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Chapter 6: Awakening

During three years of severe training
under the great master Gizan,
Koshu was unable to gain satori.

At the beginning of a special seven-day session of discipline,
he thought his chance had finally come.
He climbed the tower of the temple gate,
and going up to the arhat images he made this vow:
Either I realize my dreams up here,
or they’ll find my dead body at the foot of this tower.

He went without food or sleep,
giving himself up to constant zazen,
often crying out things like:
What was my karma that in spite of all these efforts
I can’t grasp the way?

At last he admitted failure, and, determined to end it all,
he went to the railing and slowly lifted his leg over it.
At that very instant he had an awakening

Overjoyed, he rushed down the stairs and through the rain
to Gizan’s room.

Before he had a chance to speak, the master cried:
Bravo! - you’ve finally had your day.

Man is the only animal who can think of, try to, or actually commit suicide. Suicide is very special. It is human.

Animals live, they die, but they cannot commit suicide. They live, but there are not any problems, life doesn’t create any angst, anguish. Life is not an anxiety for them - they simply live it; and then, as simply as they live, they simply die. Animals don’t have any death consciousness. In fact, they are neither aware of life, nor of death, so the question of suicide doesn’t arise. They are not conscious at all; they live in the deepest sleep of the unconscious.

Only man can commit suicide. That means that only man can do something about life or death; it means that only man can stand against life. This possibility is there because man is conscious. But remember, the problems of life, the anxiety, the tension, the anguish, or the final decision to commit suicide, do not come out of consciousness - they come out of a fragmentary consciousness.

This has to be understood deeply. A Buddha is also conscious, but he cannot commit suicide, cannot even think about it. Suicide doesn’t exist for a Buddha, but he is also conscious. Why? Animals are unconscious totally; Buddha is conscious totally. With total consciousness there is no problem, or, with total unconsciousness there is no problem. In fact, to be total in any way is to be beyond problems.

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