Audio for Art of Dying part 5 (click to play or right click to download)

Of Voluntary Death

Many die too late and some die too early. Still the doctrine sounds strange: “Die at the right time.” Die at the right time: thus Zarathustra teaches. To be sure, he who never lived at the right time could hardly die at the right time! Better if he were never to be born! – thus I advise the superfluous. But even the superfluous make a great thing of their dying; yes, even the hollowest nut wants to be cracked. Everyone treats death as an important matter: but as yet death is not a festival. As yet, men have not learned to consecrate the fairest festivals. I shall show you the consummating death, which shall be a spur and a promise to the living. The man consummating his life dies his death triumphantly…. To die thus is the best death; but the second best is: to die in battle and to squander a great soul. But equally hateful to the fighter as to the victor is your grinning death, which comes creeping up like a thief – and yet comes as master. I commend to you my sort of death, voluntary death that comes to me because I wish it. And when shall I wish it? – he who has a goal and an heir wants death at the time most favorable to his goal and his heir…. Many a one grows too old even for his truths and victories; a toothless mouth has no longer the right to every truth. And everyone who wants glory must take leave of honor in good time and practice the difficult art of – going at the right time…. I wish preachers of speedy death would come! They would be the fitting storm and shakers of the trees of life! But I hear preached only slow death and patience with all “earthly things.” If one only remained in the desert and far from the good and just! Perhaps he would have learned to live and learned to love the earth – and laughter as well!… That your death may not be a blasphemy against man and the earth, my friends; that is what I beg from the honey of your soul. In your death, your spirit and your virtue should still glow like a sunset glow around the earth: otherwise yours is a bad death. Thus I want to die myself, that you friends may love the earth more for my sake; and I want to become earth again, that I may have peace in her who bore me. Truly, Zarathustra had a goal, he threw his ball: now may you friends be the heirs of my goal, I throw the golden ball to you. But best of all I like to see you, too, throwing on the golden ball, my friends! So I shall stay on earth a little longer: forgive me for it! …Thus spake Zarathustra. Death is the most misunderstood phenomenon. People have thought of death as the end of life. That is the first, basic misunderstanding. Death is not the end, but the beginning of a new life. Yes, it is an end of something that is already dead. It is also a crescendo of what we call life, although very few know what life is. They live, but they live in such ignorance that they never encounter their own life. And it is impossible for these people to know their own death, because death is the ultimate experience of this life, and the beginning experience of another. Death is the door between two lives; one is left behind, one is waiting ahead. There is nothing ugly about death; but man, out of his fear, has made even the word, death ugly and unutterable. People don’t like to talk about it. They won’t even listen to the word death. The fear has reasons. The fear arises because it is always somebody else who dies. You always see death from the outside, and death is an experience of the innermost being. It is just like watching love from the outside. You may watch for years, but you will not come to know anything of what love is. You may come to know the manifestations of love, but not love itself. We know the same about death. Just the manifestations on the surface – the breathing has stopped, the heart has stopped, the man as he used to talk and walk is no more there: just a corpse is lying there instead of a living body. These are only outer symptoms. Death is the transfer of the soul from one body to another body, or in cases when a man is fully awakened, from one body to the body of the whole universe. It is a great journey, but you cannot know it from the outside. From outside, only symptoms are available; and those symptoms have made people afraid. Those who have known death from inside lose all fear of death. Instead of death being an ugly and fearful thing, it changes into one of the purest, most silent, and most sublime experiences. You experience yourself for the first time without your prison, the body, an experience of absolute freedom…unhampered, uncaged. This kind of death can be known in many ways. One is the usual way – but then you will not be here to report about it. You are gone. You have experienced, but the experience has also gone with you. Fortunately, there are other ways in which you can experience exactly what death is, and yet remain alive. Love is one. In total love, when you are not holding anything back, a kind of death happens. You are no more body, you are no more mind, you are pure spirit. In meditation, the same experience happens of bodilessness, mindlessness, and yet of absolute consciousness, of absolute aliveness. That’s why lovers never feel afraid of death. If a lover feels afraid of death, that indicates he has not known love. The meditators never feel