May you never see the devil and may your eulogy never be read
vohch sahdanahn dehss yehv votch ahl huhrahjahreemkuh gahrtah
This is a pari maghtank or good wish that a person not meet with death.
My dear God, You didn’t give me any warning (of my impending death)!
ahsvadzeem, mahuhs chee uhzgoushahtzereer – My dear God, You didnt give me any warning (of my impending death)!
There was a man who lived a happy-go-lucky life day to day not caring for the future. He was satisfied with the routine pleasures of life, eating, sleeping, sex and working for financial security for himself and his family. He raised his kids and arranged good marriages for them. They in turn had children. He didn’t give much importance to God and spiritual practices. He would go occasionally to church for Easter, Christmas, weddings, baptisms, social events and funerals and to see his children perform in church programs. His wife was more concerned with church attendance. He felt that she did the praying for him and he was concerned about the more tangible affairs like paying for a roof over their heads and food on the table. He was not a bad man in the sense of being immoral, but he was not really interested in God and religion beyond the customary attendance, which was more for socializing than religious.
The years went by and he suddenly died of a heart attack at 62 years old. Appearing before God, he was visibly shaken. God gave him the bad news that he was destined to go to hell. The man protested,
“Oh My God, You didn’t warn me!” ”
“I didn’t know I was going to die. It happened so suddenly and I did not have time to prepare for it.”
God smiled and said, “You didn’t have any warning? I sent you many warnings, my son.”
“I did not hear or see any sign from You,” said the man imploringly.
God said gravely, “You were given many warnings about your impending death, but you ignored them! You saw your hair turned gray, your teeth loosened, your eyesight deteriorated, your blood pressure rose, your joints ached, you felt sharp pains in your heart and left arm, one of your kidneys was removed, you were diagnosed with onset diabetes, your father, mother, uncles and aunties died. And you still claim I did not warn you!”
The man listened to the truthful words of God. He understood how foolishly he ignored all the signs of his impending demise. He couldn’t argue with such impelling evidence. He cried out,
“But why should I go to hell? I lived a good life. I have always been kind to my wife, I educated my children. I went to church. I don’t understand. Why are You sending me to hell?”
God said, “You were good superficially, but not in your heart. Whatever good deeds you did were for your own benefit and not really to serve Me. You had no real interest in Me. But hell can help you to correct your ways. False teachers say that once you go to hell, you stay there forever. But such a fate would limit My Merciful nature. You can still correct yourself and be saved. The devil is actually working for Me. His service is to facilitate your whims of trying to be happy by imitating Me.
When you become dissatisfied with serving Me and want to serve yourself independent of Me, you come to this world of illusory pleasures and pains and try to control and enjoy material things and people. The devil helps you to accomplish your selfish desires. You act in ignorance thinking you are independent but every action you make either good or bad gets you entangled in a reaction that binds you to the cycle of birth and death. Until you receive spiritual knowledge and learn to renounce your selfish desires to be the controller and enjoyer and become instead My servant, you will remain sometimes in a good position and sometimes in hell. Becoming My sincere servitor and friend, you will gradually become free from the vicious cycle of happiness and suffering and come back to Me in the eternal spiritual world. In fact, the devil will be happy to let you go once he is absolutely sure you no longer hanker for temporary material pleasures as if you are a god.”
The man felt ashamed, but with a glimmer of hope. He said,
“Dear God, are You saying I still have hope even in hell?”
“Yes,” said God. “But in hell, you can stay in illusion as much as in this world if you are still attached to material thoughts. The fantasies for power and sense gratification are so enchanting that they can divert their attention to dreaming about varieties of temporary sense gratification in spite of extreme suffering. In the material world, people turn away their attention from Me by dreaming constantly about sense gratification. In hell, they try to forget their suffering by dreaming about sense gratification. The following story illustrates how thinking of sense pleasures keeps you in a deluded state on earth and in hell.
One day a visitor to a king made an offering of a beautiful and exquisitely carved ivory fan to the monarch. The king fanned himself with this gift and then threw it to the court jester who was kneeling at his feet. As the courtiers looked on contemptuously to the jester, the king said, “Keep this with you until you find someone who is a greater fool than you.” The courtiers laughed at this insult to the jester.
