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Zen Master Bassui

Bassui wrote the following letter to one of his disciples who was about to die:
"The essence of your mind is not born, so it will never die. It is not an existence, which is perishable. It is not an emptiness, which is a mere void. It has neither colour nor form. It enjoys no pleasures and suffers no pains.
I know you are very ill. Like a good Zen student, you are facing that sickness squarely. You may not know exactly who is suffering, but question yourself: What is the essence of this mind? Think only of this. You will need no more. Covet nothing. Your end which is endless is as a snowflake dissolving in pure air."

Death is not the enemy. It appears to be so because we cling too much to life. The fear of death arises out of the clinging. And because of this clinging we are unable to know what death is. Not only that, we are unable to know what life is too. The man who is not able to know death will not be able to know life either, because deep down they are two branches of the same tree. If you are afraid of death, basically you will remain - because it is life that brings death. It is through living that you come to dying.
You would like to become stagnant frozen, so that you don′t flow, so that death never happens. You would like to get stuck somewhere on the way, so that you never come to the ocean and disappear. A man who is afraid of death clings to life too much; but the irony is that even if he clings too much to life, he is not able to see what life is. His clinging to life becomes a barrier to understanding life too. He cannot understand death, he cannot understand life; he remains in a deep misunderstanding, in a great ignorance.
So this is one of the most fundamental things to see: that death is not the enemy. Death cannot be the enemy. In fact, the enemy exists not. The whole existence is one. All is friendly. All is yours, it belongs to you and you belong to it. You are not strangers here. Existence has given birth to you; existence has mothered you. So when you die, you simply go back to the original source to rest and to be born again.
Death is like a rest. Life is activity, death is rest. And without rest activity is not possible. Life is like the day and death is like the night. And without the night, the day cannot exist on its own. It is night that prepares you for the day, it is night that rejuvenates you, gives you energy back. You move in your deep sleep to the very point where death will lead you.
Every night you go into death - it is a small death - hence in the morning you feel so alive. Unfortunate are those people who don′t die every night. In the morning they are more tired than they were when they went to bed. They were dreaming, they were still clinging to life in their dreams. They didn′t go in a let-go. They didn′t allow death to take possession of them and mend many things and give rest, relaxation, new energy. These are the unfortunate people. The fortunate people are those who go into a tremendously deep sleep, a dreamless sleep. In the morning they are again alive, ready to face life in its manifold forms, full of joy, full of response, ready to take any challenge that life proposes.
Death is like the night. Life is yang and death is yin. Life is male, death is female. Life is aggression, ambition - a great effort to conquer many things. And death is relaxation from all aggression - an inward journey. One relaxes into oneself. Zen people call it ′the asylum of rest′.
Life is an adventure; you go away from yourself, you go farther and farther away. The farther away you are, the more miserable you become. You go in search of happiness, but the more you search for happiness, the farther you are from it. And you can see it in your own life. This is not a philosophy, this is a simple statement of fact. Everybody goes in search of happiness. But the farther away you go, the more miserable you become.
Life is a search for happiness - but brings misery. One day you are fed up and tired and bored. That adventure no longer appeals. You relax into yourself, you come back. The closer you come to yourself, the more happy you become. The more you forget about happiness, the more happy you become. The day you stop seeking and searching for happiness, you are happy.
Life is a promise for happiness, but only a promise. It never fulfills. Death fulfills it. Hence, I repeat: death is not the enemy. Death is your home where you come after many many journeys - tired, frustrated, exhausted - to seek shelter, to seek rest, to gain again the lost vitality. One thing.
Second thing: life and death are not so much apart as we think. You think life happened the day you were born, and death will happen the day you die. So there is a seventy or eighty or one hundred years′ gap. It is not so. Birthing and dying go on together your whole life. The moment you start breathing you start dying too. Each moment there is life and there is death - two wheels of the same cart. They go together. They are simultaneous. You cannot put them so far apart - seventy years is too much distance. You cannot put them so far apart - they are there every moment. Every moment something is being born in you and something is dying.
Dying and living are together. In seventy years′ time you are finished with this dying and living. You are tired of the game. You would like to go home. You have played with sand castles. You have argued, fought for your sand castles: This is mine and that is thine, and enough is enough! Evening has come and the sun is setting and you want to come home. After seventy years you slip into deep rest. But dying and living continue together. To see it in that light will bring great insight to you. Each moment both are there.
So there is no need to be afraid. It is not that death is going to happen somewhere in the future. The future creates problems: It is going to happen somewhere in the future - how to protect yourself? How to create Great China Walls against it? What arrangements should be made so it doesn′t happen to you, or at least so it can be postponed a little more?
But it is already happening! It is not a question in the future. It has been happening since you have been here. You cannot postpone it, you cannot do anything about it! There is no way to do anything about it. It is the very process of life - dying is part of the very process of life.
For example, it comes very very prominent and loud and bold when you make love. Naturally, because love gives you the feeling of life. But have you watched? After each love act you become depressed. Relaxed, silent, but a kind of frustration is also there. At the peak of your love you are at the peak of life, and then suddenly you fall into death. Each love act brings life to a peak, and, naturally, gives you a glimpse into the abyss of death that is surrounding it. The valley of death is very clear when the peak of life is very high. Out of this experience, two types of culture have arisen in the world. One is sex-against, and one is death-against.
