The Ultimate Awakening (A Tale of Two Tails) – Osho

There is a story famous in the Upanishads and sometimes mentioned by you, of two birds, who live together on the same tree. One eats the sweet fruits of this tree, while the other eats none of the fruits and remains there witnessing. The bird who revels in eating the fruits experiences much misery in his attachment to them, but when he finally looks up and sees the other bird sitting high in the tree – and sees his glory – he too goes beyond the misery. Will you please explain the significance of this story to us?

 All the agony of life, all its anguish, and also the possibility of all the blessings of life that become available to the man who has attained samadhi are hidden in this story. In this anecdote are contained all the agony and the ecstasy possible to the man. Let us understand first the agony of life and then the ultimate bliss of life; then the meaning of this story will become clear on its own.

Asleep at night you dream that you have lost your way in a dark forest. You search and search, but you cannot find the path. You want to ask somebody the way, but there is nobody there. You are thirsty too, and hungry, but there is no trace of either any spring of water or any fruit as far as you can see. In deep agony you cry and weep so much so that you wake up. And in that waking, everything changes in an instant. Where there was sorrow, laughter prevails; and you start to smile, seeing that your agony was only a dream.

But how is it that the dream touched you so deeply? How is it that the dream felt to be so real?

Why did you get so lost in the dream? Why could you not remember in the dream that this was only a dream? Why did this awareness not arise in you that it was not real, that it was only your imagination? But no, your awareness did not arise, because even during your waking hours it is difficult to be a witness; how could you possibly be a witness in your sleep, in your dream? When even during our waking hours we become the doer, it is a matter of certainty that the same shall be the case in our dreams. And it is this becoming the doer that is our agony in life – that is the whole trouble.

To be the doer means that we assume ourselves to be doing things that are happening on their own. Whatever is happening to our sense organs we assume it is happening to “me”; whatever is happening on the outside, we assume it is happening to our interiority. To be the doer means that where you are only a witness, where your presence is only that of a watcher, you have fallen into the illusion that you are actually a character in the drama you are watching. The one who lost his way in the dream is certainly not you, because you were asleep in bed the whole time! The one wandering in the forest is only a creation of your mind.

I have heard: a man’s wife died. When she was alive she fettered him in every conceivable way, not allowing him the slightest possibility of movement. And the husband was very compliant. Rather than assert himself he would argue within, “Why make an issue of it?” and he just agreed with whatsoever his wife said. Before she died, his wife warned him never to so much as look at another woman; otherwise, she threatened him, she would return as a ghost to haunt him. The man was frightened – and a frightened man is quite capable of conjuring up ghosts. The fear itself becomes the ghost.

For a few days after she had died the man controlled himself – out of fear. And be aware: the control born of fear is no real control; most of your sadhus and holy men are maintaining control over themselves out of fear. They fear they may go to hell, that they may be caught by God in the act of doing something wrong and have to suffer the consequences, so they control themselves. Exactly like this was the control of this widower.

The control based on fear is not only unreal, it is also a great act of self-deception which keeps you from attaining to real control. But still, it can serve for a few days.

So this man managed – but for how long could he maintain it? The desires within him began to argue, “Are you crazy? When she was alive you were afraid, and now even after her death you go on fearing her. Do you really think she can become a ghost? Do you really think it is in her hands to make that decision?”

So he found himself a woman and began to play the lover. That night, when he returned home, he found his wife sitting on the bed waiting for him. He began to tremble so violently with fear that he collapsed. His wife said, “I know where you have just come from!” and then proceeded to tell him the name and address of the woman he had spent the evening with, and every detail of what had passed between them. Now the man was in no doubt. Not only was his wife here as a ghost, but she could repeat to perfection every word he had whispered to his new love, and describe her house, her furniture, and her appearance exactly as they were. And this was only the beginning. Every night his dead wife would appear to torment him. He became very unhappy.

Eventually, in desperation, he went to visit a Zen Master, Nan-in.

When Nan-in heard the man’s story he began to roar with laughter. “This wife who harasses you is not alive,” he said, “but she is no different from those living wives who nag their husbands. All wives are ghosts and all husbands too! Only the mind gives them the appearance of reality. In this world, whatever we give our minds to appears real, but the moment you withdraw your mind, that thing becomes unreal.”

The widower complained to Nan-in that he had not come to listen to clever arguments and knowing words. “You don’t know the trouble I am in,” he said. “The moment I arrive home she is there waiting for me at the door, and my whole body trembles with fear. I was never as terrified of her when she was alive as I am now that she is dead. And I know that she is here too, listening to us, and if you tell me some trick to get rid of her, she will say to me tonight, ’So you have been to see Nan-in, haven’t you, to try to get rid of me!’ What can I do? I want you to tell me how I can get rid of her, but whatever you tell me, she would have heard it too and I am sure it won’t work for me.”

“Don’t worry,” said Nan-in, “I will show you a trick that will work anyway.” There was a pile of seeds lying nearby that someone had presented to Nan-in. Nan-in took a handful, gave them to the widower, and said, “Take these home in your closed fist, and when your wife appears you let her say all she has to say. And then you ask her, ‘How many seeds are there in my fist?’ If she cannot tell you the right number, then you will know that your ghost is all nonsense.”

The man ran home, and when his wife appeared, as usual she recounted to him everything that had passed ”I know very well that you went to see Nan-in,” she said, ”and that he told you to ask me how many seeds are there in your fist. But your little trick won’t work!”

At these words the man became terrified, but still he plucked up the courage to make this last attempt to be rid of her, and asked, “How many seeds are there then?” And the ghost disappeared!

Astonished, the man returned to Nan-in and asked him what the secret was.

“The secret,” said Nan-in, “is that the ghost can only tell you that which is already known to your mind. If you do not know, the ghost cannot tell, because the ghost is only an extension of your mind. If you had counted the seeds in your fist, then your ghost would have been able to tell you the answer. That ghost was your own shadow, your own projection.”

But we do fear ghosts – are already afraid of them in fact. What Shankara means when he calls the world maya, illusion, is that this whole world is a ghost. The world is not, yet it seems to be. It is not, yet it seems to be. It is not and it is. But all its isness is poured into it by you. First you fill it with isness, and then you get caught up and bound by what you have created. You have the power to convert dreams into reality. You get lost in it, you simply forget that you are. Your body experiences hunger, and you think you are hungry. This is illusion. The body may be hungry, but you are never hungry. You cannot be hungry.

It is true you are very close to your body; there is virtually no gap between you and your body but still you are separate. The illusion of identification begins because you are standing too close to your body.

The old scriptures say that if you keep a piece of glass close to a sapphire, the glass also flashes blue. Of course it has not turned blue; it simply falls within the shadow of the sapphire’s blueness. So it is with you and your body. You stand very close to it, but you are not it. But being so close, whatever happens to your body, the shadow of that happening falls on you. You say that you are hungry, but this is an illusion, and in this illusion the world of maya begins. It is the body that hungers, and you say it is you. It is the body that suffers, and you say it is you. When the body grows old, again you say that you have grown old. And when this body is on the verge of death, you say that you are on the verge of death. The mistake has begun.

If only if you could see that the body is hungry and you are seeing this and knowing this; if only you could see that the body is sick, that it is old, that it is on the verge of death and all this you are seeing and knowing as a witness…. You are the witness to all these happenings. The whole drama is enacted in the body, as though the body were a vast stage, and all the characters projections of the mind within that body. And you – you view it all from a distance; you are the audience! There is in you a doer-ness, by which the world is created, and there is in you a witnessing too, through which Brahman is seen. Asleep you cannot remember this; even awake during the day you keep forgetting. The moment your body is hurt, you forget that it is the body, not you, who has been hurt, and that you have simply known the happening.

