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Once a lady visited the sage Ramana Maharshi. She had just lost her only child and was stricken with incapacitating grief. Ramana Maharshi shed a tear (uncommon for sages to do) and consoled her, reflecting that the loss of a child is said to be the most profound suffering a human can experience on earth. The woman was comforted in her sadness, and she asked the sage what advice he might provide to help her bear this immense burden of sorrow.

Maharshi's words were succinct: "You must kill the one that grieves."

What did he mean by this? Surely not that this poor woman should take her own life, obliterating her existence as a means of escaping the loss of her child. As he elucidated further, it was that she should kill the personality, the ego that identifies itself with a particular body, and sees others as separate. "Were you crying over your son's absence before he was born?" the sage asked. The answer was clearly no. And that's the point. We are all sparks of consciousness, whose essence is identical, one to the other.

I had a difficult time impressing this notion on my own mother, who like so many people clings jealously to her own personality, and sees separateness wherever she turns. She used the following argument as justification for the reality of her individuality: "How do you explain my love for astrology," she said, "which is not shared by my sisters?" My reply came quick. There are many factors at work to the personality traits we adopt. Genes. The very astrological aspects she mentioned, if you believe in that sort of stuff. Life experiences.

An example. In my teens I was big into weight lifting. Why? My grandfathers had been muscle men, and I had had a friend from high school who introduced me to Gold's Gym, where I proceeded to spend a substantial number of hours among sweaty bodies and amidst the heady smell of iron and the rather ear-shattering sound of clanking weights. My tendencies (being the son of my grandfathers) met with an opportunity (exposure to Gold's) which resulted in the muscle head I became, the one who was quick to gain 40 pounds of muscle and thereafter turned my friends and brothers on to the iron pursuit.

But all that you take as you - the personality, idiosyncracies, talents, habits - are all caused by genes, environment, circumstances, "chance" events, etc. None of this were you born with, so how can you define yourself by this limiting traits? Why limit yourself to a false, shadow self. The real you is the spark of consciousness which animates this body and whatever personality comes with it. And when the body has passed its allotted time here on Earth, that consciousness sinks back into the absolute from which it came.

And so you see, mourning the loss of another is like a wave mourning the loss of a ripple that has hit the shore. Its existence has not ended, only its particular form. But our essence is eternal, it is where we are from and where we return when it is done.

Now you may say, "I don't want to merge." I like "me" as a separate individual, and losing this begets anxiety, even if it means gaining totality. But that is your mind talking. And the mind needs duality and separateness to exist. The one you truly are is beyond thought, and not upset by these thoughts that the mind proposes, because you are beyond mind. Remember, you are Awareness which at its essence is not even aware of its own existence! When once again you merge with this Awareness, like air with air, or light with light, the mind won't raise these questions, because by then it will no longer exist!

And since from this Awareness all consciousness and life forms spring, then you can be said to be every living thing on Earth and elsewhere, so you do not lose anything when dropping your present flesh and blood form, you gain awareness of all that you are. Which is why death as blessing is the best kept secret around.

After spending time with the sage, the bereaved woman thanked him and left feeling so much better.


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