The great death
JOSHU ASKED TOSU,
"WHAT IF A MAN OF THE GREAT DEATH COMES BACK TO LIFE AGAIN?"
"YOU SHOULD NOT GO BY NIGHT; WAIT FOR THE LIGHT OF DAY AND COME."
OPEN-EYED, HE WAS ALL THE MORE AS IF DEAD;
WHAT USE TO TEST THE MASTER WITH SOMETHING TABOO?
EVEN THE BUDDHA SAID HE HAD NOT REACHED THERE;
WHO KNOWS WHEN TO THROW ASHES IN ANOTHER'S EYES?
YOU ARE ONE WHO HAS COME BACK TO LIFE FROM THE GREAT DEATH. YET WE WHO HAVE NOT DIED ARE NOT NEARLY SO ABUNDANTLY ALIVE AS YOU.
WOULD YOU PLEASE TALK ABOUT THIS?
AND QUESTION TWO:
YOU ARE LIKE AN EXOTIC FLOWER OR RARE SPECIES OF CREATURE WHOM I HAVE WATCHED AND LISTENED TO AND TRIED TO FIND WORDS TO DESCRIBE FOR THE PAST FOURTEEN YEARS.
TO HEAR YOU TALK OF THE STATE YOU ARE IN IS TO FEEL ENDLESSLY IN AWE. ONE OF THE MOST INTRIGUING THINGS ABOUT YOU IS THAT YOU ARE ALWAYS SO ABSOLUTELY PRESENT AND AT THE SAME TIME SO TOTALLY ABSENT.
WOULD YOU PLEASE COMMENT?
AND THE THIRD:
OSHO, OKAY... I'M GOING TO LIGHTEN UP....
FOR A MASTER OF YAA-HOO AND YAA-BOO
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE TABOO?
The death we know is always somebody else. Once we know our own death, pass through it, a tremendous realization arises that death is the greatest fiction.
This realization is called "the great death." Everybody dies, but the small death; only very blessed ones have died the great death. It simply means they die with total awareness, seeing body and mind separating from their consciousness. But the consciousness, the flame of their being is eternal.
It goes on moving into new forms and ultimately it moves into the formless.
This small anecdote is about the great death. Zen is always special in its expression. Joshu calls it the great death because it is not death. The great death in reality is the great life.
Only the small death is death.
The difference is of consciousness and unconsciousness. You die unconsciously - this is the small death; you will have a small rebirth. Neither will you know your death nor will you know your birth. If you die meditatively, alert, aware, it is the great death - and great death is followed by great birth.
Knowingly you die, and because knowingly you die... how can you die? Your knowing, your consciousness continues - knowingly you are born. There is no discontinuity between your death and your birth.
Your realization of this ordinarily would be called "the great life," but there is some reason why Zen has chosen to call it the great death. The reason is that the great death comes first; behind it is revealed the great life. Unless you open the door of the great death, you won't enter into the space of great life.
JOSHU ASKED TOSU, "WHAT IF A MAN OF THE GREAT DEATH COMES BACK TO LIFE AGAIN?"
Now another distinction has to be made which is not clear in the anecdote and is not commented upon by Setcho either. But without bringing in another distinction the experience remains incomplete; it is not entire.
There is death there is the great death and there is the greatest death.
In death you die unconsciously. In the great death you die consciously, but you are born again.
In the greatest death you only die; you are not reborn, you simply disappear into the immensity of existence - you disperse yourself in the wholeness of the cosmos.
It is because of this fact Mahavira cannot be born again. There is no way for him to get back into any form; he has become formless. But there are meditators who have not reached the ultimate peak but who have some light, some consciousness, that remains while they are dying. They will be born again; they are not yet ripe enough to disappear into the cosmos. They have not learned the whole secret and mystery of life; they have to go on the pilgrimage a little more.
Joshu's question is, "WHAT IF A MAN OF THE GREAT DEATH COMES BACK TO LIFE AGAIN?"
His question seems to be relevant, because there is no precedence in which a third kind of death is recognized. He is asking: "I can understand the great death, that you die consciously, but what about a man dying consciously and coming back to life again?"
He is asking about the third distinction, because we have known of many people simply disappearing into air and they never come back again - and there are millions who go on coming back. They never learn their homework; their lives remain mundane and unconscious. But even if sometimes a few people become a little bit conscious, it is better than not being conscious at all. These people will be born - and from their very birth they will show distinctions, uniquenesses, which ordinary children are not supposed to show.
But this is not the ultimate death which everybody is seeking. Only in ultimate death do you relax totally into existence, not to come back. This coming back is not something great; it is coming back to the prison.
TOSU SAID, "YOU SHOULD NOT GO BY NIGHT; WAIT FOR THE LIGHT OF DAY AND COME."
