Question - One friend has asked: one can die fully
conscious, but how can one be in full consciousness at birth?
Actually, death and birth are not two events, they are two ends of the
same phenomenon -- just like two sides of the same coin. If a man can
have one side of a coin in his hand, the other side will be in his hand
automatically. It's not possible to have one side of a coin in my hand
and then wonder how to get the other side -- the other side becomes
Since we all die in a state of unconsciousness and are born in a state of unconsciousness, we remember nothing of our past lives. However, the memory of our past lives always remains present in some corner of our minds, and this memory can be revived if we so desire.
With birth we cannot do anything directly; whatsoever we can do is possible only in relation to death. Nothing can be done after death; whatsoever is to be done must be done before death. A person dying in an unconscious state cannot do anything until he is born again -- there is no way; he will continue to remain unconscious. Hence, if you died before in an unconscious state, you will have to be born again in an unconscious state. Whatsoever is to be done must be done before death, because we have lots of opportunities before death, the opportunity of a whole lifetime. With this opportunity an effort can be made towards awakening. So, it will be a great mistake if someone keeps waiting until the moment of death to awaken. You can't awaken at the time of death. The sadhana, the journey towards awakening, will have to begin long before death; a preparation will have to be made for it. Without preparation one is sure to remain unconscious in death. Although, in a way, this unconscious state is for your own good if you are not yet ready to be born in a conscious state.
Around 1915, the ruler of Kashi had an abdominal operation. This was the first such operation ever performed in the world without the use of anesthesia. There were three British physicians who refused to perform the operation without giving anesthesia, saying it was impossible to have a man's stomach open for one-and-a-half to two hours during a major operation without making the patient unconscious. It was dangerous -- the danger was that the patient might scream, move, jump or fall because of the unbearable pain; anything might happen. Hence the doctors were not ready.
But the ruler maintained there was no cause for concern as long as he remained in meditation and said he could easily remain in meditation for one-and-a-half to two hours. He was not willing to take the anesthetic; he said he wished to be operated upon in his conscious state. But the physicians were reluctant; they believed it was dangerous to have someone go through such pain in a conscious state. However, seeing no other alternative, the physicians first asked him, as an experiment, to go into meditation. Then they made a cut in his hand -- there was not even a tremor. Only two hours later did he complain that his hand hurt; he did not feel anything for two hours. Subsequently, the operation was performed.
That was the first operation to be performed in the world where physicians worked on a patient's open stomach for an hour-and-a-half without giving anesthetic. And the ruler remained fully conscious throughout the operation. Deep meditation is required to be in such awareness. The meditation has to be so deep as to make one totally aware, without an iota of doubt, that the self and the body are separate. Even the slightest identification with the body can be dangerous.
Death is the biggest surgical operation there is. No physician has ever performed an operation as big as this -- because in death there is a mechanism to transplant the entire vital energy, the prana, from one physical body into another physical body. No one has ever performed such a phenomenal operation, nor can it ever be done. We may sever one part of the body or another, or transplant one part or another, but in the case of death, the entire vital energy has to be taken from one body and entered into another.
Nature has kindly seen to it that we become fully unconscious at the occurrence of this phenomenon. It is for our own good; we might not be able to bear that much pain. It is possible that the reason why we become unconscious is because the pain of death is so unbearable. It is in our own interest that we become unconscious; nature does not allow us to remember passing through death.
In every life we repeat almost the same mistakes we have repeated in our past lives. If we could only recall what we did in our past lives, we might not fall into the same ditches again. And if we could only remember what we did throughout our previous lives, we could no longer remain the same as we are now. It is impossible we could remain the same, because time and time again we have amassed wealth and every time death has made all that wealth meaningless. If we could recall this, we might not carry, any longer, the same craze for money within us as we did before. We have fallen in love a thousand times, and time and time again it has ultimately proven to be meaningless. If we could recall this, our craze for falling in love with others and for having others fall in love with us would disappear. Thousands upon thousands of times we have been ambitious, egoistic; we have attained success, high position, and in the end all of it has turned out to be useless, all of it has turned to dust. If we could recall this, perhaps our ambition would lose its steam, and then we would not remain the same people we are now.
