The circle of life

A few days back – I had visited my cousin to see her new-born baby. What a wonderful feeling to hold a new life in your arms, to feel the warmth of the little body, to see the wonder in its eyes. And to catch that unconditional smile. A baby brings so much joy into a family. Because it is the celebration of life in its newness.

Two weeks down the line, while I write this, my 83 year old grandmother (Dimma – as I call her, or Dimmu – affectionately.. or Dimmu shona) is in no-man’s land.. between life and death.. her vital faculties have stopped functioning. Everything is supported by machines. The smile that once warmed the heart is missing. The eyes that once had so much love and kindness, are now shut.. opening occasionally with a nudge to the body, giving an illusion of life. Her disease worn body is still warm.. blood is still flowing in her veins by the pacemaker.. oxygen still feeding her cells, by that pump and ventilator. But doctors say that her brain is dead. She is in a state of consciousness from where there is no turning back.. the machines can keep her body machine running.. but her being is no more..

What a sinking feeling – to let go of a life – especially of someone you love dearly..

The family has been asked to take a tough decision.. do we want to go the next step and keep the body machine running ? More holes poked into her already swollen limbs, and now the throat.. more pipes going through her skin.. and what for ? To trap that vital life force, which no longer has any expression ? Will she ever again smile at me ? Or call me, or sing for me.. The life which had so much vitality, which was born as a baby – 83 years ago, has now wilted.. It has got bored with being in this body. It seeks a new abode.

Guruji (Sri Sri) once said that everything is made of atoms, and the organization of an atom in a certain way makes it an apple, or a human being, or a tree..  death, decay or transformation happens when the atoms are bored – bored of being an apple ? Then rotting starts..

The atoms in my grandmother’s body have become bored.. of all the suffering they have undergone in the last few years. Multiple fractures (as she had osteoporosis) – multiple steel rods embedded beneath her skin.. The mind that once wanted to do gardening and cooking and cleaning – and considered that eating on the bed was sacrilege, or that one had to change clothes every time one used the restroom.. was now bound to the bed. Eating, diapers, all on the bed.. The mind was still sharp, solving crosswords with the same aplomb that she used to always. And wanting to write letters to her grand daughters in the USA. She wrote me and my cousin letters a few months back.. and breaking into that occasional song.. she still knew all those rabindra sangeet by heart.

But she had become bored of this life. She wanted change. Lately when she would be alone, she used to talk to the air “take me away.. can’t take this anymore”.. If any of us overheard her, we would scold her, and she would be embarrassed.. “oh i did not know you were still awake”..

I want to tell you the same thing now Dimma.. I don’t know if you are still awake.. But I want God to grant you whatever wish you have now, to have a new life, with or without a body. I know you are bored of this shell of 83 years.

For – whatever journey you have undertaken the last 83 years, I know that you are still that fresh life, that came into this body on 18th December 1928. Beneath that dilapidated shell is the spirit that is undying, fresh as the dew on a blade of grass. And when it is set free from this shell – it will sing dance and smile again..

So why do we lament.. Why not celebrate your new life.. out of the mundane, limited existence, into the limitless infinity..

It makes me wonder. When a life blooms into newness, as a new-born baby, we celebrate. We celebrate the fact that the spirit has now the capability to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh, of the matter. We celebrate every step in life, every birthday, every event.. We seem to ignore the bondage that it brings along with it. The sufferings, the miseries.. Sometimes so much so that the spirit longs for freedom from the bondage. Like my Dimma’s. We seem to ignore the fact that each one of us is inching towards that end. Which we dread.

But why ? When the spirit is to be set free, to go on a journey where there is only light, no “body” and its miseries to care for.. then we lament. What an irony. Why ? Is it because it makes us aware of a vacuum that the “body” occupied all these years.. and it makes us aware of our own transient nature.. Because we identify ourselves with all that is transient, and forget the self, that is unchanging.

I remember once a little boy asked Guruji at a public satsang – “what is death” – and all of us cringed – thinking what reply He could possibly give to a child on this topic, but to everyone’s amazement, Guruji said “death is like sleep. Between two lifetimes. It is nothing to be scared of. When you are tired, you sleep and next morning you wake up refreshed, similarly, the body dies and the spirit wakes up in a new body – all fresh and rejuvenated”

And then starts the circle of life.. once again.. again and again…

I have a feeling – Dimma will never be back in this circle of life. She was just too bored of this world of matter. She was a spiritual being all her life.. beng lost in the depth of meditation even when she was very young.. going into samadhi. And when she was 73, she experienced the Sudarshan Kriya, which in any case gives a glimpse of the self. She always gave to the needy, from whatever little she herself had. She never turned away any canvasser – whether they sold utensils, incense sticks, useless gadgets or fake encyclopedias.. she used to say “at least they are making an honest living”.. I feel all her backlog of karma from all the past lives was burnt in this life.. with all the penances.. and all the sufferings that she had..

I just hope Dimma, that you do not have short-lived memory. Don’t get enticed into the pleasures of this world again. Your place is with the Divine now.. Don’t you let another body, growing somewhere in the world in a womb, beckon you. That race is for other souls, who still have unfulfilled desires. You have lived a full life dimma – many full lives in fact. I bless you now – like you blessed me, with a life..

.. or – a state of being – that no fire can destroy, no wind can blow away, no waves can sweep across..

Mano budhyahankara chithaa ninaham,
Na cha srothra jihwe na cha graana nethrer,
Na cha vyoma bhoomir na thejo na vayu,
Chidananada Roopa Shivoham, Shivoham.

Neither am I mind, nor intelligence ,
Nor ego, nor thought,
Nor am I ears or the tongue or the nose or the eyes,
Nor am I earth or sky or air or the light,
I am Shiva, I am Shiva, of nature knowledge

Na cha praana sangno na vai pancha vaayuh,
Na vaa saptha dhathur na va pancha kosa,
Na vak pani padam na chopastha payu,
Chidananada Roopa Shivoham, Shivoham.

Neither am I the movement due to life,
Nor am I the five airs, nor am I the seven elements,
Nor am I the five internal organs,
Nor am I voice or hands or feet or other organs,
I am Shiva, I am Shiva, of nature knowledge”

(chant and translation courtesy

© Debjani Mitra at

(Picture taken at Sunset - St. Pete Beach) The sun sets every day to rise the next morning.. the circle of life..

3 thoughts on “The circle of life

  1. A few hours after I wrote this, Dimma left for her heavenly abode. As if she was waiting for my permission. She delivered the family of the dilemma, of the lifelong guilt that they would have had, had they taken her off life support the next day. She went on her own. So much was her love, unconditional. Rest in peace dimma – we love you.

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