Is Zen the path of surrender? Then how come the basic teaching of Buddha is ‘Be a light unto yourself’?
The essential surrender happens within you, it has nothing to do with anybody outside you. The basic surrender is a relaxation, a trust — so don’t be misguided by the word. Linguistically, surrender means to surrender to somebody, but religiously, surrender simply means trust, relaxing. It is an attitude rather than an act: you live through trust.
Let me explain. You swim in water — you go to the river and swim. What do you do? You trust water. A good swimmer trusts so much that he almost becomes one with the river. He is not fighting, he does not grab the water, he is not stiff and tense. If you are stiff and tense you will be drowned; if you are relaxed the river takes care.
That’s why whenever somebody dies, the dead body floats on the water. This is a miracle. Amazing! The alive person died and was drowned by the river, and the dead person simply floats on the surface. What has happened? The dead person knows some secret about the river which the alive person did not know. The alive person was fighting. The river was the enemy. He was afraid, he could not trust. But the dead person, not being there, how could he fight? The dead person is totally relaxed with no tension — suddenly the body surfaces. The river takes care. No river can drown a dead person.
Trust means you are not fighting; surrender means you don’t think of life as the enemy but as the friend. Once you trust the river, suddenly you start enjoying. Tremendous delight arises: splashing, swimming, or just floating, or diving deep. But you are not separate from the river, you merge, you become one.
Surrender means to live the same way in life as a good swimmer swims in the river. Life is a river. Either you can fight or you can float; either you can push the river and try to go against the current or you can float with the river and go wherever the river leads you.
Surrender is not towards somebody; it is simply a way of life. A God is not needed to surrender to. There are religions which believe in God, there are religions which don’t believe in God, but all religions believe in surrender. So surrender is the real God.
Even the concept of God can be discarded. Buddhism does not believe in any God, Jainism does not believe in any God — but they are religions. Christianity believes in God, Islam believes in God, Sikhism believes in God — they are also religions. The Christian teaches surrender to God; God is just an excuse to surrender. It is a help, because it will be difficult for you to surrender without any object. The object is just an excuse so that in the name of God you can surrender. Buddhism says simply surrender — there is no God. You relax. It is not a question of some object, it is a question of your own subjectivity. Relax, don’t fight. Accept.
The belief in God is not needed. In fact, the word “belief” is ugly. It does not show trust, it does not show faith — belief is almost the very opposite of faith. The word ‘belief’ comes from a root “lief” — “lief” means to desire, to wish. Now let me explain it to you. You say, “I believe in God the compassionate.” What exactly are you saying? You are saying, “I wish there was a God who is compassionate.” Whenever you say, “I believe,” you say, “I intensely desire.” But you don’t know.
If you know, there is no question of belief. Do you believe in the trees here? Do you believe in the sun which arises every morning? Do you believe in the stars? There is no question of belief. You know that the sun is there, that the trees are there. Nobody believes in the sun — if he did, you would say he is mad. If somebody came and said, “I believe in the sun,” and tried to convert you, you would say, “You have gone mad!”
I have heard an anecdote.
A certain lady, Lady Lewis, was appointed ambassador to Italy by the United States of America. She was a recently converted Catholic, and, of course, when people become converted, they are very enthusiastic. And she was boring everybody. Whosoever she came into contact with, she would try and make him a Catholic.
The story goes that when she went to Italy as the ambassador, she went to see the Pope. A long discussion followed — it went on and on. A press reporter slipped closer and closer, just to hear what was going on. The Pope had never given so much time to anybody, and the discussion seemed to be very heated and hot. Something was going on. When the Pope talks so long to the ambassador of the richest and the strongest nation in the world, there is going to be some news.
Just to overhear, he came closer and closer. He could hear only one sentence. The Pope was saying in a faltering English, “Lady, you don’t understand me. I am already a Catholic!”
She was trying to convert the Pope!
If somebody comes and says to you, “Believe in the sun,” you will say, “I am already a Catholic. I already believe. You don’t be worried about it.” You know.
Somebody asked Shri Aurobindo, “Do you believe in God?”
He said, “No.”
Of course the questioner was very shocked. He had come from far away, from Germany, and he was a great seeker of God and he was hoping for much. Then this man simply says a flat no. He said, “But I was thinking that you have known him.”
Aurobindo said, “Yes, I have known him, but I don’t believe in him.”
Once you know, what is the point of belief? Belief is in ignorance. If you know, you know. And it is good that if you don’t know, know that you don’t know — the belief can deceive you. The belief can create an atmosphere in your mind, where, without knowing, you start thinking that you know. Belief is not trust, and the more strongly you say that you believe totally, the more you are afraid of the doubt within you.
