( By Dr Ramesh Kapadia )

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a-On Life -- Tolstoy

I think that I shall die and that my life will come to an end : I feel sorry for myself and this thought frightens and torments me. But what will die ? What do I feel sorry for ? What, speaking quite straightforwardly, am I ? In the first place I am flesh. So ? Am I sorry for that ? Am I afraid on behalf of that ? I think not. After all, not one particle of body or substance can ever disappear. It appears that this part of me is provided for, that Ihave nothing to fear on its behalf. It will be kept safe. No-people say-thatís not what I Ďm sorry for -Iím sorry for myself - Lev Nikolayevich, Ivan Semyonych .. But then none of us is the person we were twenty years ago, we each become a different person every day. Which of these people am I sorry for ? No-people say - thatís not what Iím sorry for. Iím sorry for my consciousness, my I.

But then your consciousness hasnít always been the same either. It was different a year ago, more different ten years ago, and still more different before that ; as far back as you can remember , it has always been changing . What do you like so much about your present consciousness, why are you so upset about using it ? If it had always been the same, then one could understand, but it has never done anything except change. You do not see and cannot find its beginning, yet suddenly you want it to have no end ; you want the consciousness that is your now to remain for ever. You have been on the move ever since you can remember. You donít know how to come into this life, but you know you came as the special I wish you still are. You travelled and travelled until you were half-way through and then you suddenly dug your heels in, half in joy and half in fright, saying you donít want to go any further because you canít see whatís there. You didnít see the place you came from, and yet you arrive ; you came in at the entrance, but donít want to leave by the exist.

Your whole life has been a passage through physical existence. You moved on, hurrying to go further, and now you suddenly feel sorry that what you have always been doing is still continuing to happen. You are afraid of the great change that will take place at the time of your physical death; but an equally great change took place at the time of your physical birth, and nothing bad came of that. On the contrary,what came of it was so good that you donít want to part with it.

What can be frightening you ? You say you regret your you, with its present thoughts and feelings, its present view of the world, its present relationship with the world.

You are afraid of losing your relationship with the world. What is this relationship? What does it consist of ?

It if consists of the way you eat, drink, reproduce, build houses and dress, the way you behave towards other people and animals, then every human being, as a rational creature, has such a relationship with life-and it is impossible for this relationship to disappear. There have been, still are, and always will be millions of them ; their species is as certain to endure as each particle of matter. The instinct for the preservation of the spices is powerfully instilled into all animals ; it is something so solid that there is no reason to fear for it. If you are an animal, you have nothing to fear ; if you are matter, then you can be still more assured of being eternal.

But if you are afraid of losing what is not animal, then you are afraid of losing your own special rational relationship to the world with which you entered this existence. But you know that this did not first appear at the time of your birth ; it existed independently of the birth of your animal self and so cannot be affected by its death.

- Tolstoy

( Religious writing of Tolstoy pp 52-53)