I have personally witnessed yogis casting off the body consciously on many occasions. In the year 1938 when I was sent to Benares to stay with a Bengali couple, I was informed that the couple would drop their bodies at the same time. The couple had been meditating together for several years. They announced the date of their death and I was one of the witnesses.
I met a yogi at Paidung in Sikkim in the year I947. Not only could he die at will, but he also could bring the dead back to life. During those days I was very anxious to know this mystery, termed parakaya pravesha. He demonstrated this feat in my presence five times. The yogi asked me to bring a living ant. I brought one, personally cut it with a sharp blade into three parts, and scattered them at a distance of ten feet. The yogi suddenly went into deep meditation. We examined his pulse, heartbeat, and breath, but there was no sign of life. Before he reached the state of deep meditation, there were violent jerks in his body.
The scattered parts of the ant moved together and united in a second’s time. The ant came back to life and started crawling. We kept it under observation for three days. The yogi explained two methods of bringing the dead back to life—solar science and pranavidya (the science of prana). Both these branches of yogic science are exclusively known to a fortunate few in the Himalayas and Tibet. Jesus demonstrated his knowledge of these methods when he brought Lazarus back to life. Perhaps during his visit to Asia Minor he learned these techniques from the yogis.
Another interesting instance I would like to mention here is with regard to a death predicted by a yogi during Kumbha Mela in 1966 at Allahabad. One of my friends, Vinaya Maharaj, sent a messenger to my camp informing me that he was going to drop his body and I should come to witness it. On Vasanta Panchami (the celebration of the first day of spring) morning at 4:30 suddenly he said, “Now the time has come.” Then he sat in the meditative posture, siddhasana, closed his eyes, and became silent. The sound ‘tic’ came from the cracking of the skull as he left his body through the brahmarandhra.
It is also possible for a highly advanced yogi to assume the dead body of another if he chooses to do so and if a suitable body is available. Only adepts know this technique. To the ordinary mind this seems like a fantasy.
The capacity to leave the body consciously at the time of death is not restricted only to accomplished yogis. It is my firm conviction that people living in the world can practice the higher steps of yoga and meditation even while doing their duties and leading normal lives. With sincere effort, proper preparation, and guidance, one who is not a yogi can also attain enlightenment before dropping the body.
I have witnessed two similar cases. One of these was in Minneapolis. The mother of a famous psychiatrist, Dr. Whitacre, had practised meditation for many years. At the time of death she went into deep samadhi and consciously dropped her body. The other was at Kanpur. There is a family of doctors there whose mother was a great devotee of the Lord. She was my initiate. Six months before her death, she decided to live in a room by herself remembering the Lord’s name and meditating. After six months she fell sick and became bedridden. The time of her parting seemed imminent. During her last days she was completely detached and merged in her sadhana. She did not allow even her eldest son, Dr. A.N.Tandon, to remain in the room. Five minutes before her death she called all the family members and blessed them. Then she dropped her body in complete consciousness.
After her death, the walls of that room in which she lived vibrated with the sound of her mantra. Someone informed me of this and I could not believe it. So I visited the house and I discovered that the sound of her mantra was still vibrating there.
Mantra is a syllable or word or set of words. When the mantra is remembered consciously, it automatically is stored in the unconscious mind. At the time of parting, the mantra which is stored in the unconscious mind becomes one’s guide. This period of separation is painful to the ignorant. This is not the case with a spiritual person who has remembered the mantra faithfully. The mantra serves as a guide through this period of transition. Mantra is a spiritual guide that dispels the fear of death and leads one fearlessly to the other shore of life.
Reprinted from Sacred Journey, an HIHT publication.