You will be surprised to think about it – that the ordinary death is not a death because the consciousness moves into another form. A bird becomes a tree, a tree becomes an animal, an animal becomes a human being. But if your experience of all your past lives suddenly flashes you to the idea that you are eternal, that very moment you are disidentified with the body-mind structure. And this disidentification is the real death. Now you will not take another form, you will enter into the formless. It is called the great death.
But to have a great death you need to have a great life. Ordinary living is so lukewarm that ordinary death cannot change much; it can only change the outer garb, the paper bag in which you have been living. To burst forth out of all form – a tremendous awareness, intensity, totality…you pull all of yourself to a single point – and suddenly all forms disappear. Just like a breeze, invisible, you enter into the formless. This has to be remembered before I talk about Dogen, because that is exactly the background of what he is trying to say in the Zen way.
When we look back at the shore from our boat, we mistakenly feel as if the shore were moving. But when we look at our boat with care, we find that it is our boat that is actually moving.
Now very few people have the experience of boats. Dogen was talking to people who were traveling in boats continuously, because Japan is not one island; it is many islands together, and people are continuously moving in boats from one island to another.
But in your experience you may have…sitting in a train, suddenly you see that another train which was sitting on the side track has started moving. But your experience is so clear that you are moving. Then you look to the other side – the station is still there. Then certainly, the other train is moving. But the station is gone, then the movement of that train was an illusion; your train is moving. Movement is relative, just as in geometry two parallel lines never meet.
Albert Einstein, the man who introduced the idea of relativity into the world of science, says that if two rockets are moving in the sky at the same speed, none of the passengers in either of the rockets will feel that there is any movement. Because to experience movement you need something stationary by the side; it is a relative experience. Both the rockets are moving in a silent, open sky at the same speed; naturally, you see there is no movement in the other rocket. And how can there be movement in your rocket? If there were, you would have passed the other rocket. None of the passengers in either of the rockets will even dream about movement, because there is nothing stable around; on both the sides, just pure sky. They can live in the illusion as long as they go on moving at the same speed.