Osho speaks about the process of a conscious death and nature’s indication to become aware that death is approaching.
It is stated that man becomes unconscious at the time of death. Why is this so? Is it due to the terror of death or the process of death?
Neither terror of death nor the process of death make man unconscious. He has been learning unconsciousness his whole life. Death simply gives him the final certificate: “Your learning of unconsciousness is completed; you are falling into a coma.”
But this is not so for the man of awareness.
His learning is totally different.
He is learning the discipline of being conscious.
He will also die – but only superficially. Deep inside him the light of life will be still burning. He will leave the body, but the flame of life will go on moving into different forms till he comes to experience total enlightenment. Then this death is the last: he will not be born again. Now he is given the opportunity to become one with the whole… the dewdrop slipping from the lotus leaf into the ocean. He is not losing himself, he is gaining the whole ocean; he is becoming oceanic.
Man has to pass through many deaths because of his unconsciousness. And if your awareness is also just wishy-washy it is not going to help.
Life is a school to learn the eternal truth of existence. But that is possible only if you are conscious. You are not even conscious when you appear to be conscious. Walking in the street, talking to people, shopping in the Mall, going to the disco, it looks as if you are conscious; it is not so.
Just watch yourself. Watch: are you aware while you are walking, or is walking just a mechanical process, just like a robot? And you will be surprised to know the difference. Just try to walk a few steps consciously and you will see the difference – and the beauty and the joy and the relaxation of walking consciously. Your whole body is in tune with existence.
Consciousness bridges you with existence.
Unconsciousness closes you into yourself.
In unconsciousness you don’t have any connection with existence.
In consciousness you are related to the whole – from the smallest blade of grass to the biggest star millions of light-years away.
A conscious man is just like you, but inside there is light; and inside you there is darkness.
You go on doing things but without knowing who you are… shopping for everything except yourself! While you are talking, be alert and you will be surprised, just by your unconscious talking, how many troubles you have created, how many quarrels, fights you have created – just by talking. Just think: if you were not talking and you were just a silent man, ninety-nine percent of your troubles would be dropped. They come out of your talking!
You say something, and your wife is bound to misunderstand it. And there is no way to explain to her because whatever you explain, she has her own way of interpreting it. Slowly slowly, husbands and wives stop talking because they both have understood that this leads to quarreling, and finally to crying and weeping and throwing things.
What a strange world! – a conversation leading to throwing things and screaming and tears and pillow fights. But the reason is not talking, the reason is talking unconsciously. And the same is true about all your activities. They bring more and more misery to you, more and more suffering to you, but you go on doing the same things again and again. An unconscious man is bound to fall in the same pit again and again.
A conscious man also commits mistakes, but one mistake one time. A conscious man learns even from mistakes. He has learned something of tremendous value – that this is a mistake, and now it is not going to be repeated again. Slowly slowly, all mistakes are dropped; his life becomes a silent, joyous dance.
It is not the terror of death. You don’t know death, how can you have a terror of death? It is not the process of death, because people have died fully aware….
The day Gautam Buddha died, in the morning he gathered his people, the way you are here; perhaps it was just the same kind of morning. Buddha every day talked to his disciples, but that was a special day because he said, “Today I am going to die. I have been hearing the steps of death for a few days; now they have reached very close and it is only a question of a few hours. So if you have any question to ask, ask, because I am not going to come again – this is my last death. The wheel of life and death is going to stop for me.
“So don’t feel embarrassed even if your question is stupid; otherwise later on you will always feel sad that Buddha was available, a man of total awareness, and still you could not gather courage to ask the question.”
It is not that there were not questions in peoples’ minds – they are always there. Just as leaves grow on trees, questions grow in the mind. But at the moment when the master is going to die, nobody was going to harass him. For forty-two years he has been answering their questions, and if in forty-two years your questions are not solved, what is the point of torturing the old man who is going to die? Nobody asked.
His closest companion and caretaker, Ananda, said, “Bante” – Bante is Pali for Bhagwan – “we don’t have any questions. You have answered all our questions thousands of times, and we go on asking the same questions, phrasing them differently…. At this moment we would like to just sit silently with you.”
Buddha said, “That’s good, because death has reached very close. So you allow me to die.”
There were tears, people were sobbing…. They have loved this man their whole life, and it is very rare – once in thousands of years such a man comes into the world and rises to such heights of consciousness, love, blissfulness. And they were also crying and weeping that tomorrow morning all that they had – a master – would not be there. And they have been stupid, they have not learned anything.
Buddha said, “I will be dying in four stages. First, I will close my eyes and remove myself from the body. In the second step I will remove myself from the mechanism of the mind. In the third step I will remove myself from the world of feelings, the heart. And in the fourth step, the dewdrop will fall into the ocean.”
A man of awareness does not die in a coma. He can even give you a description of how the death is going to happen.
Buddha closed his eyes. At that very moment a man came running from the town nearby, and he said, “I have just heard that Buddha is dying – and I have a question. I know I am an idiot. For forty-two years he has been passing through my village, but there was always something holding me back. A customer would come to the shop and I would say, ‘Buddha is always available – tomorrow I can go to see him. But this customer may not come tomorrow. He needs things now. He will go to another shop – and nobody wants to lose customers.’ Sometimes there were friends and we had met after years, and I would say, ‘I can go to Buddha anytime, but these friends have come to see me after many years; it does not look right to leave them and go to Buddha.’ And so on and so forth. Sometimes it was a marriage, sometimes it was a party…. But this morning I heard that Buddha is going to die – I had to close the shop.
