Indian Culture · Inner View · Words of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo

Pause before RIP(ping)

Many years ago, when I first learned how to copy music from CDs on to my laptop, I learned a technological usage of the term ‘Rip’ – to ‘rip’ music off the CD and to save it on the computer hard drive.

Then came my first brush with online social interaction via yahoo groups. I learned a few more online terms and their usages. BTW, IMHO were the two terms that ended up in my vocabulary and came handy when presenting arguments and discussing issues.

But it was only when I joined Facebook a few years ago that I was gradually exposed to a huge jargon of acronyms, for many of which I couldn’t make much sense.  I mean, why would any sane person roll on the floor while laughing out loud at a silly joke! But then this world is made up of all kinds of people, all kinds of experiences, viewpoints, beliefs, and ways of expressing.

Speaking of this diversity, there is also a big difference in how different groups of people understand the meaning of life, death, experience, reality, truth etc. Let me take the example of death.

Which brings me to this acronym I see so much on Facebook and other social media – RIP. And that’s what this post is about.

To be honest, when I first came across this RIP I had to ask google what it meant. “Rest in Peace” – I was told. “Oh, so that’s why people use it to express their condolences when someone in their friend circle shares the news of the passing of a dear one,”  I thought to myself. Or when they see a public post about the death of a celebrity. All they need to do is type three letters – R I P. And it is done! Condolence signed and delivered.

But I wasn’t too disturbed by the ‘quick’ manner of expressing condolences. It was rather the lack of thinking that went behind using a term like “Rest in Peace” which disturbed me. And continues to do so.

Before anyone gets angry at what I just said, let me explain.

Death and what happens after death are deep mysteries of life and existence. Different cultures and civilisations have tried to explore these mysteries in their own ways. This has resulted in different understandings of what happens when someone dies. And also what happens after death. Not every culture looks at death as a finality after which all that is needed is to ‘rest in peace.’

Indian culture, for example, developed its own elaborate understanding of what is death, what happens after death, the theory of rebirth, release from the circle of birth and death, and moksha, the final aim of a soul’s journey. Our rishis, munis, yogis, and sadhaks from times immemorial have been exploring these deep mysteries of life, death, reality and existence. These explorations have been deeply subjective resulting in stupendous revelations about these mysteries, covering all planes of existence from individual to universal to cosmic. Divergences – both in the subtle nature of these experiential revelations and their outward expressions – exist among different paramaparas, darshanas, teachings, lineages and schools of thought, but what binds them together is an unending, continuous tradition of plunging deep within the self and the cosmos to discover the truth about such mysteries of existence.

What is also common — and this is most relevant for the purpose of this post — among all of these diverse traditions (except perhaps for the Charvaka, the materialist school) is the discovery that death is only a passage through which the individual soul moves on to the next phase of its journey.

3a2d2-deathisapassage

 

There is no final ‘rest in peace,’ unless of course the soul has already reached the stage of moksha, the release from the circle of birth and death. It must be clarified here that the reference here is to the evolving soul, which is not the same as the imperishable, eternal and immortal Atman. The reference is to that projection of the Atman, the psychic being in Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga terminology, which evolves from one life to another in its onward journey.

“…human life and death repeated through the aeons in the great cycles of the world are only a long progress by which the human being prepares and makes himself fit for immortality.” (Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita)

It should also be noted that this psychic being, this innermost part of the being is only one part of an individual. An individual is made up of many parts – physical, vital, mental (the outer being), the subtle physical, subtle vital and subtle mental (the subliminal, which correspond to the universal physical, vital and mental planes of existence) as well as many inter-connected parts such as physical-vital, vital-mental, etc. Each of the physical, vital and mental parts have their own innermost essence, the real truth of their being which must go onward with their own journeys after the body, the outer shell is no more.

Other rishis, yogis, schools of darshana and parampara have described differently this onward journey of different parts of the being. But that is not the point of concern here.

Death

What I wish to emphasise here is this. Do Indians, and especially those who think of themselves as Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists or generally subscribe to an Indian/Indic view of life, reality and existence, really understand what they are expressing when they say “RIP” or “Rest in Peace?” Are they aware of what view of life and death they are subscribing to? Or is it that they have almost thoughtlessly subscribed to an Abrahamic (Judeo-Christian-Islamic) view which suggests that death is like ‘the end’ of the journey and the body must wait and ‘rest in peace’ until the coming of the judgment day, the day when the ‘saved’ souls will be resurrected?

For those who don’t subscribe to this view of death and life, my humble request for them is to pause and reconsider next time they are about to use the expression “RIP.” They must take a moment to figure out the words they must use to express empathy and condolence. There can be many possible expressions. But if it has to be truly a ‘heart-felt’ expression, a real expression to share in another’s pain, it is most important to use that which conveys one’s deepest belief, even though it is only an intellectual belief for most of us, of what is life, death, existence and reality.

