We cannot draw a circle without a center. The circumference is drawn all around the center. As the circumference moves away from the center it grows larger and larger. If we mark two points on the circumference there will be some distance between them, and if we draw two lines from the points on the circumference joining the center, the distance between the lines will go on decreasing as they approach the center. The distance between the lines will disappear as soon as they reach the center. There may be any amount of distance between two lines on the circumference, but as these lines approach the center, they go on coming closer to each other, and having reached the center the distance disappears altogether. At the center they are one. If we continue to draw these lines beyond the circumference, the distance between them will go on increasing as the circumference increases.
Through giving this geometrical illustration, I wish to tell you two or three things to explain this sutra. The first point is this; the element which is called the unmanifest Brahman is the central Brahman. The whole expanse of the existence comes out of it: and life - the circumference - goes on spreading out and out from this center.
After deep inquiry during the last few years, science has arrived at a new theory - that of the expanding universe. It was always believed that the universe is what it is, nothing added, nothing subtracted. But modern science says the universe is not simply that which now is, but it goes on expanding every day, just as a balloon goes on expanding if someone pumps air into it. Such is the expanse of this universe. But it is not the same as it was yesterday. It expands by millions of miles during every twenty-four hours. Continuously it is expanding. The stars we see at night are traveling far away from one another every moment.
This is interesting: there must have been a moment when this universe was so contracted within itself that it must have been at the zero center. As you go back and back in time, the universe is found to be smaller and smaller, becoming more and more contracted. There must necessarily come a moment when this whole universe was contracted into its very center. Then its expansion began, and that process has been going on ever since. The circumference is getting larger and larger every day. Scientists say we are unable to forecast how long it will continue to expand. This is an endless expansion. It will go on growing larger and larger.
It is necessary to bear in mind another point. Science has started to use the term 'expanding universe' very recently, but the thing - the element - which is called the Brahman by the Upanishads, means the expanding. That is the meaning of the word Brahman. The meaning of Brahman is not God, but the element that is constantly expanding. The words Brahman and vistala - expanse - are derived from the same root. They are derivations of the same word. So, the meaning of Brahman is that which goes on and on expanding. It is not that it has expanded or spread; it is not a static condition, but it is that which is constantly expanding. The activity is going on. What happens is constantly expanding.
Even from a scientific point of view, the Brahman has two forms - one is the unmanifest, which is called asambhuti by the sage of the Upanishad. The unmanifest Brahman means the zero-Brahman, the seed-Brahman. Let us imagine the time when it had not started to expand, when the seed had not broken. Then imagine the absolute first moment of expansion - and after that the sprouting, the continual expanding, the growing of the tree. From such a tiny seed, such an enormous tree will grow that thousands of bullock-carts can take rest under its shade. And from that tree will fall innumerable seeds; and from each seed will grow again a vast tree; and again each tree will propagate countless seeds, and from each seed the tree, and seeds and trees and seeds and trees endlessly. Thus a single, minute seed, through its growing process, gives birth to endless seeds.
The unmanifest Brahman is the seed-Brahman, the zero-Brahman, the center point. We can only imagine this, because the center point can only be imagined.
If we ask Euclid, the greatest geometrician, he will say a center point is that which has neither breadth nor length. You could not see such a point. This is its definition - it has neither breadth nor length; and it cannot be a point if it has breadth and length, for then it becomes another figure, and there must be expansion. Where breadth and length are, there is expansion. A point is that which has not yet expanded, but which is going to expand. Therefore, says Euclid, the point can only be defined, it cannot be drawn.
When you put the smallest point on a piece of paper with the sharp end of your pencil, there immediately is breadth and length; a point can never be drawn on paper. So the point which is seen has expanded. The point which is not seen, but is defined only, is the true point. The thing which is called the point by Euclid is invisible - it has not yet begun to be; its creation is not yet manifested. It is unmanifest. Life has not yet emerged from it, but it has the potentiality for it; life is yet hidden. So this unmanifest Brahman is like the point in the definition.
This is one form of Brahman. But we do not know it. We know only the manifest Brahman - that which is out. We know the tree-Brahman which has unfolded. The manifest is not yet complete, it is becoming and becoming; it is in the process of becoming, it is constantly expanding. Our universe is becoming larger and larger every moment. To describe its increase by the day is too much - it is inconceivable. So I say it expands every second. The stars are moving away from the center at the speed of light. The speed of light is one hundred and eighty-six thousand miles per second. So in one minute it expands sixty times that distance; and in one hour, sixty times that again. And multiply this multiplication by twenty-four to know how many miles it has expanded at the end of one day.
