Learn the Art of Listening – Osho

Sometimes in discourse, I suddenly come to consciousness and realize that I don’t know where I’ve been, and yet the discourse is coming to a close. Your words were coming through, but I’m not sure if I was awake. If I’m not conscious, am I asleep? Are these the only two possibilities? Is there some stage in between? How to tell the difference?

Mary Catherine, the question you have asked is the question everybody needs the answer for. Man is asleep, but it is no ordinary sleep; he is asleep with open eyes. His sleep is spiritual, not physical.

Just as in physical sleep your consciousness is filled with dreams, in spiritual sleep your consciousness is filled with thoughts, desires, feelings—a thousand and one things. It is not that you are unconscious in the sense of being in a coma; you are unconscious in the sense that your consciousness is covered with too much dust. It is exactly like a mirror: if covered with many layers of dust, it will lose the quality of reflecting, will lose the quality of being a mirror. But the mirror is there; all that is needed is to remove the dust. Your consciousness is there—even while you are physically asleep your consciousness is there, but now more covered than when you are awake.

You are asking, “If I’m not conscious, am I asleep? Are these the only two possibilities? Is there some stage in between? How to tell the difference?”

You are not unconscious in the sense a person falls into a coma; you are not conscious in the sense a Gautam Buddha is conscious. You are in between. A thick layer of thoughts does not allow you to be in the present. That’s why, while you are listening to me, you are listening and yet the listening is very superficial because deep down there are so many thoughts going on. You are listening but it is not reaching you, and as I stop speaking, suddenly you realize that you have been listening, certainly, but you have not understood it. It has not penetrated you; it has not become part of your being. Something has prevented it, like a China Wall. Those thoughts are transparent, but they are thicker than any China Wall can be.

You are neither asleep nor awake, you are in between—awake as far as your day to day mechanical activities are concerned, and asleep as far as a clear consciousness is concerned. A pure consciousness, a deep innocence like an unclouded sky, is absent.

The pope was sitting with his cardinals signing papers and proclamations. The phone rang and his secretary answered. “Your holiness,” she said. “It is about the abortion bill. A reporter wants to talk to you.”

“Don’t bother me,” the pope interrupted.

“But he wants to know what you are going to do about the bill.”

“Just pay it,” the pope replied. “Pay it quick!”

In what position will you put the pope? Asleep or awake? He is in between; he has heard the word bill, but he has interpreted it in his own way. He has forgotten completely that the bill is about abortion, and certainly he has not been aborted, and he has not to pay any bill.

But this is the situation of us all. We hear what we want to hear; we hear only that which adjusts with our preconceived notions, prejudices.

You will be surprised to know… the scientific research is almost unbelievable: it says ninety-eight percent of what you hear is prevented from reaching to you—ninety-eight percent! Only two percent reaches you. It has to pass through so many thoughts, conceptions, beliefs, conditionings, and they go on cutting it according to themselves. By the time it reaches you, it is something totally different than was said, than was heard. It is a long process of screening, and we are all screening. If something falls in tune with our mind, that means with our past, we hear it. But if it goes against it, we certainly hear the sound but we miss the meaning.

To listen is a great art.

People only hear; very few people are able to listen.

One man had reached Gautam Buddha. He was a well-known philosopher of the day and he had defeated many philosophers in discussions about the ultimate, the truth, God. He had come to defeat Gautam Buddha too—that would be the crowning victory. He had brought with him five hundred chosen disciples to see Gautam Buddha defeated. But Gautam Buddha asked a very strange question. He asked, “Do you understand the meaning and the difference between hearing and listening?”

The man was at a loss. He had come to discuss great things, and this was a small matter. And there was no difference… as far as language is concerned, dictionaries are concerned, hearing is listening. The man said, “There is no difference at all, and I had hoped you would not ask such an ordinary question.”

Gautam Buddha said, “There is a great difference. And unless you understand the difference, there is no possibility of any dialogue. I will say something; you will hear something else. So if you really want to have a dialogue with me, sit by my side for two years. Don’t speak a single word, just listen. Whatever I’m telling others, be unconcerned; I’m not telling you. So you need not be worried about whether it is true or untrue, whether you have to accept it or not. You are just a witness; your opinion is not required.

“After two years, you can have the dialogue, the discussion you have come for. And I would love to be defeated, so this is not to postpone defeat; it is just to make the dialogue possible.”

At that very moment, Mahakashyap, a great disciple of Gautam Buddha; perhaps the greatest, laughed. He was sitting under a tree far away, and the philosopher thought, “That man seems to be mad. Why is he laughing?”

Buddha said, “Mahakashyap, this is not mannerly; even for an enlightened man this is not right.”

Mahakashyap said, “I don’t care about right and wrong; I’m just feeling sorry for the poor philosopher.”