This is the essence of all sadhana that the moment the doer takes up the space, wake up! Don’t allow him to fill the space. Leave all the actions – the desires, the hungers and thirsts – to the body; let the body do the deeds, and you only keep the capacity to know with you, just the awareness, just the art of seeing.

This is why in India have called philosophy, darshan – seeing. You just protect your ability to see. The moment you are able to see, you will find that all your dreams have disappeared – the ghosts have vanished, the world is not, the dreams have dissolved. You have awakened!

This ultimate awakening we call Buddhahood – buddha means the awakened one – and in this ultimate awakening we attain to the supreme bliss. Sleeping we attain only to agony and anxiety. There is only one agony, and that is to forget the reality of the self, and there is only one bliss – to regain that reality. You can call it whatsoever sounds beautiful to you – self-realization, Brahman realization or samadhi or nirvana – the essence is one.

This is a short anecdote from a Upanishad: there is a tree on which two birds are living. The tree has been since ancient times a symbol of life. Just as the tree reaches out of its seed, spreading its branches out and up towards the open sky, full of the hope and promise that it will touch the sky, so does life grow out from a tiny seed, sprouting with great desires and unending ambitions, to fill the whole sky and span the furthest horizons. The tree is of life and on this life tree sit two birds. One tastes the fruit, indulging in its sweetness; the other only watches – he never tastes, he never enters the field of action, he never becomes a doer. The indulging bird sits on the lower branches of the tree; the witnessing bird sits on the higher branches.

The end result of indulgence is always agony. One finds pleasure in it, but it is always interwoven with misery, because every pleasure brings its own unique misery. And while the pleasures last only momentarily, they leave behind a long trail of miseries. In finding a single pleasure we have to go through many sufferings. And if the pleasures are analyzed in detail they prove to be only illusory.

Viewed closely, it is very doubtful whether what we have called our moments of pleasure were really so! Look back over your life, over forty, fifty, sixty years, and can you really find in all these sixty years a moment of true happiness?

Socrates used to say, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” But if you examine your life, you will be surprised to find that nothing in it can survive close scrutiny. Just turn back and look: where are the moments when you really found happiness? Yes, at first you may recall a few precious moments like when you fell in love for the first time. The memory is very blurred now, and you will have to wipe the dust off those recollections. But if you do this and recapture those moments, you will begin to tremble with the realization that those moments too only gave the illusion of happiness, not happiness itself. And the deeper into those memories you look, the more their so-called happiness will disappear.

Whoever truly reflects finds that life is empty. So the seeker always comes to the experience of his own emptiness. Only fools think that their lives are full. They go through life carrying bags full of stones, and believe them to be jewels. They have only to empty out their baggage and look at their contents to discover the utter barrenness of their lives. To the man who has not seen the emptiness, the door of religion is closed. A man only turns inwards when he finally sees that all his pleasure-seeking is in vain.

There is not a single moment of true happiness, and yet in attempting to find that moment we suffer so much unhappiness.

With great difficulty a man builds himself the house he really wants, and when he finally moves in, he asks where the happiness is – and sets about finding something else with which to continue his search. If he has ten rupees, he devotes his energy to turning it into ten thousand rupees, and when he comes to rest and relax, his task accomplished, he cannot find any happiness in the ten thousand rupees that are now his. But even in this situation we do not allow our mind to really see this fact. It feels so dangerous to do so that we immediately commit ourselves to turning the ten thousand into ten million. This is the way the mind works – and even if we make the ten million we will not be happy; instead we will be busy turning the ten million into ten billion! And the last thing we have any intention of doing is leaving ourselves any space to be able to look back and assess what we are doing, to reflect and meditate on whether we have actually experienced any happiness in pursuing or achieving our goals.

If you face your desires, and all the efforts you have exerted in attempting to achieve them, you will be in trouble. Much effort is there in, but the gain is nil. There is no lack of effort on your part – in fact there is so much of it that you have become completely lost in it! But you fear the examination – and your fear is that you will have to see that your work has been in vain, that you have gained nothing. The fear of failure is indeed great.

I have heard, two beggars were chatting by the roadside. One of them, weeping and bemoaning the hardships of his life – as beggars are apt to do whether they are poor beggars or rich ones – was complaining to the other that his profession was doomed. “I’m not getting any work done – no one wants to give, and half the time people treat me as though I’m invisible. I can’t get people to notice me, and if they do, instead of giving me a few paise they are very generous with advice. The whole world is going to the dogs. The public seems to have no wish to show kindness or be charitable, or demonstrate any love for humanity. People are just out to make money, and unwilling to give even a single paise. I’m fed up! Traveling from one place to another, with nothing to show for my effort – and even traveling is becoming an ordeal; shoved around by the crowds, thrown out of trains one station after another for having no ticket, and everywhere the police on my heels as though they have been appointed especially for this purpose. Life has become intolerable.”

Listening to all this, the other beggar looked at him and asked, “Well, why don’t you give it up then?”

“What!” replied the first one, with an air of indignation, “And accept that I am a failure?”

Where even the beggar is unwilling to accept his failure, how can you possibly do so? It is because the ego is unwilling to accept failure that it is not ready to look at life the way it really is, because to do so is to see the long trail of failures. Everything, without exception, has been a failure. There is no happiness at all but a big crowd of miseries.

This is the lifestyle of the first bird, the indulger. This is his way of life – underneath everything a great agony prevails in him, a profound sorrow. And then in some moment he raises his head and looks at the other bird.

These two birds are so alike – they are twins, born simultaneously, each in the form of the other. But the other – the witnessing bird – sits perfectly still in peace and bliss, with not a trace of unhappiness about him. He is the sun of bliss, perpetually rising, never setting.

What is the secret of his bliss? It is that he is not a doer; he is not after pleasure and enjoyment. He simply sits there on his high branch, watching the games of those below. And when you are not on the merry-go-round, when you are not seeking indulgence, then the happiness may not be yours, but neither is the unhappiness. It is in desiring to make happiness your own that you inevitably make unhappiness yours. It is in saying farewell to happiness by remaining a witness to it that you bid all your unhappiness goodbye. Of course, we all want to bid farewell to unhappiness, but only to our unhappiness! The happiness we want to keep, and go on enjoying. So it is in the unhappiness that people want to be a witness.

Many unhappy people come to me, and tell me that they are witnessing to the best of their ability, but with no result. I tell them to stop witnessing when they are unhappy, and to start witnessing when they are happy. Only if you can successfully witness when you are feeling happy will you be able to witness your unhappiness. It is everybody’s wish to be free from unhappiness – this is in no way a religious penance. But when there is some happiness in your life, then is the time to just witness it, to remain aloof from it. And when your life is peaceful, then too you should try to sit alone and be detached.

If you are practicing meditation and someday the divine peace starts showering on you, immediately disidentify yourself from it. It will not be easy. People generally think that it is bodily indulgences one has to keep a distance from. No, indulgence with meditation is indulgence as well. Someday, dissolved in prayer, a fragrance spreads around you, as though a lotus has blossomed out of nowhere, or a lamp has suddenly begun to glow in darkness, and you are blissed out detach yourself in the same moment. You have to detach yourself not only from all the pleasures you find in women or good food or fine clothes – even in good health – but also from the happiness you find in meditation. Wherever you find happiness, become the witness, not the indulger.

Yes, then you have laid the foundation for changing your life. Suddenly you will find that unhappiness no longer touches you. Unhappiness can only touch the one who seeks happiness. To identify with happiness is to invite unhappiness. And you are all so eager to catch hold of happiness, although it is always the unhappiness that comes into your grasp. You never think that whenever you embrace happiness it turns into unhappiness even as you hold it. You have never taken this into account. You are moving so fast in your search for new happiness, you are in such a hurry that to take stock of the past is to you only wasting time.

