Martin LeFevre: Awareness is Immortal
Awareness is Immortal
Recently during lunch with a friend from India, he casually mentioned the concept of 'samadhi.' Though raised Catholic in a predominantly Hindu country, he nonchalantly said, ''I go into samadhi…''
I remarked at how in deeper meditative states, there is awareness, even an intimacy, with death. He surprised me by replying, “samadhi means death.”
In the West, samadhi often connotes a yogic trance that allows the adept to withstand extremes of temperature, or slowing the breath down to barely perceptible levels. But it can also mean a non-dualistic state, in which even the fundamental distinction between subject and object is obliterated.
The very word ‘death’ conjures images and emotions of morbidity. But in awakening the meditative state, one emotionally sees that death is omni-present, and fearing it makes about as much sense as fearing exhalation.
In any case, during my sittings in nature lately, there has been a strong awareness of death. Not in a macabre sense, but death as a pervasive actuality and the source of all being. After all, death is the ground from which all things are born and to which all things return. Indeed, death may be the essence that preceded the universe.
There comes a point in meditation where all problems and concerns drop away as easily as autumn leaves in the wind. There comes a point when there is nothing but nature, and the generative emptiness behind and beyond nature. There comes a point where nothing matters but this, and now, and that which has no name. That state is inextricably bound up with the actuality of death.
In the meditative state one doesn’t fear death, for one sees that it is only a breath away. Indeed, as close as the exhalation of each breath. But why does mindfulness produce only a ‘temporary obliteration’ of self and the fear of death?
It has been said that living is learning how to die. But that does not mean just physically dying. If one only experiences death at the end of one’s life, then it is too late. One can touch death every day, and in so doing remain innocent, and die clean. When death is a fact of daily life, there is continuous renewal, deepening insight, and growing love.
When we die, we return to the infinite source of life. So the object of life is to know death while fully alive. (Not the death of war and privation, for they are not death, but rather waste and corruption.) Perhaps, for those few who carry nothing over, then there is no death, just awareness.
The ultimate irony is that by embracing, while fully alive, the thing we fear the most, death, we become immortal. On the other hand, by seeking to continue, we prolong our confusion and misery.
In any case one does not fear death itself, but rather the loss of continuity of the self, of ‘me.’ So the thing that we humans have feared most since self-consciousness first evolved is the very thing that provides the door beyond the meaningless repetitions of living.
The skies are clear today, and the wind gusts through the trees, bringing great quantities of leaves raining down on the ground and into the stream. Fall is in full flower, to use a contradiction in terms that somehow still applies.
The creek is filled with the debris of spring, and the last golden rays of the sun linger in the tops of the oaks and sycamores. As I watch a new crop of leaves rain down on the stream with each gust of wind, I am transported beyond the world of strife and symbol.
The days grow perceptibly shorter, and the afternoon is all too brief. But the slanting light brings into vivid relief the leaves lined up in horizontal stacks by the current along the edges of the stream. They form neat rows of variegated color -- browns and golds, with a smattering of green. A single large sycamore leaf twirls down, its leisurely vertical descent instantaneously converted into a horizontal sweep down the creek.
I sit and observe until ‘I’ am no more, until passive observation gathers into a river of attention, and sweeps everything away. Then, when there is only silence and emptiness, I feel the ever-present fact of death, and with it the cosmos and causeless affection.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.