Three American scientists recently won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their discoveries of the microscopic biological machinery that controls the circadian rhythm, or the 24-hour body clock. As explained in “Vox”, “Humans, plants, and animals are all ruled by an internal clock that runs on a 24-hour, light-dark cycle in sync with the sun. And there’s not just one of these clocks inside us: They’re in every single cell of every organism.” Besides having major implications for health research, the research findings have helped establish what’s now a growing field of science called chronobiology.

An earlier discovery did not win the Nobel Prize, but in January 2015, newspapers carried sensational reports with headlines like “Scientists Find ‘Biological Clock’ May Predict Human Lifespan”. Dana Dovey wrote: “Scientists can now tell how long you will live simply by analysing your DNA. An international team of researchers have figured out a way to interpret chemical changes that occur over a lifetime… they work as a sort of ‘biological clock’ to help predict an individual’s expected lifespan. And the results, although perhaps a bit unsettling, have helped to expand our knowledge on human longevity. It seems that age actually is more than just a number and the age on your birth certificate is not nearly as important as the age printed in your DNA.”

Science Blog reported that those whose biological age was greater than their true age were likely to die sooner than those whose biological and actual ages were the same. “The same results in four studies indicated a link between the biological clock and deaths from all causes,” said Dr. Riccardo Marioni, a researcher who had taken part in the investigation. Researchers found that the link between having a faster-running biological clock and early death held true even after accounting for other factors such as smoking, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Years ago, I had raised connected questions from a paranormal perspective. Does death come on the dot? Is it pre-ordained? There is a strong belief, often a conviction that the time and form of your death are both based on your karmas, on a theory of cause and effect and several other factors from your current and past lives. However,  most people I meet were and are more interested in knowing when and how they’ll die rather than why .Of course, there are some who don’t want to know anything about their death, and indeed astrologers will seldom reveal the time of death unless specifically pressed and several still refuse to divulge it—with good reason, but that’s another subject.

It is known that animals, birds, fish, insects, plants, etc are far more attuned to nature than us humans. Are they also more attuned to the other world ?

In the Brighu Samhita, that remarkable ancient text written by the sage Bhrigu which throws light on the past, current and future lives of each individual, the time and place of death are clearly mentioned, and in detail. Moreover, the person or persons who will be besides you when you die are also indicated. The equally remarkable palm leaf manuscripts and the Nadi system from Southern India also reveal the time and place of death. Time and again, astrologers too and those with siddhis or particular powers have been able to predict the time and manner of death. My father predicted his own and my mother’s time and manner of death correctly. I have heard several astrologers aver that those who have their Jupiter in the twelfth house get to know the time of their death in advance.

Many people are aware of the omens which will herald their death. Many others know their time has come just a short while before the final departure. Those who are ill but still conscious often get to know death is at hand when they glimpse friends and relatives who are dead waiting for them. There are many people who are able to see other people’s deaths in advance. I have done so on several occasions—the vision would just come unbidden even when the person concerned was not even remotely in my thoughts.

From many riveting accounts from different sources, there are unmistakable indications, that death does indeed come on the dot. So much so that those who have “died by mistake” and have returned from the world beyond to complete their earthly existence invariably recount  fascinating experiences which leave little room for doubt about the precise time of death. In most cases on record—too many to be mere coincidences—the “mistake” seems to result from the dead person bearing the same name as the person who was actually supposed to die. And the people who make the mistake seem to be the emissaries of the Lord of Death—Yama himself in Hindu lore or his doots or messengers who act as escorts.

Amongst Buddhists the cycle of death and rebirth is clearly defined and among Tibetan Bhuddists, not just the time of death but the time of rebirth is known. In fact, the latter and many signs associated with it determines the reincarnated successor of the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama and other lamas in the hierarchy. In this context, it is worth mentioning that the Tibetan Book of the Dead has changed many lives. The wisdom of the Vedas and the Gita, spanning not just lifetimes but entire kalpas— one kalpa equals 4,320,000,000 years ,  and yugas— we’re supposed to be passing through Kalayuga now—offers perhaps the most profound and yet the most practical system of  both living on earth and of life after death. The Jains concept of life and death also covers a continuum of time periods, which go to make the twelve spokes of the wheel of time and constitute one full cycle of time, with the shorter, bad periods being  “only” 21,000 years long.

The Chinese have their own system of beliefs in life and death, the Africans have their own systems, the Zoroastrians have their own system, and so do other faiths and communities. With life and death being so central to almost every system, and so inevitable for each individual, several questions arise: for instance, can death be averted? Should it be averted? Read about it in the next column.