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The Skull: A reminder of ‘Death’ (or the death of ‘Ego’)

There lived a famous Chinese saint Chuang-Tzu. People flocked to him to seek remedies for their daily worries. His teachings were so simple and clear that even a layman could make out the hidden meaning of them without any mental effort. He used to base his wise and life-transforming teachings on day-to-day examples .

One night, he was returning home through the royal cemetery( where dead bodies are buried). The night was dark and his foot knocked a skull lying down there. He picked up the skull and said, “Forgive me, I didn’t mean to insult you. I must ask your forgiveness because this is just a matter of time. Had you been alive today I do not know what I would have done after this affront.” He brought the skull home. The disciples pleaded with him and argued that it should be thrown away. Who keeps a skull in the house?

Why don’t we keep a skull in the house? We should give it a place of prominence. What better relic can there be? Nothing is more effective then a skull to remind you of death. Keep it on your dressing table so that you can see your face in the mirror and the skull on the table.

Chuang-Zu kept the skull with him all the time. He might forget everything else, but never the skull. People objected and asked why he kept such a morbid thing with him.

“Why does this skull bother you so much?” Chuang-Zu would ask. “How does it harm you?” I keep it with me to remind me that one day my skull would also be lying somewhere. Perhaps it too will be kicked about by beggars and no one will care even to ask forgiveness, and I shall be unable to do anything about it. The skull is very much there in my head. I keep this skull so that even if you beat me on the head with a shoe, I shall not look at you but at the skull. Then I shall smile, for I know this was to happen one day. This was bound to be. How long shall I have my skull?

MORAL: Shed your ego. When death becomes an absolute fact the ego is dissolved. Remembrance of death is like a poison to the ego. As long as ego persists you cannot awaken. No sooner does death becomes visible, the ego breaks, because then you understand that all happens according to his will, that you are not the doer.

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