Drukama RadioTM Episode 39 – The Process of Dying
Today Daishi speaks with Khepfer on the subject of death and the process of dying. What is death and why is it feared? What exactly happens when we die? How can we use the dreaming process to better understand the death process and help our spiritual path? What can we do to support our loved ones through death?
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Episode 39 Extract
The Process of Dying
“The system itself that we live in seems to perpetuate ignorance more and more as we go forward. So, we have to really take a stand and say, ‘It is time for us to understand how the vehicle operates, what I’m doing here, how I got here, what my purpose is and how I can leave and/or come back and/or move on, when I wish.’
And that’s really the goal of The Spiritual Path; not to just have a sharper mind, a better intellect, better memory. These things aren’t even important. What is important is to understand the vehicle, the energy, the process, so that we can utilize this to experience the most fulfilling life possible.
That is the depth of The Path itself, that is how we should look at it.”
~ Daishi Nagiyah
Full Transcript of This Episode
Khepfer: Greetings and welcome to another exciting episode of Drukama Radio. My name is Khepfer and I’m honored to be your co-host today. We’re very grateful to have our Venerable Teacher with us today. Daishi, may I ask how you are?
Daishi: Thank you very much for that introduction and I’m happy to be with you talking through this interesting subject of death. Let’s just jump into it I think.
Khepfer: Absolutely. Today we will be exploring a deep and intense subject. The death process, what death really means, and dare I say how to die well. Death is an often-avoided subject – something many of us feel deeply uncomfortable about – and even though it’s certainly a natural process it’s been the content of a lot of our suffering in life. Maybe partly because we honestly understand so little about it, see it as either the end of our existence in a nihilistic view or as this dark mystery of permanent separation from our loved ones.
So I guess the most obvious question out the gate is what is death and why is it feared?
Daishi: Well I can answer one part of the fear side of that question and I’m not sure I can tell you exactly what death is because it’s not really a thing in my opinion. I’ll explain a little bit why I believe that way.
Death – the way we see it here – is the conclusion of the physical body. So obviously because we don’t have any past memories for most of us beyond this particular birth, we feel like this is the first time we’ve ever done anything, we’ve ever been anywhere, we’ve ever experienced anything. So the moment we come into this life we feel fresh and new. We know by the millions before us, or the billions and trillions before us that people die, it’s natural. It just happens. Because of that we look forward to death as a marker of conclusion and we can’t imagine that anything else persists after that. Honestly that’s a very fair view because we don’t have anything that proves otherwise. Because of that, that ending is something that most people seem to push away, or they don’t want to think about, or when they do think about it, it’s a sad kind of remorseful event. It brings fear out in people and generally how we don’t like to analyze, talk about or kind of even review our own or other people’s death process. This is just a case of misunderstanding. Again, for human beings it’s a lack of knowledge, a lack of facts that point to anything other than what they can just see. So fear is good in this regard, fear makes us live a little stronger, maybe it gives us the ambition to live a little bit more present, maybe it gives us the ambition to be more active and more intense in our lives and in that way death is a great way of motivating life. But in truth, in my experience and again this is philosophical no one else to actually agree with this, but death is merely a doorway into another kind of change of our existing lives.
Khepfer: Yeah and that gets at the next natural question following death.
Are there possibilities after death and if there are what are those possibilities?
Daishi: Well we can only go by what we’ve been told. So basically if we look throughout history, we know that there are many, many cultures and traditions that speak about death as a doorway, or a way to move on to another kind of existence. If we analyze or contemplate and look at the many generations over the thousands of years and the many cultures that have all said the same kinds of things, it’s easy for us to come to a conclusion that somebody knew something at some point, and it was taught or experienced en mass – meaning the whole world agreed with, and seemed to understand, not only the death process but also what happens after death. One of the reasons why this occurred is because there are actual meditations that allow one to slow themselves down deep enough to go through the death process, and actually forecast their own death, and follow through with the death process. So we know that there’s many Yogis and practitioners and Masters that have sat down, these are various saint sages and seers in our history that have sat down and said “today I’m going to die.” They would sit down in the right kinds of meditations, going through the right kinds of states and relieve themselves of their spirit and somehow move on.
