A traveler from India went to Africa to acquire some local products and animals, and while in the jungle he saw thousands of beautiful multicolored talking parrots. He decided to capture a talking parrot and take it back as a pet.
At home he kept his parrot in a cage and fed him wonderful seeds and honey, played music for his pet, and generally treated him well. When it was time for the man to return to Africa 2 years later, he asked his parrot if there was any message he could deliver to the parrot’s friends back in the jungle. The parrot told his master to say that he was very happy in his cage and that he was enjoying each day and to convey his love.
When the traveler arrived back in Africa he delivered the message to the parrots in the jungle. Just as he finished his story, a parrot with tears welling up in his eyes fell over dead. The man was alarmed and decided that the parrot must have been very close to the parrot in the cage and that was the reason for his sadness and demise.
When the traveler returned to India, he told his pet what had happened. As he finished his story, the pet parrot’s eyes welled up with tears and he kneeled over dead in his cage. The man was astounded, but figured that his pet died from the despair of hearing of the death of his close friend back in the jungle.
The trader opened up the cage and tossed the dead bird outside onto the trash heap. Immediately his pet parrot flew up to a branch on the tree outside.
The trader said to him, “So, you are not dead after all. Why did you do that?”
The parrot answered, “Because that bird back in Africa sent me a very important message.”
“What was the message?” the trader inquired impatiently.
“He told me that if you want to be free, you must die while you are alive.”
This above story from the Upanishad captures the essence of the phrase – “Die While You are Alive”. Ironic isn’t it, to be able to live completely, fully and exuberantly, one must die while alive.
What is Death?
Death is that phenomenon which forcefully strips one away of everything that one thought he/she is and everything that one holds onto. All false sense of identification we hold onto whether nationality, religion, gender, position, job, everything will cease to be once death occurs. Ask yourself, “If I leave this body, then who will I be ?”. I will no longer be a Jain, or a Muslim, or a Christian no longer be a male, an employee, no longer a husband, father, a wife or a daughter, all these will no longer be my identity. In fact, it never was, these were just our roles and we just thought it is who we are. The actor forgot that he is the actor and started believing that he is the character he is playing a role of!
What do we mean by dying while alive ?
Our whole lives we create false identities of ourselves and then spend our life strengthening and defending those identities. But when one ‘dies’, nature forcefully strips one away from all the false identities until we take the next costume for our next role and then start off creating new identities related to the new body.
These identities trap us to believe we are these limited beings and we attach ourselves to things, people, beliefs, ideas and then this opens the gate to suffering. Then we tend to want more of what we identify with to fill that void inside for a greater sense of self. But this doesn’t work, the more we strengthen these identities the more the feeling of inner emptiness will persist. Hence to be truly alive, one must die while alive, i.e, to let go of all false identities and allow the true self to emerge. Feel that invisible self which is animating the form that you call ‘your’ body. See the one that makes seeing possible. Feel the ‘one’ who feels. Feel that which is invisible and yet imperishable. Feel who you truly are. Feel the love that is within.
This death is the death of the ego. This dying will break the illusionary walls that we create between us making us think we are separate when in fact we are all one and belong to ‘The One’. It will expand your hearts to accommodate the whole world in it. It allows us to be liberated of suffering while alive. This dying allows one to accept what the present moment is as it is. This dying frees us from all the bondages that doesn’t allow us to fly. This dying will open the gate of our hearts to the love of God, the Ocean of Love and sweetness. Once that gateway is opened then there is nothing else one would want.
There is a poem by Rumi which really captures this beautifully :
Die, Die, Die.
Die, die, die in this love.
If you die in this love your soul will be renewed.
Die, die, don’t fear the death of that which is known.
If you die to the temporal you will become timeless.
Die, die, cut off those chains that hold you prisoner to the world of attachment.
Die, die, die to the deathless and you will be eternal.
Die, die, come out of this cloud.
When you leave the cloud,
you will be the effulgent moon
In the silence of
The Art Of Living is mastered when this Art of Dying is mastered.
Die while you are alive to fully experience life.