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Adi & Praja 153

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Adi and Praja

Chapter 9

Issue 153: Dissolution 1,2

“Don’t worry,” answered the teacher. “The lessons on this subject are far from finished. At the end you will understand the whole thing.” “Oh,” said Shano, “ – yeah, I hope so.”


(the first dissolution)

We are now first going to discuss the process of dying of the body, the feelings and the mind. This is what Tibetan Buddhists call ‘the eight dissolutions.’ Whatever you are dissolves in seven stages. More, or less – that means, more in death and less in sleep – these processes take place all the time, every day. Except that sleep is an incomplete death, or – you may also say it the other way round – that death is a very complete sleep. There is really no difference between what happens partly every night and completely every lifetime. The same happens, and the experience is also the same. It is delightful to fall asleep, isn’t it, most of the time, when you are tired? If you die quietly without disturbance it is also delightful to fall ‘adead.’ The only difference is that in one case you wake up in the body of a baby, and in the other case you wake up in the same body as yesterday. But in a new body you don’t remember the old one, just as little as a new computer to which you transfer all your stored information remembers the old computer. Still it contains everything the same: the same programs, the same files if you still wanted to keep them, etc. – only the hardware was replaced. That too is a whole process. You cannot enter your text files before the computer has a boot program, and not read anything before you have transferred the text reading program. But finally it’s all the same bits and bytes. The Buddha, more than 2½ millennia ago, knew nothing about computers I suppose; but still he talked of our own hardware as the body and the mind, feelings, the fashioner, the ‘together-maker,’ etc. as belonging to different groups of living data: skandhas.

So let’s imagine we are going to die now. All the skandhas, sense organs, perceptions, wisdoms and forms are linked to each other. In the case of the old and the new computer: if you would start by taking away their power source, you can’t transfer anything. You have to plug in the new one first and plug out the old one last. And you use your intelligent mind to decide what to transfer first, then next, then next, and you can make disk divisions and other things. It is a process behind which there is great intelligence – your intelligence, if you know something about computers. The intelligence of yourself is independent of the fact whether the computers are plugged in or not.

Before we continue we have to understand something about the life energies, the pranas, which move all through our body while we are alive. It is said that these energies, which link us with the energies moving through the universe, enter us mainly through our nose after we are born. The process started already before we were born. By complex processes of making divisions in the original few channels, we end up with 72.000 tiny energy channels running through all parts of our body, to and through all our organs and extremities and back. When you keep yourself healthy during life, these energies run smoothly and evenly without blockages during your whole live. If you disturb the natural balance by wrong foods and drinks, wrong thoughts or wrong feelings, or especially by wrong yoga practices, the balance may become disturbed and energies become locally blocked or deficient. If this goes too far, you die prematurely. The processes of death may also be disturbed from the point of view of natural death compared to those of violent death – though basically it comes, perhaps after decades, to the same result.

Next to these 72.000 (invisible) channels there are three very important ones running along the spine, right and left, and the most important one in the middle, from all the way down your torso, passing along your heart and going into your head, and when they have reached close to the top, bow down forward – like the round handle of a walking stick – to your nose. The pranic energies enter your body through your nose, as said.

At the time of dying, to describe the whole process in its briefest form, all the pranic energies in the 72.000 channels gather in the right and left channels of these three. Then these energies dissolve into the central channel (called Sushumna in Sanskrit). At the end the pranas in the upper and lower parts (above and below your heart), which are said to be white and red respectively (originally derived from father and mother, which both together formed the origin of your body after conception) dissolve in the indestructible life-carrying prana at the heart. Not the physical heart, but the subtle-energy heart, near the physical heart. The white and red constituents, if you could see them, look in form like that of a closed round case, with a white drop on top and a red one on the bottom side. This happens inside the central channel at the heart chakra (= ‘energetic channel-wheel of the heart’). In the center of the closed case is the one entity which consists of a very subtle prana and mind. This very subtle prana is the indestructible life-bearing prana into which the final dissolution occurs at the moment of death, i.e. at the end of the process of dying.

This is because if there is still any prana that serves as the vehicle for earthly consciousness somewhere in the body, one can not die. Only the very subtle prana and mind remain.

No I am going to tell you about the actual processes which go on after dying. All that you are on earth – your body, your earthly feelings and earthly mind dissolve in steps. Humans die via a process of eight dissolutions which include all the above-mentioned skandhas (groups of properties such as feelings and thoughts, and physical forms, etc.), all the sense organs and the power to be aware of the objects of the senses (smelling, seeing etc.), all the worldly ‘wisdoms’ discussed before, the ‘elements’ (solidity, moisture, etc.) as well as the coarse pranas (not the subtle ones) – which no longer have to move through the body and cause its movements.

The first dissolution or disintegration

In the beginning, before your actual death, all those phenomena which have a relation with the group of properties called ‘names and forms’ (nāmarūpa) disintegrate at the same time. They are, besides this group itself, the reflective wisdom, solidity, vision and visible forms and colors. The disintegration of each of these components is visible from the outside (by people standing around) but experienced as a sign by the person who is dying. In this case, of the form group of skandhas, the dying person’s arms and legs shrink a little and his or her body become weak and powerless (like when one falls almost asleep). The consciousness of reflective wisdom – to which normally things appear simultaneously and clearly, disappears, and as an external sign one’s sight becomes unclear and dark (as if one had cataracts, says one commentator) – which indeed many old people get long before thy die).

Because one loses solidity – the earth element – the body become very thin, one’s limbs loose and the dying person feels as if he is sinking into the earth (or the earth rises up a little). This may be an eerie experience, but there’s nothing to worry – its just part of the experience. In this first sequence of the dissolutions, one loses the power to open or close one’s eyes – a power which is of course not lost when one is merely falling asleep. Once the person is dead, later, outsiders often close their eyes, because they themselves cannot do it anymore – it would be useless anyway. One loses one’s bodily splendor and physical strengths – and this the outward sign of the dissolution of the forms-skandha.

The dying person at that moment is not aware of all this, but his consciousness experiences a bluish appearance, they say, compared to ‘an appearance of water (in a distance) when the light of the sun strikes a desert in the summer.’ A kind of fata morgana in the desert, or to put a more modern: you can sometimes also see it on highways when the blazing sun heats the air just above the surface.

The second dissolution

Now everything that has a connection with the second group of properties or skandhas is going to dissolve. From that moment on the body can no longer experience bodily pleasure, nor physical suffering, nor any state in between these two. As to the ‘wisdom of equality’, it is that which is mindful of these feelings; so when it disintegrates one does no longer experience pleasure and pain, happiness and suffering or neutral moods even in one’s mental consciousness. Physical pain and earthly mental suffering are gone – even long before the actual moment of death. Because this second dissolution involves the water element or ‘moisture’ of the body, one’s saliva, sweat, urine, blood and regenerative fluid dry up. The ear and the power of hearing also disappears, the ‘ur’ sound that the ear produces continuously from itself stops, and all sounds from outside and inside your body disappear into silence for you because the ears can not hear them anymore.

For the consciousness of the dying person, in his silence and his painless state, appears an appearance which is compared to ‘puffs of smoke from a chimney in the midst of a mass of smoke’ It is said that all these stages of the various dissolutions occur also everyday when you fall asleep – but apparently we don’t remember the ‘water’ and the ‘smoke’ and the other experiences afterward.

Next time: The third dissolution

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