For those Indians and especially ones who consider themselves practicing or believe in any of the dharmic/Indic traditions but don’t want to pause and reflect, perhaps simply saying “Peace” would be more culturally appropriate than RIP. And by all means if you subscribe to the belief behind the expression RIP, please use that.

To conclude, let me say this:

Language is an important means to preserve and transmit cultural knowledge. If our day-to-day vocabulary only becomes a meaningless and mindless mix of ‘borrowed’ expressions from elsewhere, we run the risk of not only forgetting our own cultural truths but also deforming or destroying our treasured knowledge systems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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39 thoughts on “Pause before RIP(ping)

  1. The words used online have taken over grammar and the sense out of English language. ROFL, TTYL etc have become a part of the vocabulary for reasons more of convenience than anything. I still don’t know MIA or IMAO.
    On the topic, I prefer to share condolences in my own words and those rare times, I may have used ‘rest in peace’ it is to convey that the pains of this life are no know and the person who passed away can now rest peacefully. Yes, the cycle of death and birth is there but I guess people usually don’t think so much about them. It’s the intent and the urge to say ‘I’m with you in your times of pain’ At least I would guess that.
    Having said that, I appreciate your stance and I totally get your point. A very thought provoking article Beloo. You have really urged me to think 🙂

    1. Thanks Parul for getting the spirit in which I wrote this post. Our words must express what we really feel especially when we are taking a moment to share someone’s pain in their difficult time. Otherwise it loses its meaning completely.

  2. This was needed, to jolt us out of mouthing phrases which have become the common expressions for events, including death. I am guilty too of this as many a time I have also used this phrase to convey my condolences. But I have to confess that the times I have done it, I have sincerely wished that the soul has really attained moksha for I can’t picture any soul resting in peace otherwise. I know it doesn’t absolve me of the misuse of a phrase, and I will be more careful in future. Thanks for this post, Beloo.

    1. Thank you, Zephyr for sharing your perspective.

      I think it is almost a given in today’s times when most of us are caught up in this fast-paced ‘scrolling’ of happenings and events, that we tend to forget some of the most fundamental truths about life and reality, truths we have been taught simply as part of our cultural upbringing. And I suppose that is what probably happens with this over-use of the phrase “Rest in Peace”. Funny (and sad too) how our language begins to change and even distort what we really believe in, if we simply stop paying attention to it.

  3. I sort of think that most words/phrases/acronyms nowadays seem to mean something radically different and, dare I say, rather shallow things than what they first came into being to denote. Like the ‘Like’ button on FB. I think also that it does lead to actually rendering people shallow as well. In the sense that, if I had to express my feelings in my own words, the process itself brings me in touch with my feelings and explores the depth of them. If I only had to press a button OR use a catch-phrase, I am out of that experience in a jiffy and plunging into the next; making me a sort of flitting butterfly sampling emotions rather than really feeling them. WHICH has been MY main objection to the use of RIP; to me it seems like trivializing a tragedy. If you cannot spend a moment to FEEL the pain, why make a pretense of empathy?

    Your point is something I never thought of myself but, now that you have said it, the validity strikes with considerable force.

    1. Thanks, Suresh for bringing up a very, very important point. That we are becoming a “flitting butterfly sampling emotions” is an apt description. You are so right, we seem to be going more and more – and at a very fast pace – toward a world where every experience is becoming trivial, every emotion, feeling, thought and their expression is becoming meaningless, lifeless. Almost plastic. Sad.

      It is because of this reason why I never shared on FB anything about my mother’s passing two years ago. Whatever feelings and emotions that needed some expression came out in some of my blog writings during that period of grieving. I couldn’t have allowed something so deeply personal to become just another ‘item’ in someone’s scrolling.

    2. Flitting into one experience and out into the next!

      How perfectly you’ve described social media interactions Suresh. We really dont want to invest emotional energy into our interactions.

      I like to think of like this: our attention is a finite quantity. To cover more ground, we must spread it thin… very thin- like butter. In the absence of warmth, the butter doesnt melt to seep into the toast below. You get the awful taste of cold butter when you bite into the toast and not a scrumptious buttery delight that a butter soaked toast gives. In other words, the butter is there to show… not experience. Which is insulting to the butter and the toast.

      Or something like that. 😀

      1. All this melted butter on a toast is making me hungry 😀

        But what a thought-provoking analogy you give here, Dagny. We are spreading our emotions, our thoughts too thin and losing the art of savouring in that process. Each emotion, even sadness and pain should be experienced deeply, enough for us to recognise the subtlety of that emotion so as to transcend it.

