Nothing lasts in this world, and yet we never fail to be surprised, when someone tells us of a sudden death. “I just saw him yesterday. It is unbelievable,” we remark. But why should death be unbelievable? Does it come announcing its arrival? Even in the case of an ailing person, can we predict the exact moment of death? But instead of focusing our thoughts on the undying atma, we think of the perishable body and peg our identity around it.
But death always seems remote to us, when we are young. We never give a thought to it, because somehow in our eyes, we are immortal.
So we fritter away our time in frivolous pursuits. We look at the calendar, only to tell what date of the month it is. But we do not ponder the fact that with the passing of each day, our life on this earth is a day shorter.
The Thirukkural says that time is but a sword, which keeps cutting away at life. If we thought of life as fleeting, then we would not waste our time, but would want to be of some service to others. We should be generous with the money at our disposal, said Sarala Rajagopalan, in a lecture. It is our duty to be generous, and we should not expect to be rewarded for performance of our duty.
The Thirukkural says that we should not expect to be rewarded for being dutiful. Does the cloud expect a reward for giving us rain, Tiruvalluvar asks. Only one who is generous with his wealth can be considered to be alive, according to Thiruvalluvar. The rest may be alive, but must be reckoned dead, he says. The soul may be compared to a bird that has been guarding its eggs. When it is time to leave, the bird leaves the nest, and flies away.
So does the soul briefly inhabit the body, and when it is time for its departure, it leaves the body. The body is just a temporary lodging place for the soul. Therefore, let good deeds be done, says Thiruvalluvar, before the last hiccups of a person take over, before the tongue is silenced and death finally ends this life.
Wealth is perishable too, and so one should be generous with it, for while wealth itself is impermanent, the blessings that come from giving to others do not perish.