Professor Coleman Barks has asked a question:
I feel very grateful for your enlightenment, your wisdom, your daring experiments, your life.
Rumi said, “I want burning, burning….” What is that burning? Shams said, “I am fire.” Do you have any word on Shams? From Shams? What do the burning and the fire have to do with my own enlightenment?
Coleman, you have asked a very dangerous question! – Because burning has nothing to do with your enlightenment. On the path of enlightenment there is no question of burning. But because you are in love with Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi… I also love the man. But you have to understand that Sufism still depends on a hypothetical God. It is not free from the hypothesis of God. And particularly Sufism has the concept of God as a woman. Love is their method – love God as totally as possible. Now you are loving an impossible hypothesis, and totality is asked. You will feel the same kind of burning, in a more intensive way, as lovers feel on a smaller scale.
Lovers feel a certain burning in their hearts. A deep longing and desire to meet with the beloved creates that burning. To love God is bound to create a very great fire in you. You will be on fire because you have chosen as your love object something impossible; your object of love is hypothetical. You will have to weep and cry, and you will have to pray, and you will have to fast, and your mind has to continuously repeat and remember the beloved.
The mind has the capacity to imagine anything and also has the capacity to hypnotize itself. After long repetition you can even see God, just the way you imagined. It is a by-product of your mind. It will make you very happy, you will dance with joy.
I have been with Sufis and I have loved those people. But they are still one step away from being a buddha. Even though their poetry is beautiful – it has to be, because it is coming out of their love – their experience is a hallucination created by their own mind. In Sufism, mind is stretched to the point that you become almost mad for the beloved. Those days of separation from the beloved create the sensation of burning.
On the path of dhyan, or Zen, there is no burning at all because there is no hypothesis, no God. And it is not a question of love. A man of Zen is very loving, but he has not practiced love; it has come as a by-product of his realization. He has simply realized his own buddhahood. There is no question of another, a God somewhere else in heaven. He has simply reached his own center of life, and being there he explodes into love, into compassion. His love comes after his enlightenment; it is not a method for enlightenment.
But for Sufis, love is the method. Because love is the method, it remains part of the mind.
The effort on the path of Zen is to go beyond mind, to attain no-mind, to be utterly empty of all thoughts, love included. Zen is the path of emptiness – no God, no love, nothing is to be allowed; just a pure nothingness in which you also disappear.
Who is there to feel the burning? Who is there to feel the fire?
So although I love Sufis… I don’t want, Coleman, to hurt your feelings, but I would certainly say that you will have one day to change from Sufis to Zen. Sufis are still living in imagination; they have not known the state of no-mind. And because they have not known the state of no-mind, however beautiful their personalities may become, they are still just close to enlightenment, but not enlightened. Remember, even to be very close is not to be enlightened.
And the reason is clear: Sufism is a branch, an offshoot of Mohammedanism. It carries almost all that is good in Mohammedanism. But Mohammedanism is the lowest kind of religion. Mohammedanism, Judaism, Christianity – all are hypothetical.
There have been only two religions which are not hypothetical, Buddhism and Taoism. Zen is a crossbreed of these two, and the crossbreed is always better than both the parents. It is the meeting of Buddha and Lao Tzu; out of this meeting is born Zen. It is not Buddhism, it is not Taoism; it has its own individuality. It carries everything beautiful that comes from Buddha and everything great that comes from Lao Tzu. It is the highest peak that man has ever reached.
Hinduism is a mess: thirty-three million gods! – What do you expect? Hinduism has remained a philosophical, controversial, hypothetical religion. It has not been able to reach the heights of Buddha. Buddha was born a Hindu but revolted against this mess, searched alone rather than believing. That is one of the most important things to remember. Any religion that begins with belief is going to give you an auto-hypnotic experience.
Only Taoism and Buddhism don’t start with a belief. Their whole effort is that you should enter yourself without any concept of what you are going to find there. Just being open, available, without any prejudice, without any philosophy and scripture – just go in, open-hearted, and when you reach to the point where mind is silent, not a single thought moving…
According to Tao and Buddha, even God is a thought. When there is no thought, you reach the highest Everest of consciousness. At that point you know that every living being has the potentiality of being a god.
