Death and Spirituality: How Knowing One’s Mortality Kindles Spirituality
This is why it is said that Shiva constantly spent time in cremation grounds. Almost every yogi at some time spent time in cremation grounds. Cremation grounds were held as very sacred because that is what reminds you of your mortality in a strong way. When somebody dies, the mortal nature of your existence hits you somewhere in your body; it is more than just an emotional reaction. Even if it is somebody that you do not know, when you see a human form lying dead, it hits you, isn't it? If you are a little more sensitive, any dead form hits you in the body, not in the mind. Mentally and emotionally there may also be reactions, but the most important thing is that the body imbibes life in its own way.
The body has a memory of its own, which functions in its own way. Right now, the memory that your body carries is ruling you far more than the memories of your mind. It is the body's memory which is far more significant than the mental memory.
Yogis always chose to live in the mountains because there, the body is suddenly, strongly reminded of its mortality – not a mental or intellectual reminder – but a physical reminder. The space between life and death is so flimsy. That space or that line is narrowed in the mountains. Living in the mountains constantly reminds you of the transitory nature of your existence. If you realize the mortality of who you are, if you are constantly aware that you will die, if your physical body is aware that it is not permanent, that it is going to be sucked into this earth one day, and it could be today – now your spiritual search is unwavering. That is why yogis chose the mountains. They wanted to be constantly reminded of their mortality so that their spiritual search does not waver at all.
It is very important that you are constantly reminded of what the nature of your body is. Right now, you are a mound of earth prancing around. This body around which your whole life revolves is just a little bit of earth. When the earth decides to suck you in, you just become a small mound.
Yogis wanted that constant physical reminder that you are just earth and nothing else; they wanted to be in touch with earth. For this reason, they always chose to be with the earth. How to stay surrounded by earth? You could dig a hole and sit in a well, but that is not practical. So they went to the mountains and chose the natural holes that were there, where the physical body is constantly reminded that the earth is trying to suck you back. Mother Earth is trying to get her loan back as quick as possible. Your fight for survival is the struggle against that.
In the ashram I always tell people, no matter what work you are doing, every day you must stick your fingers into the earth at least for an hour. Do something with the garden; somewhere your hands should get muddy. This will build a natural physical memory, a bodily memory in you that you are mortal; your body will know that it is not permanent. That realization in the body is extremely important for one to keep his focus on his spiritual pursuit. The more urgent the realization becomes, the stronger the spiritual sense becomes.
Editor's Note: Curious to know what happens after death? Sadhguru looks at the mechanics of how the human system is structured, and what happens when the physical body falls dead.