“My wife was shouting, my children were asking, ‘What is the point? – you had just opened, and you are closing!’ I did not hear anybody, there was no time left, there was no time to answer all their questions. I said, ‘When I come back I will explain. Just right now get out of the way and let me go!’ So I have come with the question.”
Ananda said, “But you are a little late. We have given our permission that the master can disappear into the whole, and he has already entered the first stage. So please forgive us, it is not our fault. Forty-two years you have postponed; now wait a few thousand years more. When another Buddha appears, another enlightened man, then don’t be so foolish.”
But Buddha opened his eyes. He said, “Ananda, this will be a condemnation for me – that a man had come thirsty, and I was still alive and I could not quench his thirst. I can delay death a little bit, but his question has to be answered; otherwise the poor fellow will feel guilty his whole life.”
A conscious man dies in a totally conscious way, step by step. And if he wants to return before he has taken the fourth step, he can come back. His death is simply dropping the body, the mind, the heart, and finally, the individual center, into the universal whole. Each thing is perfectly done in alertness.
So it is not the process of death that makes one unconscious. And it is not the terror – because you have never seen death, so how can you be afraid of it? You don’t know what death is. You don’t know even what life is. You are alive, and unaware of life. You are unconscious in life; that’s why at the ultimate peak of life you become totally unconscious.
A man of awareness is conscious in his life; that’s why at the moment of death he becomes fully conscious.
Your death says everything about your life.
Your death is the ultimate declaration of your existence, how you have lived. If you fall in a coma, that means you lived in unconsciousness, you have not lived at all. You have been postponing: tomorrow, always tomorrow….
It depends on you, not on the process of death. It depends on you to prepare. Death is a great celebration if you prepare. But unprepared, you have to become unconscious. And it is good of existence that it makes you unconscious, completely unconscious before death, because death is a great surgery. Your being is taken away from the body, from the mind, from the heart, and finally from that individual self. This is the greatest surgery. Anesthesia is needed; existence provides it.
It happened in 1915, the king of Varanasi had to be operated on to remove his appendix, but the king refused to take any anesthesia, local or otherwise. And he was a man of tremendous power, not only the king. The best doctors of the world were attending him, but he said, “You have to do the surgery without anesthesia. Don’t be worried – you need not put me in unconsciousness just for a small removal. I can die consciously, which is the ultimate in surgery; your surgery is just a small game.” There was trouble. Doctors could not do the operation, it was against their training. But they knew the man; he will not change his mind, he has never done that in his whole life. And the appendix is such a thing… it was in its last stage; it could explode any moment and then there would be no possibility of saving the king – and the man was worth saving.
There was not time enough for doctors to decide what to do. There was no question either, because that man is not going to take anything that makes him unconscious. So finally, reluctantly, unwillingly, they operated on the man. Great surgeons were there; their hands were shaking for the first time. They had done much surgery but they had never done surgery on a man who was lying there fully conscious, with open eyes, looking at the doctors and once in a while looking at his stomach, which was being cut. This was a strange experience!
The surgery was done, the appendix was removed, and there was no trouble from the king’s side. Not even a sign of pain showed on his face or in his eyes. This is the only surgery in the whole of history which has been done without any unconsciousness. The doctors were certainly amazed. After the surgery was over they asked the king, “What is the secret? – because this has never happened before and we don’t think it is going to happen again.”
He said, “There is no secret. I have lived my life consciously – so consciously that there is no problem. I can die, too, consciously. And this was a small thing, trivial.”
So remember, it is not the terror of death, it is not the process of death. Don’t dump your responsibility on death! Accept the phenomenon that one becomes unconscious because one has lived unconsciously, and that is the ultimate outcome of one’s whole life.
If you want a conscious death, then start from this moment being conscious, because – who knows? – the moment may be death. And a man of consciousness starts almost six months before death comes – he starts feeling the steps, hearing the sound of the steps of death coming closer.
There is a very simple method – even camels can do it. Before a person dies, six months ahead, nature gives indications, but you are unconscious so you don’t understand those indications. But a very simple indication I give to you, which I don’t think you can misunderstand. Before death comes, six months before, you stop seeing the tip of your nose. Your eyes start turning upwards; it takes six months for them to turn completely upwards.
That’s why whenever a man dies people immediately close his eyes. For what reason, all around the world, do his eyelids have to be closed? Just so that nobody becomes aware that his eyes have moved upwards and there is only white left to be seen. That may make many freak out, that may give them nightmares. It is to be hidden from them.
But it takes six months for eyes slowly slowly to turn upward; and when eyes start turning upward you cannot see the tip of your nose. This can be done by any camel.
But this will not help. You may become more frantic; the camel may go crazy, running here and there because now there is no time – how is his goal to be fulfilled?
And there are other indications which are more subtle, which can be understood only if you live meditatively, consciously, with awareness….
Osho, From Death to Deathlessness, Ch 23, Q 3