Death is a mystery, but more importantly, it is a man’s greatest fear. In some Catholic nunneries, the nuns lie down in open coffins every morning and meditate that they are dead. In Vedanta this is one of the most used techniques for enlightenment. In Buddhism, anyone initiated into sanyas has to spend three months in the cremation grounds and continuously observe bodies being burnt while visualizing himself being burnt. Almost all mystical traditions on the planet use this technique to achieve the highest possibility. Logical mind finds it difficult to understand how one simple experience can give such courage.
Nithyananda himself had this particular experience in Varanasi. When he went to Varanasi, he saw that per day three hundred dead bodies were being cremated in a place called Manikarnika Ghat.
Traditionally, it is believed that if somebody leaves the body in that area, or if their body is burnt in that area, they will be liberated. Ramakrishna confirms this and says that he saw Mahadeva himself going to every pyre and unclutching every soul from its body and liberating them. The men working there would carry the bodies to the Ganga river, reaching there by evening. As they walk, they keep chanting ‘Ram Naam Satya Hai’, which means that Lord Rama’s name is the ultimate truth. There is no special ritual involved. Three times the bodies are dipped into the Ganga as they say ‘Raam Naam Satya Hai’.
Nithyananda sat there to watch what was going on, and an hour later, death was no more a strange incident that happens once in a blue moon to a distant relative. Bodies of all size, gender, age, colour, community and religion were burnt in that hour. When one sees so many bodies, it feels like there is nothing to it. Everyone has to leave their body some day and they will have company as well! The breath that goes into them does not come out, that is all.
Knowing that death is inevitable will bring down the respect that one has for the ego. Whatever that one thinks should not leave them is their ego. When one knows for sure that everything is going to leave them, the respect for the ego goes down immensely. Being a very straightforward person, Nithyananda immediately dropped his ego and decided that if he’s going to die after all, he should have a death experience now itself and live without the fear or die and see for himself. He sat down in a small Shiva temple nearby and started watching the dead bodies being burnt. The big ‘click’ that he remembers even to this day happened when an old lady’s body was being burnt and he could see the fat from her stomach melting. This fat made the fire burn brighter and this made him think that the very same thing is going to happen to him. This opened up a deep, terrible fear of death in him and he faced it consciously.
The fear was spreading all over his body and when it met his awareness, it became a death experience. He saw clearly that his body was dead. For two and a half days, he did not sleep, eat, drink or think. Suddenly the ‘click’ happened that his body is dead but he still exists. This was such an intense ecstasy that the fear of death just left. Slowly he opened his eyes, and the first thing he felt was a deep gratitude. He performed a small pooja for Vishwanatha and he could see clearly that Vishwanatha was alive. When he died, Vishwanatha became alive to him. Till the previous day, because he was alive, Vishwanatha was a dead stone.
When a fear is suppressed, it stays inside the person. When one does not consciously face the fear, it shakes his whole nervous system. However, when it is faced consciously, it becomes a death experience. As Mahadeva says in the Shiva Sutras, “Visualize the fire rising out of your body slowly, let your form be burnt, let your body turn to ashes, but not you”.