And he turned to the philosopher and said to him, “If you want to have a discussion, have it right now; after two years, there will be just silence and no dialogue. This man is not trustworthy. He deceived me; I also came with the same idea as you, to defeat him, and he cheated me. He said, `Sit down for two years by my side, and listen. Learn first the art of listening. And because you are not concerned at all, your mind need not function.'”

And two years is a long time; the mind starts forgetting how to think, how to function. The very presence of Gautam Buddha is so peaceful, so silent, that one starts rejoicing in the silence. And to listen to his words… which are not addressed to you, so you are not worried whether they agree with your prejudices, your philosophy, your religion—with you, or not. You are indifferent. You listen to him as if you are listening to the birds singing in the morning when the sun rises.

“And two years… the mind disappears. And although those words are not addressed to you, they start reaching to your heart. Because the mind is silent, the passage is open—the door is open, the heart welcomes them. So if you want to ask anything, if you want to challenge this man, challenge now. I don’t want to see another man cheated again.”

Gautam Buddha said, “It is up to you; if you want to defeat me now, I declare my defeat. There is no need to talk. Why waste time? You are victorious. But if you really want to have a dialogue with me, then I’m not asking much, just two years to learn the art of listening.”

The man remained for two years, and even forgot completely that after two years he had to challenge Gautam Buddha for a debate. He forgot the whole calendar. Days passed, months passed, seasons came and went away, and after two years he was enjoying the silence so much that he had no idea that two years had passed.

It has to be remembered that time is a very elastic thing. When you are in suffering, time becomes longer; suddenly all the watches and clocks of the world start moving slowly—a great conspiracy against a poor man who is in suffering. Time moves so slowly that sometimes one feels as if it has stopped.

You are sitting by the side of someone you love who is dying, in the middle of the night; it seems time has stopped, that this night is not going to end, that your idea that all nights end was a fallacy… this night is not going to have a dawn, because time is not moving. And when you are joyful, when you meet a friend after many years, when you meet a beloved, a lover for whom you have waited long—suddenly, again the conspiracy. All the clocks, all the watches, start moving faster; hours go like minutes, days go like hours, months go like weeks. Time is elastic: time is relative to your inner condition.

The man had enjoyed those two years of silence so deeply that he could not conceive that two years had passed. Suddenly, Buddha himself asked him, “Have you forgotten completely? Two years have passed; this is the day you had come two years ago. Now if you want to challenge me to a debate, I’m ready.”

The man fell to the feet of Gautam Buddha.

And Mahakashyap laughed again, and said, “I had told you, but nobody listens to me. I have been sitting under this tree for almost twenty years, preventing people from falling into the trap of this man; but nobody listens to me. They fall into the trap, and each person gives me two occasions to laugh.”

The man went, after touching Gautam Buddha’s feet, to touch the feet of Mahakashyap too, saying, “I am grateful to you. I have learned the distinction between hearing and listening. Hearing had made me a great knowledgeable man, and listening has made me innocent, silent— a peace that passeth understanding. I don’t have any questions, and I don’t have any answers; I am utterly silent. All questions have disappeared, all answers have disappeared. Can I also sit by your side under the tree?” he asked Mahakashyap.

Mahakashyap said, “No, I don’t accept disciples; that is the business of Gautam Buddha—you just go there. Don’t crowd around my tree, because even here there is nothing to listen to, only once in a while a laughter when somebody comes and I see that he’s falling into the trap. You have fallen into the trap; now be initiated, become a sannyasin.” Not only did the man become a sannyasin, his five hundred followers who were also sitting and listening for two years, had also become silent.

Mary Catherine, you are well-educated; perhaps too much—well-read; perhaps too much. Your mind is so full of thoughts. Those thoughts are creating a state which is neither consciousness nor unconsciousness. Everything seems to be so full of noise in you that if I shout, perhaps my words may reach you, but what about my whispers? And truth cannot be shouted, it can only be whispered. In fact, it can be said only in silence; even whispering is too much verbiage.

Put your educated mind aside. Here you have to be innocent, like small children playing on the beach making castles of sand, running after butterflies, collecting seashells, looking at everything with so much wonder that each and every thing in existence becomes a mystery.

Listening to me is only a beginning; then you have to listen to the trees, to the mountains, to the moon, to the faraway stars—they all have messages for you. To the sunrises, to the sunsets… they all have been waiting for so long. Once you start listening, the whole existence starts speaking to you. Right now you only speak to yourself, and nobody listens.

Three Soviet citizens; a Pole, a Czech, and a Jew were accused of spying and sentenced to death. Each was granted a last wish.

“I want my ashes scattered over the grave of Karl Marx,” said the Pole.

“I want my ashes scattered over the grave of Lenin,” said the Czech.

“And I,” said the Jew, “want my ashes scattered over the grave of Comrade Gorbachev.”

“But that is impossible!” he was told. “Gorbachev is not dead yet.”

“Fine,” said the Jew, “I can wait.”

