When I first heard you say, “Sitting silently, doing nothing, the spring comes and the grass grows by itself,” my Western mind thought this was a metaphor, and sought to find the meaning. Then I thought you really meant to sit silently—and I felt it was impossible. Now, sitting silently in your presence, doing nothing I find is pure hedonism—and the grass is growing by itself. Beloved Master, I am amazed, and my gratitude is beyond words.
The East and the West have gone so far away from each other that there is always misunderstanding: neither the East understands the West nor the West understands the East. But in the final reckoning, the West is the loser.
For ten thousand years the East has chosen a path which is not of the mind – which is not intellectual, which is not rational, which is not logical, which is not scientific. And the West has chosen just the opposite.
The West is still far away from reaching the final heights of rational flight. And perhaps it will never be able to reach the end, because its enquiry is about the objects outside you. There is an infinity of universe, and the deeper science goes the more it finds that it knows nothing. Its knowledge only helps it to know that much more is to be known and there seems to be no end in view.
On the other hand, the East has reached its goal: it has attained to the ultimate consciousness. In a certain way, it has reached inner perfection. This creates new difficulties of misunderstanding, because the East speaks from the heights of final realization and the West can understand only relative truths which are changing every day.
They have also chosen to speak in different ways. The East speaks in poetic metaphors; the West speaks in terms of mathematics. The East speaks intuitively; the West, only intellectually.
It is one of the greatest problems to be solved – how East and West can come together. Their meeting is absolutely necessary; otherwise, whatever has been attained in the East, or in the West, will all disappear into nuclear smoke.
I can understand Kaveesha’s question. When she first heard the famous haiku – “Sitting silently, doing nothing, the spring comes and the grass grows by itself” – it was natural for her to understand it as poetry, as metaphoric expression. The mind trained in the Western way cannot think otherwise. It is impossible to think this is a description of a reality.
There is no metaphor involved. It is not poetry. Haiku is not poetry. Its formation is poetic, but what it contains is reality. Only its container is poetic, but the content is absolute reality.
But it is difficult, for the simple reason… first, sitting silently is against the Western mind. The West has the proverb, “The empty mind is the devil’s workshop.” Sitting silently, you will be empty. And from your childhood you have heard that the empty mind is the devil’s workshop. The East knows something totally different. It is a workshop – not of the devil but of the divine.
The first sentence creates great hurdles. Everybody in the West is taught to think, and thinking pays in life – sitting silently won’t pay. It is not a qualification; maybe it can be called a dis-qualification. If you apply for a job and tell the employer that your qualification is sitting silently, doing nothing, the spring comes and the grass grows by itself, he will be simply amazed! They will simply throw you out of the office – “You sit somewhere else, because we don’t want the grass to grow here!” In their eyes, you must be mad.
The West has never developed any meditation – it is poor in that way, very poor. It knows only prayer, which is not even a faraway echo of meditation. Even the so-called prophets and saviors and messiahs have never been able to go beyond prayer – prayer is the last thing, because God is the ultimate goal.
Meditation is a revolution in religion.
It simply drops God, without even arguing against it. It is not even worthy of that, because it is a hypothesis – unproved, unexperienced; it does not deserve to be considered.
I had a friend, Professor Wilson, who was teaching in a theological college in Jabalpur. He could not understand that there can be a religion which has no God, which has no prayer. The West, for the last four or five centuries, has never conceived that religion is possible without God, without prayer. In fact it is only possible without them. They are the disturbances, obstructions on the way to religious revolution. They are the enemies.
The devil has not done any wrong in the world – he does not exist. God also does not exist, but he has done immense harm. God has kept man’s mind focused on something outside, and when you are focused on the outside, you remain in the mind. Meditation cannot be focused outside; only mind has the capacity to be focused outside. Mind cannot be focused inside; only meditation can do that. So meditation and mind go diametrically opposite ways.
It is not without reason that people of meditation have called their path the path of no-mind. But with the mind being dropped, gods, all kinds of theologies, devils, heaven and hell and their details, the ideas of sin and virtue – they are all dropped because they are all part of the mind. And the West has remained mind-obsessed – as if you are only mind and nothing more, your existence consists of mind-body, and that’s all.
Trained in the Western ways, Kaveesha thought that it must be some metaphor, or perhaps there is some meaning in it. ‘Meaning’ is a mind word: if there is some meaning in it, then think about the meaning, find out the meaning of it.
You cannot find any meaning in it. It comes from an inner source of your being, where meaning itself has no meaning, where things simply are – with great splendor, with tremendous beauty, but no meaning. Meaning is a logical concept, and logic is a mind product. Existence knows nothing about it.
So first she thought it may be a metaphor. Obviously, this will come to the Western mind. But a metaphor also has to have some meaning. It must indicate towards something; it must be a metaphor for something, a representative, a pointer. But what meaning is there? Seen with an attitude which is searching for meaning, the haiku is meaningless. It is an experience. And it actually describes everything that happens to consciousness – just in those few words.
And that is the beauty of haiku. It uses the minimal amount of words. You cannot take a single word out of it, it has been already taken: only the most essential has been left.
