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Mischievous In Death – A Zen Buddhist Spiritual Story by Osho

When Ikkyu died himself, he collected all his disciples and asked them,” Just tell me some new way of dying, because I am not interested in imitation. People die on their beds; I don’t want to die on the bed.” The bed is the most dangerous thing — 99.9 percent of people die there, beware! So whenever you go to bed, remember: This place is very close to the graveyard. His disciples knew that he was a crazy man — now, whoever has ever bothered about how one dies? People simply die….

Ikkyu asked, “Has somebody a suggestion?”

One man said, “You can die sitting in the lotus posture.” Ikkyu said, “That is not new. Many other masters have died in that posture. Suggest something new, novel!”

One man said, “You can die standing.” Ikkyu said, “That looks a little better.” But a disciple objected; he said, “Although it is not well known, I know one Zen master who has died standing. So you will be number two.” Ikkyu said, “Then reject it. Suggest something new. I want to be first!”

One of his disciples suggested, “Then there is only one way. You die standing on your head, in a head stand, shirshan. Nobody has ever tried it.” Ikkyu said, “That is right.

That suits me! I am so grateful to you.” He stood on his head and died.

Now the disciples were in trouble. They knew what to do when somebody dies on a bed — that his clothes have to be changed, that he has to be given a bath, new clothes have to be put on him, and then he is taken to the funeral — but what to do with this man who is standing on his head? He has not even fallen, and he is dead!

They tried in every possible way to find out whether he was dead or alive. He was dead, but there was no precedent, so they didn’t know what procedure should be followed.

Somebody said, “I know his elder sister, who is also a Zen mystic. She lives in a nearby monastery. And he was always respectful to her. I will call her, perhaps she can say something. It is better to enquire before we do anything wrong.”

The sister came, and she was very angry. She came and she said, “Ikkyu, you have been your whole life mischievous; at least in death, behave! Just lie down on the bed!” And

Ikkyu jumped up and lay down on the bed and died. And the sister simply went out. She did not bother that he had died.

In the East it is not thought good to not follow the order of your elders, and particularly at such a moment. The disciples were amazed, because they had tried everything — the heart was not beating, the pulse was not there, they had moved a mirror in front of his nose, and there was no shadow of vapor. What had happened?

As the sister shouted at him, he immediately jumped, and just like an obedient child lay down on the bed and died! Even death is a game. And the sister did not even wait for the funeral.

To those who know that life is eternal, death means nothing. It is the death only of your physical body, not of your consciousness. And particularly a man like Ikkyu is not going to be reborn; he will not be again encaged in another body. He will be moving into the eternity, into the ocean of the consciousness of the whole existence. It is a moment of celebration.

Osho – “The Razor’s Edge”

What is the Spiritual Meaning / Moral of Osho's “The Razor's Edge” Story?

In the spiritual journey, there comes a time when we are called to transcend the ordinary and embrace the extraordinary. Ikkyu's quest for a novel way of departing from this world challenges us to explore the depths of our own consciousness and expand beyond the limitations of convention. It invites us to seek new paths of transformation and liberation, daring to venture beyond the familiar confines of tradition.

At the heart of Ikkyu's inquiry lies a profound quest for authenticity and originality. His refusal to conform to conventional norms reflects a deep yearning to express his unique essence and individuality in every aspect of existence. In the realm of spirituality, we are called to embrace our true selves unapologetically, embracing the full spectrum of our being with courage and authenticity.

Ikkyu's unconventional approach to death serves as a powerful reminder of the impermanence of life and the inevitability of our own mortality. It urges us to confront our deepest fears and embrace the unknown with grace and equanimity. In the face of death, we are invited to surrender to the natural rhythms of life, trusting in the inherent wisdom of the universe to guide us through the transitions of existence.

The disciples' dilemma in determining how to handle Ikkyu's departure underscores the profound mystery of death and the limitations of human understanding. It reminds us that death is not merely a physical phenomenon but a profound spiritual journey beyond the realm of comprehension. In the face of uncertainty, we are called to surrender to the flow of life, trusting in the divine orchestration of the universe to navigate us through the transitions of existence.

The intervention of Ikkyu's elder sister highlights the importance of honoring the wisdom of our elders and respecting the guidance of those who have walked the path before us. It reminds us of the importance of humility and reverence in our spiritual journey, acknowledging the wisdom of those who have paved the way for our own awakening.

Ultimately, Ikkyu's playful approach to death illuminates the eternal nature of consciousness and the boundless expanse of the soul. It invites us to transcend the limitations of the physical realm and embrace the infinite possibilities of our spiritual essence. In the grand tapestry of existence, death is but a thread in the fabric of eternity, weaving seamlessly into the eternal dance of life.

As we reflect on Ikkyu's journey, may we be inspired to embrace the fullness of our being with courage and authenticity, trusting in the inherent wisdom of the universe to guide us on our path. In the face of life's uncertainties, may we find solace in the eternal nature of our soul, knowing that we are forever held in the embrace of divine love.

Personal Reflection Questions

Spiritual stories are an opportunity to reflect on your own life. Here are 10 questions you can use to go deeper with the teachings in this story:

  1. How does Ikkyu's unconventional approach to death challenge our preconceived notions about the end of life? What does it reveal about our cultural attitudes towards death and dying?
  2. Reflecting on Ikkyu's request for a novel way of departing from this world, what does it teach us about the importance of embracing creativity and originality in our spiritual journey?
  3. In considering the various suggestions offered by Ikkyu's disciples, what insights can we glean about the diversity of human experience and the endless possibilities for spiritual expression?
  4. How does Ikkyu's final act of standing on his head to die invite us to explore the boundaries of our own comfort zones and transcend conventional limitations?
  5. As the disciples grapple with the dilemma of how to handle Ikkyu's departure, what does it reveal about our human tendency to seek guidance and support from those who have walked the path before us?
  6. Reflecting on the intervention of Ikkyu's elder sister, what wisdom does it offer about the importance of honoring the guidance of our elders and respecting the traditions passed down through generations?
  7. How does Ikkyu's playful attitude towards death challenge our fear of mortality and invite us to embrace the impermanence of life with grace and acceptance?
  8. Considering Ikkyu's immediate compliance with his sister's directive to lie down on the bed and die, what does it reveal about the power dynamics between siblings and the influence of familial relationships on our behavior?
  9. Reflecting on the ultimate outcome of Ikkyu's departure, what insights can we gain about the interconnectedness of life and death, and the eternal nature of consciousness beyond the physical realm?
  10. How does Ikkyu's journey towards death serve as a reminder of the sacredness of every moment of existence and the opportunity for celebration in embracing the fullness of life's experiences, including its inevitable end?