We have to be ready to die at any second. That’s one of the most important things I learnt from Karta Singh. When he said that, in his usual eyebrows-arched, cheeks-puffed, zap-of-lightning kind of way, I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m ready to die.’ Meaning I’m not particularly scared of death, and I don’t have much stuff for others to sort through after I go, thanks to Marie Kondo.
But now I’m reading The Tibetan Book Of Living & Dying, which unpacks the teachings within The Tibetan Book Of The Dead, I realise there’s a deeper subtlety to Karta’s teaching.
As well as always having our ducks in a row because we don’t know when our time’s up, we also have to be actually ready for the moment of death, for the journey that we’re about to embark on, prepared with the presence, the conscious awareness to put what we’ve learnt about this journey into action.
When death strikes, we need to remain utterly conscious as we watch everything we’ve ever known crumble around us – our physical body dropping away, our senses imploding, our mind dissolving, our thoughts folding (ie the most confusing and overwhelming process, even when we are aware of what might be happening to us) – and we still need to remember what to do and where to go. I’m other words, we need to remain present – ready – in every moment because who knows when it’s going to happen.
So here’s what to do and where to go… There are nine holes in our body, according to The Tibetan Book Of The Dead. And our soul/essence/subtle body can leave through any one of them, determining our journey onwards (the anus, it goes without saying, is the least desirable exit route!).
Or, ideally, we can move our consciousness up through our central channel (shushmuna) and out through the top of our head – the crown chakra, or tenth gate. This is the most auspicious exit point, as from here we can eject ourselves upwards and melt into the Ek Ong Kar, the All That Is, the Ground Luminosity. It’s here that we have a chance for liberation, enlightenment, freedom from the cycle of karma and rebirth.
Sogyal Rinpoche’s teachings on The Tibetan Book Of The Dead go into a lot more fascinating detail which I unfortunately don’t have space to go into here, and I highly recommend his book if you haven’t read it already, but in a nutshell, it’s up through the spine, out through the crown and bam, blend with the universe!
And this is yet another reason why I love kundalini yoga. Because it teaches me to die in every kriya. The squeeze of mulbandh (the no-go exit point). The subtle rush of consciousness up the spine and through the crown of the head. That expansive Wahe Guru! that completes every kriya. It’s a road map for when our time is up.
Let’s remember it when it’s important, fellow yogis!
Sat nam x