The sex-against culture emphasizes more the frustration that follows the sex act. It is more concerned with the valley. It says, "Look, nothing is achieved, only frustration. That was all illusion; that peak, that orgasm, was just illusory, momentary. See what really comes in the end - just frustration. Again you are flat on the ground. So it was a kind of illusion that you have created, but this is reality."
After each sex act, everybody starts thinking of how to become celibate, how to drop this whole miserable wheel, how to get out of this vicious wheel. The idea of celibacy and Brahmacharya has arisen because of that second part. It is there! People who are sex-against see only it. People who are death-against don′t see it. People who are death-against, they simply see the peak, they don′t look into the valley. Once the peak is there, they close their eyes and go into sleep. They don′t think about the valley. The valley is there, but they have chosen only the peak.
But see, there is a corollary to it. If you only see the peak then you will be very much afraid of death, because you will not have any experience of it. Then death will remain unknown forever. Only when you are dying, then you will come across it. Then it will be too much and too new, and too unfamiliar and unknown, and it will shock you very much.
So the people who are death-against and only see the peak of life, the orgasmic peak of the sex act, will avoid the valley, they will not look into it. Then ultimately, one day, that valley is there. They are very afraid. Hence, in the West, where sex has become more free and people are less sex-against, they are more death-against. They are fighting against death. Somehow death has to be destroyed.
In the East, people are sex-against. They look only into the valley. They don′t look at the peak; they say the peak is just illusory. Because they look into the valley, they have become more and more death-prone, ready to die. In fact, waiting to die; in fact, hoping to die, desiring to die, dreaming to die. In the East the greatest ideal is how to die so utterly that you are never born again. That is the ultimate death.
In the West the idea is how to create a situation where you don′t die at all; you go on living - on and on and on. Both attitudes are lop-sided. Both attitudes create a kind of imbalance in you, and that imbalance is the misery of man.
A real man, an authentic man, will face all; he will not choose. He will not say, "I will see only the valley and I will be oblivious of the peak," or "I will only see the peak and I will remain oblivious of the valley." He will see both as they are. He will not choose.
Not to choose is Zen. To be choice-less is Zen: to see things as they are in their totality - good and bad, heaven and hell, life and death, day and night, summer and winter - to see them as they are. Zen is not an either/or philosophy. It does not give you a choice because it says, "If you choose, you will always be afraid of the one that you have not chosen."
See into it: if you choose something, you will remain constantly trapped with that which you have not chosen, because the not-chosen is the rejected, the not-chosen is the repressed. The not-chosen is a hankering to take revenge. The not-chosen is getting ready - some day, in a weaker moment, it will explode with a vengeance.
So the man who is sex-against is always afraid of the vengeance of sex - it can explode any moment. And the man who is afraid of death, death-against, is naturally always trembling death is coming. He knows, there is a tacit understanding. Whether you see it or not, it makes no difference. Just not seeing it will not make it disappear. It is there. You know it is there and it is coming. And it is coming closer every moment. The man who is sex-against will be afraid of sexuality erupting any moment in his consciousness. And the man who is death-against will be afraid of death coming any day and possessing him and destroying him.
Both kinds of people remain fear-oriented; and both kinds of people remain in a fighting state, continuously conflicting. They never come to a calm tranquillity, an equilibrium. Equilibrium is when you don′t choose, when you see the fact as it is. Life is not an either/or question, there is nothing to choose. It is all together. By your choice, nothing is changed. By your choice, only you get into a kind of ignorance. That which you choose is part, and that which you are not choosing is also part of reality. The unchosen part of reality will remain hanging around you, waiting to be accepted. It cannot disappear, there is no way for it to disappear. If you love life too much and you don′t want to see the fact of death, death is there hanging around like a shadow.
Zen says: See both - they are one piece, they are together. Seeing them together, without any choice, without any prejudice, you transcend them. Seeing them together, you are no more identified with life and no more identified with death. When you are not identified, you are free, you are liberated. Identification is what imprisonment is. Let this be understood perfectly, because that is the root cause of all our misery, slavery.
Identification - this word is very significant. It means you get identified with a part. You become one with one part of life, that part you start thinking of as if it is the whole. Nothing is wrong with the part as such, but the part is the part; it is not the whole. When you start thinking of the part as the whole, partiality arises. When you start claiming for the part as if it is the whole, you are becoming blind to the whole. Now you will be in conflict with reality.
And you cannot win against reality, remember it. You cannot win against reality. It is impossible. It does not happen, it cannot happen. You can win only with reality, never against reality. Victory is with reality. That′s why all the great Masters have put so much emphasis on surrender. Surrender means to be with reality. Then victory is certain - because reality is going to win. It is always the reality that wins. If you are with it, you will be a winner; if you are against it, you are going to be a loser. And we are all losers, we have been fighting.
We choose a small part and claim that this is the whole. We choose life, we take life out of its basic context - death - and we say, "This is me. I am life." Now you are getting into trouble. You will be encaged in this identification. How will you manage death then? - and it is there, and it is happening every moment, and it is going to take you unawares one day.
You get identified with the body, "I am the body," then there is trouble. You get identified with the mind, "I am the mind," then there is trouble. Getting identified is getting into trouble. Identification is the very stuff ignorance is made of. Once identification is dropped, once you don′t get identified with anything, you simply remain a witness - not saying, "This I am" or "That I am." You simply remain a witness. You see life as passing, you see death as passing, you see sex as passing, you see frustration, joy, success, failure. You go on seeing; you remain a pure seer. You don′t get hooked with anything; you don′t claim "I am this." Without claiming, who are you? Without confining and defining yourself, without giving a limitation to yourself, if you can remain flowing, just seeing, there is liberation. There is great liberation. Unidentified one is free. Identified, one is encaged.
