The Essence of Life and Death

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.
The Essence of Life and Death

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.

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6 years 2 months ago

Unidirectional is just an expression of language and is very limited. The ultimate goal should be clear, it should become the very breath, moment-to-moment. Then professional, social and family circumstances will all fall in place, will seem to have a role for achieving the goal. You mentioned your experience after Shambhavi Maha Mudra. Imagine if we could hold on this stillness in the background and perform all out external actions. Sadhguru says, if we have the necessary awareness, we can play with life any way we want, but still remain untouched. This is being unidirectional in a logical sense. But, it is only a logical usage of words to explain a realm that is beyond logic.

6 years 2 months ago

Namaskaram Sadhguru

I am practicing Shambhavi from last year. Lots of good changes happened in body and mind. When I was in Bhava Spandana in the end I feel lots of emotions but it seems like that was the feeling of gratitude towards everything. Till now I didn't have any idea what is pragna. I feel absolute stillness sometimes while meditating after Shambhavi. But I am sure thats not it. Please help me with this topic more. Because slowly I feel like I am being crushed by this social and spiritual responsibilities towards myself. Is these any exercise or task which I have to do to understand PRAGNA.

6 years 2 months ago

Yes, as I take it, if you are clear about your Ultimate goal in life and are unidirectional about it, that is to say, it becomes the Ultimate priority in your life, and everything else becomes a tool to help you attain it (albeit it's a homecoming rather than an attainment, as he says), then the process becomes easy. What I was referring to is that, in certain situations, say in solving an economic crisis, the Fed may have to adopt a bidirectional or a multi-directional approach. So, when you said that the key is to be unidirectional in any given situation (and I took you literally!), I thought that in many physical situations, that prescription won't work. Yes, when it comes to the spiritual process, you got to remember: nishchalatattvam jeevanmuktihi :-)

6 years 2 months ago

Sadhguru, when you remind us that our career has become much more important than our life, you are making a distinction between work/career and life, a distinction that you said shouldn't exist in our minds. You have told us - work is life.
Are you referring to the fact that most people are only investing a large part of their time and energy on their career goals, and not taking out time for sadhana? But you only said that if you're totally involved in anything, any work, that itself is sadhana. Yes, in one of the videos, you have explained how kriya, which involves 'inner' work is distinctly different from karma or action that is directed outwards.
However, you are now coming up with the Isha Leadership Academy, wherein you will be training individuals to become leaders, and these individuals will mostly be career-oriented people, who may not be able to invest 3 hours in sadhana every day. They may be able to take out 30-40 min and do the basic practices, which you have said are sufficient for physical and material well-being, but if you want to know the source of life, then you need to direct all your energy towards it. So, I see a paradox in your discourse.
It is said that Truth is contradictory in nature, but so contradictory! At times I feel that you are dabbling with everything, from cultivating more inclusive leadership to offering various methods for liberation. If you become more unidirectional in your approach, perchance I will be able to progress faster...

6 years 2 months ago

Nice, Ashish Bhai. The most appropriate example for our conversation is our Master himself. Sadhguru has the same love and compassion when he is with a prisoner or a CEO or a (forth-coming) President / Prime minister. The Goal is one, unidirectional and to take us to the Ultimate possibility but the approaches he uses are many, based on the external situations.

6 years 2 months ago

Sadguru... Amazing as always!

6 years 2 months ago


6 years 2 months ago

If work becomes an offering, if work becomes a means of enhancing
one's perception, it is Yoga by itself. The Yoga of Action or Karma Yoga
is a state of performing when the self has become (a little)
insignificant. It is a state when what we conduct as work and what we
know as life are indistinguishable. Any great piece of work that has become timeless, the doer has made himself insignificant and remains as an instrument for the Source to perform. Realized Masters work 20 - 22
hours a day not because they perceive it as work, but as (part of their)
life. We as sadhaks might have certainly witnessed these moments of
effortless action and tireless work. To sustain this state,
moment-to-moment is the struggle (at least my struggle).


5 years 9 months ago

There is no substitute for the plain truth. Yes, unadulterated truth will by its own nature, meet one at his/her point of need....this attribute of truth is one reason why Sadhguru is simply gushing with the grace which has no limitations or boundaries. At 70 years on the planet I KNOW how blessed I am to have found my guru and I feel that the most effective appreciation and gratefulness I can demonstrate is to be as he is by transforming my potential into realization - everything else that I experience are temporary moments of imagination and fantasy which must be "RECREATED" if they are to be "re-experienced" because they have no existentially reality.

Sadhguru, you have penetrated me to extreme levels of discomfort yet I have never experienced such inner joy at the destruction and reconstruction which is at work within.

My humble blessings!

6 years 2 months ago

Absolutely... :-)

5 years 9 months ago

When we "join" with anything, we then " know" that which we have joined with. To truly understand PRAGNA we must seek to make ourself available to it by "growing right where we are planted" and EXPECTING ourself to also become a fruit yielding tree as is Sadhguru. Realization is a process and the only shortcut I know of comes by increasing one's desire to know which acts as the fuel to propel you through the transforming process....this works only if you are able to remain fixed on the goal as life changes increase around you.

It's there within you so PRAGNA will one day make its presence known.

6 years 2 months ago

Even I have the same question now and then. In such situation I just remind myself with Sadhguru says. He says that I am not the body which is simply an accumulation of food, and I am also not the mind which is simply an accumulation of memory. Though thats understandable for me intellectually, I still have not got that Pragna/Perception where I perceive without the identification of my body and mind. I just remind that I should strive towards that.

5 years 4 months ago

Namsakaram Sadhguru I got bit by big black carpenter ant but most amazing thing is while I thought to move it from my skin in that moment half of the ants body is falled but still head part continued to bite it really took some time to put it off, still scar remains, really it was life and death in moment

6 years 2 months ago

It looks like Sadhguru is offering things at various levels and according to individual he/she picks up that is suitable. There afterwards according to ones longing they tend to go for deeper levels of sadhanas. Yes, it is time consuming. But even if a person is very much career-oriented, if his longing is quite deep, he will find ways by which he can accommodate doing such sadhanas. Maybe there is nothing wrong or right in doing how much hours we spend in sadhanas, because our longing will naturally drive us in doing whats required.

4 years 8 months ago


6 years 2 months ago

I reckon that if one has to make an effort to either 'accommodate' sadhana in their schedule or work, it means that it's not really become a part of us, for instance, we don't accommodate an act as simple as drinking water in our daily schedule. What I am evincing is that to really go into the depths of anything, you need to invest time and yourself. Many times, my experience of Shambhavi is so intense that after the kriya, I want to just be still and reflect; not thinking about it, just being. Even the hata yogasanas, particularly the surya namaskar, the way it's taught here, is much more than an exercise. I never like to do it in haste, even the preparatory steps, so that I can experience it to the core. So, when you're directing all your energies and longing for something, you need to be clear on your priorities. You cannot ask a political or economic leader, who is at the helm of affairs to invest that much time daily in his schedule, because it's not just about time; when the experience of the kriyas start becoming more intense, so much more opens up. You have to stay focused and channelise everything in one direction.

6 years 2 months ago

Ashish Bhai, Well said. Being uni-directional at any given situation is the key. In May 7th article titled "Offering" Sadhguru explores this with a sweet story:

6 years 2 months ago

Yes Sir, when I read the article, I thought Sadhguru had answered my questions to some extent, bringing out more clarity. I don't know if it would be appropriate to be unidirectional at any given situation, but I would definitely want to conduct my spiritual process by adopting a unidirectional approach! :-)