“To die in Varanasi, on the river’s sacred banks, is to free oneself from samsar, the seemingly endless cycle of death and rebirth; it enables one to forgo further reincarnations and achieve moksha, or spiritual liberation.” – Jim Lo Scalzo, A place for the Dead and the Living, US News, November 16, 2007.
It’s no wonder that people come from near and far to spend the last days of their lives. Here they pray, wash away their sins, and die. Yes, I said “die.” In fact, each month, several thousand bodies are consumed by the fires that burn day in and day out in the cremation ghats or burning grounds.
After hearing of this place, and how richly filled it is with death and the dying, I knew that it would be difficult for me to witness. Yet also knew that I must come here. Although I did not know precisely the reason, I was acutely aware that there was a level of rebirth for me here in all of this death. Another level of healing to be worked.