Sitting silently – there are two words. It starts with sitting, it starts with the body. If the body can sit restfully, relaxed, it helps immensely for the mind to become silent. If the body is restless, tense, then the mind cannot be silent. So the haiku is starting from the very foundation: “sitting” simply means relaxed, restful, at ease, at home, no tensions.
You see millions of statues of Buddha all over Asia – and Buddha himself said before he died, “Don’t make a statue of me.” For almost three hundred years the disciples, generation after generation, resisted the temptation. But as the physical presence of Buddha became far away – four hundred years, five hundred years – the temptation to have at least a marble statue sitting in the same posture as Buddha… It does not matter whether it is a photographic representation or not; that is irrelevant. What matters is that it will help to give you inspiration, understanding of how to sit.
And for that, the marble statue is even better than a real Buddha, because it is completely relaxed – no tensions, no movement. They gave it such proportion, such beauty, such aesthetic sensibility, that if you sit by the side of a Buddha statue, you would like to sit in the same way. And the miracle you will feel is that as you start sitting in the same way, the mind starts settling… as if the evening has come and the birds are coming back to their homes, to their trees. Soon it will be night and all the birds will have settled in their nests, fallen asleep.
And if you are fortunate to be in the presence of a living, awakened being, his restful body will create a synchronicity with your bodies, because it is of the same matter. All bodies are made of the same matter and function on the same wavelength.
If the sitting is right, silence descends on you just as the evening comes and then all becomes dark.
Sitting silently… The second thing is the mind. The body should be non-tense, and the mind should be without any thought.
Sitting silently, doing nothing… This is very significant to understand. Even the idea that you are doing meditation is a disturbance, because every “doing” makes the mind active. Mind can remain passive only when you are in a state of non-doing, doing nothing…
This small haiku contains the whole philosophy of the Eastern approach. It is not even a meditation; you are not doing anything, you are simply rejoicing in rest. You are enjoying the peace that comes on its own; it is not your doing. You are simply waiting, not doing… waiting for things to happen. There is no hurry, there is no worry.
The Spring comes… Remember, existence has no obligation to fulfill your desires; hence, the sentence, the Spring comes… You may be in a different season, and the grass may not grow. Don’t complain that “I was sitting silently and the grass was not growing.” You were out of tune with existence.
You have to follow existence. The spring comes – you have to wait for the spring to come, you cannot bring it, you cannot manufacture it; it is not in your hands. The spring comes – it comes – and the grass grows by itself. And suddenly everything becomes green; suddenly, everywhere grass is growing. Nobody is doing anything, just the spring has come and its coming is enough for the grass to grow.
You are sitting silently, doing nothing, simply waiting for the spring to come. Just as the outside spring comes, the inside spring also comes. There are inner seasons of life. So don’t be worried – the spring is bound to come.
And at the time the haiku was written, the spring used to come exactly the same day every year; for centuries that had been the routine. In my childhood in India, every season was coming exactly on the same day. There was no question about what day the rains would begin, on what day the rains would end. But because of atomic explosions… they have disturbed the whole ecology. Now nothing is certain: sometimes rains come, sometimes they don’t come at all; sometimes they come too much, too early. The old rhythm, the old balance, is there no more.
But fortunately, atomic explosions cannot disturb your inner world. They cannot reach there. There, the spring comes exactly when you are ready. The Egyptian saying is, “When the disciple is ready, the master appears.” The master has to appear when the disciple is ready. The disciple need not worry about the master; he has just to be ready. His readiness is enough to give a call to the master.
And it is absolutely true: the master appears when the disciple is ready. Sitting silently, doing nothing, you are getting ready. No desire, no worry whether the spring will come or not – it always comes, it has never been otherwise. The moment you are ready, it is there.
And when the spring comes to your inner world, as if thousands of flowers have opened up, the whole air changes: it is fresh and fragrant, the birds start singing. Your inner world becomes a music unto itself, a fragrance unto itself – and the grass grows by itself.
By “the grass” is indicated your life, your life force. Green is the symbol for the living. In connection with spring, everything becomes green. And once you have experienced this phenomenon, you have known the greatest secret there is – that there are things which you cannot do, but can only allow to happen.
So it is possible, Kaveesha: sitting here just doing nothing, the spring may come at any moment, and for the first time you will understand the significance of the haiku, because something in you starts growing, so alive – it is pure life. It is you, it is your being. But there is no way to intellectually understand it.
In the East for thousands of years, disciples have been sitting by the side of the master, just doing nothing. It looks strange to the Western mind: what is the point of sitting there? If you go to a Sufi gathering, the master is sitting in the middle and all around his disciples are sitting silently – nothing is happening, the master is not even saying anything. Hours pass…
But something transpires – they all feel a fulfillment. When they come out, they are radiant. The master has not done anything; neither have they done anything. They just fall in tune because both were not doing anything, both were silent.
It is possible that now you understand the haiku. Sitting here every day, just listening to me, a silence descends on you and suddenly there is spring and the grass is growing.
The East has to be understood in its own ways. If somebody tries to interpret it intellectually, he has missed the point from the very beginning.
From The Path of the Mystic, Discourse #24
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