Death is destiny. It has to be so because it is the origin – you come from death and you go to death. Life is just a moment between two nothingnesses, just a flight of a bird between two states of non-being.
If death is destiny, as it is, then the whole of life becomes a preparation, a training for it – a discipline in how to die rightly and how to die totally and utterly. The whole of life consists in learning how to die. But somehow a wrong conception about death has entered humanity, the conception that death is the enemy. This is the basis of all wrong conceptions, and this is the basis of humanity going astray from the eternal law, from Tao. How has this happened? It has to be understood.
Man has taken death as the enemy of life, as if death is there to destroy life, as if death is against life. If this is the conception then of course you have to fight death, and life becomes an effort to survive death. Then you are fighting against your own origin, you are fighting against your destiny, you are fighting against something which is going to happen. The whole fight is absurd because death cannot be avoided.
If it were something outside you it could be avoided, but it is inside. You carry it from the very moment you are born. You start dying really when you start breathing, at the same moment. It is not right to say that death comes in the end, it has always been with you from the very beginning. It is part of you, it is your innermost center, it grows with you, and one day it comes to a culmination, one day it comes to flowering. The day of death is not the day of death’s coming, it is the flowering. Death was growing within you all this time, now it has reached a peak; and once death reaches a peak you disappear back into the origin.
But man has taken a wrong attitude and that wrong attitude creates struggle, fight, violence. A man who thinks that death is against life can never be non-violent. It is impossible. A man who thinks that death is the enemy can never be at ease, at home. That is impossible. How can you be at ease when the enemy is waiting for you any moment? It will jump on you and destroy you. And the shadow of death is always falling on you? It can happen any moment. How can you rest when death is there? How can you relax? The enemy won’t allow you to relax.
Hence the tension, the anxiety, the anguish of humanity. The more you fight with death, the more anxiety-ridden you will become, you are bound to become. It is a natural consequence. If you fight with death you know that you are going to be defeated. How can you be happy with a life which is going to end in defeat? You know that whatsoever effort you make, nothing is going to succeed against death. Deep down you are certain about only one thing and that is death. In life everything else is uncertain, only death is certain. There is only one certainty, and in that certainty you have an enemy. Fighting with certainty and hoping for uncertainties how can you be in a repose? How can you be relaxed, calm, collected? Impossible.
People come to me and they say they would like to be at peace, they would like to be at home in the world, they would like to be silent, they need a certain relaxation. But I look into their eyes and the fear of death is there. Maybe they are just trying to be relaxed to fight against death more easily; maybe they are trying to find a repose so that they can become stronger against death. But if death is there how can you be relaxed, silent, at peace, at home? If death is the enemy, then basically the whole of life becomes your enemy. Then every moment, everywhere, the shadow falls; then every moment, from everywhere, death echoes. The whole life becomes inimical, and you start fighting.
The whole concept of the Western mind is to fight to survive. They say, ‘survival of the fittest’, ‘life is a struggle’. Why is it a struggle? It is a struggle because death is taken as the opposite. Once you understand that death is not the opposite of life but part of it, an intrinsic part of it, which can never be separated from it – once you accept death as a friend, suddenly a transformation happens. You are transfigured, your vision now has a new quality in it. Now there is no fight, no war, you are not fighting against anybody, now you can relax, now you can be at home. Once death becomes a friend only then does life become a friend also. This may look paradoxical but it is so, only the appearance is paradoxical. If death is the enemy, then deep down life is also the enemy, because life leads to death.
Every type of life leads to death – the poor man’s life, the rich man’s life, a life of success and a life of failure, the life of the wise man and the life of an ignorant one, the life of a sinner and a saint.
All sorts of lives, whatsoever their differences, lead to death. How can you be in love with life if you are against death? Then your love is just nothing but a possessiveness, your love is nothing but a clinging. Against death you cling to life, but you can understand that this very life is bringing death nearer every day. So you are doomed, all your efforts are doomed. And then anxiety arises, the whole being trembles. You live in a trembling and then you become violent and mad. In the West the proportion of mad people is much higher than in the East. The reason is clear.