Buddha is reported to have said, “The moment I became enlightened, I was surprised: the whole of existence is enlightened; only people don’t understand. They are carrying their enlightenment within themselves and they don’t look at it.”
Buddha has reported his past lives’ experiences. When he was not an enlightened man but was just a seeker, he heard about a man who had become enlightened, so he went to see him. He had no idea of what enlightenment is, and he had not come with any prejudice for or against. But as he came close to the man, he found himself bowing down and touching the man’s feet. He was surprised! He had not decided to do it – in spite of himself he was touching the man’s feet. That was one surprise. And as he stood up, the second surprise was even bigger: the enlightened man touched his feet. He said, “What are you doing? You are enlightened, it is perfectly right for me to touch your feet. But why are you touching my feet?”
And that man laughed. He said, “Sometime before, I was unenlightened. Now I am enlightened.
You are unenlightened now. Someday you will become enlightened. So it is only a question of time. As far as I am concerned, you may not know it but I can see your hidden treasure.”
So everybody is a buddha, either aware of it or unaware of it. No hypothesis comes into the path of Zen.
What Rumi is saying – “I want burning, burning…” – is the mind focused on a hypothetical beloved, and the burning desire to meet him, to melt in him. But it is an objective god – it may be woman or man, it does not matter.
In Bengal, in India, there is a small sect which believes that only Krishna is male and everybody else is female. Because everybody is female and there is a great burning to meet the lover, the god, they sleep with a statue of Krishna in their bed.
But these are all mind games. Except for Gautam Buddha and Lao Tzu, and the people who became enlightened from their lineages, the whole of humanity is living in hypotheses. I appreciate the poetry of Rumi, I appreciate the beauty of many Sufi mystics, but I cannot say that they are enlightened. They are still groping, and their groping will stop only when they drop this hypothesis of God.
The search has to be inwards, not outwards. Any search that is outwards is going to change your personality. It can make it more beautiful, more loving, but it is just imagination.
It happened that one Sufi master who was very much loved… his disciples used to come to me and say, “When our master comes, we want you both to meet.”
I said, “On one condition: your master should be my guest for just three days, and you have not to come for three days.”
So the master came, as he used to come every year for a month or two to that place. He was a lovely man, very fragrant, very radiant, very joyful. He used to dance and sing and play on instruments. When he came to my house, I closed the door and told the disciples, “Now you disappear, and for three days leave him with me.”
The master said, “What do you want?”
I said, “You put your instruments away, and for three days don’t think about your beloved God.”
He said, “What is the purpose of this?”
I said, “The purpose will be known after three days. Just for three days be normal. You are abnormal.”
He said, “You are a strange fellow! I am abnormal?”
I said, “Just drop this idea of a hypothetical God. Have you seen God?”
He said, “I see God everywhere.”
I said, “When did it start happening?”
He said, “It took twenty years for me to see God in everyone. Finally, I started seeing.”
I said, “That’s why I am saying that for three days; don’t do anything you have been doing. For these three days take a holiday from your practice of seeing God in everyone.”
Just in one day it was finished! The next day he was very angry with me. He said, “Just let me go. You have destroyed my twenty years’ effort. For just one night I followed your idea, and now in the morning I don’t see any God anywhere.”
I said, “A God that you have been seeing for twenty years disappears within a single night – what is it worth? Can’t you see that it is a hypothesis that you have imposed? And twenty years are not needed for such programming – such programming can be done within hours.”
A person can be hypnotized just for seven days continually and told he will see God everywhere, in everyone, and he will be very joyful, very loving. Within seven days the person can be programmed just like a computer, and he will start seeing God. But this is not the way of truth.
Coleman, it is perfectly good: enjoy Rumi’s beautiful poems, enjoy beautiful Sufi stories. I have enjoyed them. But I warn you, don’t get lost into them. They are just a game of the mind, a strategy of self-hypnosis.