Zen says: Don′t be identified with anything whatsoever. And then, naturally, transcendence happens. You see misery coming and you remain a watcher. You see misery arising, engulfing you, surrounding you like great dark smoke, but you remain a watcher. You see it, you don′t judge. You don′t say, "This is me," or "This is not me." You don′t say anything at all, you remain non-judgemental. You simply see this is the fact, that there is misery.
Then as it had come one day, one day it starts disappearing. Clouds had gathered and now they are disappearing, and there is great sunshine and happiness. You don′t get identified with that either. You just see that sunshine has come back, clouds have disappeared. You don′t say, "This is me," you don′t say, "This is not me." You don′t make any statement at all about yourself. You simply go on watching.
Many times it will happen - misery will come, happiness will come - many times you will succeed, many times you will fail. Many times you will be depressed, and many times you will feel very high. Watching all this duality, by and by you will see that you are beyond all these dual pairs of things.
And so is a pair - life and death. And so is a pair - mind and body. And so is a pair - the world and Nirvana. All are dual pairs. When you can see thoroughly, when you can see transparently, and you don′t choose, you are something transcendental - the witness. That witness is never born and never dies.
Death and life come into that witness′ vision, but that witness is eternal. It was there before you were born, and it will be there when you are gone. You have been coming into the world millions of times, and you may yet be coming - and still you have never come. The world appears in you just like a reflection appears in a mirror. Nothing, in fact, happens to the mirror. Or do you think something happens to the mirror?
You are standing before a mirror and the mirror reflects your face. Do you think something is happening to the mirror? Nothing is happening. You are gone, the mirror is empty. Somebody else comes before the mirror, the mirror reflects that face - beautiful or ugly - it has no choice, it is choiceless. You bring a beautiful rose-flower, it reflects; you bring an ugly thorn, it reflects. You bring a beautiful face, it reflects; you bring an ugly face, it reflects. It has no choice. it does not say, "This is not good and I am not going to reflect," and, "This is very good and I will cling to it. Please don′t go away from here. remain here. I am you, you are me." No, the mirror simply reflects.
This mirror-like quality is what is meant by witnessing. And that′s why the mirror remains clean of all impressions. It goes on reflecting, but no impressions are collected on it. This is the state of awareness. This is what meditation is all about.
Watch, see, be alert, but don′t choose. And don′t get into any part. The part is not the whole. The part is part, and sooner or later the part will go, because the part cannot stay long enough. And when it goes you will be miserable because you will not be willing to leave it; you will cling to it, because you got identified with it. But it will have to go, and you will feel miserable and you will cry and you will weep - but that is your creation. If you had remained like a mirror there would be no problem. Whatsoever happens, happens. You remain undisturbed and undistracted.
This is the very essential core of all religions. It is not a question of practice, it is not a question of learning concepts, dogmas. It is not a question of reciting sutras. It is a question of insight! And this insight is available to you. There is no need to go to anybody for this insight. You have been carrying it all along. From the very beginning it has been so. It is there, the mirror is there. Just start using it.
Try sometimes and you will be surprised! The same thing that has been disturbing you in the past no more disturbs. Somebody insults you - you simply watch, you don′t get identified with it. You don′t say, "He has insulted me." How can he insult you? You don′t know yourself, who you are, how can he know who you are? He cannot insult you. He may have been insulting some image that he carries of you, but that is not you. He may be having some idea about you, and that idea he is insulting. How can he insult you? He cannot see you at all.
If you remain alert and watchful, you will be surprised - the insult came and went and nothing happened inside you, nothing was stirred, The calmness was radiant. No vibration, no wave, not even a ripple arose in you. And you will be tremendously blissful knowing this mirror-like quality. Then you are becoming integrated.
Then somebody comes and praises you. Try it again. Be watchful. Don′t think he is praising you. He may be praising somebody he thinks you are. He may be praising you for some ulterior motives of his own. That is none of your business. You simply see the fact that "this man is praising me." But remain a mirror. Don′t swallow it! Don′t cling to it! If you swallow it you will be in difficulty. Then ego arises - with identification, ego.
And then you start expecting that everybody should praise you like this man. Nobody′s going to praise you like that. Then there is hurt and misery. And tomorrow this man may not praise you again. His motive may have been fulfilled. Or tomorrow he may start thinking that he was wrong, or tomorrow he may take revenge. Whenever somebody praises you, some day he is going to insult you too - because he has to take revenge, he has to put things right.
An imbalance arises. When somebody is praising you, he is not feeling really very good; it hurts him to praise you. He has to show you that you are higher than him - that hurts. He may not show it right now, but he will keep the hurt, the wound, inside. And some day if the opportunity arises he will show you who you are; he will put you in your right place. And then you will be very much hurt. This man has been praising you so much, and now he hurts you. But he has not done anything. It is you - you started clinging to the idea that he had put in your mind. Not getting identified with anything, watching, keeping the mirror-like quality is what brings one, by and by, closer to enlightenment.
Rinzai was giving a lecture one day on the ′True Man of No Title′. That′s what I mean when I say the mirror-like quality - the ′True Man of No Title′. There is inside you a True Man of No Title. It is neither man nor woman, neither Hindu nor Mohammedan, neither good nor bad - it has no titles - neither educated nor uneducated, neither Eastern nor Western, it has no titles - neither a saint nor a sinner, it has no titles. And that is the true man inside you.