The circumference is moving with such a tremendous speed away from the center, and this activity has been going on since endless time. Moreover, scientists are unable to determine that moment of time when this journey must have started, when the seed must have put out its first sprout in the process of becoming the tree. Nor can we say anything about the end of this journey. Science is in a great dilemma today, because it is inconceivable where and why the phenomenon of the expanding universe should end. There is no possibility of its stopping, because that would require some other impediment to its progress. Suppose I throw a stone; if it does not meet with any obstruction it will stop nowhere. But some obstruction comes up - it may strike against a tree. If it does not strike against a tree it is striking the air, and gravitation of the earth attracts it all the time. As the impetus given by my hand weakens, the gravitational force pulls it down. But if there is no gravitational pull and no obstruction in the way, a stone thrown by me, or even by a small child, will stop nowhere, because there is nothing to stop it.
Where will this universe of ours - this manifest Brahman - which is constantly expanding, stop?
There must be some obstruction, some impediment, to stop it. But where will the impediment come from? Everything is within it, nothing is outside it. What is, is part and parcel of manifest Brahman.
So there can be no impediment. Where can it stop? How can it stop? Will it go on expanding? Both Einstein and Planck, who did a great deal of research work around this theory, were baffled by it. At their wits' ends, they finally had to leave it a mystery. No cause, no obstruction, is conceivable that can stop it, and yet its nonstopping seems inconceivable. If it goes on expanding in this manner, a day may come when stars will be so far away from one another that one star cannot be seen from another star.
But the Upanishads talk about this phenomenon from quite a different and strange perspective, and it should be understood properly. If not today, then in the future, scientists will have to work from that perspective. But up to now it has not been the way of reasoning in the West, and there is a reason for this: the whole of Western science has developed from Greek philosophy. It stands on the foundations of Greek philosophy, and one of Greek philosophy's basic beliefs is that time travels in a straight line. This belief has led Western science into great difficulty. Indian philosophy thinks about this in a vastly different way.
Indian philosophy says all motions are circular. No motion can be in a straight line. Understand this by an illustration. A child is born, grows up and then grows old. If we asked a Greek philosopher to explain this, he would reply that a straight line could be drawn between the child and the old man to explain this happening. The Indian philosopher would reject this and say a circle should be drawn between the child and the old man because in his last days the old man reaches that condition in which he began as a child. It is a circle. Hence it is no great surprise if old people are found behaving like children. It is not a straight line but a circle that joins childhood and old age. Youth is the midpoint of that circle, it is the zenith. When youth is over, the life journey begins to return to its starting point. It is like the revolving of seasons. The Indian conception of time is a circle, like the revolving of the seasons. Summer, the rainy season and winter follow one another in a circle. In the same way morning follows evening and evening follows morning. It is a circle.
The wise men of the East believe that all movements are circular. The earth revolves, seasons revolve, the sun, the moon and the stars move round and round. Every movement is circular, no movement is straight. Life moves in a circle. And the expanding universe, too, moves in a circle.
Suppose a child remains young; then a difficulty will arise. Where will its being young end? Where will life stop if it goes on expanding and does not return to the point of death?
So Indian thinking says that this manifest Brahman, in its expanding process, will pass through childhood, youth and old age and again return to fall into unmanifest Brahman. It will again be zero and void. It will return to the original source from where it began its journey. Its circle will be a huge one. The span of our life-circle will be of seventy years. There are lives that revolve through small circles. A butterfly is born in the morning and its life-circle is complete in the evening. And there are circles smaller than this, too. There are animals who live only for a few moments. They are born at the beginning of a moment and die by the end of that moment. But do not be under the impression that this animal having a life of one moment lives a lesser life than one who lives for seventy years.
Do not think its life is less because it completes its circle in one moment, while yours lasts seventy years. It has its childhood, its youth, it makes love, children are born, it has its old age and it dies.
In a circle lasting for a moment it completes its seventy years intensely.
But the circle of seventy years cannot be called a large circle. Scientists say that our earth was born some four thousand million years ago. We have no means to find out in which stage of its life the earth is now, but from certain considerations it appears it is in old age. The production of food is decreasing, and the world population is increasing. Death seems to be near. All things necessary for life are in deficiency. Coal, petrol and food are in short supply, all the chemicals of the earth are in short supply. The earth is getting old, so it may die soon.
