Though the invigorating theme of “Death, Be Not Proud” has helped me tide over turbulence many times, I perhaps could never fathom its intrinsic connotation so beautifully conceptualised by metaphysical poet John Donne.
It was only after I witnessed the maha-samadhi ceremony of Sai Baba, when his body was being interred in a sleeping posture, the concept of divinity and mortality became clearer. Tens of thousands devotees started screaming when the Indian tricolour was placed on his body before the final journey. Eyes turned moist, vision blurred, eyelids closed in reverence to the Master. Everyone was sobbing, inconsolably.
The body is only an apparel, a container of the entity known as Atma, the Baba used to say quite often. The outer cover is fragile, which Atma keeps changing. He claimed it was he who resided at Shirdi in his previous birth, and next he would reincarnate as Prema Sai.
As the Baba’s body was being lowered for a perpetual slumber, the great rhetorical sonnet started flashing my mind. The mystical Baba and Donne share the same thought. Donne humbles death in more than one way. “Those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow/ Die not.” And then challenges that death “canst ... kill me” and “our best men with thee do go” die not in fact. The Baba too, harping on the same tune, said that death was not an end for him.
By the sheer enormity of the task undertaken by the Baba for “wiping every tear from every eye” and re-defining the contours of psychology of human personality; chemistry of human rhythm; physics of gravitational force of love; sociology of inter-human contours and philosophy of life, the Baba has killed death itself, echoing “death, thou shalt die”.
It reminds one of St. Paul’s famous challenge, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? ” True, merely the body has gone but the deeds of the Baba would stay forever. The Baba shall continue to dwell in the hearts of millions of his devotees.