of Baba’s guideline. Now let’s take a look at this in greater detail – keeping in mind the sensitivity of the issue and knowing that we must evaluate this on a case by case basis.

CONSOLING THE GRIEVING FAMILY:

STEPS TO BE TAKEN

Once the death is honourably acknowledged in a timely manner, then efforts should be made to goad the grieving family and friends toward more peaceful thoughts. They should not think again and again about the loss of their loved one.

Here is Baba’s unique and distinct guideline:

1) Upon arrival if you see that the mourning family is crying, first simply sit down, and, if socially appropriate, place a comforting hand on their shoulder, otherwise your presence alone is enough, & let them cry. Don’t tell them not to cry; allow them to cry. This gives tremendous emotional support. The grieving person(s) will think that, “This person sitting with me here is my close relation.” They will feel comforted by your presence. Do not think that they feel that you are bothering them.

2) After crying for some time, they may begin to look towards you. At that point, express your heart-felt sympathy for the grieving family. If you were crying arlier, you can say, “I was also crying when I heard the news”; otherwise, you can offer, “I am very sorry for your loss”, or any other words that are socially appropriate and express your inner feeling about this sad occasion. Above all, do not start praising the greatness of the deceased. That is the worst thing to do as that accentuates the mourning family’s loss. Best is to simply express your pain about this loss.

3) You can furthermore add, “Why should one not cry; crying is normal after such a loss. The only reason I stopped crying is because I thought that if I continued to cry then you would cry more.”

4) Up until this point, the grieving person was crying; then you sat near them and they looked towards you and cried more. When their tears subsided you started talking with them. This act of engaging them in conversation diverted their mind from their loss. Their mind became involved in thinking about something else. Thus, so far you have successfully helped draw their mind in a different direction and thereby relieve them of their suffering – to some degree.

5) At this time if the person is still crying profusely, quietly look at them in an empathetic way. This will help reassure them.

6) You should ask another friend – who is not crying – to bring a glass of water. Keep the water near you. After some time, when the grieving individual looks toward you, gently extend your hand with the glass of water and say, “Please have some water – it is important to drink something.”

7) They may say, “I am not going to drink – I am not thirsty.”

8) In that case, wait a while. Then after some time, politely offer, “Your throat must be getting dry because of your crying. You do need not to drink a lot but at least put a little water in your mouth.”

9) If still they are declining your offer of water, then gently say, “Here, I will just place the glass in your hand – just take one little sip.” Then certainly they will take one sip. (Note: You can also offer fruit juice, lemon water, tea or any other sentient beverage.)

10) If in fact the family member takes a sip, it means their mind was at least temporarily diverted from their grieving. That breaks the cycle of thinking about their loss.

11) Remember, Baba guides us that the goal is that the next person’s mind should be compassionately redirected from thinking about the deceased. That is the aim.

12) We should also keep in mind that there is no way to do exactly the same thing in every case. Each and every person is different; each and every situation is different. This approach given by Baba serves as an overall guideline based on universal human psychology. In that sense it is applicable to all; and, as caring human beings, we have to use our vivek (rational discrimination) in following Baba’s teaching. Then we will be able to address each case in an appropriate and concerned manner.

13) One important point to remember: Be sure to station someone outside the front of the house to watch for visitors. They should stand at an adequate distance so crying visitors will not be audible to the grieving family. No visitor should cry in front of the mourning family. If a visitor starts crying, then the family members will again become upset.

So tell every visitor that the doctor has forbidden anyone from crying in front of the family. Even if a visitor wants to cry, they should not cry when consoling the family. Rather that visitor be taken elsewhere and consoled at a separate location. Those visiting and consoling the grieving family should not burst out into tears uncontrollably. That will only worsen the pain of those close people in mourning.

Baba guides us that those around the family should be in a balanced and stable state of mind. If someone needs to cry then they should excuse themselves from that environment. They should not start sobbing in front of the mourning family members. This is also one key point Baba has addressed.

14) At the same time, if a member of the grieving family bursts into tears, they should be consoled and supported. The worst thing a person can do is to start telling the grieving family that crying is not good. Because crying itself is a natural human expression. It should not be suppressed or devalued. So do not suggest the mourning family not to cry, or say that crying is not good for their health. Do not suggest in any way not to cry. If you tell them not to cry, they feel more irritated; they feel that you do not understand their loss.

