THE MEANING OF DEATH
Death may become a public event when we read it mentioned in the obituary section of a newspaper, but it is essentially a very private affair. There are two experiences which are strictly private and intimate -- death and dreaming. No one else can die for me, no one else can dream for me. In Osho’s vision, the understanding of death plays a vital role in one’s spiritual growth.
The phenomenon of life and death are seen in the West as opposed to each other, as mutually exclusive. Death is taken to be an object of fear, it is a taboo; one wants to avoid talking about it. As one professor of religion once said: “Now sex is openly discussed, and dying is obscene”. Many Western philosophers have thought about death, especially the Existentialist thinkers. A statement by Jean Paul Sartre shows a typical Western viewpoint concerning death: “Death is never that which gives life its meaning; it is, on the contrary, that which on principle removes all meaning from life”. Osho has a totally different perspective, he says:
“Death is not against life; it does not end life, it only brings life to a beautiful peak. Life continues even after death. It was there before birth, it is going to continue after death. Life is not confined to the small space that exists between birth and death, on the contrary, births and deaths are small episodes in the eternity of life”. (Come, Come, Yet Come Again, Ch.2, Q.2)
The Western orientation is to see death as associated with evil, essentially negative in character. Life and death are seen in conflict. This has its origin in the Aristotalian perspective of either-or but not both: A equals A, and that which is not A is anti A. According to this dualistic concept, for example, whoever is not against abortion is for it. In the same way death is seen as anti life. The result is that more and more value is laid upon being youthful, on hiding old age or being defensive, apologetic about old age.
The Eastern view of death is dynamic; it is based on the holistic premise that, A equals A plus more. The East believes that nothing is absolute, everything is relative and everything is in motion. Modern science, the new understanding emerging in the medical science, the inter-disciplinary approach of the social sciences, all are now recognizing the validity and siginificance of looking at the reality in terms of “both-and” rather than “either-or”.
Osho explains the Eastern way of looking at life which is inclusive of death. He points out: in order to understand life, in order to really live and not just exist, one needs to know death. One need not be afraid of it, nor does one have to find ways of becoming victorious over it. One simply needs to know it and that “knowing” in it self will reveal the true meaning of death.
Osho brings a vision where life and death are part of one whole larger life, the cosmic Life. Each time we inhale we live, and each breath that goes out we die, but both, says Osho, are functioning in harmony. He brings home the point that, we start dying from the moment of conception -- from that moment we are actually growing toward death. A seed grows into a flower. We call that flowering -- growth. Similarly, he says, birth also grows into death.
Osho draws our attention to the fact that, since one may die at any moment, death is always here and now. Life and death are not apart, they are two sides of the same coin. For Osho, death is nowhere in the future, it is happening every moment; to say it is in future means avoiding the present moment and continuing to live in illusion. The reason why we postpone it to the future is that, our ego, our sense of “I”ness cannot accept that it will ever die. So, Osho explains, one way to understand death is to know that ego is not the center of our life -- consciousness is the center. And death can never kill our consciousness, it is eternal. If at all, death kills the egoistic assumption which becomes the driving force for one’s existence. Hence the phenomenon of death is paradoxical: there is no greater reality than the reality of death, everything is subject to it. On the other hand, there is nothing like death, in the sense that even after the ego and the physical body die, the consciousness survives and continues to live.
Can we know death without dying? Osho’s answer is, yes. For this to happen, he recommends meditation. Only in a meditative state can one experience what death is. In Osho’s words:
“Meditation and death are very similar experiences. In death your ego disappears; only your pure being remains. The same happens in meditation too: the disappearance of the ego and the presence only of pure is-ness, of your being. The similarity is so deep that just as people are afraid of death, they are also afraid of meditation. On the other hand, if you are not afraid of meditation, you will not be afraid of death either.
Meditation prepares you for death....it helps you to know death without dying. And once you have known death without dying, the fear of death will disappear forever. Even when death comes, you will be silently watching it, knowing absolutely that it cannot even make a small scratch on your being. It is going to take away your body, your mind, but not you. You belong to the immortal life”. (The Hidden Splendor, Dis.22,March 23,1987)
-- Satya Vedant