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Rooted in the hearts of many Hindus is the belief that if you breathe your last in Kashi (Varanasi) you attain what is popularly known as ‘Kashi Labh’ or ‘the fruit of Kashi’—moksh or “release from the cycle of rebirth impelled by the law of karma”.

Kashi Labh Mukti Bhawan in Varanasi is one of the three guesthouses in the city where people check in to die. The other two are Mumukshu Bhawan and Ganga Labh Bhawan. Established in 1908, Mukti Bhawan is well-known within the city and outside.

Bhairav Nath Shukla has been the Manager of Mukti Bhawan for 44 years. He has seen the rich and the poor take refuge in the guesthouse in their final days as they await death and hope to find peace. Shukla hopes with and for them. He sits on the wooden bench in the courtyard, against the red brick wall and shares with me 12 recurring life lessons from the 12000 deaths he has witnessed in his experience as the manager of Mukti Bhawan:

1. Resolve all conflicts before you go

Shukla recounts the story of Shri Ram Sagar Mishr, a Sanskrit scholar of his times. Mishr was the eldest of six brothers and was closest to the youngest one. Years ago an ugly argument between the two brothers led to a wall to partition the house.

In his final days, Mishr walked to the guesthouse carrying his little paan case and asked to keep room no. 3 reserved for him. He was sure he will pass away on the 16th day from his arrival. On the 14th day he said, “Ask my estranged brother of 40 years to come see me. This bitterness makes my heart heavy. I am anxious to resolve every conflict.”

A letter was sent out. On the 16th day when the youngest brother arrived, Mishr held his hand and asked to bring down the wall dividing the house. He asked his brother for forgiveness. Both brothers wept and mid sentence, Mishr stopped speaking. His face became calm. He was gone in a moment.

Shukla has seen this story replay in many forms over the years. “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,” says Shukla.

2. Simplicity is the truth of life

“People stop eating indulgent food when they know they are going to go. The understanding that dawns on many people in their final days is that they should’ve lived a simple life. They regret that the most,” says Shukla.

A simple life, as he explains, can be attained by spending less. We spend more to accumulate more and thus create more need. To find contentment in less is the secret to having more.

3. Filter out people’s bad traits

Shukla maintains that every person has shades of good and bad. But instead of dismissing “bad” people outrightly, we must seek out their good qualities. Harbouring bitterness for certain people comes from concentrating on their negatives. If you focus on the good qualities though, you spend that time getting to know them better or, maybe even, loving them.

4. Be willing to seek help from others

To know and do everything by yourself might feel empowering but it limits one from absorbing what others have learnt. Shukla believes we must help others, but more importantly, have the courage to seek help when we’re in need.

Every person in the world knows more than us in some respect. And their knowledge can help us, only if we’re open to it.

He recounts the incident of an old woman being admitted on a rainy day back in the 80s. The people who got her there left her without filling the inquiry form. A few hours later, the police came to trace the relatives of the old lady who, they said, were runaway Naxalites. Shukla pretended to not know nothing. The police left. When the lady’s relatives returned next morning, Shukla asked the leader uninhibitedly, “When you can kill 5-8 people yourself why didn’t you simply shoot your Nani and cremate her yourself? Why did you make me lie and feel ashamed?” The grandson fell to his knees and pleaded for forgiveness saying no one amongst them is capable of helping his religious grandmother attain salvation. He respects that, and is the reason why he brought her to Mukti Bhawan.

5. Find beauty in simple things

Mukti Bhavan plays soulful bhajans and devotional songs three times a day. “Some people”, he says, “stop and admire a note or the sound of the instruments as if they have never heard it before, even if they have. They pause to appreciate it and find beauty in it.”

But that’s not true of everyone, he adds. People who are too critical or too proud, are the ones who find it hard to find joy in small things because their minds are preoccupied with “seemingly” more important things.

