Corollary: A proposition
a self-evident inference.
- Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology
Living, Dying was conceived in 1977 and published in 1986 - then as
Death. Thereafter, the passage of many a year replete with medical
research and advances has not forced upon us any alteration in its
original chapters. We have expanded the book to amplify some points,
to add some more. The years gone by have taught us one thing - the
lay understand death far more easily and graciously than the medically
learned. One could call this an occupational hazard.
It was Dr Dipak Kothari's death in 1977 that inspired this book.
Thereafter, we have, jointly, lost over twenty kith and kin, most of
them before our very eyes. Such proximity to the change from
corporealness to cosmicness has not embittered us; in fact, our
reverence for death and life and their symphony has gone up. In a
personal way, we realize that the only way to value life, to love life is
by constantly respecting and recognizing the companionship of death.
For brevity as also for logical clarity, we are laying down our
propositions in the form of serial points. These corollaries are easily
verifiable in day-to-day life. As a species, we are prone to connive at
the obvious. We hope that what follows will help us all in lessening
our ignorance of what ought to be crystal-clear.
1. Ceasing: As a musical note, death is C major
Typically, it was the Americans who called cancer "the Big C". We
can call cardiovascular disease the Bigger C because as "a cause of
death", it far exceeds the Big C. So which is the Biggest C? That
honour goes to death, to the act of Ceasing. The Biggest C is, in
essence, independent of any of the so-called causes of death. More
about it, later.
Cosmos is the Greek concept of order, being the balancing polar-
apposite of chaos . From the evanescence of an atomic particle whose
lifespan is a millionth of a second to protons or stars whose lifespan
measures in millions of years, death is a cosmic feature whereby
whatever is incarnate becomes discarnate. Death is the climax of
being whereby what is, ceases to be. Name and nemesis go hand-in-
In the zoological kingdom, life is measured as few days to few
centuries and in the plant kingdom as few millennia. But these periods
are, on a cosmic scale, not the winking of an eye but of an eyelash.
On the evolutionary canvas, what indeed ushered in orderly life was
orderly death. Death is cosmic in its sway.
Death, as an event, needs to be read in a larger context to appreciate
the cosmicality of each human being. Death is of the body, not of the
individual. Towards this, let us first enunciate the TITE principle
which means Total Inclusion allows Total Exclusion. When Lord
Buddha was being formed in his mother's womb, he was, so to say,
asked to assert his Uniqueness through his finger prints. This means
the Buddha-in-the-making had had to know the finger prints of human
beings of all times so as not to duplicate any one of them. This means
that the reader who is reading this book now was noumenally present
at Buddha's time to guide him and he was in turn guided by Buddha
who too is present all around. Each human being is timelessly
immortal, universal, cosmic. The so-called death loses all its sting
when we appreciate our essential eternality beyond any confines of
space or time.
John Donne would have every reason to feel happy that the TITE
principle allows no man to be an island, but an integral part of
the cosmic main. It is no exaggeration to say that all human beings
are individualized manifestations of a single, integrating, universal
soul or spirit. All ethnic divisions based on caste, creed, colour,
religion, nation or what have you are artifacts that fail to hold
water in the light of the interwoven cosmicality of the lowliest human
In the 17th century, science was humbled by the probability theory.
Probability means a state of knowledge that is greater than ignorance
but lesser than certainty—certainty at level of large numbers,
uncertainty at an individual level. Early in the 20th century, science
was further chastised by the theory of uncertainty: The only certainty
is uncertainty. Of late, the final blow has come from the currently
raging, and widely respected, theory of chaos. Chaos is another way
of stating Murphy's law which plainly declares: In any field of
scientific endeavour, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. To
add insult to injury, chaos as a force enjoys universality by dominating
all the disciplines of science.
Put simply, chaoticality, in medicine, prevails vis-ŕ-vis disease and
death. All the facets of disease and death are trans-human and therefore
unpredictable . As to why , where , when , what , who and how of disease
and death, unpredictable infinite variation prevails within a finite
range of expressions or manifestations. Therefore, say, as to why and
when of death, medical men are wise at the level of statistics, and
otherwise for any given case. Little wonder, the healthy do not
necessarily survive, the diseased do not necessarily die.
