Talks on the Gita -Vinoba 76

Chapter 8
37. Living With The Awareness Of Death

6. But man always evades the thought of death. The French philosopher Pascal has written a book titled ‘Pensees’ (Thoughts). It contains his stray thoughts. He observes therein that although death is always looking over our shoulders, we continually try to forget it; how to live with the awareness of death in the mind is never our concern. Man detests even the very mention of the word ‘death’. If somebody utters this word while taking meals, he is immediately admonished. Nevertheless, we are continually moving towards death. Once you board a train to Mumbai, it is bound to take you there even if you just keep sitting.

The moment we are born, we have booked a ticket to the destination of death. Whether we run or keep sitting, death is bound to come. Whether you think of it or not, you cannot avoid it. Whatever else may be uncertain, death is certain. The sun sets everyday, taking away a portion from our life. Life is continually being gnawed at. It is continually withering away. Still man takes no notice of it. Jnanadeva exclaims, ‘कौतुक दिसतसे ’ (How curious!). He wonders how man could be so thoughtless and unperturbed in such a situation. Man is so frightened of death that he cannot even bear the thought of it, and tries to evade it like an ostrich burying its head in the sand. Soldiers going to the front, play, dance or sing or smoke to forget death. Pascal wonders how they lose themselves in eating and drinking, singing and dancing in order to forget death even when they see death everywhere.

7. We are all like those soldiers. We try to keep a smiling face, apply creams to hide wrinkles, dye our greying hair. We are ceaselessly trying to brush aside the thought of death even though it is just around the corner. We talk about anything but death. Ask a boy who has done his matriculation about his future plans. He will reply, “Don’t ask me now; I have joined college just now.” If you put the same question next year, he will reply, “Let the second year of college pass. I shall think of the future thereafter.” So it goes on. But should not one think of the future in advance? One should plan the next step beforehand; otherwise one will land oneself in a ditch. But the student shirks this task. The education that the poor fellow receives is so full of darkness that he has little idea of what is in store for him. He refuses to visualize the future, since he sees only darkness ahead. But there is no escape from the future; it is bound to catch him by the neck.


References and Context