A saintly person was traveling by foot. Suddenly, he felt sharp stab of pain in his chest. He stopped immediately and made a quick assessment of his condition. Having made up his mind, he asked his accompanying disciples to give him some privacy; he had decided to give up his body. The disciples were aghast and wished to arrange some treatment for him but the mind of the saintly person was made up. He sat in a samadhi and left his body.
In a similar instance, Vinoba Bhave had concluded that his body systems had become too faulty due to his advanced age and it was time to give up his material body. Accordingly, he began to fast. Though, a complaint was even lodged to the then Prime Minister about this alleged suicide, but she instructed the concerned officials to leave the exalted personality alone.
Is death of the material body so terrifying? If it were so, why would very sick people clamour for euthanasia? Or, why have people been committing suicide since time immemorial? Surely, death of one’s body is a very scary thought, good enough to send jitters through the spines of most; so where does the truth lie?
The basic principle of living is enjoyment, but the undeniable reality of the material world is suffering (8.15), most starkly manifested in the form of death. So, there are two poles: Enjoyment of all kinds, that is, through the senses, the mind and the spirit (bliss); and suffering with its worst form being death. A soul is placed in between these two poles. When the soul is near the enjoyment pole it desires to live but when it finds itself close to the other pole, the desire to live wanes. Rather, the pole of death begins to look more attractive. Human body is like a car, which is very desirable till it gives service, but when the maintenance becomes an onerous task, one is forced to think otherwise.
One should similarly view this material body and that is exactly what the Bhagavad Gita says. What do the relatives of a terminally sick person say upon his or her death? Good for him or her! This fact is confirmed even by the dying, who do not wish to return to the diseased and damaged bodies, as recorded in near-death experiences.
If anything, death is more positive than mentioned above. It gives one a chance to meet one’s ‘maker’. When someone has messed up one’s life, say a murderer, death gives a chance to make a new beginning.
The fact that soul never dies and the death is ordained by God only. Such knowledge makes death not such an unmitigated disaster or a fearful thought. Therefore, a wise person courts death willingly when the time is ripe, as has been done by saintly persons over the ages. Death should not be denied, since it cannot be denied; it may actually give relief in some cases.