Anecdotes on the last moments of some Zen masters and others to touch us, make us laugh, and inspire.
Master Takan – a great Zen master and very much loved by his disciples – was dying. His disciples asked that he write a death poem.
Death should be a poem; death should be a celebration and a song. When a master is departing, when he is saying good-bye to all those who have been with him and who have been working with him and who have been growing through him – to all his children – he leaves his last legacy in a song. Maybe two lines or four lines – a small haiku. But that is his gift.
Masters have sung beautiful songs. They have to be spontaneous because the master may not be a poet at all, he may not have composed a poem ever. But when such a great phenomenon as death is there everybody becomes a poet if they are alert.
It is such a beautiful experience. To pass through death is to pass through utter relaxation; to enter into death is to enter into a non-tense rest. Everything starts relaxing, everything starts dropping. One is ready for the journey. The boat has come to the shore and the unknown surrounds one: the mysterious is all around. Even one who has never been a poet and has never written a poem will utter something.
So they asked Master Takan to write a death poem. He refused. But when they insisted, he wrote the character ‘Yume’ – it means ‘dream – and died.
Many death poems have been written, but nothing to compare with Master Takan: Yume – dream. Life and death both are dreams: that is his last verdict. Life is dream, death is dream, and the divine is dream: all is dream. Just one thing is not a dream – that is the consciousness upon which this dream happens, to which this dream happens.
Takan is right when he says it is all a dream – life and death. His last statement should be the first too. This is the whole story.
(Osho: Zen: The Path of Paradox)
Off to Hell – yo-ho!
A master, Etsugen, shortly before he died, called his monks together. It was December the first.
‘I have decided to die on the eighth of this month,’ he told them. ‘That’s the day of the Buddha’s enlightenment. If you have any questions left about the teaching, you’d better ask them before then.’
Because the master continued with his regular duties during the next few days, some of the monks thought he was having a little fun at their expense. Most, however, were struck with grief. By the evening of the seventh, nothing unusual had happened. Nonetheless, Etsugen had them all assemble and taught them for the last time about the Buddha’s enlightenment. He then arranged his affairs and went into his room.
At dawn he took a bath, put on his ceremonial robes and, sitting erect in the lotus posture, composed this death poem:
Shakyamuni descended the mountain.
I went up.
In my teaching,
I guess I’ve always been something of a maverick.
And now I’m off to hell – yo-ho!
The inquisitiveness of men is pure folly.
Then shutting his eyes and still sitting he died. (Osho: This Very Body the Buddha)
The Fireworks Display
One great Master, Nan In, was on his deathbed. He is one of those people whom I can say was religious, really religious. His whole life is full of incidents, anecdotes, stories, which give a clear indication of a man of tremendous insight.
He was dying and he had told his disciples, ‘I would not like my death to be mourned because it is not death. You will be unnecessarily wasting your tears and crying and weeping and I will be laughing from the other shore because I will see, “These fools! I have wasted the whole of my life: they have not understood a simple thing.”
‘I would like you to dance and sing and laugh and rejoice, because death is not death. I am going, leaving this house because it is no longer useful. This body is now more of a trouble than a convenience – I am just changing it. So there is no need to mourn. You should be happy that your master is going into a new life.’
To whatever he said they listened but their faces were showing that they were all ready to burst into tears. They were sad – and who would not be sad when a man like Nan In leaves the world?
But Nan In had made arrangements…. He said, ‘A few things to be remembered… this is my will.’
In the East it is a tradition, perhaps in the West also, that before you burn or bury a body you wash the body and put new clothes on it. I know the reason in the East is that the person is going on a faraway journey; maybe there will be some chance to have a bath or maybe not. Certainly he will need new clothes, so new clothes are given and a bath is given. This is just a way to say good-bye from this shore: ‘From now onwards we cannot help – you take care of yourself.’
Nan In said, ‘Don’t give me a bath because I have just taken one. And I don’t like baths in such a cold winter; even if I am dead I don’t want another bath. I have taken one, which was necessary. I have done it myself because I was concerned that if you give me a bath I won’t know how much water you pour in, how cold, and anything else you do. I have taken my bath so that ritual has not to be done.
‘And don’t change my clothes. You see, I have already changed because I don’t like clothes that don’t fit, which are too loose or too tight. You know I am fussy about that, so I have my dress ready – you can see it is new.’ And they saw that he had taken a bath and he did have a new robe.
Nan In said, ‘So these two things are not to be done – this is my will – but anything else you want to do, do. Don’t weep, don’t cry and don’t mourn. That would not be the right kind of good-bye for me’ – and he died.
Although he had said ‘Don’t cry’ – but what to do? Tears are not in your hands, just to stop or… To lose such a man, such a tremendously alive man, disappearing into who knows what…. ‘And how much he has given! Now towards whom are we going to look? Questions will be torturing us, doubts will be arising and who is going to say, “Don’t be worried, continue: you are on the right track and the goal is not far away?”’ His voice had been enough to bring courage and strength again. Now who was going to help?