Whenever some moment of happiness starts descending upon you, the dance bells start echoing deep within you, gather your awareness at once. This is the real meditation.

To remain aware in the midst of happiness is the real meditation, but it is not easy. You have struggled so long to find this bliss, and now, when bliss descends on you, you are being asked to separate yourself from it. And it is so rare! Thus it is that whenever I ask my sannyasins not to identify with whatever meditation brings them, they look at me as if to say “What! Abandon this hard-earned ecstasy?” And when I look into their eyes I see that what they really want to say is: “Not so soon! Allow me to enjoy this blessing for a little while, allow us to drown in it for a while! This is exactly what we came here looking for, and to ask you how we could extend it beyond the moment – how we could make this happiness of a moment eternal. And you are asking us to let it go!”

But the fact is that I am asking you to separate yourselves from your bliss just because this is the very way to make it eternal! If you are unable to stand aloof from it, then what you have found will also disappear, and tomorrow will find you empty and unhappy once again. This is what happens to meditators. They find a little joy, and the next day they are miserable because they are unable to recapture it. Then they ask, “When is the happiness going to return? How can that door be opened again? Is there no trick that the door remains open and never closes again?” Now, this is the way into misery. Whoever seeks to capture happiness falls into unhappiness; whoever hankers for the repetition of the joys, whatever he had also disappears.

There is a saying of Jesus: ‘Those who have it, it will be taken away from them; those who don’t have it, it will be given to them’. Keep it in your mind in relation to happiness. Any type of happiness is bound to fade away. So don’t cling – let the joys go, throw your happiness away lightly, then nobody will be able to take it from you. And in doing this you will find bliss over and over again. If you go on throwing it away whenever it comes to you, it will be yours a thousand and one times over.

A moment comes when you understand that happiness is an art of throwing away, and unhappiness is the art of holding on. The more you hold onto the more unhappy you are. The unhappiness of those who live in hell is that they are holding onto too many happinesses. The happinesses of those who live in heaven is that they have dropped their hold on all kinds of happiness. If you understand this, you will see that happiness is freedom, while unhappiness is dependency. This is why the ultimate bliss is called moksha – liberation.

Moksha means absolute freedom, where everything has been dropped.

The bird sitting on the higher branch of the tree of life is sitting within you too. He is sitting on your tree. Sometimes, when you are a witness, when your consciousness moves away from the lower bird and becomes one with the higher one, you get a glimpse of him. You catch sight of the blue sky.

The clouds have all disappeared. You may recognize it, you may not; you may understand what you have seen and you may not, but it is rare to find anyone who has never actually known a moment of witnessing. Whenever you have known such a moment, bliss has showered upon you, a gust of cool breeze has come and everything all around you has become alive.

Our experience as a doer is a twenty-four hour thing. Round the clock we are identified with the lower bird, and in so doing, suffer our unhappiness. Now the time has come to raise your eyes and look up at the bird on the higher branch. Since eternity he has been sitting on your tree, waiting for you to cast off your sorrowful state. But you don’t look upwards, you just go on suffering. It seems that you really enjoy your unhappiness – it actually seems that there is a certain happiness for you in remaining unhappy. You have some kind of an investment in your unhappiness. So you go on saying how much you wish to cast off your misery, but the fact of the matter is that you cling on to it. Even if you come to the people in whose presence you can easily throw off your misery, you don’t come totally. Perhaps you leave your soul at home, and come only partially to meet them. You have some vested interest in your unhappiness.

I knew a woman who only complained about her husband whenever she came to see me. She complained about his gambling, his drinking, his laziness, his every action in fact – complaining, endlessly complaining was all she knew. In her husband were contained all the vices, while she worked hard to keep the house in order and to look after him. And certainly, she was very overworked, because there was also a crippled daughter who was bed-ridden and needed assistance even just to eat her meals. With so many burdens imposed upon herself, this woman was truly living the life of a martyr.

Whenever she came to see me she would come out with the same string of complaints against her husband, but when I looked deep into her eyes, it was obvious that she derived some joy from the whole situation. What was clear was that her husband’s drinking and gambling habits gave her ego immense satisfaction – because by comparison with her worthless husband, she had become a priceless diamond!

We live by comparisons. If the husband is the greatest, then his wife has to be ordinary. But in this case the woman was the shining star, and through her husband’s dissipated way of life she found admiration and sympathy for herself throughout the town. Of course, she maintained to one and all that she was deeply distressed and unhappy, but actually the last thing she would want would be to find herself free of the situation in which she lived; because getting rid of the situation would also mean getting rid of all the praise and glory in which she reveled. The crippled girl too was only an instrument with which she could enhance her air of martyrdom – ”Just see how I tend her, comforting her in her sickness and meeting her every need!”

People love suffering because it gives them the opportunity to become martyrs. This lady was not really complaining, she was advertising her virtues. Eventually, the poor crippled girl died. With her death half the woman’s sorrows should have disappeared. In fact she should have found much happiness in the girl’s freedom from a life of suffering, and her own freedom from the cares and anxieties of looking after her. And when her husband finally ran away, this should have brought an end to all her remaining unhappiness. She often used to say to me if he were to die, or leave forever, it would be a blessing. I don’t want to have to see him!

But when he did run off, never to return, her distress was even greater All the color drained from her face, and a deep melancholy settled over her life, as though her whole interest in life had disappeared – which it had: her drinking and gambling husband provided the essence of her life. In her condemnation of his habits lay all the meaning, the purpose, the promise in her life. Now, with him gone, all that sustained her was gone. She was reduced to the stature of an ordinary woman. Now nobody sings her praises, nobody proclaims her long-suffering virtues. When I saw her last it was apparent that she would soon die, because the mechanism that kept her going is no longer there.

Just consider a little how, whenever you talk about your unhappiness, you are playing the martyr behind your words. See how you find happiness in your so-called distress. Man is such a clever decorator! He decorates even his sorrows, converting them into ornaments with his cunning workmanship. And then arises a new difficulty for him; how to cast off the decoration and ornamentation he has created. Had you not decorated your misery, you would have been able to cast it away long ago – you would have walked out of your prison. But through your own devices you have mistaken your prison for your home. Only you are holding yourself in chains, but you have taken the chains for ornaments.

This is why the witnessing bird waits – and probably laughs – watching you suffering below and declaring to the world your great tragedies. And you know very well that that bird is laughing, sitting within you! Sometimes you catch a glimpse, inevitably, because he is your very nature. How can you be entirely oblivious to him? Sometime or other his image must arise in you. Some moment or other you must feel his peace and hear his harmony. In some unsuspecting moment of relaxation he will fill you. But you are avoiding him. You are so involved in being a doer that you are avoiding being a witness. Your enjoyment is in carrying the load of your misery – and in advertising that you are doing so. Your unhappiness has not yet reached boiling point. When it does so you will finally raise your head and look upwards. And once you do so, it will be with amazement that you discover that all the unhappiness you have been suffering, life after life through countless births and deaths, amounts to no more than a nightmare. Your true nature has always been separate from that misery.

This is why Hindus say that you are the eternal bliss, the Brahman, that you have never committed a single sin nor perpetrated any evil act against anyone and cannot do so, because it is not in your nature to create unhappiness.

When Westerners translated the Upanishads they found it difficult to accept this doctrine, and wondered how these could possibly be called religious scriptures. They knew only one religion – Christianity – and the whole of Christian teaching is founded on guilt and sinfulness. You are the sinner, and your struggle is to redeem yourself from your sins. You have strayed, come back to the path. You have been thrown out of the kingdom of heaven, and your task is to please God by confessing all your sins and repenting, so that you can return.

