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12 Brutal Life Lessons from a Man Who's Seen 12000 Deaths

People of all faiths try to live out the end of their lives doing good deeds in the hope of attaining salvation in the after-life. Everyone seeks peace for their souls or the souls of their loved ones after they have left this life. For Hindus, there is a strong belief that the holy city of Varanasi, situated in Uttar Pradesh in Northern India is the gateway to salvation – the final resting place where their souls will literally ‘rest in peace.’
The popular belief is that if a Hindu breathes his last in the holy city of Varanasi or Kashi as it is also called, they will attain ‘Moksh’ or salvation. In simple terms what this means is that they will be liberated from the cycle of death and rebirth and never be reborn, thus attaining true salvation.
Thousands flock to the holy city of Varanasi each year and many come here to live out the end of their lives. As such, early in the twentieth century, three guest houses were built for those close to death. Mumukshu Bhawan, Ganga Labh Bhawan, and Kashi Labh Mukti Bhawan are the three guest houses well known to all those who come to Kashi to seek their ‘moksh.’
Mukti Bhawan which was established in 1908, is only for those who are terminally ill and expected to die within 15 days. However, if death does not come within 15 days, a minimal extension of days is allowed or they are politely asked to leave.
Bhairav Nath Shukla, the manager of Mukti Bhawan says that he can usually predict how close a person is to their death. Having been at Mukti Bhawan for almost 44 years, this eerie statement of his is not a laughable one but quite believable. With an average of 800 people coming in from all over the country annually, to his 'death hotel,’ he has probably been a witness to more deaths than anyone else in the country. There are 12 rooms in this modest place and relatives traveling with the dying are also provided accommodation here.
Shukla firmly believes that to be able to breathe your last in the holy city of Varanasi is a privilege which should be celebrated and not mourned. Over the past 44 years, Shukla has been praying for these dying souls. As the manager of Mukti Bhawan he has been a witness to at least 12000 deaths over the years. These deaths have given Shukla a kind of enlightenment into various lessons on life and he shares a few:
Don’t hold onto grudges
Shukla says that one should not hold onto grudges and conflicts, especially when you’re nearing the end. He has seen many people dropping these grudges at the very end, when there is really nothing left to say.
People carry so much baggage, unnecessarily, all through their life only wanting to drop it at the very end of their journey. The trick lies not in not having conflicts but in resolving them as soon as one can,” he says.
He cites the example of a Sanskrit scholar, Shri Ram Sagar Mishr, who had come to the Bhawan to live out his last days. Mishr was quite certain that he would pass away on the 16th day of his arrival at the Bhawan. Two days before his ‘timed’ death he asked for his estranged brother to visit him. 40 years earlier, the brothers who had been extremely close, fell out with one another. Mishr now regretted what had happened and desired to resolve all conflict before he passed away.
His brother arrived at the Bhawan on the 16th day after a letter was sent to him informing him of his brother’s desire to bury the hatchet. The brothers broke down when Mishr asked for forgiveness and advised his brother to bring down the wall that they had erected after their dispute. Midway through his speech, a calmness spread over his face and Mishr breathed his last.
Simplicity is life’s greatest truth
Shukla shares that many people only realize the importance of this trait when they are nearing their end. They give up all the indulgences and food cravings that they once had and rue the fact that they had not lived a simpler life. He further states that throughout life most of us are overcome with a desire to hoard. We waste so much time in accumulating and chasing after useless things and when we come to the end of our lives, we realize that it really wasn’t worth it!
Seek the good in others
People become so blinded by the prejudices that they have against another person that all they see in the person is negativity. They tend to turn a blind eye to the good that a person may have in them and live their lives entrapped in this state of negativity. Shukla says that if one can let go of the negatives you will probably lead a more enriched life and may even enjoy the company of the person that you’ve detested.
It’s okay to ask for help
Shukla says that some people choose to enwrap themselves in a cocoon of knowledge and rarely reach out to another for help. While being knowledgeable and extending help to others is okay, he says that we should also be courageous enough to ask for help when we need it.
Shukla recalls a time in the 80s when an old woman had been left at the Bhawan by relatives on a rainy day. The group who had brought her there seemed to be in a hurry and left without filling out the required forms. Sometime later, police arrived at the Bhawan in search of the woman’s relatives. They informed Shukla that they were, in fact, Naxalites who were on the run. Shukla feigned ignorance about them but the next day when the relatives came back, he berated the leader. He told him that he should have ended his grandmother’s life himself instead of making him lie to the police. The grandson admitted that he was incapable of helping his grandmother attain salvation and so he had brought her to the Bhawan to fulfill her religious desires.
There is beauty in simplicity
Very often people surround themselves with extravagance and give more importance to things they perceive as being more important. They close themselves off from enjoying the little things. Whereas there are others who derive immense pleasure from small things, like the sound or a note of a musical instrument.
Bhajans and devotional songs are played thrice a day at Mukti Bhawan and there are many who enjoy the sound of the instruments but there are others who are critical of what they hear.