Many years passed. During this time the king lived a life of self-indulgence and profligate excess. He mused in his sick mind: “So much wealth do I have today, and I will gain more according to my schemes. So much is mine now, and it will increase in the future, more and more. Anyone who dares to oppose me is my enemy. I have killed or tortured so many of my enemies in the past and I’ll continue to do so in the future. I am the invincible lord of everything in my vast kingdom. I am the enjoyer. I am perfect, powerful and happy. I am the richest man, surrounded by aristocratic relatives. There is no one as powerful and happy as I am. I am like a god to my subjects. I shall give charity, care for my many wives and enjoy their softness and beauty, protect my children and educate them to be like me, Iâ€™ll pretend to be religious so that everyone respect me like a man-god. Everyone will ask me for protection and mercy.”
In such a deluded state the king performed many sinful and abominable activities that caused great suffering and turmoil in the lives of his subjects. His lusty appetite never subsided rather it grew the more he indulged in bodily pleasures. He distrusted everyone. His greatest anxiety was to be betrayed by his close associates. Eventually the delusional king became very sick, his condition deteriorating from day to day as he lay on his bed, his health worsening and spirit becoming more and more diminished.
The jester came to see his master and questioned, “My lord, how are you faring?” The king replied, “Very badly. I shall have to leave soon to go on my long journey.” In surprise the jester asked, “What journey? You are very sickly and weak and in no condition to go anywhere, so how can you go on this journey? Where will you go? How can you go on any journey?”
The king angrily replied, “You are a very stupid fool. Don’t you know anything? I will be taking the journey of the inevitable, a journey that every person must take; that journey of death! Soon the angels of death will come to take me and I’ll be forced to go with them.” The jester replied, “Have you made any kind of preparations for this journey?” The king replied, “No, of course not, you fool!” The king’s eyes then filled with tears, “That is my great regret.”
The jester then took out the fan that had been given to him by the king all those years back, a fan he had carried as per instruction of the king, “to give to a fool greater than himself”. “You must take this,” the jester said, “for you are a greater fool than me. You knew all these years that you had to undertake this inevitable journey, yet you made no preparations for it, so this fan belongs to you!” The jester left.
Do not think you are so great
You’ll end up in a hopeless state
Forlorn, alone, without a friend
No prospect of help in a dead end
Humble is best so humble live
Greedy be not, generously give
Pride wants to own all people and things
Such an attitude misery brings
The body is dust until the dusk
Of life’s bitter end when die we must
Better live like a saint than a proud king
Whose death untold suffering will bring
The man again questioned God if he had some glimmer of hope in hell. God said that hope never dies even in hell because there are saints who at times visit hell to save those who are free of their fantasies of domination and sense enjoyment. One becomes eligible to understand salvation when they lose hope to be successful at dominating the material nature for their selfish desires. Such hopelessness for sustained material happiness is the entry point for hopefulness to eternal salvation. It comes from a realistic assessment of our position in the material world which is like a drop of fresh rain on a leaf. At any moment, a slight wind can shake the leaf and the drop can fall on the ground and disappear.
Life is has some happiness and mostly boredom and suffering that is somewhat attenuated by dreaming of material happiness. Death is all suffering and no happiness. Again the only solace in death is dreaming about material happiness. This dreaming of happiness indicates that our real nature is to be happy eternally. Our problem is seeking happiness in the wrong place and the wrong way. Therefore, it remains elusive and is never really attained permanently. Dreaming about it is our only course of solace until we learn the right means to attain eternal happiness.
Our soul, which is permanent, is present in our temporary body which is impermanent. The body is changing from boyhood to youth to middle age to old age. But I, the observer, am not changing. In my old age I think, “When I was young I could jump and play. Now, however, I cannot jump because my body had changed. It is old and weakened by pains and deterioration of bones and tissues. I want to jump, but I cannot do it. My jumping propensity is eternal, but because of my old body I cannot do it.” The desire to jump is not diminished by the changing of the body and its deterioration. This indicates the difference between the temporary body and the eternal soul.
