One who dies consciously is born consciously. And one who is born consciously, the whole quality of his life becomes different – then he also lives consciously. Every fiber of his being, every part of his consciousness becomes filled with light, with wisdom, with buddhahood.
For one who is born consciously, there will be no death anymore. There will be no new birth for him either. Then he will simply leave the body, only his merging with the cosmic consciousness will survive. The seers have called it nirvana, moksha, kaivalya: the merging with the ultimate reality.
One who has known death consciously and realized the deathless, the eternal, has no more reason to be bound to the body. You become identified with the body because you are unconscious. Your unawareness is the bridge, the connection with the body. With awareness the identification is broken – you become separate from the body. As the realization of this separation deepens, death disappears – because it is the body that dies and it is the body that is born. The one who is hidden in the body, the bodiless one, is neither born nor does it die. It is the very life itself. How can life die? And the one who dies, his life was only a deception, an illusion, something borrowed. His life does not mean anything.
It is a very interesting thing that man is a combination of two entities: one is the mortal body which is already dead, and the other is the immortal soul which is life itself. It is only because of the proximity of the soul that the body appears to be alive. But the aliveness of the body is borrowed; it is a reflected phenomenon. It is as if you stand before a mirror and see yourself in it: the reflection that appears in the mirror is a borrowed phenomenon, it is not real. The moment you step away from the mirror the image will disappear. It is just a reflection, it is not a reality. It is an indication of the real, and it also hints towards the real – but the one who takes it to be real will go astray. He will be disconnected from the real forever.
The body only gives a hint of the life that is hidden within. The body appears alive only because of its nearness, its proximity, to the soul. The aliveness of the soul is so profound that even the material body seems to be alive. But one who takes the life of the body to be life itself will never know the soul.
To enter into death means to move from the mirror and to enter into the original reality. This is the essence of this Upanishad. The rest is a story. But the story is also very beautiful because it is indicative of many unique mysteries of life.
You may have read the Kathopanishad many times and heard many statements about it, but it is not as simple as it seems.
Remember that mystics have always tried to say very complex things in a very simple way. The reason is that these things are so difficult that even when said in a simple way, they will not be understood. If they are told as they are there will be no contact at all between you and these truths.
Kathopanishad is a narrative, a story, but this story has everything in it that is hidden in life. We will begin unfolding it layer by layer.