Arjuna on his mother Vipassana’s cremation.
In this series of pictures the first is one of my mother, Ma Dhyan Vipassana, about an hour after she left her body in a state of ecstasy. This is the one where she’s nestled in her bed with a flower next to her head. The cellphone shot doesn’t quite show her smiling as much as she was. The next picture was taken two-and-a-third days later, when we began preparing her for the journey off island for cremation, after people had come from far and wide to sit and meditate with her body and say farewells. The radiance of her departure had left her body remarkably cool and preserved. This shot better captures the bliss of her Great Death.
Last Wednesday morning at 9:30 am, I pressed the button igniting the furnace of a crematorium wherein my beloved mother’s body lay. It was witnessed by three women—three Graces—dear friends of my mother’s and me: Satgyan (Nadine), Nancy and Gail.
I was dressed in my “real” clothes, the deep maroon, Tibetan-tailored sleeveless robe of an Osho devotee with a long and graceful maroon shawl wrapped around my shoulders, stretching near to the floor. Atop my head was the same vivid scarlet knitted cap dating all the way back to 1980 when Osho initiated me into sannyas in Pune, India. Around my neck were the 108 beads of my Mala, ending with a picture of Osho inside a locket. Glinting at the transit of the bead threading into the locket was the brass ornament engraved with Osho’s signature. It was similar to another mala worn by my mother’s body inside the furnace as she lay similarly robed in maroon the way Theresa and I had dressed her after washing the body five days earlier a few hours after her ecstatic departure from this world that both of us had witnessed on Friday morning at 10:30 am.
Friends came by for the next two days to sing, dance, stand silently and celebrate my mother, Vipassana’s, life and death. The hospice nurse was surprised how well preserved her body had remained the two-and-a-third days lying in state on her bed. She was as radiantly cold as a Himalayan wind blowing off the mountain peaks. Her body somehow displayed the signs I had heard about where a death ecstasy can greatly slow down or even arrest the natural beginning of the breakdown of the mortal body.
Now she was laying inside the furnace. I could see her through the window, her feet lying nearest to me. I could regard her in a foreshortened view of her maroon-robed body and mala all the way to her reclining face, peacefully smiling at the other side of the chamber.
The button I pushed had summoned what appeared like a “holy fire” hovering far above her in the great shaft of the cremation furnace as it built its strength and power, gaining more heat and brilliance for the first ten minutes before it could attain a 1,500-degree Fahrenheit critical mass that would usher a wall of fire down into the chamber and flood over her body. While it grew, the levitating fire above that could not be directly seen, illuminated her body and the stone chamber below in a golden-amber glow, dazzling like the dance of 10,000 giggling fireflies flashing their ardent glimmering through the chamber as if they were jewels of sunlight passed through tropical water, sparkling over submerged coral shoals.
I don’t know if it was the rising heat on the salves and makeup the cremation attendants put on her face, or it was just another surprising play of skyward fire’s light from the great shaft above her head, but Vipassana’s face appeared as deep and vivid a blue as the Hindu Avatar Lord Krishna. Her face smiled like Monet’s purple self-portrait painted in his garden in the fading glow of twilight.
At 1,500 degrees a great thump and change in the onrushing firestorm’s roar began a deeper droning, like a flood approaching. I looked through the porthole and witnessed enter down into the chamber behind Vipassana’s peacefully smiling head, bathing it and her shoulders in Immolation’s frame, a coruscating fan of thin tongues of a fire-peacock’s expanding tail.
That’s when my mother began to move.
The flames carried up her folded arms slowly, delicately off her chest. In a graceful sweep the arms opened, the hands arching, palms turning upwards in a gesture of divine blessing. The sight cut me to the quick with awe and joy mixed with an electric giddiness tickling and squirming around my hara, the point in the body where the silver cord connecting us to life meets death’s future release.
The body’s inbuilt horror of death melded with a holy Bliss. I beheld Vipassana the dancer – who nearly 70 years earlier in her eventful life, had danced with the stars of MGM classic musicals—uphold her beautiful arms and opened hands. She danced again, not in currents of a water ballet from an Esther Williams feature, but suspended in the hot winds of Death’s ascending fire ballet, wheeling and swirling inside the blistered confines of a furnace stage. Her arms and long hands grew skeletal, relaxing slowly back down to rest again onto her flaming chest, folding the long and delicate bones of her fingers together in sweet repose.
After relating to the others what had happened, I began to let the energy of this miraculous vision carry me off into a Dervish Sufi whirl, round and round as my friends cried in awe and joy. I stopped suddenly still and felt the roar of the furnace take on a familiar rushing sound. All at once I was reminded of the moment when I was nine years old, in bed, in our new home in Palos Verdes, California in 1963. Memories of my brother and I sharing new surroundings of our bedroom appeared. My bed was up against a wall next to the bathroom. Vipassana was in the bathroom and she began to run her bath. The rush of water resonated out of the wall in its bright, steady sigh sending a delight through my body, all curled up inside a womb made of blankets. I had never felt such a bright-eyed-behind-closed-eyelid joy. The sound ran over and inside my body like liquid bliss. I felt so safe, so complete.
Later I would come to understand that my mother, preparing her bath, had inadvertently triggered through the rush of warm water, peeling loudly through pipes behind the wall, a memory of being held in the deep bliss of her womb for nine months. Little did I know then that 23 years or so later, Osho would answer the only written comment/question I ever offered in public discourse. He would explain how seeking to rediscover the religious and sacred is inspired in part by trying to recover the consciously forgotten bliss of nine months we all experience in our mothers’ wombs. Though he might be sharing that insight to the collected disciples, I at once knew that he knew my own personal experience of profound peace inside Vipassana’s womb.
In my next installment of my experiences with my mother’s ecstatic death, I will tell you a tale of how a mother’s womb can become a reminder of the cosmic womb. In such a “womb” we all have the potential to live our lives, fully engaged with the world, yet inside be that blissful child floating without a care or responsibility, lulled by the warmth and rushing blood stream rivers of our mothers’ womb becoming Existence itself.
Thus I heard again that flooding, delicious roar on the morning of 20 July 2016, reminding me of the womb bliss. I began again to sing the Buddhist Gauchami prayers before the furnace as I did moments after she had left her body the Friday morning before. My friends heard my voice cut through the roar with a subtonal-like resonance and by the third prayer, some believed they heard that resonance harmonize with what sounded like a discarnate feminine voice in response. Who knows what mundane or miraculous phenomenon might have caused that? Perhaps one of my friends was singing along. Perhaps…?
No sooner had I ended the prayers, the furnace responded with a new thump and thundering, increasing the deluge noise of flame as the chamber reached 1,900 degrees. Now there was nothing one could see but walls of celebrating flame vigorously crashing against the porthole.
It was time to be thankful, “great-full” and live ever after this moment a life where the absence of my soul mate mother left the last ounce of her physical connection in life rendered into laughing ashes. Now I am full of her absence and it is like an endless, dazzling sky. The sky is not there, yet we see it. The sky has no boundaries, yet the window and the horizon tries to frame the unframeable.
Now my mother is a pure essence and once again my soul nestles in that Essence of the cosmos as my womb.
My Mother’s Miraculous, Beautiful Death!
Arjuna (John Hogue) is author of 600 articles and 33 published books (1,170,000 copies sold) spanning 20 languages and counting and is sought-after for radio and TV talks shows. He has another 61 books in various stages of completion and has released in spring another book in the New Age/Prophecy genre. Arjuna presently lives in the Pacific Northwest on Whidbey Island, USA and welcomes e-mails from fellow travellers. www.hogueprophecy.com.