Now what we’ve heard from these Great Masters is that there’s just a series of processes that happen and those series of processes are just confused. Most people just don’t understand them well enough, but they have outlined them and explained them in such a way that they seem to all line up and actually agree with each other. Whether it’s from the Buddhist tradition or the other side of the world from the Western tradition, they all seem to agree. That the process is generally the same and where you go and what you do after this life is highly dependent on how you’ve lived this life and what you’re taking with you or not.
Khepfer: That does very much make sense. It’s just something that can be outside of the scope of our experience but I’ve definitely heard of practices and various traditions for exploring the death process such as the Tibetan practice of Bardo yoga and also an ability of Realized Masters called MahaSamadhi, which is as far as I understand it is dying fully conscious at will. So if I understand what you’re saying clearly, you’re saying it’s possible for us to experience the death process or something similar prior to actually dying?
Daishi: When one gets their energies in such a state that they’re stabilized and balanced enough, and is able to allow the awareness to stay active and not unconscious….The same process happens to each person and it can be replicated over and over. This process is that in a specific kind of application, we can see the dissolution of the elements that happens stage after stage. At some point there’s the ability to actually dissolve all of them which are all the functioning kinds of methods of the body to stay alive and awake. We have earth, and water, and fire, and air, and then eventually akash, and then there’s a few spaces beyond and we can let go of the body altogether and cease to exist here in a body. That’s something that a practitioner can actually experience and see for themselves.
So through that direct experience there would be no question that “yes, I most likely could move on if I understand how to leave this world correctly, if I understand the right process of leaving and the right consciousness that needs to leave with me”. So there’s that process there that can be empirically tested within each practitioner. But it takes a high level of readiness and a high level of awareness, Will, Intention and some vital energies that need to be balanced in such a perfected way that once that’s done, you’re able to sit down and say “Okay I’m able to leave when I want to.” I believe that this is the most natural way for human-being to leave the world and it’s something that we just forgot over time. So now instead of leaving this efficient way that I’ve used the body to have the best possible life, to have given back to the world and experienced all that I needed to experience and I feel comfortable with that it’s time to move on, now we just unfortunately ride in the vehicle or the body until it just breaks down into its very last sip of error and that process is very disheartening and obviously very hard to watch. Intuitively and naturally as human beings, when we see somebody go through that process we feel very badly for them. That something’s not right that it somehow is a negative event and rightly so. This person should never have gone to that extent and waited for the last breath of the body through all the pains and aches, until the body finally gives up the ghost so to speak.
They should be able to leave when they want, again it’s all about freedom, when they choose to leave and if they choose to come back then they choose to come back consciously. All these conscious actions are something that humanity has to gain back. We’ve seemed to be losing them more and more over time, and the system itself that we live in seems to perpetuate ignorance more and more as we go forward. So we have to really take a stand and say it’s time for us to understand how the vehicle operates, what I’m doing here, how I got here, what my purpose is and how I can leave and or come back and or move on when I wish. That’s really the goal of the spiritual path. Not to just have a sharper mind, a better intellect, a better memory. These things aren’t even important. What’s important is to understand the vehicle, the energy, the process. So that we can utilize this to experience the most fulfilling life possible and that’s the depth of the path itself, and that’s how we should look at it.
Khepfer: You mentioned something very interesting involving the dissolution of the elements. I was wondering if maybe you could describe a little bit or maybe we could explore what those stages look like and how the death process unfolds? Kind of just what to expect there?
