Death is not a subject we often think about or are even comfortable talking about. In fact, a number of contemporary sociologists believe that despite widespread liberalization of thought in modern times, death is one of the topics where the extent of taboo has actually grown.

What if I said that despite your feeling totally healthy while reading this piece, millions of cells in your body are dying right now? How about the fact that a sizeable chunk of the healthy tree’s trunk that you see across the road from your house is actually dead inside? All organisms are evolving and renewing simultaneously in some form; we are dead and alive at the same time. Our bodies are made of cells, and cells are made of atoms, which in turn are made of electrons, protons and neutrons. These sub-atomic particles, moving about at amazing speeds, zoom in and out of existence all the time.

Simultaneously, atoms and molecules vibrate, dance and reconfigure continuously. Same for our cells which break down every second, only to regenerate – 98% of atoms in a human body are replaced annually, stomach lining dies partially every time we digest food and rebuilds itself about every 5 days, skin, nails and hair cells are dying all the time and made afresh every month. That tree has some old leaves that are dead and except for the outer ring that feeds the leaves, the wood inside its trunk is dead as well. Everything is constantly changing, the universe is fluid, and there is no fixed solidity anywhere.

Also, everything is in the midst of the greater circle of life. Take for example a rabbit. At some point, it was a bunny, before that a fertilized cell, and before that an egg, and before that the twig eaten by its mother who turned the food into the egg. After the rabbit dies, it will decompose, its elements will nourish plants, and the plants will have twigs to feed other rabbits. And, so goes for the human existence as well!

Through all these forms of an egg, a cell, and the body, the only constant is the underlying consciousness. All these forms are impermanent; the only thing eternal is the formless consciousness which just takes different forms from time to time. It’s another matter that based on our conditioned beliefs, we tend to identify rather strongly with our physical form – the body, the mind and the senses. We fail to recognize that the physical form is not solid matter, even though it appears so, but essentially made up of fluid energy – the same energy that runs the universe. This energy (or consciousness) is unborn and undying and irrespective of whether we are dead or alive in the human form, we remain this consciousness. How else would you describe the transformations of forms in the above example of the egg and the fertilized cell? Would you say, the egg died or later, the fertilized cell died, even though the egg and the cell physically ceased to be so at some point in time? So, while we may die in the physical plane, we never die in the spiritual one. Once we realize this, we can appreciate, as is said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience but spiritual beings having a human experience.”

As we become familiar with this thought process, it begins to provide us a perspective on the purpose of our life and existence. As we begin to see the ephemeral nature of all our sensual experiences, we begin to become less identified with our physical self. We begin to realize the futility of many of our vain pursuits after titles, power, money and external success. When we are even slightly prepared for death, we can appreciate each moment of life’s beauty better. The purpose of reflecting on death is not to fear it all the time, but to live in the awareness of the fragility of our existence. Reflecting on death guides us towards more clearly focusing on how we may want to dedicate our lives towards more meaningful objectives. Only when we begin to know about death, do we actually learn to start living. As David Wolpe, an accomplished Rabbi, said, “The aim of life is not to know whether there is immortality, but to live so you deserve it.”

Often times, this wisdom about death begins to dawn on us only when we grow old and notice the limitations of our selfish existence. That’s when people start to realize the impermanence of their egoistic pursuits and acquisitions. As the possibility of death draws near, the attachment to possessions and form begins to fade – this provides the golden opportunity for many to start becoming spiritually aware. That’s when people may become more compassionate and focus more on serving others. Sometimes people, who are challenged in some way or face significant hardships at an earlier stage of their life, may become spiritually stronger even earlier.

But for the better part of our lives, we choose to ignore thinking about it. Guess, we are somewhat like the Buddha’s father, King Suddhodana, who hoped that as long as his son wasn’t exposed to death, sickness and other suffering, he would never give up worldly ambitions. In a way, we all have a strong side in us that easily convinces us that as long as we don’t think about death, life is quite okay and in many ways fun – failing to acknowledge the possibilities of true joy that may lie ahead if we are willing to gather the courage to reflect on and face the thoughts about death more often. Also, sometimes people fear that if they focused too hard on these issues, they may lose interest in life at large – their work and family etc. This fear makes us cling to the world of attachments and physical form. However, when we reflect deeply on death, we realize that this is not the case – in fact, as we thus conduct ourselves with an attitude of let go and surrender, our productivity at work goes up and our relationships blossom further.

Guess, the point is, if living this way and becoming spiritually aware is important at a later age, how can we learn to live that way through our lives. “Are you not ashamed,” said Seneca, the Roman philosopher “to reserve for yourself only the remnant of life, and to set apart for wisdom only that time which cannot be devoted to any business? How late it is to begin to live just when we must cease to live!” If only we could start to live this way when we are younger, we can not only create meaningful lives for ourselves but also make this unique planet a more joyful place.

Author's Bio: 

Rajiv Vij is a Life and Executive Coach and works with senior business leaders helping them discover and fulfill their potential. Rajiv's blog on the journey of personal mastery can be accessed at