Tonight I’d like to touch on a big subject, death. I don’t claim to have an answer as to what happens after, but I do believe that part of living a peaceful life is to contemplate and be prepared for it.
Every religion that I have knowledge of has some idea or concept of what happens after death. There is the concept of judgment and entering heaven and hell, reincarnation, reunion with the source, ascension into higher dimensions so on and so forth. Atheists also have a concept, albeit total annihilation of consciousness. I’m not sure which is right, but here is why I’m not worried and you shouldn’t fear it either.
I’d like you to consider the words of the Taoist sage Chuang-Tzu when he said “How am I to know which is better, living or dying?” as well as “And how should I know the dead don’t wonder why they had ever clung to life?”
I’m not going to focus on the happier endings like heaven and ascension, I’m going to focus on the scenario which scares people, particularly atheists; we completely cease to be.
The reason that I find this scary to people is they have a very difficult time imagining non-experience. Somehow when we think of annihilation of consciousness we imagine ourselves stuck in a dark room for all eternity. That simply wouldn’t be the case. We experience non-experience every night, sparing dream states. We go to sleep and some hours later we wake up and the time has passed. Whether it be two hours, four hours or twelve hours of continuous sleep it makes no difference, that time passes without us being aware of it passing. We could sleep for a hundred years, and when we woke up it would be the same. Maybe we would miss our long deceased family members, but we would not have any feeling about the time itself. So the same would have to be true for cessation of consciousness. If we die and that’s it, then it would be no different than experiencing those 8 hours of sleep. We simply wouldn’t observe it. It wouldn’t make us happy or sad or lonely.
Realistically speaking, if we become conscious when our brain starts functioning and cease to be conscious after our brain stops functioning, then we must also have been dead from the beginning of time until we were born, and do you have any recollection of that time bothering you? Of course not, and you wouldn’t be bothered by the time after death, either.
Back to the quotes I asked you to ponder, what if it is, in fact, better to be dead than alive? We have no way of knowing that it isn’t and so we shouldn’t fear it. Because I pondered these points I was able to overcome my fear of death. I won’t rush towards it in anticipation of seeing what it's like to die but when the time comes I won’t have any fear of what’s next.