Often the fear of death comes up, intense and strong, and the fear of having to leave all this beauty, this friendship and love. How is it possible to relax in this certainty of death?
First, it is possible to relax only when death is a certainty. Relaxing is difficult when things are uncertain. If you know that you are going to die today, all fear of death will disappear. What is the point of wasting time? You have one day to live: live as intensely as possible, live as totally as possible.
Death may not come. Death cannot come to people who live very intensely and very totally. And even if it comes, those people who have lived totally, welcome it because it is a great relief. They are tired of living, they lived so totally and so intensely, so death comes like a friend. Just as after the whole day’s hard work night comes as a great relaxation, as a beautiful sleep, so does death come after life. Death has nothing ugly about it; you cannot find anything cleaner.
Death is already happening. Whether you face it or not, whether you look at it or not, it is already there. It is just like breathing. When a child is born, he inhales. He breathes in for the first time. That is the beginning of life. And when one day he becomes old, dies, he will exhale.
Death always happens with exhalation and birth with inhalation. But exhalation and inhalation are happening continuously. With each inhalation you are born; with each exhalation you die.
So the first thing to understand is that death is not somewhere in the future, waiting for you, as it has been always pictured. It is part of life; it is an ongoing process-not in the future, here, now.
Life and death are two aspects of existence. simultaneously happening together.
“It happened that a Zen master was invited as a guest. A few friends had gathered and they were eating and talking when suddenly there was an earthquake. The building that they were sitting in was a seven story building, and they were on the seventh story so life was in danger. Everybody tried to escape. The host, running by, looked to see what had happened to the master. He was there with not even a ripple of anxiety on his face.
With closed eyes he was sitting on his chair as he had been sitting before.
The host felt a little guilty, he felt a little cowardly; it does not look good that a guest is sitting there and the host is running away. The others, the other twenty guests, had already gone down the stairs but he stopped himself although he was trembling with fear, and he sat down by the side of the master.
The earthquake came and went, the master opened the eyes and started his conversation which because of the earthquake he had had to stop. He continued again at exactly the same sentence – as if the earthquake had not happened at all.
The host was now in no mood to listen, he was in no mood to understand because his whole being was so troubled and he was so afraid. Even though the earthquake had gone, the fear was still there. He said: Now don’t say anything because I will not be able to grasp it, I’m not myself anymore. The earthquake has disturbed me too much. But there is one question I would like to ask. All other guests had escaped, I was also on the stairs, almost running, when suddenly I remembered you. Seeing you sitting here with closed eyes, sitting so undisturbed, so unperturbed, I felt a little cowardly – I am the host, I should not run. So I came back and I have been sitting by your side. I would like to ask one question. We all tried to escape. What happened to you? What do you say about the earthquake?
The master said:
I also escaped, but you escaped outwardly, I escaped inwardly.
Your escape is useless because wherever you are going there too is an earthquake, so it is meaningless, it makes no sense. You may reach the sixth story or the fifth or the fourth, but there too is an earthquake. I escaped to a point within me where no earthquake ever reaches, cannot reach. I entered my center.
This is what Lao Tzu says, hold firm to the basis of quietude. If you are passive by and by you will become aware of the center within you. You have carried it all along, it has always been there, only you don’t know it, you are not alert. Once you become alert about it the whole of life becomes different.
You can remain in the world and out of it because you are always in touch with your center.
You can move in an earthquake and be unperturbed because nothing touches you.
In Zen they have a saying that a Zen master who has attained to his inner center can pass through a stream, but the water never touches his feet. It is beautiful. It is not to say that the water never touches his feet – the water will touch them – it is to say something about the world within, the beyond within. Nothing touches it, everything remains outside on the periphery, and the center remains untouched, pure, innocent, virgin.”
“Death is always close by. It is almost like your shadow. You may be aware, you may not be aware, but it follows you from the first moment of your life to the very last moment. Death is a process just as life is a process, and they are almost together, like two wheels of a bullock cart. Life cannot exist without death; neither can death exist without life.
Our minds have an insane desire:
we want only life and not death
We don’t look at the existential truth, we always cling to our own insane desire. Any desire that goes against nature is insane. And this desire is in almost every living creature, not only human beings. Even the trees are afraid of death, but trees can be forgiven. They are not conscious beings, they are only unconscious — fast asleep.
But you are a little bit awake: you can sense the presence of death. Hence the possibility opens for a deeper understanding, that life and death are all together, two extremes of one energy. Life is the active force and death is the inactive force. Life is the positive electricity and death is the negative electricity, but they cannot be separated.
You are saying, “When I was coming for discourse, my heart was trembling with fear; I felt as if I was going to die.” Those who are aware are aware that death is possible at any moment — the very next moment and you may be gone. This awareness is going to help you to live this moment as deeply as possible, because death can cut your roots without informing you, without any previous intimation that, “I am coming.” It simply comes. You know only when it has happened. But it is not the greatest misery. The greatest misery is that when there was the chance and the opportunity, you did not live — you went on postponing.
Life is an opportunity –
death is the end of the rope
If you understand death your life will become intense and total. But instead of understanding death, you become overwhelmed by it. Hence the heart starts trembling with fear. And fear is not going to help at all, fear is going to cloud your mind even more. Out of fear, there has never been any understanding.
So whenever you feel fear, it is a tremendous opportunity to understand that life is momentary, it is ephemeral, it is made of the same stuff as dreams are made of. How real the dream looks when you are asleep — in fact, more real than your experiences when you are awake. You may have never thought about it, but while you are awake you can doubt: “Perhaps what I am seeing may be just a dream.” I may be a dream, you may be a dream, this whole communion may be happening just as a dream. Soon you will be awake and you will find, “My God! It was just a dream.”
Have you ever doubted death?
There is a possibility when you are awake to suspect, to doubt the reality that surrounds you. But when you are asleep, you cannot even doubt the existence of the dream. It is so real, it is more real than reality. Have you ever doubted any dream, thinking that perhaps what you are seeing is a dream? The moment you doubt, you are awake, and the dream is immediately finished. The dream can remain there only if you are totally asleep, so deep that no doubt, no suspicion, can arise in you.
But to those who have understood both life and death as nothing but two aspects of one reality, the dream and the so-called reality of your waking consciousness are not basically different. Just as in the morning you wake up and the dream life is finished, one day in death you wake up into another reality and all that was real up to then — for seventy years — becomes just a dream. Not even a trace of it is left anywhere in your consciousness.
Death is a constant reminder that, “I can come any moment. Be prepared.” And what is the preparation? The preparation is: live life so totally, so intensely, be so aflame with it that when death comes there is no complaint, there is no grudge. You are absolutely ready because you have lived life so totally, you have known all its mysteries — there is no point in living anymore. Death has come exactly at the right time, when you may have thought to die yourself. I call that death perfect which comes at the moment when you yourself may have thought, “It is enough.”
Death – a welcomed guest
Death comes and you understand that life has been lived totally, so now there is no point to go on breathing and go on waking and sleeping unnecessarily — because nothing new is going to happen. Now everything is past and there is no future. In such a moment, death is a welcome guest. And unless you are ready to welcome death, know well that you have missed life. Those who feel sadness and fear about death are the people who have missed the train. But in our unconsciousness, we are all continuously missing the train. The train is moving every moment, just in front of you, but somehow you go on missing.”