Chapter 1: Know How to Live
Hence, all over the world, in all societies, death is depicted as dark, as devilish. In India they say the messenger of death is very ugly - dark, black - and comes sitting on a very big, ugly buffalo. This is the ordinary attitude. These people missed, they have not been able to know all the dimensions of life. They have not been able to touch the depth of life and they have not been able to fly to the height of life. They missed the plenitude, they missed the benediction.
Then there is a second type of expression. Poets, philosophers, have sometimes said that death is nothing bad, death is nothing evil, it is just restful - a great rest, like sleep. This is better than the first. At least these people have known something beyond the body, they have known something of the mind. They have not had only food and sex, their whole life has not been only in eating and reproducing. They have a little sophistication of the soul, they are a little more aristocratic, more cultured. They say death is like great rest; one is tired and one goes into death and rests. It is restful. But they too are far away from the truth.
Those who have known life in its deepest core say that death is godly: not only a rest, but a resurrection, a new life, a new beginning; a new door opens.
When a Sufi mystic, Bayazid, was dying, people who had gathered around him - his disciples - were suddenly surprised, because when the last moment came his face became radiant, so powerfully radiant. It had such a beautiful aura. Bayazid was a beautiful man, and his disciples had always felt an aura around him, but they had not known anything like this; so radiant.
They asked, “Bayazid, tell us what has happened to you. What is happening to you? Before you leave us, give us your last message.”
He opened his eyes and he said, “God is welcoming me. I am going into his embrace. Good-bye.”
He closed his eyes, his breathing stopped. But at the moment his breathing stopped there was an explosion of light, the room became full of light, and then the light disappeared.
When a person has known the transcendental in himself, death is nothing but a face of godliness. Then death has a dance to it. And unless you become capable of celebrating death itself, remember, you have missed life. The whole life is a preparation for this ultimate.
This is the meaning of this beautiful story.
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.”
“My whole life has been just a preparation, a preparation to learn the secrets of dying.”
All religions are nothing but a science - or an art - to teach you how to die. And the only way to teach you how to die is to teach you how to live. They are not separate. If you know what right living is, you will know what right dying is.