Friends, a new series of talks begins today: God Is Dead, Now Zen Is the Only Living Truth. The series is dedicated to Friedrich Nietzsche, who was the first man in the history of mankind to declare, “God is dead, therefore man is free.”
It was a tremendous statement; its implications are many. First I would like to discuss Nietzsche’s statement.
All the religions believe that God created the world and also mankind. But if you are created by someone, you are only a puppet; you don’t have your own soul. And if you are created by somebody, he can uncreate you any moment. He neither asked you whether you wanted to be created, nor is he going to ask you, “Do you want to be uncreated?”
God is the greatest dictator, if you accept the fiction that he created the world and also created mankind. If God is a reality, then man is a slave, a puppet. All the strings are in his hands, even your life. Then there is no question of any enlightenment. Then there is no question of there being any Gautam the Buddha, because there is no freedom at all. He pulls the strings, you dance; he pulls the strings, you cry; he pulls the strings, you start murders, suicide, war. You are just a puppet and he is the puppeteer.
Then there is no question of sin or virtue, no question of sinners and saints. Nothing is good and nothing is bad, because you are only a puppet. A puppet cannot be responsible for its actions.
Responsibility belongs to someone who has the freedom to act. Either God can exist or freedom, both cannot exist together. That is the basic implication of Friedrich Nietzsche’s statement: God is dead, therefore man is free.
No theologian, no founder of religions thought about this, that if you accept God as the creator, you are destroying the whole dignity of consciousness, of freedom, of love. You are taking all responsibility from man, and you are taking all his freedom away. You are reducing the whole of existence to just the whim of a strange fellow called God.
But Nietzsche’s statement is bound to be only one side of the coin. He is perfectly right, but only about one side of the coin. He has made a very significant and meaningful statement, but he has forgotten one thing, which was bound to happen because his statement is based on rationality, logic and intellect. It is not based on meditation.
Man is free, but free for what? If there is no God and man is free, that will simply mean man is now capable of doing anything, good or bad; there is nobody to judge him, nobody to forgive him. This freedom will be simply licentiousness.
There comes the other side. You remove God and you leave man utterly empty. Of course, you declare his freedom, but to what purpose? How is he going to use his freedom creatively, responsibly? How is he going to avoid freedom being reduced to licentiousness?
Friedrich Nietzsche was not aware of any meditations – that is the other side of the coin. Man is free, but his freedom can only be a joy and a blessing to him if he is rooted in meditation. Remove God – that is perfectly okay, he has been the greatest danger to human freedom – but give man also some meaning and significance, some creativity, some receptivity, some path to find his eternal existence. Zen is the other side of the coin.
Zen does not have any God, that’s its beauty. But it has a tremendous science to transform your consciousness, to bring so much awareness to you that you cannot commit evil. It is not a commandment from outside; it comes from your innermost being. Once you know your center of being, once you know you are one with the cosmos – and the cosmos has never been created, it has been there always and always, and will be there always and always, from eternity to eternity – once you know your luminous being, your hidden Gautam Buddha, it is impossible to do anything wrong, it is impossible to do anything evil, it is impossible to do any sin.
Friedrich Nietzsche in his last phase of life became almost insane. He was hospitalized, kept in a mad asylum. Such a great giant, what happened to him? He had concluded, “God is dead,” but it is a negative conclusion. He became empty, but his freedom was meaningless. There was no joy in it because it was only freedom FROM God, but for what? Freedom has two sides: from and for. The other side was missing. That drove him insane.
Emptiness always drives people insane. You need some grounding, you need some centering, you need some relationship with existence. God being dead, all your relationship with existence was finished. God being dead, you were left alone without roots. A tree cannot live without roots, nor can you.
God was non-existential, but it was a good consolation. It used to fill people’s interior, although it was a lie. But even a lie, repeated thousands and thousands of times for millennia, becomes almost a truth. God has been a great consolation to people in their fear, in their dread, in their awareness of old age and death, and beyond – the unknown darkness. God has been a tremendous consolation, although it was a lie. Lies can console you, you have to understand it. In fact lies are sweeter than the truth.