      2. I got hungry by the time I finished typing it too. 😀 But yes, we indeed spreading our emotions very thin.

  4. Personally, I think saying RIP is a tad insensitive. One can express heartfelt condolences with a few words. Even if its online.
    I also think that death is a phase – like any other and our journey continues beyond as well.
    Thought provoking post Beloo.

  5. Deep and convincing..not only did I like reading this wonderful piece I so completely agree to it too!
    Great new look of your blog..and I loved ‘This blog had an earlier life too’! What an amazing idea..but not everybody can use terms like these..only a believer with conviction can!

    1. Thanks, Amit! I am so happy you liked the post and also the look of the blog. It is wonderful to hear that you noticed the ‘earlier life’ reference 🙂 And more importantly, really could see the place from where this phrase emerged! Thanks for that.

  6. Now this is a post I am going to use as a reference when I’ll feel unable to make myself clear .. I TOTALLY agree with you Beloo . I am not ‘against’ anything but the mindless borrowing/use of language or culture is sad, derogatory, shows our own lack of knowledge, more so lack of ‘curiosity’ to know what we are speaking/writing!
    Thankfully, I still don’t know IMAH sorry, IMAO and will not google it too until I have to reply to it somewhere :/
    As for FB, my preferred option os asking or replying there is the private FB Messages… updates are for the whole world to see and enjoy .. can’t expect heartfelt feelings there!
    Another of your contemplative and nice post Beloo 🙂

    1. Thank you, Kokila for sharing your perspective. I appreciate your sensitive approach to recognising why we shouldn’t be mindlessly borrowing expressions and phrases without understanding what they really mean. I am really happy you found this post contemplative and thought-provoking. And welcome to this new home for my blog 🙂

  7. I haven’t thought about it from this perspective….but I concur with your views that death is often not seen as an end in many cultures. That makes me want to be doubly careful before I say RIP again. I do always add a heartfelt message along with it, but this post makes me want to rethink the thought behind RIP. We often say things because they “seem” right and not because they are actually correct. thanks for bringing in that awareness.

  8. Very well put. An exceptional piece.

    As Hindus, “Peace” / “Om Peace”/ “Om Shanti” is the most apt condolence message as you have rightly said. I will go so far to say, we should summarily reject the RIP construct given its inherent Abrahamic silliness.

    The issue here, is in my opinion, part of a much larger problem – a general lack of awareness among Hindus about anything to do with Hinduism. Darshanas are a far cry – most people wouldn’t even know what a Mimaska is or what Samkhya entails. The Abrahamics take advantage of this, and start putting forward their Judeo-Christain narrative-based customs, and also “digest” our indigenous customs (like Yoga, Tantra, Kali ) – Shri Rajiv Malhotra has talked about this in details in his two books “Being Different” and “Indras Net”.

    My fortune (or misfortune) was that the first book on Philosophy I read (I was around 10) was “Karma Yoga” of Swami Vivekananda and my schoo education happened in a Sri Aurobindo institution – and over the last 20 years I have read a vast amount of Indian philosophy, whose greatness you have described very aptly. And after all this I feel shocked when people who have an Abrahmaic POV try to evaluate us based on their simplistic puerile framework and succeed more often than not in demeaning and disparaging us.

    I would go so far to say that what is happening right now is a civilization war and we are losing – and a major reason for that would be the inferiority-complex and guilt-induction by pseudo-secularists of all hues and colors.

    1. A very profoundly written article by the erstwhile owner of this blog.
      I completely agree with what you have stated about not RIP(ing) mindlessly and using ‘borrowed’ phrases from an alien language that has no relevance with our Dharmic traditions.

      Sri Subhodeep Mukhopadhyay too has reflected great truths.
      The tragedy of Bharatavarsha & Bharateeya people today is that we have got de-racinated from our Samskrithi due to having lost out on our rich and beautiful languages ( Matribhasha ) which are the daughters of the fountain-head of Samskritam our Mool Bhasha.
      It is tragic that we are unable to speak in one Bharateeya Bhasha without using ‘ khichdi’.
      The Matribhasha is the eternally-connecting cultural river flowing from time immemorial that kept our Samskrithi alive.That culture which was present in our DNA is slowly getting distorted and destroyed.
      By losing our language we will just get lost…….
      Dhanyavaad for this very thought-provoking article.

      1. Thank you for this insightful comment. I highly appreciate the point you make here, it adds so much depth and value to the deeper point I was trying to make through this post – the need to learn about our traditions, our sanskriti and the truths behind why we do/say/act/be in a certain way. We have become so uprooted and dislocated from the core of our culture that we have even stopped questioning why we behave in a certain way, we just go on mindlessly repeating what our colonial masters have told us about who/what we are!