You should not wait. Start from this moment to listen, to be silent, because the next moment is not certain. Gorbachev may die, may not die. Tomorrow it may not be so easy as it is today, because in twenty-four hours you will have gathered more garbage in your head; so the sooner the better, because you cannot sit silently. If you don’t start now, you will be doing something or other….

Don’t postpone it. Every postponement is suicidal—particularly of those experiences which belong to the beyond.


From The Golden Future, Chapter 16

Golden Future

Copyright© OSHO International Foundation

An MP3 audio file of this discourse can be downloaded from Osho.com, or you can read the entire book online at the Osho Library.

Many of Osho’s books are available online from Amazon.com and in the U.S. from OshoStore-Sedona and Osho Here and Now.

The Key is to be Delivered – Osho

Buddha had many enlightened people around him, yet he felt something special for this one enlightened person. Is there something different in enlightenments?

Yes, Buddha, had many enlightened persons around, but the key can be given only to such a person who can become a master in his own right, because the key is to be delivered on and on. It has to be kept alive. It was not going to become a treasure for Mahakashyap; it was a great responsibility, it had to be given to somebody else.

There were other enlightened persons but the key couldn’t be given to them; the key would be lost with them. Really, Buddha chose the right person, because the key is still alive. Mahakashyap did well. He could find another person who would transfer it to somebody else. The question is to find the right person. Just enlightened is not enough — not all enlightened persons are masters — a distinction has to be made.

Jainas have a beautiful distinction; they have two types of enlightened persons. One enlightened person is known as kaivali, one who has attained to absolute aloneness. He has become perfect but he cannot be a teacher, he cannot give this perfection to somebody else. He is not a master, he cannot guide; he himself has become an ultimate peak, but whatsoever he knows he cannot transmit in any way.

The other type of enlightened person is called tirthankara, one who becomes a vehicle for others. He is enlightened, but he is also a master of a certain art of communicating through words and communicating through silence. He can deliver the message. Others can be enlightened through him. Buddha said, “Whatever can be said by words I have told you. That which cannot be said by words I give to Mahakashyap.”

Mahakashyap was the master of silence. Through his silence he could teach. Others were masters of words, and through their words they could teach and carry on the work. It was not so essential, it was on the periphery; but that too was needed because Buddha’s words had to be recorded. What Buddha did had to be recorded and transferred from generation to generation. This, too, was essential, but it existed on the periphery. His scholars, Moggalayan, Sariputta, Ananda, would record everything. That is a treasure.

Buddha was really happy: all should be recorded, not a single word should be left, because, who knows, that single word may become enlightenment to someone. But the silence also had to be carried. So two traditions exist — the tradition of the scripture and the tradition of silence. Then many can become enlightened. And the moment they become enlightened they become so silent, so content that not even the desire to help others arises in them.

But Jainas say that the tirthankara is a person who has gathered some karma — and this is strange – and has to fulfill this karma by conveying the message to others. It is not a very good thing; karma is not a very good thing. In his past life he has gathered karma to be a master. It is not a good thing, because something has to be done, something has to be completed, and he must do it; then his karmas are fulfilled, then he is relieved completely. The desire to help others is still a desire; compassion towards others is still energy moving towards others. All desires have disappeared but one, to help others. That too is a desire, and unless this desire also disappears this man will have to come back.

So a master is one who has become enlightened, but one desire is left. That desire is not a trouble in becoming enlightened — to help others helps to become enlightened — but you will still be attached to the body. Only one stream, all sources cut, but one bridge is there.

There were other enlightened persons, but the key could not be given to them; it had to be given to Mahakashyap, because he had an inner desire to help — his past karmas. He could become a tirthankara; he could become a perfect master. And he did well. Buddha’s choice was perfectly right — because there was one other of Buddha’s disciples who could have been given the key. His name was Subhuti. He was as silent as Mahakashyap, even more. It will be difficult for you — how silence, how perfection, can be more — but it is possible. It is beyond ordinary arithmetic. You can be perfect, and you can be even still more perfect, because perfection has growth, it goes on growing infinitely.

Subhuti was the most silent man around Buddha, even more than Mahakashyap. But the key could not be given to him because he was so silent. It will be difficult now: you are entering a very complex phenomenon. In the first place, he would not laugh, and the key could not be given to him because he would not laugh. He was not there. He was so silent, he was not there to laugh, he was not there to contain or not to contain. Even if Buddha had called, “Subhuti, come!” he would not have come. Buddha would have had to go to him.

It is related of Subhuti that one day he was sitting under a tree, when suddenly out of season flowers started falling on him. So he opened his eyes: What is the matter? The tree was not in blossom, the season was not there; then from where, suddenly, these millions of flowers? He looked and he saw many deities all around, above the tree, in the sky, dropping flowers. He would not even ask the deities what was the matter. He closed his eyes again.

Then those deities said to Subhuti, “We are thanking you for the sermon you have given on emptiness.” And Subhuti said, “But I haven’t said a single word, and you say you are thanking me for the sermon that I have given on emptiness! I have not spoken a single word.”