Gautam Buddha is reported to have said, “Truth is bitter in the beginning, sweet in the end, and lies are sweet in the beginning, bitter in the end” – when they are exposed. Then comes a tremendous bitterness, that you have been deceived by all your parents, by all your teachers, by all your priests, by all your so-called leaders. You have been continuously deceived. That frustration brings up a great distrust in everybody. “Nobody is worthy of trust…” It creates a vacuum.
So Nietzsche was insane in this last phase of his life, it was the inevitable conclusion of his negative approach. An intellect can only be negative; it can argue and criticize and be sarcastic, but it cannot give you any nourishment. From no negative standpoint can you get any nourishment. So he lost his God, and he lost his consolation. He became free just to be mad.
And it is not only Friedrich Nietzsche, so it cannot be said that it was just an accident. Many intellectual giants find themselves in mad asylums or commit suicide, because nobody can live in a negative darkness. One needs light and a positive, affirmative experience of truth. Nietzsche demolished the light and created a vacuum in himself and in others who followed him.
If you feel deep down a vacuum, utter emptiness with no meaning, it is because of Friedrich Nietzsche. A whole philosophy has grown in the West: Nietzsche is the founder of this very negative approach to life.
Soren Kierkegaard, and Jean-Paul Sartre, and Marcel, and Jaspers, and Martin Heidegger – all the great giants of the first half of this century – were talking only about meaninglessness, anguish, suffering, anxiety, dread, fear, angst. And this philosophy has been called in the West existentialism. It is not. It is simply non-existentialism. It destroys everything that has consoled you.
I agree with the destruction because what was consoling man were only lies. God, heaven, hell – all were fictions created to console man. It is good they are destroyed, but you are leaving man in an utter vacuum. Out of that vacuum existentialism is born, that’s why it talks only about meaninglessness: “Life has no meaning.” It talks about no significance: “You are just an accident. Whether you are here or not does not matter at all to existence.” And these people call their philosophy existentialism. They should call it accidentalism. You are not needed; just by accident, on the margin, somehow you have popped up. God was making you a puppet, and these philosophers from Nietzsche to Jean-Paul Sartre are making you accidental.
And there is a tremendous need in man’s being to be related to existence. He needs roots in existence, because only when the roots go deep into existence will he blossom into a buddha, will he blossom into millions of flowers, will his life not be meaningless. Then his life will be tremendously overflowing with meaning, significance, blissfulness; his life will be simply a celebration.
But the conclusion of the so-called existentialists is that you are unnecessary, that your life has no meaning, no significance. Existence is not in need of you at all!
So I want to complete Friedrich Nietzsche’s work; it is incomplete. It will lead the whole of humanity to madness – not only Friedrich Nietzsche, but the whole of humanity. Without God certainly you are free, but for what? You are left with empty hands. You were with empty hands before also, because the hands that looked full were full of lies. Now you are absolutely aware that the hands are empty and there is nowhere to go.
I have heard about one very famous atheist. He died, and his wife brought his best clothes, best shoes, before he was put in the coffin – the best tie, the costliest possible. She wanted to give him a good farewell, a good send-off. He was dressed as he had never dressed in his whole life.
And then friends came, and neighbors came. And one woman said, “Wow! He’s all dressed up and nowhere to go.” He was an atheist, so he did not believe in God, he did not believe in heaven, he did not believe in hell – nowhere to go, and so well-dressed!
But this is the situation any negative philosophy is going to leave for the whole of mankind: well dressed, ready to go, but nowhere to go! This situation creates insanity.
It was not an accident that Friedrich Nietzsche became insane; it was the outcome of his negative philosophy. Hence, I am calling this series, “God is Dead, Now Zen Is the Only Living Truth.”
I absolutely agree with Friedrich Nietzsche as far as God is concerned, but I want to complete his statement, which he could not do. He was not an awakened being; he was not an enlightened being.
Gautam Buddha also does not have a God, nor does Mahavira have a God, but they never went mad. All the Zen masters and all the great Tao masters – Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Lieh Tzu – nobody went mad, and they don’t have any God. They don’t have any hell or heaven. What is the difference? Why did Gautam Buddha not go mad?
And it is not only Gautam Buddha. In twenty-five centuries hundreds of his people have become enlightened, and they don’t even talk about a God. They don’t even say that there is no God, because there is no point. They are not atheists. I am not an atheist, nor am I a theist. God simply is not there, so there is no question of atheism or theism.
