Death Knows No Distinction
All distinctions of class, race, religion, wealth and learning disappear when one dies. The emperor of a mighty kingdom, an industrial magnate, a politician, a scholar − they are all on the same level as the poorest and the most illiterate:
As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand.
Bible, Ecclesiastes 5:15
All the pomp and honour to which the great are accustomed on this earth are non-existent after death. Red carpets are not rolled out at the gates of death on arrival of state dignitaries; guards of honour do not wait on army commanders; nor do sirens blow, or cavalcades or motorcades follow their Excellencies. Even the humble office super-intendent does not find any clerks and peons there to say, “Yes, Sir; certainly, Sir.” Nor is there any friend or relative to say, “How are you? Come over to my place and have some coffee. You are so shaken up.” No social pleasantries are there, and no one asks, “How is everyone at home? Is John still mischievous? Has Daisy got married?” Our ego is pounded to pulp.
Owners of Rolls Royces and Cadillacs have to trudge barefooted, as much as the humblest beggar, to reach the ‘judgment seat’. Our good and bad deeds and thoughts are separated there, and reward is given for the former and payment required for the latter. This should be an eye-opener to those who indulge in bribery and corruption, bloodthirsty exploitation of labour, or usurious money-lending − and who hope to get away with it all by building a temple here and an orphanage there and contributing to public funds. No such balancing can be done. Fasting, prayers and austerities that run counter to the conduct of a lifetime are of little avail. In former times, a certain religious leader, on being given payments of cash, used to give notes which were placed in coffins allotting suitable places in heaven for the deceased; and the larger amount the better the place allotted. But no such notes are of any avail. The recognized seal is that a true Master stamped on the forehead of the disciple. Near him not even the messengers of death dare appear.
Prophets and saints warn us to keep the day of death before us in all our thoughts and actions. Sarmad cautions:
O friend, wake up!
You are asleep, unaware of yourself.
This negligence will bear no fruit but regret.
All your companions have gone
and you too are on your way,
but you won’t reflect on your illusory existence.
Isaac A. Ezekiel, Sarmad, Martyr to Love Divine
The story is told of a rabbi who once told his students, “Repent the day before your death.” The students said, “No one knows the day of his death.”
“Consider every day your last day,” replied the rabbi.