Daishi: We can say it in a very easy way. If you understand the elements then each element that dissolves puts us into a different degree of subtleness, until eventually all the systems are shut down in the body, and there’s no more grip, so to speak, on the energy. Once the grip is gone from the energy – in other words there’s some stickiness that the energy is stuck into the vessel for these five elements that work against it – once that grip is released, then the energy can be gone. So normally in an unconscious situation most people ride through some of these states and because they don’t know what’s going on, or they don’t know what they’re experiencing and because fear is so high, they usually cleave to another womb. They rebirth, they suddenly jump out of one body and go into a little body and then they’re cycled again, and again, and again, and again, and this continues until they wake up to a certain extent and understand that there’s more to this process than just unconscious life.
So essentially as we go through these elements we understand that earth is the first thing to let go. Earth is the process of the dense physical body and there are certain kinds of visuals and certain kinds of sensations that happen when the earth part of the process goes away, when a clenching of this energy is released and relieved. Then it moves up into the watery side where we see the water, the body drying out. So first the body gets less heavy, less tense, less tight, and the grip on the energy is loosened and then the water comes the element of water, where everything starts to dry up. Then the fires come and start to dissolve and that’s where we lose our motion, our ability to be sharp and our ability to be connected and active in the nervous system, and so on. That starts to shut down and then we go into air, where the mind starts to go, and the energies of air and the subtleness of air in the body, the breath, and everything else starts to go until eventually we hit akash, and the full kind of releasing begins and that process and then there’s some stages beyond. But the point is, is that those elements are the very things that we see in elderly people.
I mean if you look at somebody that’s you know, a hundred years old, typically they’ve lost water in their joints, they might have arthritis, their hands might be clenched in, their saliva is gone, their mind is hard to hold to an object or a subject, and there are issues we can see that the elements are already starting in a very slow way to go away or become imbalanced or not properly regulated and so as you look at an old person you realize and recognize how they’re losing their elements is very clear, I can see you know. So as these elements dry up, their intention, energy and their power goes away, their ability to focus, their sharpness of mind, all the things that drive a normal healthy person starts to dissolve and depart. This is part of that process. The only difference is someone like us may be conscious of it be able to say “you understand that you’re losing your elements and you’re going to this stage or that stage.” Someone who doesn’t understand any of this, hasn’t been taught this or doesn’t realize that this is a natural function of the vehicle or the body itself just sees it as painful and a difficult process that they have to go through, and there is no choice. That’s not the case.
Khepfer: Yeah it’s really something that if you don’t you know understand what you’re looking at, it can seem very much like you described. It feels off or some process is happening, some part of you feels like it’s natural, in some part of you feels like it’s maybe unnecessarily drawn-out.
So how can we prepare for this process, especially if we as practitioners and listeners aren’t yet ready to perform Bardo yoga or something similar to that?
Daishi: Well, you know the main problem we have is iterations of the mind and the energies. So we have two issues with the spiritual path. One is the mind itself that has filters and a big unconscious powerhouse of stories and dramas and all kinds of Karma’s that live in there. So as the mind-body vehicle work together, you also have energies that power these cycles, and every time we go to bed at night we enter into a little death. It’s almost like we die and for most people, if dreams aren’t really vivid and lucid, they sort of go through a very dark period of unconscious Delta-ness, and they wake up the next day and suddenly they say you know “Here I am again. I’ve been born again and I’m gonna now move on and see what I get through this day, and another day, and another day”. But that little death happens every night. It’s kind of showcasing what happens when we die in a little way. Of course we keep the body in those instances, but it gives us a preview of sort of how we’re going to die, and if we’re really sharp about our sleep and if we’re really conscious about our sleep, we can go to bed each night a little bit more consciously.
So as we’re sleeping and not mentally, but consciously, there’s a huge difference there. Instead of being wired and intense and watchful, you know with the mind, instead we’re just aware. So as we’re fading away and going to sleep, you just kind of hold awareness as much as you can and if you get really good at that you’ll notice some interesting states that come up and that’s a really powerful way to examine “what happens when I go from alpha in my normal daily life? Or God forbid, beta brainwaves and I drop all the way down to from theta into delta”, “What really happens, and what’s going on, and where do I lose that conscious connection?” You can explore that really deeply and profoundly and in fact some of meditation – and there are practices specific to this that we talk about – are about just watching yourself go into a deep sleep or go into a deeper state of brainwave frequency.