15) Here is another key pitfall to avoid. One should not start giving big philosophical lectures.

Do not say: “This world is changing and whoever takes birth, one day they are going to die – everyone dies at some point – so there is no need to cry.”

One should never give this type of lecture. It is irritating to the grieving party and they will only cry more. In addition, they will feel offended by your words. So do not speak philosophically about the nature of this ephemeral world. That is not good. One must know that such type of preaching is extremely unpsychological.

That is why one should follow Baba’s aforesaid guideline – that is psychological and sentient.

16) Remember this warning: Do not remind the grieving family about the deceased person’s star qualities, attributions, dedication and greatness. Do not remind them how that person always sacrificed for others’ welfare. That will only redirect the mourning family toward their loss. This type of praise and eulogy should be avoided. It is wrong to do so on this occasion, regardless of how much one is tempted to praise the deceased. It will only intensify the agony and pain of the grieving family, and they will cry more.

17) No one should mistakenly think that by this approach we do not care about the deceased person. Here the goal is not to eliminate the memory of the deceased; this is not our way in Ananda Marga. We know well that the mourning family is not ever going to forget their loved one. That is understood. The approach we are taking here – diverting the mind away from their loss – is only a temporary measure during this very delicate and sensitive period immediately after the time of death. When this loss is such a raw and painful wound for the surviving family members, best is for them to have their mind diverted away from this painful memory. It is not good for them to constantly think about the loss of their loved one, as that worsens their grief. Plus the loss itself is beyond their control.

18) When the person is no longer crying and instead drinking and talking, request someone to start singing devotional bhajans etc. Naturally the family members will sit and listen. In that way their mind will be diverted towards the devotional chanting of bhajans, kiirtan or Prabhat Samgiita and they will feel more calm. Here the aim is to channelise the flow in a devotional way.

19) After the dharmacakra is complete and over, be sure that someone should tell a devotional story (not a story about the deceased but rather about Parama Purusa), do a reading, or lead svadhyaya. (Note: This dharmacakra should not be full length; rather 10 or 15 minutes is a sufficient duration for the entire dharmacakra.)

This is an important topic because inevitably we deal with this sensitive issue again and again over the course of our lives.

SUMMARY OF DO’S AND DON’TS

This letter contains many key points about this sensitive matter. So we can keep them in mind and be ready to properly serve those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, here is a summary listing of the main points:

– Upon arrival if you see that the mourning family is crying, first simply sit down, and, if socially appropriate, place a comforting hand on their shoulder, otherwise your presence alone is enough.

– Allow them to cry; never tell them not to cry.

– Gently try to divert their mind away from their loss.

– Do not talk about or praise the deceased at all; do not give a philosophical sermon on how one day we all die and that this world is ephemeral.

– This is the worst time to speak about the deceased because it multiplies the pain of their loss.

– Do offer water or other sentient beverages – in a very psychological way – to the family members of the deceased to break the cycle of their grief.

– Do maintain mental stability in the presence of those in mourning; don’t allow emotional, grief-stricken visitors to burst out in tears near the grieving family.

– If anyone coming to console the bereaved family is crying, then they should be stopped at the door and not allowed near the family. Once that visitor stops crying then they should be allowed to enter.

– Once everyone has stopped crying, sing Prabhat Samgiita and kiirtan, and conduct a short dharmacakra including a Baba story. This is all to be done at the residence or place where the grieving family is mourning.

THE CREMATION

In due course, the body of the deceased should be brought to the cremation grounds. In Ananda Marga, the system is to carry the body silently; one should not talk while carrying the body for cremation. Upon arrival at the site, bhajans, kiirtan, and collective ishvara pranidhan should be done; then the actual cremation can be performed. Those are Baba’s explicit guidelines from the chapter, Disposal of the Dead Body, in Caryacarya part 1.

It is important to remember that during the cremation people tend to (1) speak about the glory of the deceased, (2) tell the grieving family members not to cry, and (3) give philosophical reasoning or lectures about the nature of this ephemeral world. All three of these things should be strictly avoided. Baba guides us that we should not behave in this way on the occasion of the cremation.

