Everybody is afraid of death for the simple reason that we have not tasted of life yet. The man who knows what life is, is never afraid of death; he welcomes death. Whenever death comes he hugs death, he embraces death, he welcomes death, he receives death as a guest. To the man who has not known what life is, death is an enemy; and to the man who knows what life is, death is the ultimate crescendo of life.
The greatest mystery in life is not life itself, but death. Death is the culmination of life, the ultimate blossoming of life. In death the whole life is summed up, in death you arrive. Life is a pilgrimage towards death. From the very beginning, death is coming. From the moment of birth, death has started coming towards you, you have started moving towards death.
Birth leads to death, death precedes birth. So if you want to see life as it really is, it is rounded on both the sides by death. Death is the beginning and death is again the end, and life is just the illusion in between. You feel alive between two deaths; the passage joining one death to another you call life. Buddha says this is not life. This life is dukkha - misery. This life is death.
The religious man, the mystic, tries to explore the mystery of death. In exploring the mystery of death, he inevitably comes to know what life is, what love is. Those are not his goals. His goal is to penetrate death, because there seems to be nothing more mysterious than death. Love has some mystery because of death, and life also has some mystery because of death.
Life rises out of death, death rises out of life; in being opposite they yearn to each other, they give birth to each other and are forever reborn. And with them, all is reborn, the flower of the apple tree, the light of the stars. In life is death. In death is rebirth. What then is life without death? Life unchanging, everlasting, eternal?-What is it but death-death without rebirth?
The first thing I would like to tell you about death is that there is no bigger lie than death. And yet, death appears to be true. It not only appears to be true but also seems like the cardinal truth of life - it appears as if the whole of life is surrounded by death. Whether we forget about it, or become oblivious to it, everywhere death remains close to us. Death is even closer to us than our own shadow.
Death did not first strike Adam, the first sinful man, nor Cain, the first hypocrite, but Abel, the innocent and righteous. The first soul that met with death, overcame death; the first soul that parted from earth went to heaven. Death argues not displeasure, because he whom God loved best dies first, and the murderer is punished with living.
Misunderstanding may arise by confusing the Buddhist and scientific definitions of death. Within the scientific system you spoke quite validly of the death of the brain and the death of heart. Different parts of the body can die separately. However, in the Buddhist system, the word death is not used in that way. You'd never speak of the death of a particular part of the body, but rather of the death of an entire person. When people say that a certain person died, we don't ask, "Well, which part died?"