Repentance is the very basis of Christianity, but these Upanishads declare that you have committed no sins at all, and cannot do so even if you want to, because by the very nature of things you are not a doer. You can only dream that you have sinned, or are sinning, but you cannot commit the sin. And no matter how much you wish it, you cannot stray out of God’s kingdom, because there is nothing else but his kingdom. You can be thrown out of this garden where we sit, but you cannot be thrown out of God’s garden, because anywhere you might be thrown to will be his garden.

The Christian garden of Eden must have been very small; the Hindu garden of Eden is vast.

Hinduism knows no space that is not part of the garden – there is nowhere you could be sent to that is not his garden. Even if God wanted to cast you out, where could he send you? He alone is. So wherever you find yourself, you will still be in him! And he is as much in one place as he is in any other – he cannot be more here and less there.

Understand this a little. Of everything else, there may be more or less – the quantity may change – but not of existence. If something is, then it is no more nor less than anything else. This is a tree, is green; another tree is yellow – the colors differ. This bird here is small while another is large – they differ in size. One man has a small intellect, another has a great intellect, and in this they differ. But the tree is, the bird is, the man is, the stone is, and there is no quantative difference in their isness.

Existence knows no small or large, more or less. In terms of existence, all things are equal. The stone exists as much as you do; your forms of existing may differ, but you each exist as much as the other. That existing, that isness, we call Brahman.

When the Upanishads first went to the West, it was very difficult for Westerners to accept them as religious writings. What kind of religion is this? They thought. They regarded the Upanishads as dangerous. If people believe that they have never sinned, and are incapable of sinning, then how will they confess? How will they repent? And without repentance, how will they enter the divine kingdom? And if the sinner accepts himself as Brahman, then what use will he have for the priest? What will the priest be able to preach? Who will he be able to save? Who will he be able to look after? The church will disappear!

It may surprise you to learn that the Hindu religion is the only religion that has no ministry, no ecclesiastical organization, no priesthood. In the Hindu temple you will find no one like the priest, and no management. It is a religion that proceeds on the basis of individual and personal understandings, and without any organizational structure. There is no governing of affairs; the religion functions through personal, intrinsic experience. The Hindu religion is like a flowing river. Christianity is like the railway train, running on tracks, everything managed and organized. The Hindu religion is an anarchy – and religion can only be anarchic, because religion is not an empire; it is supreme freedom, and this is only possible in a situation of anarchy.

The statement that you have never done anything, and even if you want to you never will do anything, is very anarchic. It is saying that your existence is an ultimate purity. You don’t have to strive for purity, because you have never been impure; you simply have to recognize your essential purity. This is why in India we are not searching for Brahman, all we are doing is trying to regain our memory of Brahman. This is what the mystics mean by smriti – remembrance. This is all we need – a remembering. Kabir calls it surati, which is nothing but the rounded form of the word smriti. It is just like an emperor’s son who might be out begging, and suddenly he realizes what nonsense he is doing, and all begging will cease at once. With this single act of remembrance, the whole quality of his consciousness will change.

The day you have enough of your unhappiness and your interest in it drops, only then the change can happen in your life. And until you are interested in it, who am I to stop you from it? As long as you are interested in it, remain in your unhappiness. Nothing can happen out of hurrying; the fruit will only fall when it is ripe, and it is foolish to pick unripe fruit.

So if you are still interested in your unhappiness, immerse yourself in it, let it be your very destiny. Don’t be in a hurry, don’t drop your journey in the middle just because of hearing something from others; otherwise you will have to start again and complete the journey at some other time in the future. There is no way to bypass it. No growth can be a borrowed phenomenon in this world. So if you find that your interest is still in misery, then accept that this is so, and let your misery come to its climax so that you can be finished with it. If you have to drink poison, then drink it to the dregs and swallow it all so that when you drown in it you can surface again. Your difficulty is that neither do you move towards the nectar nor do you drink the poison fully; hence you are stuck in the middle. You want to drink the poison – this really interests you! – but you don’t want the suffering it is going to bring you, and thus you go on trying to achieve the impossible – to drink poison and feel as though you have drunk nectar! This is not going to come about, because this is not in the nature of things. If you drink nectar bliss is yours; if you take poison misery is yours. So if your taste is for poison, then drink it till you can drink no more, so that your misery becomes complete, so that your misery makes you mature. Your anguish ripens you, your misery prepares you for the ultimate leap. A day will come when you will look upwards and find the other bird sitting there.

And remember this too, that the stories you have heard from others about this bird will be of no use to you – you have to see it yourself. No matter how much the Upanishads tell you about it, still they are like looking at a painting of the Himalayas in which you can see the lofty snow-capped peaks glittering in the sun, but you cannot feel the cool serenity of them Those lines and colors on the canvas – how can they even compare with all that one has known and experienced in being in the Himalayas? You can sit holding the painting close and imagine that you have reached the Himalayas and have found their kingdom of peace and happiness, but in doing so your journey will have come to an end before it has even begun; you will not even stir from your seat.

I have heard: there was once an ass who unfortunately acquired an education. Asses generally have good memory, and this one was brought up in Kashi which is a center of learning full of pundits, and thus it came about that this ass, living in such an atmosphere of scholarliness, soon became himself a pundit. He could recite the scriptures by heart.

You may have noticed that memory is a substitute for intelligence. People with high intelligence tend to be very forgetful, while stupid people, unable to sustain any performance of true intelligence, resort to the use of memory to manage their lives.

This ass had an excellent memory – whatever he read he knew by heart, and he improved himself by listening to the conversations of the pundits and sitting at their feet. Eventually he came to know of marijuana – or bhang, which is so prevalent in Kashi, and he was very enticed by the blissful, cosmic effects it seemed to have on those who took it. Those mind-blowing discussions! Those visions of Brahman! It became obvious to him that bhang was the gateway to Brahman; the way these pundits were affected was just as the scriptures described the great glory of Brahman! He decided he must go in search of bhang.

A few days later, passing an old bookshop, he came across a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica. He flipped through its pages, and there was a picture of the very plant he was now seeking. He absorbed every detail of the picture, and armed now with the knowledge he needed, he was convinced that the whole glory of bhang was now his. After all, he had seen the behavior of the bhang addicts, and looked into their stoned eyes! He even knew what kind of conversation to hold.

In fact, as far as was possible with words, he was already familiar with bhang. And now he even knew what it looked like, and all that remained was to find the plant. He would start his search right away.

On the banks of the Ganges he found a plant that looked just like the picture in the Encyclopedia Britannica. But how to be sure that it really was the same plant? The ass decided to consult the plant itself – yes, this was the thing to do. As a matter of fact, the plant was not bhang at all; it was just a very common weed, quite useless – a plant that gardeners pull up and throw out whenever they come across it.

The ass approached the plant: “My dear plant,” he said, “are you the very plant, bhang, of which I am in deep search? The very same that is revered in the scriptures? I have seen your picture in the Britannica, and if my memory serves me right, you are the very same plant which I search!”

The plant was just an ordinary weed – nobody had ever before shown it such attention, nobody had regarded it ever with such reverence and given it such a high status. True, its devotee was only an ass, but even the praise of an ass is welcome to the ego! The ego never cares who it is who praises; otherwise praise would disappear from the world. For a moment the plant shrank, delaying the passing of its moment of glory and having to confess that it was not the celebrated bhang plant. But suddenly, impelled by the rare opportunity – a chance that would never come again – the plant said, “Yes, I am the very same. It is I whom you seek!”

Immediately the ass performed all the rituals he had learnt from the bhang experts, and swallowed the plant. Where was the trance? The ass waited, but felt not even the flicker of expanding consciousness. He decided that he must not have studied enough, but decided to try acting like the bhang experts. He made himself wobble about on his legs, and even began giggling and pouring out meaningless words. But inside himself he was dubious. “I’m doing alright,” he thought, “but this is all superficial. Maybe the Encyclopedia Britannica got its information wrong.” Then he thought again: “Maybe the bhang experts are acting just as superficially as I am.” And finally, after a long pause, he thought: “Maybe the plant fooled me.”

