Life exists between these polarities. This tension between pain and pleasure makes you capable of creating great music; music exists only in this tension. Destroy the polarity and you will be dull, you will be stale, you will be dusty – you won’t have any meaning and you will never know what splendor is. You will have missed life.
The man who wants to know life and live life has to accept and embrace death. They come together, they are two aspects of a single phenomenon.
That’s why growth is painful. You have to go into all those pains that you have been avoiding. It hurts. You have to go through all those wounds that somehow you have managed not to look at. But the deeper you go into pain, the deeper is your capacity to go into pleasure. If you can go into pain to the uttermost limit, you will be able to touch heaven.
I have heard:
A man came to a Zen master and asked, “How shall we avoid heat and cold?”
Metaphorically, he is asking, “How should we avoid pleasure and pain?” That is the Zen way of talking about pleasure and pain: heat and cold; “How shall we avoid heat and cold?”
The master answered, “Be hot, be cold.”
To be free of pain the pain has to be accepted, inevitably and naturally. Pain is pain – a simple painful fact. Suffering, however, is only and always the refusal of pain, the claim that life should not be painful. It is the rejection of a fact, the denial of life and of the nature of things. Death is the mind that minds dying. Where there is no fear of death, who is there to die?
Man is unique among creatures in his knowledge of death and in his laughter. Wonderfully then, he can even make of death a new thing: he can die laughing. It is only man who knows laughter; no other animal laughs. It is only man who knows death; no other animal knows death – animals simply die, they are not conscious of the phenomenon of death.
Man is aware of two things which no animal is: one is laughter, the other is death. Then a new synthesis is possible. It is only man who can die laughing – he can join the consciousness of death and the capacity to laugh. And if you can die laughing, only then will you give a valid proof that you must have lived laughing. Death is the final statement of your whole life – the conclusion, the concluding remark. How you have lived will be shown by your death, how you die. Can you die laughing? Then you were a grown-up person. If you die crying, weeping, clinging, then you were a child. You were not grown-up, you were immature. If you die crying, weeping, clinging to life, that simply shows you have been avoiding death and you have been avoiding all pains, all kinds of pains.