Modern man has a feeling of being the master of ceremonies. He is the top of the food chain, can peer into the far away universe, and talk of black holes and nebulas. Man conducts his existence with a sense of owning the earth.
Man decides to go to the west, but the Lord leads him away to the east.
In an instant, He establishes and disestablishes; He holds all matters in His hands.
Man is very clever, but cannot even master his own self, whereas he would hold the entire universe as his inferior. Cleverness brings in attendant qualities – a feeling of me versus others, of duality and separateness, and an attachment to some trinkets and possessions. Tied to possessions, the I must endeavour to retain them. Guru Granth sahib cautions us:
Believing himself to be a separate entity,
man clings to his stubborn mind, and shows off his possessions.
That food of possessions, condemned and discarded by wise ones:
he eats it again and again.
But, alas, the show faces a final frontier:
In his desire to acquire possessions, man’s breath escapes him.
Leaving all, he departs to the City of Death.
My guru mentioned this cycle of life and death, and suggested a practical step to help us overcome the usual result. He recommended remembering death once every hour of waking life, and bring this down to once every 15 minutes. This practice is a humbling experience, and keeps us safe from developing an arrogance that does not behove mortals.
For further training of the mind, the remembrance should be accompanied by a mental picture of one’s last rites, whether cremation or burial. Along with your body, place cherished possessions on the funeral pyre. What the fires will not consume and time will not decay, is the only possession worth clinging to!