        Thank you! And welcome to this blog!

    2. Sorry it has taken me a few days to respond.

      First of all, let me thank you once again Subhodeep for this insightful comment. I hugely appreciate you bringing up these valuable points. Given your rich learning and understanding, everything that you have mentioned here has added some great value to the discussion here. I am sure all readers of this blog will benefit from it. And hopefully some will also be encouraged to read up the two books that you mention by Rajiv Malhotra. I haven’t yet read “Indra’s Net”, but I can definitely highly recommend “Being Different.”

      What I value most in your comment is this point: “a general lack of awareness among Hindus about anything to do with Hinduism.” I must admit I was and still am highly ignorant about many things related to do with Hinduism (I would actually expand the term to Indian Culture because in some ways they are expressive of the same thing. Indian culture can’t be experienced without experiencing Hinduism, though one doesn’t necessarily need to call oneself a ‘Hindu’ to soak in the essence of Indian culture). This ignorance among most Indians like me is the result of our highly flawed education system, which deliberately works to uproot Indians from their own cultural roots. It is a sad and sinister agenda, really. But for the last several years I am trying to do something about my ignorance, and I know many people like myself who are slowly un-learning the stuff we were taught in our thoroughly ‘un-Indian’ education systems and have started their journeys to rediscover their traditions, their cultural heritage and traditions in their own ways.

      Whether it is through books, travels, writing, religious and spiritual practices, as more and more Indians will wake up to the need to learn about their cultural truths, we can hope for a better future for our country. I am not saying that this will happen right away or even in next 50 years, I am merely saying that things are slowly beginning to turn in the right direction. But yes it will surely take a long, long time. And the reality of civilizational war that you speak of is very much there. I just hope more Indians will wake up to this reality and begin to do their bit for a greater Indian renaissance.

  9. I have been guilty of using this term, without looking at it from this perspective. You have given me some food for thought. Will keep this in mind. Thank you.

  10. right well .. what do i say . to be blunt we the people have become very insensitive.. somehow till it happens to us , we dont realise what we do to others.. Online vocabulaory whichever app we are using is becoming very drastic and People just dont have time anymore..

    its like when my dad passes away and I posted on my blog, there were people LIKING the post and many comments said “GOOD POST”.. just goes to show that not many READ the post before posting a comment.

    I do use the term But not its own, because I feel that if you cant give ONE MINUTE of your time to another person who is already suffering and feeling sad then that is MORE shameful.. what sort of person does it make us.

    I learned a lot in this post as always .. I will make sure I Stop before I use the term again.. THank you so much mam..

    Wishing you and family and everyone around you a very happy new year.. May all that you have dreamed comes true.. have a fantabulous New year

    Bikram’s

    1. Thanks Bikramjit for this thoughtful comment. I appreciate your sharing this perspective. Yes we do tend to get insensitive in this fast-paced life(style) of ours.
      Thanks for your warm wishes for the new year. I send you my greetings and best wishes for the new year and all the years ahead 🙂 Be well.

  11. You are so right Beloo, RIP has just become a quick way to convey condolences and I am guilty of that too though I believe or rather I know in the eternity of the soul. I prefer to say “be at peace”: but perhaps the soul has a period of rest too after a life on Earth.

  12. Yes Beloo your write-up is thought provoking but persons use words, proverbs most of the time habitually. I am afraid even when we are asked to observe 2 minutes silence etc. we become goody goody and follow it habitually without knowing its real value. Time has come to think, reflect and if possible go deep within at times. At least to make endeavour to do so but by the grace of cell phones we are accustomed to talk much and think less. Perhaps your writing in Face Book will usher us to ponder and think…

    1. I agree, Prabir da. So many times, rather most often, we say things without really being aware of what we are saying or why. It is all such habitual/unconscious social behaviour. I merely wanted to point out the problem with that kind of behaviour through this post, particularly as it applies to the situations when we hear of some sad news of someone’s passing. Thank you for visiting and for sharing your valuable comment. Always good to hear from you!

  13. I guess a lot of stuff on internet are said and done without any thought. People go by the flow… as you said without understanding the reason behind it. I feel strange when using RIP because I think sometimes it sounds insensitive. Just a three letter word to express sadness for something as intense as death. But that’s probably because like an acquired taste, it’s an ‘acquired’ word and I don’t fully understand the emotions/meaning behind it.

    1. I agree completely, so much of what is said on the net done pretty much in a thoughtless and mindless way. I wish it were not so, but then….oh well! I wish there was a way to develop something like ‘net-sincerity’ and ‘net-sensitivity’! Thanks for reading!

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