What does 'soon' mean? The word soon is not to be understood from our personal point of view; if the earth has taken four thousand million years to grow old, what is another four thousand million years? But we cannot make any estimate about the earth. There are about seventy million cells in each human body. Those cells have no idea at all that you are also there, and though these seventy million microscopic cells live in your body, you do not know anything at all about them. Within your body they are born, grow up, become old, leave children behind them, and die, making their graves in your body - and yet you will know nothing about them. During seventy years of your life, millions of these organisms will be born and will die. In a similar way, the earth does not know anything about us and we do not know anything about the life of the earth. Its life of millions of years is on a circle.
It is difficult to determine the age of the entire universe, the entire manifest Brahman, but one thing is certain - there is no transgression of the law in this world. Sooner or later, the law is fulfilled.
Therefore, the sage says in this sutra that there are two phases of Brahman - the manifest which is, and the unmanifest from which this whole universe was created, and in which it will again be absorbed: the central Brahman and the expanded Brahman.
"He who knows the expanded Brahman conquers both - he goes beyond it. And he who knows the central Brahman attains to immortality." But the expanded Brahman is an enclosure containing death. Death is bound to happen in it. The circle will have to complete itself. If there is birth, death will surely follow it. Then why does the sage say that such a person conquers death?
What does overcoming death mean? Do the sages not die? All the sages die. All enlightened people die. For sure, overcoming death does not mean not to die. The sage who sang that he who has known manifest Brahman overcomes death, is no more. So either he said this unknowingly or falsely - if the statement was correct he should not have died!
No, overcoming death means something else. The person who knows and experiences deeply that death is already linked with birth and unavoidable, becomes free from the fear of death. He knows that birth is the beginning of the circle and death its end. So he who knows so deeply, so profoundly that death is an unavoidable destiny, becomes free from the fear of death. Why should one fear the unavoidable? Why should one worry about what is sure to happen? Worry is only for that which can be changed or altered.
So it is interesting to observe that there was never so much worry about death in the East as in the West, and there are good reasons for this. The West feels that it has the remedy to conquer death; the East never felt it had the remedy to conquer it. If it is felt that death can be changed, then worry is bound to come. There will always be cares and worries for a thing which can be changed. There is no cause for anxiety when a thing cannot be altered. Why worry? If death is certain, if it is linked with birth, then there is absolutely no cause to worry about it.
When soldiers are on their way to the battlefield, and as long as they have not reached it, they remain worried and afraid, but once on the battlefield all their worries are over in a day or two. After reaching the battlefield, even the most timid soldier becomes a brave person. What is the reason?
Psychologists are pondering over this phenomenon. This man was so afraid that he couldn't sleep at night at the thought of going into battle in the morning. He was trembling and behaving like a madman; it seemed that he would run away from the battlefield. But having been in battle, this very same man sleeps soundly.
What is the reason? As long as he had not come on to the battlefield he thought escape was possible - he could save himself, a way could be found, something could be changed. "Somebody else might be sent instead of me." But when he saw himself on the battlefield, saw bombs falling on all sides, the whole matter of worrying was over. Now there was no way out, and when there is no way out worry disappears. When the possibility of change is gone, the hope for the change also vanishes. It is the desire for change that creates anxieties and worries. When the sage says, "After knowing the manifest Brahman, the wise man conquers death," it means death holds no fear for him.
If death approaches him, he is not afraid.
There is an interesting small story about Panini. He is one of the sages who compiled these sutras.
He was teaching grammar to his pupils in his forest ashram one day when a roaring lion bounded in. Panini asked his pupils to listen to the lion's roaring, and try to make out its grammatical form.
The lion is poised ready to pounce on anyone, the pupils are trembling, and Panini is explaining the grammatical form of the lion's roaring! It is said that even when the lion fell upon him, he continued to explain the grammatical form of its roaring. And as the lion devoured him, he expounded on the grammatical form of, "The lion kills the man."
Our immediate thought is that Panini could have run away and saved himself. Something could have been done, but people like Panini think thus - that death is certain, whether it comes today or tomorrow; then what difference does it make if it is today or tomorrow? Such people accept death unwaveringly because it is a certainty - whether it comes today or tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.
Here is the victory. In this acceptance we have accepted death along with birth. We have accepted the withering along with the blooming, the expanding. In the time of our blooming we knew that we would wither one day. On the day of our unfolding, our birth, we knew that we would one day be hidden again. The circle is bound to be complete. In such an acceptance lies freedom from death.
Then where is death? Such a person has overcome death. He is free from the attraction of birth as well as from the fear of death. He is beyond both.
