Last night I read the book, A Journey In Search of Inner Silence, written by my dear friend, Charles S. Perera. He was a retired lawyer in France when he joined my SariputtaDhamma Group. Right now, he's a serious meditator in Sri Lanka. I think his near death experience is very interesting. Please let me share the story with you all.
SILENCE IN A NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE
[written by Charles S. Perera]
My own Near Death Experience which I recount below left its indelible mark in my life:
I was the Troop Leader of the Scout Troop of my school, Christ Church College, Wattegama in Sri Lanka. Long after I had left school, my Scout Master P.I.George asked me whether I would like to come for a weekend camp with the Troop. I jumped at the idea as I had always loved the atmosphere of a Scout Camp, and besides George who was my teacher in Mathematics, was a good friend.
George was a Christian and a very friendly man always ready to help. He does not seem to rest, always coming up with plans to do some thing or other gathering his senior pupils around him. May be it was because he was feeling lonely away from his family in Travancore in India.
It was a Sunday. We set up the Scout Camp besides a river. It was convenient and solved the problem of carrying water from far. The river was shallow and it was also going to be our “ground” for recreation. That memorable Sunday morning the Scout Master suggested that we play water-polo, and held before us a tennis ball. That was how we found ourselves taking our places in the apparently shallow river that cold morning. I was the only one in the troop who could not swim; I was therefore given a safer place on the shallow sandy edge of the river close to the bank.
The Scout Master blew the whistle to begin the game. The tennis ball was being passed from one to the other and I saw it coming towards me. As I jumped forward to catch it I stumbled, missed the ball and went off-balance. The sand under my feet was shifting. I was unable to recover my balance. I was helplessly struggling to find a foot hold, when I realised I was going down into the water. With intense fear my only hope was to call for help. My desperate struggle took me deeper into the water. Suddenly I felt myself rising up and my head bobbed over the surface. I could see the other scouts looking my way and I frantically waved my hand and opened my mouth to shout for help. But no words came out of my mouth which instead got filled with water.
I was suffocating, unable to breathe. My efforts to breathe only let in more water through my nose and mouth. I was going under the water again. Then I lost consciousness of the effort I was making to live, but became aware of a silent quietude. The water around me was lukewarm and comfortable. I was quite alert- not to sounds, because it was absolutely silent. I seemed to be floating in space unaware even of water around me. I “perceived” the inside of a long “building” – a lighted space without any sharp ends. Its “walls “, the “ floor” and the “ceiling “were all clean white with pine wood coffins on either side at regular intervals, with a candle at the end of each coffin.
It was not with eyes that I was «seeing". It was being conscious, or being aware. The far end of the “building” merged into a bright white glow. The yellow flames of the candles stood straight without a flicker. Nothing stirred. It was a comforting silence. I was sort of folded up, like a naked foetus floating in space. There was no one anywhere to be seen. It was silent, serene, and calm. The whole place was bathed in a white “light”, not the bright light of the sun, more like the soft light of a fluorescent lamp.
There was neither sadness nor fear. But I was thinking, not in the conceptual sense of the word thinking, but sort of sensing, being aware or having impulsions wondering how George was going to cope with the situation and answer the questions of the police, what he might say to my mother, brothers and sisters who I could “see around him”. “I” was an indifferent spectator.
Then everything faded away. It may have been a few minutes or more after I slipped down the sandy bank . I had no notion of time. I was feeling very cold.
As I slowly opened my eyes I saw the blurred image of a face which I recognize as that of George looking anxiously at me , behind him were the faces of my friends. Rasu was the first to speak “welcome back” Charles he said showing his white even set of teeth in a broad smile. I asked George where I was, feeling the sheet of cloth laid on the ground on which I was lying in my wet shorts. “take it easy” He said, “ you gave us a terrible fright” I remembered that we were playing water polo in the river and………….it was all coming back to me…
The words are inadequate to describe all that happened; for when I speak in the first person, it is merely to narrate the experience, for my body was inert. I had no sense of it. It was the mind that went through the experience............
It must have been a great relief to everyone when I came around while my brother scouts were putting into practical use their theoretical knowledge of life-saving exercises.
According to what I was told they were in the middle of the game and saw that I missed the ball and fell into the water. They thought that I was trying to pick up the ball. I had bobbed in and out of the water once or twice and then disappeared altogether, and it was then that the scout who was standing nearest to me Rasu realised that something was wrong. He called for help and dived in and "fished» me out with the help of others. They carried me senseless to the bank of the river and laid me down. Then they successfully brought me back to life. I had been unconscious and they were all frightened. It had taken them a long time to revive me.