Article by Chaitanya Keerti published in The Asian Age on September 29, 2014
Almost every month I receive the sad news of the death of some friend or of people whom I have known for a long time.
It comes as a definite reminder that we all have to die sooner or later; that we cannot escape death. What I am saying is often said by millions of people around the world.
For some moments, everybody — friends, relatives and all — take note of death and then soon after immerse themselves in their respective routines. A few nice things are said, such as “only the body dies, the soul is immortal.” We console others and ourselves with profound philosophy just to forget the shock and continue with our mind-games. The stark reminder that we are also in the queue is quickly forgotten. The poets also console us.
One Urdu poet wrote:
Kaun kehta hai ke maut aayi to mar jaunga
Main to dariya hun samandar mein utar jaunga
Who says I will die when death comes
I am a river which will merge with the ocean.
There are many more such beautiful poems to make us forget the shock that we get when someone dies. When we see death, we think about it for some moments, avoiding to look at it or into it.
Osho asks: “Have you ever consciously looked at death? Have you ever gone to the cemetery and sat there and thought about the people who are lying in their graves? No… you will go only one time and one way — you will not come back. Why are graveyards and cemeteries and funeral grounds made outside the city, out of the way? — so that you don’t have to come across them. In fact, the graveyards should be made exactly in the middle of the city, so you have to come across them many times every day, knowing perfectly well that the people who are sleeping in those graves were also one day living just like you, and one day you also will be lying in the same kind of grave.”
The other common way of ignoring death is to keep quoting Bhagwad Gita and other holy scriptures.
Dehino’smin yathaa dehe kaumaaram yauvanam jaraa;
Tathaa dehaantara praaptir dheeras tatra na muhyati.
Just as in this body the embodied (soul)
passes into childhood, youth and old age,
so also does he pass into another body;
the firm man does not grieve.
Krishna is trying to explain that he shouldn’t worry about the death of his stepbrothers, cousins, and teachers, because their soul never dies, it’s only their body that changes form.
Just as a man casts off worn out clothes and puts on new ones, the soul does the same. Such beautiful words are uttered to console ourselves so that we forget death. Just by listening to such words we do not become free from the fear of death. The fear haunts us. The shadow of death continues to follow us and needs our attention.
We do need to meditate on it, not just think or contemplate about it.
Death is a mystery and remains a mystery. Osho explains that the religious man, the mystic, tries to explore the mystery of death. In exploring the mystery of death, he inevitably comes to know what life is, what love is. Those are not his goals. His goal is to penetrate death, because there seems to be nothing more mysterious than death. Love has some mystery because of death, and life also has some mystery because of death. If death disappears there will be no mystery in life. That’s why a dead thing has no mystery in it, a corpse has no mystery in it, because it cannot die anymore. You think it has no mystery because life has disappeared? No, it has no mystery because now it cannot die anymore. Death has disappeared, and with death automatically life disappears. Life is only one of the ways of death’s expressions.
Such a realisation of death is possible only through meditation. And only meditation makes us free from the fear of death. He suggests:
Start meditating on death.
And whenever you feel death close by,
go into it through the door of love,
through the door of meditation,
through the door of a man dying.
And if you can receive death
in joy and benediction,
you will attain to the greatest peak,
because death is the crescendo of life.
Excerpt by Osho from The Great Zen Master Ta Hui, Ch 35
Illustration by Osho News
Swami Chaitanya Keerti, editor of Osho World, is the author of ‘Osho Fragrance’.