The deities said, “You have not spoken and we have not heard — that is the perfect sermon on emptiness.” He was so empty that the whole cosmos felt it, and gods had to come to shower flowers on him.

This Subhuti was there, but he was so silent that he was not there. He was not even bothered why Buddha was sitting with the flower. Mahakashyap was — not like the others, but still in a way. He looked at Buddha, he felt the silence, he felt the absurdity, but there was one who was feeling. Subhuti must have been there somewhere, sitting. There arose no idea why Buddha was sitting silently today, why he was looking at the flower; then there was no effort to contain it, then there was no explosion.

Subhuti was there as if absolutely absent. He would not laugh, and if Buddha had called he would not have come; Buddha would have had to go to him. And no one knows — if the key had been given to him, he might have thrown it away. He was not a man meant to be a tirthankara, he was not a man meant to be a teacher or a master. He had no past karmas. He was perfect, so perfect, and whenever something is so perfect it becomes useless. Remember, a person so perfect is useless, because you cannot use him for any purpose.

Mahakashyap was not so perfect. Something was lacking and he could be used, so in that gap the key could be put. The key was delivered to Mahakashyap because he could be relied upon to deliver it to somebody else. Subhuti was not reliable. Perfection, when absolute, just disappears. It is not there in the world. You can shower flowers on it but you cannot use it. That’s why many enlightened persons were there, but only one in particular, Mahakashyap, was chosen. He was a man who could be used for this great responsibility.

This is strange. That’s why I say ordinary arithmetic won’t help, because you will think that the key should be given to the most perfect. But the most perfect will forget where he had put the key. The key should be given to one who is almost perfect, just on the brink where one disappears. And before he disappears he will hand over the key to somebody else. To the ignorant the key cannot be given, to the most perfect the key cannot be given. Someone has to be found who is just on the boundary, who is passing from this world of ignorance to that world of knowing, just on the boundary. Before he crosses the boundary this time can be used and the key delivered. To find a successor is very difficult, because the most perfect is useless.

I will tell you one event that happened just recently: Ramakrishna was working on many disciples.  Many attained, but nobody knows about them. People know about Vivekananda, who never attained; the key was given to Vivekananda who was not the most perfect, and not only was he not the most perfect, but Ramakrishna wouldn’t allow him to be perfect. And when Ramakrishna felt that Vivekananda was going to enter into the perfect samadhi, he called him and said, “Stop! Now I will keep the key with me for this final entry, and only before your death, three days before, the key will be returned to you.” And only three days before Vivekananda died, did he have a first taste of ecstasy, never before.

Vivekananda started crying and weeping and said, “Why are you so cruel to me?”

Ramakrishna replied, “Something has to be done through you. You have to go to the West, to the world; you have to give my message to people, otherwise it will be lost.” There were others, but they were already in; he could not call them out. They would not be interested in going to the West or around the world. They would say that this was nonsense — they were just like Ramakrishna. Why would he not go himself? He was already in, and somebody had to be used who was out.

Those who are far out cannot be used; those who are almost in, just near the door, can be used; and before they enter they deliver the key to somebody else. Mahakashyap was just near the door, fresh, entering into silence. Silence became celebration and he had a desire to help. That desire has been used. But Subhuti was impossible. He was the most buddhalike, the most perfect, but when somebody is buddhalike he is useless. He can give himself the secret key; there is no need to give it to him. Subhuti never made anybody a disciple. He lived in perfect emptiness, and gods had to serve him many times. And he never made a disciple; he never said anything to anybody, everything was so perfect. Why bother? Why say anything?

A master is fulfilling his past karmas. He has to fulfill them. And when I have to find a successor, many will be there who will be like Subhutis: they cannot be given the key. Many will be there who are like Sariputtas: only words can be given to them. Somebody has to be found who is entering silence, celebrating, and has been caught just near the door. That is why.


From A Bird on the Wing, Chapter Ten

Copyright© OSHO International Foundation

An MP3 audio file of this discourse can be downloaded from Osho.com, or you can read the entire book online at the Osho Library.

Many of Osho’s books are available online from Amazon.com and in the U.S. from OshoStore-Sedona and Osho Here and Now.


The Vertical Line Opens a Door to Eternity – Osho

You once said, “The moment is rare when eternity penetrates time.” Can you speak more on this?

Vadan, the question seems to be simple but the answer is very complex. And the complexity becomes multidimensional, because the answer can come only from your own experience, not from outside. Just as the question is arising in you, the answer has to also be part of your interiority. But I will go into a little detail, to explain what I mean when I say that the moment is rare when eternity penetrates time.

Time is that in which we live – it is horizontal. It is from A to B to C to D; it is in a line. Eternity is vertical. It is not from A to B and from B to C. It is from A to more A to still more A. It goes on upwards. The moment is rare because it happens only when meditation has reached ripening, maturity, when you have touched your innermost core.