Bear in mind, for the rest of us death and birth are the two ends in our life, and they are outside life. Birth is outside our life, because before birth we were not. Death is outside our life, because after death we will not be. Death is the borderline. But it is not a borderline for one who knows. To him, death and birth are two happenings taking place in the midst, in the course of life. He will ask, "Whose birth? I was before, hence I could be born; otherwise how could birth take place? I was unmanifest, hence I could be manifest; otherwise how could I be manifest? If a tree is not hidden in a seed, there is no way for it to spring forth - to be born. If I die, I must be living first; otherwise whose death will it be? My birth could take place because I was before the birth. I will also be after death; then and then only, death can take place, otherwise whose death will it be?"
Death is not the end for one who knows. It is only a happening which took place in his life. Birth is also a happening taking place in one's life, it is not a beginning. The life which is beyond this circle is the unmanifest. It is hidden, unexpressed. That unmanifest life - existence - becomes manifest in birth and again becomes unmanifest in death. So one who knows this cycle of the manifest world is untroubled by it; the pattern does not cause him any unhappiness.
Suppose you are in a house. You know this is a wall, this is a door. Then would you beat your head against the wall trying to get through it? You will not try to leave through the wall. If you want to go out you will use the door. You will not sit down and regret and question why the wall is not a door.
But one who does not know the door will knock his head against the wall, and that poor fellow will often bemoan the fact that the wall is not the door. If you know the door, then the wall is a wall and the door is a door to you. Thus one who knows fully the arrangement and the gestalt becomes free from that gestalt. He knows that where birth is, there death will also be found. But one who knows it incompletely - not in its full significance - comes into conflict and difficulty. This knowledge is so clearcut, so ultimate, that there is no question of any change in it. This is called destiny - the destiny of the manifest.
But we have not correctly interpreted the meaning of destiny. In fact, because we are not clear within ourselves we interpret all things in a wrong way. The person who is clear within himself interprets rightly, and the person who is unclear interprets wrongly. You have not understood the real meaning of destiny if you take it as despair.
If a person sits with folded hands in despair and frustration and cries, "It is all fate!" then such a person has not understood the true meaning of destiny. Destiny means great optimism, great hope.
You find it very difficult to grasp this interpretation. The true meaning of fate is that there is now no cause for any misery. There is now no place for despair. Death is; it is unavoidable. Where, then, can there be any misery in it? Where is the suffering in that? Misery and suffering are there only as long as there is no acceptance.
Buddha used to say, "What is made will be unmade, what is had will be lost." Be aware! - in the moment of meeting our loved ones, we create our separation from them; it is bound to follow. We don't want to hear about separation. When we are reminded of separation at the time of meeting our loved ones, we become unhappy. When we think of the separation which is to follow very shortly, the joy of meeting is also destroyed. The illusion that there is joy in meeting the loved ones is at once lost at the thought of separation.
A child is born: there is rejoicing in the house and if someone says, "With this birth death has entered," we are deeply shocked and tell him not to talk of such inauspicious matters at this moment of rejoicing. But when Buddha says there is already a moment of separation in the meeting of dear ones, he is not destroying the happiness of meeting; he is only destroying the pain of separation.
Try to understand the difference between the two situations. The fool will destroy the happiness of meeting, and the wise will cut the pain of separation. The wise will think, "How can there be any pain of separation when it is already present in the meeting itself? When meeting was longed for, then separation was also desired. When death is present in birth, then how can there be any sorrow over death? When the birth of a child was wished for, death was included in that wish." The fool will destroy the happiness of birth, and the wise will destroy the pain of death.
Having known the manifest Brahman, the expanding Brahman, an individual overcomes death. He remains unaffected by the miseries, pain and suffering caused by death. Bear in mind, misery, pain and worry are the shadows of death. The person who has thus freed himself from death has no misery, no worries and no pain.
You perhaps have not considered this - that when you become worried, then death is standing somewhere near you. Suppose a man's house catches on fire; he will at once be worried and miserable. As soon as a man finds himself bankrupt, he becomes anxious and worried. Why? - because now, being bankrupt, his life becomes full of difficulties, and death has moved a little closer.
When the house is destroyed by fire his life becomes insecure and unprotected - and death comes a little closer. This is the way man's mind works in such circumstances, and so he becomes sad and anxious. A man standing alone in darkness is frightened and worried because nothing is visible in that darkness, and if death attacks him he will not be able to see it. So wherever you become worried, be alert at once; you will find death standing somewhere near you. Worry, anxiety, is the shadow of death.
Whenever and wherever your mind is caught in miseries and pain, recognize at once that there is some foolishness on your part in interpreting the manifest Brahman. You believe unavoidables are avoidables; your miseries begin from the very point of the belief. You hope that that which is destined to happen may not happen, and at this point your worries begin; anguish and unease are created.
