'Freedays' are the 'gather our thoughts' days; Q&As; a general review of the week so far…
Having spent a week with folk who are at various stages of indifferent health, it has struck one how much attached the spirit becomes to the flesh. Not that it wasn't previously understood, on an intellectual level. However, when faced with a physical example, it can be very hard not to say, "Aha! Detach! Detach!"
Just because, for oneself, attachment to the physical aspects of existence has been much reduced, letting the Vedantic understanding supplant the old habit of living, it also has to be acknowledged that majority folk have yet to consider and accept the possibility of death simply being another stage in 'life'. This is what Vedanta teaches; the body is like a suit of clothing, to be dispensed with once used. If parts can be recycled, all to the good for the bodies which remain and are in need of those parts; for the essence of personality which inhabited that body though, it is time to get on with the next stage of experience and growth.
Taking it one step further, Advaita Vedanta** teaches that the departing spirit returns to source and is part of the ONE again. It may have some karma balance still to be spent, therefore another 'suit of flesh' is formed and the spirit enters it. Thus the cycle of reincarnation is set.
Advaita allows for no distinction between our perception of existence and the source of that existence (called variously as Brahman, OM, God, etc). Its teachings imbued with indubitable logic, if read well, and its examples and exercises applied, physically as well as intellectually, bring the dedicated adherents to the conclusion that All IS One and that One is the AMness within.
It is not an easy thing to allow, though. The antaH-karana (mind-intellect-ego-"memory") is itself an attachment and it takes a great deal of effort to move beyond it. The ego-self becomes very, very dominant and when we use the first person pronoun it is almost entirely in reference to the contained and flesh-packaged, individualised self - the jivaatman. Occasionally, we may stop and ponder, 'who am "I" really?'... All too briefly, for then 'life' pushes in again and distracts us from the question. However, there are a few who stick with it and begin to research it more fully through the various techniques available. It can be through explorations in artistic endeavour, through music, through adventure… endless methods offer the possibility of understanding who is this "I". The majority, though, only serve to strengthen lower-self, ego-identity.
That ego-self attaches to other ego-selves as well as to the world of objects. Somewhere inside there is the idea that to possess things and relationships will keep us safe. Yet the more we are attached to things, the greater the fear of their loss which arises, rather than an increase in feelings of safety.
This is particularly obvious when it comes to members of family or pets being seriously ill or dying. Those who suffer most in their grief are those who are attached in such a way as to believe that their own life cannot function fully without the presence of the departed one. Others will grieve long and become attached to that very grief, as if it is a crime for them to take on happiness of any sort again. Still others will grieve, but then find that life does indeed go on and they can operate fully in the absence of the departed without guilt or excessive pain. The Vedantin is not untouched by grief, but rather does not permit it to become debilitating in the way it can be for others. Acknowledging the loss is very much there and the absence is surely felt. However, there is also a sense of relief for that spirit that it has chosen to move on and a prayer that it will find an improved existence hereafter.
How to sit with those who have the pain of breaking attachment upon them when there is such a different understanding? Just that. Simply sit. There is no need to preach or look dispairingly upon those who lack this understanding. The one thing which crosses all 'understandings' is Love (with the capital 'ell'). Simply 'being there' (even from a distance) is sometimes all that is required to bring solace and strength during such times. If the query comes as to how one can be so calm in such a time of stress, the easy and honest answer is, "Sit in Love for in Love there is no loss."
It is within the mantel of Love that we can rest and drop our burden. In the time of stress, we need not search out the big answers for what is that Love. All that is required is to feel it and allow others a share in it.
**Vedanta is the teaching of the Upanishads. As within Christianity, there are different interpretations of the message. Advaita claims the unity of all without division of the Divine; Dvaita claims all are one, but The Divine stands separate; Vishishtaadvaita acknowledges the unity of all, whilst allowing for the individuality of the Divine… there are other subdivisions also. On the key points of life and its purpose, however, all the philosophical sections are in agreement. Therefore Vedanta stands as one philosophy.