Kyuho, stroking the dead monk’s back, said, “You could pass away sitting up straight, but you could never dream of our late teacher’s meaning.”
This is going to be very hard. He has proved that he can empty himself – so much so that he can die out of his own will. As the incense burns and the smoke cloud moves away, he will be gone. Still Kyuho said, “You have not understood the meaning of beating the drum.”
Why is he so hard about the poor fellow who has even died, emptied himself completely? He is hard because he is saying, “You have tried self-will by moving away your consciousness from the body like the smoke of the incense; you have made a great effort of the will, and in fact your will is your ego. You can do this, but you have not understood the meaning of beating the drum. You have emptied yourself, but you are there; you have proved yourself, but you are there.
“In your very proving you have proved only your ego, your power of will. You cannot understand the great meaning of beating the drum. It has to be relaxed. It has not to be done by you because it is there. You have not to do anything, you have simply to relax into it. You don’t have to die, you have simply to be aware that emptiness is your innermost reality.”
That’s why although Kyuho seems to be hard on the poor fellow who has died, he is right: the man who has died must have had a great willpower.
I have told you about Nansen….
Before he was going to die, he informed all his disciples to come to partake in the ceremony of his death. He had thousands of disciples and he asked them, “Now please, anybody – suggest to me some original way of dying. I don’t want to be in any way orthodox – I have never been in my life. Why should I be orthodox in dying if I have not been in living?”
The disciples looked at each other. Nobody had heard about an original death; death is death. Still, one suggested, “I have heard about a monk dying sitting, cross-legged, in a lotus posture.”
Nansen said, “Stupid! So many have done that; it is nothing new. Just try to find something new. You are my disciples and you cannot do even this much for me? – to find an original way of dying? Do you want me to die like everybody else, lying on the bed?”
The bed certainly is a very dangerous place. Ninety-nine point nine percent of people die there…so beware! When the light is put off, simply get out of the bed – it is the most dangerous place. Be somewhere else: in the bathroom, on the floor, on the roof…anywhere, but avoid the bed.
Nansen said, “I am not going to die in the ordinary way.” Somebody suggested, “Then you can die standing up.”
Nansen said, “That seems to be a little better, but still it is not unique, because I have heard about one Zen master dying standing.”