But I am not mad. You are my witnesses. It does not create a vacuum in me; on the contrary, there being no God, I have gained the dignity of an individual who is free – free to become a buddha. That is the ultimate goal of freedom. Unless your freedom becomes your very flowering of awareness, and the experience of freedom leads you into eternity, leads you into the roots, into the cosmos and existence, you are going to be mad. Your life will be meaningless, with no significance. Whatever you do it does not matter.
Existence according to the so-called existentialists, who are all following Friedrich Nietzsche, the founder, is absolutely unintelligent. They have taken away God, so they think – according to logic it seems apparently true – if there is no God, existence also becomes dead, with no intelligence, with no life. God used to be the life, God used to be the consciousness. God used to be the very meaning, the very salt of our being. With God no longer there, this whole existence becomes soulless, life becomes just a by-product of matter. So when you die, everything will die, nothing will remain.
And there is no question of being good or bad. Existence is absolutely indifferent; it does not care about you. God used to care about you. Once God is removed, a great strangeness starts happening between you and existence. There is no relationship, existence does not care, cannot care because it is not conscious anymore. It is no longer an intelligent universe; it is simply dead matter, just as you are. And the life that you know is only a by-product.
A by-product disappears immediately when the elements that were creating it separate. For example, some religions believe that man is made of five elements: earth, air, fire, water, sky.
Once these five elements are together, life is produced as a by-product. When these five elements separate in death, life disappears.
To make it clear to you… in the beginning as you learn to ride a bicycle you fall many times. I have also learned, but I did not fall while learning, because first I watched the learners and why they fall.
They fall because they don’t have confidence. To be on two wheels you need tremendous balance, and if you hesitate… it is just like walking on a tightrope. If you hesitate just for a moment those two wheels cannot keep you on your seat. Those two wheels can keep you in balance only at a certain speed, and the learner is bound to move slowly. Obviously – it seems to be rational – if you are a learner, you should not go with great speed.
I watched all my friends learning to bicycle, and they always said to me, “Why don’t you learn?”
I said, “I am watching first. I am watching why you fall, and why after a few days you stop falling.” And once I got the point, the very first time I went as fast as possible!
All my friends were puzzled. They said, “We have never seen a learner go that fast. A learner is bound to fall a few times, then he learns how to balance.”
I said, “I have been watching, and I got the clue. The clue is you are not confident, not alert that a certain speed is needed to keep the bicycle moving. You cannot stop it and sit on top of it without falling; a certain momentum is needed, so you have to go on pedaling.”
Once I knew exactly what the problem was, I simply went so fast that my whole village wondered, “What will happen to him, because he does not know… and he is going with such speed!”
It was difficult for me to know how to stop; if I stopped, the cycle was going to fall. So I had to go to a place where there was a huge bodhi tree near the railway station, almost three miles from my house. Three miles I rushed so fast that people gave way, stood aside. They said, “This is absolute madness!”
But my madness had a method in it. I was going directly to that tree, because I knew the tree had become hollow. I rode my bicycle into the hollow tree so the front wheel was inside the tree. Then I could stop, there was no problem about falling.
One villager who was working in his field saw this. He said, “This is strange.” He asked me, “If there is no tree like this how are you going to stop?”
I said, “Now I have learned how to stop, because I just did it; I will not need a tree anymore. But this was my first experience. I had not seen the other people stopping, I had seen them falling. So I had no experience about stopping, that’s why I was riding so fast to reach to the bodhi tree.” One part of it had become completely hollow, and it was a huge tree, so I knew that it would be right to put my wheel inside and be held up by the tree. But once I had stopped, I had learned how to stop.
When I came to learn driving… Majid will be surprised that the man who was teaching me driving was called Majid, he was a Mohammedan. He was one of the best drivers in the city, and he loved me very much. In fact, he chose my first car. So he told me, “I will teach you.”
I said, “I don’t like to be taught. You just drive slowly so I can see and watch.”
He said, “What do you mean?”
I said, “I learn only by watching. I don’t want any teacher ever!”
He said, “But it is dangerous! A bicycle was okay. At the most you could have hurt yourself or one other, and not much. But a car is a dangerous thing.”
I said, “I am a dangerous man. You just drive it slowly and tell me everything about where is the pedal, where is the accelerator, where is the brake… you just tell me. And then you slowly move, and I will be walking by your side, just watching what you are doing.”