Slowly, slowly you will be getting the taste of the language of Zen. Rather than saying, "You should not die unconsciously," he says, YOU SHOULD NOT GO BY NIGHT - don't go in darkness, don't go blind - WAIT FOR THE LIGHT OF DAY... Wait for consciousness, wait for witnessing. Wait for meditation to grow in you and then you can come.
OPEN-EYED, HE WAS ALL THE MORE AS IF DEAD.
That's how a great master is. In his being, death and life have become one. There is no separation between death and life.
OPEN-EYED, HE WAS ALL THE MORE AS IF DEAD; WHAT USE TO TEST THE MASTER WITH SOMETHING TABOO?
Such questions should not be asked - that's what Setcho is commenting. Such questions are of such a great depth that there is no way to answer them. Why put somebody in an embarrassing situation? Hence such questions are taboo.
EVEN THE BUDDHA SAID HE HAD NOT REACHED THERE - just to avoid the answer. He must have been asked many times in his forty-two-years-long life of teaching. Rather than putting a lock on their mouths, he said to his questioners, "I have not reached there yet, so I cannot answer it." But it is not true, because he has not returned and he cannot return. That does not mean that others cannot become as awakened, as enlightened as Gautam Buddha. It simply means that the unique personality of Gautam Buddha will never be seen again in the world of time and space.
WHO KNOWS WHEN TO THROW ASHES IN ANOTHER'S EYES?
Setcho is saying, "Buddha is simply throwing ashes into the eyes of the questioner." You cannot deceive an authentic questioner, because the authentic questioner himself knows it a little bit - that death is a fiction, that life is eternal.
But even Buddha is trying to throw ashes into the eyes of the questioner. It must be out of compassion. He does not want you to think much about death; he wants you to think much about life. He wants you to go deeper into life, and death will disappear on its own accord. The more alive you are, the farther away death is. When you are totally alive, there is no death for you. Of course you will not be in a form, you will be a pure isness spread all over the existence. Not confined in a body of any species, just a white cloud floating in the open sky, unconfined to any form.
Have you ever watched a cloud moving in the sky? It has no form, because its form goes on changing. It is free of any bondage to remain in the same form. It is free as far as form is concerned.
It is freedom.
Maneesha's first question is:
"OSHO, YOU ARE ONE WHO HAS COME BACK TO LIFE FROM THE GREAT DEATH. YET WE WHO HAVE NOT DIED ARE NOT NEARLY SO ABUNDANTLY ALIVE AS YOU. WOULD YOU PLEASE TALK ABOUT THIS?"
I have been teaching you nothing else except to be more alive, more loving, more singing, more dancing...
My approach is not the approach of Gautam Buddha. His approach is negative. On his path there are no dances, no songs. On his path you will not find any oasis. His path is perfectly right; it reaches, although it is hard.
But when there is a choice, why choose the hard? Why not choose the way of dancing and singing and being aware - and move through gardens where flowers blossom. There is no need to move through deserts where nothing grows.
It was a historical necessity for Gautam Buddha to move through the desert, but it is not for you.
What was the historical necessity for him to move through the desert? For twenty-nine years he lived in beautiful gardens, in palaces, surrounded by beautiful women, song, dance... He was tired of it. It all created a kind of negativity because he knew that this is not life. I was not there to teach him that this in itself is not life, but if you just add a little awareness to it, it is life - more life. There is no need to go on a desert path.
I am teaching you to reach to the same goal of ultimate death, but I would rather call it ultimate life.
That's where my expression and Gautam Buddha's expression differs.
I don't think that his path of negativity has helped humanity very much; in fact, who wants to die?
Have you ever asked yourself - do you want to die? An ultimate death, with no possibility of turning back? And for this ultimate death making all kinds of disciplines, rituals, following a thousand and one rules - you will certainly think that this is mad. If in the end you are only going to gain the ultimate death... It doesn't seem right. And that's why Buddhism has not been of as much help as it could have been.
But it was Buddha's individual necessity. He had lived the life of immense luxury - he was tired of it.
If this is life then he does not want to live. He moved in the opposite direction to find the truth. But you have not lived the life of Buddha, the luxury that was available to him. You need not be, and you cannot be negative in your approach. Your approach can only be positive.
And if dancing you can reach to the ultimate, laughing, if you can reach to the ultimate, then why unnecessarily go with a British face? There are other faces also! Don't be serious.
But death... the very word makes people serious.
I want you even to dance in your death, to dance and celebrate even in the death of your loved ones.
Life and death both should be part of a single festival without any discontinuity.