A monk, quite perplexed, went up to him and asked, "What is this True Man of No Title?" Rinzai grabbed him by the neck and yelled, "Speak! Speak!" The monk was dumbfounded and could say nothing. Rinzai let go of him and exclaimed: "What worthless stuff is this True Man of No Title!"

What Rinzai did was to create a situation. The man asked, "What is this True Man of No Title?" Rinzai grabbed him by the neck and shouted, "Speak! Speak!" He has shocked him. In that shock all titles have disappeared. In that shock he is nobody, simply nobody, a mirror. In that shock the mind is no more spinning. In that shock he is simply dumbfounded. Rinzai has created a situation for him to look into this real man of no title, this mirror-like quality.
But the man missed, he started thinking how to answer. "What is my Master doing to me? Is this the right thing to do to a questioner?" He must have got into thoughts like that. He missed the point. That′s why Rinzai exclaimed: "What worthless stuff is this True Man of No Title!"
The moment your mirror starts clinging to something, you become worthless. The moment your mirror is covered and attached to something, it is collecting dust - you become worthless. The moment the mirror collects no dust, you have immense worth - you are a god. The only difference between a Buddha and you is this much: that your mirror has collected much dust and Buddha′s mirror has become completely clean of all dust. Your thoughts are nothing but dust.
But sometimes you value dust very much. You say, "This is golden dust, this is no ordinary dust. This is pure gold! I have to hold it. I should not allow anybody to rob me of it; it is very valuable."
That′s how you have become attached to life. You think it is very valuable. And because you become attached, you think of death as the enemy, the robber. Death is coming and it will rob you of all your gold, of all the precious stones that you have carried all along. It will take all the dust off your mirror - and that′s all you have been thinking is your life. Hence, you are afraid.
If you see the point, death is a friend. In fact, a far greater friend than life itself. Why do I say so?
I say so because in life you get attached, you collect dust. Death takes all your attachments and all your dust away. If you can see the point, you will feel tremendously grateful to death. What you cannot do, death does for you. That′s why if you can do it, then there is no death for you; then there is no need for death. If a man can clean his consciousness through meditation, then he will never die.
I′m not saying that he will not die in the body - that is a natural thing. But he will never come across death. Death happens only to the dust that collects on the mirror. The mirror never dies! The mirror itself is undying. This witnessing is an undying process, it is eternal. The traveller continues; only the clothes become torn and rotten, and they have to be changed. The traveller continues; only dust gathers on the body and you have to take a bath.
But if you start thinking that your dust is you, you will not take any bath. There are people who are very much afraid of taking a shower - as if they will lose something, something valuable. There are people who are afraid of meditation because meditation is a shower. It takes all the nonsense thoughts that you have collected, accumulated - all the junk that you go on carrying in your head. And your head is suffering, is very heavy, and you are miserable, but still you go on carrying it thinking that it is valuable.
Death is a great friend, it unburdens you. It unburdens you of all that you have accumulated. Once this unburdening is allowed voluntarily, death becomes Samadhi. If you don′t allow it voluntarily, then death is not a Samadhi, it is a pain. Now see the point. The same thing can be utter pain, and the same thing can be utter joy. It depends on your interpretation - how you look at things, how you penetrate a certain experience, how deep you go into it.
If you are a clinger, very possessive, then death will be very painful and will be a great anguish. You will suffer. You will not suffer because of death, you will suffer because of your clinging, because of your possessiveness, because of your attachments, because of your greed, and all that.
But if you are not a clinger, you are not very possessive, you are not greedy, you are not egoistic, you are not aggressive, suddenly death′s quality has changed. It comes like a fresh breeze of God. It comes and cleanses you. It gives you a great rest much needed. It purifies you. It takes you into the eternal source from where you will rise again. If you go voluntarily into it you will rise in a better form, because you have learned something from the last form. If you don′t go voluntarily, then too death will throw you into the furnace, will burn you, but forcibly, and you will come back again into the same form because you have not learned anything.
The student who has not learned anything has to be sent to the same class again and again and again. A Buddha is a person who has learned all the possibilities of all forms. He has been a rock, and he learned it. He has been a tree, and he learned it. He has been a tiger, and he learned it. He has been a man and a woman, he learned it. He has been a god and he learned it. And he went on learning and learning and learning.... And one day he has finished all forms. He has gone through all forms - watching, choicelessly alert, keeping his mirror bright, unclouded, he has come through all the forms. And he has now come to a point where no more learning is needed. He has learned the lesson. Then he disappears. Then death becomes Nirvana. Then he spreads all over existence, then he becomes a fragrance. Then he enters the cosmic form. Now small forms are no more needed. He has learned all that was there in those small forms. All that was contained in those small forms he has decoded. He has become a grown-up. Now there is no need for him to go back to school. He becomes part of the whole. He spreads over the whole. Then he is a song in the heart of the cosmic mind, a blessing, a peace. He does not come any more, he has gone beyond the point of return.
This is the ultimate learning. But one has to go through all the forms. And death brings a great lesson, far greater than life. And death brings a very intense possibility to understand, because life is spread long range - death comes in a very very potential way in a very short time. In a single moment it shakes you. If you are not alert you will miss that moment, the moment is very tiny. If you are alert, then that very moment becomes a door into the divine.
Once you are not attached to death, once you are not afraid of death, death becomes a game, a play.

