No old man or woman was allowed to enter the palaces where he lived – only young people. He gathered all the beautiful young women of the kingdom around him so he would remain allured, fascinated, so he would remain in dreams, desires. A sweet dreamworld was created for him. The gardeners were told that dead leaves had to be removed in the night; fading, withering flowers had to be removed in the night – because who knows? – seeing a dead leaf he might start asking about what has happened to this leaf, and the question of death may arise. Seeing a withering rose, petals falling, he might ask, “What has happened to this rose?” and he might start brooding, meditating, about death.
He was kept absolutely unaware of death for twenty-nine years. But how long can you avoid? Death is such an important phenomenon – how long can you deceive? Sooner or later he had to enter into the world. Now the king was getting very old and the son had to know the ways of the world, so slowly, slowly he was allowed, but whenever he would pass through any street of the capital, old men, old women, would be removed, beggars would be removed. No sannyasin was allowed to cross while he was passing, because seeing a sannyasin he might ask “What type of man is this? Why is he in orange? What has happened to him? Why does he look different, detached, distant? His eyes are different, his flavor is different, his presence has a different quality to it. What has happened to this man?” And then the question of renunciation, and fundamentally the question of death…. But one day, it had to happen. It can’t be avoided.
We are also doing the same. If somebody dies and the death procession is passing by, the mother pulls the child inside the house and closes the door.
The story is very significant, symbolic, typical. No parents want the children to know about death, because they will immediately start asking uncomfortable questions. That’s why we build the cemeteries outside the town, so that nobody need go there. Death is a central fact; the cemetery should be exactly in the middle of the city so everybody has to pass it many times in the day – going to the office, coming to the home, going to the school, college, coming to the home, going to the factory…so that one is reminded again and again about death. But we make the cemetery outside the town, and we make the cemetery very beautiful: flowers, trees. We try to hide death – particularly in the West, death is a taboo! Just as once sex was a taboo, now death is the taboo. Death is the last taboo.
Someone like Sigmund Freud is needed – a Sigmund Freud who can bring death back into the world, who can expose people to the phenomenon of death. When a person dies in the West, his body is decorated, bathed, perfumed, painted. Now there are experts who do this whole job. And if you see a dead man or a dead woman, you will be surprised – he looks far more alive than he ever looked when he was alive! Painted, his cheeks are red, his face bright; he seems to be fast asleep in a calm and quiet space.
We are deceiving ourselves! We are not deceiving him, he is no longer there. There is nobody, just a dead body, a corpse. But we are deceiving ourselves by painting his face, by garlanding his body, putting beautiful clothes on him, carrying his body in a costly car, and a great procession and much appreciation for the person who has died. He was never appreciated when he was alive, but now nobody criticizes him, everybody praises him.