Fear of Death
[ This article was written in March 1999. It contains Siddha Secrets given by Sathguru Venkataraman regarding death, Yama, the fear of death, experiencing death consciously and getting rid of the fear of death. |
Respecting the Spiritual HierarchySpiritual aspirants must first understand the importance of the spiritual hierarchy created by God.
We must not only acknowledge and respect this hierarchy, but we must also propitiate the highly evolved beings in the hierarchy as pointed out in AUMzine Issue 3.
Sri Indra, Kubéra, Yama, Chitragupta and other such personages are divine amsams or parts of God. These divinities have been assigned roles in the spiritual world and it's the duty of all humans to worship them.
Sri Yama is known by various names: Dharmaraja, Yamaraja, Kaalan, Kaala Déva and so on. By divine command, Sri Yama supervises the death process, aided by his able assistant Chitragupta who catalogues the karma of all beings.
Yama's Divine RoleSri Yama is responsible for a very important function in a soul's evolutionary path, that of separating it from the body when it has lived out its allotted time in that body.
The severity of this process depends upon the soul's karma baggage.
For spiritual adepts and devotees, Sri Yama arranges a spiritual celebration and conducts these great souls personally to their respective destinations in advanced spiritual realms.
For sinners, this process is neccesarily painful in keeping with their bad karma.
To pay the sinners their due, Sri Yama sends His representatives who pluck the soul from the body causing it much suffering. These messengers replay the doings of that person like a highlights (lowlights really) film thus making that person realize his or her life's work in a nutshell. The person evaluates his or her mistakes and wasted opportunities and is struck with remorse. This process is quite painful and it must be undergone by all of us who don't lead spiritual lives.
Overcoming The Fear of DeathDeath is a touchy, scary topic amongst humans. And because of this, humankind either fears or abhors Sri Yama just because He oversees the death process. We equate our fear of death with fear of Yama, thus not realizing His divinity. This is not an enlightened approach, said Sathguru Venkataraman. In fact, he taught us that one of the important first steps in spirituality is overcoming the fear of death.
Not fearing death does not mean challenging or opposing Yama. It is personally realizing the spirituality of the death process while maintaining complete respect for Sri Yama.
Experiencing Death Consciously - The Example of Ramana MaharishiIn the road to Siddhahood, one witnesses and experiences one's own death consciously as a spiritual experience. This is a neccesary step in one's spiritual evolution. This important milestone removes the fear of death and reinforces the aspirant on the spiritual path.
In a lecture delivered in the early 1980s, Sathguru Venkataraman quoted Maha Guru Sri Agasthiar who has described the conscious experience of death in the context of Sri Ramana Maharishi.
Sri Agasthiar has listed all past, present and future Siddhas. His faithful disciple, Sri Bhogar, has catalogued Sri Agasthiar's pronouncements on Siddhas in a treatise called Siddhar Vaguppu Naadi Grantham. In the chapter on Sri Ramana Maharishi in this work, Sri Agasthiar describes Sri Ramana's conscious experience of death thus:
setthu paarthaan ramanan
That is, Sri Ramana experienced Death and then aligned his being with God.
Thus death is to be witnessed, experienced and understood; it is not to be feared.
It is easy to claim that one does not fear death, but most humans can't make that claim honestly because they have not gone through the spiritual process of consciously experiencing death. To reach this state of not fearing death, one must definitely worship Sri Yama, said Sathguru Venkataraman.
The Worship of Sri YamaThere are special worship procedures that honor Sri Yama. These include Yama Deepam and Yama Tharpanam.
Even in the daily Sandhya Vandhanam worship procedure which all men must do irrespective of race, religion or nationality, there's a special section called Yama Vandhanam which honors Sri Yama. What does this mean? It means that Yama must be worshipped everyday.
Worship of Yama not only removes the fear of death but also bestows longevity by eradicating diseases that instill the fear of death.
How the mind is dragged away from GodThe young may claim not to fear death but they are quick to change their story when gripped by disease. The old, by nature, fear death. Both are petrified by the fact that they know not when death is going to grab them. But their minds do not want to let go of material existence and they lose themselves in material concerns. The desire to live longer seizes them and makes it impossible for them to think of God on their deathbeds. This is because their karma manifests as a veil of Maaya which creates the desire to live longer thus preventing them from God centric thoughts at the time of death.
God-Centric Thoughts at the Time of DeathOvercoming the fear of death means accepting death with equanimity and without any perturbation. Only if we're situated in this mode can we think God centric thoughts at the time of death.
Thinking God centric thoughts at the time of death and leaving the body while meditating on the divine name are indescribable blessings. These are possible only if we constantly meditate on the divine name and the Gayatri mantra through out our lives. Only then will the divine name be present on our lips at the last moment. The worship of Sri Yama helps make this possible.
