Life and Death – A Zen Story
In this intriguing Zen Story, Jingxuan walks out on his own master when he refuses to answer his question about life and death. Find out how the same question leads him to his own enlightenment, much later.
Jingxuan and his master Liaoyi went to pay their respects to the family of a deceased friend.
Jingxuan asked his master, “Is he alive or dead?”
The master said, “You cannot say he is alive and you cannot say he is dead.”
Jingxuan asked, “Why cannot you say it?
Liaoyi said, “If you cannot say it, you cannot say it.”
Jingxuan got furious, “You better say it or I will hit you!”
Liaoyi said, “If you are going to hit me, hit me. I still won't say it.”
Jingxuan asked, “What kind of teacher are you? You know and yet you won't tell your disciple.”
Jingxuan hit the master and left. “If you won't say it, just forget it, that’s all.”
After some time, Liaoyi passed away. Jingxuan sought out another teacher named Liangshan and asked him the same question.
Liangshan responded, “You cannot say he is alive and you cannot say he is dead.”
Upon hearing this, Jingxuan got enlightened.Sadhguru: If one does not perceive life, how can he perceive what is death? Right now you are alive. If you cannot perceive where you are, how can you perceive what is yet to be? Death is only an illusion created by the ignorant. There is no such thing as death. It is only life. If you perceive life, you will understand that what you call as death is just another dimension of life.
If you try to understand death, you will end up with fanciful stories. You cannot perceive death because it is not yet for you. If you want to know death, you can only know it by experience. You cannot know it through someone else and the same is true with life. If you want to know life, you can only know it by experiencing it.
If you know life in its totality, it also includes death and that is the only way to know it. For us to declare that someone is alive and someone is dead is only socially relevant. Existentially it is not relevant. The Zen people are looking at the existential dimension.
Socially we can clearly say, “Someone is alive, someone is dead.” But existentially you do not know who is alive and who is dead. You do not even know whether you are alive or dead. You do not even know whether you are awake or dreaming. Existentially, that is the truth. If we want to existentially know what is real and what is not real, we must pay attention to life because life is now and this is the only doorway to know.
Anything that you wish to know about reality, the only doorway is now. You can only enter it from this moment, from the way it is. Life is only here. What is here is all that you can access. What is not here is just imagination. If you try to pursue something which is not yet, you will only end up in wild imaginations. But if you pay attention to what is there now, everything that is worth knowing can be perceived right now.