Trust knows no doubt. Belief is just repressing doubt; it is a desire. When you say, “I believe in God,” you say, “I cannot live without God. It will be too difficult to exist in this darkness, surrounded by death, without a concept of God.” That concept helps. One doesn’t feel alone; one doesn’t feel unprotected, insecure — hence belief.
Martin Luther has written, “My God is a great fortress.” These words cannot come from a man, who trusts. ‘My God is a great fortress’? Martin Luther seems to be on the defensive. Even God is just a fortress to protect you, to make you feel secure? Then it is out of fear. The thinking that “God is my greatest fortress”, is born out of fear, not out of love. It is not of trust. Deep down there is doubt and fear.
Trust is simple. It is just like a child trusts in his mother. It is not that he believes — belief has not yet entered. You were a small child once. Did you believe in your mother or did you trust her? The doubt has not arisen so what is the question of belief? Belief comes only when the doubt has entered; doubt comes first. Later on, to suppress the doubt, you catch hold of a belief. Trust is when doubt disappears; trust is when doubt is not there.
For instance, you breathe. You take a breath in; then you exhale, you breathe out. Are you afraid of breathing out, because who knows, it may not come back? You trust. You trust it will come. Of course there is no reason to trust, what is the reason? Why should it come back? You can at the most say that in the past it has been happening so — but that is not a guarantee. It may not happen in the future. If you become afraid of breathing out because it may not come back, then you will hold your breath in. That’s what belief is — clinging, holding. But if you hold your breath in, your face will go purple and you will feel suffocated. And if you go on doing that, you will die.
All beliefs suffocate and all beliefs help you not to be really alive. They deaden your being.
If you exhale, you trust in life. The Buddhist word ‘nirvana’ simply means exhaling, breathing out — trusting. Trust is a very, very innocent phenomenon. Belief is of the head; trust is of the heart. One simply trusts life because you are out of life, you live in life, and you will go back again to the source. There is no fear. You are born, you live, you will die; there is no fear. You will be born again, you will live again, you will die. The same life that has given you life can always give you more life, so why be afraid?
Why cling to beliefs? Beliefs are man-made; trust is God-made. Beliefs are philosophical; trust has nothing to do with philosophy. Trust simply shows that you know what love is. It is not a concept of God who is sitting somewhere in heaven and manipulating and managing. Trust needs no God, the infinite life, this totality, is more than enough. Once you trust, you relax. That relaxation is surrender.
Now, “Is Zen the path of surrender?” Yes. Religion, as such, is surrendering, relaxing. Don’t cling to anything. Clinging shows that you don’t trust life.
Every evening, Mohammed used to distribute whatsoever he had collected in the day.
All! Not even a single pai would he save for the tomorrow because he said that the same source that had given today, would give to him tomorrow. If it has happened today, why be untrusting about tomorrow? Why save?
But when he was dying and he was very ill, his wife became worried. Even at midnight a physician may be needed, so that evening she saved five rupees, five dinars. She was afraid. “Nobody knows — he may become too ill in the night, and some medicine may be needed and in the middle of the night, where would I go? Or a doctor may be needed and the fee would have to be given.” Not saying anything to Mohammed, she’d saved five dinars.
Near about midnight, Mohammed opened his eyes and he said, “I feel a certain distrust around me. It seems something has been saved.”
The wife became very much afraid and she said, “Excuse me, but thinking that something may be needed in the night, I have saved just five dinars.”
Mohammed said, “You go out and give it to somebody.”
She said, “In the middle of the night who is going to be there?”
Mohammed said, “You just listen and let me die peacefully, otherwise I will feel guilty, guilty against my God. And if he asks me. I will feel ashamed that at the last moment I died in deep distrust. You go out!”
The wife went out, unbelieving of course, but a beggar was standing there.
When she came back, Mohammed said, “Look, he manages well, and if we need something, then a donor will be standing outside the door. Don’t be worried.”
Then he pulled up his blanket and died immediately, relaxed totally.
Clinging to anything, anything whatsoever, shows distrust. If you love a woman or a man, and you cling, that simply shows that you don’t trust. If you love a woman and you say, “Tomorrow also, will you love me or not?” you don’t trust. If you go to the court to get married, you don’t trust. Then you trust more in the court, in the police, in the law, than in love. You are preparing for tomorrow. If this woman or this man tries to deceive you tomorrow or leaves you in the ditch, you can get support from the court and the police, and the law will be with you and the whole society will support you. You are making arrangements, afraid.
But if you really love, love is enough, more than enough. Who bothers about tomorrow? But deep down there is doubt. Even while you think you are in love, doubt continues.
It is reported that when Jesus was resurrected after his crucifixion, the first person to see him back alive was Mary Magdalene. She had loved him tremendously. She ran towards him. In the New Testament it is said that Jesus said, “Don’t touch me.”
I became a little suspicious because Jesus saying, “Don’t touch me,” does not look right. Something somewhere has gone wrong. Of course it is okay if a pope says, “Don’t touch me,” but a Jesus saying, “Don’t touch me.” Almost impossible.
