It shakes you to the core. It shocks you literally out of your body. It creates such turmoil of emotions that one is as helpless as one would be in the eye of a hurricane.
It is the death of someone you were very close to.
When it happened to me, I found that all the wisdom in the scriptures could not help me deal with it. No philosophical musing could soothe the intense grief. And no spiritual counsel could alleviate the pain.
Speaking with friends and family did not mitigate the deep sense of loss. Reading the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita did not calm my mind. I had, until then, thought that the spirituality I had worked so hard to bring into my life would help me bear such burdens with greater equanimity. But I discovered that such was not the case at all.
All I could do was to surrender to the grief and pain. And accept the fact that just as a physical injury takes time to heal, this emotional devastation takes time to subside. There is no balm, no medicine, no therapy. And you are alone, even as you may be surrounded (literally or figuratively) by family and friends, as you go through your own, individual grieving.
Looking back now, I have begun to understand that my spiritual journey was put to the greatest test by the death of someone close. I have realized that I still have quite far to go in my quest to incorporate spiritual teachings into my life, into my deepest conscience.
Attachment. Permanence of loss. Transient nature of life on earth. Souls journey.
These philosophical, spiritual subjects needed deep introspection, in a very personal way. But only after going through a phase of surrender.
The Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita describes surrender as a fundamental aspect of spirituality. His Holiness Swami Chidanand Saraswati beautifully explains this process as follows: Every pain, every ache, every discomfort becomes Prasad, or Gods gift and grace when you lay it in His lap.
I discovered that according to Buddhism, grieving upon the death of a loved one is part of life. Such grief is natural, and points the way to compassion and kindness. In Buddhism, we are encouraged to keep our relationship with the deceased to evolve over time. (Western psychologists told us in the past that it is best to have closure and to move on.)
The above two messages, one from Hinduism, one from Buddhism, were the only ones that touched my heart during the initial phase of loss.
After the grief had subsided, after the wounds had healed, I was able to go back to the spiritual teachings of Hinduism and seek solace from Bhagavad Gita; to learn from the teachings of saints and scholars on the subjects mentioned above. (I will touch upon this in future writings).
Even more important, I now have a much better understanding that moving further along in spiritual quest does not imply being less vulnerable to human experiences, emotions and feelings. I now appreciate even more (and challenge less) the Hindu belief that ones soul manifests on earth, envelopes itself with the human body, mind, conscience and consciousness, so that it can experience the full spectrum of human emotions, feelings and experiences.
What are your experiences with ultimate separation? How have they affected your spiritual quest?
*This article was first printed in the Times Colonist in Saturday September 8, 2012. on the Religion and Spirituality Page
Suresh Basrur practises Hindu faith, participates in inter-faith activities in Victoria, and speaks to audiences about Hindu religion, philosophy and practices.
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