No, what is to happen will happen. There is no escape from it, nothing else can happen. When you accept this mantra, when you accept this arrangement of the manifest Brahman totally, everything within you will become calm and quiet. Then there is nothing to worry you.
Hence the sage has said that there is liberation from death after knowing the manifest Brahman.
But this is half the story; the sutra is not yet complete, only half so. There is still one more thing for us to know which is not said in the first half, and is very subtle and deep. As long as we are unable to see it, we are perplexed and harassed, and in our ignorance we stumble about, bumping our heads against the walls and trying to pass where there are no doors. We go on building houses of cards and drawing lines on water, and we go on weeping when we see them being wiped out and destroyed.
You know that no sooner are lines drawn on water than they begin to disappear. When you draw a line on water and try to make it permanent, is it the fault of the water, or of this line of yours, that you fail in your endeavor? Who would you find fault with? The water or the line? The man who finds fault with either the water or the line will be miserable; the man who understands his own foolishness will laugh. He will know that the line drawn on water is bound to be wiped out. It must be wiped out. If the line remains there then we are really in difficulty!
How can we understand the unmanifest Brahman when we are not even able to understand this manifest Brahman? It is absolutely unfolded before us: is there anything more manifest than death?
Yet we continually deceive ourselves. When someone dies, we sympathetically say, "The poor fellow died." It does not occur to us to regard death as a reminder of our own death.
I remember a line of a poem by an English poet. When somebody dies, the church bell tolls. The poet has said, "Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." That is, without making any inquiry, know that it is for you.
Concealing a phenomenon as great as death, we behave in such a manner that if a traveler from Mars were to come and be our guest for two or three days, there are two things he would not discover about us, and these two are linked together. That traveler would not know that there is death or sex on this planet, because we keep these two concealed. Bear in mind, sex is the originator of birth, it is the first step; and death is the last step of the manifest Brahman.
The suppression of sex, the first step, begins with the fear of death, the last step. If we wish to suppress death, we will have to make ourselves forget also the process of birth, because death is linked with birth. Therefore we hide the birth process in darkness. The birth process is performed behind a curtain. And death we drive out to the limits of our villages. There we reserve a place for a graveyard, because we are very much afraid of death. We scatter flowers on the graves so that whoever passes those graves by chance may not see them. When a dead body is taken to the graveyard we cover it with flowers, so that the corpse may not appear dead but blooming. You may cover the body with flowers as much as you like, you may construct tombs as beautiful as you like, and carve names on those hard tombstones too - but the person who died is dead forever. When the person lying in the grave could not be preserved, how long will those names cut on stones last?
And no matter how far away from town we keep the graves, deaths will happen in towns and not in graveyards.
We suppress sex and hide it because it is the source of birth. Our unconscious reason for keeping it suppressed and hidden is that it is the first step. If it is unveiled and brought into the open, then death will also be unveiled; it will no longer be possible to conceal death. So it is interesting to notice that societies where sex is not suppressed become more concerned and worried about death, and the societies which have suppressed sex totally, ignoring it as though it does not exist, have suppressed death also.
I have heard this story. A Jewish child one day returned home from school having learned in school how children are born. He was much pleased with his new information and very eager to show his knowledge. As soon as he was home he asked his mother how he was born. His mother said, "God sent you."
Then he asked, "How was my father born?"
His mother said, "He was also sent by God."
The boy asked, "How was my grandfather born?"
His mother was now a little puzzled but said that he was also sent by God. The boy continued asking till he reached the seventh generation, and the exasperated mother said, "Look, can't you see there is only one answer to your question?"
Then the boy exclaimed, "What! You mean that for the last seven generations there's been no sex in our family?"
No, there is a great unconscious need to suppress sex. It is the first step of birth. If it is opened and made manifest then death will also be manifest. As long as children do not know how man is born they go on asking this question. But when they have this information they will surely ask how man dies. So you keep this first step, about birth, concealed from children, and they are always asking this question; they never get an opportunity to ask how man dies!
Bear in mind, if the happening of birth is clearly understood, then the next question cannot be any other than that concerning death. So at one end sex is suppressed, and at the other end death: look for the graveyard beyond the village limits. Thus we live in darkness between two ends, and we live in great fear. There has to be fear, because we know neither what birth is, nor what death is. When we try to falsify even the manifest Brahman which is so open and clear, then what to say about the unmanifest Brahman which is hidden and unrevealed? How can we possibly go into that?
Understand these two happenings - birth and death - properly. They are the two ends of one phenomenon. Birth is the beginning and death is the end of one and the same circle. Death happens at that place where birth happens. The happening of death and that of birth are parts of one happening.