Once we understand the soul is different than the body and that it is eternal, we enter into spiritual life. This means that we seek out service for the Supreme Eternal God and through such unselfish service we develop a soul to soul relationship with God that is eternal, beyond the temporariness of the body.
Some people raise the objection that consciousness of an individual only lasts as long as the body and then it dies. The implication is that consciousness is a product of material combination as is the temporary body. This is a false argument because the body changes dramatically from its stay in the womb to birth, growth through childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle age, old age and death. Although it changes so many times in size, shape, weight, height, appearance, etc., we observe all the changes. There is therefore a difference between the seer (the soul or consciousness) and the seen (the body).
Another objection is that the final change of body, death, precludes understanding what comes next after death to prove the theory that the soul exists despite the constant change of material body. In answer, the human eyes and senses are limited and cannot observe many things that exist. There are many phenomena that exist that cannot be observed with the limited senses. The limited seeing power of humans does not determine what is and what is not scientific fact. For example, the senses and reasoning power of an animal are limited. Animals do not understand how the laws of nature are working. The limited powers of perception of an animal does not preclude that the laws of nature exist. They exist despite the animal’s imperfect observation and reasoning power and they act on the animal. If the animal had better reasoning power, it would understand that the subtle laws of nature are controlling its life and actions.
There are still scientists that may argue that the only way to perfect human knowledge through objective observation and experience. Here one must realistically admit that the human senses of perception and lead to imperfect or incomplete observation and reasoning. It is not possible to achieve perfect knowledge through imperfect senses of observation and reasoning.
The only solution to this unending dilemma is to accept knowledge from a perfect source or God. We know that a perfect source of knowledge exists because our body, nature and the universe is functioning in a perfect way without any human intervention. It has functioned before our birth, during life and after our death. Such a complicated and perfect system cannot function without a perfect intelligence behind it. Our decision in life, after determining that our senses of perception and thus our reasoning are imperfect, is to determine who God is and then receive perfect knowledge. Even though our senses are imperfect, if we listen and learn without speculation, we can understand perfect knowledge just like a child who repeats correctly what they hear from a parent or teacher can learn without any experience or observation.
Therefore, the man who questioned God about the possibility of hope in hell became calm and discarded his fear of hell. He concentrated his mind on the words of God that he had listened to carefully. He especially focused on two points that God made. First, anyone who claims that God’s mercy on man ends when man goes to hell is an artificial attempt to limit God’s infinite powers of mercy and grace. God can give His mercy to anyone and anywhere either directly or through the saints that serve Him. Secondly, man is held in a hopeless trap of hellish condition because of his false hopes to dominate and enjoy the material nature. Even after failure to do so, man continues to dream and enjoy previous experiences of sense gratification or imagines future phantasms of such sense enjoyment. One can put an end to this vicious cycle of false dreams and hopes by transferring one’s concentration of mind to God’s wonderful qualities, compassion for His children and the unwavering dedication of His saints who risk their own well-being for the benefit of suffering humanity. Faith in the words of God and changing the object of one’s contemplation from selfish sense pleasures to the service of the all merciful God is the only way to sure salvation from the self-imposed hell of man’s fallen state.
gohvuh mehrahv, gahtuh gehtzahv
The cow died and the milk stopped.
maheen eemahnaluh ahnmahoutioun eh
To know death is immortality .
My understanding of this proverb is the following. To understand what death is in reality can sober a person to strive during one’s life for self realization and liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Birth, death, old age and disease are artificial impositions on the eternal soul of a person. No one consciously chooses them, nor likes them. They happen regardless of a person’s free will.
There is a saying in English, “As sure as death.” The inevitability of death cannot be denied by anyone. Therefore, one should not waste even a minute on diversions of mundane engagements that obscure the one inevitable fact of life; we are born and we shall die. We should use our short time of life to understand who we are, where we came from and where we shall go after death. Such knowledge is available for the seeker who understands its value and uses his precious time to access it.
Understanding death leads to immortality
mah eematzyahl unmahoutioun eh
This saying is full of deep meaning. Whoever is born is sure to die. There is no escaping death. Death appears to be the only certitude in life after birth. What is exactly death?
