In the past only a few people had to wait for death, those who were sentenced to die. They had to wait in the prisons for a few days, just waiting – it was terrible agony. But now, everybody. Retired, you are sentenced to death. Nothing else to do, just waiting…any moment death will come. And the agony is increased still more by medical science because they go on prolonging you, they go on giving you injections and vitamins. For what? – to wait still more, a little longer? They go on pushing you back in the queue, but you are in the queue. What difference does it make when one has lost everything? And just waiting, just waiting, waiting to die. Never before! That’s why I say that man is so helpless before death.
In the East, when death started approaching, when death knocked for the first time on the door, people became very very happy. Death was a door, it was not the end. Something new was going to start. And it was not the enemy, it was God coming in the garb of death. They had come to know that they are not the body, they are not going to die. The bodies will be left behind and they will go on an eternal journey. Death was not the end; death was a meeting, a meeting with the unknown. Death was a long, long-awaited moment – desired, dreamed, hoped for. It was the last desire: to leave the body and to meet the divine, to merge into it so totally that not even a trace of you is left behind. The body looked like a barrier, so when it was dropped you were completely free. Death was freedom and the culmination of life, it was not just the end.
If death is just the end and you simply finish, life cannot be meaningful. How can life be meaningful when it just ends? Then the whole life becomes gloomy; the shadow of death makes it sad. Whatsoever you do is meaningless, because you are going to end. Whatsoever you create is meaningless, because you are going to end. Whatsoever you do is just fooling yourself, because you are going to end.
If death is a new beginning, if death is a rebirth, if death is a meeting with the divine, then life has a significance. Then whatsoever you do is meaningful. Then you are something significant, and the existence hopes for many many things through you.
At the age of sixty Joshu was again beginning a new childhood; he started learning Zen. Remember, if you can learn to the very end you will never become old. A man who can learn is never old. A man who cannot learn anymore is already old. A man who cannot learn anymore is already dead; now there is no purpose for him to be here. Life is a school, a discipline; it is a learning process. If you have stopped learning you are already dead. Sufis say that ordinarily people die at thirty and are buried at sixty. When you stop learning you are dead.
Joshu started at the age of sixty, and when he was eighty he found enlightenment.
Remember, enlightenment is not a game. Everything else is a game except enlightenment. It is not a game, you have to be patient about it – and Joshu must have been a man of infinite patience. Beginning at the age of sixty, it is difficult to wait: one thinks of death. One thinks: If death comes before enlightenment, what then? Then one must be in a hurry. But Joshu was not in a hurry. Remember, the more you are in a hurry, the less is there a possibility for you to reach. The more you are patient, the more is the possibility.
I will tell you one small Hindu anecdote.