Yama Shrines and Yama WorshipAt the very least, make it a point to visit a temple which houses a special sanctum for Sri Yama and his divine family. Temples which are ideal for Yama worship include the following: Thiru Paingeeli temple (near Trichy), Sri Vaanjiyam temple (near Kumbakónam), Sri Dhandeesvarar temple (Velacheri, Madras) and the Thiru Kadavoor and Thiru Vaigaavoor temples, all in the state of Tamil Nadu in south India.
There are also other temples and places which are filled with Yama's sookshma sakthi (subtle force) even though they may not house a special sanctum for Him.
The Siddhas who have experienced the divine energies that permeate these places have catalogued these special locations for our benefit. Learn about these special places from the Sathguru and make it a point to propitiate Sri Yama in these locations.
Yama Theertham Sacred PondsThese sacred places are generally home to a sacred pond called Yama Theertham. A ritual dip in this pond will remove the fear of death because these waters have been made holy by the immortal Siddhas and rishis who have themselves had ritual dips in these ponds.
It is important for each one of us to know that Yama worship will not only help us overcome the fear of death but will also bless us with a healthy, disease free life as well.
Offer Argyam to All DeitiesThe tharpanam ceremony is to be performed every day for the pithru ancestor beings. This has been relegated to a monthly practice that is observed on Amavasya days only. This is a sorry state of affairs that must not continue. Offer tharpanam for the pithrus everyday.
A part of the tharpanam you offer is reserved for Sri Yama. Thus the worship of Sri Yama must be performed on a daily basis. But are we doing this?
Do we recite the Yama Vandhanam hymn daily?
Should we incur the wrath of the Siddhas for going against the rules they have laid down for our own welfare?
Daily Argyam Water Offering for YamaKnowing the laziness of the Kali Yuga human, the Siddhas have given us a simple procedure for daily Yama worship. Each morning, after your shower, say Sri Yama Moorthi Tharpayaami and offer argyam water for Sri Yama three times. This is an extremely simple but highly effective way of worshipping Yama everyday. Do this daily and thus propitiate Sri Yama.
Offering argyam water means letting water run over the the outstretched palm of one's right hand while reciting the divine name. The water offered to pithrus is called tharpanam and the water offered to dévatas (deities) is called argyam. Offering argyam to all deities everyday is a wonderful spiritual practice. Offer it thus: Sri Krishnam Tharpayaami, Sri Vishnum Tharpayaami, Sri Sivam Tharpayaami and so on.
Make sure that you propitiate those deities whom humans, because of their ignorance, have relegated to a secondary status. Offer argyam especially for these deities. For example,
- Sri Yamam Tharpayaamiand so on. Thus make sure you offer argyam to all deities everyday. Make sure you offer argyam to your kula dévata (family deity) and ishta dévata (personal deity) also on a daily basis.
Water Related Worship ProceduresArgyam worship falls under the important category of jala pooja or worship using water.
Reciting hymns while standing neck deep in the waters of holy rivers and lakes is an important and effective spiritual exercise.
The human body is made up of five elements, namely, earth, water, fire, wind and aakash. Thus we are required to do five kinds of worship everyday: argyam, tharpanam, hómam, deepam and archana.
Life in the Kali Yuga is bereft of peace because we have strayed from the prescribed worship procedures. But those who follow these procedures religiously will certainly be enveloped by an atmosphere of peace and tranquility.
Observe Dharmaraja DasamiThough we may stray away from these worship procedures, these are conducted in the temples for the sake of all of humankind. The sins of wayward humanity are thus softened by these procedures that are conducted for the benefit of all of us. This is social service at its best.
The panchaang (spiritual calendar) mentions numerous special worship procedures. Do we observe them all? No. But how can we make up for these errors of omission? By arranging for the conduct of all of these worship procedures in our neighborhood temples. For example, arrange for the observance of Dharmaraja Dasami (Mar/26/99) in your neighborhood temples.
Since the worship procedures conducted in temples benefit all humans throughout the world, we can contribute to the welfare of humankind by making all these worship procedures possible.
This is social service of a spiritual kind, the kind that humanity is in sore need of.
Special Shrines for Lord Yama DharmarajaEven if there's no sanctum for Sri Yama in your neighborhood temples, you may create one by drawing Yama's form or by using His form found in the Thiru Paingeeli and Sri Vaanjiyam temples.
In the absence of that, here's a simple Siddha procedure for invoking the presence of Yama. Take some sesame seeds (ellu in Tamil, thil in Hindi) and moisten them with water. Using your fingers shape them into a small pyramid, place it on a foundation of betel leaves and request the presence of Sri Yama.
Because of your faith and because the Siddhas appreciate your sincerity, Sri Yama will become present in the sesame pyramid which can then be worshipped as Sri Yama Himself.
This procedure is called Yama Aavaaganam and was taught to us by Sathguru Venkataraman.
