Death at the Door: Part 3
In part three of this Indian tale, Ramana tells Savitri of his own past encounter with Yama, the death lord.
This article, the third in a 12-part series, is reprinted with permission of IntentBlog.
Note: While writing a new book on the afterlife, (Life After Death: The Burden of Proof) I kept being drawn back to stories that I'd heard in India as a child. In these stories the abstract issues of death, immortality, and eternity acquire a human face as ordinary people confronted the mystery of death. I hoped that reader will be intrigued by a world where heroes battle darkness in order to emerge into the light.
In this case the hero is a woman named Savitri, and the enemy she must defeat is Yama, the lord of death. Yama shows up in her front yard one day, waiting to take away her husband the moment he returns from his work as a woodcutter. Will she succeed? What strategy can possibly turn Death away from his inexorable mission?
Part 3 (Begin at part 1 by clicking here)
After two hours of walking through the woods, Savitri and Ramana came to a fork in the path.
"If we went that way we would arrive at Yama's castle. Did you know that Death lives so close by?"
Savitri shuddered. "I'm happy not to know."
"Really?" Ramana seemed genuinely surprised. "I ran across the castle by chance when I was out wandering one day. I was very curious to meet Death face to face."
Savitri felt frightened simply to be reminded of something she so dreaded. Ramana reached out and took her hand. "Come, I can tell you as we walk." He had a strong grip, and Savitri felt calmer, as if his inner strength was seeping into her.
"I immediately knew that I had stumbled on to Yama's home," Ramana continued, "because skulls were stuck on pikes surrounding the gate. So I sat down and waited for my host to appear. I waited all that day and the next. Only on the third day did Yama return home. When he saw me he became distressed. 'I've made you wait outside my gate for three whole days,' he said. 'Not even Death can break the sacred vow of hospitality. Therefore I grant you three wishes, one for each day.'
"'That pleases me well,' I replied, 'for I have long wanted to gain knowledge of you, the wisest of all beings in creation.' Yama bowed regally. 'My first wish,' I said, 'is to know the way back home. I'm not a fool, and I have no desire to remain with you forever.'
"Yama smiled and pointed to the east. 'You will find your way back to the living if you go that way, where the sun rises.'
"'My second wish,' I said, 'is to know, despite your cruelty, if you have ever felt love.'