The poet is right when he says, “Don’t send anybody to ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” When someone dies, there is an old tradition: in the churches the bells start tolling to inform the whole village, “Someone is dead – come back from your farms, your gardens, your orchards.” It is a call to people that somebody has died and he has to be given the last send-off. But the poet is perfectly right, “Don’t send anyone to ask for whom the bell tolls, it always tolls for thee.” Whenever someone dies you are reminded again that you are a mortal being, that death can take possession of you any moment.
This is the root fear; all other fears are reflections of it. If you go deep down into any fear, you will find the fear of death.
You are asking, “I feel like I am buried alive under my fear.” Everybody is in the same situation. You are fortunate that you have become aware of it, because if you are aware, you can come out. And if you are unaware then there is no possibility of coming out.
You say, “I have always been so desperately trying to be someone special to hide this fear, running further and further away from myself until I don’t know any more what it means to be real.”
Do you think the people who are special are doing something else? The presidents and the prime ministers and the kings and the queens – do you think they are in a different boat? Just look around and you will find them all in the same boat. They are all trying to be special in the hope that perhaps if they are special, life will treat them differently than it treats ordinary people. Obviously it cannot treat a president of a country the same way it treats a shoemaker.
But they are absolutely wrong. Life makes no discriminations…presidents or shoemakers, toilet cleaners or prime ministers, it does not matter at all as far as life is concerned. Death knocks them off with equality. Death is the only communist in the world; it does not care whether you have money or you are a beggar, you are educated or uneducated.
You cannot say, “Just wait, I am qualified enough. You cannot behave the way you behave with uneducated people. Just wait a little…I am a police commissioner of Pune, you cannot behave this way. First, give me a notice and I will consider. And you have to follow a certain discipline decided by me.” Whether you are a police commissioner or just a stray dog, it makes no difference – death comes and makes everybody equal.
But the desire is that if you are special existence will treat you with some kindness, some compassion. It will think twice, “The man is a Nobel Prize winner, you should just give him a little more life. The poor fellow is a great painter, you should not blow out his candle just the way you do with everybody else.”
This is the hidden hope, unconscious hope, why everybody goes on trying to be special. But it is absolutely foolish and absurd. Just look back at what has happened to the millions of kings and millions of queens who were so powerful….
Before death everybody is absolutely powerless.
In Jaina scriptures there is a very beautiful story. In India there is a myth that if a man becomes a world conqueror he has a special name – for no ordinary king, not even an emperor. He is called a chakravartin. It means that the wheel of his chariot can move around the earth anywhere, nobody can hinder it. He is all-powerful.