When Rabbi Birnham lay dying,
His wife burst into tears.
He said, 'What are you crying for?
My whole life was only that I might learn how to die.'
LIFE IS IN LIVING. It is not a thing, it is a process. There is no way to attain to life except by living it, except by being alive, by flowing, streaming with it. If you are seeking the meaning of life in some dogma, in some philosophy, in some theology, that Is the sure way to miss life and meaning both.
Life is not somewhere waiting for you, it is happening in you. It is not in the future as a goal to be arrived at, it is herenow, this very moment -- in your breathing, circulating in your blood, beating in your heart. Whatsoever you are is your life, and if you start seeking meaning somewhere else, you will miss it. Man has done that for centuries.
Concepts have become very important, explanations have become very important -- and the real has been completely forgotten. We don't look to that which is already here, we want rationalisations.
I have heard a very beautiful story.
Some years ago a successful American had a serious identity crisis. He sought help from psychiatrists but nothing came of it, for there were none who could tell him the meaning of life -- which is what he wanted to know. By and by he learned of a venerable and incredibly wise guru who lived in a mysterious and most inaccessible region of the Himalayas. Only that guru, he came to believe, would tell him what life meant and what his role in it ought to be. So he sold all his worldly possessions and began his search for the all-knowing guru. He spent eight years wandering from village to village throughout the Himalayas in an effort to find him. And then one day he chanced upon a shepherd who told him where the guru lived and how to reach the place.
It took him almost a year to find him, but he eventually did. There he came upon his guru, who was indeed venerable, in fact well over one hundred years old. The guru consented to help him, especially when he learned of all the sacrifices the man had made towards this end. 'What can I do for you, my son?' asked the guru. 'I need to know the meaning of life,' said the man.
To this the guru replied, without hesitation, 'Life,' he said, 'is a river without end.' 'A river without end?' said the man in a startled surprise. 'After coming all this way to find you, all you have to tell me is that life is a river without end?'
The guru was shaken, shocked. He became very angry and he said, 'You mean it is not?'
Nobody can give you the meaning of your life. It is your life, the meaning has also to be yours. Himalayas won't help. Nobody except you can come upon it. It is your life and it is only accessible to you. Only in living will the mystery be revealed to you.
The first thing I would like to tell you is: don't seek it anywhere else. Don't seek it in me, don't seek it in scriptures, don't seek it in clever explanations -- they all explain away, they don't explain. They simply stuff your empty mind, they don't make you aware of what is. And the more the mind is stuffed with dead knowledge, the more dull and stupid you become. Knowledge makes people stupid; it dulls their sensitivity. It stuffs them, it becomes a weight on them, it strengthens their ego but it does not give light and it does not show them the way. It is not possible.
Life is already there bubbling within you. It can be contacted only there. The temple is not outside, you are the shrine of it. So the first thing to remember if you want to know what life is, is: never seek it without, never try to find out from somebody else. The meaning cannot be transferred that way. The greatest Masters have never said anything about life -- they have always thrown you back upon yourself.
The second thing to remember is: once you know what life is you will know what death is. Death is also part of the same process. Ordinarily we think death comes at the end, ordinarily we think death is against life, ordinarily we think death is the enemy, but death is not the enemy. And if you think of death as the enemy it simply shows that you have not been able to know what life is.
Death and life are two polarities of the same energy, of the same phenomenon -- the tide and the ebb, the day and the night, the summer and the winter. They are not separate and not opposites, not contraries; they are complementaries. Death is not the end of life; in fact, it is a completion of one life, the crescendo of one life, the climax, the finale. And once you know your life and its process, then you understand what death is.
Death is an organic, integral part of life, and it is very friendly to life. Without it life cannot exist. Life exists because of death; death gives the background. Death is, in fact, a process of renewal. And death happens each moment. The moment you breathe in and the moment you breathe out, both happen. Breathing in, life happens; breathing out, death happens. That's why when a child is born the first thing he does is breathe in, then life starts. And when an old man is dying, the last thing he does is breathe out, then life departs. Breathing out is death, breathing in is life -- they are like two wheels of a bullock cart. You live by breathing in as much as you live by breathing out. The breathing out is part of breathing in. You cannot breathe in if you stop breathing out. You cannot live if you stop dying. The man who has understood what his life is allows death to happen; he welcomes it. He dies each moment and each moment he is resurrected. His cross and his resurrection are continually happening as a process. He dies to the past each moment and he is born again and again into the future.