The West takes death against life but the East has a totally different standpoint – life and death are one, two faces of the same phenomenon. Once you accept death many things are immediately accepted. In fact if you accept death as part of life, then all other enemies are also accepted as part of friendship because the basic duality dissolves, the duality of life and death, being and non-being. If the basic duality is resolved, then all other dualities are just superficial, they dissolve. Suddenly you are at home – eyes are clear, no smoke is in them, perception is absolutely clear, and no darkness is around.
But why, why has it happened in the West? And it is happening in the East also because the East is turning more Western every day. In all education, in scientific attitudes the East is no longer purely Eastern, it is already contaminated. The East is now also becoming anxious, afraid. Have you observed that in the West there is much time consciousness but in the East it is not so much, and even if it is, it is only in the cultured, educated parts? If you move to the villages there is no time consciousness. In fact, time consciousness is death consciousness: when you are afraid of death then time is short. With so many things to do and so little time given, you are conscious of every second passing. Life is being shortened so you are tense, running around, doing many things, trying to enjoy the whole of it, running from one place to another, one enjoyment to another – and enjoying nothing because you are so time conscious.
In the East people are not so time conscious because they have accepted life. You may not be aware that in India we have named death as time. We call death kal, and we also call time kal; kal means time and kal means death as well. To use the same word for both means a very deep understanding, it is very meaningful. Time is death, death is time: the more death conscious you are, the more time conscious you will be, the less death conscious, the less time conscious. Then there is no question of time. If you have completely absorbed death into life time consciousness simply disappears. Why in the West and now in the East is there so much anxiety about death, somuch so, that life cannot be enjoyed at all?
Living in a timeless world rocks are more happy than man; living in a world where death is not known the trees are more blissful than man; not that they don’t die, but death is not known. Animals happy, celebrating, birds singing, the whole existence except man is blissfully unaware of death. Only man is aware of death and that creates all the other problems; that is the source problem, the basic rift.
It should not be so because man is the highest, the most refined, the peak of existence – why should it be so with man? Whenever you attain to a peak, almost side by side the valley becomes deeper. A high peak can exist only with a deep valley. For rocks there is no unhappiness, no valley part, because their happiness is also on the plain ground. Man is a peak, he has risen high, but because of this rise, side by side there is a depth, a valley. You look down and you feel nauseous, you look down and you feel afraid. The valley is part of the peak. The valley cannot exist without the peak and the peak cannot exist without the valley, they are together, they are a togetherness. But a man standing at the height of the peak looks down and feels nauseous, giddy, afraid, fearful.
Man is conscious – that is where the whole trouble lies.
Consciousness is a two-edged sword; it cuts both ways. It can make you so utterly happy that that type of happiness is not known anywhere in existence; it can make you so unhappy and miserable that that type of unhappiness is also not known anywhere else in the world. Man is a double possibility; by being conscious two roads suddenly open before him.
Consciousness can become a blessing, but it can become a curse also. Every blessing comes with a curse. The problem is that it depends on you how you choose. Let me explain it to you, then we can enter the sutra easily.
Man is conscious. The moment man becomes conscious he becomes conscious of the end also – that he is going to die. He becomes conscious of tomorrow, conscious of time, conscious of the passing of time – then sooner or later the end will come near. The more he becomes conscious, the more death becomes a problem, the only problem. How to avoid it? This is using consciousness in a wrong way. It is just as if you have given a child a telescope, and the child doesn’t know how to use it. He can look into the telescope from the wrong end.
Consciousness is a telescope; you can look through it from the wrong end. And the wrong end has some benefits of its own – that creates more trouble. Through the wrong end of the telescope you can see that many benefits are possible; in the short range many benefits are possible. People who are time conscious gain something in comparison to people who are not time conscious. People who are death conscious attain many things in comparison to those who are not death conscious. That’s why the West goes on accumulating material wealth and the East has remained poor. If you are not death conscious, who bothers?
People live moment to moment as if the tomorrow doesn’t exist. Who accumulates? For what? Today is so beautiful, why not celebrate it, and we will see about tomorrow when it comes.
