The Art of Dying
Let me tell you a few things. First: your life is your life, it is nobody else's. So don't allow yourself to be dominated by others, don't allow yourself to be dictated to by others, that is a betrayal of life. If you allow yourself to be dictated to by others - maybe your parents, your society, your education system - your politicians, your priests, whosoever they are - if you allow yourself to be dominated by others you will miss your life. Because the domination comes from outside and life is within you. They never meet.
I am not saying that you should become a no-sayer to each and everything. That too is not of much help. There are two types of people. One is an obedient type, ready to surrender to any and everybody. They don't have any independent soul in them; they are immature, childish, always searching for a father-figure, for somebody to tell them what to do and what not to do. They are not able to trust their own being. These people are the greater part of the world, the masses.
Then there are, against these people, a small minority who reject society, who reject the values of the society. They think they are rebellious. They are not, they are only reactionaries. Because whether you listen to society or you reject society, if society remains in either way the determining factor, then you are dominated by the society.
Let me tell you an anecdote.
Once Mulla Nasrudin had been away for a while and arrived back in town wearing a long beard. His friends naturally kidded him about the beard and asked him how he happened to acquire the fur-piece. The Mulla with the beard began to complain and curse the thing in no uncertain terms. His friends were amazed at the way he talked and asked him why he continued to wear the beard if he did not like it. 'I hate the blasted thing!' the Mulla told them. 'If you hate it then why don't you shave it off and get rid of it?' one of his friends asked. A devilish gleam shone in the eyes of the Mulla as he answered, 'Because my wife hates it too!'
But that does not make you free. The hippies, the yippies and others, they are not really rebellious people, they are reactionaries. They have reacted against the society. A few are obedient, a few are disobedient, but the centre of domination is the same. A few obey, a few disobey, but nobody looks at his own soul.
A really rebellious person is one who is neither for society nor against society, who simply lives his life according to his own understanding. Whether it goes against society or it goes with society is not a consideration, it is irrelevant. Sometimes it may go with the society, sometimes it may not go with the society, but that is not the point to be considered. He lives according to his understanding, according to his small light. And I am not saying that he becomes very egoistic about it. No, he is very humble. He knows that his light is very small, but that is all the light that there is. He is not adamant, he's very humble. He says, 'I may be wrong, but please allow me to be wrong according to myself.'
That is the only way to learn. To commit mistakes is the only way to learn. To move according to one's own understanding is the only way to grow and become mature. If you are always looking at somebody to dictate to you, whether you obey or disobey makes no difference. If you are looking at somebody else to dictate to you, to decide for or against, you will never be able to know what your life is. It has to be lived, and you have to follow your own small light.
It is not always certain what to do. You are very confused. Let it be so. But find a way out of your confusion. It is very cheap and easy to listen to others because they can hand over dead dogmas to you, they can give you commandments - do this, don't do that. And they are very certain about their commandments. Certainty should not be sought; understanding should be sought. If you are seeking certainty you will become a victim of some trap or other. Don't seek certainty, seek understanding. Certainty can be given to you cheap, anybody can give it to you. But in the final analysis you will be a loser. You lost your life just to remain secure and certain, and life is not certain, life is not secure.
Life is insecurity. Each moment is a move into more and more insecurity. It is a gamble. One never knows what is going to happen. And it is beautiful that one never knows. If it was predictable, life would not be worth living. If everything was as you would like it to be, and everything was certain, you would not be a man at all, you would be a machine. Only for machines is everything secure and certain.
Man lives in freedom. Freedom needs insecurity and uncertainty. A real man of intelligence is always hesitant because he has no dogma to rely upon, to lean upon. He has to look and respond. Lao Tzu says, 'I am hesitant, and I move alertly in life because I don't know what is going to happen. And I don't have any principle to follow. I have to decide every moment. I never decide beforehand. I have to decide when the moment comes!'
