The Eternal Question of Life and Death
The classic Hindu text, the Bhagavad-Gita, tells the story of the five sons of the deceased King Pandu, who are exiled to the forest through the treachery of a jealous cousin. Thirsting for water, the five brothers come upon a crystal lake; as they prepare to take a drink, a voice comes out of the forest and says, “before you drink, first answer my question.” The first four sons ignore the voice, take a drink and fall dead. The fifth son, Yudhisthira, stops, and listens to the questions. The voice asks, “of all the world’s wonders, which is the most wonderful?” Yudhisthira answers: “That no man, though he sees others dying all around him, believes he himself will not die.” The voice was of the god Dharma, who proceeded to bring the four brothers back to life.
This story either speaks to something eternal in us, or shows that most people cannot face death. But maybe this is the same thing, for the concept of death must be hard for an eternal creature. To approach this question, we first must define what “we” are, with the two leading choices being a machine or a mind. If we are fundamentally machines, then we will surely pass away into the grave, left with only a hope that something spiritual in us will live on. But if we are fundamentally mind, then eternity comes a bit closer.
In his book, Is There Life After Death: The Extraordinary Science of What Happens After We Die, Anthony Peake offers a new perspective on the mysteries of life and death. I discuss these timeless questions and others with Anthony Peake in a radio show entitled, “A Life After Death,” on Conversations Beyond Science and Religion, which you can download here.