He made every effort to convince himself that everything was going alright, but from within he knew that it was all false and nothing was alright.

You can devour all the scriptures and fill yourself up with the knowledge of Brahman, you can listen to the Upanishads telling the story of the witnessing bird, you can learn all the parables by heart, you can even begin to behave as a sannyasin should, and learn to walk and talk as a sannyasin should, but deep within your own intuitive voice will go on insisting that something is wrong. Without your own experiencing of the self, without your own knowing of the self, everything is meaningless. Nothing will be understood by understanding the Upanishadic story. Only when your own inner story unfolds and you are able to see the other bird sitting on your tree of life, will you be able to understand the Upanishad, not before that.

Can you appreciate my difficulty? I explained this story to you knowing well you wouldn’t understand it; knowing well that if you take my words to be your understanding, then the harm is done. But yet I explained the story so that at least you might know that this too is a possibility. Right now it is better that you don’t accept that there is a witness sitting behind you. Who knows, the Upanishads may be wrong, Britannica may have published the wrong picture, the plant may be befooling you! Who knows?

So don’t be in a hurry to assume understanding, because the one who believes quickly is deprived of the knowing. My whole effort is to create the understanding that it is a possibility. That whatever you are is not your whole being, something more is possible; that wherever you are standing, further movement is possible; that your journey is not at an end. That what you have attained is not all there is to be attained, there is something more too. Even if you get only a faint idea of it, there is no harm; in fact, the idea has to be only faint. I am talking to you in order to create this very idea in you. Once the idea has taken root in you, two possibilities are open for you. One is that you can go on reciting and memorizing this idea itself; then even without testing the real thing you can make your legs wobble and manage a reasonable trance within just a few days of practice. Of course, your ecstasy will be unreal, your wobbliness will be fake and you have gone astray.

The other course is that it becomes clear to you that there is a possibility of something else that can open up; that this book is not yet completed, that there are still a few remaining chapters in it; that you have not yet explored your whole house, that there are still some basements unexplored which might contain the treasure – this idea. But don’t let this idea become your knowledge; let it become your life’s search. Don’t accept it and sit tight; don’t make an intellectual exercise of it, rather let it lead you towards meditation and samadhi.

There are a few points that will help you in looking at the bird sitting on the upper branch of the tree. The first is that you are the first bird sitting on the lower branch. Get yourself acquainted thoroughly with this bird. Suffer its miseries to the fullest; experience its jealousies and its traumas totally. Let the sting of its thorns coming from all directions go deep in you so that their total pain surrounds your heart. And don’t create false, intoxicating ways to forget it – you have so many tricks! You say that you are suffering because of your karmas of previous lives, not because of the karmas of this life.

And why do you say this? What consolation you get out of it? One consolation do you get is that nothing can now be done about the karmas from previous lives. Whatever has happened has happened, and one has to suffer. But if I say that your suffering is caused by your doings in this life, then the matter is close at hand and something can be done. And if I say that it is just because of you becoming the doer in this very moment, then the matter becomes very difficult for you.

The Karma theory is useful – it keeps the whole affair at a comfortable distance, it relegates everything to the past. No, you are not in misery because of karma; you are in misery because you are the doer. You were the doer in your previous lives, you are suffering for that; you are the doer in this life, you are suffering for that. But the reason for your suffering is not what you did, the reason is your identification with the doing. And this you can drop this very moment.

So, slowly, slowly learn to be less of the doer. Instead of searching for that second bird, bring some changes in yourself right where you stand. Start being less of a doer and bring more emphasis on being a witness. In every situation, these two ways are open to you – to become the doer or to become the witness. Try to become the witness.

Sitting here, I am speaking and you are listening. If you are only listening, then you have become the doer; the listening is your doing. If you become the witness, then as I speak you are listening, and you are aware of the act of listening as well. And if the witness in me is awake and the witness in you is awake, then there are four people here where there were only two – one speaker and a witness to his speaking, one listener and a witness to his listening. So you listen as well as witness your listening. You can become the witness this very moment, nothing has to be arranged for it. You hear me speaking – hearing is happening in your body and mind. Now watch this hearing happening! Stand behind the hearing and watch it happening. Even if you get a glimpse of it, you will find that your unhappiness disappears this very moment, that all disharmony evaporates, that all tension vanishes.

So whenever the chance arises to become the doer or the witness, choose the witness. The doer in you is part of a long, old chain of conditioning, and it takes only a small lapse on your part for the doer to overtake. But nothing to worry about because no matter how deep the conditionings of the doer are in you, they are all false, illusory, and the false has no weight, no value, no matter how great its magnitude.

Though you may have forgotten, witnessing is your essential nature. For this reason it is not so very difficult to attain to the witness – it can be reawakened. Whenever you are doing anything – eating a meal, walking along the road, taking a bath – let your emphasis be on watching not on the doing. Taking a shower, watch the body showering; eating, watch the body eating: and soon you will find that the witnessing bird in you has started fluttering its wings. Sensing the ruffling of its feathers, you will become more and more aware of its presence on the tree. And as the sense of its presence grows in you, the presence of the lower bird will gradually disappear.

And let me tell you what the story does not: that finally one day, when your experience of witnessing is total, the lower bird – the doer – will disappear completely, and you will find that there is only one bird on the tree. For the ignorant too there is only one bird – the doer; he cannot see the other one. For the awakened one too there is only one bird – the witness; he cannot see the other one. The Upanishad talks of two birds to encompass the understanding of both, the ignorant and the awake. But in reality there are not two birds; for the ignorant there is one – the doer, and for the knower there is one – the witness. The reason that two birds are talked of in the Upanishad is because there the knower is talking to the ignorant. The knower is presenting his experience and the experience of the ignorant as well. Unless the experience of the ignorant is also taken into account, he won’t begin the journey. A moment will come when you too will see that there is only one bird. And the day there remains only one bird, you have attained to the experience of advait – nonduality. The name of that one bird is advait.

-Osho

From Nowhere to Go But In, Chapter Nine   Nowhere to Go But In

Copyright© OSHO International Foundation

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Synthesis of the Opposites (Two Tales of a Tale) – Osho

Buddha used to tell the story of a man who met a tiger in the jungle. The man ran for his life, and the tiger came after him. Suddenly the man came to huge ravine and found himself standing at the top of a sheer cliff. In desperation – the tiger hot on his heels – the man climbed over the edge of the cliff, and caught hold of the root of a tree so that he was just hanging over the abyss. Above his head was the tiger, peering over the cliff’s edge and waiting. The trembling man looked down and saw yet another tiger waiting for him at the foot of the cliff, and when he glanced at the tree root to which he was clinging, he saw that it was being gnawed away by two rats – a black one and a white one! In this same moment the man noticed a ripe fruit growing there on the cliff. He somehow managed to hang on to the root with just one hand and plucked the fruit with the other. How sweet and delicious was the taste of this fruit!

Could you please explain to us the meaning of this story?

The story is even older than Buddha, but the meaning that Buddha gave to it was entirely his own. Both his meaning and the older meaning are worth understanding. The story represents the essence of the Hindu thinking. But Buddha gave it a totally new meaning, and that gave the story a completely new dimension. The way Buddha defined the story is really unique.

So first we will look into the story from the Hindu point of view. That has its own significance. And then we will also be able to see how the same symbol can become the basis for two different viewpoints. If our way of looking changes, then what we are looking at also changes. The world is in our vision, not in the objects themselves. The way the world is perceived depends entirely on the one who is looking at it.

