Sadhguru looks at the essential nature of life and death and explains how they are one and the same. To know what is beyond death requires pragna, he says, a way of knowing things without thinking about them.

Sadhguru: There are many aspects to life. There is birth, childhood, youth, and old age. There is love, tenderness, sweetness and bitterness of relationships, joy of success, fulfillment, pain, and pleasure. If you have kept your mind in a reasonable level of perception, these are all things that you can grasp. But the most defining aspect of life – death – is beyond the grasp of any mind – no matter how intelligent, smart, or intellectual you think you are. It is only because we are mortal that life is playing out the way it does. If we were not mortal, there would be no childhood, no youth, no old age – we can even question if there was birth.

Death is the baseline of life. If you do not understand death, you will never know life, nor can you handle life, because life and death are like inhalation and exhalation. They exist together, inseparably. Spiritual process begins only when you are confronted with death – either your own one or that of someone who is dear to you, someone you thought you could not live without. When death is approaching or when it happens, that is when the question comes up in most people’s minds, “What is this all about? What will happen beyond this?” As long as the experience of life seems so real, you cannot believe it is all going to be over just like that. But once death is near, the mind will project that there must be something more. However much the mind projects, it really does not know because the mind functions only based on the data that it has already gathered. The mind has no traction with death because it has no authentic information – only gossip.

There is no such thing as life and death. It is neither life nor death – it is just a play of all these things.

You have heard gossip of how when you die you will go and sit in God’s lap. If that is so, you should go today. If such a privilege is going to be conferred upon you, I do not see why you should postpone it. You have heard gossip about heaven and hell. You have heard gossip about angels and whatever else, but no confirmed information. Do not waste your time trying to think what happens beyond death, because that is not the realm of your mind.

The only way to know is through pragna, as we would call it in Indian languages. In English, we would say “awareness.” but do not take the word in its normal sense. If you are aware, you have a way of knowing things without thinking about them, without getting information about them. If you are a close observer of life around you, there are so many things that every creature knows without thinking about them. Actually, if you had to think about it, you would not even know how to breathe. It simply happens. That is not your intelligence – that is the Creator’s intelligence. If such a complex machine like your body was left in your management, it would be a disaster.

A whole lot of things happen without your assistance, understanding, or thoughts. Pragna is beyond thought. Pragna is that which is the very source of creation. If you find access to that, you can cross what we think is the boundary between life and death. Actually, there is no boundary – you are living and dying right now. On the social level, in the limited experience and perception of people, someone may be here today and gone tomorrow. But in terms of life, in terms of existential process, there is no such thing as living and dying. It is all Leela – a play.

When we say that this is all divine play, it does not mean the Divine is a sadistic force playing with your life. We call it a play because everything is intertwined. Existentially, you cannot separate childhood, youth, middle age, and old age – it is all enmeshed. What you call an individual and what you call the universal cannot be separated. What you call atomic and what you call cosmic cannot be separated. In that sense, it is a play.

But once you put boundaries between one thing and the other, there will be no play. When you sit here, the breath is playing between you and the tree. You cannot separate it, in the sense, “I do my breath – let him do his breath.” This is happening in many homes, “I do my thing – you do your thing.” The moment you try to restrict the play, life will slip out of your hands.

Wanting to know what the nature of life and death is, all kinds of things have been done. But you cannot grasp it by doing experiments or thinking about it. You can grasp it only by experience. Whenever people ask me questions about death and what happens after death, I keep reminding them that it is best to know it by experience. I am not suggesting they should die. What I mean is, you must experience the jeeva, the life within you. If you only experience the body, then whatever I say, you will come to wrong conclusions. If your experience of life is limited to your mental and physical structures, you cannot access this dimension. Death and that which is beyond it are not a secret that is hiding somewhere in heaven or hell – it is right here, right now. It is just that most human beings have never paid enough attention because they are too busy with other things.

Their career is much more important than their life. Their love affair is much more important than their life. A petty problem they have with someone next to them is far more important than their life. What clothes they wear is way more important than their life. These are just examples. Because you have wrong concepts about life, life is eluding. But actually, life is not eluding – you are dodging life. Life is not trying to avoid you – you are trying to avoid it in so many ways.

The bitter, painful experiences of life were never, ever caused by life. They were only caused by your inability to manage your mind and your body. Life has never caused any pain or suffering to you. It is just the body and the mind. You do not know how to manage your mental structure and your physical structure. Two wonderful instruments were given to you, but you are messing it up. All the pain and suffering have come from yourself, not from life.

Pragna is a dimension of perception that gives you access to life, the nature of life, and the source of life. These are not different things – these are just different names we ascribe to life. There is no source and there is no manifestation – it is all the same. There is no such thing as life and death. It is neither life nor death – it is just a play of all these things. You can play a game on it and stop it one day. Life plays up and stops, plays up and stops, but the essential life is not a certain activity, not a certain happening. It is a phenomenon that is simply there. It is the background of creation. It is the source of creation.

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This article is based on an excerpt from the May 2014 issue of Forest Flower. Pay what you want and download. (set ‘0’ for free). Print subscriptions are also available.