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On Death and Dying
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6-12-07 - A Story  from Loring Palmer - Death of a Sadhu

Also added today - More Santhara comments from Loring

more emails from Loring on the Santhara page

"death of a sadhu" was my experience during my first of many trips to bodhgaya.  i was there for 2 months with andrew and "the revolution." 

perhaps the story could be more elaborate and more details included.  but the essential message for me is that death happens simply and is a transition rather than a tragedy.  also that the corpse of this "nobody" sadhu was offered respect, dignity and taken care of properly. 

why the old sadhu ended up in bodhgaya, that is essentially a buddhist pilgrimage site, is a mystery.  maybe he was too infirm to make it to a hindu holy place, such as varanasi, that is set up for death and cremation, next to the holy ganga river

death of a sadhu---

he found his place under a sheltering pipal tree at the side of the dusty road that leads to the maha bodhi temple in bodhgaya.  an embankment led down to a brakish pond. across from the water was the imposing galugpa monastary.  the old sadhu sat under the tree tending the small fire to heat his chapatis. it was said that he'd come here to die.

during the weeks that i walked this road i noticed that the locals provided food offerings.  and as time went by he was becoming more infirm, not touching the food and the fire was out.  then he simply rested on his side. 

he began to resemble the fasting buddha.  his red robe was his cover.  his face projected a fierce dignity and serenity. 

this was my first visit to india and the culture- clash was shocking me. 

why doesn't someone do something, force him to eat, take this old man to a hospital, or into a shelter out of the open?  but then i could see that there was sanity in viewing this as a very simple and natural event: sadhus get old and die where they choose.

one day i heard the drum:  boom-boom-boom-ta-boom.  a procession was coming down the road, a funeral procession.  men were carrying the liter that supported the corpse, wrapped in a golden shroud.  as they passed by [hari ram] they said that it was the saddhu.  they'd checked on him in the morning and he'd stopped breathing.

in looking back i feel that his death was a gift, because i saw a death that had freedom and dignity.  and it happened in the midst of life, among the comings and goings of the town. and the death of the old sadhu seemed to be the most natural thing in the world.

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