Specifically, regarding those who are crying, we can hold them as a sign of our emotional support; but, we should not tell them not to cry.

Remember, regardless of how difficult and sad the situation is, collective bhajan, kiirtan, and sadhana is the only way to resolve this whole issue in a very psychological way. Doing dharmacakra will help calm and soothe everyone’s mind and bring comfort to those in mourning.

After the actual cremation, announce when the shraddha ceremony will be held. It can be done the very next day or anytime within the allotted 12 day period according to Caryacarya.

BABA’S BLESSING

Baba has specially graced us by showing us how to comfort people as they grieve the loss of a loved one. The death of a family member or close relation is extremely hard. Yet by following Baba’s given guideline we can best serve and help those suffering during this difficult time.

Namaskar,
Murlidhar Deva

Note 1: BABA’S SPECIAL DISCOURSE

The entire section under the heading, “Consoling the Grieving Family…”, is based on Baba’s guidelines from His historic discourse, Ma’nav Ek Bha’vana’shiil Pra’n’ii (Human Beings Are Emotional) delivered on 15 July 1980 in Patna, published in Ananda Vacanmrtam – 20 (Hindi Edn).

Note 2: APPROPRIATE FOR MANY UNFORTUNATE SITUATIONS

Although primarily given for helping family members as they mourn the loss of their loved one, the techniques outlined in this discourse can also be used to comfort those undergoing other kinds of miseries and suffering: Home destroyed by fire or natural calamity, serious accident, severe monetary loss, house eviction, job loss, kidnapping of a child, plane crash, news of illness like a heart attack, home foreclosure, extreme property damage due to earthquake or flood or other natural disaster etc, or any time a person bursts into tears and is emotionally overwhelmed. In all such circumstances these guidelines can be used. They will be very helping in comforting those who are grief-stricken.

Note 3: VERY COMMON MISTAKE

It is very common around the globe for people to talk about the greatness of the deceased when speaking with the grieving family. People naively think that this is the proper thing to do. Yet, Baba guides us that this is the worst approach to take as it intensifies the suffering of those mourners. Already they are sunk in woe due to the loss of their loved one, and by speaking about the deceased’s special qualities and attributions, the family is further reminded of the severity of their loss. It makes them feel even more pained. Indeed, if they had stopped crying but are then again reminded of the merits of their loved one, those in mourning will begin crying all over again. The entire cycle of tears and misery will be repeated. So this approach of praising the deceased in front of the family is not at all appropriate, according to Baba. Yet this is what we see happening time and time again. A friend or family member arrives from afar and they glorify the deceased and the fragile mental state of the mourners is set back into a whirlpool of misery.

The approach of Ananda Marga is completely different from the accepted customs; our approach is unique. Baba guides us to psychologically and lovingly divert the person’s mind from the pain of their loss to the thought of the Supreme. Although this may seem peculiar at first, but this is the only remedy. As disciples of Lord Shrii Shrii Anandamurtiji, we should follow His order; He is the Sadguru. By adhering to His direction and guideline, we will invariably see the positive result.

PRABHAT SAMGIITA

“A’mi a’ro keno kichu bhuli na’, shudhu bhule tha’ki tava na’m…” (P.S. #838)

Purport:

Baba it is so unfortunate and painful, that I always forget Your divine name. I cannot remember it constantly, because worldly things always come in my mind. And those mundane things I always remember, only I forget Your name. Baba, please grace me. I want to remember Your name all the time – within each and every breath and respiration – but alas I forget.

Baba, although I don’t chant Your name and remember You, even then I can see that You love me. Baba, by Your grace I always feel Your love, especially when I look towards You. Baba, You are very charming and gracious. Baba, You are the most magnificent One. When by Your grace the stars shower from Your heavenly effulgent bosom, then the effulgence from those particles fills my heart with divine ecstasy.

Baba, You are the most compassionate One. The divine love which You have poured in my heart always vibrates my being and brings me to the divine world. Baba, by Your grace, today I do sastaunga pranam to You again and again with that tune and melody which You have resonated in my heart & mind.

Baba, please shower Your causeless grace on me so that I always chant Your divine name..

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