In the West they have accumulated infinite wealth because they are so time conscious. They have reduced their whole life into things, material things – skyscrapers. They have attained much wealth… that is the benefit of looking from the wrong end. They can see only certain things which are close, short-range, they cannot see farther away. Their eyes have become like those of a blind man who cannot see farther away. He looks at just whatsoever he can gather right now, without thinking that it may be at a very great cost in the end. In the long range this benefit may not prove a benefit. You can make a big house, but by the time it is built you are ready to go; you couldn’t live in it at all. You could have lived in a small house beautifully, even a cottage would have done, but you thought that you would live in a palace. Now the palace is ready but the man is gone. He is not there.
People accumulate wealth at the cost of their own self. Finally, eventually, one day, they become aware that they have lost themselves and that they have purchased useless things. The cost was great, but now nothing can be done, the time is past.
If you are time conscious you will be mad about accumulating things, you will transform your whole life energy into things. A man who is conscious of the whole range will enjoy this moment as much as he can. He will float. He will not bother about the tomorrow because he knows tomorrow never comes. He knows deeply that finally only one thing has to be attained – that is one’s own self.
Live, and live so totally that you come in contact with yourself…. And there is no other way to come in contact with yourself. The deeper you live, the deeper you know yourself, in relationship, in aloneness. The deeper you move in relationship, in love, the deeper you know. Love becomes a mirror. And one who has never loved cannot be alone, he can at the most be lonely.
One who has loved and known a relationship, can be alone. Now his aloneness has a totally different quality to it, it is not loneliness. He has lived in a relationship, fulfilled his love, known the other, and known himself through the other. Now he can know himself directly, now the mirror is not needed.
Just think of someone who has never come across a mirror. Can he close his eyes and see his face? Impossible. He cannot even imagine his face, he cannot meditate on it. But a man who has come to a mirror, looked into it, known his face through it, can close his eyes and see the face inside. That’s what happens in relationship. When a person moves into a relationship, the relationship mirrors, reflects himself, and he comes to know many things that he never knew existed in him.
Through the other he comes to know his anger, his greed, his jealousy, his possessiveness, his compassion, his love, and thousands of moods of his being. Many climates he encounters through the other. By and by a moment comes when he can now be alone; he can close his eyes and know his own consciousness directly. That’s why I say that for people who have never loved meditation is very, very difficult.
Those who have loved deeply can become deep meditators; those who have loved in a relationship are now in a position to be by themselves. Now they have become mature, now the other is not needed. If the other is there they can share, but the need has disappeared; now there is no dependence.
Consciousness becomes conscious of death in the end. If consciousness becomes conscious of death in the end a fear arises. That fear creates a continuous escaping within you. Then you are escaping from life; wherever there is life you are escaping because wherever there is life a hint, a glimpse of death comes. People who are too afraid of death never fall in love with persons, they fall in love with things – things never die because they have never lived.
You can have things for ever and ever and, moreover, they are replaceable. If one car goes you can replace it by another car of exactly the same make. But you cannot replace a person – if your wife dies, she dies for ever. You can have another wife but no other woman will ever replace her – for good or for bad, no other woman can be the same woman. If your child dies you can adopt another, but no adopted child will have the same quality of relationship that your own child can have. The wound remains, it cannot be healed. People who are too afraid of death become afraid of life. Then they accumulate things: a big palace, a big car, millions of dollars, rupees, this and that, things which are deathless. A rupee is more deathless than a rose. They are not bothered about roses, they only go on accumulating rupees.
A rupee never dies, it is almost immortal, but a rose…. In the morning it was alive and by the evening it is no more. They become afraid of roses, they don’t look at them. Or sometimes, if the desire arises, they purchase plastic flowers. They are good. You can be at ease with plastic flowers because they give a sense of immortality. They can be there forever and forever and forever. A real rose – in the morning it is so alive, by the evening it is gone, the petals have settled on the soil, it has returned to the same source. From the earth it comes, flowers a while, and sends its fragrance to the whole of existence. Then mission done, message given, it falls silently back to the earth and disappears with not a single tear, with no struggle. Have you seen petals falling down onto the earth from a flower? How beautifully and gracefully they fall, with no clinging; for not even a single moment do they try to cling. A breeze just comes and the whole flower has gone to the earth, returned to the source.
