aparānta-jñāna

(‘knowledge of the little end, i.e., death’)

Hinduism advocates a cyclic theory of creation. Sṛṣṭi (creation), sthiti (preservation or sustenance) and pralaya (dissolution) go on in a cyclic order eternally. Pralaya or dissolution of the created universe is also called ‘parānta,’ ‘the great end.’ Compared to this, dissolution or death of the body of an individual is ‘aparānta,’ ‘the little end.’ Aparāntajñāna is thus the knowledge of one’s death.

Can one get it in advance? If so, how? This interesting question has been answered by Patañjali (200 B. C.) in his celebrated work, the Yogasūtras (3.22). If a yogi succeeds in attaining samādhi (perfect concentration culminating in superconscious experience) on the karma that has brought him into being in the present life, he can intuitively perceive when it will come to an end. This can give him a direct knowledge of the time, place and mode of his death.

The yogi can obtain the same know-ledge even without samādhi on his karma, just by observing the ariṣṭas (portentous phenomena) like not hearing the usual internal sound when the ears are closed, or seeing the dead ancestors or supernatural beings. Though these ariṣṭas can be perceived even by ordinary people, it is only the yogi that can interpret them rightly and draw correct conclusions.