They were crying and they were weeping but they could not manage to do it for long. People like Nan In are really creative geniuses. When his body was put on the funeral pyre they all started laughing in spite of themselves; tears were coming to their eyes. It was a strange situation: that man had hidden in his clothes many things – firecrackers and small bombs!
That’s why he had prevented them from changing his clothes; that’s why he had taken his own bath. His dress was specially made with many pockets inside where he was hiding an almost three-hour celebration. The people were laughing and crying. The firecrackers were going off – beautiful and colorful because in Japan they make the best. Nothing can be compared with Japanese firecrackers; they make them in such artful ways.
What Nan In was continually telling these people appeared in the sky, in writing: ‘Beware!’ A firecracker would go up and burst into small flower-like pieces and they all would fall together and make the word, ‘Beware!’
His disciples were looking at the sky and they forgot completely that it was a funeral; it became a beautiful exhibition of fireworks! They realized only as the fire died out and the body was consumed by the fire… only then did they realize that that man had been doing the same thing for his whole life. He had even made arrangements before dying so that after death also his work would continue in the same way, uninterrupted. Death made no difference: Nan In was still doing the same thing. (Osho: From Personality to Individuality)
The Only Certainty
It is said of one Zen master, Tojo, that he remained silent his whole life, he would not speak. When he was a child it was thought that he was incapable of speaking, but he was so intelligent that sooner or later people realized that he was just keeping silence; he was not dumb. He remained silent for eighty years.
The first and last statement he made was on the day he was going to die. The morning he was going to die, just as the sun was rising he collected his followers and said, ‘This evening when the sun sets, I will die. This is my first and last statement.
So somebody said, ‘But if you can speak, why did you remain silent your whole life?’
He said, ‘Everything else is uncertain, only death is certain. And I want only to speak about something which is certain.’
Once born, death is certain; everything else is uncertain. Why is death so certain? Nothing can be done about it. Science may help to prolong life, but death cannot be destroyed, because it is implied in the very phenomenon of birth; it has happened already.
Unless you come to know something that is not born, you cannot become deathless. (Osho: Vedanta: Seven Steps to Samadhi)
The Real Paradise
It is told that [the Zen master] Fugai met his end in an extraordinary manner. Feeling that his last day had come he quickly dug a hole…
This is the way. One should go a little way, a few steps, to meet death. When you know death is coming, go and meet it at the gate. Let death be welcomed. He quickly dug a hole, then climbed in and ordered the digger to cover him with earth.
He must have been a very rare man. He wanted to savour death in its completeness. He would not even like to be buried in the earth in unconsciousness, when he was gone. He would like even that to happen while he is there and watching and witnessing. Standing there being buried with earth….
The astonished man ran off. He couldn’t believe what was happening! And he might be caught later on and be accused of having murdered the master. He simply ran off. On his return to the spot he found the master standing in the hole with great dignity — dead.
A man of understanding has dignity even in his death. A man who lives an unconscious life, even in his life has no dignity. An unconscious life is the life of a beggar – with no dignity and a thousand and one humiliations. Conscious deaths… even a death, when conscious, has dignity, tremendous dignity and beauty and grace.
A man who has lived an unconscious life suffers hell while he is alive, suffers hell when he dies – because the hell is created of your unconsciousness, by your unconsciousness, with your unconsciousness. The hell is nothing but the horror that is created by your unconsciousness.
A man who has kindled his lamp of inner being, lives in heaven, dies in heaven, because consciousness is paradise.
(Osho: Nirvana: The Last Nightmare)
The Taste of Cake
As Roshi Taji approached death, his senior disciples assembled at his bedside. One of them, remembering the Roshi was fond of a certain kind of cake, had spent half a day searching the pastry shops of Tokyo for this confection which he now presented to Roshi Taji. With a wan smile the dying Roshi accepted a piece of the cake and slowly began munching it. As the Roshi grew weaker, his disciples leaned close and inquired whether he had any final words for them.
‘Yes,’ the Roshi replied.
The disciples leaned forward eagerly. ‘Please tell us!’
‘My, but this cake is delicious!’ And with that he died.
Meditate over it. What a man! What manner of man! A Buddha. Each act and each word and each gesture becomes the expression of truth. In that moment only that was true, the taste of the cake. In that moment anything else would have been false, untrue. If he had talked about the divine, that would not have been true. If he had talked about nirvana, that would not have been true. In that moment the taste on his tongue was still alive. In that moment that was his authentic gesture.
(Osho: Come Follow to You)
The Cup of Tea
The venerable old rabbi, known throughout the land for his wisdom, lay in a coma, very near death. On either side of his bed hovered his most worshipful disciples.
‘Rebbenyu,’ pleaded the spokesman for the grieving congregation, ‘please do not leave us without a final word of wisdom. Speak to us for the last time, dear Rabbi.’ For a few moments there was no response, and the weeping visitors feared he had passed on to his well-earned reward. But suddenly the rabbi’s lips moved ever so slightly. They bent over him to hear his final words.
