It is said the day Gautam Buddha died a man came running. Buddha had told his disciples, “This is my last meeting with you in the body.
I am going to leave the body. Before I leave, if you have any more questions left” – he had been answering for forty-two years – “if anything is still left in anybody’s mind, ask it, because I won’t be here anymore.”
The disciples were crying, weeping. What can you ask? For forty-two years Buddha had been answering even those questions which you had not asked. He had been answering questions which you had wrongly asked. But he had answered rightly. He was not only answering you, he was also creating questions for you. In forty-two years he had done everything that was possible. Now, what to ask at the last moment?
They said, “No, we are just grateful.”
Buddha closed his eyes, he moved the first step inwards – that is, he moved away from the body to the mind. The second step: he moved from the mind to the heart. The third step he was just going to take, from the heart to the feeling of am-ness, asmita. It cannot be called “I” – it is far more refined – just am-ness. And then… the last jump into nothingness. While he was just moving in, the man came running.
He said, “But I have a question.”
The disciples said, “Now don’t disturb him. Where have you been? He has passed through your village at least thirty times.”
He said, “I know, but sometimes there was such a crowd of customers in my shop. Sometimes I was engaged in my son’s marriage; sometimes my wife was sick – and so on and so forth. I always thought, next time when he comes I will go to him. Just now I heard that he is leaving the world.
What about my question?”
The people said, “You seem to be an idiot. Thirty times he passed, and thirty times you missed. And now, when he has just taken leave of us… now it cannot be done.”
But Buddha came back. He opened his eyes, he said, “No, let him ask. Let him be answered because I don’t want it to be known in history, for the coming generations, that a Buddha was alive and yet somebody returned from his door empty-handed. Let me do my part. If he is ready – and I can see he is ready; my death has been a shock to him and has made him ready. I am happy that even my death has helped somebody to be ready, to listen.”
He answered his question. The question was not philosophical, theological, intellectual. The question was really authentic, sincerely spiritual. But that man had been missing for so many years, just because of the idea, “Tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, any time Buddha comes and goes, I can go and meet him and ask.”
He asked – this was the last question to Buddha – “How can I be in a position so that whether you are in the body or not, your presence will remain available to me? What can I do?”
He had asked a real religious question. He was asking, “What can I do so that your presence remains available to me? This time I have missed – when you were in the body. But I don’t want to miss forever.”
Buddha gave him the instructions for meditation, vipassana; how to be aware of your breathing; how to be aware, silently watchful of the breath going out, coming in, going out, coming in…”so slowly, slowly you can be separate from your breathing. The moment you are separate from your breathing my presence will be available, because you are separate from your body just as I am separate from my body.”
If a disciple is ready, even a dead master can be alive. If the disciple is not ready, then even a living master cannot do anything. It all depends on the disciple.