tl;dr: So, the good news is that in reality there is no death, and the world never happened. The bad news is that we don't believe we are wrong in our view of reality.
“They say that I am dying but I am not going away. Where could I go? I am here.”
— Ramana Maharshi1
It’s not that anyone is gone when they have died. It’s that none of us was ever in the world at all.
The world is only an illusory idea in the mind. As one mind we made the world to ‘prove’ that we are really separate from God. “Look at all those bodies, and nowhere a God in sight!” God knows better, of course, but we prefer to see ourselves as not One with our Creator. We want to be our own creator. We want to be a wild bunch of individual selves. That’s the ego illusion making us dream up this fleeting life as bodies in a physical world. It’s a dream of separation, in which everything seems to be totally real, very solid, and often threatening our awkward existence, because death is the ego’s ultimate ‘proof’ that the world is real. However, it’s all a big illusion, because separation is absolutely impossible. Our true reality is undivided Oneness.
Oneness is total. There is nothing else. Nothing to subtract from it, nothing to add to it. We cannot get away from it, and we cannot unravel it. It is completely beyond understanding. We cannot imagine it, but it is said that somewhere in the depth of our mind we may still have a faint, almost forgotten, memory of it. Therefore, in our present state of mind, we do not know what we really are. We are asleep and dreaming of exile, but we never left the safety of our home.
So, the good news is that in reality there is no death, and the world never happened. The bad news is that we don’t believe we are wrong in our view of reality. We value our individuality above all else. Even if that means that in our experience of life we have traded heaven for hell.
Now, what is worse: accepting my ‘mortality’ and stick to the rugged belief in separation (which makes crucifying myself a daily practice), or accepting that the individual person I think I am has never existed in the first place, but that I am nevertheless immortal and totally real?
The first option is all too familiar but brings no relief, the second definitely needs getting used to, but in my sane moments I’m happy to admit I was wrong all along. Giving up my belief in the ego will restore my mind to the eternal wholeness and holiness of Spirit, one with God.
Sooner or later we’ll all find out that we never had a real choice: our reality is changeless, and happiness is truly inescapable.
In the meantime, it would be wise not to take my ‘self’ too seriously and become quietly aware of every thought of separation, every judgment, in my mind, especially that insane wish to be right, rather than happy. This means I will not try to justify my judgments. That is forgiveness. Forgiveness frees my vision of life from the distortion of judgment.
Through forgiveness I become aware that love is the only reality. Love does not judge because there is nothing else.
- ‘Ramana Maharshi and the Path of Self-knowledge’ by Arthur Osborne (2nd Edition, 2002, p. 210)