Since we do not remember our past lives, we keep moving in almost the same circle. Man does not realize that he has gone through the same circle many times before, and that he is going through it once again in the same hope he carried with him so often before. Then death ruins all hopes, and once again the cycle begins. Man moves in circles like an ox on a water-wheel. One can save oneself from this harm, but it requires great awareness and continuous experimentation. One cannot start waiting for death all at once, because one cannot become suddenly aware during such a big operation, under such a great trauma. We will have to experiment slowly. We will have to experiment slowly with small miseries to see how we can be aware while going through them.
For example, you have a headache. At one and the same time you become aware and begin to feel that you have a headache, not that the head is in pain. So one will have to experiment on the little headache and learn to feel that, "The pain is in the head and I am aware of it."
When Swami Ram was in America people had great difficulty following him in the beginning. When the president of America paid him a visit, he was puzzled too. He asked, "What language is this?" -- because Ram used to speak in the third person. He would not say, "I am hungry," he would say, "Ram is hungry." He would not say, "I have a headache," he would say, "Ram has a severe headache."
In the beginning people had great difficulty following him. For example, he once said, "Last night Ram was freezing." When asked who he was referring to, he replied that he was referring to Ram. When he was asked, "Which Ram?" he said, pointing to himself, "This Ram -- the poor guy was freezing cold last night. We kept laughing and asked, 'How's the cold Ram?'"
He would say, "Ram was walking on the street and some people began swearing at him. We had a belly laugh and said, 'How do you like the swearing, Ram? If you seek honor, you are bound to meet with insult.'" When people asked, "Who are you talking about, which Ram?" he would point to himself.
You will have to start experimenting with minor kinds of miseries. You encounter them every day in life; they are present every day -- not only miseries, you will have to include happiness in the experiment also, because it is more difficult to be aware in happiness than it is to be in misery. It is not so difficult to experience that your head and the pain in it are two separate things, but it is more difficult to experience that, "The body is separate and the joy of being healthy is separate from me too -- I am not even that." It is difficult to maintain this distance when we are happy because in happiness we like to be close to it. While in misery, we obviously want to feel separate, away from it. Should it become certain that the pain is separate from us, we want it to stay that way so we can be free of it.
You will have to experiment on how to remain aware in misery as well as in happiness. One who carries out such experiments often brings misery upon himself, of his own free will, in order to experience it. This is basically the secret of all asceticism: it is an experiment to undergo voluntary pain. For example, a man is on a fast. By remaining hungry he is trying to find out what effect hunger has on his consciousness. Ordinarily, a person who is on a fast hasn't the slightest notion of what he is doing -- he only knows that he is hungry and looks forward to having his meal the next day.
The fundamental purpose of fasting is to experience that, "Hunger is there, but it is far away from me. The body is hungry, 'I' am not." So by inducing hunger voluntarily, one is trying to know, from within, if hunger is there. Ram is hungry -- 'I' am not hungry. I know hunger is there, and this has to become a continuous knowing until I reach a point where a distance occurs between me and the hunger -- where 'I' no longer remain hungry -- even in hunger I no longer remain hungry. Only the body stays hungry and I know it. I simply remain a knower. Then the meaning of fasting becomes very profound; then it does not mean merely remaining hungry.
Normally, one who goes on a fast keeps repeating twenty-four hours a day that he is hungry, that he has not eaten any food that day. His mind continues to fantasize about the food he will eat the next day and plans for it. This kind of fasting is meaningless. Then it is merely abstaining from food. The distinction between abstaining from food and fasting, upvasa, is this: fasting means residing closer and closer. Closer to what? It means coming closer to the self by creating a distance from the body.
The word upvasa does not imply going without food. Upvasa means residing closer and closer. Closer to what? It means closer to the self, residing closer to the self and further away from the body. Then it is also possible that a man may eat and yet remain in the state of fasting. If, while eating, he knows from within that eating is taking place elsewhere and the consciousness is totally separate from the act, then it is upvasa. And it is also possible that a man may not really be fasting even though he may have denied himself food; for he may be too conscious of being hungry, that he is dying of hunger. Upvasa is a psychological awareness of the separation of the self and the physical state of hunger.
Other pains of a similar type can also be created voluntarily, but creating such voluntary pain is a very deep experiment. A man may lie on thorns just to experience that the thorns only prick the body and not his self. Thus a misery can be invited in order to experience the disassociation of consciousness from the physical plane.