If you look into life you will be able to know what death is. If you understand what death is, only then are you able to understand what life is. They are organic. Ordinarily, out of fear, we have created a division. We think that life is good and death is bad. We think that life has to be desired and death is to be avoided. We think somehow we have to protect ourselves against death. This absurd idea creates endless miseries in our lives, because a person who protects himself against death becomes incapable of living. He is the person who is afraid of exhaling, then he cannot inhale and he is stuck. Then he simply drags; his life is no longer a flow, his life is no longer a river.
If you really want to live you have to be ready to die. Who is afraid of death in you? Is life afraid of death? It is not possible. How can life 4e afraid of its own integral process? Something else is afraid in you. The ego is afraid in you. Life and death are not opposites; ego and death are opposites. Life and death are not opposites; ego and life are opposites. Ego is against both life and death. The ego is afraid to live and the ego is afraid to die. It is afraid to live because each effort, each step towards life, brings death closer.
If you live you are coming closer to dying. The ego is afraid to die, hence it is afraid to live also. The ego simply drags.
There are many people who are neither alive nor dead. This is worse than anything. A man who is fully alive is full of death also. That is the meaning of Jesus on the cross. Jesus carrying his own cross has not really been understood. And he says to his disciples, 'You will have to carry your own cross.' The meaning of Jesus carrying his own cross is very simple, nothing but this: everybody has to carry his death continuously, everybody has to die each moment, everybody has to be on the cross because that is the only way to live fully, totally.
Whenever you come to a total moment of aliveness, suddenly you will see death there also. In love it happens. In love, life comes to a climax -- hence people are afraid of love.
I have been continuously surprised by people who come to me and say they are afraid of love. What is the fear of love? It is because when you really love somebody your ego starts slipping and melting. You cannot love with the ego; the ego becomes a barrier. and when you want to drop the barrier the ego says, 'This is going to be a death. Beware!'
The death of the ego is not your death. the death of the ego is really your possibility of life. The ego is just a dead crust around you, it has to be broken and thrown away. It comes into being naturally -- just as when a traveler passes, dust collects on his clothes, on his body, and he has to take a bath to get rid of the dust.
As we move in time, dust of experiences, of knowledge, of lived life, of past, collects. That dust becomes our ego. Accumulated, it becomes a crust around you which has to be broken and thrown away. One has to take a bath continuously -- every day, in fact every moment, so that this crust never becomes a prison. The ego is afraid to love because in love, life comes to a peak. But whenever there is a peak of life there is also a peak of death -- they go together.
In love you die and you are reborn. The same happens when you come to meditate or to pray, or when you come to a Master to surrender. The ego creates all sorts of difficulties, rationalisations not to surrender: 'Think about it, brood about it, be clever about it.' When you come to a Master, again the ego becomes suspicious, doubtful, creates anxiety, because again you are coming to life, to a flame where death will also be as much alive as life.
Let it be remembered that death and life both become aflame together, they are never separate. If you are very, very minimally alive, at the minimum, then you can see death and life as being separate. The closer you come to the peak, the closer they start coming. At the very apex they meet and become one. In love, in meditation, in trust, in prayer, wherever life becomes total, death is there. Without death, life cannot become total.
But the ego always thinks in divisions, in dualities; it divides everything. Existence is indivisible; it cannot be divided. You were a child, then you became young. Can you demark the line when you became young? Can you demark the point in time where suddenly you were no longer a child and you had become young? One day you become old. Can you demark the line when you become old?
Processes cannot be demarked. Exactly the same happens when you are born. Can you demark when you are born? When life really starts? Does it start when the child starts breathing -- the doctor spanks the child and the child starts breathing? Is life born then? Or is it when the child got into the womb, when the mother became pregnant, when the child was conceived? Does life start then? Or, even before that? When does life start exactly?
It is a process of no ending and no beginning. It never starts. When is a person dead? Is a person dead when the breathing stops? Many yogis have now proved on scientific grounds that they can stop breathing and they are still alive and they can come back. So the stopping of the breathing cannot be the end. Where does life end?
It never ends anywhere, it never begins anywhere. We are involved in eternity. We have been here since the very beginning -- if there was any beginning -- and we are going to be here to the very end, if there is going to be any end. In fact, there cannot be any beginning and there cannot be any end. We are life -- even if forms change, bodies change, minds change. What we call life is just an identification with a certain body, with a certain mind, with a certain attitude, and what we call death is nothing but getting out of that form, out of that body, out of that concept.
