An old woman smiling with arms wide open

If you want to die well, how should you live? What should you avoid at the very end of your life?

Dying well isn’t just about your last moments; it’s about the hours, days, and even years before your death. In Death: An Inside Story, spiritual teacher Sadhguru recommends that you practice mindfulness throughout your life, spend your final years in nature, and surrender your individuality as you die.

Keep reading for Sadhguru’s advice on how to die well.

How to Die Well

Sadhguru asserts that most people in modern society don’t know how to die well. They ignore the fact that they’re going to die one day. As a result, they neglect to internally prepare for their death. They spend their lives accumulating physical things—money, a family, professional success—and end up panicking when they realize that they’re about to lose it all. This panicked, clinging state is exactly what you want to avoid in the moment of your death, as it’ll lead to an unpleasant afterlife and a similarly ignorant next incarnation.

(Shortform note: In Being Mortal, surgeon Atul Gawande contends that the unwillingness to prepare for death is a uniquely modern problem. For almost all of human history, no one could escape the constant threat of death, whether it was from disease, war, or dangerous labor. Now that many people don’t need to worry about dying on any given day, it becomes much easier to put it out of their minds. Thus, people embrace an unhealthy future-oriented mindset, accumulating more and more physical things and neglecting what’s valuable in the present: loving relationships and simple pleasures. This doesn’t just hurt you in the afterlife, as Sadhguru says—according to Gawande, it makes the days leading up to your death feel much more meaningless.)

Given that clinging leads to a difficult afterlife, Sadhguru contends that your ultimate goal should be to die without any attachment or desire for anything another physical life could give you. If you do this successfully, you won’t be reincarnated at all. The karmic influences pushing you around will have vanished, leaving you as a body of pure consciousness energy. There will be no more “you” left to identify with a separate self—instead, you’ll be at one with the universe, a seamless whole. This is a divinely euphoric experience. According to Sadhguru, every being craves the end of their individual self even if they don’t consciously realize it.

The Paradoxical Buddhist View of Nirvana

Like Sadhguru, Buddhists see the dissolution of the illusory self as the escape from suffering. They share his view that people can achieve this dissolution through nonattachment and that this is the ultimate goal of all people. Their word for the transcendent experience that Sadhguru describes here is nirvana, which literally means “extinction” and is derived from the term for blowing out a flame.

This phrase highlights the paradoxical nature of Buddhist philosophy. Buddhists believe in śūnyatā—absolute emptiness—and reject the idea that there’s an essential universal oneness. To them, salvation is the cessation of consciousness, not the expansion of consciousness throughout the universe. However, the way Buddhists describe the experience of nirvana sounds very similar to the euphoric cosmic oneness Sadhguru describes. Ancient Buddhist texts describe nirvana as an awareness that’s featureless, blissful, and permanent.

This is paradoxical. How can you have awareness without consciousness? Some Buddhist experts argue that this truth is exclusively transcendental and impossible to grasp with the rational mind.

What can you do to increase your odds of dying well and achieving this unification with the universe? Sadhguru offers the following advice.

Tip #1: Practice Mindfulness Throughout Your Life

First, cultivate the habit of mindfulness at all times. Sadhguru explains that, when you’re mindful of the nature of life and your immediate experience, you’ll realize that there’s nothing more you need. Once you make this state of mind a habit, you’ll have no trouble maintaining it through death, no matter how and when you die. Thus, you’ll break the cycle of reincarnation.

According to Sadhguru, one way to practice mindfulness is to intentionally focus on the experience of hunger. Just before you’re about to prepare or eat a meal, sit and wait for a short time. Pay attention to the experience of hunger and notice that although food is something that your physical body needs, it’s not something that your consciousness—your true self—needs. This will help you become aware that your body isn’t really part of you. The ego-reducing effect of this experience is why fasting is such a common tradition in many world religions.

Tip #2: Spend Your Final Years in Nature

Second, in the last years leading up to your death, live in a space with as few barriers as possible between your body and the rest of the natural world, like an open-air cabin. Sadhguru states that close contact with nature helps you experience how fragile your physical body is outside of the protected human world. This experience will remind you that your body is temporary and not a part of your true self.

Sadhguru discourages the choice to die in a hospital. Many terminally ill patients use medical technology to prolong their lives for as long as possible. However, stretching your life past its natural expiration date will only preserve the body, not the mind, making a mindful death more difficult. Sadhguru is clear that you shouldn’t avoid hospitals and modern medicine if you’re sick and need to recover. But, if the doctors declare that it’s likely you’re going to die, prolonging your life further may do more harm than good.

Tip #3: Surrender Your Individuality as You Die

In your attempt to break the cycle of reincarnation, Sadhguru recommends surrendering as much of your individuality as you can at the time of your death. Specifically, make sure that there are no photographs or other items that remind you of your worldly life in the place you’ve chosen to die.

(Shortform note: Some terminally ill people have greatly reduced their anxiety and depression in the time leading up to their death by temporarily transcending their individuality through psychedelics. In contrast to Sadhguru’s method of transcendence, these patients intentionally place photos and other personal items in the room while they take psychedelics, believing that such objects will prompt introspection and keep them grounded. This makes sense if their goal is to temporarily let go of the ego and then return to their lives, rather than permanently transcend the ego and achieve nirvana.)

Likewise, Sadhguru recommends dying alone, rather than being surrounded by loved ones. If you focus on the faces of your closest friends and family while you’re dying, it’ll strengthen the attachments to your illusory self that you’re trying to break. You’ll be recalling emotional memories you have about these people rather than maintaining equanimous mindfulness.

(Shortform note: Although Sadhguru encourages separation from family at the time of your death, he notes elsewhere that you don’t need to give up your family while you’re alive to become enlightened. Although some might assume that the solitary life of a monk is necessary if you seriously want to achieve enlightenment, Sadhguru contends the opposite: Working on your internal life is enough to set you on the path to enlightenment, no matter your external living situation.)

How to Die Well: 3 Tips From Spiritual Teacher Sadhguru

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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