It was about six weeks before I left Madura for good that the great
change in my life took place. It was quite sudden. I was sitting
alone in a room on the first floor of my Uncle's house. I seldom
have any sickness, and on that day there was nothing wrong with my
health, but a sudden violent fear of death overtook me. There was
nothing in my state of health to account for it, and I did not try
to account for it or to find out whether there was any reason for
the fear. I just felt "I'm going to die" and began thinking what
to do about it. It did not occur to me to consult a doctor, or my
elders or friends; I felt that I had to solve the problem myself,
there and then.
The shock of the fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to
myself mentally, without actually framing the words: "Now death has
come; what does it mean? What is it that is dying? The body dies. "
And I at once dramatized the occurence of death. I lay with my
limbs stretched out stiff as though rigor-mortis had set in and
imitated a corpse so as to give greater reality to the enquiry.
I held my breath and kept my lips tightly closed so that no sound
could escape, so that neither the word "I" nor any other word could
be uttered. "Well then," I said to myself, "this body is dead.
It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and there burnt and
reduced to ashes. But with the death of this body am I dead? Is
the body I? It is silent and inert but I feel the full force of my
personality and even with the voice of the "I" within me, apart
from it. [...] The body dies but the spirit that transcends it
cannot be touched by death. [...]
All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me vividly as
living proof which I perceived directly, almost without thought
process. "I" was something very real, the only real thing about
my present state, and all the conscious activity connected with my
body was centered on that "I". From that moment onwords the "I"
or Self focused attention on itself by a powerful fascination. Fear
of death had vanished once and for all. Absorption in the Self
continued unbroken from that time on.
-- Ramana Maharshi