What I wish to say is that it is essential to see death, to understand it, to recognize it. But this is possible only when we die; one can only see it while dying. Then what is the way now? And if one sees death only while dying, then there is no way to understand it — because at the time of death one will be unconscious.
Yes, there is a way now. We can go through an experiment of entering into death of our own free will. And may I say that meditation or samadhi is nothing else but that. The experience of entering death voluntarily is meditation, samadhi. The phenomenon that will automatically occur one day with the dropping of the body — we can willingly make that happen by creating a distance, inside, between the self and the body. And so, by leaving the body from the inside, we can experience the event of death, we can experience the occurrence of death. We can experience death today, this evening — because the occurrence of death simply means that our soul and our body will experience, in that journey, the same distinction between the two of them as when the vehicle is left behind and the traveler moves on ahead.
I have heard that a man went to see a Mohammedan fakir, Sheikh Fareed, and said, “We have heard that when Mansoor’s hands and legs were cut off he felt no pain… which is hard to believe. Even a thorn hurts when it pricks the foot. Won’t it hurt if one’s hands and legs are cut off? It seems that these are all fantastic stories.” The man also said, “We hear that when Jesus was hanged on the cross he did not feel any pain. And he was permitted to say his final prayers. What the bleeding, naked Jesus — hanging on a cross, pierced with thorns, hands stuck with nails — said in the final moments can hardly be believed!”
Jesus said, “Forgive these people, they don’t know what they are doing.” You must have heard this sentence. And the people all over the world who believe in Christ repeat it continuously. The sentence is very simple. Jesus said, “O, Lord, please forgive these people, because they know not what they are doing.” Reading this sentence, people ordinarily understand Jesus is saying that the poor people didn’t know they were killing a good man like him. No, that was not what Jesus meant. What Jesus meant was that “These senseless people do not know that the person they are killing cannot die. Forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing. They are doing something which is impossible — they are committing the act of killing, which is impossible.”
The man said, “It is hard to believe that a person about to be killed could show so much compassion. In fact, he will be filled with anger.”
Fareed gave a hearty laugh and said, “You have raised a good question, but I will answer it later. First, do me a little favor.” He picked up a coconut lying nearby, gave it to him and asked him to break it open, cautioning him not to break the kernel.
But the coconut was unripe, so the man said, “Pardon me, I cannot do this. The coconut is completely raw, and if I break open the shell the kernel will break too.”
Fareed asked him to put that coconut away. Then he gave him another coconut, one which was dry, and asked him to break that one open. “Can you save the kernel of this one?” he asked.
And the man replied, “Yes, the kernel can be saved.”
Fareed said, “I have given you an answer. Did you understand?”
The man replied, “I didn’t understand anything. What relation is there between a coconut and your answer? What relation is there between the coconut and my question?”
Fareed said, “Put this coconut away too. There is no need to break it or anything. I am pointing out to you that there is one raw coconut which still has the kernel and the shell joined together — if you hit the shell, the kernel will also break. Then there is the dry coconut. Now how is the dry coconut different from the raw coconut? There is a slight difference: the kernel of the dry coconut has shrunk inside and become separated from the shell; a distance has occurred between the kernel and the shell. Now you say, even after breaking open the shell, the kernel can be saved. So I have answered your question!”
The man said, “I still don’t get it.” The fakir said, “Go, die and understand — without that you cannot follow what I am saying. But even then you will not be able to follow me because at the time of death you will become unconscious. One day the kernel and the shell will be separated, but at that moment you will become unconscious. If you want to understand, then start learning now how to separate the kernel from the shell — now, while you are alive.”
If the shell, the body, and the kernel, the consciousness, separate at this very instant, death is finished. With the creation of that distance, you come to know that the shell and the kernel are two separate things — that you will continue to survive in spite of the breaking of the shell, that there is no question of you breaking, of you disappearing. In that state, even though death will occur, it cannot penetrate inside you — it will occur outside you. It means only that which you are not will die. That which you are will survive.
This is the very meaning of meditation or samadhi: learning how to separate the shell from the kernel. They can be separated because they are separate. They can be known separately because they are separate. That’s why I call meditation a voluntary entry into death. And the man who enters death willingly, encounters it and comes to know that, “Death is there, and yet I am still here.”
From And Now and Here, Discourse #1
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