Then one has to be very responsive. That's what responsibility is. Responsibility is not an obligation, responsibility is not a duty - it is a capacity to respond. A man who wants to know what life is has to be responsive. That is missing. Centuries of conditioning have made you more like machines. You have lost your manhood, you have bargained for security. You are secure and comfortable and everything has been planned by others. And they have put everything on the map, they have measured everything. This is all absolutely foolish because life cannot be measured, it is immeasurable. And no map is possible because life is in constant flux. Everything goes on changing. Nothing is permanent except change. Says Heraclitus, 'You cannot step in the same river twice.'
And the ways of life are very zig-zag. The ways of life are not like the tracks of a railway train. No, it does not run on tracks. And that's the beauty of it, the glory of it,.the poetry of it, the music of it - that it is always a surprise.
If you are seeking for security, certainty, your eyes will become closed. And you will be less and less surprised and you will lose the capacity to wonder. Once you lose the capacity to wonder, you have lost religion. Religion is the opening of your wondering heart. Religion is a receptivity for the mysterious that surrounds us.
So the first thing is: don't ask anybody how you should live your life. Life is so precious. Live it. I am not saying that you will not make mistakes, you will. Remember only one thing - don't make the same mistake again and again. That's enough. If you can find a new mistake every day, make it. But don't repeat mistakes, that is foolish. A man who can find new mistakes to make will be growing continuously - that is the only way to learn, that is the only way to come to your own inner light.
I have heard.
One night the poet, Awhadi of Kerman (a very great Muslim poet) was sitting on his porch bent over a vessel. Shams-e-Tabrizi, a great Sufi mystic, happened to pass by.
Shams-e-Tabrizi looked at the poet, at what he was doing. He asked the poet, 'What are you doing?'
The poet said, 'Contemplating the moon in a bowl of water.'
Shams-e-Tabrizi started laughing, with an uproarious laughter, a mad laughter. The poet started feeling uncomfortable; a crowd gathered. And the poet said, 'What is the matter? Why are you laughing so much? Why are you ridiculing me?'
Shams-e-Tabrizi said, 'Unless you have broken your neck, why don't you look directly at the moon in the sky?'
The moon is there, the full moon is there, and this poet was sitting with a bowl of water and looking into the bowl of water at the reflection of the moon.
Seeking truth in scriptures, seeking truth in philosophies, is looking at the reflection. If you ask somebody else how you should live your life, you are asking for misguidance, because that man can only talk about his own life. And never, never, are two lives the same. Whatsoever he can say or impart to you will be about his own life - and that too only if he has lived. He may have asked somebody else, he may have followed somebody else, he may have been an imitator himself. Then it is a reflection of a reflection. And centuries pass and people go on reflecting the reflection of the reflection of the reflection - and the real moon is always there in the sky waiting for you. It is your moon, it is your sky, look directly. Be immediate about it. Why borrow my eyes or anybody else's eyes? You have been given eyes, beautiful eyes, to see, and to see directly. Why borrow understanding from anybody? Remember, it may be understanding to me. but the moment you borrow it, it becomes knowledge to you - it is no more understanding,
Understanding is only that which has been experienced by the person himself. It may be understanding for me, if I have looked at the moon, but the moment I say it to you it becomes knowledge, it is no longer understanding. Then it is just verbal, then it is just linguistic. And language is a lie.
Let me tell you an anecdote.
A chicken farmer, dissatisfied with the productivity of his flock, decided to use a bit of psychology on his hens. Accordingly he purchased a gay-coloured, talking parrot and placed him in the barnyard. Sure enough, the hens took to the handsome stranger immediately, pointed out the best tidbits for him to eat with joyous clucks, and generally followed him around like a bevy of teen-age girls following a new singing star sensation. To the delight of the farmer even their egg-laying capacities improved.
The barnyard rooster, naturally jealous of being ignored by his harem, set upon the attractive interloper, assailed him with beak and claws, pulling out one green or red feather after the other. Whereupon the intimidated parrot cried out in trepidation, 'Desist sir! I beg of you, desist! After all, I am only here in the capacity of a language professor!'