Coursality is a new concept, a new term to de-emphasize modern
medicine's misguided and unjustified tradition of causalism . To cite
some leading examples — cancerogen causes a cancer; cancer causes
death. Fortunately, neither of these is tenable: cancerogen has no
inseparable link with cancer and vice versa . People with cancer outlive
those without and in full health. Built into a normal cell is the option
of turning cancerous. It is the climactic part of the human body's
development to manifest as the so-called death. Cancer/heart attack/
death are coursal, no way causal.
The understanding of coursalism is an effective antidote against so
much of mindless researching, doctoring, litigating, animal slaughter,
five star hospital culture, and ruining of the dignity of dying by
aggressive medical interference. Often a person dies to leave behind
a family in financial ruin. Coursalism is a biological reality; causalism
is a medical myth waiting for a decent burial.
Coursality might imply that death occurs only at the end of life's
journey. In a way, it is true. But in many ways it is not. By the very
cyclic nature of our physiology, we die and are reborn every moment,
till a denouement comes when there is no more dying. Death stalks a
life's sojourn at every step. When the human heart contracts, a pulse
wave travels signifying the presence of life. Following contraction,
the heart relaxes for almost double the time, before it contracts yet
once more. Stethoscopically, contraction sounds like lubb implying
life, whereas relaxation sounds like dupp implying death.
Take breathing, as another instance of living and dying alternately.
When you breathe in, you inspire; when you breathe out, you expire:
each one of us thus expires eighteen times over every minute. Dying,
then, is something we constantly rehearse until no more rehearsal is
The ceaseless rhythm of living-dying admirably illustrates the cyclic
play of certainty and uncertainty. You are indeed very certain that the
air that has gone into your chest on inspiration, will move out. Equally,
you are uncertain, whether the air that has moved out, will choose to
come in. Saints and sinners, rich and poor, patients and doctors, young
and old all live, in a way, on the ration of a single heartbeat at a time,
or one breath at a time. If life is Yin, death is Yang — a perpetual
play in which death has the final word, the last laugh.
The many laughs, including the last one, that death has in our lives
are those of a bosom, cheek-by-jowl, compassionate friend. The red
light of alert waved by death at every heartbeat or every breath is to
heighten our awareness to an eternal here and now.
In Journey to Ixtlan , Carlos Castaneda asked Don Juan the secret of
his unfailing liveliness. To which Don Juan replied: "I have a friend
constantly watching as if from over my left shoulder." Don Juan's
lifelong friend was his own death.
Death's companionship for the world's tyrants has stayed as succour
for suffering mankind. Solzhenitsyn, in his Nobel Prize winning work
about a day in Stalinistic prison titled, The First Circle, describes the
ignorance that all megalomaniacs nurse: "Death had already laid its
hand on him (Stalin), but he would not believe it!" Medicine's miracle
men that stand in the service of the world's rulers ought to convey to
their majesties, lordships and ladyships that, regardless of the five-
star medical extravaganzas at their beck and call, they, the mighty
and the bigwigs are as instantly mortal as the medicos themselves.
7. Conformity (with the general vertebrate Plan)
The average human protein is more than 99 percent identical
in amino acid sequence to its chimpanzee homolog...the nucleic
acid sequence difference of human and chimpanzee is about
- Mary-Claire King and A.C. Wilson
Mankind's scientifically contrived denial of death's companionship
has unleashed an unending tale of horror for the non-human animal
world. The name of the game is animal vivisection for human vivi-
expansion. Nature's firm and persistent refusal to grant to mankind
some elixir, some Methuselah enzyme has not deterred man from
mindless pursuit of lengthening the human lifespan. The medical world
is yet to accept the basic bio-reality that mankind's diseasing, dying
and death are unhelpably and fully in conformity with general
vertebral plan verifiable in an animal house or any laboratory.
