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When You Are Not, You Are Divine

There once was a great Sufi, Mulla Nasrudin. He was very afraid of death, as everyone is.

One day, he heard that someone had died. He came home trembling. He asked his wife, “Can you tell me how I will know when I am dead? What are the symptoms? How will I be able to know that death has come?”

His wife said, “You are foolish. You will know. You will become cold…”

One day soon after, Mulla was working on his farm. The day was very cold and his hands became cold. He thought to himself, “It looks like I'm dying.” He began to think about what he should do. “I must behave like a dead man now. The body is the body. My symptoms tell me that I am dead. What do dead men do? – I must think about it.”

Dead men lie down, so he lay down and closed his eyes. Someone passed by. They thought that Mulla must be dead. He wanted to say, “I am not dead,” but dead men don't speak. He thought: “Dead men never speak, I have never heard about a dead man speaking. It will be absolutely unnatural for me to speak.”

They decided to carry Mulla to the cemetery. But because they were unfamiliar with that part of the country – they were foreigners, passing by on the road – when they came to the crossroad they didn't know in which direction the cemetery was, they didn't know were to go. Of course, Mulla knew where the cemetery was. He wondered if it would be all right to tell them the way so get there, but then he decided that it was impossible. And besides, someone would turn up and then they could ask.

No one turned up. Evening was descending and soon it would be night. The men began to be worried. Mulla thought, “They are so worried. I must help them” – but of course dead men cannot help.

Finally night had come, it was dark. They thought: “What to do? We cannot leave the dead body here. We don't know where to go: where his house is or where the cemetery is. What are we to do now?”

Mulla said, “If you don't mind – it's not natural of course: I am a dead man, I should not speak; the rules don't permit it but if you allow me, I can show you the way. And then, I will stop talking.”

From Osho: The Eternal Quest

Osho's Thoughts On This Story

Thoughts: If you are not, then you cannot even say that you are not. It's not possible. So the last assertion that the technique of surrender will lead to is ‘I am not.' That is the last assertion. Then only the divine is. And when you are not how can there be any difference between you and the divine?

When you are not, you are divine.

So through the approach of will or the approach of surrender you reach the same point. Through one approach ‘the other' is killed, and through the opposite approach ‘you' are killed. In both cases, in the end only one remains: the amness remains.

What Is the Spiritual Moral / Meaning of Osho's “When You Are Not, You Are Divine” Story?

In the depths of Mulla Nasrudin's existential crisis lies a profound spiritual lesson: the inevitability of death and the fear that accompanies its uncertainty. Like many of us, Mulla grapples with the unknown, seeking to understand the signs and symptoms of his own mortality. His quest for clarity mirrors our own human journey, where we confront the ultimate mystery of life's end.

As Mulla contemplates the coldness of his hands, he confronts the physical sensations that signify death's approach. Yet, in his fear, he embarks on a symbolic journey of self-discovery, exploring the boundaries between life and death, body and spirit. Through his actions, we are reminded of the delicate balance between the material and the ethereal, the finite and the infinite.

In Mulla's decision to emulate the behavior of a dead man, we encounter a spiritual paradox: the surrender of the ego in pursuit of a deeper understanding. By relinquishing his identity and assuming the role of the deceased, Mulla transcends the limitations of the self, embracing a state of egolessness that mirrors the union of the soul with the divine.

As Mulla's companions mistake his feigned death for reality, we are confronted with the power of perception and the illusory nature of human experience. In their uncertainty, they navigate the crossroads of life's journey, searching for guidance and direction. Through their journey, we are reminded of the importance of trust and faith in the face of uncertainty, trusting in the wisdom of the universe to guide us on our path.

In the darkness of night, Mulla's willingness to break the rules of death to aid his companions speaks to the transformative power of compassion and service. Despite the constraints of his self-imposed silence, he extends a hand of kindness, offering guidance and support to those in need. Through his actions, we are reminded of the inherent interconnectedness of all beings and the transformative power of love to transcend even the boundaries of life and death.

Ultimately, Mulla's journey serves as a metaphor for the human experience, a reflection of our collective quest for meaning and purpose in the face of mortality. In his willingness to confront his fears and embrace the unknown, he offers us a profound lesson in courage and resilience, reminding us that even in the darkest of moments, the light of the soul shines bright. Through his story, we are invited to embark on our own spiritual journey, to confront our fears and uncertainties with grace and humility, trusting in the wisdom of the universe to guide us on our path.

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. Reflect on the fear of death that permeates Mulla Nasrudin's story. How does this fear resonate with your own perceptions of mortality? Are there moments in your life when you've grappled with the uncertainty of death?
  2. Consider Mulla's quest for clarity about the signs of death. What do you make of his questions to his wife about recognizing death's arrival? Have you ever sought reassurance or guidance about life's inevitable end?
  3. Explore the symbolism of Mulla's decision to emulate the behavior of a dead man. What spiritual insights can be gleaned from his contemplation of death while working on his farm? How does his experience resonate with your own understanding of life and death?
  4. Contemplate the notion of silence and its significance in Mulla's story. How does his silence reflect the boundaries between life and death, speech and silence? Have you ever encountered moments in your life where words felt inadequate, and silence spoke volumes?
  5. Ponder the role of perception and misperception in Mulla's encounter with the passersby. How does their misunderstanding of his condition illuminate the complexities of human perception? Have you ever experienced a situation where perception and reality diverged?
  6. Reflect on the theme of uncertainty and its impact on Mulla's companions as they navigate the darkness of night. How does their uncertainty mirror the broader human experience of grappling with the unknown? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where uncertainty clouded your path forward?
  7. Consider Mulla's offer to guide his companions despite the constraints of his self-imposed silence. What does his willingness to break the rules of death reveal about the transformative power of compassion and service? How does his gesture resonate with your own experiences of kindness and empathy?
  8. Explore the theme of trust and faith in Mulla's story. How do his companions navigate their journey without knowing the way forward? Have you ever encountered moments in your life where trust and faith were tested in the face of uncertainty?
  9. Contemplate the significance of Mulla's eventual revelation to his companions. How does his decision to speak challenge the boundaries between life and death, speech and silence? Have you ever experienced a moment of profound revelation that reshaped your understanding of the world?
  10. Reflect on the overarching spiritual message of Mulla's story. How does his journey from fear to acceptance illuminate the human experience of grappling with mortality? What insights can be gleaned from his encounter with death and the transformative power of compassion and service?