Celebrate Life – Celebrate Death


On the occasion of celebrated Indian classical dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai’s death, Kul Bhushan reflects on Osho’s vision about celebrating death as much as life.

When renowned Indian classical dancer, Mrinalini Sarabhai, died at the age of 97 on 21 January 2016, her equally renowned daughter, Malika Sarabhai, burst into a spontaneous dance to offer her mother an appropriate farewell.

Farewell dance

The news, and especially the farewell dance, made front page news in India for two reasons: Mrinalini was a much loved and honoured cultural ambassador of India for decades; and secondly, her death became a celebration. Just like Osho says,

Celebrate every moment because this may be the last moment. But while celebrating, don’t forget that death is coming. Remember it. Remembering should not become an obsession; remembrance should become a celebration.” (1)

Osho urges everyone to celebrate life. That’s fine with us but celebrating death is very difficult to swallow. And yet, Osho prods us:

We celebrate, because there is no death. Either the man is going into a new house – a good time to celebrate – or the man is going into the eternal existence. That is the best time to celebrate, and the last time to celebrate. And celebrating death will help you to understand that there is nothing in life to be afraid of. If death is a celebration, then what else can be a cause of fear? And if you can celebrate death, you have attained a maturity. It is possible only to those who live life as a rejoicing, a constant celebration. Then death is not the termination, but only a small incident of changing your clothes, your house, and your body. But you remain exactly the same forever – nothing changes in your intrinsic being. From eternity to eternity you are exactly the same.” (2)

Death is celebrated in many cultures. In Africa, all relatives of the departed persons dress in their best clothes for the burial, singing songs and dancing in farewell. Some tribes have a week-long singing, dancing and feasting session. In Punjab, North India, when an old person, say above 80 years, dies, a brass band plays religious tunes as the body is taken for the last rites. Dry fruits and sweets are thrown over the body and picked by youngsters who want to live just as long.

Some Indians in Western countries write down their pet music and songs to be played, favourite dishes to be served and their type of decoration for the final departure ceremonies. They do not want long faces and weeping but a happy farewell. Another idea is to get their tributes written by their friends and relatives in advance, say at their 75th or 80th birthday, so that they can read them before they pass away. These tributes are bound in a book and read at the final farewell.

Times of India ran an article, ‘Good Mourning, India’, on how Indian society is changing to celebrate death instead of sorrowing with many examples. Offering a happy and fond final farewell to grandparents is acceptable but it becomes heart wrenching when someone at his/her peak of life dies suddenly. No worry. When a 26-year old died of leukemia, his family celebrated by screening a short film on his life, read out his poems and spread his ashes in their orchard in the Himalayas.

Osho tells the story of three Chinese mystics known as ‘Laughing Saints’. They went from village to village; standing in the centre and laughing and dancing. Soon a crowd would gather and later, everyone would start laughing and dancing as well. That would change the quality of the village.

Then, in one village one of the three died. The villagers gathered to see how they would laugh when they should weep. But the two alive ones were laughing and dancing! The villagers were shocked.

The mystics said, “You don’t know what has happened! All three of us were always thinking of who was going to die first. This man has won; we are defeated. The whole life we laughed with him. How can we give him the last send-off with anything else? We have to laugh, we have to enjoy, and we have to celebrate. This is the only farewell that is possible for the man who has laughed his whole life. And if we don’t laugh, he will laugh at us and he will think, ‘You fools! So you have fallen again into the trap?’ We don’t see that he is dead. How can laughter die, how can life die?”

Then the body was to be burned, and the village people said, “We will give him a bath as the ritual prescribes.” But those two friends said, “No, our friend has said, ‘Don’t perform any ritual and don’t change my clothes and don’t give me a bath. You just put me as I am on the burning pyre.’ So we have to follow his instructions.”

And then, suddenly, there was a great happening. When the body was put on the fire, that old man had played the last trick. He had hidden many fireworks under his clothes, and suddenly there was Diwali! The whole village started laughing. These two mad friends were dancing, and then the whole village started dancing. It was not a death, it was a new life.

Osho says,

No death is death, because every death opens a new door – it is a beginning. There is no end to life; there is always a new beginning, a resurrection.” (3)


Kul BhushanKul Bhushan is a regular contributor to Osho News

More articles by the same author on Osho News

Excerpts by Osho from
(1) Come Follow To You, Vol 2, Ch 2
(2) From Personality to Individuality, Ch 12
(3) Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega, Vol 4, Ch 10

Image posted on Facebook by Leena Manimekalai

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