Why is the death of some people so painful to them? Is it due to their bad karma of past lives?
—Vernika gupta, India
Thank you for your question regarding pain at the time of death. Indeed all experience of pain, mental as well as physical, does have its origin in our past karma and it serves to balance the karmic ‘scale’ for some past wrong action either in this life or some earlier one. You can also think of these experiences as lessons for us to learn to progress toward soul freedom. This is the cosmic law. We pass the test and resolve the karma to the extent that we do not react to the situation creating more karma for ourselves. Whether this balancing comes at the time of death depends on the individual’s karma. Many deaths occur without pain and certainly physical pain ends as soon as the soul leaves the body. When suffering does come there is the question of ‘Who suffers?’ Really all suffering begins with self-involvement. For the yogi who can detach from identification with his body and its sensations there is no ‘suffering’ in his Soul Self. That is why the masters counsel us to offer all experiences including painful ones up to the Divine Presence at the point between the eyebrows. Yogananda advised ‘Forget yourself in love for God’. Then the person may say ‘my body has pain but in my Soul Self I am well, I am one with Thy Infinite Peace and Joy’. This is the way to release the karmic pattern. It is best to practice this self-offering now with whatever tests come to us in life and then when death approaches we are ready for the ‘final exam’.
If you or a loved one is approaching death encourage them to tune into God in whatever way is meaningful for them. God is beyond definition so there is no need to subscribe to some particular creed or form. Encourage the person to connect with the highest in them. As they offer up of their experiences whether physical or mental to this Divine Presence they will strengthen their connection and potentially dissolve karma. The higher purpose of suffering, if it comes, is to fan this longing for and connection with God which is the only true answer to all human need. God does not mind our troubles. He only minds our indifference.