afraid of death. If the meditator feels afraid of death it means he has not gone deep into meditation. There is only one depth that has to be touched, whether through love or through meditation or through creativity. The depth is that you are no longer your physical body, and you are no longer your mental body either – just a pure awareness, a pure sky without any clouds, unbounded. Even a simple glimpse into it and death becomes a glorious experience. Zarathustra has a few very important things to say about it. Many die too late and some die too early. Still the doctrine sounds strange: “Die at the right time.” When he is saying, many die too late, he means they go on living meaninglessly, without any joy, without any song. Nothing blossoms in their life. It seems that they have simply forgotten how to die. They go on living, although life has no juice for them, no excitement, no ecstasy. But they are not brave enough to let the body drop. They live unnecessarily. They live like a burden on the earth. They live like parasites, uncreative, and not only uncreative but destructive, because they cannot live, they don’t know how to live. They are very jealous of those who are still singing, still dancing, still loving. They condemn all those who are living. The people who die too late are the condemners. They become saints, they become priests, they become holy, not because they are holy but because they are unable to live, and they don’t know how to die: they are in a limbo. And they have to find some excuse. And their excuse becomes a condemnation of the whole world. It is known about a Greek philosopher, Zeno, that he used to teach people that life is useless, meaningless, futile: the only intelligent thing a man can do is to commit suicide. Hundreds of his disciples committed suicide. He lived a long life himself; he died when he was over ninety. Somebody asked before he died, “How come your whole life you have been preaching to people that the only intelligent thing is to commit suicide? Why have you lived so long?” Zeno said, “I had to; otherwise, who would have told people that life is useless, meaningless. It was a torture to me, but still I went on living, just to save people from this meaningless, futile existence.” Great excuse! For himself to live, he finds an excuse. Remember it as a criterion: Whoever condemns life is crippled; has not developed a heart, has no roots; no flowers blossom in his being, and he cannot accept it that he is at fault. His revenge against life becomes renunciation. All the religions have been teaching, “Renounce life.” Who are these people who teach, “Renounce life?” They are the people who are not capable of living life, who don’t know the art of life. …and some die too early. Zarathustra does not mean that they actually die, he means that they go on living a posthumous life: they die at thirty and they are buried at seventy. For all those forty years, nothing happens in their life: it is utterly empty, a desert, where nothing grows and nothing is green. Not even a stream runs through their life with its songs, with its sounds. They are absolutely barren. Nothing is created by them, they don’t mother anything – a painting, poetry, music or dance. This is posthumous life. They died at thirty. The day you stop loving, the day you stop creating, the day you stop growing – in a metaphysical sense, you are dead. In a physical sense you may go on breathing, but your breathing cannot be synonymous with life. It is only vegetation: cabbages and cauliflowers, and the world is so full of cabbages and cauliflowers. Zarathustra says: Still the doctrine sounds strange; “Die at the right time.” One who has lived rightly, intensely and totally, is bound to die at the right time. His death is nothing but a ripening, a harvest. His death is nothing but a fulfillment. He lived so much, he loved so much, he used all his energy in being creative, he enjoyed so much, that a point comes where he wants to rest. His cup of life is full. There is no need to go on lingering on the earth. He has come to the place where he was destined to come. Die at the right time can be understood only by those who live, and live totally, without any inhibitions, naturally; not according to dead scriptures, but according to the living sources of their own being. They certainly reach a tremendous ecstasy of fulfillment; their death is a completion – the circle has become complete. Their death has brought them back to another birth. Unless you die at the right time, you will never experience the beauty of death. It will remain only a prejudice, an opinion, what you have heard people say about it. But you don’t have your own personal experience. For Zarathustra, death is the actualization of your whole potential. Now there is no point of being in the body. You can die joyously, with a smile on your face, with a tremendous mystery in your eyes. Your death will not be felt as untimely; almost 99.9 percent of deaths are untimely, either too late, or too early. The day Gautam Buddha died, early in the morning he said to his disciples, “It is more than enough. It is time for me to leave.” They could not understand what he meant; perhaps he meant to leave for another place. Buddha said, “You don’t understand, I mean I am going to leave the body. Find a beautiful place. I have lived beautifully, amongst the mountains, and