By Ma Anand Mayuri
I guess I am afraid of death. Well, I am. But it feels more like greed for life—I love painting and the sky and music and laughing and I don’t want it to end; most of all, I don’t want to be separated from my loved ones, not now, not after 100 years of wonderful times together, not ever.
You might be thinking of telling me that I have to let go, that in order to enjoy life I will have to stop trying to hold onto it, stop lamenting the fact that it is slipping away as we speak. You might want to help me by telling me that, in order to be happy, I have to accept the conditions of this human life, and that I should try to look at the limited time we have here on this planet as a gift and a reason to live life to the fullest, enjoying every moment with gratitude.
Those are wise words, and I wouldn’t blame you. But they wouldn’t help, because I have already told them to myself a thousand times. All the answers to not only this scary feeling, but all of life’s greatest mysteries, challenges and paradoxes, as well as the secret keys to happiness, transformation and even enlightenment are actually readily available -- not hiding a hermit’s cave or the elusive metaphors of sacred texts, but in simple, 1-2 sentence form on my Facebook home page.
“Love yourself!" “Live in the present!" “Peace and understanding are great!" I am presented daily with a new barrage of Osho quotes and excellent advice, accompanied by beautiful watercolors and photographs of landscapes, animals and children. I should obviously be thankful for all these carefully constructed words of wisdom. So why don’t they work?
They don’t work because it’s not my wisdom; it’s not my experience, and it has come too cheap. It’s easy to feel blissful listening to an Osho discourse, but if that bliss, that understanding is not mine, it will end when the discourse does. This is why Osho and all the buddhas have insisted on meditation: the learning, experience and truths of others are meaningless. Studying the wisdom of others will not help, not really. It’s like Osho’s image of the finger pointing at the moon: staring at the finger all night will not help me find it. It can kindle the fire, feed the desire, but I will never experience it until I turn my head and look into the sky myself.
Still, I have to give Facebook some credit. In yesterday’s basket was an Eckhart Tolle quote that did resonate somehow: “The ego says, ‘I shouldn’t have to suffer,’ and that thought makes you suffer so much more. It is a distortion of the truth, which is always paradoxical. The truth is that you need to say yes to suffering before you can transcend it." I remembered Osho saying something similar about how it is not because of pain that we suffer, but because of the avoidance of pain, the refusal to accept it.
My personal meditation happens almost daily, in a room without windows where I am free to let go and be pretty loud if I feel like it. I do Osho’s Chakra Breathing Meditation (music and fast breathing followed by silent sitting) with some catharsis as well. Today in the meditation, I allowed myself to really feel my fear of death, my greed for life, my anger that I just can’t have my loved ones forever. I closed my eyes and imagined that my body was not limited by the boundaries of my skin, but completely relaxed, without even its own shape to need to hold on to. I started out with thoughts to get myself worked up, but then I let that suffering go deeper, to a point where there were no words in my mind. Then, it happened.
As I was shaking, crying, stomping, panting and softly howling in a way that sounded somehow unfamiliar to my own ears, I could suddenly see myself doing it. I shifted from being only the sufferer to being also separate from it, watching it. I was still bouncing up and down from the knees, I was still crying, but there was no feeling of motion for me, behind my eyes where I was. At the same time that the physical motion and the sound of the crying were going on, I had the experience of stillness and silence.
That silence was not my silence, but the Silence; not my stillness, but the Stillness. I disappeared and experienced something vast, spacious, deathless, something buddhas have been trying for millennia to describe: for a few moments, at least, I saw the moon myself.
Down the ages, the buddhas have insisted upon meditation because they know the power of this experience, how it can transform us and make us grow through our own understanding. I did not read in a book that I am in fact one with the universe and therefore have no need to fear death; I experienced deathlessness, and now the fear of death, and the clinging to life, seem less relevant somehow. I won’t be so bold as to claim to have conquered them forever, and reached the light at the end of the tunnel; but at least, thanks to the fingers of buddhas, I know the way.
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