Now comes some hot news from USA. The Hot Zone — a Terrifying
True Story by Richard Preston (Random House, New York, 1993)
portrays some real-life drama in the laboratories of USA. The burden
of the book is that "Nature's pre-eminent display of power" is now
wreaking punishment on mankind for its ecological sins. The
thoughtless destruction of rain forests, the cruel shipment of thousands
of primates to the horror chambers of the medical labs have allowed
rare and lethal viruses to crash into the human race, The exotic names
of such viruses — Marburg, Ebola Sudan, Ebola Zaire, Reston, AIDS,
Bird flue, Swine flue, and, virally what have you, mark a beginning
that can sweep the world over in utter defiance of medicine's
miraculous antibiotics, antibodies and vaccines.
As Preston in conclusion forewarns: "Nature has interesting ways of
balancing itself. The rain forest has its own defences. The earth's
immune system, so to speak, has recognized the presence of the human
system and is starting to kick in. The earth is attempting to rid itself
of an infection by the human parasites. Perhaps AIDS is the first step
in a natural process of clearance." Is William Blake proving prophetic?
The cry of the wren in pain
Shall never go in vain.
8. Controlled by Divinity
At a religious symposium on death, a Parsee priest described death as
darkness, as evil. The skull-with-two-crossed-bones has spread anti-
death paranoia that has left no psyche unscared or unscarred. It's time
we unburden ourselves of phobias and fixations and see for ourselves
a palpable truth: The same divinity that makes DNA fashion a human
being and nurture it, climaxes its duty by promoting the very DNA to
bring an end to life's trajectory. Let DNA read as Development,
Nurture, Annihilation overseen respectively by the holy Trinity of
Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh.
There was a news report following the Easter of 1994: 231 Catholics
were drowned in the sea close to Manila, Philippines, while holding
a candle and singing "Hallelujah".
We are just extending the above real-life event. Since all the 231 were
fervently praying and praising the Lord, they all went forthwith to
Heaven. Since they were more than 20, in Heaven too they formed
The Union of the Aggrieved. The Union Leader, a physicist, sought
Christ's appointment. Christ readily agreed. At the meeting the
following came to pass:
Christ : What can I do for you?
Union Leader : Praised be to the Lord. We are the aggrieved lot for we were sunk while we were busy praising Thee.
Christ : But, it was you who violated and denied me.
Leader : No, Me Lord! How could we do it, and that too on an Easter Day!
Christ : What was the official carrying capacity of the boat?
Leader : 180, Me Lord!
Christ : And how many of you boarded it?
Leader : 231, Me Lord!
Christ : Don't you think thereby you denied me?
Leader : How Me, Lord? We just violated some hydrodynamic principle.
Christ : I AM that hydrodynamic principle.
All sects declare their chosen God to be all pervading, universal and
one-without-the-second. And yet all of them have second thoughts
when it comes to a cancer cell, a coronary blockage, or some microbes.
It is like in religion: "My God exists universally but not in you."
Similarly, everyone likes to believe that God is guiding a normal cell,
but that He gives way to Satan the moment the cell turns cancerous.
We seem to accept our own God as a weakling who leaves our company,
the company of our cells or our microbes at the drop of a hat.
If we believe in yea-saying to all the forces that beget and nurture
life, we have no option but to accept an unconditional yea to all the
forces that mediate dying and death. In denying the Lordly presence
in the mean microbes, we have managed to deny the microbial divinity
that provides immunity to us, manufactures vitamins in our gut, and
synthesizes proteins in the legumes.
Whatever is living, or, dying is Godliness; is God.
We know, for example, that mammalian lifespans vary
from a few weeks to more than a century. But is this a
"real" distinction in terms of a mammal's own perception
of time and rate?
