For any culture which is primarily concerned with meaning, the study of death – the only certainty that life holds for us – must be central, for an understanding of death is the key to liberation in life.
Death is the only certainty in life and nothing else defines us like this very fact — we are sentient beings living in time, on a journey towards death. That’s why we have to deal with it. Unlike the animals that „hear about death for the first time when they die“, we stepped out of the continuum and now we have to find our position again.
The concept of death is a fundamental subject of Arthur Schopenhauer’s philosophy that is deeply inspired by Vedantic and Buddhist thinkers. I’ve only read one book of him and it immediately became very dear to me, a big favorite despite its very small size. It’s called ‘Über den Tod’￼ (On Death) and contains chapter 41 of his major work ‘The World as Will and Representation’. Schopenhauer interprets death as the aim and purpose of life and the origin of all philosophy. He maintains that to live is to suffer, that the triumph of death is inevitable, and that existence is a constant dying. Yet death is not complete annihilation. But he doesn’t provide you with promises of salvation. His reflections don’t leave much room for heavenly fantasies but are rather a masterpiece in rigorous logical thinking. For some this conclusions might feel pessimistic, but I find enough to feel at home in this existence.