Denial can hamper liberation
Shukla believes that acceptance of a situation can bring about greater liberation. People tend to shy away from accepting what life has to offer them and end up bitter and filled with all sorts of negatives on account of it. Denial of circumstances that you are in is unhealthy because in that state of mind a solution can never be reached.
We may be outwardly different but we’re all the same
The day you treat everyone the same is the day you breathe light and worry less about who might feel offended or not,” Shukla says.
This mantra has helped him immensely in dealing with the demands of his rather unique job. He is aware that he would not be able to render the same kind of service to the people admitted to Mukti Bhawan if he treated each one differently. No matter what color, caste, religion or economic standing, we are all the same. He believes that complications arise when we put people into various categories and as such, we end up serving no one.
Don’t let life pass you by
Shukla believes that everyone has a purpose in life but there are many who know what they are called to do but do nothing about it. Instead, they let life pass them by. He says that when you are aware of your calling in life, don’t just sit about waiting for something to happen but be proactive – take steps to make it matter.
Build good habits
We are all aware of the fact that habits are formed over a period of time. No habit happens overnight – one has to work consistently to make it strong. Shukla says that good habits form good values. If one consistently works towards being positive towards another even when faced with a challenging situation, only then will one be able to say that the value or quality has become part of one's being.
Learning is an option
There is so much knowledge available to everyone today, but in this vast sea of knowledge, it is easy to get swallowed up and drown. One is often confused as to what to learn and when to learn it. The secret to enjoying a vast learning experience is to pick out what stimulates your mind and go deep into that space.
The key lesson here is to be mindful of choosing what you deeply feel will be of value to you,” Shukla says. He further states that at the end of their lives people tend to dwell on the memories of all that they learned through the years and it brings pleasure to them.
You divorce the thought; not the person
Relationships with loved ones usually come to an end not because we’ve stopped associating with them but because we’ve disconnected ourselves from their thinking. Very often we distance ourselves from people we were once close to because of the ideologies they have that we don’t relate to. We deliberately move away to avoid further conflict. Shukla says that it’s imperative to remember that when a relationship ends, the break is with their thoughts not with the person. When you understand this, you are able to let go of the bitterness and vengeance. You will automatically feel lighter.
Give a portion of your earnings to charity

According to Shukla, you should give at least 10 percent of your income towards the good of others. Many people accumulate wealth over the years and only feel the need to give to others when they are at their life’s end. It’s only when they are suffering or at death’s door that they feel any empathy towards another. People who have given willingly throughout their lives, not just monetarily but also spiritually and compassionately, leave this world peacefully. When you let go of material things and learn to share with others, you will find this peace. 
12 Brutal Life Lessons from a Man Who's Seen 12000 Deaths 12 Brutal Life Lessons from a Man Who's Seen 12000 Deaths Reviewed by Tim on January 07, 2019 Rating: 5

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