The monsoon rains swept down from the mountain overnight. Ramana could hear it in his sleep like warm dull thunder on the roof, or the knocking of the gods. It was loud enough to make him restless but not to wake him up completely. He had dim thoughts of closing the window by his bed. He remembered the small hole in the roof that needed a bucket underneath to catch the drip. Yet for some reason he couldn’t feel rain splashing from the windowsill and heard no dripping sound.
Strange, he thought drowsily. The thunder continued, hour after hour. Too many hours. Ramana opened his eyes, flicking his gaze to the windowsill and the place under the hole in the roof. Both were dry. Where was the water? Why was it still thundering?
Then he knew. It was the gods knocking. Death had come like the monsoons, the season of the year Ramana loved the best. He wasn’t surprised that he could still feel his body or that the room was intact. His old master, who had died sixty years ago, told him how things would be.
Sixty years? Could that be right? Suddenly Ramana couldn’t remember how old he was himself. Seventy-five, eighty? This confusion triggered a change. His body began to feel lighter, as if age were slipping away. He was rising, the whole room was rising, in fact, and the dull thunder began to fade.
Ramana wondered if he was about to disappear, but the world saved him the trouble by disappearing first. He had never much believed in the world, so this didn’t surprise him. For one last moment he was still in bed, looking out the window at a sky that turned from blue to a soft white, and then there was only whiteness and no room. He looked down, and his body was gone too. It had slipped away so easily that he was reminded of something his master had told him:
“The body is like a cloak. For the enlightened, dying is like letting the cloak fall to the floor. For the unenlightened, it is like ripping off a cloak that is sewn on.”
Adapted from Life After Death: The Burden of Proof, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2006).