What happens in birth? A body is created. The male cells and the female cells combine and give birth to a new composite body. Both have half the materials within them, hence their intense attraction to each other. Those halves draw each other all the time. They want to be whole, so there is a tremendous attraction between them. This is why children are being born all the time despite all religious injunctions, all rules, principles and education against sex. Preachers of celibacy come and go, but they always preach to no effect. The attraction is so powerful that all the preaching and teaching cannot touch it. This is an attraction of two halves of one and the same element. It is like breaking a thing in two parts and the parts wishing to meet each other again. When they meet a new body is created. Half the cells are given by the woman and the other half by the man.
So birth means the creation of a body from the meeting of the half-cells of man and woman. And as soon as the body is created, a soul enters that body - a soul whose desires will be fulfilled by that body, and its entry into the body is as natural and self-directed as rainwater filling holes and making puddles. The order of things is such that the soul enters a womb convenient to itself.
What happens in death? Those two merged parts of the element begin to scatter and break off.
Nothing else but this happens. The link within begins to weaken and loosen. Old age means the weakening of the link. This composite body begins to decompose. The way in which the link fractures was laid down at the moment of conception. This was not determined astrologically but scientifically. In fact, when the cells of a man and a woman meet together, all this is determined.
At present our scientific knowledge about these matters is not adequate, though it is growing day by day. If not today, certainly in the future we shall be able to predict how long the intrinsic body-process of a child will last - whether for seventy years, or eighty years, or one hundred years. It will be like giving a ten-year guarantee with a watch, because the test of various parts of its machinery will tell us that the watch will be able to resist the wear and tear due to air, heat, speed and so on for ten years. Then its power to resist the wear and tear will fall away.
On the day the child is conceived, the cells of the man and woman merge together and determine how long the child will be able to bear the strain of air, water, heat, rains, miseries, pains, conflicts, meetings, separations, friendship, enmity, hopes and frustrations, days and nights and all such things. They thus determine when the link will falter in the process of bearing and resisting the strain, and when these united cells will fall apart. On their separation the soul will have to leave that body. Death and sex are the two ends of one and the same thing. The things joined by sex are separated by death. Sex is synthetic, death is analytic. Sex joins, death separates. The happening is the same, there is no difference in it.
He who knows fully this manifest Brahman succeeds in accepting it. Acceptance is the victory. You become the master of a thing when you have accepted it. Even if you accept slavery, then you become the master and no longer a slave. You will be unable to make me a slave if I remain happy even though you have handcuffed me, or if I keep on dancing even though you put me behind bars.
When there is not even a momentary thought that "I could have remained free if..." but instead a simple acceptance of what has happened, then you are defeated. You have failed to make me a prisoner. I am still my own master. On the contrary, you will be my slave, because you will have to lock me up and keep a guard at the gate. If I accept this condition joyfully, if I can sing in prison while you have to stand there and keep watch with a straight face and a rifle in your hand, then who is imprisoned? Accepting totally, you remain the master even in slavery; and you are in slavery if you are not the total master of yourself. Total acceptance is the liberation. The total acceptance of any fact is freedom. When a person truly knows manifest Brahman he attains total acceptance, and thus is liberated from death.
Let us now consider the second point, though it is difficult to grasp. It is enough if the first point is properly grasped. To know the unmanifest Brahman is a matter of still deeper and more subtle experience. To know it, one has to go either before one's birth or to go beyond one's death. There is no other way except this. That is why the Zen master in Japan asks the seeker who approaches him to meditate and find out what his face was before his birth - to find his original face.
The face you have now is no more your original face than the face you wore yesterday. The face which is seen now is not yours; it was derived from your parents. This nose and other facial features, this complexion, are derived from your parents; they are not yours. If you have negro parents you inherit black, if they are English the color will be greyish. These pigments of your body are from your parents, they are not yours; so go and discover your own color. This face of yours is given to you by your parents, so try to find your original face. Borrowed faces will be snatched away. They are nothing more than masks - false faces. But because they last for seventy years we think they are our real faces. If a person is given a fixed mask, secured so firmly that it cannot be removed, in a few days he will begin to take it as his own face, because whenever he stands before a mirror he will see this mask.
A very strange experiment was performed recently in America by a white American. He decided to become a negro by changing the color of his skin to black. Living in America, he wanted to see for himself, to actually experience, under what hardship negroes had to live in his country. The white man can have no idea what hardships negroes have to suffer. How can they be realized without actually being a negro? Whatever is known otherwise will be just the knowledge of a white-skinned person.