The basis of Hindu thinking is that the world is maya – illusion. The happiness found in it are ephemeral, they are not real; one moment they are here, the next moment they are gone. Death will wipe clean the slate of life, and in fact it is doing so each moment. Those two rats, the black one and the white one, are day and night, they are eating away at the root of life. All the time we are living we are dying too; the death process begins with birth itself. No sooner is a child born than it begins to die – the two rats have begun gnawing into its life. The infant’s roots have hardly begun to develop, yet already their ending has begun. Here, life and death are together. Birth is one step, and death is the very next step – so what we call our birthday is also our ‘deathday’. Yes, there may be a certain distance in between – seventy years, or even one hundred years – but the actual distance still involves only two steps.

Birth and death are truly of the same nature. Hindus say that whatever is born will die. So whoever can see deeply will see death within birth itself. Hence birth is not really a happy event – or, if it is, then death is not to be mourned over. That you rejoice over birth and weep over death simply shows that you are blind.

Time is eating away at your roots, and with every moment that passes there is a little less of you. And Hindus say that there is no way to save yourself; nothing in the world can help you because the world is only an extension of death. No matter where you run, no matter where you hide, death will find you out. Mind thinks it will be able to find some way to be saved – in some shelter, some security, some mountain in which to hide. So the mind creates walls made of wealth, prestige and position; or knowledge, science and technology, and thinks it is safe. Man thinks there will be some way to avoid death.

But the Hindu view is that there is no way to protect yourself against death, because death is the very nature of this world. Wherever you run, death will be at your heels. The tiger in the story is death. He is after you, and sometime – today or tomorrow – you will arrive at a place where there will be no path ahead of you, and you will have to stop running away. You have reached the impasse – ahead of you is the abyss, and behind you is the tiger. And if you peer over the edge of the cliff you see death awaiting you there too. To jump off the cliff means certain death, just as the tiger means certain death, though there is still a ray of hope in the possibility of climbing down the cliff face. But then you see that another tiger awaits you at the foot of the cliff……….

Hindus say that life is surrounded by death – all the escape routes are covered, there is no way out. You can run if you want to, but it will not help; you will only exhaust yourself and reach a place where you will have to stop. And still man goes on trying! Death is there at the top of the cliff, and at the foot of the cliff, and a single slip of the hand means death. But still man tries – and he will go on searching for a way out until the very last moment of his life. He will cling to the tree root, in itself not so strong because it is being chewed away by the two rats. But man’s hope is such that he will seek aid even from a grass leaf, and find companionship even in a dream. Where nothing is possible, there too mind imagines and says that something will be possible. It is a characteristic of mind to go on hoping.

In the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the poet asks the sages, the wise ones, the knowledgeable ones: Why is it that this life, in which all seem to be unhappy, does not come to a stop? What makes it go on and on and on, although no one is happy? What is the secret?

There was no response from any source. So many scholars and learned people, but there was no answer. Then the poet asks the sky, since the sky has always been present. Everything else has changed – people have come and gone, great civilizations have lived and died, and all this the sky has seen. There is no greater witness than the sky. So the poet asks the sky, “What is the secret of life? Why does it continue?” And a voice comes from the sky, “Because of hope!”

There may be an abundance of sufferings, but hope is even larger than all of them put together. Life does not continue of happiness – happiness hardly exists at all. And if there was only suffering, then too life would break down, you would commit suicide. This is why every thinking person, at some point or other in his life, contemplates suicide; he considers closing the chapter on this life: “What is the point in every day just getting up in the morning and going to bed at night? The same meals, the same clothes, the same routine of work! There seems to be no purpose at all in constantly revolving on the same wheel. And if one is to die anyway in the end, what is so bad about dying right now? After thirty years or forty years of spinning on the same wheel one has to die, and if the abyss of death is going to engulf me anyway, why not surrender myself to it this very day? Why go through so much worry, anguish and turmoil in the meanwhile?”

So sometime or other, every sensitive person thinks of suicide. Only the stupid never think that this life is worth ending. But the thinkers, the sensitive ones, arrive many times at the point where they think of destroying themselves: “If it has to end, let it be by my own hand!”

So, suffering pervades life abundantly, with not even a trace of happiness anywhere, and yet hope says: “Tomorrow! What you cannot get today you will get tomorrow.” So suicide has to wait, not because of the quality of life, but because of hope – the hope that tomorrow the doors of heaven may open, the hope that the very next moment may bring the treasures of life. The next moment is so tempting! That is why we all live in tomorrow.

Mind is another name for hope in tomorrow. Death is hovering over our head, death is lurking beneath our feet, and we are hanging in between, clinging to roots that can give way at any moment – and even if the roots don’t break, our hands can hold on only for so long, they will soon grow tired. Yet still hope is there. Something can be done – time is still there, and thus the hope continues. In such a moment of hope a fruit, a wild strawberry is seen, or some other kind of fruit, and everything is forgotten – all the nightmarish situation you are surrounded by is forgotten.

Pleasure is ephemeral but it manages to make you forget everything else. It has a deep intoxication of its own. The taste will last only for a moment, but its unconsciousness is supreme. In that one moment it makes you forget the whole world – all the sufferings, all the troubles of the journey, all the anguishes that are past, all the anguishes that are to come. It makes you forget them all. Pleasure is momentary but it obscures the whole truth, the whole reality of Brahman.

Hindus used this story to warn you not to get lost in momentary pleasures. Remain aware, don’t try to forget death; no taste of any fruit can save you from death. Don’t give life any opportunity to make you forget its reality – neither through taste nor through greed. Don’t let life be clouded by any of your senses.

Taste is only one of the senses. The same thing could have happened through any of them. The story could well have been that the man saw a beautiful woman, or a dancing peacock, or a spectacular sunrise, or a rainbow spread across the sky – and in that moment everything was forgotten. Or the man might have suddenly caught the fragrance of an opening flower, forgetting everything as his nostrils filled with the waves of its sweet perfume. The story is only symbolic of how your senses can help you to forget. All the senses are in fact ready to go unconscious – their interest is in unconsciousness. When you are aware, the senses are dead; when the senses are awake, you are unconscious. In your unconsciousness is the awakening of the senses, in the unconsciousness of the senses is your awakening. So one of the senses arose and the taste filled up the mind, and in that moment everything within went unconscious – and in such a critical situation, when death was hovering over the man! […]

Whenever any desire catches hold of the mind, consciousness falls asleep. Or it can be said the other way round: whenever consciousness falls asleep, only then some desire catches hold of the mind. They are both interrelated. Taste is just symbolic; the opening of the door to any of the senses is the closing of the door to consciousness.

Hindus have told this story so that you don’t get lost in the momentary and forget the eternal. Does the moment have the capacity to drown the eternal in forgetfulness? This has been a matter of great debate among Hindu thinkers. They ask, “How is it that maya – the illusory – can obscure Brahman, the ultimate reality? How is it that darkness, the unreal, can cover up the light? How is it that rootless ignorance set the supreme conscious and blissful soul wandering? How could this ever have happened? If maya is illusion, how have we remained lost because of it?”

This is exactly what has happened, and you will understand it if you understand this story. Brahman disappears in the same moment precisely that we disappear. Our sleep is its disappearance. It is just like closing the eyes when the sun is rising. Compared to the sun, the eye has very little power, but even, in its powerlessness it can shut out the sun. Can the power of the eyelids be compared to that of the sun? They are so small, but they can shut out the sun! Close the eyes, and the sun disappears. You can face the Himalayas, but the moment you close your eyes, the Himalayas disappear. A tiny dust particle can cause the eyes to close – a tiny particle can bring about the disappearance of the Himalayas!

Brahman is in its place, but for us it disappears when our eyes are closed. And all our sense organs are ways to make us go to sleep. The interest of the senses is in sleep, in unconsciousness. That is why there is such objection to tamas, the state of unconscious living.