Then suddenly you become aware that you are a crossroad. One line goes horizontal; in other words, mediocre, ordinary, meaningless and leading finally to death. The horizontal line is continuously moving towards the graveyard. I have told you the story, significant in many ways:

A great king in his dreams saw a shadow and became afraid even in the dream. And he asked,

“What do you want?”

The shadow said, “I have not come to ask for anything. I have come just to inform you that this evening at the right place, when the sun is setting, you will breathe your last breath. Ordinarily I don’t come to inform people, but you are a great emperor; it is just to pay respect to you.”

The emperor became so afraid that he woke up, perspiring, could not think what to do. The only thing he could think of was to call all the wise men, astrologers, prophets and to find out the meaning of the dream. Dream analysis is thought to have originated with Sigmund Freud – that is not true. It originated with this emperor, one thousand years ago.

In the middle of the night, all the prophets of his capital, all the wise men, all those who were concerned in some way with the future – dream readers… they were told the story. The story was simple. They had brought their scriptures and they started arguing with each other: “This cannot be the meaning,” or, “This is bound to be the meaning.”

They wasted time; the sun started rising. The king had an old servant whom he treated just as a father – because his father had died very early. He was too young, and his father had given the guardianship to this servant and told him, “Take care that he becomes my successor and does not lose the kingdom.”

And the servant managed. Now he was very old, but he was not treated as a servant. He was almost as respected as a father. He came close to the emperor and said, “I want to say two things to you. You have always listened to me. I am not a prophet and I am not an astrologer and I don’t know what all this nonsense is that’s going on. The scriptures are being consulted. One thing is certain, that once the sun has risen, the sunset is not very far away.

“And these people, the so-called knowledgeable people, have never come to any conclusion in centuries. Just in one day… they will quarrel, argue, destroy each other’s arguments, but you cannot hope that they will come to a consensus, a conclusion.

“Let them have their discussions. My suggestion is, you have the best horse in the world” – those were the days of horses. ”You take the horse and escape from this palace as fast as possible. This much is certain, that you should not be here; you should be far away.”

It was logical, rational, although very simple. The king left the great intelligent and wise people arguing – they did not even notice that the emperor had left. And he certainly had a horse worth an empire. He was very proud of the horse; there was no other horse known of that strength. And there was such a love between the horse and the emperor, such a deep affinity, a kind of synchronicity. The king said to the horse, “It seems my death is coming. That shadow was nothing but death. You have to take me as far away from this palace as you can manage.”

The horse nodded his head. And he fulfilled his promise. By the evening, as the sun was setting, they were hundreds of miles away from their kingdom. They had entered into another kingdom in disguise. The king was very happy; he got down from his horse. He was tying the horse to a tree – because neither had he eaten anything nor the horse. So he said to the horse, “Thank you my friend. Now I will make arrangements for your food, for my food. We are so far away, there is no fear. But you proved the stories that were told about you. You became almost like a cloud, with such a speed.”

And as he was tying the horse to the tree, the dark shadow appeared and said to the emperor, “I was afraid that you might not be able to make it, but your horse is great. I also thank him. This is the place and this is the time. And I was worried – you were so far away, how could I manage to bring you? The horse served destiny.”

It is a strange story, but it shows that wherever you are going horizontally, with whatever speed, you will end up in some graveyard. It is strange that every moment our graves are coming closer to us – even if you don’t move, your grave is moving towards you. The horizontal line of time is, in other words, the mortality of man.

But if you can reach to the center of your being, the silences of your innermost center, you can see two roads: one horizontal, another vertical.

You will be surprised to know that the Christian cross is not Christian at all. It is an ancient, Eastern, Aryan symbol, the swastika. That’s why Adolf Hitler, who was thinking that he was of the purest Aryan blood, chose the swastika as his symbol. A swastika is nothing but two lines crossing. In India, without knowing why, at the beginning of every year, business people will write in their books, begin their new books with a swastika. The Christian cross is simply a part of the swastika. But it also represents the same thing: the vertical, the horizontal. Christ’s hands are horizontal; his head and his being are pointing in a different direction.

In a moment of meditation, you suddenly see that you can move in two directions – either horizontal or vertical. The vertical consists of silences, blissfulness, ecstasies; the horizontal consists of hands, work, the world.

Once a man has known himself as a crossroad, he cannot be disinterested, he cannot be  unintrigued about the vertical. The horizontal he knows, but the vertical opens a door to eternity, where death does not exist; where one simply becomes more and more part of the cosmic whole; where one loses all bondages, even the bondage of the body.

Gautam Buddha used to say, “Birth is pain, life is pain, death is pain.” What he was saying was, to move on the horizontal line, you are continuously miserable, in pain. Your life cannot be a life of dance, of joy. If this is all, then suicide is the only solution.

