Today’s Solutions: May 22, 2022

Who talked us into believing you have to die in order to live?

Tijn Touber | October 2004 issue

The notion of “detachment” is a central theme of nearly every spiritual or religious tradition. And in fact in many traditions, such as Buddhism, it is the primary goal. I, too, spent 16 years meditating every day and detaching myself from earthy desires like possessions, alcohol, drugs, sex and entertainment.

The thought behind detachment is this: you (first) have to die in order to be able to live. Buddhists call it the “little death”. Again and again, you need to let go, distance yourself, tolerate, accept and die until your ego (the little me) ultimately checks out and you’re free to live from your divine self (or Buddha nature, or higher self, or eternal consciousness). Those who die now for life on earth have the prospect of a better life or—depending on your school of thought—no life at all, but permanent deliverance from the cycle of life and death, of suffering.

I recently got up from my meditation cushion—quite a bit wiser to be sure—because I suddenly realized that I don’t have to die at all in order to live. I have to live to live. Where else but here can I develop the divine qualities that will send me to heaven, if there is such a place? Where else but here can I create such good “karma” that I may not need to come back again? Where else but on earth can I learn to approach my fellow man with compassion?

It is said that you die as you lived. So, if I live happily now, I will also die happily. If I die happily, I will live happily again (assuming reincarnation). So, I don’t think you get to heaven by waiting for it to happen after you die (in a spiritual or in a material way). You get there by living as if heaven is already here, by living a heavenly life. One of the main laws of nature, which applies both to the material and the spiritual worlds, is the law of cause and effect: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Buddhists and Hindus call it karma. Christians say you reap what you sow. This law holds the clue of how to get into heaven: to live as if you’re already there. The key is living, not dying.

Is it difficult to live? Yes, because we have been taught to die. Is it difficult to be happy? Yes, because we have become used to suffering. Is it difficult to be free? Yes, because we tend to see ourselves as prisoners. Is it difficult to be peaceful? Yes, if we believe that peace will only come in heaven—later, not now—and that now is the time to work hard in order to get to heaven.

Who—or what—talked us into believing that dying (and suffering) is the highest aim to live for?

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