‘Life is a cup of tea,’ he whispered in a faint voice.
The disciples looked at each other in perplexity. What did he mean? What great secret of life was hidden in that mystic statement? For the better part of an hour they exchanged opinions, analyzing the sentence from every conceivable standpoint, but they could not decipher the deeper meaning.
‘We must ask him before it is too late,’ said the leader. Once again, he leaned over the still figure of the revered sage.
‘Rabbi, Rabbi,’ he called out urgently, ‘we implore you to explain. Why is life a cup of tea?’
With his last spark of energy, the rabbi lifted his palms and croaked, ‘Alright, so life is not a cup of tea.’
(Osho: The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha)
The Man who Discovered the Deathless
Just a few days ago I was reading the memoirs of the doctor who attended Gurdjieff when he died, and the doctor says, ‘I have attended so many people while they were dying, but this death was tremendously exceptional.’
The doctor says, ‘I cannot think that anybody has ever died like that. The moment he was dying, he opened his eyes, sat up in his bed, supported by many pillows, asked for his hat, put his hat on – a very beautiful red hat – took his cigar in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other hand, smoked and sipped the coffee!’
The doctor was watching and the disciples were crying and weeping. The doctor knew that within seconds Gurdjieff was going to disappear. His legs had become numb – they had gathered too much water and the water had to be removed – and the doctor knew that he might not even be able to completely remove the water because before the water was removed, Gurdjieff would be gone.
He asked Gurdjieff – because giving him pain seemed unnecessary now that he was going to die; death was certain – he asked Gurdjieff, ‘What should I do?’
Gurdjieff said, ‘If you are tired, then I can wait a little longer. I have been waiting so many years for death. You can rest a little and then you can do it. I have been waiting so long, I can wait a little longer – there is no problem. If you are too tired, you can have a little rest for two or three hours because you have not been asleep the whole night. If you are not tired, you do your work.’
Crying, because he also was a disciple, the doctor started removing the water from Gurdjieff’s legs. Gurdjieff was there, sipping his coffee, smoking his cigar and talking and joking. All the life had disappeared from the body but his face was aflame, his eyes were so radiant.
At the last moment he said, Has anybody any question?…because now I am leaving.’
He used to say to his disciples that one can die very consciously, and he died very consciously. Just twenty-four hours before he was removed to the hospital he had insisted that he would not go to the hospital, and he had asked the doctor, ‘What do you think? Can the hospital save me? If I cannot save myself then who can save me?’
For twenty-four hours before this the doctor had been crying, so Gurdjieff said, ‘Okay, if you are crying, I will go.’ So the doctor ran outside to phone for the ambulance. When the ambulance came, he went into the room – Gurdjieff had disappeared! He could not believe how he had gone because he could not move.
Gurdjieff had been standing on the road near the ambulance! He came in and he said, ‘The ambulance has come – where is the doctor?’ He was walking around and the doctor could not believe it! It was impossible: he was not in a state to walk. Other doctors came to consult and they, nobody, could believe that he could walk, but he walked to the ambulance. Not only that, he had come in again to inquire, ‘Where is the doctor?’
Two weeks before he died, suddenly – and he was ill, very ill – one evening he told his disciples, ‘Bring my car – I would like to drive.’ Two weeks before!
They said, ‘The doctor says you should not leave your bed.’
He said, ‘Forget all about the doctors! Bring my car.’ He drove the car to a certain Russian church and sat outside it under a tree for an hour, with closed eyes. Only later on could people know that was the place where he would be buried two weeks later. He had gone there two weeks before to see the place, and he sat on the exact place where he was to be buried two weeks later.
Then they all understood: death was so clear to him – when it was going to happen and where he was going to be buried. That was a church he had never gone to in his whole life. It was not that he used to visit it; he had never gone there. That was the first and the last time alive. Next time he was dead.
Bennett reports that he reached him twenty-four hours late; Gurdjieff had died. He arrived in the middle of the night, rushed to the church where Gurdjieff’s body was lying and went inside. Nobody was there. He sat silently and he became afraid; he started trembling because it felt as if Gurdjieff were still alive.
Bennett was a scientist, a mathematician, and he could not be deceived. He was not a devotee; he was not emotional or sentimental…not the feeling type at all. So he went closer to the body to feel what the matter was and became completely silent to order to listen. It felt as if somebody were breathing. He went all around the room. Closer… whenever he came closer to the body he would hear the breathing more clearly and whenever he went further away, the breathing could not be heard so clearly. The man was dead but Bennett had a feeling that he was still hovering around – as if the body were alive, as if his presence were there.
It is possible. A man who dies totally alert can do many things. A man who dies in awareness, in fact, never dies. He has come to recognize the deathless in him. (Osho: Tao: The Pathless Path)
This is It!
