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As per Bhagavad Gita 2.3: The soul cannot die. It can neither be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can it be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.
“nainam chindanti sastraninainam dahati pavakahna cainam kledayanty apona sosayati marutah”
As is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm is a Vedic saying. Our body is nothing but the collective consciousness of over 6 trillion cells, with each cell having a physical, subtle and a causal body. Each cell in the body is a mini human being and has a mind, intellect, ego and soul.
In each of these cells the cell division and programmed cell death (apoptosis) are organized and regulated. This is well described in Bhagavad Gita 2.27 “Death is certain for one who has been born, and rebirth is inevitable for one who has died. Therefore, you should not lament over the inevitable”. (“jātasya hi dhruvo mṛityur dhruvaṁ janma mṛitasya cha tasmād aparihārye ’rthe na tvaṁ śhochitum arhasi)
It further says in Chapter 2.28 that all created beings are unmanifest before birth, manifest in life, and again unmanifest on death. So why grieve? (“avyaktādīni bhūtāni vyakta-madhyāni bhārata; avyakta-nidhanānyeva tatra kā paridevanā”)
Therefore every cell in the body must die and be reborn for the body to grow and function. It takes 6 weeks for all liver cells to be replaced. Similarly, it takes 3 months for the bone, 5 days for stomach lines, one month for skin, and six weeks for the DNA to get replaced.
Bhagavad Gita 8.6 and 8.7 also point out that whatever you think at the time of death will decide your destiny. And, your last thought before sleep will depend on your everyday thoughts. The same is also described in Vedas as “Yad Bhavam Tad Bhavati” i.e. “Whatever you think, you become” or “You are what you think”.
Bhagavad Gita 8.6 says, “Whatever one remembers upon giving up the body at the time of death, one attains that state, being always absorbed in such contemplation.” (yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ; tyajaty ante kalevaram; taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya; sadā tad-bhāva-bhāvitaḥ”) and Bhagavad Gita 8.7 says, “Therefore, always remember Me and also do your duty of fighting the war. With mind and intellect surrendered to Me, you will definitely attain Me; of this, there is no doubt.” (“tasmāt sarveṣu kāleṣu; mām anusmara yudhya ca; mayy arpita-mano-buddhir; mām evaiṣyasy asaṁśayaḥ”)
Another similar common saying is “Jaisi Mati vaise gati” (जैसी मति वैसी गति) i.e. we act in accordance with our intellect, which will determine the outcome of our action, good or bad.
Bhagavad Gita also mentions that whatever will be your thoughts throughout your life will be your thoughts at the time of death. The same should be true for the cellular thoughts and death.
With every breath we take in, we are regenerating cells and with every breath out, we are losing cells due to apoptosis. In the developing vertebrate nervous system, for example, up to half or more of the nerve cells normally die soon after they are formed. In a healthy adult human, billions of cells die in the bone marrow and intestine every hour.
Cellular death can be natural or unnatural. Apoptosis and autophagy are the forms of programmed or natural cell death, while necrosis is the unnatural or un-programmed cell death caused by external factors such as trauma or infection. It is a non-physiological process.
So, every cell must live and die via apoptosis and then be reborn. If we apply the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita to the thinking cell, this would mean that the type of thought of the dying cell will also be the thought at the birth of the new cell.
We must live every moment of our life. If you live in the present, you lose the fear of the past and the anxiety of the future.
Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2.72: esa brahmi sthitih partha; nainam prapya vimuhyati; sthitvasyam anta-kale pi; brahma-nirvanam rcchati.
It says that even at the time of death one should be attached to the consciousness. At cellular level it would mean staying connected to the consciousness at every moment.
Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee
President Elect Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania (CMAAO)
Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications
President Heart Care Foundation of India
Past National President IMA