But there are already enough uninvited miseries in the world -- no need to invite any more. Already much misery is available -- one should start experimenting with it. Miseries come uninvited anyway. If, during the uninvited misery, one can maintain the awareness that "I am separate from my suffering" then the suffering becomes a sadhana, a spiritual discipline.
One will have to continue this sadhana even with happiness which has come on its own. In suffering, it is possible we may succeed in deceiving ourselves because one would like to believe that "I am not pain." But when it comes to happiness, a man wants to identify himself with it because he already believes that "I am happy." Hence the sadhana is even more difficult with happiness.
Nothing, in fact, is more painful than feeling that we are separate from our happiness. Actually, a man wants to drown himself completely in happiness and forget that he is separate from it. Happiness drowns us; misery disconnects us and sets us apart from the self. Somehow, we come to believe that our identification with suffering is only because we have no other choice, but we welcome happiness with our whole being.
Be aware in the pain which comes your way; be aware in the happiness which comes your way -- and occasionally, just as an experiment, be aware in invited pain also, because in it, things are a little different. We can never fully identify ourselves with anything we invite upon ourselves. The very knowledge that it is an invited thing creates the distance. The guest who comes to your home does not belong there -- he is a guest. Similarly, when we invite suffering as our guest, it is already something separate from us.
While walking barefoot a thorn gets into your foot. This is an accident and its pain will be overwhelming. This unfortunate accident is different from when you purposely take a thorn and press it against your foot -- knowing every moment that you are piercing the foot with the thorn and watching the pain. I am not asking you to go ahead and torture yourself; as it is, there is enough suffering already -- what I mean is: first be alert in going through both suffering and happiness; then later, one day, invite some misery and see how far away from it you can set your consciousness.
Remember, the experiment of inviting misery is of great significance, because everyone wants to invite happiness but no one wants to invite misery. And the interesting thing is that the misery we don't want comes on its own, and the happiness we seek never comes. Even when it comes by chance, it remains outside our door. The happiness we beckon to never comes, while the happiness we never ask for walks right in. When a person gathers enough strength to invite misery, it means he is so happy that he can invite suffering now. He is so blissful that now there is no difficulty for him to invite suffering. Now misery can be asked to come and stay.
But this is a very deep experiment. Until we are prepared to undertake such an experiment, we must try to become aware of whatever suffering comes our way on its own. If we go on becoming more and more aware each time we come across misery, we will gather enough capability to remain conscious even when death arrives. Then nature will allow us to stay awake in death too. Nature, as well, will figure that if the man can stay conscious in pain, he can also remain conscious in death. No one can stay conscious in death all of a sudden, without having had a previous experience of the kind.
A man named P.D. Ouspensky died some years ago. He was a great mathematician from Russia. He is the only person in this century who has done such extensive experiments in relation to death. Three months before his death, he became very ill. The physicians advised him to stay in bed, but in spite of this, he made such an incredible effort it is beyond imagination. He would not sleep at night; he traveled, walked, ran, was always on the move. The physicians were aghast; they said he needed complete rest. Ouspensky called all his close friends near him but did not say anything to them.
The friends who stayed with him for three months, until his death, have said that for the first time they saw, before their eyes, a man accepting death in a conscious state. They asked him why did he not follow the physicians' advice. Ouspensky replied, "I want to experience all kinds of pain, lest the pain of death be so great that I might become unconscious. I want to go through every pain before death; that can create such a stamina in me that I can be totally conscious when death comes." So for three months he made an exemplary effort to go through all kinds of pain.
His friends have written that those who were fit and hearty would get tired, but not Ouspensky. The physicians insisted that he must have complete rest, otherwise it would cause him great harm -- but to no avail. The night he died, Ouspensky kept walking back and forth in his room. The physicians who examined him declared that his legs had no more strength left to walk -- and yet he kept walking the whole night.
He said, "I want to die walking, lest I might die sitting and become unconscious, or I might die sleeping and become unconscious." As he walked, he told his friends, "Just a little bit longer -- ten more steps and all will be over. I am sinking, but I shall keep walking until I have taken the last step. I want to keep on doing something until the very end, otherwise death may catch me unawares. I may relax and go to sleep -- I don't want this to happen at the moment of death."
