The Zen Master Hoshin lived in China for many years. Then he returned to the northeastern part of Japan, where he taught his disciples. When he was getting very old, he told them a story he had heard in China.

This is the story:

One year on the twenty-fifth of December, Tokufu, who was very old, said to his disciples: “I am not going to be alive next year so you fellows should treat me well this year.”

The pupils thought he was joking, but since he was a great-hearted teacher each of them in turn treated him to a feast on succeeding days of the departing year.

On the eve of the new year, Tokufu concluded: “You have been good to me. I shall leave tomorrow afternoon when the snow has stopped.”

The disciples laughed, thinking he was aging and talking nonsense since the night was clear and without snow. But at midnight snow began to fall, and the next day they did not find their teacher around. They went to the meditation hall. There he had passed on.

Hoshin, who related this story, told his disciples: “It is not necessary for a Zen master to predict his passing, but if he really wishes to do so, he can.”

“Can you?” someone asked.

“Yes,” answered Hoshin. “I will show you what I can do seven days from now.”

None of the disciples believed him, and most of them had even forgotten the conversation when Hoshin called them together.

“Seven days ago,” he remarked, “I said I was going to leave you. It is customary to write a farewell poem, but I am neither a poet or a calligrapher. Let one of you inscribe my last words.”

His followers thought he was joking, but one of them started to write.

“Are you ready?” Hoshin asked.

“Yes sir,” replied the writer.

The Hoshin dictated:

I came from brilliancy

And return to brilliancy.

What is this?

This line was written one line short of the customary four, so the disciple said: “Master, we are one line short.”

Hoshin, with the roar of a conquering lion, shouted “Kaa!” and was gone.

Art Of Dying

Dictionary meaning of Kaa is Joy, Happiness. When Hoshin said his last word while dying consciously what is said Death is the Joy, the peak or bliss. Live in awareness so that you can die consciously, in awareness.

For the animal mind death always occurs to others. And if for you also death is just something which happens to others, you still live in the animal mind. If you are not aware of death, you have not yet become a man. That is the basic difference between animal and man because animals cannot be aware of death, only man can be. If you are not aware of death you are not a man yet, and only man creates the need to move inward.

To me, man means awareness of death. I am not saying become afraid of death; that is not awareness. Just be aware of the fact that death is coming nearer and nearer and you have to be prepared for it.

Life has its own needs; death creates its own needs. That is why younger societies are irreligious – because younger societies are not yet aware of the phenomenon of death; it has not become a central concern for them. An older society – for example, India, one of the oldest societies in existence – is so much aware of death. Because of that awareness, deep down India is religious. So the first thing: become aware of death. Think about it, look at it, contemplate it. Do not be afraid, do not escape the fact. It is there and you cannot escape it! It has come into existence with you.

Your death is born with you; now you cannot escape it. You have hidden it in yourself – become aware of it. The moment you become aware that you are going to die, that death is certain, your total mind will start looking in a different dimension. Then food is a basic need for the body, but not for the being, because even if you get food death will occur. Food cannot protect you from death, food can only postpone. Food can help you to postpone. If you get a good shelter, a good house, it will not protect you from death. it will only help you to die conveniently, comfortably. And death, whether it happens comfortably or uncomfortably, is the same.

In life you may be poor or rich, but death is the great equalizer. The greatest communism is in death. Howsoever you live, it makes no difference; death happens equally. In life, equality is impossible; in death, inequality is impossible. Become aware of it, contemplate it. And it is not only that death is certain somewhere in the future: with the idea that it is very far away, you will again not be able to contemplate it. The mind has a very small range; the focus of the mind is very small. You cannot think beyond thirty years. After thirty years there will be death… it is as if you are not going to die. Thirty years is so long, the distance is so much, it is as if death is not going to occur.

Learning from story Kaa: Art Of Dying

Experience Learning

Life is – in living. It is not a thing, it is a process. There is no way to attain – to life except by living it, except by being alive, by flowing, streaming with it. If you are seeking the meaning of life in some dogma, in some philosophy, in some theology, that is the sure way to miss life and meaning both.

Life is not somewhere waiting for you, it is happening in you. It is not in the future as a goal to be arrived at, it is herenow, this very moment – in your breathing, circulating in your blood, beating in your heart. Whatsoever you are is your life, and if you start seeking meaning somewhere else, you will miss it. Man has done that for centuries. Concepts have become very important, explanations have become very important – and the real has been completely forgotten. We don’t look to that which is already here, we want rationalisations.

Nobody can give you the meaning of your life. It is your life, the meaning has also to be yours. The Himalayas won’t help. Nobody except you can come upon it. It is your life and it is only accessible to you. Only in living will the mystery be revealed to you.

The first thing is: don’t seek it anywhere else. Don’t seek it in God, don’t seek it in scriptures, don’t seek it in clever explanations – they all explain away, they don’t explain. They simply stuff your empty mind, they don’t make you aware of what is. And the more the mind is stuffed with dead knowledge, the more dull and stupid you become. Knowledge makes people stupid; it dulls their sensitivity. It stuffs them, it becomes a weight on them, it strengthens their ego but it does not give light and it does not show them the way. It is not possible.

Life is already there bubbling within you. It can be contacted only there. The temple is not outside, you are the shrine of it. So the first thing to remember if you want to know what life is: never seek it without, never try to find out from somebody else. The meaning cannot be transferred that way. The greatest Masters have never said anything about life – they have always thrown you, back upon yourself.

The second thing to remember is: once you know what life is, you will know what death is. Death is also part of the same process. Ordinarily we think death comes at the end, ordinarily we think death is against life, ordinarily we think death is the enemy, but death is not the enemy. And if you think of death as the enemy it simply shows that you have not been able to know what life is.

Death and life are two polarities of the same energy, of the same phenomenon – the tide and the ebb, the day and the night, the summer and the winter. They are not separate and not opposites, not contraries; they are complementaries. Death is not the end of life; in fact, it is a completion of one life, the crescendo of one life, the climax, the finale. And once you know your life and its process, then you understand what death is.

Death is an organic, integral part of life, and it is very friendly to life. Without it life cannot exist. Life exists because of death; death gives the background. Death is, in fact, a process of renewal. And death happens each moment. The renewal is needed each moment. The moment you breathe in and the moment you breathe out, both happen. Breathing in, life happens; breathing out, death happens. That’s why when a child is born the first thing he does is breathe in, then life starts. And when an old man is dying, the last thing he does is breathe out, then life departs. Breathing out is death, breathing in is life – they are like two wheels of a bullock cart. You live by breathing in as much as you live by breathing out. The breathing out is part of breathing in. You cannot breathe in if you stop breathing out. You cannot live if you stop dying. The man who has understood what his life is allows death to happen; he welcomes it. He dies each moment and each moment he is resurrected. His cross and his resurrection are continually happening as a process. He dies to the past each moment and he is born again and again into the future.


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