Sweethearts Forever. Then Came Alzheimer’s, Murder and Suicide.  That was the heading of a recent heart wrenching story in the New York Times. Alma Shaver grew confused by everyday tasks wrote Corina Knoll. Forgot the faces of her children…And sometimes, she did not know her husband. He was Richard Shaver, a man whose wife of 60 years had been found by dementia, that thief that robs the minds of 50 million people worldwide. So common, yet so personally cruel… “For a while, Mr Shaver managed. By the spring of this year, things had gotten worse, as they always do with an illness that takes and takes and takes. Ms. Shaver had slipped beyond a murky fog that her husband could not join… Ms Shaver was in the upstairs bedroom asleep, the only peace she ever seemed to find. Mr Shaver, 79, crawled onto the canopy bed—the one they had shared for years—and shot his wife. Then he lay down beside her and shot himself.” Besides tugging at my heart strings, this story set me thinking yet again.

 Is it easier, when that inevitable time arrives, to move on to the other world together, as a twosome or as a family or as part of a group in which everyone dies at the same time maybe in an air crash, etc, or as part of a larger segment of people wiped away for instance, by a tsumani or some other calamity? There are also cases where a loved one or loved ones have committed suicide on hearing of the death of someone they loved.  For example, a little over a month ago, a man in his thirties jumped in front of an oncoming Metro train in New Delhi and was killed. His wife was contacted, who after identifying his body in hospital, went back home and hung her daughter and herself. Though the deaths of the husband, wife and daughter were not simultaneous, they happened within a short time span. Would that allow or enable them to travel on together to the other world?

Many cases are on record world wide of a loved one who has died waiting for the death of a partner, companion, child or some other person they love so that they could journey to the other world together. In my experience too there have been numerous such cases. Do such provide an indicator that it’s easier to cross over to the other world when accompanied by a loved one in addition to spirit guides and other souls who have passed over earlier? Then again, is the way we die, whether alone or not, and the timing ordained along with the manner of dying? In relation to the timing, for example, there is very strong evidence about life spans being ordained, with the exceptions of course as in cases of akaal mrityu or untimely death. I’ve pointed out earlier that even modern day research has shown that each one of us is born with a pre-wound, pre-programmed biological clock and death occurs when the biological clock reaches the end of its winding.

There is a strong belief, often a conviction that the time and manner 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, but most people I meet are more interested simply in how they’ll die, whether they’ll meet with a peaceful death or have a troubled exit from this world rather than whether they’ll have to move on to the other world alone.  Of course, there are some who don’t want to know anything about their death or even talk about it, 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.

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, place and manner of death are clearly mentioned, and in detail, right down to whether it’ll be a bright or dark fortnight. 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 foresee the time and manner of death.

 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. Actually, the Tibetan Buddhist system and the Tibetan Book of the Dead offer a wealth of insights into the subject of life and death and would turn most disbelievers into believers, but it is a complex subject and needs to be explained at length. The wisdom of the Vedas and the Gita, spanning not just lifetimes but entire “kalpas”—one kalpa equals 4,320,000,000 year —and “yugas”—we’re supposed to be passing through Kalayuga now—offers perhaps not only the most profound and yet the most practical system of both living on earth, dying and of life after death but also enlightening knowledge on these and allied subjects.

 However, significantly, the extraordinary Brighu Samhita, while mentioning clearly the time, place and manner of death in startling detail, along with the person or persons who will be besides you when you die, does not mention—at least not in my experience or those of several knowledgeable persons I’ve consulted—whether you’ll depart from earth alone or whether someone else will die and depart along with you. In one case, for instance, it was stated explicitly that a particular person’s death would be caused by a “shastra”, i.e. a weapon which would be wielded by strangers at the behest of a family member.

 Indeed, this particular person, whose death made headlines at the time it happened, was shot dead by contract killers hired by his brother-in-law. Don’t forget the stunning fact that this manner of killing was recorded in the Bhrigu Samhita, along with the timing, long centuries ago. What should one infer from all this? Is it easier to move on to the other world together or is it that when your soul leaves the physical body and begins it journey to the other world, it is never really alone in any case at any stage? More on this intriguing subject in a future column.