On Death and Dying

I don’t have the reference, but I recall K once saying that without understanding living we can’t understand dying/death. But what we’re really missing here is understanding how to live…happily and free of conflict. And what does death have to do with that living? Is there a relationship? I know K felt strongly that there is…that living and dying are one.

In what way is a dead person more dead than alive?

As I see things death and living are simply part of the same phenomenon, you can’t have one without the other. Death means something finishes, but the structure (or I’d say the pattern) of the ego is such that it requires a perpetual continuity. There is no “software” in our brain which envisages for our end, on the contrary the biological software is programmed for resisting to death (it’s called instinct of conservation). Life is from moment to moment, and the new moment can come because the old one dies and disappears. We are always living in the past or in the future so we actually are separating ourselves from the essence of life: the present moment.

To live happily, we should die every day or every moment, that is we must let go the past.

Psychological death is necessary to live fully, and in this way we can understand the meaning of life. Physical death does not change things. We will never be able to understand death/life unless we experiment it in our daily life.

I can’t understand if you are exercising irony or repling to someone else affirmation.

We think there is something called death and something called life - I’m just challenging our assumptions and/or encouraging anyone to point out the obvious difference between what we
call life and death. (as you say :“something finishes” I’m saying name that thing that seems so important)

Maybe there could be a separate topic: Death?

My first ‘formal’ introduction to the subject was given by Catholic nun in a ‘Sunday School’ when I was a very young boy :boy:. She drew a circle :o: on the blackboard and filled it in with white chalk. This she explained to the class represented our ‘soul’ when we were born: pure. Then with the edge of her eraser, she removed little circles of chalk revealing the slate underneath…these little black circles were called ‘venial sins’. These appeared in the soul when we lied or did other naughty things. And if we died with These venial sins on our soul, we would go to a place called ‘Purgatory’ and have to wait there until they were gone and then could possibly go ‘up’ to ‘Heaven ‘. But and now she erased larger circles, these were ‘Mortal sins’… and if we died with these on our soul we would go to ‘Hell’ and burn there for all eternity.:scream:

Now of course, she and others of her ilk should have been taken out and simply shot before they had the chance to poison our young, vulnerable , absorbent minds… but that’s not the way it went, nor does it yet. :innocent:

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Yes, Krishnamurti said that often. To “understand” living made me inquire into death, which is not something we can experience. We can definitely experience dying - that process of shutting down of the body and the physical agony of it all. But death is not something that can be experienced because you cannot see your own dead body and remark “Hey, I just died.” In sleep, there is no consciousness but you can know that you slept for six hours after you had woken up look at the clock. There is no way you can wake up and come back to say you died. Since we cannot do that, can we conclude that death is not experienceable and therefore does not exist?


I agree that “we/I” - the accumulated content of knowledge of every kind, which the brain has been trained and psychologically molded since birth to view as the consciousness of an autonomous experiencer - cannot record the experience of death. It is seen that the psychological process of fragmentation is rooted in memory and thought, isn’t it. Does it not follow that the fragmenting process inevitably ends with physical death? We therefore cannot separate ourselves from death in actual death as we do in life. Fragmentation is a movement or activity of the living brain. No activity can be measured in a dead brain. It can also be observed that the dead brain is soon food for worms and other animals, or it turns to dust. A dead brain cannot record or think; it cannot be active. Is it a conclusion or a fact that a dead brain cannot record, remember or think? And without those functions of thought, what can the meaning of life beyond death be for “me”? Does saying that death might not exist mean that “I” - which consists essentially of memory/knowledge - CAN exist independently of “my” consciousness?

Aside from one’s own death which clearly the dead brain cannot observe, record and remember, one does see the death of loved ones and strangers all around us, as well as from the testimony on death from ancient literature and funeral remains. Doesn’t the observation of THOSE deaths give a clear understanding that physical death awaits each one of us? Is it a fact or a conclusion that we see death all around us and that it has been so throughout history?