A man who is afraid of death will be afraid of life; will be afraid of love, because love is a flower – love is not a rupee. A man who is afraid of life may get married but he will never fall in love. Marriage is like a rupee, love is like a rose flower. It is there, it may not be there, but you cannot be certain about it, it has no legal immortality about it. A marriage is something to cling to, it has a certificate, a court behind it. It has the force of the police and the president behind it and they will all come if something goes wrong.
But with love…. There is the force of roses of course, but roses are not policemen, they are not presidents, they cannot protect.
Love comes and goes, marriage simply comes. It is a dead phenomenon, it is an institution. It is simply unbelievable that people like to live in institutions. Afraid, afraid of death, they have killed all possibilities of death from everywhere. They are creating an illusion around them that everything is going to stay as it is. Everything is secure and safe. Hidden behind this security they feel a certain security, but that is foolish, stupid. Nothing can save them; death will come and knock at their doors and they will die.
Consciousness can take two views. One is to be afraid of life because through life comes death.
Another is to love life so deeply that you start loving death also, because it is the innermost core of it. The first attitude comes from thinking; the second attitude comes from meditation. The first attitude comes from too many thoughts, the second attitude comes from a thought-less mind, from a no-mind. Consciousness can be reduced to thoughts; thoughts can be melted down again into consciousness.
Just think of a river in cold winter. When icebergs start appearing certain parts of the water are now frozen. Then more cold comes, the temperature falls below zero and the whole river is frozen. Now there is no movement, no flow. Consciousness is a river, a stream – with more thoughts, the stream is frozen. If there are so many thoughts, so many ‘thought-hindrances’, there is no possibility of any flow. Then the river is completely frozen. You are already dead.
But if the river is completely flowing, if you melt down the icebergs, if you melt down all that has frozen, all the thoughts…. That is what meditation is all about: it is an effort to defreeze all thoughts. They can be converted again into consciousness. Then the river flows, then the river has a flow to it, and alive, vibrant, dancing, it moves toward the sea. Why do people like to be frozen? Because a frozen river cannot move to the sea. Sea means death. The river will disappear, disappear forever, it will become one with the infinite, it will not be any longer an individual. It will not have its own name: the Ganges will not be Ganges then, the Volga will not be Volga. They disappear into the uncharted.
If the mind is afraid, it becomes a whirlwind of thoughts. If you are too much of a thinking man, continuously thinking from morning to evening, from evening to morning, in the day, thoughts and thoughts and thoughts, in the night, dreams and dreams and dreams – your river is frozen. That too is part of fear: your river is so frozen that you cannot move, so the ocean remains far away. If you move, you will fall into the ocean.
Meditation is an effort to defreeze you. Thoughts by and by melt like snow, become flowing again, and mind becomes a stream. Now nothing hinders it, it moves unhindered towards the sea.
If consciousness becomes meditative then you accept death, then death is nothing apart, it is you. Then you accept death as repose; then you accept death as a final relaxation; then you accept death as a retirement. You retire. The whole day you have worked hard, in the evening you come home, and then you go to sleep, you retire. Life is like the day, death is like the night. Again you will come; many mornings will come, in different forms you will be here again and again and again, until the absolute death happens. That absolute death is for those who have become absolutely without thoughts. It is for those who have known absolutely that death and life are two aspects of the same coin, who are now no longer afraid of death – have not even a slight fear – and who are now no longer attached to life.
So there are two stages of the final disappearance. The first one is not to be afraid of death. And once you are not afraid of death the second step is not to have any deep lust for life. Then you go beyond.
And Lao Tzu said this is the eternal law – to know it is to be enlightened, not to know it is to court disaster.
From Living Tao, Discourse #1 (Originally Titled Tao: The Three Treasures,V.2)
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