So I tried to find the original. In the original the Greek word can mean both touch or cling. Then I found the key. Jesus says, “Don’t cling to me,” not “Don’t touch me,” but the translators have interpreted it as, ‘Don’t touch me.” The interpreter has entered his own mind in it. Jesus must have said, “Don’t cling to me,” because if there is trust, there is no clinging if there is love, there is no clinging. You simply share without any clinging; you share in deep relaxedness.
Surrendering means surrendering to life; surrendering to the source from where you come and to where one day you will go back again. You are just like a wave in the ocean: You come out of the ocean, you go back to the ocean. Surrendering means trusting in the ocean — and of course, what can a wave do except that? The wave has to trust the ocean and whether you trust or not, you remain part of the ocean. Non-trusting, you will create anxiety — that’s all. Nothing will change. only you will become anxious. tense, desperate.
If you trust, you flower. you bloom. you celebrate. knowing well that deep down is your mother, the ocean. When tired, you will go back and rest in her being again. When rested, you will come back again to have a taste of the sky and the sunlight and the stars.
Surrendering is trusting and it has nothing to do with any concept of any God, any ideology of any God. It is an attitude.
Then you can understand the meaning of Buddha s last utterance. Be a light unto yourself. When he says. Be a light unto yourself. he means: if you have surrendered to life you have become a light unto yourself. Then life leads you. Then you always live in enlightenment. When he says. “Be a light unto yourself,” he is saying don t follow anybody, don’t cling to anybody. Learn from everybody but don’t cling to anybody. Be open, vulnerable, but remain on your own, because finally the religious experience cannot be a borrowed experience. It has to be existential; it has to be your own. Only then it is authentic.
If I say something and you believe in it, it is not going to help. If I say something and you search, and you surrender, and you trust, and you also experience the same — then it has become a light unto yourself. Otherwise my words will remain words; at the most they can become beliefs. Unless you experience the truth of them, they cannot become trust, they cannot become your own truth. My truth cannot become yours, otherwise it would have been very cheap. If my truth could be yours then there would be no problem.
That is the difference between a scientific truth and a religious truth. A scientific truth can be borrowed. A scientific truth, once known, becomes everybody else’s property. Albert Einstein discovered the theory of relativity. Now there is no need for everybody to discover it again and again and again. That would be foolish. Once discovered, it has become public. Now it is everybody’s theory. Once discovered, once proved, now even a school child can learn it. Now no genius is needed — you need not be an Albert Einstein. Just a mediocre mind will do; just an ordinary mind will do. You can understand it and it is yours. Of course, Einstein had to work for years — then he was able to discover it. You need not work. If you are ready to understand and put your mind to it, in just a few hours you will understand.
But the same is not true about religious truth. Buddha discovered, Christ discovered, Nanak and Kabir discovered, but their discovery cannot become your discovery. You will have to rediscover it again. You will have to move again from ABC; you cannot just believe in them. That won’t help. But that is what humanity has been doing: mistaking religious truth for scientific truth. It is not scientific truth, it can never become a public property. Each individual has to come to it alone, each individual has to come to it again and again. It can never become available in the market. You will have to pass through the hardship; you will have to seek and search and follow the same path. A shortcut cannot even be made. You will have to pass through the same austerities as Buddha, the same difficulties as the Buddha; you will have to suffer the same calamities on the path as the Buddha and you will have to be in the same hazards as the Buddha. And one day, when the clouds disappear, you will dance and be as ecstatic as the Buddha.
Of course, when an Archimedes discovers something, he runs naked in the streets, “Eureka! I have found it!” You can understand Archimedes within minutes, within seconds, but you will not be ecstatic — otherwise every school child would run naked in the streets, crying, “Eureka!” Nobody has done that since Archimedes did it. It happened only once. For Archimedes it was a discovery; since then it has become public property.
But it is good that the religious truth cannot be transferred to you otherwise you would never achieve the same ecstasy as Buddha or Jesus or Krishna. Never, because you would learn it in a school textbook — any fool could transfer it to you. Then the whole orgasmic experience will be lost.
It is good that religious experience has to be experienced individually. Nobody can lead you there. People can indicate the way but those indications are very subtle — don’t take them literally. Buddha said, “Be a light unto yourself.” He is saying, ‘Remember, my truth cannot be your truth; my light cannot be your light. Imbibe the spirit from me, become more thirsty from me, let your search be intense and be totally devoted to it, learn the devotion of a truth-seeker from me — but the truth, the light, will burn within you. You will have to kindle it within you.”
You cannot borrow truth, it cannot be transferred, it is not a property. It is such a subtle experience that it cannot even be expressed. It is inexpressible. One at the most tries to give a few hints.
From Ancient Music in the Pines, Discourse #4, Q1
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