6. Acceptance is liberation

Most people shirk away from accepting what they are going through. This constant denial breeds in them emotions that are highly dangerous. Only once you accept your situation is when you become free to decide what to do about it. Without acceptance you are always in the grey space.

When you are not in denial of a problem you have the strength to find a solution.

Indifference, avoidance, and denial of a certain truth, Shukla believes, cause anxiety; they develop a fear of that thing in the person. Instead, accept the situation so you are free to think what you want to do about it and how. Acceptance will liberate you and empower you.

7. Accepting everyone as the same makes service easier

The secret to Shukla’s unfazed dedication and determination towards his demanding job can be understood via this life lesson. He admits that life would’ve been difficult if he treated people who admit themselves to Mukti Bhavan differently, based on their caste, creed, colour, and social or economic status. Categorisation leads to complication and one ends up serving no one well. “The day you treat everyone the same is the day you breathe light and worry less about who might feel offended or not. Make your job easier,” he says.

8. If/When you find your purpose, do something about it

To have awareness about one’s calling is great, but only if you do something about it.

A lot of people, Shukla says, know their purpose but don’t do anything about realising it, making it come to life. Simply sitting on it is worse than not having a calling in the first place. Having a perspective towards your purpose will help you measure the time and effort you need to dedicate to it, while you’re caught up in what you think you can’t let go or escape. Take action on what truly matters.

9. Habits become values

Shukla recommends cultivating good habits to be able to house good values. And building good habits happens over time, with practice. “It’s like building a muscle; you have to keep at it everyday.”

Till one doesn’t consistently work towards being just or kind or truthful or honest or compassionate, every single time he is challenged, one cannot expect to have attained that quality.

10. Choose what you want to learn

In the vastness of the infinite amount of knowledge available to us it is easy to get lost and confused. “The key lesson here is to be mindful of choosing what you deeply feel will be of value to you,” he says. People might impose subjects and philosophies on you because it interests them and while you must acknowledge their suggestions, the wise thing to do is delve deeper into what rejoices your own heart and mind.

With a smile on his face Shukla says, “In the last days of their life a lot of people can’t speak, walk or communicate with others with as much ease as they could, earlier. So, they turn inwards. And start to remember the things that made their heart sing once, things that they cared to learn more about over the course of their life, which enriches their days now.”

11. You don’t break ties with people; you break ties with the thought they produce

You can seldom distance yourself from people you have truly loved or connected with in some way. However, in any relationship, along the way, certain mismatch of ideologies causes people to stop communicating. This never means you are no longer associated with that person. It simply means that you don’t associate with a dominant thought that person brings with him/her, and to avoid more conflict you move away. The divorce, Shukla affirms, is with the thought and never with the person. To understand that is to unburden yourself from being bitter and revengeful.

12. 10 percent of what you earn should be kept aside for dharma

Dharma, Shukla doesn’t define as something religious or spiritual. Instead, he says it is associated more with doing good for others and feeling responsible about that. A simple calculation according to him is to keep 10 percent of your income for goodwill.

Many people donate or do charitable acts towards the end of their life because death is hard on them. In their suffering, they begin to empathise with others’ suffering. He says those who have the companionship of loved ones, the blessings of unknown strangers, and an all-encompassing goodwill of people exit peacefully and gracefully. That is possible when you don’t cling on to everything you have, and leave some part of it for others.

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Project FUEL collects, preserves and passes on life lessons from all across the world. We’re currently crowdfunding for our next Masterpiece Tour to Europe, to collect life lessons from refugees displaced after the conflict in Syria. Your contribution counts.

Please click here to contribute: https://www.wishberry.in/campaign/collecting-life-lessons-refugees/

 

 

Comments

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About The Author

Deepak Ramola, Founder and Artistic director of FUEL is a life skill educator at heart and in practice. With his initiative Project FUEL Deepak travels across the continent with people's life lessons designed as interactive and performance based exercises. He is also a gold medallist in BMM from the University of Mumbai, a spoken word poet, an actor, a lyricist and a writer.

