is not right. Killing animals to eat them is not a civilised thing to
do, but carnivores exist in nature and in many places, humans have to
subsist on non-vegetarian food for reasons beyond their control. But
wherever possible, vegetarianism must be practised. Hurting people
physically or mentally, whether by word or action is wrong. Ahimsa is
more important than prayer. Ahimsa should be the central principle of
your faith, but you have to raise your voice against injustice. Then, if
you hurt someone who has hurt other people, it is justified. But the
death penalty is barbaric — it is murder by the state.
So, life should be lived with
compassion and non-violence. I think a lot about life and the way we
live it; I also think about death and how we deal with it. The basic
point is, we don’t know where we come from; we also don’t know where we
go after death. In between, we might know a little about life.
talk a lot about body and soul — I’ve never seen a soul, nor do I know
anyone who has seen one. So for me, death is a full stop. I don’t
subscribe to the theory of rebirth endorsed by Hinduism and Buddhism nor
do I believe in the Judeo-Christian belief in a heaven and hell. Ghalib
said: “We know the truth about paradise but to beguile your mind is not
a bad idea.”
When I met The Dalai Lama, I told him I didn’t
believe in God. He threw his head back and laughed, saying, nor do
Buddhists. I often wonder, how only Hindu and Buddhist children relate
incidents from previous births while Muslim and Christian children
don’t. There is nothing unique about death.
Death comes to all who are
born. So we don’t need to pull a long face when death comes. Of course,
it is human nature to grieve for someone you’ve lost. But that’s no
reason to create a big fuss, wailing and screaming. Nor is there any
need to have elaborate rituals.
Death is in the order of
nature — when your time comes, die with dignity. I’m a member of the
‘Die with Dignity’ society formed by Minoo Masani 20 years ago. I can’t
say I don’t fear death — but I’m more concerned about whether it is
going to be a long drawn out painful process.
Iqbal wrote: “If
you ask me about the sign of faith/when death comes to him/he should
have a smile on his face.” I’m all for the ancient tradition of
celebrating death. When people over 70 years die, their death should be
marked with celebrations including music, dancing and feasting. It is a
sign of maturity and acceptance of the inevitable.
I’ve discarded all
religions, but I feel closest to Jainism. Every person has the right to
end his life — after having fulfilled his worldly duties and if he feels
he has now become a burden on others. It is legitimate to want to
extinguish your life. Acharya Vinoba Bhave and Jain munis have done
I wish to be buried with just a tree planted over my grave — no
tombstone, nothing. If you live close to the sea, go for burial at sea.
It saves wood.