Does a rat really live "less" than an elephant? Laws of
scaling dictate that small, warm-blooded animals live at
a faster pace than larger relatives. The heart beats more
rapidly and metabolism proceeds at a greatly elevated
In fact, for several criteria of relative time, all mammals
live about the same amount. All, for example, breathe
about the same number of times during their lives (small,
short-lived mammals breathe more rapidly than larger,
- Stephen Jay Gould
The Aitaraya Upanishad alludes to the Bruhati Shastra that has one
thousand stanzas of precisely thirty six letters each — to signify the
thirty six thousand days that a man's full lifespan has. That works out
to be approximately four billion heart beats, three billion seconds and
one billion breaths, each by itself a unit of life, there being no
difference between a life of one heartbeat or breath and the full
complement of several billions.
The essential equality between a very short or very long life brings
us to the principle of normal distribution that holds such a sway that,
in the words of Sir Francis Gallon, it could be deified. In any swarm
of insects/herd of animals/men, lifespan is normally distributed
ranging from a mere heartbeat to 4 billion, randomly, impartially,
universally. It's like in the airlines; you confirm your time of return
the moment you arrive.
Robert Louis Stevenson described life as briefer than the flicker of a
match stick. A black foot Indian chief, Isapwo Musika Crowfoot, has
been quoted by Murchie: "What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in
the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little
shadow that runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset."
10. Conundrum versus Clarity
But nature gives her observer cause only for admiration
at the simplicity with which she works, and for
astonishment at the proneness of the human wit to
explain any phenomenon which appears remarkable by
means of infinitely greater and more incomprehensible
- Karl Ernst von Baer
Death is an enigma, an evil, an obscenity, if we see it as a problem.
Death ceases to be all that and acquires its pristine place if it is seen
as a programme. Death ensures that we do not run away from reality.
It also cuts modern medicine down to size. The oversung triumphs of
modern medicine have contributed a lot to this calculated ignorance
of modern man.
Modern allopathy, as also all other pathies, are ostensibly doing their
best to alleviate human suffering. However, their epistemological
errors are far too many, for comfort. Epistemology is the science of
evaluating any piece of knowledge/action in terms of its scope as well
as limitations. Modern medicine (MM), it seems, is too sure of its
scope, and too ignorant of its imitations. No wonder, that Ivan Illich
was led to generalize that MM is Public enemy No.1. A judgment too
harsh, but too pertinent.
MM's Cell-science or Cytology is tottering on a precipice for the sole
reason that MM concentrated on the visible nucleus, only to discover
that cell-truths lie in the nebulous cytoplasm of which the best
microscopists is loftily ignorant. About fibres, less said the better.
MM, is thus suffering from Basic Binary Blindness. It has dumped
the much-touted genetics into oblivion and replaced it by equally much
trumpeted proteomics. Regardless, MM's 5-star culture continues to
promise a health-utopia through genetic engineering, gene therapy,
transplants, stem cells, vaccinations, and what have you. Ceaselessly,
too long on promise, and too short – cipher – on performance.
The foregoing pollyannaism is the least part of one's worry. The late
Lewis Thomas lamented that MM has portrayed the human machine
as so fragile as to crack at the smallest whiff of air, but for the
preventive/therapeutic care it offers. MM's greatest recent achievement
is the creation of a totally new human species: The Worried Well.
Drugs and devices go in search of diseases, which are officiously
invented and advertized, for which we all are Overtreated because of
MM Selling Sickness.
If you think you are healthy you just haven't had enough tests.
- Bob Rangno
A time has come when MM's frequent practice is Death by
Prescription . The Madison Avenue machinations comprise instilling
into average unsuspecting human, Fear-Uncertainty-Nervousness-
Doubt, so that the FUND-flow to the medical-business continues to
grow. Using Shakespearean words from Hamlet, one could bemoan:
"Something is rotten in the state of Drugmart and Doctors."
The willing participant, and victim, in the above charade is the
common human. Obsessively worried about one's body and willing
to spend any amount for the proposed cure. The result is medical-
safaris, epidemic of 5-star hospitals, back-breaking bills to the point
of bankruptcy. Medical bills is the most leading cause of personal
bankruptcy in countries rich and poor. It's time MM and its clients do
heart-searching and develop new mindsets.
