This paper was presented at the
National Seminar on
Indian Psychology: Theories and Models

SVYASA, Bangalore,
December 26 - 28, 2007


Symbols of Life and Death

Ms. Aditi Gaur


Man sees life and death as two extremes. But while making the dichotomy between life and death we often overlook that the totality of life encompasses the inevitable death. We do not reflect deeply that the vital principle of life naturally incorporates the phenomena of death even though they are the extremes.

But if we come closer and look at the cycle of life and death we will realize that these are the essence of our existence. Life can be seen as one which gives man the full freedom to choose a way to live for which he will be solely responsible while death can be seen as the process of metamorphosis which leads to transformation within the individuals self.

We humans are always on a look out for meaning of life and we are always trying to conceal the meaninglessness in life. Man always feels complete when he is born in material reality and avoids those aspects of life which will part him away from the material world. Death is the only powerful entity which can force him to give up the superficial reality and actually bring man face to face with his real existence.

Since death leads man to lose meaning of his entire existence and devoid him from choosing what he thinks is necessary. Thus we humans tend to celebrate the obvious and never celebrate the uncertainty or the life beyond the obvious.

Death helps us to reflect with in our own selves and look at us as subjects and not as objects. Death makes the evolution of the self. it gives us a greater insight into our being and o realize our potentials. Death helps us liberate our feelings and desires, which we tend to repress due to the pressures of societal norms and ethics and which in turn get manifested in the form of the unconscious.

Death helps us to experience our true selves. It is an experience for which no human has an explanation. It is the biggest uncertainty. Hence at times death appears to be absurd to us. But if we look around us we might find answers to our questions, and one such means, which provides us with answers, are the festivals and rituals, which if closely examined tend to make the concept of death also appear meaningful rather than absurd.

Ideally speaking, festivals mark the celebration of life, which in turn is the celebration of growth of self, but at the same time festivals also celebrate the significance of death which is the metamorphosis of self into higher and more realized state of being. Hence the festivals are not the celebration of the dichotomy between life and death, but it focuses on the unison of these polarities. Festivals drop the veil which divide the concept of life and death and show us how death although is a dark morbid entity, which mark the end of evolution has the power to transform which can be considered as the “Sacred”.

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