What you’ll find typically is that there’s a floor. As the brainwaves come down, down, down, there’ll be a place where you cannot break through, you can’t penetrate further, wakefully. In other words at this point I’m either gonna let go and go into that unconscious state of sleeping, or I’m gonna sit and remain all night long. The reason for this is not because the mind isn’t powerful enough or you know you’re not ready for it. It comes back to an issue of energy. That the energy iterations are at such a place that they’re holding back your awareness from actually dropping through that floor, and we’re about to release some very powerful energetic practices that wipe that away for you. That actually clear that energy iterations away so that you can more easily sink down into those states.
Of course that helps in your waking state to become more consciously aware and not interrupted with your wakefulness and it helps in your sleeping state to become more aware as you go into the sleep state. Because there’s an entire theater that happens at night ,and there are ways to make that theater productive for your spiritual path and just being awakened and aware during it, can be a really powerful way of seeing beyond this world, beyond this body and beyond this illusory transient experience that we’re having now. I always liken it to ,you know, I made the joke that “how do you know that this world isn’t a dream you’re having right now? And one day you’ll wake up and realize that you weren’t born and you didn’t die you just woke up in another place?” Right, and this was your whole long dream that you’re having. So there are many ways we can look at philosophically but at the end of the day, you can know it actually if you regulate and balance the energies through specific kinds of energy practices. Beyond that trying will it with your mind is incredibly difficult and takes a very, very long time. It can happen, but it can take even lifetimes. It’s not something that’s going to be quick, so once you get a hold of your pranic energies you understand how to utilize the pranic energies you can make that process very fast.
Khepfer: It’s fascinating, the similarities between the dream state and the death process. I understand we’re getting into more philosophy and we need to actually clear away our pranic filters, or get our pranic body to express more clearly in order to experience these states from that perspective. But could you maybe talk a little bit more on the similarities between the dream state and the death state?
Daishi: So in that the only difference really between dream and death is that we still have an active body tied together to our experience. So when we go off into the dream state we’re actually still tethered into the body. When you go into the death state the body is released entirely so you have a tremendously more powerful experience in death than you do in dream. Although, once you clear away some of the energies that are causing those iterations, those imbalances, you can have very profound dream states where you’re actually very wide awake and you’re very conscious of what’s happening around you so that you can experience things and explore things in form and matter and beyond, that can help you come back to this world and recognize and realize that you’re much more than just a functioning chemical reactive energetic vehicle. Like you’re not just this organic material that’s somehow risen up from an ape and that’s gonna die in the ground and that’s all you are. Once you experience the beyond through your dreams, you’re able to understand in a much more profound and direct experiential way that you are something way beyond just the body. That the body is simply a vehicle you’re utilizing to experience this transient world and that provides a tremendous amount of freedom. It provides a tremendous amount of courage and it prepares you for death in a whole new way.
So the night time dream state can be utilized for that, although there are meditations also that perform the same kinds of processes that allow you to prepare in the same kinds of ways. So you can either do it when you sleep or you can do when you sit. But essentially at death, the biggest difference is the body is actually not going to continue to run with its elemental process, the elements themselves are actually shutting down. And when they shut down, they open the doorways – and there are many doorways a person can exit when they leave this life – that go to different realms, are different dimensions of reality after this is done. The idea in the grand scheme of things is not to exit one of those quote-unquote “lower doors” or any of the doors, but to exit out through the head, the frontal that’s been open previously from practice so that you can liberate beyond, and move beyond, and not get stuck in the cyclical-ness of this form in matter world.