This was an experiment requiring great courage. In the beginning, the scientists refused to help this man because it was a dangerous undertaking. But he was adamant, so by and by he persuaded three scientists to help him do the experiment. After a long treatment of six months in which injections of new pigments were given to him, the color of his skin was changed into that of a negro. His skin was now black, and curly hair was also artificially implanted.
That man has written in his memoirs: "When the scientists told me for the first time that the physical operations were successful, and now I could start my experiment, I thought of going to the bathroom to see my face. But I was not bold enough to switch on the light. I was not sure of what I would see.
With a trembling hand I put on the light. I had expected that I would remain who I was - that is, the facial features would not change, only the skin color would be different. But when I looked into the mirror, I saw that not only the color was changed but I too was changed. I couldn't make out what had happened, couldn't make out who was standing before the mirror. Everything was changed.
"I had thought, having become negro-like, that I would live among negroes for six months to experience personally what they have to endure; I knew that I would not remain a negro forever - I would remain who I really am." But he has written in his memoirs that "After living among negroes for four or five days, I began to forget that I was a white American. I began to forget that I was a white man. Every day I saw my new face in the mirror. I saw photographs taken of me as a negro. Other negroes began to behave with me as if I were a negro. Walking along the road, white Americans who used to greet me passed me by without taking any notice of me. One day I went to the house of my wife and stood at the door. My wife looked at me and ignored me."
Would anyone pay attention to a negro? Do you pay attention to a servant, or a sweeper standing at your door? Who cares for them? Who looks at them attentively? They are merely seen; no one looks at them attentively. Once he went to his cobbler who used to make his shoes and polish them also. He placed his shoes on the stand to be polished. The man looked up and asked, "Are you out of your senses? Take your foot off my stand!"
He has written, "I did not then feel that since I am really a white man I should be amused at his behavior - that this is simply the way he treats negroes. No, I felt that the treatment was being given to me, a white man, and I felt offended." When the treatment wore off after six months and his skin began to turn white again, he wrote in his memoirs, "When I remember those six months, I do not feel I actually passed through such a life. I feel as if I saw some dream. That negro was some other person, a different person; I am a different person from him. We associate so much with our faces."
That face was not his. He had it for only six months. But the interesting thing is this: he believes the face which he had for six months was not his, but that the face he had before and after those six months was his. That face is also not his. His six-month face was given him by scientists, and this 'original' one he got from his parents is also not his. It is not his own.
One's own face can be encountered either before birth or after death. To seek before birth is very arduous; it is very difficult to know the unmanifest Brahman before birth. I told you before that compared to the manifest Brahman, it is very difficult to know the unmanifest Brahman. Now I tell you again, there are two ways. Regress beyond birth; go so deep in meditation that you can regress beyond birth, so that you will be able to know the unmanifest Brahman. The other way is to go further and further in meditation so that you may die and go beyond death; then too you will experience the unmanifest Brahman.
Of these two ways, the experiment with dying is easy, because it is related to a future happening.
To regress is very difficult, to go forward is easy. You can take a jump forward. To go back is very difficult. To put on the clothes of childhood again is very difficult. To return to the womb is extraordinarily arduous, because the path becomes narrower and narrower. But the loose clothes of death are easy to put on. The path grows wider and wider. Remember, the door to birth is very small; that to death is very large. To go beyond death is easy.
It is possible to go back beyond birth. There are processes and techniques to do that, but they are very difficult to practice and follow. The meditation I am talking about is an experiment with death.
It is a jump into death. Through entering death willingly, it is an exercise in seeing. It is to practice being as if dead. If this happens and you enter death consciously and become as if you are not, then the face of the unmanifest Brahman will be visible. That face will be seen which is before birth and is also after death.
The processes may be two, but that center is one and the same. You can see that center either by regressing or by going forward. But the path of going forward is easy, so I insist on the path of death. I do not advise you to regress before birth to see that face; I advise you to go forward beyond death to see that face. Such a willing and accepted death becomes meditation. And if an individual wishes to live in such a death not for just a few seconds but for the whole of his life, he becomes a sannyasin. Sannyas means to live in such a way as if dead.
There was a Zen monk named Bokoju. He had entered into sannyas. Once when he was passing through a village someone started pouring abuse on him. He just stood there, hearing the abuse.
A shopkeeper who saw this said, "Why are you taking all this standing still? He is abusing you."
Bokoju replied, "I am dead. How can I retaliate now?"
The shopkeeper was surprised and said, "Are you a dead man? You look absolutely living."
Then Bokoju said, "What value will there be in my physical death? When I die, I shall die as all die; but now I am dead when alive: this has some value."
