Halloween- what better time to tell the story of Savasana, corpse pose.
There was a king named Parikshit Maharaj who was a wise and just ruler and who took good care of his subjects. He was out riding in the woods one day and became thirsty so he stopped at the hermitage of the sage Shamika Rishi to see if he could get some water. However, the sage was in a deep meditation at the time and didn’t hear the request. Parikshit Maharaj was annoyed by this and threw a dead snake around his neck. The sage’s son happened along at that time and was furious at how the king insulted his father. He cursed Parkishit with death in seven days from a snake bite.
When Shamika Rishi came out of his meditation and found out what had transpired he rebuked his son for cursing an honorable king for something he felt was a slight offense. But once the curse had been spoken it couldn’t be undone.
King Parikshit accepted his fate. He went home and gave up his throne and then traveled to the banks of the Ganges where several sages had gathered to meditate and discuss spirituality. The king asked the sages to teach him about the science of yoga.
Sukadeva, the son of Visya who had compiled the entire Vedic literature, was a 16 year old sage and already self-realized. He taught the king about yoga. During the teachings the king listened intently, not even breaking for food and water saying that divine knowledge was enough to satisfy his hunger and thirst. After seven days of intense teachings, the king achieved self-realization so when the time came for his physical death he welcomed it.
Parikshit Maharaj knew exactly when his death was coming and instead of spending his final days in hedonistic bliss he chose to use the time to learn and become okay with dying. He was really quite fortunate to know when his death would happen. We’re all dying; we simply don’t know when it will happen. Sometimes this allows us to live with an illusion (maya) that we will live forever. Being aware of death doesn’t make us morbid and doesn’t need to make us afraid. It can bring about more joy as we choose to live our lives fully, knowing that it will end. Savasana, corpse pose, represents the surrender to death but also the surrender to the unknown, the foreign, to the changes that we need in our lives. It asks that we let go of our efforts and just allow the Divine to work through us.