The one certainty in life is the one for which we do the least to prepare—death. From the lives and last days of the Buddha, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Ramana Maharshi, Gandhiji, Vinoba; from our religious texts; from the teachings of great meditation masters; from santhara to sannyas to practices by which we may tame our mind—leavening all these by his personal experiences—Arun Shourie presents clues to ensure that we face our end with equanimity.
In the process, he lays down what we must do if rituals, pilgrimages and mantras are to help us. He leads us to ask whether texts such as The Tibetan Book of the Dead are for the dead, or do they set out lessons for us, the living? He leads us to see through the sedatives that we are fed. Even as we are being frightened by accounts of ‘hell’, are we not actually being lulled to sleep? Does the fact that we will face extreme tortures in hell not mean that in some form we will survive death? To experience them, after all, we must be present.
Religions entice us into the great questions. Is there a soul that is never born and never dies? Is there life after death? Is there rebirth? Is there God? What is real and what is just maya? The greatest teachers and mystics have come up with different answers. Each of them has had direct experience of what she or he has proclaimed to be the truth. How, then, are we to proceed?
Dr Shourie’s talk is based on his new book, published by PenguinRandomhouse.
Arun Shourie, Public Intellectual, Author
Arun Shourie is among India’s finest public intellectuals and conscience keepers.
Born in Jalandhar, Punjab (1941), he studied at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi and then obtained his doctorate in Economics from Syracuse University, USA.
Among other portfolios, he held the office of the Minister of Disinvestment, Communications and Information Technology in Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s cabinet. He was acclaimed as a “Star of Asia” by Business Week in 2002, as “The Business Leader of the Year” by The Economic Times jury for his pioneering and dogged work on privatization. In a poll of Indian CEOs, he was acclaimed as “The Most Outstanding Minister” of Mr. Vajpayee’s Government in early 2004.
He is the recepient of numerous national and international awards, including the Magsaysay Award and one of India’s highest civilian awards, the Padma Bhushan.
He has been an economist with the World Bank, and Editor of the Indian Express. He is widely regarded as the initiator of Investigative Journalism in India. The International Press Institute, Vienna, acclaimed him as one of 50 “World Press Freedom Heroes” whose work has sustained freedom of the press in the last half-century.
He has written over 25 books on a variety of topics ranging from constitutional law, modern Indian history, religious fundamentalism, governance in India, to national security.