Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": THE MOMENT OF DEATH

AS DESCRIBED BY THE UPANISHADS


When this self gets to weakness, gets to confusedness, as it were, then the breaths gather round him. He takes to himself those particles of light and descends into the heart. When the person in the eye turns away, then he becomes non-knowing of forms.

[When his body grows weak and he becomes apparently unconscious, the dying man gathers his senses about him, completely withdraws their powers and descends into the heart. Radhakrishnan.]

He is becoming one, he does not see, they say; he is becoming one, he does not smell, they say; he is becoming one, he does not taste, they say, he is becoming one, he does not speak, they say; he is becoming one, he does not hear, they say; he is becoming one, he does not think, they say; he is becoming one, he does not touch, they say; he is becoming one, he does not know, they say. The point of his heart becomes lighted up and by that light the self departs either through the eye or through the head or through other apertures of the body. And when he thus departs, life departs after him. And when life thus departs, all the vital breaths depart after him. He becomes one with intelligence. What has intelligence departs with him. His knowledge and his work take hold of him as also his past experience. (Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad, IV, 4, 1-2.)

Verily, when a person departs from this world, he goes to the air. It opens out there for him like the hole of a chariot wheel. Through that he goes upwards. He goes to the sun. It opens out there for him like the hole of a lambara. Through that he goes upwards. He reaches the moon. It opens out there for him like the hole of a drum. Through that he goes upwards. He goes to the world free from grief, free from snow. There he dwells eternal years. (ibid.,.V, II,I.)


S. Radhakrishnan (editor and translator), The Principal Upanishads (New York: Harper & Row, 1951) pp. 269-70, 296

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