We are trying to deceive ourselves; we are making death as beautiful as we can so that the question does not arise. And we go on living in the illusion that it is always the other who dies – obviously, you will not see your own death, you will always see others dying. A logical conclusion – that it is always the other who dies, so why be bothered? You seem to be the exceptional one, God has made a different rule for you.
Remember, nobody is an exception. Aes dhammo sanantano – only one law rules all, one eternal law. Whatsoever happens to the ant is going to happen to the elephant too, and whatsoever happens to the beggar is going to happen to the emperor too. Poor or rich, ignorant or knowledgeable, sinner or saint, the law makes no distinction – the law is very just.
And death is very communist – it equalizes people. It takes no notice of who you are. It never looks in the pages of the books published, like Who’s Who. It simply never bothers whether you are a pauper or Alexander the Great.
One day Siddhartha had to become aware, and he became aware. He was going to participate in a youth festival; he was going to inaugurate it. The prince, of course, was supposed to inaugurate the yearly youth festival. It was a beautiful evening; the youth of the kingdom had gathered to dance and sing and rejoice the whole night. The first day of the year – a night-long celebration. And Siddhartha was going to open it.
On the way he met what his father had been afraid of him ever seeing – he came across those things. First he saw an ill man, his first experience of illness. He asked, “What has happened?”
The story is very beautiful. It says the charioteer was going to lie, but a disembodied soul took possession of the charioteer, forced him to speak the truth. He had to say, in spite of himself, “This man is ill.”
And Buddha immediately asked the intelligent question, “Then can I also be ill?”
The charioteer was again going to lie, but the soul of a god, an enlightened soul, a disembodied soul, forced him to say, “Yes.” The charioteer was puzzled that he wanted to say no, but what came out of his mouth was, “Yes, you are also going to be ill.”
Then they came across an old man – and the same questioning. Then they came across a dead body being carried to the burning ghat, and the same question…and when Buddha saw the dead body and he asked, “Am I also going to die one day?” the charioteer said, “Yes, sir. Nobody is an exception. Sorry to say so, but nobody is an exception – even you are going to die.”
Buddha said, “Then turn the chariot back. Then there is no point in going to a youth festival. I have already become ill, I have already become old, I am already on the verge of death. If one day I am going to die, then what is the point of all this nonsense? – living and waiting for death. Before it comes, I would like to know something which never dies. Now I will devote my whole life to the search for something deathless. If there is something deathless, then the only significant thing in life can be the search for it.”