with the trees and with the wild animals and the meditators.” He looked all around and he saw two saal trees, which are very beautiful trees, and very tall. They were almost like twins, standing side by side. Buddha said, “That place seems to be right. I will die there, just between these two saal trees.” The way he says it seems to be that death is simply a decision for him. For a man who has lived fully, death becomes a decision: it is up to him. Death does not come to him; he himself makes his body available for death. It is painful when death comes to you and takes away your body, and all your things are incomplete – your children are not grown up, your daughter was going to be married, your business was not going well. Death has knocked on your door, and you cannot welcome him. Even emperors cannot welcome death, because there is so much still to be invaded, conquered. Greed knows no limits. It goes on asking for more and more. That’s why death seems to be such an enemy. But to a man like Gautam Buddha it is simply a choice. He went between those two saal trees, sat there, and said to his disciples, “You will never see me again. This body has lived to its fullest; it needs to be retired; it needs to go into ultimate rest. But before I drop it, if you have any question, you should ask it. You may meet another awakened person…when and where is unpredictable.” But the disciples were crying. This was not a time to ask questions, and they said, “You have been answering for forty-two years, you have answered all our questions. You just relax, don’t be worried about us. You have shown us the path and we will follow it.” The story is beautiful: Buddha closed his eyes and said, “I have taken the first step – I am no more the body.” And then, “I have taken the second step – I am no more the mind. I have taken the third step – I am no more the heart. I have taken the fourth step – I have entered into my consciousness.” That very moment his breathing stopped, his heartbeat stopped. This is a totally different kind of death – so easy and so relaxed, so fulfilled, so grateful to existence. These are the same steps as those of meditation. That’s why I said, if you meditate you can experience death without dying: you can come back. It is a passage from the body to the mind, to the heart, to the being. Gautam Buddha died at the right time. But how many people can say that they are dying at the right time? It is never the right time. On all the graves you will find the inscription: “He died untimely.” You will not find a single grave with the inscription, “This man died timely.” Nobody would like that; even the dead person would stand up and say, “This is not right. You are condemning me to say that I died at the right time. I am dying and you are making a laughing stock of me.” But truthfully, dying at the right time is the most beautiful thing in the world. It is part of a long series of events in your life. To be sure, he who never lived at the right time could hardly die at the right time! You are alive. It is difficult to say anything about your death, whether you will die at the right time or not. But are you alive at the right time? Or are you continually missing the train? You always reach the platform when the train is gone; you see the last compartment leaving the platform. You are always either late, or too early, but never exactly at the right moment. The reason is that your mind either lives in the past…. Those who live in the past, in their memories, in all that dust that they have left behind on the road, they are always late. To be late becomes their routine, because they cannot be in the present, and to be at the right time means to be in the present. Then there are people who are living in the future. They are always planning for the tomorrows, what they are going to do tomorrow. They are always ahead of time. They have already missed the right time. This state of being in the past or in the future is so unconscious that almost everybody is divided into these two categories: the past-oriented and the future-oriented. It is very rare to find someone in the present, here, now. Only a person who lives every now, without being hindered by past or present or future, who simply lives in this very moment, not with an effort because the moment is very small – a slight effort and you are no more in it…. Unless you live very relaxedly you cannot live in the now. To live relaxedly, each moment of your life becomes so rich because you are totally there, every moment, with all your love, with all your intelligence, with all your being. Such a small moment becomes overflowing with your intelligence, with your love, with your very being. It becomes such a contentment. The secret is known; it is an open secret. You know that you always get only one single moment at a time. You don’t get two moments or three moments. If you can live one moment totally, you know the whole secret of life, because always you have only one moment, and you know how to live it. This kind of life is the only right life, and this kind of life can have a crescendo of a right death. Right death has to be earned by right living. But people are wandering everywhere – in the past, in the future, in memories, in dreams – just missing this small point that this present is the only life you have got. You cannot live your past, it is no more. You