Does the being, or self, in the person die with the death of the person; or does it live beyond death in another body?
The question is a little complicated.
First you have to understand that your personality is not your reality; it is given by the culture, by the society.
Individuality is yours, but personality is not yours.
As personality you are always dead; only as individuality are you alive. But to be an individual you have to rebel against personality and against all those people who are forcing a certain personality on you.
Each child is born with a certain potential to be – and each society tries to make him something else.
I have heard about a man who was celebrating the golden jubilee of his marriage. All his friends, relatives, acquaintances, had gathered. There was much joy, laughter. But suddenly they realized that the man was missing. They could not understand where he had gone. They looked in the garden and he was sitting in the shadows, in darkness, by the side of a tree, very sad.
His friends said, “This is strange. You have called all of us to celebrate, and you are sitting here in such sadness as if somebody has died! What is the problem?”
He said, “The problem is… This woman that I married has tortured me so much that twenty-five years ago I enquired of my attorney, ‘If I shoot her what will be the result?’ and he said, ‘Are you mad? If you shoot her you will get twenty-five years in jail!’ I am feeling sad because today I would have been free. That idiot attorney has died; otherwise I would have killed him! He made me afraid.”
A man has to live with a woman he does not love, which is simply misery. A woman has to live with a man… which is simply misery, hell. A man has to work in a certain profession he hates. Everybody becomes something that he does not like. This is your personality. Society distracts everybody from his natural individuality and makes him something other than he was destined to be.
So the first thing to be understood is that you are not a person, you are not a personality. The word ‘person’ comes from Greek drama. In Greek drama the actors used masks, and the mask… you could not see the person’s real face; you could only hear his sound. Sona means sound. Persona means you don’t know who is speaking; you just hear the sound, the face is missing. The word ‘personality’ comes from that Greek drama.
Everybody is wearing a mask. You can hear the sound but you can’t see the face; you can’t see the individual. So the first thing: you are not a ‘person’. If you are a person, you are already dead. If you are only a personality, you have dragged yourself from the cradle to the grave but you never lived. You live only when you are an individuality – when you assert yourself against every tradition, every religion, every past that wants you to be someone other than existence wants you to be. Then you live.
Again I am reminded: a great surgeon I used to know – perhaps he was the most famous surgeon in India – was retiring, and all his friends, his colleagues, had given him a party, a farewell party, but he was very sad. I asked him, “Why are you sad? You should be happy: you are the topmost surgeon in the whole country.”
He said, “You don’t understand. I never wanted to become a surgeon in the first place, so who cares that I am the topmost surgeon? I hate to hear that! I wanted to become a musician, but my parents forced me to become a surgeon – against my will I became a surgeon. By chance I became the topmost surgeon; perhaps I would not have been able to become the topmost musician. I am rich, I have everything, I have respectability, but that does not help me to be happy.
“Even if I had remained a beggar, as a musician I would have been blissful because I would have been myself. This surgeon seems to be somebody else; it is a role that I have played, but it is not me. These people are celebrating, and I am crying within myself that my whole life is lost.”
So first, you are not a ‘person’; otherwise you are dead before death. And there are millions of people who die thirty, forty, or fifty years before they actually die. You are an individual, and only individuality is capable of knowing your real self. Personality has no self – only an ego, as false as personality. Individuality has a self, a soul. The individual is a living principle of life.
If you know life you will never ask this kind of question. Knowing life authentically means you also know that it is immortal. The knowledge of its immortality is intrinsic. It is not something informed, from outside. Just living your true being in totality you slowly, slowly become aware of the immortal current of life within you. You know the body will die, but this soul, which is life’s whole essence, cannot die.
In existence nothing is destructible.
And it is not something to believe in, it is a scientific truth that you cannot destroy anything. You cannot destroy even a small piece of stone. Whatever you do it will remain in some form or other.
Science enquires into the objective world and finds that even objective reality is immortal. Religion works exactly like science in the inner world and finds the dancing life is intrinsically immortal.
It will be good to remember Socrates at this point because he was not a man to believe anything. If you had asked him whether your soul would survive after bodily death he would say, “Let me first die – because unless I die, how can I say?” And the day he was given poison is one of the most significant days in the history of man. His disciples were sitting around him and he was lying down. He told his disciples, “I will tell you what is happening. As long as I can, I will go on informing you.”
Then he said, “Up to my knees, my legs are dead. Please somebody pinch my legs so I can know whether I can feel it or not.” Somebody pinched his legs. He said, “I cannot feel it; the legs have died. But remember one thing: I am as alive as I ever was. The death of the legs has not cut a part of my life; my life is as whole as it ever was.” Then all of the legs became dead, half of the body. And he said, “Half of my body is dead, but I am whole, as whole as ever.”
Then his hands became dead and he said, “I am still here and I am still whole. Perhaps now my heart will stop, but I can say to you that even though I may not be able to inform you, I will remain, because if all these parts are gone and I am whole, then it doesn’t matter: the heart is only a part.”
And when he died his face was so delighted, so joyous, that Plato, his disciple, remembers, “We have never seen his face so full of light, so radiant. Perhaps the last moment when the soul is leaving the body is just like the sunset when the sun is going down and the whole sky becomes so beautiful and radiant.”
It is not a question of belief. I am not a believer in anything, so I will not say to you to believe me that the soul is immortal. But it is my experience that it is immortal because I can remember my past lives, and that is a solid proof that there are going to be future lives. I can teach you techniques for remembering past lives and that will become a solid proof for you that you have a future. You have an eternity of past and an eternity of future.
You have always been here and you will always be here.
But first drop your fake personality.
Grow into your authentic individuality.
Live the way existence wanted you to live. Your very life should be so intense and so total that you burn your life’s torch from both ends. In that very intensity you will know that you have touched something of eternity. And if you have known it in your life, in your death you will find a deeper confirmation of the fact.
People who live in personality always die unconscious. They have never lived. They don’t know what consciousness is, so before death they become unconscious. That’s why we don’t remember our past lives. You were unconscious, and death happened in your unconsciousness.
But if you live consciously, as an individual, then you will die consciously, the way Socrates is dying – so conscious to the last breath. And this memory will be with you in the next life too.
In the East there are three great religions: Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism. They disagree on every point – their philosophies are different about everything – but on one point they agree, and that is the eternal existence of the soul, because it is not a question of theoretical discussion, it is a question of existential experience. You can’t disagree about it – it is exactly so.
Against these three religions in the East, outside of India there are three religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Mohammedanism. They all believe in one life, and that simply shows their poverty. They have not explored deeply enough to find past lives, and they cannot guarantee anything about the future. These three religions born outside India are superficial. Their work is not in-depth research.
But in India for ten thousand years thousands of people have entered into self-realization and have found that there is some light that remains forever. It goes on moving from one body to another body but is indestructible.
I will not tell you to believe it; I will only tell you to experiment. I am against all beliefs, because every belief destroys you, destroys your thinking. I am in favor of experimenting, and there are techniques available.
That has been my whole life’s work – to make those techniques available to anybody who really wants to search and to find, to one who is not only a curious person but is a seeker who is ready to risk everything for the search. And it is a search for which you need to risk everything because you are going to find the greatest treasure.
From The Path of the Mystic, Chapter One
Copyright© OSHO International Foundation