Listen to this beautiful story...

Almost blind at the age of ninety-six and no longer able to teach or work about the monastery, Zen Master Yamamoto decided it was time to die, so he stopped eating. When asked by his monks why he refused his food, he replied that he had out-lived his usefulness and was only a bother to everybody.
Now ninety-six... it is enough. And the old man thinks that now it is time to die, so he stops eating food. Death is just a rest. It is time to rest. He starts preparing to retire. This is the understanding that is needed.
The disciples told him, "If you die now" - it was January and very cold - "when it is so cold, everybody will be uncomfortable at your funeral and you will be an even greater nuisance, so please eat!"
Those were also great people. Mm? - the reason they give: "Please just think of the cold. You will be dying, it is January and much too cold, and you will be a greater nuisance to all of us. We will have to go to your funeral - so start eating."
This can happen only in a Zen monastery with a Zen Master and Zen disciples. Nobody is worried about the death. Death is okay. The Master is ready to die, but look at the disciples. Those disciples are also very close to enlightenment. They say, "Stop your nonsense! Right now it is not a good time. Why do you want to create trouble for us? Yes, you are a bother - ninety-six years old - but that will be even more bothersome, dying in the middle of January. Please eat!"
So the old man laughed, he resumed eating, but when it became warm again he stopped, and not long after quietly toppled over and died.

Death, too, is then a game, something to be played with. Then you are not afraid. There is nothing to be afraid of. Then you are not even serious. Look at the non-seriousness of the whole thing. Can you think of something like this happening in the West? Impossible! It can only happen in the East where people have accepted life and death both, as they are. And this can happen only when you know that nobody is going to die - that′s why they could joke with the old man, and the old man laughed. He was not offended. Just think of the disciples saying, "This will be a nuisance, sir, dying in the middle of January. It is so cold and it will be a great bother for all of us to go to the funeral." Just see the point of it, the humour of it - as if life and death are nothing but jokes, as if the old man is just going to play an act, as if it is not truth!
That′s how it is. Simply as if he is going to play an act. "Please don′t play it right now, later on you can do it when the days are warmer." The old man laughed, he didn′t feel offended. He must have enjoyed it tremendously. This was a great insight in his disciples. Now they even take death humorously. When you start taking death also humorously, you are a man of understanding. You are, by and by, turning into The Man of No Title, the Real Man of No Title. When you take death also with humour, you have already gone beyond it. And to go beyond life and death is to go into your reality.

Another anecdote...

When Tozan was dying a monk said to him, "Master, your four elements are out of harmony, but is there anyone who is never ill?"
"There is," said Tozan.
He was very ill. The whole body was just disintegrating. The four elements were no more together. It was a kind of riot inside his body, Elements were trying to get free of each other.
"Does this one look at you?" asked the monk.
"It is my function to look at him," answered Tozan.
"How about when you yourself look at him?" asked the monk.
"At that moment I see no illness," replied Tozan.

In you there are two worlds: the world of birth and death, and the world that is transcendental. Yes, the body can be very ill, and yet there may be no illness in you - if you don′t get attached to illness, if you don′t get identified with illness, if you don′t start thinking "I am ill." It is only a kind of hypnosis. It has to be learned through many many doors.
When you feel hungry, what do you say? You say, "I am hungry." You are not - the body is hungry, the organism is hungry. You are just a watcher, you are just seeing that the body is hungry. Then you eat and you fed satisfied, and you say, "Now I am satisfied, fully satisfied." You are not satisfied, because you were not hungry in the first place! First you had seen hunger in the body, now you feel satisfaction in the body - but you are just a witness. First your mirror was reflecting the hungry man standing in front of you, and now your mirror reflects the satisfied man standing before you - but the mirror was never hungry and the mirror is not satisfied either.
One day you are healthy, another day you are ill - the mirror reflects! One day you are young, another day you are old. One day you are loved, another day you are hated. One day appreciated, another day condemned. The mirror goes on reflecting. The function of the mirror is just to reflect whatsoever is the case. But each time you get identified. Stop this identifying yourself with things that are standing in front of you, and suddenly you will see you have never been ill and never been hungry and never been born, and never are you going to die. You are the very source of eternity. You are eternal.

Now this story:

Bassui wrote the following letter to one of his disciples who was about to die:

Ordinarily when you write to somebody who is about to die, you write some consolatory things - you think he will need consolation. And all your consolations are false; all your consolations are lies.
But when a Zen Master writes a letter to somebody who is dying and who has been a disciple to him, he simply states the truth. In fact, when somebody is dying it is time to state the truth, because there may be no more time. At least let him hear the truth before he leaves the world, let him be made alert to what the true fact is. No need to console, because consolations don′t help.
Consolations are like lullabies. Yes, good, they make people feel comfortable. They are like tranquillizers. They don′t transform you, they only lull you, they only make you dull. They really make you confused, and the reality remains as it is. Your consolations don′t change it, they cannot change it. Consolations are toys given to children.
The Zen Master Bassui writes to one of his disciples who is about to die: now this is a great moment. Death is a great moment. It should be used to its total capacity. Death is such a great opportunity, such a creative possibility, that one can be enlightened through it. If you have missed life, okay, but don′t miss death. Use the door to look into the divine.

The Master wrote:

The essence of your mind is not born, so it will never die.

