Book Reviews - The mystery of death
by T. A. Basubramanian
The material or physical causes of death are not its sole or its true cause; its true inmost
reason is the spiritual necessity for the evolution of a new being.” - Sri Aurobindo
To most of us, ‘death’ would be a dreaded word, suggestive of inevitable pain and loss. Alok Pandey's book takes a different, almost refreshingly positive – and objective – look at the whole business of death and dying from a multitude of perspectives.
Pandey bases much of his multi-faceted musings on the insights of Sri Aurobindo, who has visualised physical death as a mere passage of the spirit on a higher journey. Being a psychiatrist and a philosopher, Pandey has the advantage of looking at the process of dying and the associated lore and mythology with a dispassionate eye.
Three initial chapters (The What, Why and Shroud of Death) open the discourse, probing into the many interpretations – traditional and modern – of life’s passage. This is followed by ‘Beyond Death’ which muses on the ideas of rebirth and past-life associations. ‘The Ancient Debate’ pulls up topics like the existence of the soul, out-of-body experiences and the sleep-wake cycles of near-death stories. ‘The Inflexible Iron Law of Death’ looks at the human side of death and ethics – euthanasia, homicidal laws, capital punishment, abortion and so on. ‘Towards a Vision of the Future’ elaborates on the quest for immortality. Lastly, ‘The Many Faces of Death’ draws together a variety of interpretations from different traditions.
So we are taken through ancient philosophical discussions, scriptures, religious beliefs and medical insights interspersed with the writer’s own case histories in this rambling account of what death means – both as a ritualised passage from this world to another, and as a mysterious para-normal experience that no one can satisfactorily explain.
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