One Zen master, Rinzai, was dying; he was on his deathbed. Somebody asked, ‘Master, people will ask after you are gone, what was your essential teaching? You have said many things, you have talked about many things – it will be difficult for us to condense it. Before you leave, please, you yourself condense it into a single sentence. We will treasure it and whenever people who have not known you desire it, we can give them your essential teaching.’
Dying, Rinzai opened his eyes and gave a great Zen shout, a lion’s roar. They were all shocked! They couldn’t believe that this dying man could have so much energy, and they were not expecting it. The man was unpredictable – he had always been so – but even with this unpredictable man they were not in any way expecting that dying, at the last moment, he would give such a lion’s roar. When they were shocked – and of course their minds stopped, they were surprised and taken aback – Rinzai said, ‘This is it!’ closed his eyes, and died.
This is it….
This moment, this silent moment, this moment uncorrupted by thought, this silence that was surrounding them, this surprise, this last lion’s roar over death: this is it. ‘I am not going to give you a destination. I can only give you a direction – awake, throbbing with life and unknown…always surprising and unpredictable. I’m not going to give you a map. I can give you only a great passion to discover. Yes, a map is not needed; great passion, great desire to discover is needed. Then I leave you alone. Then you go on your own.
‘Move into the vast, into the infinite, and by and by, learn to trust it. Leave yourself in the hands of life because life is God.’
Each moment, this is it. It may be life, it may be death; it may be success, it may be failure; it may be happiness, it may be unhappiness.
Each moment…this is it!
This is what I call real prayer.
Then you will have direction. You need not worry about it and you need not fix it. You can move with trust. (Osho: The Beloved)
Beyond Questions and Answers
Gertrude Stein was dying. Suddenly she opened her eyes and asked her friends who were gathered together around her, ‘What is the answer?’
Now, this is tremendously beautiful, almost a koan. The question has not been asked and she asks, ‘What is the answer?’
Of course, nobody was capable of answering it. They looked at each other. They were at a loss even to understand what she meant. A Zen master was needed, somebody who could have responded from his heart – spontaneously and immediately…somebody who could have laughed uproariously or shouted or done something, because such a question – ‘What is the answer?’ – cannot be answered through words.
Stein is saying that the question is such that it cannot be formulated – and yet the question is there, so what is the answer? The question is such that it is impossible to utter it. It is so deep, it cannot be brought to the surface. But still it is there, so what is the answer? The question is such that it is not separate from the questioner; it is as if the questioner’s whole being has become a question mark: What is the answer?
They looked at each other. They were completely at a loss as to what to do. They must have thought: The dying woman has gone mad. It is mad, absurd, to ask, ‘What is the answer?’ when the question has not yet been formulated. No one replied. No one was aware enough to reply to it. No one responded, because in fact no one was there to respond. No one was so present as to respond.
‘In that case,’ she insisted, ‘what is the question?’
Again silence followed. How can anybody else tell you what the question is? Certainly she had gone mad! Certainly she was no longer in her senses.
But the question is such that it is impossible to say what it is. The moment you say it, you betray it. The moment you verbalize it, it is no longer the same. It is not the same question that was there in the heart. Once it becomes verbalized, it becomes a head thing. It looks almost trivial, almost superficial. You cannot ask the ultimate question. In asking it, it will not be the ultimate any more.
Only a master could have understood what she was saying. She was a beautiful woman, a beautiful person and of tremendous understanding. At the last moment of her life she flowered in this koan.
‘…In that case,” she insisted, ‘what is the question?’
The silence remained unbroken. Nobody was capable enough to respond. A reply was not needed – she was asking for a response.
You can go on thinking about life and death, and you can go on creating many theories and hypotheses but the whole of philosophy is just rubbish. Life remains unanswered, death remains unanswered.
At that moment, Stein was asking about life and death; about that which is life, about that which is also death – about the ultimate, the substratum, the very ground of your being. She was asking: Who am I?
Philosophy has no answers. Philosophy has been trying to answer; centuries of thinking, speculation, but the whole effort is empty.
(Osho: The Search)
The Case of the Falling Hall
Yakusan’s manner of death was a piece of his life – a great Zen master, Yakusan. When he was about to die, he yelled out, ‘The hall’s falling down! The hall’s falling down!’
The monks brought various things and began to prop it up. Yakusan threw up his hands and said, ‘None of you understand what I meant!’ And died.
‘The hall’ is based on life-and-death duality. The duality is the house, the hall. The duality is falling – that’s what Yakusan means when he says, ‘The hall is falling down.’ The dual is disappearing and the non-dual is arising; the clouds are disappearing and only the pure sky is left. That pure sky cannot be identified by any word that comes from any pair of any duality.
You cannot call it light because light is a part of darkness, a partner of darkness. You cannot call it love because love is a partner of hate. You cannot call it man because man is a partner of woman. You cannot call it any name, because all names are part of dualities.