A compelling case in point is The Times of India , October 22, 2009
top of the front page headline: "SAP India chief Ranjan Das dies at
42." The front page text reads: "Ranjan Das died following a massive
cardiac arrest at his home on Wednesday. A fitness-freak, a youngest
CEO of a MNC, reportedly collapsed after he returned from an in-
house gym." Further details and headlines, follow on p.3. Das, in
perfect health so far, had finished the Chennai Marathon, just a few
months ago. The paper reported the response of the cardiologic fra-
ternity of Mumbai, as follows.
"Risk of cardiac arrest is higher for Indians." This, bold, scary head-
line is oblivious of young, fit footballers in the West, just this and
that side of 30, having dropped dead suddenly, just in the recent past.
Dr. Contractor of the famed Asian Heart Institute concurred: "We fre-
quently even see patients who are between just 30 and 40 years of
age." Dr. Ashwin Mehta of Jaslok Hospital – the first 5-star institute
that started the trend – who shot up to all India fame after treating JP,
and reportedly "the father of angioplasty in India" added that eight
out of ten heart attack patients in the ICU deny having any previous
symptoms. "For them, a heart attack is the first sign of a problem." It
is strange that so should be the case with a 5-star cardiologist work-
ing at a 5-star setup, wherein most clients coming from high echelons
are subject to, almost mandatory regular checkup. Dr. Mehta went on
to explain that people who have 40% to 50% blockage in their arter-
ies will remain asymptomatic because there is adequate blood flow-
ing through. "However, due to a trigger, this soft plaque forming the
blockage may burst and create a clot, making the blockage 100% and
result in heart attack which could result in sudden death."
The coronary corollaries to the above "scientific" explanations to
Das's death are tragicomic. If you have even just 40% block assuring
adequate flow of blood, You are not safe." So what's the point of all
cardiac checkups including all kinds of graphies and scans? Even the
subject's history, supposed to be the really sole guide to the presence
of CAD, its severity, and recovery therefrom following medical or
surgical treatments, is unreliable because the best of humans can fall
an instant prey. And if Das had had a "trigger" at his posh residence,
how and why the trigger arrived? And the so-called trigger could as
well come if there is just 20% block or no block at all. The foregoing
high sounding words from the experts prove one cliché-worn point:
Medical specialists and modern medicine can Explain Away every-
thing Sans Explaining anything, an EASE as it were for them all.
Let us move to cancer. Zumoff and others generalized that the end-
point of death, from cessation of the heartbeat was, in diverse can-
cers unrelated to the earliness /lateness, mildness/severity of the dis-
ease, as also the nature of therapies. Add to this, the generalization of
Powers and Hardin Jones that cancer, per se doesn't kill, but it is
some unknown "physiologic mechanism" that brings about death. So
for stroke, cardiac failure, heart attack, diabetes and so on. All the
data point to the fact that the so-called "trigger", in the best of medi-
cally-certified health, and in the worst state of illness, is the subtle
body's decision that one's "time is up."
Death can be viewed as GOD – Gestaltly Orchestrated Design, a next
birth, as it were, away from the Earth. It is Gestalt in the sense of being
ordained by one's Celestial Body , directed by one's Subtle Body and executed
by one's Gross Body. In the pink of health, or in the midst of critical illness,
this GOD, in its pristine essence, is causefree, beyond any cause, part of
one's course. It arrives the way it likes, choosing its where, when and who. It
is, under all states, marked by the cessation or rest of CINE-CORDIS, medi-
cally popularized and villainized as cardiopulmonary arrest. Physiologists
would prefer such a sequence of events as the Final Common Pathway.
Death does not happen; it is marked by the end of CINE-CORDIS-Quota,
whereby the "next" throb does not turn up. However, the "now-dead" person
remains alive and active for 3-10 minutes after cessation of the heartbeat,
during which the person talks to and is talked to by the cosmos. It is a crucial
time best left unmolested by well-meaning but misguided near-ones, and
medical means-n-men. Mankind has been busy burying its humans. It's time
now to, on scientific basis, bury inexhumably the medical, legal, medicole-
gal, statistical, and epistemological favorite called the Cause of Death .