But still, there is perhaps another question which cannot be answered: Does the still-living, still-recording, still-thinking brain have any basis for asserting whether or not there is awareness and experiencing beyond brain death? That question, it seems to me, CANNOT be truly answered - other than through belief and such. In any case, if one could establish that death does not exist, would that mean that it is merely a continuation of our tortured consciousness, memories, knowledge and thought? Since this question cannot be answered, it can simply be dropped, no?

But perhaps there IS something that the living brain can understand about death. Where the thought process which puts the self together is observed and so understood, can the brain - without effort - be so still that its usual compulsive and obsessive preoccupations end? Then perhaps it can experience psychological death - which is the ending of the tortured psyche - and find out what it means to actually live without the burden of psychological time. I don’t know.


I’d say that it is reasonable to conclude that a non-functioning brain no longer carries out its functions. :face_with_monocle:

This “psychological death” is perhaps what K meant when he said you can’t understand death without understanding living. And again, he said more than once, that living and dying are one. Perhaps they are one only when there is that ‘psychological death’, however.

None of us has died yet and cannot prove that the nun was wrong. If you believe in due process, you would have to wait for Judgment Day. :rofl:

OMG…you mean…? :scream:

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New Delhi, dialogue 10, Dec 1970:
" How does one learn to live and die, not just learn to die. How does one learn to live a life in which death is a part; in which the ending, the dying , is an innate part of living?

P: How is dying an innate part of life? Dying is something in the future, in time.

Krishnamurti: That is just it. We put death beyond the walls, beyond the movement of life. It is something to avoid, to evade, not to think about.

The question is what is living and what is dying . The two must be together, not separate. Why have we separated the two?"

"Krishnamurti: But I see this is happening in life. I see it happening and therefore question this division of living and dying.

P: You do but others do not. We see there is a division; it is a fact to us.

Krishnamurti: At what level, at what depth, with what significance are you making this statement? Of course it is a fact. I am born and I will die. Then there is nothing more to be said.

P: It is not enough. The very fact we have asked how to learn to die…

Krishnamurti: I say learn also how to live.

P: And I have listened. I have not asked that question to myself.

Krishnamurti: Learn how to live. Then what happens? If I learn how to live, I also learn how to die."

Continued from above:
"What is important is not the learning about something, but the act of learning. The mind can only learn when it does not know. We approach life with knowledge of life – with knowledge of cause, effect, karma. We come to life with the sense of the “I know”, with conclusions and formulas and with these we fill the mind. But I do not know about death. So I want to learn about death. But I cannot learn about death. It is only when I know learning that I will understand death. Death is the emptying of the mind, of the knowledge which I have accumulated.

P: There can be learning of living in the learning about death. Deep down in human consciousness there is this nameless fear of ceasing to be.

Krishnamurti: The nameless fear of not being. The being is the knowing that I am this, that I am happy, that I had a marvellous time. In the same way I want to know death. I do not want to learn, I want to know. I want to know what it means to die.

P: So that I am free of fear.

Krishnamurti: If I do not know how to drive a car, I am frightened. The moment I know, it is over. Therefore my knowing about death is in terms of the past. Knowledge is the past, so I say I must know what it means to die so that I can live. Do you see the game you are playing upon yourself, the game which the mind is playing upon itself?

The act of learning is something different from the act of knowing. You see, knowing is never in the active present. Learning is always in the active present. The learning about death – I really do not know what it means. There is no theory, no speculation that will satisfy me. I am going to find out, I am going to learn in which there is no theory, no conclusion, no hope, no speculation, but only the act of learning; therefore there is no fear of death.

To find out what it means to die, learn.

In the same way I really want to know what living is. So I must come to living with a fresh mind, without the burden of knowledge. The moment the mind acknowledges it knows absolutely nothing, it is free to learn. But there is noth- ing to learn. There is absolutely nothing to learn except the technological learning how to go to the moon. Freedom of learning about what – the thing that I have called living, the thing that I have called death. I do not know what it means. Therefore there is living and dying all the time. There is no death when the mind is completely free of the known – the known being the beliefs, the experiences, the conclusions, knowledge, the saying I have suffered and so on."