So that’s a whole other podcast but essentially the difference is death and dreaming are very close, but death is much more profound. It provides much more option in terms of what to do long-term and dreaming is like a little subset sample of it. You can get away with some of the things you can do at death in a little version, a subtler version. You can play around in the dimensions a little bit if you get conscious enough. But it’s really not going to be the same thing as death unless you deliberately – and again you mentioned MahaSamadhi or something like this- unless you deliberately intend on dying and then you sit down and shut off your elements yourself, and you say bye-bye to the world and move on because you know where you’re going and why you’re going there.
Khepfer: Wow, yeah, you’re right it is a very profound thing even to just discuss being active and aware in your dream state to experience directly. I guess to shift to something that’s imminently relevant to our lives, you know, we often can have friends or relatives or people we know who are going through and experiencing the death process.
How can we help people either experiencing it directly, or loved ones who are involved, especially if we’re not ourselves clear on what it means to pass away?
Daishi: And this is a really important question because this is how we impact people the most, when they’re on their deathbed. This is why hospice work is so important, and it’s important to do it the right way. We want to make death a celebration, not a miserable experience especially for the person going through it. And when we’re crying and we’re selfing and we’re upset about what we’re losing, because that’s why we cry at death. We’re on one hand afraid that the person is not aware of where they’re going and they’re afraid. So in with empathy we feel for them “Oh my lord, this is a terrible experience for this person that God help them”. On the other hand, we’re going lose somebody that we miss. We’re gonna miss forever, in our estimation it’s forever. We’ll never see this person again, we’ll never know this being again. Because of those things that can become very intense with fear, and fear creates a certain kind of energy that we don’t want around someone who’s dying. Going through this profound process, we don’t want to put that on anyone. The things we need to do when someone is dying is reassure them, to make them happy and comfortable, and cared for, and put them in the right kinds of energy, and let them know to be brave and understand they’re going to continue and move on, so that they can have an enormously beautiful and blissful kind of death experience. Rather than one of white-knuckled terror which is what everybody goes through when they get close to death.
So it’s important that we change the way that we’re looking at the process and realize, every single one of us is dying. Everybody’s going, and if we had a choice would we go with negative miserable fearful energy, or should we go with happy positive encouraging energy? So I think it’s a simple answer. I think that we haven’t thought through it well enough. If you want to have your time of releasing emotions of missing the person and your misunderstanding about where they’re going and how you’re never going to see the being again, you need to release that energy. That can be done but that should be done in a wake atmosphere where you go off and you do it where you’re not going to influence the person that’s actually dying. But when you’re with the person you have to be strong enough to understand that it’s all about this person’s experience right now, and I have to make sure that I’m as happy and I’m supportive as possible, because they’re the ones that are fearful the most. Yes I’ll miss the person this is true but they’re going to move on from here and the way that they leave is going to greatly impact how they experience death.
So if you talk to a Christian, a Christian is going to go see Jesus, or the Angels, or Mother Mary. If you talk to a Buddhist, you know they’re gonna go on to the unknown void. If you talk to you know somebody who is a Muhammadim or somebody like this, they’re going to go on to see Muhammad or Allah, and so on and so forth, and go into the heavens this way. So there are different experiences that will be seen as the brain shuts down and the mitigation of whatever experiences and residue of selfing go with them. In the perfect environment none of that goes and we cleanly leave all the way through form and matter and we release the idea that there is a difference between emptiness and fullness, that there is a difference between density and subtlety.
There is no difference between these things. There’s no difference between the way we see a rock, or sand, or air, or water, or fire, they’re all the same energy. They’re all the same thing. They just happen to be manifesting through our five senses in a strange way like a VR helmet we put on and they’re kind of fooling us into believing that they’re in different shapes and forms. When we can let go of that concept through our deep self work, through our meditative and waking processes, eventually we come to a place where this is clear to us. We understand that everything around us is shaped and formed in sort of an illusion through the brain. The brain is putting on the solution so that we can experience what we call duality. Once this is done, we can move on past form and matter, and that would be the most impressive and most amazing kind of experience to have at death, and that’s really what everybody should be working toward.
