Death is the greatest illusion

Discourses Osho on Death Selected Discourses

A question to Osho by his lawyer, late Ram Jethmalani: Beloved Master, When I am dead, am I really dead? I want to be really convinced that death is eternal sleep.


Ram Jethmalani, death is the greatest illusion. It has never happened, it can’t happen in the very nature of things. Yes, there is something which creates the illusion: death is a disconnection between the body and the soul but only a disconnection; neither the body dies nor the soul. The body cannot die because it is already dead; it belongs to the world of matter. How can a dead thing die? And the soul cannot die because it belongs to the world of eternity, God – it is life itself. How can life die?

Both are together in us. This connection becomes disconnected; the soul becomes unplugged from the body – that’s all that death is, what we call death. The body moves back to matter, to the earth; and the soul, if it still has desires, longings, starts seeking another womb, another opportunity to fulfill them. Or if the soul is finished with all desires, with all longings, then there is no longer any possibility of its coming back into a bodily form – then it moves into eternal consciousness.

Moving into eternal consciousness is a very paradoxical phenomenon: one is not and yet one is. A dewdrop slipping into the ocean is no more, in a sense – as a dewdrop it is no more; the boundary that made it a dewdrop has disappeared. But in another sense it is more than it has ever been: it has become the very ocean, its boundary has expanded to infinity, its boundary has exploded into the unbounded.

A man like Buddha becomes the universal consciousness, yet – and this is the paradox – his individuality is not lost, his consciousness is not lost.

So, Ram, I cannot say that death is eternal sleep – on the contrary, it is eternal awakening. Poets have been telling you down the ages: Death is eternal sleep – don’t be afraid. They themselves know not, they are simply giving you consolation. But what can the difference be between real death and eternal sleep? Have you ever thought about it? If sleep is eternal it is death. If it is never going to be broken then where is the difference? A corpse and an eternally asleep man are exactly the same. If the sleep is going to be forever and forever, it is death.

The primitive people are far closer to the truth: they say that sleep is a small death. They are right, because for a few hours you become completely oblivious to the world, to others, to yourself, to your body. You become completely disconnected for a few hours, then you are reconnected again. It is a small death. Sleep is a small death but not vice versa: death is not eternal sleep; if it were then what would the difference be, Ram?

If you simply want to console yourself that, “I will be eternally asleep in death,” that’s another matter. But the truth is not to console you; truth is as it is. The truth is that death has two possibilities. If you die with longing, desiring, then it brings you back into another body, because without a body you cannot make any effort to fulfill your desires.

Without the body you cannot eat food, you cannot make love; without the body you cannot become the prime minister of a country – without the body it is impossible to do anything. The body is the vehicle for doing things; gaining, journeying, reaching, arriving. Without the body you simply are; it is a state of being.

With the body you are always becoming: becoming this, becoming that, richer, more famous, more successful. Without the body all becoming ceases. Becoming is another name for desiring, so if a person dies with a deep, deep desire to become something he will be born again into another body. That is one alternative.

The second is: if you have understood the futility of desire, the utter stupidity of desire, if you have seen it through and through – that no desire can ever be fulfilled, that it promises and it promises greatly but it never delivers the goods, that all desires are deceptive, that it is because of our unintelligence that we go on being victims of desires; if you have seen it through and through and you die with no projection in the mind, with no seed of desire, then all seeds are burned.

It is because of this that Patanjali has called the ultimate state of samadhi, nirbeej samadhi, seedless samadhi – if you can die with all the seeds burned, there will be no sprout anymore, there will be no other births.

Then where do you go? You don’t fall asleep. In fact to attain to a state of seedless samadhi one has to be absolutely awake, one has to be a buddha, because the seeds of desire are burned only in the fire of awakening. So if you die without any desire, you die in utter awareness, you see death happening.

And remember again, by “death” I mean you see the disconnection happening – slowly slowly, the soul is becoming separate from the body. Slowly slowly, it is becoming uprooted from the body, it is becoming freer from the prison. And one moment comes when you are totally free from the prison, outside the prison cell called the bodymind mechanism.

Then you remain eternally awake. Then you remain in the universe, diffused in the ocean of life, but eternally awake. It is not a state of sleep.

You ask me, When I am dead, am I really dead?

Ram Jethmalani, the real you will not be dead, but Ram Jethmalani is going to be dead, because Ram Jethmalani is nothing but the name of the combination of soul and body; it is the name of the identity. We feel identified with our bodies; we think we are our bodies, our minds. Remember, mind is only a part of the body, the subtle part, the invisible part. If we are identified with the bodymind mechanism, then certainly this identification is going to die.

Ram Jethmalani is bound to die, but there is something in Ram Jethmalani which is not going to die. You have to become aware of it. And the only way to become aware of it is to be more meditative, to be more of a witness. Start watching your body, start watching your mind; don’t get involved, remain aloof, distant, cool. Just as one sits on the bank of a river and watches the river flow by. You don’t say, “I am the river.” So it is with the body, watch it. Become more and more of a witness. And as witnessing grows and becomes integrated, you will be able to see Ram Jethmalani disappearing even before death.

In meditation the ego dies, the ego disappears. Once the ego has disappeared, once you have seen yourself as an egoless entity, then there is no death for you.
We can say it in another way: it is the ego that creates the illusion of death. And ego itself is false, hence death too is false. We cling to the false, that’s why we have to suffer from death.