The essence of your mind - that′s what I call the -mirror-like quality. That is the very essence of your mind. Why do we call it the fundamental, the essential? Because it persists.
Watch. You were a child. The first time you opened your eyes, you had no thoughts, but this mirror-like quality was there. Even at the first moment when you opened your eyes, this mirror-like quality was there. It was not given to you by anybody; you brought it with you. It is essential, it is your nature. The child opens his eyes; he will not be able to see what trees these are: Ashokas or pines - he will not be able to know what trees these are. He will not even be able to know that these are trees. He will not be able to see that they are green, but he will see the greenery. He will not be able to label it as green, and he will not be able to tell that "These are trees, and these are Ashokas, and these are pines" - no.
But everything will be reflected exactly. There will be no language. His vision will be clear. He will have no dust. That′s why children are so thrilled by small things - because every small thing is almost psychedelic to them. They have no barriers, their eyes are clean, the mirror is clear. It reflects the reality as it is.
This quality - this mirror-like quality - is not taught by anybody. It is not conditioned by the society. Language will be taught; you don′t bring language with you. If you are born in a Japanese family, you will learn Japanese. If you are born in a French family, you will learn French. Whatsoever is taught you will learn. But the French child and the Japanese child when they first open their eyes are simply mirrors. The Japanese mirror is no more Japanese and the French mirror is no more French. They are simply mirrors. Yes, the Japanese will become Japanese and the French will become French, and a thousand and one things will go on gathering - the education, the school, the college, the university, religion, church, and things will gather around.
So, all that is taught to you is not essential. It has been given from the outside. That which is given to you from the outside is borrowed, is not your nature. That which you have brought with you, utterly with you, nobody has given it to you - that is essential nature. And that is your soul. To find it in oneself is to find something which is beyond birth and beyond death.

Says the Master:

The essence of your mind is not born, so it will never die.

Only that which is born dies; only that which begins ends. If you have one polarity, the other will follow; but if the first polarity is missing, the other cannot be there. If something is there in you which was not born, which was there even before birth, then it will be there even after death.
This mirror-like quality has nothing to do with anybody, nobody has given it to you. It is you, your authentic being. This is the real Man of No Title. The mirror is going to learn many things, is going to be conditioned in many ways - all that will be non-essential. That′s why I say if you are a Hindu, you are getting too much attached to the titles. If you are an Indian, again you are getting too much attached to the titles. Remember the real Man of No Title. And that is the same man! You and I are not separate in that mirror-like quality. It is the one quality! It is what consciousness consists of.

Says the Master:

It is not an existence, which is perishable.

This has to be understood:

It is not an existence, which is perishable.

It is existence itself! Existentialists in the West make a distinction between these two words: existent and existence. That distinction is valuable, will be useful here. We say the tree exists, but we cannot say it exactly the same way about God, that God exists. Why? Because the tree was in non-existence one day and will go into non-existence another day. So the tree exists in a different way than God exists, because He has never been non-existent and He will never be non-existent. We can say that the tree exists because sometimes it disappears out of existence.
The tree is existent - it can become non-existent. God is not existent, He is existence itself. He cannot become non-existent, there is no way. In fact, to say ′God is′ is a repetition because God means exactly what ′is′ means. To say ′God is′ is not right. ′Tree is′ is okay, ′chair is′ is okay, ′man is′ is okay, because they can disappear into ′is-not′. But ′God is′ is not right. God means ′isness′! So it is a repetition to say ′God is′. It means ′Is is′ or ′God God′. It is meaningless, it is a repetition.

The Master says to his disciple:

It is not an existence, which is perishable.

He means it is not an ′existent′. It has not come into existence, so it cannot go out of it. It is the very existence itself. You have been here always! and you will be here always. You cannot go anywhere, remember it. So don′t be afraid of going anywhere. There is no way to go and there is nowhere to go and there is nobody to go! Everything simply is. All has been here forever and will be forever. This Now contains the whole eternity - the whole past and the whole future. The whole existence converges on this moment, here-now. In the cry of this cuckoo are all the cries of all the cuckoos - past and future. In the listening of you is all the listening of all the people - past and future. In the saying is all the saying of all those who had anything to say in the past and those who will ever have anything to say in the future.
All is. Nothing goes out of existence. Forms change, certainly; clothes change, certainly; names change, certainly. But this is not your essential being. You go on changing your houses, you go on changing your bodies, you go on changing your minds - but the essential, the mirror-like quality, the real Man of No Title remains the same. It cannot change. It has no parts that can be changed, it is imperishable.

It is not an emptiness, which is a mere void.

