By Suma Varughese February 2007 Only character and relationships follow us beyond the grave. Why not invest in these? Hear this: We are going to die. Every moment that we live draws us closer to death. This is possibly the most unwelcome and frightening truth we will ever hear, but on the other hand, it is the most rigorous reality check we could have. The thought constantly makes us evaluate our priorities, goals and objectives in life. All the desires that we spend a lifetime chasing such as money, fame, power, possessions, are short-lived. No matter how much we may love our Mercedes, holiday home in the country or bank balance, we must one day leave them. Many who discern this try and compensate by leaving behind legacies – children, lasting achievements, immortal works of art. All these are marvelous, but they are based on the belief that we will live only once and therefore achievements are our only shot at immortality. However, we know better today. We know that we are immortal where it really matters. At the level of the soul. The body decays and disintegrates, but the soul lives on and returns to life over and over again. As immortal beings how do we live? What should be our goals? Our conduct? To begin with, we need to see what we take with us. According to all the spiritual texts, past-life and near-death experiences, there are only two things that survive death. One is our character, the sum total of our experiences on earth. The other is our relationships. Who we are at the end of our life is the raw material for our next life. If we are angry, cynical, negative, if we have lived a life of reactivity and negativity, we take all of these with us. On the other hand, if we have used this lifetime in order to grow in every conceivable way, if we have sought to be gentle, loving, considerate, efficient, able and giving, then all that too will go with us. Since others are also immortal, we also take our relationships onward into the next life. Accounts of people undergoing past life therapy usually testify that we meet the same people in life after life, in order to void our karmic linkages with them and complete the relationship. This means that we need to priorities growth and relationships. We need to see life as a vast school where we take birth again and again in order to grow in perfection until we attain enlightenment. Every experience must be used as a growth opportunity, something to help us grow in whatever quality we lack. Every conflict, problem, shortfall is to be seen only as indication that we have not got there as yet. Even the tiniest of resistance to the weather, or the tardy progress of the traffic or to one’s scratchy new clothes are signs that we have still some way to go. And finally we need to truly work on our relationships, especially with those closest to us – our primary family and the one we marry into, close relatives and friends. Many of us have issues with our family and quite often get estranged, but from the point of view of immortality, alienation is not an option. All it means is that we are doomed to spend a few more lifetimes with them until we finally resolve our differences and strike harmony. So we might as well start working on them today itself. If we can view each relationship as an opportunity for growth, instead of a source of misery, we will have the motivation to do so. Relationships teach us more about ourselves than almost any aspect of life. We become aware of the many games we play in order to get people to do what we want. And to discover our own manipulative ways can be an eye-opener. Furthermore, it is only while relating to others that we discover our blind or soft spots. We discover that we like to dominate, we do not know how to safeguard our space, we are not really comfortable around people, find it hard to open up to the opposite sex, have an authority issue, are impatient with slow learners, judge and criticize everything that we disagree with and so on. Only through ongoing introspection and interaction can we change the way we relate. Now you decide where you would like to direct your time, energy and money toward: the joys that last a lifetime or the joys that are for eternity.
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