Tamas means the attitude of sleepiness; it means the sleepy state, or unconscious living. Anything that draws you into tamas enhances the world for you. The moment the man in the story tasted the fruit was the moment of his drowning in tamas. Now his consciousness is covered up – lost in taste. Except for taste everything disappeared for him – Brahman, truth, the reality that is present all around; nothing could be seen by him any more. And it often happens that when life is pain and misery, we seek unconsciousness. This is why there is such a pull for alcohol all over the world. And no matter how much the preachers go on preaching against alcohol, it does not help people at all to stop drinking, because there is so much sorrow in his life, and the preachers’ sermons do not in any way remove it. And the sorrow is so much that if a man cannot try to escape from it, what else is he supposed to do? He must either go beyond suffering, which becomes possible only once in a while for some buddha, or he must try to forget it, which is possible through alcohol. In fact all the numerous ways to get intoxicated do the same thing.

Any kind of sensuality is intoxication. When you see a beautiful woman or a beautiful man, for a moment you are in the grip of intoxication. And when I say this I don’t mean it only symbolically; now psychologists and scientists are discovering that when you look at a beautiful woman or man, the balance of hormones in your body changes. There are glands which release intoxicants into your bloodstream – so in looking at a beautiful woman, you become intoxicated. Hence it may happen that you go after her, forgetting the world and its codes of conduct, its laws and morality, and even attack her. In the law court you may maintain that you did not do anything – and this too will be true. Your body was so overwhelmingly intoxicated from within you that you did not do anything, you were not the master of the act, it just happened on its own. You did not take a conscious decision to do it, the responsibility rests with the hormones, with your body’s chemistry. Or, seeing money may drive you crazy, so much so that you may completely forget what you are doing.

Hindus used this story to indicate that even a moment of sensuality hides the eternal Brahman. But Buddha used the story quite differently. It will help if you understood some of the basic differences between Hindu and Buddhist thinking.

Hindus say that the moment is untrue; it is the eternal which is true. They say that the moment is only a dream, because “the moment” means that a moment ago it was not and a moment later it will not be. Hindu thought contends that if anything was not there the previous moment and will not be there the next moment, then its being now cannot be real. Something which was unreal at both ends cannot be real in the middle. The real – and this is the Hindu definition of truth – is only that which is eternal; that which always is, always was, and always will be; that which cannot perish and cannot be destroyed.

But the Buddhist definition is different. Hindus are eternalists, Buddha is a momentist. Buddha says that it is the moment that is true. Nothing is permanent, nothing is eternal; permanence is only a thought, an invention, a hypothesis of the philosophers; the moment alone is real. Only that which is here and now is true, there is no other truth than the moment. Buddha’s meaning is to guide us into the present. The real is here and now! This is what Buddha means by truth. There is no other time than the moment; it is always this moment that is available to us. Eternity is a concept, the moment is the reality.

What is so interesting about these two diametrically opposite points of view is that the end result of both of them is one and the same.

So let us come now to an understanding of the reality of the moment and this story as it is presented by Buddha.

Buddha says, you are running through a jungle, chased by a tiger. With death on your heels, you find yourself at the edge of a cliff, at the foot of which another tiger awaits you. Buddha does not wish to frighten you with all this. This, he says, is the very nature of life. In the Hindu explanation of the story, there is a shadow of fear in it – it has to be so because only if you fear the world of maya will you set out in search of the Brahmans. But Buddha says, “Here there is no brahma to be sought. And this alone is, whether you call it maya or whatever else. It is a fact of life that death is following you. It is your mind that causes the fear. Otherwise you will simply take it as the very nature of life, that either way death is there and we have arrived at the impasse of the cliff.”

According to Buddha, you are always at the cliff’s edge. There is never any road ahead. Movement is possible only if two moments are available. If there is only enough ground for you to stand on, where will be the road? For movement, space is needed. For the mind to move, time is needed. And this very moment is all.

So, where can you go? Where can you walk to? At the most you can be jumping up and down on the same spot, but there is no coming and going anywhere. According to Buddha, there is no journey. You are simply jogging on the spot! Buddha says you have only this moment, and in it your mind goes on jumping up and down. This is how it is that you are standing always with no road ahead anywhere. The day you see it you will stop; all your futile jumping up and down will cease.

The world is nothing but the futile jumping up and down of man’s mind and no solution comes out of it. Lives upon lives we have been doing this. Running so much, but never reaching anywhere! Walking so much, but arriving to no destination. And yet we never stop to look at what we have been doing all this time, to consider the possibility that we could have been jogging on the same spot. Otherwise one ought to reach somewhere after so much walking!

Man travels throughout his whole life, only to find himself exactly where he was at the moment of his birth. This whole journey seems to be dream stuff. It is as though, asleep at night, you dreamt that you boarded a plane and flew to New York. This is a great journey to have made, involving all kinds of preparations and procedures; but when you wake up in the morning and find yourself at home in bed, then you say it was all a dream. Why do you say it was only a dream? Because you didn’t really go anywhere. If you opened your eyes and found you were actually in New York, then you could not say it was all a dream. The very meaning of dreaming is that all the movement happens, and yet you go nowhere. Then, in the morning, you say, “It was only a dream.” If you could be tricked, so that, having dreamed of flying to New York, you awoke in the morning to find that you were actually in New York, then you would be in a dilemma! Now you would not be able to call your dream a dream, because it would be reality!

Buddha says, “The real is that which, when you walk upon it, brings you to your destination. The unreal is that which will never bring you to your destination. The unreal is that which will never bring you anywhere, no matter how far you walk upon it.” Only when your eyes are opened can you see that this long journey reaches nowhere, and that you have not moved at all! This is what Buddha means when he says that the world is a dream. Buddha also calls this world maya, illusion, but not in opposition to Brahman. For Buddha there is no Brahman at all – only maya is. And it is worth understanding.

Buddha is saying that Brahman, too, is only a new hope of your mind. You think you have dropped hoping because you have given up your hopes in wealth and the world, but really you have only transferred them to Brahman. You have come to understand that the world is worthless and offers you nothing worth having, and all of a sudden everything that is worth having is there instead in Brahman.

Previously the world was to be achieved, now the Brahman is to be achieved, but your mind has not deviated from achieving. And Buddha says that as long as there is anything to be achieved the mind is still there.

This is why Buddha says, “Spare the Brahman! Don’t bring him in, because you will turn him also into an object of your race of desires.” Until yesterday you were going towards the marketplace, now you will go towards the temple, but the going continues. Until yesterday you were accumulating wealth – counting the piles of money again and again everyday – now you will accumulate virtue, but the accumulation continues. Virtue is as much of a wealth to you as money.

And remember, just as money is also a social recognition and virtue is also a social recognition. That one hundred rupee bill of yours is a one hundred rupee bill because the society recognizes that it is so. Tomorrow if the society says, the state declares, that one hundred rupee bills are invalid; its value is not even a paise then. What we call virtue is also nothing but society’s recognition.

In India, to marry one woman is a virtue. If you marry four, you will be in trouble. So if a Hindu marries one woman it is a virtue, because without marriage you won’t be free of paternal debt – you will have no children so how can you be free of paternal debt? A Hindu marrying four women is a sin. If a Mohammedan marries four women, it is a virtue; there is no sin in it at all. The currency of four wives is recognized by Mohammedans, not by Hindus.

Virtue and sin are also currencies; they too are recognized by society. If you are alone in a jungle, what is a virtue and what is a sin there? And what will you make of your hundred rupee bill there? What is the use of your one rupee bill there? In the jungle the hundred rupee bill is nothing but a piece of paper. Your virtue is a piece of paper there, your sin a piece of paper there. Howsoever good a person you may be, you cannot earn any goodness in the forest. And how will you become good in the forest? There is no one there on whom you may bestow your kindness; there is no one there whom you may serve. How will you become bad there? There is no one there you may call names or murder. You are alone there so the sin and virtue have both disappeared. Sin and virtue are coins of the society.