Ouspensky died while taking his last step. Very few people on this earth have died walking like this. He fell down walking; that is, he fell only when his death occurred. Taking his last step, he said, "That's it; this is my last step. Now I am about to fall. But before departing let me tell you I dropped my body long ago. You will see my body being released now, but I have been seeing for a long time now that the body has dropped and still I exist. The links with the body have all been broken and yet, inside, I still exist. Now only the body will fall -- there is no way for me to fall down."
At the time of his death, his friends saw a kind of light in his eyes. A peace, joy and radiance were visible which shine through when one is standing on the threshold of the world beyond. But one needs to make preparations for this, a continuous preparation. If a person prepares himself fully, then death becomes a wonderful experience. There is no other phenomenon more valuable than this, because what is revealed at the time of death can never be known otherwise. Then death looks like a friend, for only at the occurrence of death can we experience that we are a living organism -- not before that.
Remember, the darker the night, the brighter the stars. The flash of lightning stands out like a silver strand, the darker the clouds are. Similarly, when, in its full form, death surrounds us from all sides, at that moment the very center of life manifests in all its glory -- never before that. Death surrounds us like darkness, and in the middle, that very center of life -- call it atman, the soul, shines in its full splendor; the surrounding darkness makes it luminous. But at that moment we become unconscious. At the very moment of death, which could otherwise become the moment to know our being, we become unconscious. Hence one will have to make preparations towards raising one's consciousness. Meditation is that preparation.
Meditation is an experiment in how one attains to a gradual, voluntary death. It is an experiment in how one moves within and then leaves the body. If one meditates throughout his life, he will attain to total meditation at the moment of death. When death happens in full consciousness, the soul of the person takes its next birth in full consciousness. Then the very first day of his new life is not a day of ignorance but of full knowledge. Even in the mother's womb he remains fully conscious. Only one more birth is possible for one who has died in a conscious state. There is no other birth possible for him after that -- because one who has experienced what birth is, what death is and what life is, attains liberation.
One who has taken birth in awareness, we have called him avatara, tirthankara, Buddha, Jesus, Krishna. And the thing that distinguishes them from the rest of us is awareness. They are awakened and we are asleep. Having taken conscious birth, this becomes their final journey on earth. They have something we don't have, which, painstakingly, they continue to bring to us. The difference between the awakened ones and us is simply this: their previous death and the birth thereafter happened in a state of awareness -- hence they live their entire life in awareness.
People in Tibet do a little experiment called bardo. It is a very valuable experiment, carried out only at the time of death. When someone is about to die, people who know gather around him and make him do Bardo. But only he who has meditated in his life can be made to go through Bardo -- not otherwise. In the experiment of Bardo, as soon as a person dies, instructions are given from the outside that he should remain fully awake. He is told to keep watching whatever follows next, because in that state, many times things happen which the dying person can never understand. New phenomena are not so easy to follow right away.
If a person can stay conscious after death, for a while he will not know that he is dead. When people carry his dead body and start burning it at the cremation ground only then will he come to know for certain that he is dead -- because nothing actually dies inside, just a distance is created. In life, this distance has never been experienced before. The experience is so novel it cannot be grasped through conventional definition. The person merely feels that something has separated. But something has died, and that he only understands when people all around him start weeping and crying, falling over his body in grief, getting ready to carry the body away for cremation.
There is a reason why the body is brought for cremation so soon. The reason for burning or cremating the body as soon as possible is to assure the soul that the body is dead, that it is burned to ashes. But this a man can know only if he has died in awareness; a man dying in an unconscious state cannot know this. So in order for a man to see his body burning in Bardo, he is prompted, "Take a good look at your burning body. Don't run or move away in haste. When people bring your body for cremation, make sure you accompany them and be present there. Watch your body being cremated with perfect attention, so that next time you do not get attached to the physical body."
Once you see something burning to ashes, your attachment for it disappears. Others will, of course, see your body being cremated, but if you also see it, you will lose all your attachment for it. Normally, in nine hundred and ninety-nine cases out of a thousand, the man is unconscious at the time of death; he has no knowledge of it. On the one occasion when he is conscious, he moves away from watching his burning body; he escapes from the cremation ground. So in Bardo he is told, "Look, don't miss this opportunity. Watch your body being cremated; just watch it once and for all. Watch that which you have been identifying your self with all along being destroyed totally. Watch it being reduced to ashes for certain, so that you may remember in your next birth who you are."
