(The following article was posted in the "Meditations" column of the Hindustan Times, one of India's largest English language daily newspapers, on 26 June 2004.)
GEORGE BERNARD Shaw wrote to Gandhi on the Mahatma's 76th birthday. In the letter, Shaw congratulated him and wished it was the politician's 35th, and not the 76th birth anniversary. A laudable desire.
Today, leaders of nations develop fearful weapons that can accelerate the process of death. But none can create eternal life.
By the time you've read this article, thousands will have died. Throughout modern history, great men, the likes of Gandhi and Shaw, have been unable to solve the problem of death. Despite decades of scientific research, the world's death rate remains at 100 percent.
Sounds dismal? On the contrary, we need look no further than our own Bhagavad Gita to find that death is not the end. Therein we read that all planets are destructible, but one who attains God has no more to be born (8.16). In other words. there is neither death nor rebirth in the spiritual world.
Although prominent leaders have read the Gita, few have researched it carefully enough to understand that death is a passing phase, a transition, a dormant period awaiting another existence. The starkness of this truth has evaded most prominent philosophers.
There have been a few exceptions in modern times. One was the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who observed, "Were an Asiatic to ask me for a definition of Europe, I should be forced to answer him: 'It is that part of the world which is haunted by the incredible delusion that man was created out of nothing and that his present birth is his first entrance into life'".
Death, that mysterious, relentless, and inevitable adversary, does not signal the end of life. Dying is our transit to the next dimension. Better to be prepared, than arrive in a state of shock.
(The writer is emeritus member of the ISKCON governing body commission.)