So at the same time enjoying life living to the fullest, being ultimately authentic, and having no selfing transient kinds of delusion there, ridding ourselves of ignorance, while also that process is preparing us for the perfect kind of death where we’re able to sit down and say I’m going on to the next thing now, and it doesn’t involve form and matter because I’ve moved past form and matter, and let’s see what’s next. This adventure continues and it continues and it continues. But most of this knowledge and wisdom has been lost over time it’s been purposely destroyed in some cases and it’s been unconsciously ruined in other cases, but this has always been known and understood through every culture way back when. And it isn’t until we got really modern and sophisticated that we lost our “contact with nature” and with the way our subtle energies work in our spirit and all of that has been kind of let go of and ignored and those things have to be revealed once again.
Khepfer: Wow, thank you Daishi – it’s definitely resonating very profoundly, the idea that the process of dying can actually lend perspective and enhance the quality of our lives. Is there anything else before we end today that we should take away from our discussion on the death process?
Daishi: Just that, remember that the path is set up in two ways. One is about the mind itself and how we understand the mind and its function, and the other is about utilizing energy so that we can make corrections and changes to the vehicle. Not only long-term but also short-term.
So if we have methods and applications of understanding how to alter energy, and we have methods and applications of understanding how to mitigate mind, we’re going to find that we can clear away delusion. That gives us a clear radiant view which is really important, to have a very wide clear radiant view of everything, a good perspective that’s not clouded by personal filters. And also the highest energy, capable of our vessel flowing, so that we feel joyful and exuberant and we feel happy and go-lucky in our lives. So now we have no judgement, and impartial compassion and love. That would be a great way to live and every human being can reach this, everybody’s capable of this. It’s just whether we want it, A, or B, know how to do it. We’re trying to handle the know how to do it part and we’re looking for the people who want it.
Khepfer: Absolutely. I think you’ve made us all feel a lot clearer and more comfortable with the natural process of dying. I understand that Drukama is now open for limited registration. Do you have any news for us regarding the site?
Daishi: The site is about to release some of the more technical and detailed waking and seated practices. Those are going to be very exciting for everybody because you’ll be able to choose whether you want to practice waking (state) -if you don’t have a lot of time or are not interested in a meditative path, we will teach you the waking side of the path. which is much easier for somebody you know who has a job and a family and doesn’t really have an hour or two a day for sitting. That’s completely understandable, there are ways to apply the path in just your day-to-day life that are very profound. And/or the meditative process which gets into the more detailed and more intense way of dealing with these energies and the mind’s filters. So when those are released here, we’re going to have a full breadth of practices that go one step at a time through all of this, whether it’s waking and/or seated and describe how to get a hold of your energies, how to fix your pranic energies, so that they’re balanced and they’re exulted, amplified. And 2) how to deal with the mind and the filters of the mind, both at the same time.
Inevitably there’s a marriage there and when that marriage happens there’s a kind of an idea of no more work. You’re sort of beyond needing to practice, you’ve amplified the energy as you understand the vehicle and the mind is clear. It’s not holding on to any judgments or abstractions or illusions, delusions, conditions, notions or analysis that it is entangled with. So it’s free and freedom is the key. If you’re interested in that, within the next little while here all of that will be released and available to anybody who wants to come learn it and there are many tutors and teachers going through or have gone through this process as well, willing to help you walk down that path.
Khepfer: It’s exciting news. Thank you so much for being with us today Daishi. It’s an honor and a pleasure.
Daishi: I appreciate it and thank you so much for doing this podcast with me. I had a great time and I look forward to our next one.
Khepfer: If you have any questions or comments about the show please email us at radio at Drukma dot com. You can also find us on social media, just search Drukama that’s D-R-U-K-A-M-A. The transcript for this show is also available at drukama.com.
Thanks for joining us for today’s Show. We look forward to seeing you next time.