Sannyas means to become disidentified from the bodymind mechanism – becoming a witness, a seer, a watcher on the hill. And as you become a seer, a watcher, the hill rises higher and higher, and the dark, dark valley is left behind. You go on seeing the valley for the time being; then, slowly slowly, it becomes so distant you can’t see it, you can’t hear any noise from the valley, and a moment comes at the ultimate peak of the hill when the valley no longer exists for you.

Then, although alive, in a sense you are dead. Ashtavakra, one of the greatest seers of this country, says: The sannyasin is one who is dead even while he is alive. But the person who is dead while he is alive will be alive when he is dead.

You also ask me, I want to be really convinced that death is eternal sleep.

Ram, convictions can’t help much, because conviction means somebody else silencing your doubts, repressing your doubts, somebody else becoming an authority for you. Maybe logically he is more argumentative, maybe he has a great rational mind and he can convince you that there is no death, and you may be silenced and your doubts may be silenced. But even the doubts that have been silenced will come back again, sooner or later, because they have not disappeared – they have only been repressed by logical arguments.

Convictions don’t help much; doubts persist as an undercurrent. One is a convinced Christian, another is a convinced Hindu. And I have seen all kinds of people – they are all full of doubts, all of them – Christians, Hindus, Mohammedans. In fact the more full of doubt a person is, the more stubborn he is, the more he tries to believe, because those doubts are painful. He says, “I strongly believe in the Gita, in the Koran, in the Bible. I am a staunch Catholic.”

Why do you need to be a staunch Catholic? For what? You must be suffering from great doubts. If you don’t have any doubts you don’t have any beliefs either. Doubts are the diseases and beliefs are the medicines, but all beliefs are allopathic medicines – they repress, they are all poisons. All beliefs are poisonous.

Yes, for the time being they can give you a feeling that now there is no problem, but soon the doubts will assert themselves; they will wait for the right time. They will explode with great urgency one day. They will erupt like a volcano; they will take revenge. Because you have repressed them they have gathered too much energy. One day, in some weak moment, when you are off guard, they will take revenge. Your so-called saints are all suffering from great doubts.

No, I cannot give you any conviction; I don’t trust convictions, beliefs. But, Ram, I can invite you to come along with me, I can help you to see. Why be convinced? There is no need.

I have seen and I can help you to see, and only your own seeing is going to be of any value. I have realized: I can help you to realize. I have traveled the path: I can take your hand in my hand, I can take you, slowly slowly, to the highest peak of meditative experience.

Your own experience will be a real transformation; then doubts can never come back again. And when you have known, you will be surprised that all the poets who have been telling you that death is sleep, deep sleep, eternal sleep, have been telling you lies – consoling lies, beautiful lies, helpful lies, but lies are lies, and the help can only be momentary.

It is like when you are too worried, too tense and you take to alcohol. Yes, for a few hours you will forget all your worries and all your tensions, but the alcohol cannot take your worries away forever; it cannot solve them. And while you are drowned in alcohol those worries are growing, becoming stronger; you are giving them time to grow. And when you are back the next morning with a hangover and a headache added to the worries, you will be surprised; they are bigger than when you had left them.

Then it becomes a pattern of life: become again and again intoxicated so you can forget – but again and again you have to face your life. This is not an intelligent way to live.

I am against all intoxicants, against all drugs. They don’t help; they only help you to postpone problems. I would like to really solve your problems. I have solved mine, and the problems are the same, more or less. I can bring you closer to me so you can feel my heart and you can see through my eyes and you can feel what has happened. And that feeling, that taste, will become a magnetic pull on you.

It is not a conviction, it is not a belief – it creates trust. And once trust is created the journey has started. I know, Ram, you need great help. I have looked into your eyes – just once you have been here and just once I have looked into your eyes – they look very sad. You must be carrying great anguish inside yourself.

On the outside you are a successful man, the topmost criminal advocate in this country. On the outside you are successful in every way – a member of the parliament, president of the lawyers association of India – but deep down I have seen, just a passing glimpse, that you are sitting on a volcano. I have seen great anguish in your eyes, great tears just waiting to flow from your eyes. You are not in any way blissful.

I can make you blissful – why ask for convictions? – I can give you the real experience. My whole effort here is not to give beliefs to people but experiences, not to help them superficially but really to transform them. I am absolutely available to you. And you cannot escape me for long.

Ram is also my advocate and he enjoys telling people that “I am God’s advocate.” But to be my advocate is to be in danger; sooner or later you will be trapped. Maybe that’s why I have chosen you as my advocate, so that you can come closer to me. My ways are devious.

A great love has arisen in you for me. Now, that love is the first flower of the spring; much more is on the way.

But remember, my whole approach is that of existential experience. I don’t want you to be believers, I would like you to experience on your own; I don’t want to convince you. What I am saying is my experience: there is no death. I am not saying to you, “Believe that there is no death.” I am simply expressing, sharing my experience that there is no death. It is a challenge! It is not an effort to convince you, it is a challenge to come and explore. You are welcome. Think of me as your home!

Osho, The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 5, Ch 4, Q 1

Ram Boolchand Jethmalani (14 September 1923 – 8 September 2019) was an Indian lawyer and politician. He has served as India’s Union Law Minister and as chairman of the Bar Council of India. He has represented a sweep of cases from the high-profile to the controversial for which he has often faced severe criticism.

Thanks for alert to Lakshen

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