Birth happens unknowingly, and now there is no way to go into it. But death is still ahead in the future, and you can pass through it knowingly. The opportunity to know your original face through birth is now lost, but the opportunity exists to know it through death. But bear in mind that you may miss this opportunity also. If death comes as accidentally to you as birth came, then you will miss the opportunity to know. But if you prepare yourself to welcome death, if you go on dying often, then you will know.
This is the meaning of sannyas - voluntary death. To go on dying, to go on becoming as if dead.
If someone abuses you, think that you are dead. What will you do when you are physically dead if someone stands on your grave and abuses you? Begin now. Begin to do that which you will do when your skull is lying somewhere and someone kicks it. This is the true significance of sannyas.
Thus you shall be able to enter the unmanifest Brahman.
Otherwise you will miss the opportunity of death also. And it is not that you are missing it for the first time; you have already missed many times. Similarly, you have missed the opportunity of birth many times. This opportunity is now lost to you, and before it also many opportunities of other births and deaths.
You are so accustomed to this process that you are addicted to it. You have already gone through this one process again and again. Now you need to make a decision about whether to go any further with this process or not, since we all have the chance to avail ourselves of the opportunity of death yet again. Why not take this opportunity to enter the unmanifest!
The sage declares, "He who enters the unmanifest attains to immortality. He who knows the manifest conquers death, and he who enters the unmanifest attains to the immortal."
Remember, the immortal can be known only by entering death, because when we enter death totally, when we die in all ways and yet find we did not die, then immortality is attained. So when someone abuses you and you behave like a corpse and yet remain conscious of yourself, then you will not react to the abuse. If someone cuts your hand, or even your throat, and while it is being cut you remain conscious of yourself, then the door of immortality is open for you. He who tries to save himself from death will not achieve immortality, and he who enters death will taste the nectar of immortality.
To know the unmanifest Brahman is to find immortality, because the unmanifest is the immortal.
Existing before birth and after death, it is the immortal. It is never born so it never dies. We are also the same. Only the body takes birth; it is a composite, derived from the parents. We come from very, very ancient times. We were when the body was not. On entering a body an identification with it takes place, and when the body dies it seems that, "I am dying."
When death comes unexpectedly - and generally it comes unexpectedly, with no prior intimation - it shows you a kindness. If it were to intimate its arrival you would be in great difficulty; it is an act of mercy on the part of death that it does not inform you beforehand. Suppose death were to inform you, twenty-four hours before, of its arrival: what would happen? Whatever is going to happen after twenty-four hours will surely happen, but it is difficult to imagine how miserable you would be during that period. You would be miserable and uneasy waiting for the appointment, though in fact you now have a chance to pass through death consciously. To live time second by second would be found to be very difficult. You might pass out, you might lose your senses. It may also happen - there is a possibility - that you pass this time without losing consciousness. But the greater possibility is that you would spend the time in a coma, and ultimately die in that condition. So it would probably turn out to be quite fruitless for you to receive an intimation of your time of death.
Sannyas means to inform ourselves, to understand and to tell ourselves that, "The church bell tolls for me. The corpse being taken to the graveyard is my body. The body burning in the crematorium is my body." This is why the sannyasin's head used to be clean-shaven, as was done to the heads of the dead. Formerly there were certain rites and religious observances prescribed for a man's initiation as a sannyasin. His head was clean-shaven, and his relatives used to weep and take a last bath on his account, just as they do for other people after their deaths.
Even now some of these rituals are observed, because the person entering sannyas is dying to his worldly relations and connections. The weeping of the relatives will cease in a day or two, as they see that though this man has decided to die to the worldly relatives, he is still living. This is good in a way. The sannyasin allows his relatives to pass through the pain and misery of his death in his presence; when he actually dies he will not be there to console them in their misery.
In those ancient days they used to put a new initiate on a funeral pyre. Those were very innocent days. After putting him on the pyre they set fire to the pyre. Then the guru would shout, "You are dead! Remember, you are dead!" Then the man was lifted away from the burning pyre and given a new name, and this rite declared that the old man and his old name were gone forever. Those were very innocent days, so the person who passed through this small ceremony believed that his old self was dead and he was now a new person.
Today that innocence is not there. If you are placed on a pyre you will immediately climb down. If your head is clean-shaven, you will get yourself photographed and keep the photo in your album along with your other photos. You will maintain the continuity. Man has become very clever and cunning today, so real renunciation has become rare. But there is no other way than sannyas to know the unmanifest Brahman. Even a worldly person can know the manifest Brahman, but only the sannyasin can know the unmanifest Brahman.
Enough for today. We shall meet again at night.
Now let us begin our journey to the unmanifest. Let us die.