Thus you can celebrate Dharmaraja Dasami and make others celebrate it too. Involve your entire community in this worship of Yama on Dharmaraja Dasami (Mar/26/99) day. The spiritual benefits of doing this can't be described.
That which you make possible out of selflessness causes the spiritual upliftment of humans all around the world. What better way of serving God? Eschew worship for oneself; do it for others. This should be our life's mission. It's by involving ourselves in selfless service that we lead the kind of lives that we are supposed to live.
Offer Argyam to Sri Yama thusDharmaraja Dasami (Mar/26/99) is an ideal day for worshipping Sri Yama. Offering argyam to Sri Yama on Dharmaraja Dasami is very special. Offer it while reciting the many names of Sri Yama:
- Sri Kaala Déva Moorthi Tharpayaamiand so on.
Athithi PoojaOn Dharmaraja Dasami (Mar/26/99), athithi pooja is important.
Athithi pooja means inviting the poor into one's house and feeding them to their hearts' content.
Serve them on a banana leaf (with the tip part intact) and include dishes like sesame (thil) rice,
rice mixed with powdered sesame, urad dal vadas and pirandai (cissus quadrangularis) thuvaiyal (paste).
Worship Sri Yama at Thiru PaingeeliThe Thiru Paingeeli temple near Trichy (state of Tamil Nadu, south India) is a special place for Sri Yama. There's a special shrine for Sri Yama and His divine family in this temple.
Not many know about this and thus the upkeep of this shrine leaves something to be desired. Spiritual aspirants must do what they can to ensure that this shrine is maintained properly.
On Dharmaraja Dasami (Mar/26/99) day, do the following:
Perform this worship procedure devised by the Siddhas at Thiru Paingeeli on Dharmaraja Dasami (Mar/26/99) day. Those who do this are truly blessed indeed.
Yama Raksha Pooja
For longevity, a healthy, disease free life and getting rid of the fear of deathYama Raksha Pooja is a special worship procedure that propitiates Sri Yama. You first need to gather ten items:
1. A banana bunch/cluster made out of gold; this should be just like the entire bunch as it appears in the banana tree.
2. A kalasam pot made out of gold. (Silver or copper can be substituted, but gold is ideal.)
3. A garland of Rudraksha beads
4. Thulasi maala garland
5. A Siva Lingam made out of coral
6. A Vinayaka statuette or figurine
7. The divine form in spatikam
8. The divine form in saalagrama
9. The divine form in sandalwood
10. pattu vastram (silk cloth).
You may add other items that propitiate Sri Yama like sesame, polished sandalwood used in making sandalwood paste, and milk from the water buffalo. You may add these to the aforementioned ten items as part of this worship procedure.
Place these items on a banana leaf (with the tip part intact).
Those who can't afford all these items may place one of these items on a banana leaf on which a layer of white rice has been spread.
Nakshatra Linga Pooja for YamaYama Nakshatra Linga Pooja is another special worship procedure that one must do on Dharmaraja Dasami (Mar/26/99) day. In the Thiru Otriyoor temple in Madras and in the Thiruvidai Marudhoor temple (both in the state of Tamil Nadu, south India) there are shrines housing 27 nakshatra lingams, each representing a nakshatram. It's very important that each one of us worship the lingam that represents our janma nakshatram in these two temples. This must definitely be done on Dharmaraja Dasami (Mar/26/99) day.
Sadhayam (Satabhishak) Nakshatra Linga and Yama Worship
Siddha Solution for those afflicted by long term diseasesOn this day, you must also the worship the lingam that represents the Sadhayam nakshatram in these two temples. The adhi dévata for Sadhayam nakshatram is Sri Yama and thus it's very important to propitiate this lingam on Dharmaraja Dasami (Mar/26/99) day. Apply a coat of sesame oil (gingelly oil) on the lingam and then apply sandalwood paste. Make dishes using honey, for example, chakkarai pongal, késari (semolina sooji) and the like and distribute them to poor children. Honey represents longevity and this worship procedure causes one to be cured from long standing diseases. This is a wonderful solution for those who have been afflicted by disease over the years.
Yama Vandhanam Hymn for Worshipping YamaWorship Sri Yama daily at dawn, noon and dusk by reciting the following hymn while facing south.
Salutations to Yama.
Salutations to Sri YamaSri Yamaraja helps us overcome the fear of death. Man gets overwhelmed by the fear of death when he is laid low by disease. So a healthy life free from disease is crucial for overcoming the fear of death. And even when afflicted by disease, we should have a calm, steady mind that's centered on God. The worship of Sri Yama makes all of this possible. Let's all observe Dharmaraja Dasami as described above in the Siddha way.
Appendix 1: Timing
Make sure you determine the exact time period during which Dharmaraja Dasami is in effect in your timezone.
You can do this by using the spiritual calendar provided in this Website.
The exact time span of Dharmaraja Dasami is the time period during which Dasami thithi is in effect.
Here are the times for three different timezones.