Listen again. The Master says, "But don′t be in a misunderstanding" - because when we say it is a Man of No Title, or when I say it is a mirror-like quality, you may start thinking that the mirror is just empty. The mirror is not just empty, even though it sometimes looks just empty. And you know when there is nobody facing the mirror it is empty. Yes, empty of form, empty of the other, but not empty of itself.
When there is nobody facing the mirror, the mirror is full of its mirror-like quality, but not empty. In fact, when somebody is facing the mirror, it is not so mirror-like. That reflection is obstructing its fullness. Something foreign, something from the outside is there. When everything goes and nothing is reflected, the mirror is not simply empty. It doesn′t mean a negative emptiness. It is full of its mirror-like quality. It is just a mirror, a perfect mirror - mirroring nothing, but a perfect mirror.
Or look at it in another way. Our minds are too much attached to things; that′s why we look at things and then decide. A room is full of furniture and you say, "The room is full of furniture." Then somebody removes the furniture outside and then you say, "The room is empty now." What do you mean? You are too much attached to the furniture. You only think of the furniture, you never think of the room. Now the room is full of roominess! First it was not so full of roominess - the furniture was obstructing its roominess. A room means space; the very word ′room′ means space.
First there was too much furniture inside; the space was obstructed, destroyed. It was not really full of itself; something foreign was hindering it in many ways. It was not so free. Now the furniture is removed, you say it is empty. First you used to say it was full, now you say it is empty. Empty of what? - empty of furniture. But there is another way of looking at the room - now it is full of roominess, full of space. Now it is full of itself.
So the Master says, "Don′t think that I am saying this essential you is just an empty void, no." First it is full of the furniture - the thoughts, the memories, the desires, identifications: I am the body, I am the mind, I am Hindu, I am Christian, this and that. It is full of the furniture, garbage. Then one day when you throw this garbage away and you simply remain a choiceless awareness, you can start thinking, or at least misunderstanding, that now it is just a void, there is nothing. In fact, for the first time the mind has full freedom to be itself - it will bloom. This consciousness will bloom into a lotus.
This is freedom, this is liberation. Liberated of all junk, liberated of all that is alien, liberated of all that is foreign - the guests have gone, the host is free. When the guests are there the host is not so free. You know it. When guests come you are not so free. The host becomes imprisoned in his own household. He does not have such free movement as he used to. He has to take care of the guests. They may be sleeping; you cannot play your loudspeaker, your radio, your TV, very loudly; you cannot play the music the way you like; you have to keep your children quiet - the guest is there. You have to adjust to the guest.
When a guest is there, the host becomes secondary and the guest becomes primary. That′s what has happened. Too much full of thoughts and desires, the guests have become very important and the host has become almost secondary, or forgotten - even forgotten. And the guests have stayed too long. They don′t go. They have become permanent members, and the host is almost thrown out of his own house. So when suddenly guests go, you may feel it is just an empty void. It is not. Buddhism, Zen, both have been very much misunderstood because they talk of Shunyata - emptiness. Shunyata, emptiness, is God for Buddha. But the word creates trouble. People think "Emptiness? Looks very negative." It is not, it is simply an indication that now you are just yourself, empty of all else, empty of the other. Now you are just in tune with your being, just yourself, just your essential Buddhahood is left. It is not empty, it is full. It is perfect - because it is the source of all.

It is not an emptiness, which is a mere void. It has neither colour nor form. It enjoys no pleasures and suffers no pains.

You think you suffer! You have never suffered′ You think you enjoy, you have never enjoyed. You have always been just a witness. Suffering has happened, but you have never suffered. Joy has come, but you have never enjoyed. They have been passing phases, climates that come and go, clouds that surround the Moon and disappear. But you! - you remain in yourself, undisturbed, undistracted.

There is a Zen saying:

I am moving all day and not moving at all. I am like the Moon underneath the waves that ever go rolling.

The waves go on rolling. I am moving all day and not moving at all. Yes, great movement is happening all around, but at your very center - the center of the cyclone - nothing ever moves. No pain, no pleasure, no happiness, no unhappiness, no heaven, no hell - you neither gain anything nor do you lose anything. It is always the same! It is absolutely the same. The taste there remains the same. It is eternal.

I am moving all day and not moving at all. I am like the Moon underneath the waves that ever go rolling.

The waves go on rolling. Have you seen sometimes a Moon reflected in the waves in a lake. The waves go on rolling, but what happens to the reflection of the Moon? Do you think that reflected Moon also moves? First, it is a reflection, so it cannot move. Second, how can the waves move an illusory thing which is not there in the first place? They cannot move it.
Exactly so is the case with you. When pleasure comes and moves, it is a wave, and you are reflected in that wave, and you think your reflection is moving. Your reflection becomes distorted, certainly. You never become distorted! The Moon in the sky is never distorted by the waves rolling underneath. But you can see another Moon reflected in the lake, and you can feel that maybe the real Moon is not affected, but this Moon underneath the waves is certainly affected. Waves waver it, waves spread it all over the lake.
But how can you spread a reflection? A reflection in the beginning is not, a reflection exists not. So when you see yourself affected by things happening around you, it is only the reflection of you in the things that seems affected. You, the real Moon in the sky, remain the same. But you have forgotten completely who you are. You have completely forgotten that you are beyond all the things that happen. That nothing happens in your innermost core, that it is always the same.

I know you are very ill. Like a good Zen student, you are facing that sickness squarely.

To face sickness squarely means to go on seeing that you are not it - that′s what it means, to face it squarely, to go on seeing that "I am not it."

You may not know exactly who is suffering, but question yourself

Question yourself: Who is suffering? Who is dying? Who has become old? Question, go on questioning, and by and by you will see, "The one who is suffering is not me, the one who has become old is not me, the one who is going to die is not me." And remember, this has not to be supplied; this answer has not to be supplied by your memory - because you know it, you have heard it, you have read in the Upanishads, you have heard great Masters talking about it. You are not to supply it through the memory, you have just to question. Go on hammering the question inside, "Who is suffering?" Next time you have a headache, ask "Who is suffering?" Next time your legs are getting numb, inquire "Who is getting numb?"
And don′t be in a hurry to answer it, because that answer will be false. You can be very wise, you can say, "Yes, I am the soul and this is the body." But this will be bogus. Let the answer come of its own accord. It should not come from the memory, it should come from your being. It should come as an insight; it should not be verbal. It should come as a realization, as a satori, as a glimpse.
Can you feel the difference? When something comes as a memory, you are repeating like a parrot. I have been telling you that you are not your headache. Tomorrow you can try it - and you sit silently and you question, "Who is suffering?" And from the memory comes the answer: "You are not suffering, you are the transcendental soul, you are the witness." Watch it, this is all from the memory. It is of no value at all. Throw it away!
Let there come an insight, a realization, a sudden clarity, a transparency - that you see it: "I am not suffering." Remember it: seeing is the thing. It is not an answer to be fetched from the memory. It is an insight to be fetched from your deepest core of being. You have to throw the net of questioning. And if you go on throwing the net, and if you are not satisfied by your bogus memory, sooner or later you will catch the fish and that fish makes you free. It liberates. Truth liberates.