I said that you have asked a dangerous question. I don’t want to hurt your feelings and your love, but I have to say the truth even if it hurts. One day you will feel grateful to me.
Sufism is nothing. You can find good poetry anywhere. And if you want, bring any Sufi to me and I will take away all his experience within one hour. These are abnormal people, hypnotizing themselves.
The real thing is to come to a point of de-hypnotizing yourself, because every society has already hypnotized you. A Hindu thinks Krishna is a god, and never bothers that Krishna stole sixteen thousand women from different people. He was married only to one woman. But sixteen thousand women – any beautiful woman, and his soldiers would catch hold of her; he just had to make a sign that they should take her to the palace.
Krishna behaved with women like they were cattle, and he never thought that they have children, they have husbands, they have their old parents, or their husband’s parents, and he is destroying their whole family life. And what is he going to do with sixteen thousand women? He is not a bull. Even a bull will be tired. Sixteen thousand – it is a record. Still, no Hindu will question the point.
Rama is God to the Hindus, and nobody questions that he killed one poor untouchable, a young man, just because he heard somebody reciting the Vedas. The Hindu society has maintained the caste system for five thousand years, and the untouchable, the sudra, the last, is not allowed to read any religious scripture. He is not allowed to be educated either. Untouchables are not allowed to live in the city; they have to live outside the city. They do all the dirty work of the city and they live the poorest life in the world. Their whole dignity and manhood is taken away.
And this young man had not read anything, he simply heard some brahmin reciting the Rigveda. Just hiding behind the trees out of curiosity, he was caught hold of, and when he was brought to Rama because he had committed this great crime, Rama told his people, “Melt some lead and pour it into both his ears, because he has heard the Veda, which is prohibited.”
The man certainly died. When you pour burning lead into the ears, you cannot expect the man to remain alive. He fell dead then and there. And no Hindu questions it. Even people like Mahatma Gandhi just go on repeating the name of Rama; he is a god. And this is the situation all over the world, with every religion. I have looked in all nooks and corners, and except Zen I don’t find any religious phenomenon which is absolutely pure and which has not committed a single crime against humanity. It has only contributed more beauty and more grace and more love and more meditativeness.
So it is perfectly good, Coleman; enjoy the poetry, but don’t think that these poetries are coming out of enlightenment. They have not even heard the word enlightenment. No word exists in Persian, in Urdu, in Arabic, equivalent to enlightenment. They have “God realization,” realization of the beloved – but the beloved is separate from you.
The whole point is that even if you find a god which is separate from you, millions of others must have found him before. You will be in a crowd. And what are you going to do when you meet God? – say, “Hello, how are you”? There is nothing much in just meeting – you will look embarrassed and God will look embarrassed: Now what to do with this Professor Coleman? ”It was very good… you were doing good translations, but why have you come here?”
Now don’t do any such thing, creating any embarrassment for God. There exists no God. What exists is godliness, and that godliness surrounds you. We are all in the same ocean.
An ancient story is: A young, very philosophical-minded fish asked other fish, “We have heard so much about the ocean; where is it? I want to meet the ocean.”
Everybody shrugged their shoulders; they said, “We have also heard about the ocean, but we don’t know where it is.”
An old fish took the boy aside and told him, “There is no other ocean anywhere. We are in it. We are born in it, we live in it, we die in it. This is the ocean.”
And I say unto you, the same is true with us. We are born in godliness, we live in godliness, we die in godliness. Just one thing has to be remembered: either you can pass through this tremendous experience of life asleep, or fully awakened.
Meditation is the only way to make you aware. And once you are fully aware, all around is the ocean of godliness. The very life, the very consciousness is divine. It expresses in all the forms – in the roses and in the lotuses and in the birds and in the trees. Wherever life is, it is nothing but godliness. We are living in the ocean of godliness. So don’t search anywhere. Just look within, because that is the closest point you can find.
Sufism is beautiful but is not the ultimate answer, and you should not stop at Sufism. It is a good training to begin with. End up with Zen.