Many people live their life as language professors. That is the falsest kind of life. Reality needs no language, it is available to you on a non-verbal level. The moon is there; it needs no bowl and no water, it needs no other medium. You have just to look at it; it is a non-verbal communication. The whole of life is available - you just have to learn how to communicate with it non-verbally. That's what meditation is all about - to be in a space where language does not interfere, where learned concepts don't come in between you and the real.
When you love a woman don't be bothered about what others have said about love, because that is going to be an interference. You love a woman, the love is there, forget all that you have learned about love. Forget all Kinseys, forget all Masters and Johnsons, forget all Freuds and Jungs. Please don't become a language professor. Just love the woman and let love be there, and let love lead you and guide you into its innermost secrets, into its mysteries. Then you will be able to know what love is.
And what others say about meditation is meaningless. Once I came upon a book written by a Jaina saint about meditation. It was really beautiful but there were just a few places by which I could see that the man had never meditated himself - otherwise those places could not be there. But they were very few and far between. The book on the whole, almost ninety-nine per cent, was perfect. I loved the book.
Then I forgot about it. For ten years I was wandering around the country. Once in a village of Rajasthan, that saint came to meet me. His name sounded familiar, and suddenly I remembered the book. And I asked the saint why he had come to me. He said, 'I have come to you to know what meditation is.' I said, 'I remember your book. I remember it very well, because it really impressed me. Except for a few defects which showed that you have never meditated, the book was perfectly right - ninety-nine per cent right. And now you come here to learn about meditation. Have you never meditated?'
He looked a little embarrassed because his disciples were also there. I said, 'Be frank. Because if you say you know meditation, then I am not going to talk about it. Then finished! You know. There is no need. If you say to me frankly - at least be true once - if you say you have never meditated, only then can I help you towards meditation.' It was a bargain, so he had to confess. He said, 'Yes, I have never said it to anybody. I have read many books about meditation, all the old scriptures. And I have been teaching people, that's why I feel embarrassed before my disciples. I have been teaching meditation to thousands, and I have written books about it, but I have never meditated.'
You can write books about meditation and never come across the space that meditation is. You can become very efficient in verbalising, you can become very clever in abstraction, in intellectual argumentativeness, and you can forget completely that all the time that you have been involved in these intellectual activities has been a sheer wastage.
I asked the old man, 'How long have you been interested in meditation?' He said, 'My whole life.' He was almost seventy. He said, 'When I was twenty I took sannyas, I became a Jaina monk, and those fifty years since then I have been reading and reading and thinking about meditation.' Fifty years of thinking and reading and writing about meditation, even guiding people into meditation, and he has not even tasted once what meditation is!
But this is the case with millions of people. They talk about love, they know all the poetries about love, but they have never loved. Or even if they thought they were in love, they were never in love. That too was a 'heady' thing, it was not of the heart. People live and go on missing life. It needs courage. It needs courage to be realistic, it needs courage to move with life wherever it leads, because the paths are uncharted, there exists no map. One has to go into the unknown.
Life can be understood only if you are ready to go into the unknown. If you cling to the known, you cling to the mind, and the mind is not life. Life is non-mental, non-intellectual, because life is total. Your totality has to be involved in it, you cannot just think about it. Thinking about life is not life. Beware of this 'about-ism'. One goes on thinking about and about: there are people who think about God, there are people who think about life, there are people who think about love. There are people who think about this and that.
Mulla Nasrudin became very old and he went to his doctor. He was looking very weak so the doctor said, 'I can say only one thing. You will have to cut your love-life to half.'
The Mulla said, 'Okay. Which half? Talking about it or thinking about it?'
That's all. Don't become a language professor, don't become a parrot. Parrots are language professors. They live in words, concepts, theories, theologies, and life goes on passing, slipping out of their hands. Then one day suddenly they become afraid of death. When a person is afraid of death, know well that that person has missed life. If he has not missed life there cannot be any fear of death. If a person has lived life, he will be ready to live death also.
The Art of Dying, chapter 1 - October 1976 in Buddha Hall
The Art of Dying - part 2