From science we know that conception is the beginning of a life-form. Individual human cells are indescribably tiny, there are 30 trillion or so in our body. The nucleus of a cell is only a fraction of the cell, the sperm is only half a nucleus with minimal cell, so it is almost nothing. Two half-cells meet at conception – the least form imaginable.
Craniosacral therapists see this beginning of a body as “ignition”: the energy (wind element) of consciousness sparks (fire element) into life, and then is incubated in (the element) water in the womb.
Connection to form is tenuous, many of these united halves, new life-in-form, do not reach the womb. Those who do, accumulate earth element as body growth. From here to becoming a separate body, functioning in air and gravity, is a gradual process, prone to disconnection between consciousness and form. This is a way to understand miscarriage and infant death: the ‘spirit’ is fully there, but its connection to form did not sustain. Once we see the continuity of consciousness – how it is independent of time – we may see such death as a loss to ourselves but as a continuity (in our time-terms) of that consciousness, the “Indestructible Heart Essence” of the person.
our palindromic life
It’s revealing to notice the relationship between consciousness and form at this end of life, since it is often pointed out at the old-age end. There are good parallels: with greater age, gravity again becomes a problem, the body becomes less heavy, less strong, less physically present. The senses function less well, and so we perceive “form” less clearly (‘form’ in the skandha sense, of sights, sounds, sensations etc, not just physical objects). Old people can seem to ‘fade away’ before they die. And for them, the world can seem to fade away, become less clear and comprehensible.
Apart from physical deficiencies, often shaped by illness, it may be that mental deficiencies occur. Consciousness – which is still full Awareness, Indestructible Heart Essence – becomes less attuned to the world of forms and perceptions. Perhaps our expectation that this will not or should not happen is the key problem here, rather than dementia or cognitive impairment. We do not expect a baby to be able to engage fully with form, that process takes years of physical, mental and linguistic learning. Consciousness and form are not indissolubly bound in ‘marriage’. The evidence of both ends of life tells us this.
our death, our Awakening
Seeing this clearly, we know something of what to expect at our own death – and perhaps our pre-death demise. We are not losing everything, we are losing what consciousness bound to only temporarily and tenuously. We are returning to ‘spirit’, to pure consciousness – which helps us to recognise this as our True Nature. The more we notice this in our life, our meditation and Dharma practice, the better we’ll recognise it at death – and the easier our death will be.
We see that we can let go of identification with form here and now while still perceiving it, this is Awakening. Vajrayana practice aims at revealing this by identification with other forms, and Mahamudra aims at revealing this directly in our experience.
This is also why death is a good opportunity to Awaken: everything we grasped as real falls away, to leave everything that’s actually real.