Final part of the excerpt from 1970 in New Delhi:

"Death says you cannot touch me, you cannot play tricks upon me. The mind is used to tricks – the carving something out of experience.

Death says you cannot experience me.

Death is an original experience in the sense that it is a state I really do not know. I can invent formulas about death – the last thought is that which manifests itself – but they are other people’s thoughts. I really do not know. So I am starkly frightened. Therefore can I learn of living and therefore of dying?

So deny knowing – see what takes place. In that there is real beauty, real love, the real thing takes place."
full excerpt

In what way is a dead person more dead than alive?

I ask this in the understanding that what we call a dead body, is not really dead. There are just as many (if not more?) biological (and chemical) processes ocurring after, as there were before the moment of “death”. Just as many living cells and organisms (though not all the same ones) functioning as before, producing just as much gas, heat, fermentation and still working against the laws of thermodynamics as life is want to do.
Yet despite a possible increase of local biological processes; despite a possible upsurge of life in the body - this is known as Death.

Whats that about?

In the preceeding comments, Voyager mentioned that “something” had ended at death, Dan reminded us that this thing is traditionally known as the “soul”. Tom has kindly pointed out the important Psychological aspect of death. And Huguette pretty much answered the question with one of her own:

What is the difference between so called “Psychological death” and “real” Death?
There is none - its all about identity.

Your description of a dead body is correct, yet is not relevant for our Discussion. There are a moltitudes of living things in a dead body yet the organization which kept the whole body functioning is no more there. The word organization comes from organism.

(I have to leave now. I’ll add some more few things later.)

Am I being too simple? Yes there is a change between a “dead” body and a living person - But when we speak of death we do not mean change - I wanted us to concentrate on simple things : “what do we think death means” - though this may not help resolve our confusion immediately - I do think it is of utmost importance to see our confusion.
The personality of the person is no longer being expressed - Yes the meat is not working in the same way as before - but the most frightening thing is that Bob, or Fred, or Mary, has left the building.

Freedom from the Known is freedom from identity. Death is psychological.
(individuals, organisms, superorganisms, are identities)

You are quite right about the meat and the point you made about it has significance because its death is merely a transition between two states: apoptosis and necrosis. The person likes one but not the other.

You asked: “In what way is a dead person more dead than alive?” Is there such a thing as a dead person? The body that is no longer alive is lying around even though it is not really “dead” and developing rigor mortis and rotting away. The person who is no longer alive does not exist (i.e. a dead person is an idea.) Come to think of it, there is no such thing as a living person either (i.e. a living person is also an idea).

You said that there is no difference between so-called psychological death and “real” Death (as expounded by Huguette), and “it’s all about identity”. I am not so sure about that.

Huguette’s perception of death is conditioned by the premise that personal identity is generated by the brain. Therefore, when the body dies, along with it goes the personal consciousness and all its contents. In stating that, he agrees with me that the experiencer cannot experience death. However, just because death does not exist (to the experiencer), does that imply that the experiencer can transcend the personal consciousness? This would be a tough sell (as Huguette noted) against the testimony of others who, since the beginning of time, have observed the fact of physical death that awaits every body. The experiencer is not the body. It is consciousness. Can it come upon a state of experiencing “beyond brain death”, as Huguette put it? He said no, but Krishnamurti said yes.

Krishnamurti talked about death BEFORE the body dies. Death of the person, of course. Now that Huguette has established that the person, the experiencer, cannot experience death, the state of death, what kind of death was Krishnamurti talking about? What is the nature of the consciousness, not the tortured consciousness of the person that is tied to the body, but the consciousness that is free of the mortal person that has faded out like the rainbow, that meteorological phenomenon, disappearing into that dimensionless blue sky?

No, we cannot drop the question even though we do not have the answer. This inquiry is not the search for knowledge, the hunt for the known.

The best we can do is to see that our delusions are delusions - not to imagine what is on the other side.