I used to follow the funerals of beggars too. I said, “I have learned much, following many people who have died. The strangest thing I have learned is that, even when the man is on a funeral pyre, those who have come to say good-bye to him are not even sitting looking at the funeral pyre. Their backs are toward the funeral pyre, and they are talking about all kinds of things, except death – because it is difficult to avoid the question that if everybody dies sooner or later, my number is also going to come.
A famous poetic statement is: “Never ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” When somebody dies and the church bell tolls, “Never ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
Every death reminds you that you are here only for a few days, perhaps tomorrow will not come for you. The end is coming closer and closer every day, and beyond death is nothing but an unknown world, unfamiliar – no friends, no family, no society. You don’t know what is going to exist for you, because you have always been in the crowd. Death will make you alone.
So only those who know the art of being alone while they are alive remain conscious when they die; otherwise, the shock is so much that before death ninety-nine percent of people, or perhaps more, become unconscious. And to die unconsciously is to miss such a great opportunity, because death reveals to you life in its utter nudity.
This is one of the most important questions anybody can raise. A few things before I speak about Kahlil Gibran; they will help you to understand his statements.
Death is not an accident. It is not that suddenly one day, out of the blue, death comes and you are finished. No, death grows with you, side by side, just like your shadow. The day you were born, you started dying too.
Death and life are two aspects of the same coin, two wheels of the same cart. You become so enchanted with life that you never see that death is also growing with you. It is a growth; just as life will take seventy years to come to its climax, death will also take seventy years to come to its climax. And only in the climax do they meet. They have been always moving together, but in the crescendo of your life they are not even together – they are one.
Those who want to understand life have to understand death too. Those who do not understand death can never understand life either, but we have been brought up with such a great fear of death. I have seen people closing their doors and bringing their children inside if some funeral procession is going on. I have asked, “What are you doing? Let your children know, let them be acquainted that this is the end – or perhaps a new beginning.”
From one side it is an end, from another side it is a new beginning. Every end is a beginning too. And every beginning will come to an end.