If we witness a person’s death we can compare the person’s symptoms just before death and right after death. Before death, if I poke a pin into the dying person’s finger, he will react with pain and displeasure. Others witnessing my act will also be disturbed that I purposely try to inflict pain on the dying man. After death, if I poke the dead man’s finger, no one will object. The difference is that something in the body disappeared when the person died. That something can be referred to as the consciousness.
When the person was alive I loved them by serving his or her body. When they die the body of the beloved is still present but something is missing. Invariably, I decide to bury the body or dispose of it somehow. Therefore, it becomes clear at death that what I loved was not really the body but the living principle or the consciousness of the person that animated the body with life. When the consciousness is absent from the body, I lose interest in the body. I can understand that the consciousness is not really something material because the body is chemically the same five minutes before and five minutes after death. If life and consciousness were merely a combination of chemicals, enzymes, minerals, etc, then I would be capable of supplying the missing or depleted items to maintain life. For example, scientists know exactly all the chemicals and their proportions in an egg. Yet, it is impossible for them to produce an egg starting in a laboratory with the raw chemicals and other ingredients. This is because life is more than the mere chemicals. By carefully thinking about death and understanding the above facts I can adjust my thinking about the purpose of life. I notice that throughout my life I tried in every way to p[reserve my life as long as possible. This natural instinct of self preservation is a hint that the consciousness is more important than the bag of chemicals called the body. Why should I care if a bag of chemicals disappears. Chemicals are not concerned about self preservation because they will exist in either case whether part of a live body or a dead body. The concern for self preservation is by the conscious person who is dwelling in the temporary body.
If I own a car and decide that I don’t care about the car, I may drive the car but not service it by changing the oil or tuning it up, etc. It will quickly deteriorate and stop functioning. In other words, the car itself is not concerned about its own self preservation because it is merely a collection of material elements and chemicals. It is the person driving the car that is either concerned for the preservation (or not) of the car. The car is merely a vehicle of transport for the person. The body is also a vehicle or a material conveyance. If the person driving it decides not to care for it, it also will break down and become idle. The body itself is not concerned with self preservation. It is the conscious person that drives the body that is concerned.
Another interesting fact is that during the life of a conscious person, the body continually changes. The person witnesses the change of the body from youth to maturity to old age and finally death. When I am fifty years old I can safely conclude that the body I had when I was five years old is dead and gone although I am still existing in a different body in size, shape, and different bones, etc. This indicates that I have used different bodies during my own lifetime. Those bodies have come and gone but I have remained. Therefore, I as a conscious being am different than the bodies that I have used as a vehicle to satisfy my desires. When I approach death, I will similarly change my body like I have done during my lifetime. The body dies but I continue to exist in another body. The skeptic will object that the reasoning has been acceptable up to this point but the assumption that one will continue to exist after death in another body cannot be proved and therefore cannot be validated.
The basic principle is demonstrated. During one’s lifetime, one exists in different bodies from childhood to youth to old age. One begins as an emulsion in the womb of the mother. It develops into a fetus. It is pushed out as an infant. The infant grows into a child’s body. The child becomes an adolescent. The adolescent becomes a mature person. Then there is middle age and old age. At every step the body is different but the person remains the same.
We can assume that death is merely another change of body when the present body becomes inoperable and old and is discarded for a new body. The principle is demonstrated that in spite of changing bodies during one’s lifetime, the person remains the same and witnesses the change of bodies. Similarly, one witnesses the change of body at death. The consciousness is not altered by such a change as it was not altered by the various change of body during one’s lifetime.
If we understand death as merely a change of body in the same way as during our lifetime we change so many bodies, then we begin to understand the immortal nature of the consciousness as a unique and distinct being that is not dependent on a temporary material body. The consciousness may transit from one body to another but it remains distinct from the material elements. Just as a driver may drive many different cars but always remains distinct from the vehicles.
By understanding death, one attains immortality as the Armenian saying states. Actually one does not attain immortality immediately but one begins to understand the immortal nature of the consciousness or the soul. What remains is to engage in the immortal activity or service and love for the eternal God.