Is terminal restlessness caused by fear of Yamadutas?

by Chaitanya CharanMay 13, 2014

Transcribed by : Shalini Ahluwalia

Question: Is terminal restlessness caused by fear of Yamadutaas?

Answer: Possibly but not necessarily.Terminal restlessness refers to a variety of symptoms found in people who are irreversibly close to death. These symptoms include fear, anxiety, malfunctioning of body in a way that is not necessarily because of the disease but from some other factors. So often the fear and anxiety is accompanied by some fear that seems to be irrational and is cause by seeing some paranormal sights. So some people feel that those paranormal sightings are the sightings of Yamadutaas who have come to take the person and the person is fearful and restless or other medical term is terminal restlessness, so the patient, the dying person is terminally restless because of Yamadutaas. Now when a person is at that stage of life our most important focus should be on helping that person and equating all restlessness with something to do with Yamadutaas may prevent us from helping that person in other ways may close our mind to other more important and more practically possible forms of helping others. So for example, some people before their death, they need some emotional closure that means maybe they have some estranged relative whom they feel that they have hurt that person or that person hurt them. And they want to talk and clarify and resolve the issue with that person and till they have done that resolution they feel extremely restless. So if that person is actually trying to communicate that please call so and so person and please ask that person to come and meet me or tell this message to that person or whatever somethings like that then it is important that we do what we can to assist that person in that emotional closure. It is possibly in connection with this idea of assisting people with emotional closure at the time of death that there is the common sentiment that a dying person should be granted his/her last desire so somebody has something burning to do or to convey then fulfil that desire. So all this is not to say that Yamadutaas may not be involved, it is quite possible that Yamadutaas may well be involved and if a person is feeling very scared because of the coming of the Yamadutaas and if by chanting the holy name and speaking about Krishna, by inspiring that person to take shelter of Krishna we can help that person to become free from the fear of Yamadutaas then that is definitely helpful and as devotees we know the importance of the moment of death and of preparing for that moment based on Bhagvat Gita, we know that the best way to prepare is by remembering Krishna. So we would like to help the person to remember Krishna and additionally that also acts as a counter, as an antidote for the fear of death and other mental problem that may be caused by the advent of the near-death situation. That is also very good. But two points of caution are there; first is that our mood should not be to try to somehow gather evidence to prove our worldview which is the Vedic worldview – Gita, Bhagvatam’s world view – if that happens well and good but our primary focus should be in trying to help the person whatever way we can. And ofcourse if Yamadutaas are actually coming and we don’t recognise it and it happens in many situations apparently that the person who becomes terminally restless because of some paranormal sightings is labelled as irrational and may be further physically restrained or is maybe given some injection to silence that person. So in such situations the knowledge from the Vedic scriptures can help us make sense of what is happening and help us acknowledge that person’s trauma not dismissing it as hallucination or phantasmagoria but recognising it as a description of some reality beyond. Now the problem with co-relating empirical observations and scriptural concepts is that empirical observations can always seem to be contrary to scriptural statements because the empirical path itself is unreliable. It can sometimes give us the truth, it can sometimes give us something wrong. For example, some people may at the time of death claim to have seen some mother or father, uncle or priest or Jesus, and they may feel very peaceful and we may from our perspective feel that actually they have not lived very pure lives, they have been sinful, how can they be peaceful like this? So its not that we have to critically assume that every single thing that people perceive at the time of death is necessarily true, some of it can be phantasmogoria also. So now it may seem very self-serving that something which confirms to our religious beliefs we accept it as true and something which contradicts we consider that sort of sighting as false. So especially those who are sceptical about scripture, the whole concept of talking about Yamadutaas is essentially involving talking about religion at the level of fear. Bhaktivinod Thakur talks about these four levels in Chaitanya Shikshamrita. The level of fear, then desire, then duty and then love. Fear and desire are not very recommended forms of religion. So yes the Bhagavatam does talk about Ajamil pastime, Ajamil saw the Yamadutaas but if you look at the centrality of the message that comes from the pastime, its not the sighting of the Yamadutaas, it is the redeeming power of the holy name. And that is what the Bhagavatam is focussing on. So what transforms Ajamil is not just the fact that he sees Yamadutaas and thinks they are real. Ajamil lived in a culture where there were no doubts about the reality of Yamadutaas. So thats why when the Yamadutaas came he immediately recognised that these are Yamadutaas, he also recognised the Vishudutaas. So for him it was just that he was carried away by the passions, and then he realised how much he was saved by the glory of the holy name then his faith in the holy name increased. So our goal should be to help people increase their faith in the holy name and certainly if the people are religiously inclined, are religiously open then such near-death events involving terminal restlessness in which say the dying patient gets relief by the chanting of the holy names then such events can definitely be talked about but if we try to directly equate terminal restlessness which has many aspects to it – emotional closure is one aspect I discussed – then there is much pain that comes at the level of the body itself and sometimes pain causes hallucinations because of the desire to escape from the pain and that sort of thing can be relieved not just by teaching religious philosophy it may require some palliative care also. So for some people if we just, rather than focussing on the patient’s pain and help relieve whatever is possible, we just focus on trying to make the patient into just a subject for proving this truth of our philosophy then we may come off as insensitive and we may even alienate people. So our focus has to be never on trying to prove the reality of the Yamadutaas, our focus should be on trying to prove the reality of the glory of the holy name in offering relief and of Krishna consciousness in offering shelter at times when even the best medical facility and the best material facilities fail to provide shelter. So yes some aspects of terminal restlessness can be co-related with the fear of Yamadutaas and to the extent that talking about this helps people to develop faith not so much in Yamadutaas, may be in the Yamadutaas, but primarily in the redeeming and relieving glory of the holy name to that extent we can talk about but overall our focus should be on trying to provide care to the dying person and trying to make the transition as spiritually auspicious as possible. So our eagerness to try to get our philosophy vindicated should not distract us from the primary thrust of our philosophy that we are servants and we are meant to serve each other in our relationship with Krishna and that death is a very critical exam, the most important exam in life, and we should be using it or rather helping them to prepare for death and not just to sort of extract faith or bully people into faith based on certain interpretations of certain events. Actually I am taking a slightly critical stand about this co-relation not because the co-relation is invalid but because some times devotees can become insensitive in trying to present the philosophy appropriately. So the appropriate presentation of the philosophy with sensitivity and with focus on the principle of Krishna’s mercy and love and not Krishna’s wrath as ?? records through the Yamadutaas, thats what should be the thrust of our presentation.

Thank you, Hare Krishna!


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Chaitanya Charan

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