That’s the conclusion the contemporary, Western philosophy of existentialism – of Jean-Paul Sartre, Jaspers, Heidegger, Kierkegaard and others – has come to, that life is meaningless. On the horizontal plane it is, because it is simply agony and pain and disease and sickness and oldness. And you are encaged in a small body while your consciousness is as vast as the whole universe.

Once the vertical is discovered, one starts moving on the vertical line. That vertical line does not mean you have to renounce the world. But it certainly means that you are no more of the world, that the world becomes ephemeral, loses importance. It does not mean that you have to renounce the world and escape to the mountains and the monasteries. It simply means that you start – wherever you are – living an inner life which was not possible before.

Before you were an extrovert; now, suddenly you become introvert. As far as the body is concerned, you can manage very easily, if the remembrance is there that you are not the body. But the body can be used in many ways to help you to move on the vertical line. The penetration of the vertical line, just a ray of light coming into your darkness of horizontal life, is the beginning of enlightenment.

You will look the same, but you will not be the same. Those who have a clarity of seeing, to them you will not look the same either. And at least for yourself, you will never look the same. And you can never be the same. You will be in the world, but the world will not be in you.

Ambitions, desires, jealousies will start evaporating. No effort will be needed to drop them, just your movement on the vertical line and they start disappearing – because they cannot exist on the vertical line. They can exist only in the darkness of the horizontal, where everybody is in competition, everybody is full of lust, full of will to power, a great desire to dominate, to become somebody special.

On the vertical line all these stupidities simply disappear. You become so light, so weightless, just like a lotus flower: it is in the water, but the water does not touch it. You remain in the world, but the world has no longer any impact on you. On the contrary, you start influencing the world – not with conscious effort, but just by your sheer being, your presence, your grace, your beauty. As it grows inside it starts spreading around you.

It will touch people who have an open heart and it will make people afraid who have lived with a closed heart – all windows, all doors closed. They will not come in contact with such a person.

And to convince themselves why they are not coming in contact with such a person, they will find a thousand and one excuses, a thousand and one lies. But the basic fact is that they are afraid to be exposed.

The man who is moving vertically becomes almost a mirror. If you come close to him, you will see your real face – you will see your ugliness, you will see your continuous ambitiousness, you will see your begging bowl.

Perhaps another story will help you.

A man, early in the morning, a beggar with a begging bowl, entered the king’s garden. The king used to come for a morning walk; otherwise it was impossible to meet the king – particularly for the beggar, the whole bureaucracy would prevent him. So he had chosen a time when there was no bureaucracy, and when the king wanted to be alone, in silence with nature, to drink as much beauty and aliveness as nature was showering. The beggar encountered him there.

The king said, “This is not the time… I don’t see anybody.”

The beggar said, “I am a beggar. Your bureaucracy is too long, and for a beggar it is impossible to see you. I insist that you give me an audience.”

The king just thought to get rid of him. He said, “What do you want? Just say and you will get it.

Don’t disturb my morning silence.”

The beggar said, “Think twice before you offer to give me something.”

The king said, “You seem to be a strange man. In the first place, you entered without any permission into the garden, insisting that you have to have an audience with the king. And now I am saying that whatever you want, just say it. Don’t disturb my peace and don’t disturb my silence.”

The beggar laughed. He said, “A peace that is disturbed is not peace. And a silence that is disturbed is just a dream, not a reality.”

Now the king looked at the beggar. He was saying something of tremendous importance. The king thought, “He does not seem to be an ordinary beggar, that is certain.” And the beggar said again, “I want you to think it over, because what I want is just for you to fill my begging bowl with anything and I will go. But it has to be full.”

The king laughed. He said, “You are a madman. Do you think your begging bowl cannot be filled?”

He called his treasurer and told him, “Fill his begging bowl with diamonds, precious stones.”

The treasurer had no idea what had happened. Nobody fills beggars’ bowls with diamonds. And the beggar reminded the treasurer, “Remember, unless the begging bowl is full, I am not going to move from here.” It was a challenge between a beggar and a king.

And then there followed a very strange story. As diamonds were poured into his begging bowl, the moment they were poured in they would disappear. The emperor was in a very embarrassed state. But he said, ”Whatever happens, even if my whole treasury is gone, I cannot be defeated by a beggar. I have defeated great emperors.” And the whole treasury disappeared. The rumor reached the capital, and thousands of people gathered to see what was happening. And they had never seen the king in such a trembling, nervous breakdown.

And finally, when nothing was left in the treasury and the begging bowl was still as empty as it was before, he fell to the feet of the beggar and said, “You will have to forgive me, I did not understand. I have never thought about these things. I did my best, but now… I don’t have anything else to offer you. And I will think that you have forgiven me if you can tell me the secret of your begging bowl. It is a strange begging bowl – just a few diamonds would have filled it. It has taken the whole treasury.”