Your second question is:
"OSHO, YOU ARE LIKE AN EXOTIC FLOWER OR RARE SPECIES OF CREATURE WHOM I HAVE WATCHED AND LISTENED TO AND TRIED TO FIND WORDS TO DESCRIBE FOR THE PAST FOURTEEN YEARS. TO HEAR YOU TALK OF THE STATE YOU ARE IN IS TO FEEL ENDLESSLY IN AWE. ONE OF THE MOST INTRIGUING THINGS ABOUT YOU IS THAT YOU ARE ALWAYS SO ABSOLUTELY PRESENT AND AT THE SAME TIME SO TOTALLY ABSENT. WOULD YOU PLEASE COMMENT?"
Maneesha, totality has two sides: the presence and the absence.
You cannot be totally present if you cannot be totally absent at the same time, simultaneously - you cannot choose one.
Just the very word 'total' includes presence and absence both. Your understanding is accurate. You have felt rightly that I am present - at the same time I am not present. This has to be your state also. Only then - the meeting, the communion.
Once in a while you have, for a moment, come to the place where you meet me - but soon your mind takes you away. You come very close to the waters and yet you remain thirsty. Your mind takes another route which goes away from the waters.
In this silence you are both: totally present and totally absent.
This presence, this absence, this totality has to become your whole life.
Just because you could get the feel of an ultimate fact, Zen master Niskriya will have to reward you.
Such an understanding should not go without reward.
Bring your staff....
(MASTER NISKRIYA GENTLY TAPS MANEESHA'S HEAD.)
One hit to yourself also....
Your third question, Maneesha, is very simple. I wonder how you missed the simplicity of it. You say:
"OSHO, OKAY, I'M GOING TO LIGHTEN UP....
FOR A MASTER OF YAA-HOO AND YAA-BOO WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE TABOO?"
Taboo is the Only Begotten Son of Yaa-Hoo and Yaa-Boo! In this small statement is implied the whole Christian trinity, and in a far better way because the Christian trinity has no woman in it. And without a woman, what have these three guys been doing?
The father is there - but where is the mother? The holy ghost... This holy ghost is a strange fellow!
If he can make Virgin Mary pregnant, certainly he is not a woman. So he cannot be the mother; in fact, he is Jesus' father. And who Jesus thinks is his father, is his uncle. "Father, uncle and son" - that seems to be more comprehensible, logical.
The trinity that you have made is perfect....
Yaa-Hoo is the father, Yaa-Boo is the mother, Taa-Boo is the son, the only begotten son. Here is a whole religion!
Now some irreligious things....
It is a few nights after Christmas. The door of the stable creaks open and three wise men enter.
They are tiptoeing quietly across to the manger when one of them steps into a huge pile of donkey shit.
Looking down at his ruined golden slipper, the wise man clenches his teeth and mutters, "Jesus Christ!"
Mary looks from her baby to her husband, "Hey! Joe!" she says, "that's a much better name than Albert!"
Solomon Liebowitz owns a little pharmacy in New York.
One day his assistant, Danny, comes running into the back and cries, "Mister Liebowitz, there is a man in the shop who wants to buy some arsenic to kill himself. What shall I do?"
"Is he a good Jew, like ourselves?" asks Sollie.
"He certainly is," replies Danny.
"Okay," says Solomon "tell him that to kill himself he will need twenty dollars worth... He will soon change his mind!"
One day Lupo is walking home when he notices a huge gorilla standing on the roof of his house.
Not knowing what to do about it he looks in the phone book under GORILLA REMOVALS. Then he calls up Kowalski's Get Lost Gorilla Service and explains the situation.
Ten minutes later Kowalski arrives with a banana, a bulldog, a butterfly net, a ladder and a loaded gun.
"Okay," says Kowalski, "it is quite a simple thing. I am gonna throw the banana at the gorilla, and while he is busy eating it, I am gonna climb up the ladder and push him off the roof.
"Then the bulldog is trained to grab him by the nuts, and when the gorilla holds himself in pain, you throw this butterfly net over him."
"Great!" shouts Lupo, with enthusiasm.
"But what about the gun?"
"Well," explains Kowalski, "if I miss the gorilla and fall off the roof myself, you shoot the dog!"
The Western Australia Old Ladies' Discussion Group meets each week, but all they ever talk about is cocks and pricks. After a while the ladies get worried because they use the words so much - and they might let them slip out in public. So they decide to substitute the words 'prick' and 'cock' with other words which won't sound bad if they say them by mistake outside the club.
They write to Old Ladies' Clubs all over the world to ask for advice.
The British Old Ladies' Club writes back and says they use the word 'gentleman' because he always stands up when a lady comes in.
The Italians use the word 'curtain' because it goes up when the show begins and comes down when the show is over.
The Americans use 'chewing gum' because it goes in hard and comes out soft.
And finally, the French say that they use the word 'anecdote' - but with no explanation. So one of the Australian ladies finds a dictionary and looks up the word.
"Here we are," she says to the others: "'Anecdote: A little story that goes around from mouth to mouth.'"
Now, two minutes of silence....
Now come back.