MM, on its part, should grow epistemologic to clearly define what it can do,
and what it just can't. It should pay heed to sane advice and admonitions.
Ramakrishna Paramhansa aphorized that a doctor (or a lawyer) has poor
chance to attain salvation, plagued as he is with the occupational hazard of
making money out of man's miseries. Carl Gustav Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist
who was Freud's pet disciple for some time, in his autobiographic Memories,
Dreams, and Reflections envisioned that when Nature sits to punish the
wrongdoers of mankind, doctors will be occupying the front rows. These
over-century-old cautions shown to MM were climaxed by Bloomfield, a US
physician who suffered an iatrogenic (doctor-made) tragedy, circa 1930–36.
Every hospital should have a plaque in the physicians' and students'
entrances: There are some patients whom we cannot help: there
are none whom we cannot harm.
The lay, the clients and purchasers of MM, must above all, be patient with
their patientness. They ought to remember the warning Erich Segal, the doctor-
author, received at Harvard, on the very first day of medical school. "There
are thousands of diseases, but MM has empirical cure for only 26. The rest is
all guesswork." Most illnesses are helpful, evanescent, and disappear on their
own. Humans, especially in the metropolises need to learn to age with grace,
and not chase some youth-fountain of Better Than Well. Mahatma Gandhi, in
the 1930's cautioned against MM, and Peter Ruhe, in his biography Gandhi
(2001) has restated: "Gandhi was critical, however, of what he regarded as
the obsession of modern civilization with prolonging life. He argued that it
cultivated a morbid fear of death and gave machines and medicines too high
a value in Society."
While the chief aim of this book is to accord disease, dying and death their due
place apposite to health, living and life , it has also striven to empower the lay
and learned to abjure MM as best as possible, as often as possible. Sir Robert
Platt, President of the Royal Society of Medicine for 15 years has in his
autobiography Private and Controversial , the eighth chapter titled "Modern
Medicine and How to Avoid it."
Sir Robert may sound cynical but has proved prophetic. Modern medicine
needs to thoroughly revise its weltanschauung or world-view on human
diseasing. Our integrality with all time-governed maladies – cancer, cardio-
vascular problems, diabetes, arthritis, senescence in varied forms – is clearly
evident in the court of impartial intellect and science. All these natural pro-
cesses have proved to be discreetly silent over years of one's life, essentially
indefinable, non-preventable, non-researchable, unchanging in their behav-
ior century after century and country after country, only palliatable but never
treatable, showing no favor to the rich and the mighty, and most importantly,
refusing to be linked, to death as a cause. Come what may, the above
biorealities woven into the very fabric of our being, will never change. It is
time we, lay and learned, doctors and patients, rich and poor accord obei-
sance to these processes and thereby do justice to our own, better selves.
To modern medicine, with its progressive expansion of five-star culture,
unaccompanied by any understanding of the above peremptory principles,
death will remain a conundrum. To anyone who is logically, nay, scientifically,
disenchanted with the miracles promised by medicine, it should be crystal-
clear that death ought to enjoy, at the level of the human psyche, its rightful
place in the scheme of things.
In the current, strictly utilitarian society, we are ready to learn all that reeks
with profit - COBOL, FORTRAN, D-BASE. Yet, all this learning yields
only conditional earning. If what you have learnt is out of fashion, the returns
too cease. One unfailingly profitable learning is to accept the reality of the
imminence and the immanence of the moment of death. It is a sure panacea
for a rich, fulfilling life, for unburdening yourself of a lot of mental and
material junk, of saving Mother Earth from our viciousness, of being kind,
compassionate, contented, comfortable and joyful. Each life is as evanescent
as a soap bubble, but if you have a child' s eye, you will see therein many
rainbows, and a transparency that will allow you to be in tune with eternity,