The beggar laughed and he said, “You need not be worried. This is not a begging bowl. I found a human skull and out of the human skull I made this begging bowl. It has not forgotten its old habit. Have you looked into your own begging bowl, your own head? Give it anything and it will ask for more and more and more. It knows only one language: more. It is always empty, it is always a beggar.”

On the horizontal line, only beggars exist, because they are all rushing for more, and because the more cannot be fulfilled – not that you cannot get to a position you want, but the moment you get it, there are higher positions. For a moment maybe a flicker of happiness, and the next moment, again the same despair and the same race for more. You cannot fulfill the idea of more. It is intrinsically unfulfillable. And this is the horizontal line, the line of more and more and more.

What is the vertical line? Of being less and less and less, to the point of utter emptiness, to the point of being nobody. Just a signature – not even on sand, but on water. You have not even made it and it has disappeared. The man of the vertical line is the authentic sannyasin, who is immensely happy in being nobody, immensely happy with his inner purity of emptiness, because only emptiness can be pure; who is absolutely contented with his nakedness, because only nothingness can be in tune with the universe.

Once this tuning with the universe happens, you are no more in a sense. In the old sense, you are no more. But you are for the first time the whole universe. Even the faraway stars are within you; your nothingness can contain them. The flowers and the sun and the moon… and the whole music of existence. You are no more an ego, your ”I” has disappeared. But that does not mean that you have disappeared. On the contrary, the moment your ”I” has disappeared, you have appeared.

It is such a great ecstasy to be without the feeling of “I,” without the feeling of any ego, without asking for anything more. What more can you ask? You have nothingness. In this nothingness you have become, without conquering, the whole universe. Then the singing birds are not only singing outside you. They appear outside because this body creates the barrier.

On the vertical line you become more and more consciousness and less and less body. The whole identification with the body disappears. In nothingness, these birds will be within you; these flowers, these trees and this beautiful morning will be within you. In fact, then there is no without. Everything has become your vision. And you cannot have a richer life than when everything has become your within. When the sun and the moon and the stars and the whole infinity of time and space is within you… what more do you want?

This is exactly the meaning of enlightenment: to become so nonexistent as an ego that the whole oceanic existence becomes part of you.

Kabir, one great Indian mystic… He was uneducated but has written such tremendously significant statements – they may not be grammatical. One of his statements he corrected before he died. He had written when he was young a beautiful statement. It was, “Just a dewdrop slips from the lotus leaf in the early morning sun, shining like a pearl, into the ocean.” He said, “The same has happened to me.”

His words are, “I have been searching, my friend. Rather than finding myself, I got lost in the cosmos. The dewdrop disappeared into the ocean.” Just before dying, as he was closing his eyes, he asked his son, Kamal, who himself proved of the same caliber and of the same status… And sometimes one thinks that he was a man of more courage than Kabir.

Kabir was very courageous against all traditions, orthodoxy, everything. But Kamal even criticized Kabir when he found something wrong in his statements. He told Kamal, ”Please change my statement, which has been praised all over, that ‘My friend, I have been searching for myself, but rather than finding myself, I got lost, just as the dewdrop disappears into the ocean.’ Change it.”

Kamal said, “I had always suspected that there was something wrong in it.” And he showed him his own writing, in which he had already corrected it. The correction – even before Kabir realized – had been done already. That’s why Kabir called him Kamal: “You are a miracle.” Kamal means miracle. And the man was a miracle. He had changed the line that Kabir wanted:

“My friend, I was seeking and searching myself. Rather than finding myself I have found the whole world, the whole universe. The dewdrop has not disappeared into the ocean, but the ocean has disappeared into the dewdrop.” And when the ocean disappears into the dewdrop, the dewdrop is simply losing its boundaries, nothing else.

On the vertical line, you become less and less and less and less. And one day, you are no more.

A Zen master, Rinzai, had a very absurd habit, but beautiful. Every morning, when he would wake up, before opening his eyes he would say, “Rinzai, are you still here?”

His disciples said, “What kind of nonsense is this? You ask ‘Rinzai, are you still here?’”

He said, “I am waiting for the moment when the answer will be, ‘No. Existence is, but Rinzai is not.’”

This is the ultimate peak human consciousness can reach. This is the ultimate benediction. And unless one reaches to this peak, one will remain wandering in dark pathways, blind, suffering, miserable. He may accumulate much knowledge, he may become a great scholar, but that does not help. Only one thing, a very simple thing, is the essence of the whole religious experience, and that is meditation.

You go inwards. It will be difficult to get out from the crowd of your thoughts, but you are not a thought. You can get out of the crowd, you can create a distance between you and your thoughts. And as the distance grows bigger, the thoughts start falling like leaves which have died – because it is you and your identity with the thoughts that gives them nourishment. When you are not giving them nourishment, thoughts cannot exist. Have you met any thought somewhere standing by itself?

And just try to be indifferent – the word of Gautam Buddha is upeksha. Just be indifferent to the whole mind and a distance will be created. And then come to a point from where all nourishment to the thoughts is stopped. They simply disappear; they are soap bubbles.