21 Comments

  1. Some more info from other 2 homes, would be interesting. Any reason for a difference in names and significances to the home titles!!
    what is the stat on succssful closure of life and those who reverse?
    a great effort by the project team iindeed. Any hindi version or non english available?, more close to local thoughts!

  2. Eye opener article .I feel all you need to know about life and how to live is covered in few words.Thanks a lot Deepak Tamola ji.

    • Dear Laxmikant ji,

      Thank you so much for writing in and appreciating the post. I am glad it resonated with you.

      Best,
      Deepak Ramola

  3. THE BEST GURU LEARNING……………..Thanks deepak

  4. The facts of Life are simply philosophical and we do not realize until almost the end of our life and by the time we realize the same it is becoming too late.
    Reading about shri Bhairav Nath Shuklaji and the like minded people will be of very great guidance for all of us.
    Let us all try to lead a simple life, be stingy in utilising the Natural wealth like water, air, let us not pollute the same and pass away peacefully.
    Pranams to Shri Bhairav Nath Shuklaji.
    Thanks Deepak.

  5. Thank you for such a nice & enlightening article.God bless you.

  6. Thats a beautiful piece of work Deepak..

  7. […] Started my morning with a heartfelt life story – about how to exit the world. […]

  8. Nice article..

    Keep explore more and enlighten more in diverse field.

    Thank you to whole your research team.

  9. Wonderful simply wonderful ! Your observations should be made available for a wider range of people . So many of us go on in life without realising these very simple things and thus thus causing unnecessary pain to ourselves and others. Thankyou for sharing.

  10. Seriously appreciate the writer, I am glad to earn so many life living Mantra from this. I am just 28 years old and so happy after reading this. I am always in rush for office home and running after money.
    This article made me realize what I am leaving behind and what will I have with me in last when I leave this land of almighty god. Thank u so much for giving me this lesson.

    Regards
    Nishant
    +91-8860262932

  11. Muraleedharan P Chengat - Reply

    Life is like that….

  12. I have just been reading ‘The top five regrets of the dying,’ written by a hospice nurse, and felt it didn’t resonate completely… I wasn’t sure why and I suppose it is difficult to fully understand what it is like to be dying and what regrets one might have and I didn’t feel she was entirely wrong, just that some of the key elements might be missing. This article resonated much more deeply and feels like a complete and genuine summary of how one ought to live to die without regrets. Thank you for your compassion and wisdom!

  13. Savithri JagannathacRao - Reply

    I found the life lessons equal to BhagavathnGita,very apt to the present scenario. Beautifuly written. Our Pranamsmto the greatest humanbeing.

  14. Fantastic!Reading this article is enough for a person to understand the meaning of life.Thanks for this article!

  15. […] Originally written by Deepak Ramola and published on Project Fuel […]

  16. This is the perfect blog for anybody who hopes to find out about this topic.
    You realize a whole lot its almost hard to argue with
    you (not that I really will need to…HaHa).
    You certainly put a brand new spin on a topic that has been discussed for years.
    Great stuff, just excellent!

  17. Retired from Ranbaxy, myself in final phase of journey called life.Insights n learning from Mr Shukla’s experiences as narrated by you in your esteemed BLOG are precious.
    Aap ko Saaduvaad.

  18. What magnificent words!
    As a Rabbi, Author, Radio Show host “From Mourning to Morning” on VoiceAmerica, I am so moved by these holy lessons. To have the dignity of “checking into” death residences and to be cared for with love and compassion, is a concept we should adopt here in the USA.
    In Jewish Tradition, the ancient Rabbis said that when you reach the gates of Heaven, you will only be allowed to enter if you answer their questions about how well you lived your life.
    The very first question is: “did you deal with others with honesty and gratitude?”
    Your lessons could very well form the rest of the questions.
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom and compassion.

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