Dennis Hill (real name) earned his B.S. in Biochemistry back when that was sufficient training to become a scientist. He is currently employed as a consultant in environmental chemistry software. His experience occurred in November of 1958 in a college infirmary in Fort Worth, Texas.
Ah, Sweet Death
“Dammit, woman! That hurt!” The deadly penicillin injection hits a tight knot in the muscle that the body knows is the last gesture of resistance before giving up to the insidious invader.
The crusty night nurse regards me with a practiced dispassion: “Just pull up your pajamas, roll over, and go to sleep. I don’t want any more trouble from you.” She ambles back to her station in the otherwise unstaffed college infirmary.
I notice that something within me has become suddenly still and quiet. Has my heart stopped beating? I put my hand on my chest… nothing. I reach for the radial pulse with my other hand… nothing. Little sparkles of light dance before me as my vision begins to dim.
“Dave!” I call out to the other guy on the ward who lives on my floor in the dorm.
Darkness sweeps in.
There is a sudden rush of expansion into boundaryless awareness. I feel utter serenity infused with radiant joy. There is perfect stillness; no thoughts, no memories. In the rapturous state free from the limitations of time and space, beyond the body and the mind, I have no memory of ever having been other than This.
The Buddhists know about this state. They chant:
Gaté, gaté, paragaté,
parasamgaté. Bodhi swaha!
Gone, gone, utterly gone,
gone without recall. O freedom!
Gone without recall? Gone beyond remembering ever having been? O freedom! It is true!
In this vast and blissful stillness there is now movement. I am drawn toward a tunnel ringed in blue radiance. Into the tunnel through no volition of my own, I continue on around the curve in the tunnel until I see a dot of white light that grows larger as if approaching it.
Maharaj Jagat Singh writes: “As the Soul hears the sound of the Bell and the Conch, it begins to drop off its impurities. The Soul then travels up rapidly, and flashes of the distant Light begin to come into view. Connecting the two regions is an oblique passage, called the Curved Tunnel. Only after crossing this tunnel, does the Soul reach the realm of the Creator. Here the attributes of the mind drop off and the Soul ascends alone. Once it reaches its Home, it merges in it, thereby setting the Soul free.” (Okay, so how did he know that the tunnel is curved? Around to the left, as I recall.)
Falling into the white light, I am somehow jerked back through the tunnel into the body. The precious fullness of bliss and peace is juxtaposed in the limitations of a body thumping wildly from the epinephrine injected into my heart. The rapture is gone. I am very angry at coming back.
The Sufi Master, Hazrat Inayat Khan, gives us this teaching: “Die before death.” The message here is to become established in the joyous tranquility of the inner Self so that when the body suddenly drops away we will not be distracted by attachments to the world. In this way the Soul will complete its journey home. All of yoga is preparation for the last moment before, and the first moment after, leaving the body.
Next time I will be ready.
No fear; only the equipoise of the Indweller.
Contributor’s Comments on the Experience
No fear of death. Persistent awareness of the utter stillness behind the mind and within all activity.