Death perhaps is the only certainty in this world. Yet, the fear of death stalks most people. Literature — western and Indian — regards the fear of death as an intriguing and ubiquitous part of human life. We know we are mortals, yet we are afraid of the inevitable. We know we will die one day; yet we continue to behave as though we believe we are going to live forever. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Caesar is surprised to find that people are frightened of death, which is after all an end that comes when it will. A similar spirit pervades the renowned dialogue between the Yaksha and Yudhishthira in the Mahabharata.
When the Yaksha asked him what is the greatest surprise, Yudhishthira replied that so many people die everyday. Yet, human beings want to somehow avoid death. That, he said, was truly surprising. However, for people of knowledge, for the wise, death is the door to liberation, the passage to moksha. Few understand the concept of moksha — it is the conscious concern of those who strive for freedom from bondage. Their goal is not more security or pleasure; it is to achieve freedom from all desire. Moksha is the end of all desire leading to freedom from the cycle of birth and death.
Of the four purusharthas moksha is the noblest. The other three are dharma, artha and kama . These are sought by ordinary people. Moksha, however, is the goal of the wise. For many, libe- ration becomes the goal only when the limitations of the other three purusharthas are realised. But by then it is too late. We spend all our lives in the pursuit of pleasure, wealth and fame. Finally, we realise that nothing gives us fulfilment. The joy is momen-tary, proving that our efforts were futile, unsatisfactory and incomplete. True joy lies in completeness and limitlessness, the path to liberation. Moksha ensures liberation from all limitations that bind human beings.
Man’s constant struggle to achieve happiness through acquiring security and plea-sure is bound to fail, for, these efforts are generally misdirected. This is because the nature of the fundamental problem is not understood fully. The road to freedom from limitations is to be found only in the correct knowledge of one’s true nature as that which is absolute.
Salvation lies in merging with this absolute and the doorway for this is death. But there are several hurdles: Ignorance and incomplete knowledge of the concept of death as the beginning of the final journey. To come out of this ignorance spiri-tual inspiration is required. Without such motivation self-realisation needed for attainment of moksha cannot be achieved. But how to prepare for moksha?
The first step is to develop self-control. This will lead to freedom from attachment to objects. A real seeker of moksha has to be a san-yasi. However, it is not necessary to renounce the world to be a sanyasi. All one has to do is switch off mental preoccupations with objects of the world. Living amidst worldly objects without feeling attached to them is true vairagya.
The second step is the abandonment of aham, the thought of ‘I’. Tat Twam Asi — That Thou Art — is something that’s central to Indian philosophy. One must come to live in one’s own divine nature. Indifference to objects of the senses, to feelings of pain and pleasure and also absence of egoism helps make the mind steady. The Bhagavad Gita calls this state sthitapragya. This is the crucial state for attaining moksha.