Hence, Buddha is silent about it. Whenever somebody asks him, ‘What will happen to you, Sir, when you leave the body?’ he smiles. He does not say a single word – because all words will be wrong, inadequate. All words will be false, untrue – because all words come from the dualistic language. Our language is dualistic; the non-dual cannot be expressed. That’s why Buddha kept silent about the divine, about the eternal, about the ultimate – he would not say a single word.
(Osho: Zen: The Path of Paradox)
The Game of Death
Almost blind at the age of ninety-six and no longer able to teach or work about the monastery, Zen Master Yamamoto decided it was time to die, so he stopped eating. When asked by his monks why he refused his food, he replied that he had out-lived his usefulness and was only a bother to everybody.
Now ninety-six…it is enough. And the old man thinks that now it is time to die, so he stops eating food. Death is just a rest. It is time to rest. He starts preparing to retire. This is the understanding that is needed.
The disciples told him, ‘If you die now’ – it was January and very cold – ‘when it is so cold, everybody will be uncomfortable at your funeral and you will be an even greater nuisance, so please eat!’
This can happen only in a Zen monastery with a Zen master and Zen disciples. Nobody is worried about the death. Death is okay. The master is ready to die, but look at the disciples. Those disciples are also very close to enlightenment. They say, ‘Stop your nonsense! Right now it is not a good time. Why do you want to create trouble for us? Yes, you are a bother – ninety-six years old – but that will be even more bothersome, dying in the middle of January. Please eat!’
So the old man laughed, he resumed eating, but when it became warm again he stopped, and not long after quietly toppled over and died.
Death, too, is then a game, something to be played with. Then you are not afraid. There is nothing to be afraid of. Then you are not even serious. Look at the non-seriousness of the whole thing. Can you think of something like this happening in the West? Impossible! It can only happen in the East where people have accepted life and death both, as they are.
And this can happen only when you know that nobody is going to die – that’s why they could joke with the old man, and the old man laughed. He was not offended.
When you start taking death also humorously, you are a man of understanding. When you take death also with humor, you have already gone beyond it. And to go beyond life and death is to go into your reality. (Osho Zen: The Path of Paradox)
Socrates was dying. His disciples started crying and weeping; it was natural, but he said to them, ‘Stop! Don’t disturb me – let me inquire into death. Don’t distract me! You can cry later on, I will be gone soon. Right now, let me inquire what death is. I have been waiting my whole life for this moment to go into the reality of death.’
He was poisoned. He was lying on his bed watching what death is, inquiring what death is. Then he said to his disciples, My feet are becoming numb but I am still as much as I was before. Nothing has been taken away from me. My feeling of my being is as total as before. My feet are gone.’ Then he said, ‘My legs are gone, but I am still the same. I cannot see myself reduced to anything less. I remain the total.’
Then he said, ‘My stomach is feeling numb…my hands are feeling numb.’ He was very excited, ecstatic. He said, ‘But I still say to you: I am the same, nothing has been taken away from me.’ Then he started smiling and he said, ‘This shows that sooner or later death will take my heart also – but it cannot take me.’
Then he said, ‘My hands are gone…now even my heart is sinking. These will be my last words because my tongue is becoming numb. But I tell you, remember, these are my last words: I am still the same, total.’
This is the enquiry into death. From the very conception to the very end, man is an enquiry into the search for truth. And if you are not searching for truth, you are not a man. Then you have missed. Then at the most you look like a man, but you are not man. Your humanity is only in appearance but not in your heart. Unless your enquiry grows to such heights that your whole energy is transformed into enquiry and you become a quest, you are not man. (Osho: The Search)
The Path of No Coming and No Going
Just before the Zen Master, Ninakawa, passed away another Zen Master, Ikkyu, visited him.
Shall I lead you on?’ Ikkyu asked.
Ninakawa replied, ‘I came here alone and I go alone. What help could you be to me?’
Ikkyu answered, ‘If you think you really came and you are really going, if you think that you come and go, that is your delusion. Let me show you the path on which there is no coming and no going.’
With his words Ikkyu had revealed the path so clearly that Ninakawa smiled, and without saying a single word, nodded and passed away.
This is a beautiful story. A few things have to be understood about it.
First: to a man who is in search of truth, even death is an occasion. To the man who is not in search, even life is not an occasion to learn.
People live their lives without learning a thing at all. They pass through life but without gaining any maturity through it. They remain almost asleep. People live like sleepwalkers. They remain drunk – they don’t know what they are doing, they don’t know why they are doing, they don’t know from where they come, they don’t know to where they are going. They are simply like driftwood, at the mercy of the winds. Their lives are accidental; remember that word “accidental.”
Millions of people live only accidental lives, and unless you take hold of your life and start changing it from the accidental to the existential there is going to be no transformation.
That’s what [my vision] is all about: an effort to change the accidental into the existential, an effort to change the unconscious life into a conscious life, the effort to wake up. Then life is learning and so is death. Then one goes on learning. Then each moment and each situation comes as a gift. Yes, even suffering is a gift from the divine but only for those who know how to learn and how to receive the gift. Ordinarily even blessings are not gifts for you because you don’t know how to receive them and you don’t know how to absorb them. Your life is lived in a robot-like way.
