Chapter 5: Is He Dead?
In the West people are very scared, worried, anxious, because you have to fight continuously against death. You love life, you respect life - that’s why in the West old people are not respected. Young people are respected, because old people have moved further towards death than you; they are already in its grip. Youth is respected in the West - and youth is a transitory phenomenon, it is already passing from your hands.
In the East old men are respected, because in the East death is respected; and because in the East death is respected, there is no fear about death. Life is just a part; death is the culmination. Life is just the process; death is the crescendo. Life is just the moving; death is the reaching. And both are one! So what will you respect more, the way or the goal? The process or the flowering?
Death is the flower, life is nothing but the tree. And the tree is there for the flower, the flower is not there for the tree. The tree should be happy and the tree should dance when the flower comes.
So in the East death is accepted; not only accepted, welcomed. It is a divine guest. When it knocks at the door, it means the universe is ready to receive you back.
In the East we respect death. And this young man Zengen just came in without even expressing a word of sympathy or respect. He simply became curious. Not only that, he was very disrespectful - he tapped on the coffin and asked Dogo, “Is he really dead?” His question is beautiful, but not in the right moment. The question is right but the moment he has chosen is wrong. To be curious before death is childish; one has to be respectful, silent. That is the only way to have a rapport with the phenomenon.
When somebody dies it is really something very deep happening. If you can just sit there and meditate many things will be revealed to you. Questioning is foolish. When death is there, why not meditate? Questioning may be just a trick to avoid the thing, it may be just a safety measure so as not to look at death directly.
I have watched when people go to burn or to cremate somebody - they start talking too much there. At the cremation ground they discuss many philosophical things. In my childhood I loved very much to follow everybody. Whosoever died, I would be there. Even my parents became very much afraid; they would say, “Why do you go? We don’t even know that man. There is no need to go.”
I would say, “That is not the point. The man is not my concern. Death.it is such a beautiful phenomenon, and one of the most mysterious. One should not miss it.” So the moment I heard that somebody had died I would be there, always watching, waiting, witnessing what was happening.
And I watched people discussing many things, philosophical problems such as: What is death? And somebody would say: “Nobody dies. The innermost self is immortal.” They would discuss the Upanishads, the Gita, and quote authorities. I started feeling: “They are avoiding. By just becoming engaged in a discussion, they are avoiding the phenomenon that is happening. They are not looking at the dead man. And the thing is there! Death is there, and you are discussing it! What fools!”