Chapter 16: Of Voluntary Death
For Zarathustra, death is the actualization of your whole potential. Now there is no point of being in the body. You can die joyously, with a smile on your face, with a tremendous mystery in your eyes. Your death will not be felt as untimely; almost 99.9 percent of deaths are untimely, either too late, or too early.
The day Gautam Buddha died, early in the morning he said to his disciples, “It is more than enough. It is time for me to leave.” They could not understand what he meant; perhaps he meant to leave for another place. Buddha said, “You don’t understand, I mean I am going to leave the body. Find a beautiful place. I have lived beautifully, amongst the mountains, and with the trees and with the wild animals and the meditators.”
He looked all around and he saw two saal trees, which are very beautiful trees, and very tall. They were almost like twins, standing side by side. Buddha said, “That place seems to be right. I will die there, just between these two saal trees.”
The way he says it seems to be that death is simply a decision for him. For a man who has lived fully, death becomes a decision: it is up to him. Death does not come to him; he himself makes his body available for death.
It is painful when death comes to you and takes away your body, and all your things are incomplete - your children are not grown up, your daughter was going to be married, your business was not going well. Death has knocked on your door, and you cannot welcome him. Even emperors cannot welcome death, because there is so much still to be invaded, conquered. Greed knows no limits. It goes on asking for more and more. That’s why death seems to be such an enemy.
But to a man like Gautam Buddha it is simply a choice. He went between those two saal trees, sat there, and said to his disciples, “You will never see me again. This body has lived to its fullest; it needs to be retired; it needs to go into ultimate rest. But before I drop it, if you have any question, you should ask it. You may meet another awakened person.when and where is unpredictable.”
But the disciples were crying. This was not a time to ask questions, and they said, “You have been answering for forty-two years, you have answered all our questions. You just relax, don’t be worried about us. You have shown us the path and we will follow it.”
The story is beautiful: Buddha closed his eyes and said, “I have taken the first step - I am no more the body.” And then, “I have taken the second step - I am no more the mind. I have taken the third step - I am no more the heart. I have taken the fourth step - I have entered into my consciousness.” That very moment his breathing stopped, his heartbeat stopped. This is a totally different kind of death - so easy and so relaxed, so fulfilled, so grateful to existence.
These are the same steps as those of meditation. That’s why I said, if you meditate you can experience death without dying: you can come back. It is a passage from the body to the mind, to the heart, to the being.