This is a beautiful parable, that one Master is dying and another Master comes to say good-bye to him – but what a way to say good-bye! The opportunity of death is used. Yes, only very conscious people can use the opportunity that death makes available.
Death looked at unconsciously is the enemy, death looked at consciously is the greatest friend. Death looked at unconsciously is just a shattering of all your dreams, of all your life patterns, of all the structures that you have been raising and of all that you have invested in – an utter collapse. But death looked at consciously is the beginning of a new life and a door to the divine.
Ninakawa is dying and Ikkyu asks, ‘Shall I lead you on?’ He is saying that death is a beginning, not an end. ‘Shall I lead you on? Do you need my help in any way? You are going to learn a new way of being and a new vision is going to arise. You are entering into a new dimension and a new plenitude – shall I lead you on? Is my help in any way needed?’
Ninakawa replied, ‘I came here alone and I go alone. What help could you be to me?’
Yes, we come alone and we go alone. Between these two alonenesses we create all the dreams of togetherness – relationship, love, family, friends, clubs, societies, nations, churches and organizations.
Alone we come, alone we go.
Aloneness is our ultimate nature.
But in between these two, how many dreams we dream!
One becomes a husband or a wife, a father or a mother. One accumulates money, power, prestige and respectability…knowing perfectly well that you come empty-handed and you go empty-handed.
You cannot take a thing from here. Still one goes on accumulating, still one goes on becoming attached, more and more attached, more and more rooted in this world from where we have to leave.
Use this world as a caravanserai; don’t make a home in it.
Use it, certainly, but don’t be used by it.
There is no point in possessing anything because the moment you start possessing something you are possessed by it. The more you possess the more you are possessed. Use! – but remember to be aware that death is coming; it is always on the way. Any moment it might knock on the door and you will have to leave everything as it is. And it is always in the middle that you have to leave. One cannot complete anything in life.
Ninakawa replied perfectly well, ‘I came here alone and I go alone. What help could you be to me? How can you help me in death? Maybe in life we can have the illusion of being helped, of being helpers, but how in death?’
He’s telling a great truth but there are truths and truths and greater truths.
Ikkyu answered with an even higher truth. Ikkyu answered, ‘If you think you really come and go, that is your illusion.’
Who comes? Who goes? All is as it is. Coming and going is also a dream.
For example, in the night you fall asleep, a dream arises. In the morning the dream disappears. Do you think you went somewhere and you have come back? You find yourself in the same room, on the same bed, and all that dreaming! You may have traveled to faraway places – you may have visited the moon, the planets, the stars – but m the morning when you wake up you don’t wake up on a star. You wake up in the same place where you had slept.
Life is a dream!
We are where we are. We are that which we are.
Not for a single moment have we moved and not a single inch have we moved from our true nature.
This is the ultimate statement of truth.
Yes, Ninakawa was saying something significant, very significant – ‘Alone we come, alone we go’ – but Ikkyu is stating something even far more profound. He says, ‘What going? What coming? You are talking nonsense! Who comes? Who goes?’
Waves arise in the ocean and then disappear in the ocean. When the wave arises in the ocean it is still the ocean, as much as it was before it had risen. Then it disappears, back into the ocean. Forms arise and disappear; reality remains as it is. All changes are only appearances. Deep, at the deepest core, nothing ever changes; there it is all the same. Time is a peripheral phenomenon. At the center there is no time, no change and no movement. All is eternal there.
Just see the point of this dialogue happening at the moment when Ninakawa was dying. These are not the things to be discussed at the time of death. At the time of death people try to help the person and to console him, ‘You are not dying. Who says you are dying? You are going to live.’ Even when they know – the doctor has said, ‘Now all is finished and nothing can be done anymore’ – then too the family goes on pretending that you are not going to die. The family goes on helping the dream to remain a little longer; the family goes on hoping some miracle will happen and the person will be saved.
This dialogue is immensely beautiful. When somebody is dying, it is better to make him aware that death has come. In fact it is better to make everybody aware, whether the death has come today or not. Whether it is going to come tomorrow or the day after tomorrow doesn’t matter; it is going to come. One thing is certain: it is going to come. In life only one thing is certain, and that is death, so it is better to talk of it from the very beginning.
In the ancient cultures every child was made aware of death. Your very foundation should be made on that awareness of death. The man who is aware of death will certainly become aware of life, and the man who is unaware of death will remain unaware of life too – because life and death are two aspects of the same coin.
Ikkyu said, ‘If you think…’
But remember, he uses the word ‘if’ because he knows; he knows this man, Ninakawa.
He can see through and through, the man is transparent. He knows that he has arrived. Maybe he is just provoking Ikkyu to say something beautiful, to say something of truth. Maybe his provocation is just a trick, he is playing a game. That’s why Ikkyu says, ‘If you think you really come and go that is your delusion. Let me show you the path on which there is no coming and no going.’