And it is a great, surprising thing, that from the peaks of Zen you will be able to understand Sufism more than you can understand by living in the Sufi circles. Some distance is needed, and Zen gives you the distance. From that distance you can witness all the religions. What are they doing? – playing games, beautiful games, but games are games after all.
You are asking, “What do the burning and the fire have to do with my own enlightenment?” Nothing at all. You are enlightened in this very moment; just enter silently into your own being. Find the center of your being and you have found the center of the whole universe. We are separate on the periphery but we are one at the center. I call this the buddha experience.
Unless you become a buddha – and remember, it is the poverty of language that I have to say
“Unless you become….” You already are. So I have to say, unless you recognize, unless you remember what you have forgotten….
Every child in its innocence knows, and every child goes astray because of so much knowledge being poured in by the parents, by the priests, by the teachers. Soon the child’s innocence is completely covered with all kinds of bullshit.
The whole effort of meditation is to cut through all the dust that society has poured upon you and just to find that small buddha-nature you were born with. The day you find the buddha-nature you were born with, the circle is complete. You have again become innocent.
Socrates in his last days said, “When I was young I thought I knew much. As I became older I started thinking I knew everything. But as I became still older and my consciousness became sharper, I suddenly realized I don’t know anything.”
It is a beautiful story that in Greece there is – used to be, now it is ruins – the temple of Delphi. And the oracle of the temple of Delphi declared that Socrates was the wisest man in the whole world. The people who had known Socrates rushed to tell him, “The oracle has declared you the wisest man in the world!”
Socrates said, “The oracle for the first time is wrong. I know nothing.”
The people were very much in a puzzle. They went back to Delphi and told the oracle, “You say he is the wisest man and he says he knows nothing.”
The oracle said, “That’s why he is the wisest man in the world. He has again become a child. He has come back home.”
From Rinzai: Master of the Irrational, Chapter Two
Copyright© OSHO International Foundation
In an interview that Coleman Barks did with Michael Toms of New Dimensions Radio on December 12, 2010, Coleman Barks spoke of asking Osho the above question. Here is the excerpt.
The entire interview can be found here:
Coleman Barks wrote the following introduction to Osho’s book, Just Like That (Penguin Books India), which is from a series of discourses Osho gave on Sufi stories:
It seems important to me that Osho be known to an audience wider than his beautiful community, and that this book in particular find new readers.
I am very grateful for his amazing talking, his daring experiments with community and transformation, his enlightenment and his jokes! (Did you get the satire of American consumerism with the ninety seven Rolls Royces? Some people missed that.)
The humor always bubbles close, no matter what’s being discussed. The lack of a 13th floor in American hotels, the responsibilities of being awake, a dog jumping in a river, Gurdjieff’s non-identification, the prodigal son, meditation, the aggression of science, Shibli and his three teachers—there’s great generosity of detail here, and his joy is primary.
It’s all one thing, really, these morning talks. Reading them, you’ll taste a fresh spring water from those days. The catalyst for each is part of a Sufi story, brilliantly interpreted. But don’t come with your intellectual acumen drawn. Or do—He will meet you however you approach. This is a profound form of play. Osho improvises the jazz discourses of the century. Better than Gurdjieff. What am I doing in the front of this book? I got asked because of my work on Rumi, and also perhaps because I visited the commune in Pune in October 1988 and felt very at home there. Maybe I’m what he called in the early 80’s a shravakar.
Here’s a Sufi story that he doesn’t discuss in this book:
Ibn Khafif Shirazi once said, ‘I heard that there were two great masters in Egypt so I hurried to reach their presence. When I arrived I saw two magnificent teachers meditating. I greeted them three times, but they did not answer. I meditated with them for four days. Each day I would beg them to talk with me, since I had come such a long way.
Finally the younger one opened his eyes. “Ibn Khafif, life is short. Use the portion that’s left to deepen yourself. Don’t waste time greeting people!” I asked him to give me some advice. “Stay in the presence of those who remind you of your lord, who not only speak wisdom, but are that.” Then he went back into meditation.’
I feel like that man, Ibn Khafif. At Osho’s level of being, introductions are unnecessary and serve mostly as puffery for the introducer. Let the music begin.