न जायते म्रियते वा विपश्चिन्नायं कुतश्चिन्न बभूव कश्चित् ।
अजो नित्यः शाश्वतोऽयं पुराणो न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे ॥ १८ ॥
The atman is not born nor dies; nor did it come from anywhere; nor was it anything. The atman is unborn, eternal, ancient, ever present and not slain though the body is slain – Katopanishad.
I was in the first year of primary school. It was a regular practice to get to school and home by walk. I was old enough to walk alone. My home was less than a mile from the school.
One day while returning home from school on a rainy evening, it so happened that I passed by a funeral procession. This was the first time I experienced a dead body.
On a flower decked chariot lay the body of an old man in a seated position on a wooden chair. The body looked perfect. Only the face could reveal that the person was dead and not just sitting.
The chariot was led by a noisy procession of people bursting crackers and flowers strewn all around. People were dancing to an energetic music and drum beat. You could simply replace the dead body with a temple deity and the procession will resemble a wild celebration.
I had not experienced death from close quarters. The experience was nerve racking. I could not take my eyes of the dead body. I kept my arms tightly crossed all the time.
I kept thinking that the dead body was going to jump off the wooden chair and chase the people around any time. It was a scary thought. I left the place and ran home as fast as I could.
That night I was scared to sleep. The dead body seemed to have found a permanent place in my head. I had a pressing question to know how people die and if it would ever happen to me.
I posed this question to an elderly relative of mine. He answered in affirmative that people die when their heart stops beating. It can happen to anyone and I was not an exception. This will be at the time of death of a person.
I had the answer. I decided henceforth I should listen to my heartbeat. This will give me an assurance that my heart was still beating and has not stopped. They say one should listen to one’s own heart, but I was determined to listen to my heartbeat.
Sleeping at night was a lot easier now.
I used to lie down on the bed in a straight line with my right palm on the chest. I could feel the pulse of my heartbeat in the fingertips. It was calming and relaxing. The heartbeat gave me an assurance that I was alive.
Strangely I could hear the beat in my mind. I started listening to it deeply. My eyes were naturally focused on my brow point.
I was listening to the soothing sound of my heartbeat single pointed. All other thoughts seemed to have disappeared. It felt as though a light has been switched on from inside. I was falling into deep sleep.
Years later I realised this was probably my first meditation experience. In meditation you are advised to practice sitting in a straight upright posture. Perhaps I had started my meditation in a lying down posture.