He said, “If you want it this way, I can do it, but I am very much afraid. If you do the same thing with the car as you have done with the bicycle…”
I said, “That’s why I am trying to watch more closely.” And once I got the idea I told him to get out. And I did the same thing as I had done with the bicycle.
I went so fast. Majid, my teacher, was running behind me, shouting, “Not that fast!” And in that city there was no limit on speed, because in Indian streets you cannot go above fifty-five. There is no need to put a sign everywhere that the speed limit is fifty-five miles per hour, you cannot go above fifty-five anyway.
But that poor fellow was very much afraid. He came running after me. He was a very tall man, a champion runner, there was every possibility that he could have become champion of the whole of India, and he might perhaps someday have participated in the Olympics. He tried hard to follow me, but soon I disappeared from his vision.
When I came back, he was praying under a tree, praying to God for my safety. And when I stopped by his side, so close that he jumped, he forgot all the prayer.
I said, “Don’t be worried. I have learned the whole thing. What were you doing here?”
He said, “I followed you, but soon you disappeared. Then I thought, the only thing is to pray to God to help him, because he knows nothing about driving. He is sitting in the driver’s seat for the first time, and he has gone nobody knows where. How did you turn? Where did you turn back?”
I said, “I had no idea how to turn, because you were just moving straight and I was walking by your side. So I had to go around the city. I had no idea how to turn, what signals to give, because you had not given any signals. But I managed. I went round the whole city so fast, the traffic was simply giving way. And I came back.”
And he said, “KHUDA HAFIZ.” It means, “God saved you.”
I said, “Don’t bring God in.”
Once you know that a certain balance is needed between the negative and the positive, then you have your roots in existence. It is one extreme to believe in God; it is another extreme not to believe in God, and you have to be just in the middle, absolutely balanced. Atheism becomes irrelevant, theism becomes irrelevant. But your balancing brings a new light, a new joy, a new blissfulness to you, a new intelligence which is not of the mind. That intelligence which is not of the mind makes you aware that the whole existence is tremendously intelligent. It is not only alive, it has sensitivity, it has intelligence.
Once you know your inner being is balanced and silent and peaceful, suddenly doors that have been closed by your thoughts simply move, and the whole existence becomes clear to you. You are not accidental. Existence needs you. Without you something will be missing in existence and nobody can replace it.
That’s what gives you dignity, that the whole existence will miss you. The stars and sun and moon, the trees and birds and earth – everything in the universe will feel a small place is vacant which cannot be filled by anybody except you. This gives you a tremendous joy, a fulfillment that you are related to existence, and existence cares for you. Once you are clean and clear, you can see tremendous love falling on you from all dimensions.
You are the highest evolution of existence, of intelligence, and it is dependent on you. If you grow higher than the mind and its intelligence, towards no-mind and its intelligence, existence is going to celebrate: one man again has reached to the ultimate peak. One part of existence has suddenly risen to the highest possibilities of the intrinsic potential in everybody.
There is a parable that the day Gautam Buddha became enlightened, the tree under which he had become enlightened, suddenly without any wind, started moving. He was amazed because there was no wind, no other tree around was moving, not even a single leaf was moving. But the tree under which he was sitting was moving, as if it was dancing. It does not have legs, it is so rooted in the earth, but it can at least show its joy.
It is a very strange phenomenon that certain chemicals which make you intelligent, which give you a better mind, are found in the bodhi tree in greater amounts than in any other tree. So it is not just coincidence that the tree under which Gautam Buddha became enlightened is still called according to his name. Bodhi means enlightenment. And the tree, scientists have found, has a larger amount of intelligence than any other tree in the world. It has so much of those chemicals it is overflowing.
When Manjushri, one of Gautam Buddha’s closest disciples, became enlightened, the story is that the tree under which he was sitting suddenly started showering with flowers, and it was not the season for the tree to bring flowers.
It may be just a parable. But these parables indicate that we are not separate from existence, that our joy will be shared even by the trees, even by the rocks, that our enlightenment will be a festival for the whole of existence.
It is meditation that fulfills your inner being and takes away the vacuum that used to be filled by a great lie, God. And many lies have grown around him.
