Two Hungarian noblemen fell into a deadly quarrel. But since neither was anxious to risk his life with either sword or pistol, a bloodless duel was decided upon. Each was to speak a number, and the one presenting the higher number would be adjudged the winner.
The seconds were of course at hand, and the excitement and suspense were extreme as the two noblemen, seated at opposite ends of a long table, bent to the task of thinking of a high number. The challenged party who had the privilege of going first thought long and hard. The veins on his temples swelled, and the perspiration stood out on his forehead.
“Three,” he said finally.
The other duelist said at once, “Well, that beats me.”
When you are afraid of death even the number three is the ultimate. When you are afraid of death, you go on finding excuses for how to go on living. Whether your life means anything or not one simply goes on finding excuses to prolong it.
In the West now, there is a craze about how to prolong life. That simply shows that somewhere life is being missed. Whenever a country or a culture starts thinking about how to prolong life, it simply shows one thing, that life is not being lived. If you live life, then even a single moment is enough. A single moment can be equal to eternity. It is not a question of length, it is a question of depth; it is not a question of quantity, it is a question of quality.
Just think: would you like one moment of Buddha’s life or would you like a thousand years of your own life? Then you will be able to understand what I mean about the quality, the intensity, the depth. In a single moment fulfillment is possible, you can bloom and blossom: but you may not bloom for one thousand years, and you may remain hiding in the seed.
This is the difference between the scientific attitude towards life and the religious attitude. The scientific attitude is concerned with prolongation: how to prolong life. It is not concerned with significance. So you can find old people in hospitals, particularly in the West, just hanging on. They want to die but the culture won’t allow them. They are fed up with just being alive; they are simply vegetating – no significance, no meaning, no poetry; everything has disappeared, and they are a burden to themselves. They are asking for euthanasia but society does not allow it. Society is so afraid of death that it does not allow it even for people who are ready to die.