Why don’t you give your disciples a certain mode of conduct? Isn’t a moral character necessary for a spiritual life?
Mahendra Singh, my whole effort is to give you a consciousness, not a character. Consciousness is the real thing, character the false entity. Character is needed by those who don’t have consciousness. If you have eyes, you don’t need a walking-stick to find your way, to grope your way. If you can see you don’t ask others, “Where is the door?” Character is needed because people are unconscious. Character is just a lubricant; it helps you to run your life in a smooth way.
George Gurdjieff used to say character is like a buffer. Buffers are used in railway trains; between two compartments there are buffers. If something happens, those two compartments cannot clash with each other; these buffers prevent them from clashing with each other. Or it is like springs: cars have springs so you can move smoothly – even on an Indian road. Those springs go on absorbing the shocks; they are called shock absorbers.
That’s what character is: it is a shock absorber. People are told to be humble. If you learn how to be humble it is a shock absorber. By learning how to be humble you will be able to protect yourself against other people’s egos. They will not hurt you so much; you are a humble man. If you are egoistic you are bound to be hurt again and again. The ego is very sensitive, so you cover up your ego with a blanket of humbleness. It helps, it gives you a kind of smoothness, but it does not transform you.
My work consists of transformation. This is an alchemical school: I want to transform you from unconsciousness into consciousness, from darkness into light. I cannot give you a character; I can only give you insight, awareness. I would like you to live moment-to-moment, not according to a set pattern given by me or given by the society, the church, the state. I would like you to live according to your own small light of awareness, according to your own consciousness. Be responsive to each moment.
Character means you have a certain ready-made answer for all the questions of life, so whenever a situation arises you respond according to the set pattern. Because you respond according to the ready-made answer it is not a true response, it is only a reaction. The man of character reacts, the man of consciousness responds: he takes the situation in, he reflects the reality as it is, and out of that reflection he acts. The man of character reacts, the man of consciousness acts. The man of character is mechanical; robot-like he functions. He has a computer in his mind, full of information; ask him anything and a ready-made answer rolls down from his computer.
A man of consciousness simply acts in the moment, not out of the past and out of the memory. His response has a beauty, a naturalness, and his response is true to the situation. The man of character always falls short, because life is continuously changing; it is never the same. And your answers are always the same, they never grow – they can’t grow, they are dead.
You have been told a certain thing in your childhood; it has remained there. You have grown, life has changed, but that answer that was given by your parents or by your teachers or by your priests is still there. And if something happens you will function according to that answer which was given to you fifty years before. And in fifty years so much water has gone down the Ganges; it is a totally different life.
Heraclitus says: You cannot step in the same river twice. And I say to you: You cannot step in the same river even once; the river is so fast-flowing. Character is stagnant; it is a dirty pool of water. Consciousness is a river.
Mahendra Singh, that’s why I don’t give my people any code of conduct. I give them eyes to see, a consciousness to reflect, a mirror-like being to be able to respond to any situation that arises. I don’t give them detailed information about what to do and what not to do; I don’t give them Ten Commandments. And if you start giving them commandments then you cannot stop at ten, because life is far more complex.
In Buddhist scriptures there are thirty-three thousand rules for a Buddhist monk. Thirty-three thousand rules! For every possible situation that may ever arise, they have given a ready-made answer. But how are you going to remember thirty-three thousand rules of conduct? And a man who is cunning enough to remember thirty-three thousand rules of conduct will be clever enough to find a way out always; if he does not want to do a certain thing, he will find a way out. If he wants to do a certain thing, he will find a way out.
I have heard about a Christian saint: somebody hit him on his face, because just that day in his morning discourse he had said, “Jesus says if somebody slaps you on one cheek, give him the other.” And the man wanted to try it, so he hit him, really hit him hard on one cheek. And the saint was really true, true to his word: he gave him the other cheek.
But that man was also something: he hit even harder on the other cheek. Then he was surprised: the saint jumped on the man, started beating him so hard that the man said, “What are you doing? You are a saint, and just this morning you were saying that if somebody hits you on one cheek, give him the other.”
He said, “Yes – but I don’t have a third cheek. And Jesus stops there. Now I am free; now I will do what I want to do. Jesus has no more information about it.”
It happened exactly like that in Jesus’ life also. Once he told a disciple, “Forgive seven times.”
The disciple said, “Okay.”
The way he said, “Okay,” Jesus became suspicious; he said, “Seventy-seven times I say.”
The disciple was a little disturbed, but he said, “Okay – because numbers don’t end at seventy-seven. What about seventy-eight? Then I am free, then I can do what I want to do!”
How many rules can you make for people? It is stupid, meaningless. That’s how people are religious, and still they are not religious: they always find a way to get out of those rules of conduct and commandments. They can always find a way through the back door. And character can at the most give you only a skin-deep, pseudo mask – not even skin deep: just scratch your saints a little bit and you will find the animal hidden behind. On the surface they look beautiful, but only on the surface.
I don’t want you to be superficial; I want you to really change. But a real change happens through the center of your being, not through the circumference. Character is painting the circumference; consciousness is transformation of the center.
Once a carpenter was working in a church and he hit his thumb with a hammer. “Fuck’s sake!” he yelled.
The Vicar happened to be passing and heard him. “You cannot use that kind of language here. This is a house of God,” he admonished.
“Pardon, Vicar, but what’s a man to say when he whacks his thumb with a hammer?”
“You can say, ‘God preserve me,’ or ‘Jesus help me,'” suggested the Vicar.
Later, when the carpenter was sawing a piece of wood, he sawed right through his finger, which dropped to the floor. “God preserve me!” cried the carpenter, and the finger jumped back upon the hand and healed itself.
“Fuck’s sake!” exclaimed the Vicar.
From Be Still and Know, Discourse #6
Copyright © OSHO International Foundation
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One thought on “Character is Stagnant, Consciousness is a River – Osho”
There is such a feeling of security when some memory from earlier in life prompts you to respond to a current situation in the same way. “Oh! I know what to do!” Such a wonderful exposure of this desire to rely on the dead past. The laziness of it is fully revealed! Thank you for the post.
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