You change houses. If you get too identified with one house, then changing the house will be very painful. You will think that you are dying because the old house was what you were -- that was your identity. But this doesn't happen, because you know that you are only changing the house, you remain the same. Those who have looked within themselves, those who have found who they are, come to know an eternal, non-ending process. Life is a process, timeless, beyond time. Death is part of it.
Death is a continuous revival: a help to life to resurrect again and again, a help to life to get rid of old forms, to get rid of dilapidated buildings, to get rid of old confining structures so that again you can flow and you can again become fresh and young, and you can again become virgin.
I have heard.
A man was browsing through an antique shop near Mount Vernon and ran across a rather ancient-looking axe. 'That's a mighty old axe you have there,' he said to the shop owner. 'Yes,' said the man, 'it once belonged to George Washington.' 'Really?' said the customer.' It certainly stood up well.' 'Of course,' said the antique dealer, 'it has had three new handles and two new heads.'
But that's how life is -- it goes on changing handles and heads; in fact, it seems that everything goes on changing and yet something remains eternally the same. Just watch. You were a child -- what has remained of that now? Just a memory. Your body has changed, your mind has changed, your identity has changed. What has remained of your childhood? Nothing has remained, just a memory. You cannot make a distinction between whether it really happened, or you saw a dream, or you read it in a book, or somebody told you about it. Was the childhood yours or somebody else's? Sometimes have a look at the album of old photographs. Just see, this was you. You will not be able to believe it, you have changed so much. In fact everything has changed -- handles and heads and everything. But still, deep down, somewhere, something remains a continuity; a witnessing remains continuous.
There is a thread, howsoever invisible. And everything goes on changing but that invisible thread remains the same. That thread is beyond life and death. Life and death are two wings for that which is beyond life and death. That which is beyond goes on using life and death as two wheels of a cart, complementaries. It lives through life; it lives through death. Death and life are its processes, like inhalation and exhalation.
But something in you is transcendental. THAT ART THOU...that which is transcendental.
But we are too identified with the form -- that creates the ego. That's what we call 'I'. Of course the 'I' has to die many times. So it is constantly in fear, trembling, shaking, always afraid, protecting, securing.
A Sufi mystic knocked at the door of a very rich man. He was a beggar and he wanted nothing but enough to have a meal.
The rich man shouted at him and said, 'Nobody knows you here!' 'But I know myself,' said the dervish.' How sad it would be if the reverse were true. If everybody knew me but I was not aware of who I was, how sad it would be. Yes, you are right, nobody knows me here, but I know myself.'
These are the only two situations possible, and you are in the sad situation. Everybody may know about you -- who you are -- but you yourself are completely oblivious of your transcendence, of your real nature, of your authentic being. This is the only sadness in life. You can find many excuses, but the real sadness is this: you don't know who you are.
How can a person be happy not knowing who he is, not knowing from where he comes, not knowing where he is going? A thousand and one problems arise because of this basic self-ignorance.
A bunch of ants came out of the darkness of their underground nest in search of food. It was early in the morning. The ants happened to pass by a plant whose leaves were covered with morning dew. 'What are these?' asked one of the ants, pointing to the dew-drops. 'Where do they come from?'
Some said, 'They come from the earth.'
Others said, 'they come from the sea.'
Soon a quarrel broke out -- there was a group who adhered to the sea theory, and a group who attached themselves to the earth theory.
Only one, a wise and intelligent ant, stood alone. He said, 'Let us pause a moment and look around for signs, for everything has an attraction towards its source. And, as it is said, everything returns to its origin. No matter how far into the air you throw a brick it comes down to the earth. Whatever leans towards the light, must originally be of the light.'
The ants were not totally convinced yet and were about to resume their dispute, but the sun had come up and the dew-drops were leaving the leaves, rising, rising towards the sun and disappearing into it.
Everything returns to its original source, has to return to its original source. If you understand life then you understand death also. Life is a forgetfulness of the original source, and death is again a remembrance. Life is going away from the original source, death is coming back home. Death is not ugly, death is beautiful. But death is beautiful only for those who have lived their life unhindered, uninhibited. unsuppressed. Death is beautiful only for those who have lived their life beautifully, who have not been afraid to live, who have been courageous enough to live -- who loved, who danced, who celebrated.
Death becomes the ultimate celebration if your life is a celebration.
From: Osho, The Art of Dying