As soon as a person dies he enters into a new world, one we know nothing about. That world can be scary and frightening to us because it is neither like nor unlike any of our experiences. In fact it has no connection with life on earth whatsoever. Facing this new world is more frightening than it would be if a man were to find himself in a strange country where everyone was a stranger to him, where he was unacquainted with their language, with their ways of living. He would obviously be very perturbed and confused .
The world we live in is a world of physical bodies. As we leave this world the incorporeal world begins -- a world we have never experienced. It is even more frightening, because in our world, no matter how strange the place, how different its people and their ways of living, there is still a bond between us and them: it is a realm of human beings. Entering into the world of bodiless spirits can be an experience frightening beyond imagination.
Ordinarily, we pass through it in an unconscious state, and so we don't notice it. But one who goes through it in a conscious state gets into great difficulty. So in Bardo there is an attempt to explain to the person what kind of a world it will be, what will happen there, what kind of beings he will come across. Only those who have been through deep meditation can be taken through this experiment -- not otherwise.
Lately, I have often felt that those friends who are practicing meditation can be taken into the Bardo experiment in some form or other. But this is possible only when they have gone through deep meditation; otherwise, they would not even be able to hear what is being said to them. They would not be able to hear what is being said at the moment of death, or follow what is being told to them. In order to follow what is being said, a very silent and empty mind is needed. As the consciousness begins to fade and disappear, and as all earthly ties start being severed, only a very silent mind can hear messages given from this world; they cannot be heard otherwise.
Remember, it can be done only in respect to death, if anything; nothing can be done with respect to birth. But whatsoever we do with death, it consequently affects our birth as well. We are born in the same state in which we die.
An awakened one exercises his choice in selecting the womb. This shows that he never chooses anything blindly, unconsciously. He chooses his parents just as a rich man chooses his house. A poor man cannot have a house of his choice. You need a certain capacity to choose. One needs a capability to buy a house. A poor man never chooses his house. One should say that actually the house chooses the poor man; a poor house chooses a poor man. A millionaire decides where he should reside, what the garden should look like, where the doors and windows should be fixed -- the sunlight should enter from the east or west; how the ventilation should be, how spacious the house should be -- he chooses everything.
An awakened one chooses a womb for himself; that is his choice. Individuals like Mahavira or Buddha are not born anywhere and everywhere. They take birth after considering all possibilities: how the body will be and from which parents it will be conceived; what the energy will be like, how powerful he will be; what kind of facilities will be available to him. They take birth after looking into all of this. They have a clear choice of what to choose, where to go; hence, from the very first day of their birth they live the life of their own choice.
The joy of living a life of one's own choice is altogether different, because freedom begins with having a life of one's own choice. There cannot be the same kind of joy in a life which is given to you because then it becomes servitude. In such cases one is merely pushed into life and then whatever happens, happens -- the person has no role to play in it. If such an awakening becomes possible then the choice can definitely be made. If the very birth happens out of our choice, then we can live the rest of our lives in choice. Then we can live like a jeevan-mukta. One who dies in an awakened state is born in an awakened state and then he lives his life in a liberated state.
We often hear the word jeevan-mukta, although we may not know what the word means. Jeevan-mukta means: one who is born in an awakened state. Only such a person can be a jeevan-mukta; otherwise he may work his whole life for liberation, yet he can attain freedom only in his next life -- he will not be free in this life. In order to be a jeevan-mukta in this life a man must have the freedom to choose from the very first day of his birth. And this is possible only if one has attained to full consciousness in the dying moment of one's previous life.
But at this point that is not the question. Life is here, death has not arrived yet. It is sure to come; there is nothing more certain than death. There can be doubt regarding other things, but about death nothing whatsoever is in doubt. There are people who have doubts about God, there are others who have doubts about the soul, but you may never have come across a man who has doubts about death. It is inevitable -- it is sure to come; it is already on its way. It is approaching closer and closer every moment. We can utilize the moments which are available before death for our awakening. Meditation is a technique to that effect. My effort in these three days will be to help you understand that meditation is the technique for that very awakening.
Source - Osho Book "And Now, And Here"
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