Chapter 3: Deep within the Cave of the Heart
Billions and trillions of people have just wasted their lives in this way, fighting against death. And yet you go on doing the same thing without paying any attention to the fact that nobody has ever succeeded in conquering death, no matter what strategies they tried. Somebody thinks, “I will die, but at least my children will remain” - so he invests all his hopes in his children. Those who have no sons become very much disturbed that now their lineage will end with themselves. If there are sons, then he is less worried about dying because at least he will continue to live through someone else. Some part of him will be living through his children. Man is looking for a way to survive death - even through his children: “I will die but my offspring, a part of me, will be alive. In a sense I have become immortal.”
Some seek immortality through their children and some through their immortal creations. A painter thinks “I will be gone, but at least my paintings will still be here,” a sculptor thinks “I will perish, but at least my sculptures will be here,” a musician thinks “I will disappear, but at least my music will be here.” These are just ways of searching for immortality. But if someone perishes entirely, then how long can his offspring, his so-called parts, survive? When he himself perishes, how long can the paintings, the sculptures, the literature and poetry that he has created survive? No, they too will perish.
In fact, whatsoever is born in this world, in this stream of time, will certainly die. In the realm of time, death is a phenomenon that is definite, certain. In the realm of time, death is unavoidable. Whatsoever is born in the realm of time is bound to perish.
The truth is that creation and destruction are two poles of the same phenomenon. The moment something is created, it has already begun to perish. The moment someone is born, his journey towards death has already begun. Once a beginning is there, the end will inevitably follow. How long it will take for the end to come is secondary, and it is also insignificant. Howsoever delayed it may be, the end must come.
Buddha has said, “Whether I die in seven years or seventy years or seven hundred years, it does not make much difference. If my death is certain, then with my very birth the seed of death has entered in me. How long it takes to bloom is secondary. And what will I do during this span of time, anyway?
“If death is definitely standing behind one’s back, then someone will live in fear of death for seven years, someone for seventy years and someone for seven hundred years, but what more can they do? What will be accomplished by living like this? If death is certainly standing at everyone’s door, if it is something that can happen at any moment, then this life is bound to be nothing but a trembling.”
And Mahavira has said, “How long can a morning dewdrop, shaking in the breeze on a grass leaf, protect itself? How long can it save itself from the blowing of the breeze? How long can it hold on to the tip of the leaf? It will fall. Either now or a short time later, but it will fall.” He added, “Man’s life is also like this dewdrop balanced on the tip of the grass leaf. If it falls now or in a short time from now, it will certainly fall. It has to fall.”
All the ways that man has invented to attain immortality are in vain. Only one way is not in vain, and that is told in this sutra:
The ultimate reality cannot be known through one’s wealth, one’s progeny or one’s actions.