If you remain with the negative you are going to be insane sooner or later, because you have lost all contact with existence, you have lost every meaning, every possibility of finding meaning. You have certainly dropped lies, which is good, but that is not enough to find the truth.
Drop the lies and make some effort to go inwards to find the truth. That is the whole science of Zen. That’s why I have entitled the series, God Is Dead, Now Zen Is the Only Living Truth. If God is dead and you don’t come close to the experience of Zen, you will become insane. Your sanity depends now only on Zen, that is the only way to find the truth. Then you are absolutely related with existence, and you are no longer a puppet, you are a master.
And a man who knows his relation, his deep relation with existence, cannot commit anything against existence, against life. It is simply impossible. He can only pour as much blissfulness, as much benediction, as much grace as you are ready to receive. But his sources are inexhaustible. When you have found your inexhaustible sources of life and its ecstasy, then it does not matter whether you have a God or not. It does not matter whether there is a hell or a heaven. It does not matter at all.
So religious people when they read Zen are simply puzzled, because it is not talking about anything they have been taught from the very beginning. It is talking about strange dialogues which have nothing… NO place for God, no place for paradise, no place for hell. It is a scientific religion. Its search is not based on belief; its search is based on experience. Just as science is objectively based on experiment, Zen is based subjectively on experience. One science goes outward, another science goes inward.
Nietzsche has no idea how to go inward. The West has been a wrong place for people like Friedrich Nietzsche. If he had been in the East, he would have been a far greater master, a man of absolute sanity. He would have been in the same category, in the same family, as the buddhas.
But unfortunately the West has not learned the lesson even now. It goes on working so hard on objects. Even one tenth of our energy will be enough to find the inner truth. Even an Albert Einstein dies in deep frustration. The frustration was so great that before he died he was asked, “If you are born again, what are you going to be?” He said, “Never again a physicist. I would rather be a plumber.”
The greatest physicist the world has known dies in such frustration that he does not want anything to do with physics, anything to do with science. He wants a simple job like plumbing. But even that is not going to help. If physics has not helped, if mathematics has not helped, if such a great intelligence like Albert Einstein dies in frustration, being a plumber is not going to help. Still you are outside. A scientist may be too deeply involved; a plumber may not be that much involved, but he is still working outside. Being a plumber is not going to give him what he needs. He needs the silence of meditation. From that silence flowers meaning, significance, a tremendous joy that you are not accidental.
I say unto you, that what I am teaching you is authentic existentialism, and what in the West is thought to be existentialism is only accidentalism. I am teaching you how to come in contact with existence, how to find out where you are connected, wired with existence. From where are you getting your life moment to moment? Where is your intelligence coming from? If existence is unintelligent, how can you be intelligent? Where will you get it from?
When you see the rose flowers blossoming, have you ever thought that all this color, all this softness, all this beauty was hidden somewhere in the seed? But the seed alone was not enough to become a rose; it needed the support of existence – the soil, the water, the sun. Then the seed disappeared into the soil and the rosebush started growing. Now it needs air, it needs water, it needs the earth, it needs the sun, it needs the moon. All these together transform the seed which was almost like a dead piece of stone. Suddenly a transformation, a metamorphosis. These roses, these colors, this beauty, this fragrance, cannot come from it unless existence has it already. It all may be hidden; it may be covered in the seed. But anything that happens means it was there already – maybe as a potential.
You have intelligence…
I have told you the story of Ramakrishna and Keshav Chandra Sen. Keshav Chandra was one of the most intelligent people of his time. He founded a religion just on his intellectual philosophy, brahmasamaj, the society for God. And he had hundreds and thousands of intelligent people, a very intelligent group, as his followers. And he was puzzled that this uneducated Ramakrishna, who had not even completed the primary school – in India the primary school, the lowest school, takes four years; he had done only half…. Why were thousands of people going to this idiot? That was in Keshav Chandra Sen’s mind.
Finally he decided he had to go and defeat this man, because he could not think that the man could not be defeated by argument. That was impossible for him to imagine. This idiot from a small village is collecting thousands of people every day! From far and wide people are coming to see him, and to touch his feet!
Keshav Chandra with his followers informed Ramakrishna: “I am coming on such and such a day to challenge you on every point in which you believe. Be ready!”