What is that path on which there is no coming and no going? Yes, there is a place inside you; that is your eternal home, where nothing ever happens, where nothing ever changes – no birth, no death, no coming, no going, no arising, no disappearing. All is always the same.
With his words Ikkyu had revealed the path so clearly that Ninakawa smiled, nodded and passed away.
It can’t be said in a better way – which is why Ninakawa didn’t utter a single word anymore. But he smiled… because that which cannot be said can be smiled. That which cannot be said can be nodded. That which cannot be said can be shown. He showed it with his face. He recognized it, he nodded and he said to Ikkyu, ‘Right, absolutely right. So you have also come home.’
The dialogue between two Masters is very rare, because when two Masters meet, ordinarily they remain silent. There is nothing to say. But whenever it happens that two Masters say something to each other, it is a great play. There is a playfulness. It is not an argument, remember; it is a dialogue. They are provoking each other to say it in a better way. And Ikkyu has said it. Ninakawa is satisfied, utterly satisfied.
What has Ikkyu said? – that the life that we think is, is not, and we have not looked at that which is at all. We have become too occupied with the illusory, and we go on remaining occupied with the illusory to the very end.
To become aware needs great effort. To become aware you will have to go into a long struggle with your own sleep, with your own unconscious states. You will have to fight your way. The struggle is hard and arduous and the path is uphill. (Osho: No Water, No Moon)
What’s the Fuss?
Ta Hui means ‘The Great Master of Wisdom.’
Only at the last moment, it seems, did he attain enlightenment, just before he died. But then he did not say anything except a small verse. It was eleven sixty-three, on the ninth day of the eight month, after showing signs of illness, when Ta Hui told the congregation of monks, nuns and lay people, ‘Tomorrow I am going.’
That is the first indication that he knows when he is going to die. The second…. Towards the pre-dawn hours, his attendant asked Ta Hui for a verse. That is an old tradition in China: when a great master dies, as his last statement, his last gift to the world, people ask him to write a verse.
In a serious voice Ta Hui said, ‘Without a verse I could not die!’ He took up the brush and wrote:
Birth is thus
Death is thus.
Verse or no verse
What’s the fuss?
This is the whole idea of Gautam Buddha’s philosophy of suchness condensed. Birth is thus – thusness or suchness mean exactly the same.
There is no reason to think why it is: it is there.
There is no reason why you are dying.
A tremendous acceptance is part of the philosophy of thusness or suchness. Everything that happens, the man of understanding simply accepts it – this is how things are, this is how nature functions. There is no complaint and there is no grudge.
Birth is thus
Death is thus.
Verse or no verse
What’s the fuss?
Then he let go of his writing brush and passed on.
Perhaps in this moment, when he was writing this verse, he completed his journey. He had entered into a realm of ultimate serenity and silence. It does not matter whether it is life or death. It does not matter whether he is following the tradition of writing a verse or not writing it. Then he just let go of the writing brush and passed on…passed on into eternal existence.
It does not matter when you become enlightened. Even if you become enlightened at the last breath of your life it is perfectly good. You have not lost anything. You will see the whole life that you have lived as a dream. And the moment you can see your whole life as a dream, it has lost all its impact on you. You have become totally free – free from all bondage of the body and the mind, free from all limitations. You are ready to enter into the limitless consciousness of existence itself. (Osho: The Great Zen Master Ta Hui)
The Young Boy and Death
An old man, a very rich man, a super-high-caste Brahmin, very learned in scriptures, was distributing to other Brahmins gifts, because he knew he was going to die soon. His small son, whose name is Nachiketa, looked at the things that he was distributing. It is all rotten junk – people give away these things as gifts.
He was giving old cows to other Brahmins and as that boy was innocent he could not see the point. He asked his father, ‘What are you doing? These people are already poor and starving and you are giving them old cows, which I know perfectly well don’t give any milk. These poor Brahmins cannot manage to find themselves two meals a day. How are they going to feed these cows?’
He was so persistent, asking again and again, that the father became angry. He said, ‘Be careful, I will give you away too!’
He said, ‘To whom will you give me?’
In anger the father said, ‘I will give you to death.’
Nachiketa waited while all the Brahmins passed by his father. The ceremony of giving things away was over and he asked the father, ‘Death has not come and you were going to give me to death. I will have to go in search of death because, in a way, in your anger you have already given me to death.’
The father knew … ‘Where can he search for death?’ He said, ‘Okay, go and search. If you can find him I will give you….’
The story is very beautiful, although from this point it becomes allegorical.
The little Nachiketa – one of the most beautiful names as far as seekers are concerned – went on and on asking everybody where he could find Death. Finally he ended up at the house of Death but Death had gone to collect a few people whose time has come. So he met the wife. The wife, seeing a high-caste Brahmin – and such an innocent child – asked him to come in.
