Chapter 4: Until the Hour of Separation
Only one man amongst ten thousand sannyasins asked a question, with tears in his eyes - and he was his own brother, his elder brother Ananda. Ananda had lived with him for forty-two years, day and night, almost like a shadow following him. He slept in his room, he walked with him. Nobody had been so close to Buddha as Ananda, and only he had a question.
Others said, “You have given us so much, we will not harass you with questions at this moment of separation. Just let us sit silently.”
But Ananda asked, “What about me? Forty-two years I have been with you. Others who came afterward and have not lived so long with you have become enlightened, and I am still unenlightened. And now you are going.”
Buddha said, “Don’t be worried. As I leave the body, within twenty-four hours you will become enlightened.”
Ananda said, “I don’t understand the arithmetic of it - forty-two years with you and I have not become enlightened, and twenty-four hours without you and I will become enlightened?”
Gautam Buddha laughed and said, “Ananda, because you were so close, and you are also my elder cousin-brother, you started taking me for granted. Only separation, only my death, can make you awake. Less than that won’t do. I have tried everything, but you think, ‘You are with me, you are my brother and you must be taking care about my enlightenment’ And being together for so long, you completely forgot. The obvious is always forgotten. That which you have, there is a human tendency to forget. You remember only at the moment of separation.”
And ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.
A master gives you his life as an opportunity to be awakened. He also gives you his death - a second and last opportunity for you to be awakened.