Ramakrishna’s followers were very much afraid. They knew Keshav Chandra was a great logician; poor Ramakrishna would not be able to answer anything. But Ramakrishna was very joyful, he danced. He said, “I have been waiting all this time. When Keshav Chandra comes that will be a great day of joy!”
His disciples said, “What are you saying? That will be a day of great sadness, because you cannot argue with him.”
Ramakrishna said, “Wait. Who is going to argue with him? I don’t need to argue. Let him come.”
But his disciples were shaky, very shaky, very much afraid that their master was going to be defeated, completely crushed. They knew Keshav Chandra. In that century there was no parallel to Keshav Chandra’s intelligence in this country.
And Keshav Chandra came with one hundred of his topmost disciples to see the argument, the debate, the challenge. Ramakrishna was standing on the road to receive him, far away from the temple where he used to live. And he hugged Keshav Chandra. And Keshav Chandra felt a little embarrassed, and that embarrassment went on growing.
Ramakrishna took his hand in his hand and took him inside. He said, “I have been waiting and waiting for years. Why did you not come before?”
Keshav Chandra said, “He seems to be a strange man, seems not to be afraid at all. Do you understand? I have come here for a discussion!”
Ramakrishna said, “Of course.”
So they sat near the temple by the side of the Ganges, a beautiful place, under a tree.
And Ramakrishna said, “Start.”
So Keshav Chandra asked him, “What do you say about God?”
Ramakrishna said, “Have I to say anything about God? Can’t you see God in my eyes?”
Keshav Chandra looked a little puzzled – “What kind of argument is this?”
And Ramakrishna said, “Can’t you feel God in my hand? Come closer, boy.”
And Keshav Chandra said, “What kind of argument…?”
He had been in many debates; he had defeated many great scholars, and this villager… In Hindi the word for idiot is gamar, but it actually means the villager gaon means village, and gamar means from the village. But gamar is used as stupid, retarded, idiot.
Ramakrishna said, “If you can understand the language of my eyes, if you can understand the energy of my hand, you are proof enough that existence is intelligent. Where have you got your intelligence from?”
This was a grand argument. He was saying, “If you have got this great intelligence – and I know you are a highly intelligent person; I have always loved you – tell me from where it comes? If existence is without intelligence you cannot get it. From where? You are the proof that existence is intelligent, and that is what I mean by God. To me God is not somebody sitting on a cloud. To me God simply means existence is not unintelligent. It is an intelligent universe; we belong and we are needed. It rejoices in our rejoicings, it celebrates in our celebrations, it dances with our dance. Have you seen my dance?” – And he started dancing.
Keshav Chandra said, “What to do!”
But he danced so beautifully. He was a good dancer, because he used to dance in the temple sometimes from morning till evening – no coffee break! He would dance and dance till he would fall on the ground.
So he started dancing with such joy and such grace that suddenly there was a transformation in
Keshav Chandra. He forgot all his logic, he saw the beauty of this man, he saw the splendor of this man, he saw a joy which he had never felt.
All that intellect, all those arguments were just superficial, inside there was utter emptiness. This man was so overflowing. He touched the feet of Ramakrishna and said, “Forgive me. I was absolutely wrong about you. I know nothing, and I have been just philosophizing. You know everything, and you are not saying a single word.”
Ramakrishna said, “I will forgive you only on one condition.”
Keshav Chandra said, “Any condition from your side. I am ready.”
Ramakrishna said, “The condition is that once in a while you have to come to discuss with me, to debate with me, to challenge me.”
This is the way of a mystic; and Keshav Chandra was completely finished. He became a totally different man; he started to come every day. Soon his disciples deserted him: “He has gone mad. That madman infected him so much. There was only one madman, now there are two. He is even dancing with him.”
But Keshav Chandra, who had been a sad man, grudging, complaining about everything, because he was living in a negative space, suddenly blossomed, flowers came to his being, a new fragrance. He forgot all logic. This man helped him have a taste of something that is beyond mind.
Zen is the method to go beyond mind. So we will be discussing God and Zen together. God has to be negated, and Zen has to be planted deep in your being. The lie has to be destroyed and the truth has to be revealed. That’s why I have chosen God and Zen together. God is a lie, Zen is a truth.
Excerpt from God is Dead, Now Zen is the Only Living Truth, Chapter One
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