Chapter 5: Is He Dead?
At the death of a parishioner, Master Dogo, accompanied by his disciple Zengen, visited the bereaved family.
Without taking time to express a word of sympathy, Zengen went up to the coffin, rapped on it, and asked Dogo:”Is he really dead?” “I won’t say,” said Dogo. “Well?” insisted Zengen. “I’m not saying, and that’s final,” said Dogo.
On their way back to the temple the furious Zengen turned on Dogo and threatened: “By God, if you don’t answer my question, why I’ll beat you.” “All right,” said Dogo, “beat away.”
A man of his word, Zengen slapped his master a good one.
Some time later Dogo died, and Zengen, still anxious to have his question answered, went to the master Sekiso, and, after relating what had happened, asked the same question of him. Sekiso, as if conspiring with the dead Dogo, would not answer. “By God!” cried Zengen. “You too?” “I’m not saying,” said Sekiso, “and that’s final.”
At that very instant Zengen experienced an awakening.
Life can be known, death also - but nothing can be said about them. No answer will be true; it cannot be by the very nature of things. Life and death are the deepest mysteries. It would be better to say that they are not two mysteries, but two aspects of the same mystery, two doors of the same secret. But nothing can be said about them. Whatever you say, you will miss the point.
Life can be lived, death also can be lived. They are experiences - one has to pass through them and know them. Nobody can answer your questions. How can life be answered? or death? Unless you live, unless you die, who’s going to answer?
But many answers have been given - and remember, all answers are false. There is nothing to choose. It is not that one answer is correct and other answers are incorrect; all answers are incorrect. There is nothing to choose. Experience, not answers, can answer.
So this is the first thing to be remembered when you are near a real mystery, not a riddle created by man. If it is a riddle created by man it can be answered, because then it is a game, a mind game - you create the question, you create the answer. But if you are facing something which you have not created, how can you answer it, how can the human mind answer it? It is incomprehensible for the human mind. The part cannot comprehend the whole. The whole can be comprehended by becoming whole. You can jump into it and be lost - and there will be the answer.
I will tell you one anecdote Ramakrishna loved to tell. He used to say: Once it happened that there was a great festival near a sea, on the beach. Thousands of people were gathered there and suddenly they all became engrossed in a question - whether the sea is immeasurable or measurable; whether there is a bottom to it or not; fathomable or unfathomable? By chance, one man completely made of salt was also there. He said, “You wait, and you discuss, and I will go into the ocean and find out, because how can one know unless one goes into it?”
So the man of salt jumped into the ocean. Hours passed, days passed, then months passed, and people started to go to their homes. They had waited long enough, and the man of salt was not coming back.
The man of salt, the moment he entered the ocean, started melting, and by the time he reached the bottom he was not. He came to know - but he couldn’t come back. And those who didn’t know, they discussed it for a long time. They may have arrived at some conclusions, because the mind loves to reach conclusions.