And the moment all thoughts disappear, you will find yourself in the same situation, asking, “Rinzai are you still here?” And you will wait for that great moment, that great, rare opportunity when the answer will be, “No. Who is this guy Rinzai?”

This silence is meditation. And it is not a talent. Everybody cannot be a Picasso and everybody cannot be a Rabindranath and everybody cannot be a Michelangelo. Those are talents. But everybody can be enlightened because it is not a talent; it is your intrinsic nature, of which you are unaware. And you will remain unaware if you remain surrounded by thoughts. The awareness of your ultimate reality arises only when there is nothing to prevent it, when there is nothingness, surrounding you.

The vertical line is rare, Vadan. It is perhaps the only rare thing in existence, because it takes you on the journey of eternity and immortality. The flowers that blossom on those paths are inconceivable by the mind. And the experiences that happen are unexplainable. But in a very strange way the man himself becomes the expression. His eyes show the depths of his heart, his gestures show the grace of the vertical movement. His whole life radiates, pulsates and creates a field of energy.

Those who are prejudiced, those who are already determined and concluded… I feel sorry for them. But those who are open, unprejudiced, have not concluded yet, they will immediately start feeling the pulsation, the radiation. And a certain synchronicity between the heart of the man of the vertical and the heart of the man who is not yet vertical… The moment the synchronicity happens, in that same moment you also start moving vertically.

These are words simply to explain things which are not explainable through words. But those who are intelligent enough, not intellectuals – those people are full of rubbish… Never get mixed up between being intellectual and intelligent. Intelligence is a pure clarity of seeing, a perceptivity. The intellectual is a computer; he is a memory.

Intelligence is not memory. Intelligence is a sharp sword which penetrates directly into reality. Once it sees it…

It is said that Mahakashyapa, himself a prince, had gone to see Gautam Buddha. But he was very simple, innocent, unprejudiced, having no belief systems, no philosophy, no theology. He simply touched the feet of Buddha, looked into the eyes of Buddha, and everything happened. Some transfer of light, something invisible, some meeting of the heart, some merging… he never asked a single question to Gautam Buddha.

Even others became aware of the fact: “All the disciples ask questions. This Mahakashyapa is strange. He simply sits under a tree; he has almost monopolized the tree. Everybody knows, ‘Don’t sit there, Mahakashyapa will sit there.’ He sits there – if Buddha speaks, good; if Buddha does not speak, good.”

Slowly, slowly older disciples approached Mahakashyapa, particularly Sariputta who was a very close disciple of Gautam Buddha. He asked Mahakashyapa, “Don’t you have a question?”

Mahakashyapa said, “All my questions were answered the moment he looked into my eyes. Since the moment I touched his feet I have not been a body. I am just a consciousness and the body is my house. All identity with the body was broken in a single, split moment.”

He is described in the Buddhist scriptures only once, when another king was offering Gautam

Buddha a great, valuable diamond and Buddha said, “Drop it!”

Reluctantly, because it was a very valuable diamond, but before ten thousand people if you have offered it and Buddha says, “Drop it!”… He dropped it. He had also brought a very rare flower: a lotus which had blossomed out of season. It was not the time for lotuses. He offered Buddha that flower and Buddha again said, “Drop it!” He dropped it but he felt very strange, hurt: “My gifts are not being accepted.”

And Buddha said, “Drop it!” Now he had nothing to drop, so he looked all around – “What to make of it? Is this man mad? I dropped the diamond, I dropped the flower… those two things were in both my hands. Now I don’t have anything to drop.” This is the moment where Mahakashyapa is mentioned – once only.

Ten thousand sannyasins were utterly silent – because it was a strange thing, Buddha had never done that. He had accepted… anybody who brought a flower or a gift, he would accept it. But

Mahakashyapa sitting under his monopolized tree laughed loudly. He had not spoken to anybody; he had been there for four years. This was the first time he had made some kind of expression. He laughed. And this was even more hurtful.

The king said, “Why are you laughing?”

He said, “I am laughing because you are not dropping yourself. He is not concerned about your flower and about your diamond, drop yourself! And I say it with my own experience – before he said anything, I had dropped myself. He had to lean and hold me up, and our eyes met and everything happened.”

Mahakashyapa is perhaps the most mysterious disciple of Gautam Buddha, but the most perceptive. That was a rare moment, when Buddha looked into Mahakashyapa’s eyes. That was the moment when eternity penetrated time, when the vertical penetrated the horizontal. And just a single moment can be such a radical change. Beautiful were those days, golden are their memories. It looks very far away and faint now.

But my effort here is to make this small island a part of eternity, where those innocent moments, those innocent experiences are still possible. Nothing is said, nothing is heard, and yet the heart starts dancing in tune with the master.


Excerpt from Hari Om Tat Sat, Chapter 27

Hari Om Tat Sat

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