cannot live your future, it is not yet. Live that which is the only possibility: the present. In fact, past, future and present are divisions of our mind. Time knows only one tense and that is present. It is always present. Time knows only one place, and that is here. It is always now; it is never then. Those who don’t live at the right time cannot die at the right time either, because life and death are not separate. Either death will be an end of an unfulfilled life, of frustration, of despair, of anguish; or it will be a fulfillment of joy, of love, of gratitude, of prayer to the whole existence. Better if he were never to be born! …than not to learn the art of living, than not to reach to the right point of death. Zarathustra says: Better if he were never to be born! – thus I advise the superfluous. Those who don’t know life and don’t know death, are superfluous. They should not have been born; they have unnecessarily taken the trouble of being born. If you are born, if you are given the opportunity, then use it to its fullest. But even the superfluous make a great thing of their dying; yes, even the hollowest nut wants to be cracked. In fact, the more superfluous a man is, the greater the noise he makes: he wants to make his dying a great thing. He has missed life; only death has remained. I was very friendly with one chief minister, the first chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, an old man. He told me that his only prayer to God was that he should die as the chief minister. I said, “What will you gain by that? Death is death, whether you die as a beggar or as a chief minister.” He said, “You don’t understand. If I die as a chief minister my death will be celebrated as a royal state thing. There will be a few days of holiday; flags will be flown in my honor; my body will be carried on an army tank; and I will receive my last salutes from the soldiers.” I said to him, “It seems you have missed life; otherwise, who bothers when you are dead, whether your body gets salutes from soldiers, respects from flags, a royal reception, a week’s holiday in the government offices. What does it matter to you?” I have always remembered, although he became very old, he insisted on remaining the chief minister; and he remained the chief minister and he died as the chief minister. That was all that he was born for – to die as a chief minister, and all those eighty-five or ninety years in between were just empty. These are the superfluous – the presidents, the prime ministers. Have you ever thought about what is happening to Nixon, and what will happen to Ronald Reagan when he is no longer the president? He cannot be the president again; he has already lost it. People have forgotten Richard Nixon; people will forget Ronald Reagan. Once a person is in a prestigious post he clings to it; he does not want to be forgotten. You will be surprised to know: Before the Russian revolution the Prime Minister of Russia was a man named Karensky. He escaped when the revolutionaries took over the country and he lived in New York running a grocery store. He died in 1960, and up to 1960 nobody ever bothered that this grocery store owner, a poor man, was once one of the great prime ministers of one of the mightiest empires, Russia. Only when he died, a small news item appeared in the newspapers: “Karensky, who was the prime minister before the Russian revolution, has died.” Only his death made people aware that he was alive all this time. The superfluous man has no intrinsic value to his life. That’s why he needs something else to give it value – his money, his power, his prestige, something from the outside. Nothing from the outside can make your life richer; nor can it make your death richer. Only the inner, your interior being, your subjectivity, has the power to make your life a dance, and your death the last and the final and the greatest dance. Everyone treats death as an important matter: but as yet death is not a festival. Perhaps I am the only person, after the twenty-five centuries since Zarathustra, who has made death a festival. Only my people celebrate death; otherwise everywhere it is a mourning. Everywhere it has to be a mourning, because a life unfulfilled, unlived, a wastage…. What is there to celebrate? But if your life has been of love, of creativity, of sharing, of joy, if you have not left any part of your being unlived, your death needs to be a ceremony, a festival. As yet, men have not learned to consecrate the fairest festivals. I shall show you the consummating death, which shall be a spur and a promise to the living. The man consummating his life dies his death triumphantly. Death should be a triumph, a victory, a coming home. But for that you have to transform your whole life. You have to live differently – not like a Christian or a Hindu or a Mohammedan – but like a natural human being, without any fear and without any greed. Let this moment be enough unto itself. Don’t sacrifice it for something else in the future, and don’t waste it in remembering sweet past memories. Create this moment as sweet and as beautiful as you can; and this way, moment to moment, your life will become a garland of flowers. From Osho, Zarathustra: A God That Can Dance, Chapter 16 Copyright © 2010 OSHO International Foundation, Switzerland. All Rights Reserved

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