... question yourself: What is the essence of this mind?

First question: Who is suffering? so that you can see that the suffering is happening around you but not in you. It is closely, very closely happening, but still not at the center. It is happening on the periphery, not at the center. The center is unaffected.
So the first thing is: see where suffering is. Get disidentified from suffering. This question will help you, like a sword, to cut the identification.
Then the next question to ask is: What is the essence of this mind? Who is this who is not suffering? First inquire: Who is suffering? so the old identity with the body and the illness and the mind is broken, and then you have come to have a look at your innermost core. Now ask: What is this essential mind?

Think only of this.

And this message is to a dying man, remember. The Master is saying, "While you are dying, think only of this. Before death, solve one thing: that you are not suffering. And then when you are entering into death, go on questioning, ′Who is this who is not suffering?"′ "Who am I?" as Raman Maharshi used to say: "Who am I?"
Think only of this while death happens, because death will take everything away. If only this question can be carried into death, if this inquiry can be carried while you are dying, you can attain to Samadhi, you can attain to the great fruit of enlightenment.

Think only of this. You will need no more.

The Master is right, exactly so it is. You will not need anything more if you can do only two things: disidentification from life and all that life has accumulated around you; and the second, the inquiry - "Who am I?"

You will need no more. Covet nothing.

Don′t even think of enlightenment. Don′t even desire Buddhahood. Don′t even think of Nirvana.

Covet nothing.

Because once you start coveting, you lose your essential mind, you lose your contact with the cosmic mind. Desire and you have fallen. It is through desire that the original fall happens. So don′t desire anything.
He knows his disciple perfectly well. He will not desire money, he will not desire prestige and power, he will not desire another birth, he will not desire another life - that is not the point at all. That is finished with the first question: get disidentified.
But there is a possibility he may desire Buddhahood. He may start thinking of being born into the highest plane of existence as a Buddha, as an enlightened soul. But then the desire has happened, the desire has entered. Again he has fallen from the original mind. The original mind is intact only when you are not desiring. The moment you desire, you have moved away. You are no more in it, you are again trapped into new journeys, you have gone astray.

What is the essence of this mind? Think only of this. You will need no more. Covet nothing Your end which is endless is as a snowflake dissolving in pure air."

There is nothing to be worried about. You will disappear like a snowflake in pure air. You are not going to die, you are only going to disappear. Yes, you will not be found in the individual form. The form will disappear into the formless - the snowflake into the pure air. But you will be there and more so. When the river disappears into the ocean, it is not dying - it is becoming the ocean, it is spreading, it is becoming bigger, huge, enormous, infinite.
Death, if you cling to life, will look like death. If you don′t cling to life, death will look like a transformation, a freedom. You are freed from the imprisonment of form, you become formless. Then there is great joy. A man who can die like a snowflake disappearing in the pure air is blessed. There is great ecstasy, great silence and peace, utter joy. There is celebration in the very heart of your being.
Life has to be used, death has to be used. Everything has to be used to come to this essential mind, because this essential mind is Sat-Chit-Ananda - it is truth, it is consciousness, it is bliss.
It may look sometimes very crazy that one has to drop all attachments, even attachment to life. It may look very crazy that one has to transform even death into a love affair. It may look very crazy, but life is crazy, life is a paradox.

John Wheeler has said:

"We are talking about things that are absolutely crazy. Can anything that is less crazy be right?"

Zen Monks

Zen is right because it is utterly crazy. Zen is right because it is so paradoxical. Life is a paradox. Anything that is true to life is going to be a great paradox. Yes, life has to be lived, and death to be died. Living, penetrate into the deepest core of life. Dying, penetrate again to the deepest core of death. And the deepest core is the same - it is the essential mind.
′Life′ is not a noun, remember; neither is ′death′ a noun. ′Life′ and ′death′ are both verbs. ′Existence′ is a verb, it is not a noun. Life is a process, death is a process. And who is being processed? Who is moving in this cart of two wheels? Who is the pilgrim? Who is this that goes on travelling through many forms? That essential mind, that no-mind, that mirror-like quality, that witnessing has to be found in all the ways and through all the possibilities. Every move in life has to be devoted to that inquiry, to that search, only then does one come home. And without coming home you will remain discontented. You can have much money, you can have much power, but you will remain powerless, and you will remain a beggar.
The day you come to this originality of your being, to this Man of no Title, this ancientmost, the Eternal One, that day you become an emperor. That day all is benediction. That day nothing is missing. And that day you will have a good laugh too, because you will see that day that nothing was ever missing - just you got entangled into reflections. You got entangled with guests and you lost track of the host. Be the host!

(Osho - Zen The Path of Paradox, volume 3 #7)

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