He said, ‘No, unless Death invites me I will not come in. I will sit outside.’ The wife brought food for him and something to drink. He refused. He said, ‘I will fast until Death comes.’ Three days passed and the wife was very concerned: the little boy had not eaten anything and had not drunk anything.
Finally Death came and Nachiketa said, ‘My father has given me to you.’
Death says, “But you are too young! Your time has not come and your father has no right to give you. When your time comes I will come myself. You took such a long journey unnecessarily and then you have been fasting: even I feel sad for you. What can I do for you? You just tell me – I will allow you three wishes. You can have all the money that you want; you can have a great kingdom if you want; if you have any desire for a beautiful woman, you can have her. Whatever you want, just say and I will give it to you.’
Nachiketa said, ‘If I were a king, would you come or not?’
Death said, ‘Strange questions you are asking! I will have to come one day finally, whatever you are, whether a king or a beggar.’
Nachiketa said, ‘Then there is no point in asking for a kingdom. And certainly death will be the same for the richest man so there is no point in asking for money. Since you are going to come I don’t see any point in asking anything of the world. I will ask you only one question: When you come, am I really going to die or is it just a facade? Am I just going to change bodies like houses? You have to tell me the truth.’
Death was at a loss, because this was his secret. But the promise had been given, so Death said, ‘It is very difficult for me to answer you, but I have to be truthful in response to such an innocent inquiry.
‘I have never killed anyone. I have simply changed their old, rotten bodies, their old, rotten minds and given them new bodies. There are a few who have lived so totally and so consciously that they don’t need to come back into the world as a separate entity. They don’t get another body again. To them I give the whole of existence to disappear into. They will be in this cosmos not as separate units but one with the whole.’
Nachiketa said, ‘Then there is no problem. I don’t have to be afraid of you. You are just a fiction and nothing else. Those who are unconscious believe you are a reality; those who are conscious know that you are a fiction, just an appearance.’ (Osho: The Ultimate Alchemy)
Be a Mirror
When Tozan was dying a monk said to him, ‘Master, your four elements are out of harmony, but is there anyone who is never ill?’
‘There is,’ said Tozan.
He was very ill. The whole body was just disintegrating. The four elements were no more together. It was a kind of riot inside his body; the elements were trying to get free of each other. Tozan was old and dying, and the disciple asks, ‘Your four elements are out of harmony, but is there anyone who is never ill?’
‘There is,’ said Tozan.
‘Does this one look at you?’ asked the monk.
‘It is my function to look at him,’ answered Tozan.
‘How about when you yourself look at him?’ asked the monk.
‘At that moment I see no illness,’ replied Tozan.
In you there are two worlds: the world of birth and death, and the world that is transcendental. Yes, the body can be very ill, and yet there may be no illness in you – if you don’t get attached to illness, if you don’t get identified with illness, if you don’t start thinking ‘I am ill.’ It is only a kind of hypnosis. It has to be learned through many, many doors.
One day you are healthy, another day you are ill – the mirror reflects! One day you are young, another day you are old. One day you are loved, another day you are hated. One day appreciated, another day condemned. The mirror goes on reflecting. The function of the mirror is just to reflect whatsoever is the case. But each time you get identified.
Stop this identifying yourself with things that are standing in front of you, and suddenly you will see you have never been ill and never been hungry and never been born, and never are you going to die. You are the very source of eternity. You are eternal. (Osho Zen: The Path of Paradox)
A Loving Entry into the Unknown
Death should be a peaceful acceptance, a loving entry into the unknown, a joyful good-bye to old friends, to the old world. There should not be any tragedy in it.
One Zen master, Lin Chi, was dying. Thousands of his disciples had gathered to listen to the last sermon, but Lin Chi was simply lying down – joyous, smiling, but not saying a single word.
Seeing that he was going to die and he was not saying a single word, somebody reminded Lin Chi – an old friend, a master in his own right…. He was not a disciple of Lin Chi. That’s why he could say to him, ‘Lin Chi, have you forgotten that you have to say your last words? I have always said your memory isn’t right. You are dying… have you forgotten?’
Lin Chi said, ‘Just listen.’ And on the roof two squirrels were running, screeching. And he said, ‘How beautiful’ and he died.
For a moment, when he said, ‘Just listen,’ there was absolute silence. Everybody thought he is going to say something great, but only two squirrels fighting, screeching, running on the roof…. And he smiled and he died.
But he has given his last message: don’t make things small and big, trivial and important. Everything is important. At this moment, Lin Chi’s death is as important as the two squirrels running on the roof, there is no difference. In existence it is all the same. That was his whole philosophy, his whole life’s teaching – that there is nothing which is great and there is nothing which is small; it all depends on you, what you make out of it.
Start with meditation, and things will go on growing in you – silence, serenity, blissfulness, and sensitivity. And whatever comes out of meditation, try to bring it out in life. Share it, because everything shared grows fast.
And when you have reached the point of death, you will know there is no death.
You can say good-bye but there is no need for any tears of sadness – maybe tears of joy, but not of sadness. (Osho: Beyond Enlightenment)