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How To Die

It is your choice -- die in fear and pain, or die in awareness



 

In my readings I keep coming across the notion that a man is allotted 70 years on this earth to do his thing, accomplish his goals, face his karma, live his truth. Since I am now seventy one, I believe it is natural to consider death, to look it in the eye and see what it is. Master Osho has stated that the meditator has to embrace death, to not run away from it, to see it as “the ultimate orgasm.” When I contemplate death I see no fear in it, no trepidation of where I will go after death. The only fear is of the how of death. Having worked extensively in group homes and residential care facilities for the mentally ill I have intimate knowledge of how people die. Many, if not most, die in pain and fear, their last years spent taking medications, visiting doctors, being bed-ridden, slowly losing all the faculties necessary to experience the world in a joyous, sensuous fashion.  When I contemplate death I also remember the death of Zorba the Greek as told by his friend Nikos Kazantzakis. Nikos is the Cretan author of “Zorba the Greek”, The Last Temptation of Christ”, “God’s Pauper”, “Report to Greco” and “The Greek Passion” among other works. He lived a long, wonderfully creative life and was considered to be perhaps the most intelligent and creative Greek living during the 20th century. He was a student of Henri Bergson, Frederick Neitsche, Guatama the Buddha and Alexis Zorba. Of all his teachers he honors Zorba as being the most significant because Zorba taught him to “unbuckle your belt and look for trouble, throw away the pen, get out of your head, breathe into your belly and DANCE.” 

Of his friend Zorba, Kazantzakis wrote “Even if it is death, we shall transform it into a dance, I said to myself, encouraged by the happy sun falling upon the warrior bringing him to life. You and I, my heart, let us give him our blood so that he may be brought back to life, let us do what we can to make this extraordinary eater, drinker, workhorse, woman-chaser, and vagabond live a little while longer—this dancer and warrior, the broadest soul, surest body, freest cry I ever knew in my life.

News of Zorba’s death came in a letter from a village near to Skoplije in Serbia, and was written in indifferent German. Nikos translated it: I am the schoolmaster of this village and am writing to inform you of the sad news that Alexis Zorba, owner of a copper mine here, died last Sunday evening at six o’clock. On his deathbed, he called to me. “Come here, schoolmaster,” he said. “I have a friend in Greece. When I am dead write to him and tell him that right until the very last minute I was in full possession of my senses and was thinking of him. And tell him that whatever I have done, I have no regrets. Tell him I hope he is well and that it’s about time he showed a bit of sense. Listen, just another minute. If some priest or other comes to take my confession and give me the sacrament, tell him to clear out, quick, and leave me his curse instead! I’ve done heaps and heaps of things in my life, but I still did not do enough. Men like me ought to live a thousand years. Good night!”

These were his last words. He then sat up in his bed, threw back the sheets and tried to get up. We ran to prevent him—Lyuba, his wife, and I, along with several sturdy neighbors. But he brushed us all roughly aside, jumped out of bed and went to the window. There, he gripped the frame, looked out far into the mountains, opened wide his eyes and began to laugh, then to whinny like a horse. It was thus, standing, with his nails dug into the window frame that death came to him.

His wife Lyuba asked me to write to you and send her respects. The deceased often talked about you, she says, and left instructions that a santuri of his be given to you after his death to help you to remember him. The widow begs you, therefore, if you ever pass through our village, to be good enough to spend the night in her house as her guest, and when you leave in the morning, to take the santuri with you.

My Master Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh)  loved Zorba and coined the phrase Zorba the Buddha when speaking to us of his vision of the new man, a man equally at home in the world of meditation and the world of the sensuous. Under Osho’s guidance I began the process of embracing death 37 years ago. So far that embrace has caused an intensification of life and as I pass the 70 year plateau I continue to face death and see it as a friend, a portal to pass through to the other side. Because of an intense training years ago with one of Osho’s most beloved disciples, Bodhicita, I have within me a vivid sense of what that other side may be. Bodhicita teaches the Bardo, the Tibetan Book of the Dead which is an ancient text written to instruct the dying person as he or she enters death. Bodhicita’s website is listed in the LINKS page on my website. Check it out! My personal prescription to you is to read the words of Osho on the subject of death, pour through the OshoBardo website and read anything by Nikos Kazantzakis, especially Zorba the Greek.

See you on one side or the other!!!

P.S. The photo is of me sitting under a sculpture of St. Francis of Assisi outside the Nikos Kazantzakis Museum on the Island of Crete. The incription on my t-shirt is a quote by Nikos which says, "I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free!"

 

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