Chapter 1: Know How to Live
When Rabbi Birnham lay dying,
his wife burst into tears.
He said, “What are you crying for?
My whole life was only that I might learn how to die.”
Life is in living. It is not a thing, it is a process. There is no way to attain to life except by living it, except by being alive - flowing - streaming with it. If you are seeking the meaning of life in some dogma, in some philosophy, in some theology, that is the sure way to miss life and meaning both.
Life is not somewhere waiting for you, it is happening in you. It is not in the future as a goal to be arrived at, it is herenow, this very moment - in your breathing, circulating in your blood, beating in your heart. Whatsoever you are is your life, and if you start seeking meaning somewhere else you will miss it. Man has done that for centuries.
Concepts have become very important, explanations have become very important - and the real has been completely forgotten. We don’t look to that which is already here, we want rationalizations.
I have heard a very beautiful story.
Some years ago a successful American had a serious identity crisis. He sought help from psychiatrists but nothing came of it, for there were none who could tell him the meaning of life - which is what he wanted to know. By and by he learned of a venerable and incredibly wise guru who lived in a mysterious and most inaccessible region of the Himalayas. Only that guru, he came to believe, would tell him what life means and what his role in it ought to be. So he sold all his worldly possessions and began his search for the all-knowing guru. He spent eight years wandering from village to village throughout the Himalayas in an effort to find him. And then one day he chanced upon a shepherd who told him where the guru lived and how to reach the place.
It took him almost a year to find him, but he eventually did. There he came upon his guru, who was indeed venerable, in fact well over one hundred years old. The guru consented to help him, especially when he learned of all the sacrifices the man had made towards this end.
“What can I do for you, my son?” asked the guru.
“I need to know the meaning of life,” said the man.
To this the guru replied, without hesitation, “Life,” he said, “is a river without end.”
“A river without end?” said the man in a startled surprise. “After coming all this way to find you, all you have to tell me is that life is a river without end?”
The guru was shaken, shocked. He became very angry and he said, “You mean it is not?”