So man first accumulates wealth, enlarges his bank balance; and with that too he announces only his ego: “Look how much wealth I have!” Then when he moves away from that, Buddha says, then he accumulates virtue; then he creates a bank balance of virtue. And remember, this is a matter of far more cleverness, because the ordinary bank balance may be left behind here, but the bank balance of virtue, it is hoped, will go along with you; death won’t be able to separate you from that it.

I was in a town. A sect of Mohammedans in the town believes that when their priest writes down a slip showing how many virtuous deeds a person has done, how many donations he has given in charity, and puts his signature on it, then if this slip is kept with the man in his grave when he dies, the slip travels with him and he can show it to God as a testimonial of all his good deeds and virtues.

Buddha says, do not fall into such stupidity, because this God of yours will be nothing but an extension of your own business mentality, and your ego is neither disappearing because of this nor even getting any less. Now it is attaching itself to Brahman, now you will have to achieve Brahman at any cost. Now you won’t be at rest until Brahman is in your hand, until you are able to declare, that “Look, I have not only conquered the world, I have also brought home Brahman with me.”

Your ‘I’ does not allow you to see anything else but you. Your Brahman is confined with you, your wealth confined within you; your desire will be confined with you, your prayer is confined within you.

I have heard: A rich Jew went to a Hassid mystic and said, “I want to pray, but however much I try my desires don’t leave me alone. I want to give, I want to donate in charity, but even behind this charity my greed is present, my desire to gain is present. I can forfeit but that too is a bargain, hope to get something, a hope to get even more; then I can forfeit. And however much I close my eyes, I don’t see any God. I remain full of my ‘I’. What should I do? And what is the reason for all this trouble?”

The mystic said, “You come with me.” Then he led the rich man to a window. There is clear glass on the window; outside there are trees, birds, white herons flying in the sky; the sun is shining and a few clouds are also floating in the sky. He said, “Look outside. Do you see everything?”

The rich man said, “I see everything. The glass on the window is so clear and transparent.”

Then the mystic took the man to another wall by which a mirror was hanging. He asked the man, “Do you see any difference between this glass and the previous one?”

The rich man stood in front of the mirror and nothing except his own figure was visible in the glass.

“Both are glasses;” said the mystic, “what is the difference then?”

The rich man started laughing. He said, “I get it! The difference is of a thin silver layer. On that glass there is no silver layer, on this glass there is a silver layer on its back. Because of that layer nothing is seen through it, only my own figure is seen in it. I get it! A silver layer is all around me. This is why whenever I look, nothing, no God, no Brahman is seen; only I am seen.”

This silver can be of many kinds. It can be worldly, it can be spiritual. But as long as there is any layer of desire on you – and that is the silver – you are surrounded by yourself.

Buddha made a profound declaration in the purest form ever on earth: that your Brahman is nothing but an extension of your own ego. And this is why Buddha also said that, there is no Brahman. Do not deduce by this that there is no Brahman. Because Buddha said there is no God, do not take this to mean – otherwise it will be a mistake – that Buddha denied God. When Buddha said there is no God, there is no Brahman, what he really was saying is that as far as your God, your Brahman is concerned, it is nothing more than you, it is your own game. It is a new door, a new extension, a new expansion to your own ego; there too you have set out to propagate only yourself.

This is why Buddha is so hard, because his compassion is great. He says: Neither there is any God nor any soul nor any liberation. There is nothing. Only this moment is everything. And if you come to understand Buddha’s statement that this moment is everything, and there is no time ahead, no time behind – no eternal, no timeless – then where will you go? Where will be the space for your desires to run? All means have been taken away, all passages demolished, all bridges dismantled. You will be simply standing here.

Death exists in the past, according to Buddha, because death has to precede birth. Had you not died first, how would you be born? Just as there is death after birth, so is it before birth. Death and birth are two sides of the same coin. You died in the past life, so you are born in this life. You are born in this life, so you will die again. No sooner do you die, than you will be born again. If death is one step, the other step is always present there. If birth is one step, the other step is always present there. So Buddha says: Death in the back, death in the front, in between is the birth. Between two deaths is a birth; between two births is a death. Wherever you are standing there is death on both sides – in the front as well as in the back. This is the situation. You are hanging over cliffs and ravines, and suddenly you see a beehive – in Buddha’s story it is not a fruit, it is a beehive – and a drop of honey is hanging from it which can fall any moment. Your eyes are caught with it, you have opened your mouth and you are waiting for it – and then the drop falls and Buddha says you feel: How sweet! How tasty!

If you can forget both the deaths – this is the meaning of Buddha’s story. Your hands are growing weaker and weaker and your grip is loosening; if not today then tomorrow you will lose your grip on the roots you are hanging onto – you can forget even all this and the taste in this moment can be so intense in you that nothing else remains in this moment but the taste. When you forget death, you forget yourself too. So when neither there is death, nor time, nor are you aware of the surroundings, this taste has become your enlightenment, this taste has become your meditation. And in this very moment you have become liberated; in this very moment you have known what Brahman is.

So for Buddha this story carries a very different meaning. For Buddha the very meaning of meditation is to live moment to moment, and to taste each moment with such totality that even the taster does not remain within – because that too hinders the totality. If when the drop of honey falls in your mouth and you too are present in that moment, the tasting won’t be total. No, only the taste remains, only the sweetness of the honey spreading in your mouth remains; your whole being becomes nothing but the sweetness of the honey. Nothing else remains there: no knower, no experiencer, no doer, nobody, only the sweetness of the honey goes on spreading – in that moment is enlightenment.

So, Buddha says, each sense can become a door to enlightenment. According to Buddha the trouble is not in the senses, it is in the ego. If ego uses the senses, every sense becomes a bondage. And if the ego within has faded away, then every sense becomes a liberation.

These are very contradicting things, but the ultimate result of them both is one. Whatever feels right to you. I don’t want to put you in confusion but it is necessary to tell you both the meanings of the story. Then you can yourself choose. If the first idea appeals to you, then the path of your life will be completely different. Then you will have to travel a different route. Call it the path of austerity; call it the path of will – that is the path you will have to travel: the struggle. To denounce the senses one by one and to awaken oneself from each sense. Then absorption, merging, won’t be your path; your path will be of struggle, of total will to protect and establish oneself. And the biggest difficulty that you will face in the end is that when you have gone past all the senses and no sense has any influence over you, you will find that this ’I’ which has survived in its purest form, how to merge this into Brahman? Because in fighting with each sense your ‘I’ will go on becoming stronger and purer.

This is the why in the Hindu system of spiritual discipline the last problem that arises is that how is the ascetic to dissolve his ego? – Because the ego of an ascetic is very solidified. What has an ordinary worldly person got in the name of ego? But an ascetic has……

Hindu spiritual discipline is very easy in the beginning stages, because fighting is always an easy thing. We are always to fight. We very much want to fight – fight either with others or with ourselves. Violence comes easily. Chopping off, beating up, all these make sense. We are all eager to destroy. In destruction lies our interest. So asceticism deeply appeals to us. Seeing somebody lying in a bed of thorns you too stop to look, you too get filled with awe. Somebody is standing and has not sat down since years; seeing him your head bows down. Somebody is fasting, has not drunk even water for months; you feel like going and being lost at his feet. Asceticism appeals because it is like self-torture in order to destroy oneself. But the one who is destroying is himself getting crystalized within. The body will be destroyed but the ego will be strengthened.

Hindu spiritual discipline is very easy at the first step but very difficult at the last step, because the final jump will have become an accumulated thing. That ego which you preserved and practiced for so many days, ornamented, decorated, polished and purified it so much that it has become like a clear and solid crystal – had you thrown it away on the very first day when it was like an uncut stone, then, perhaps there would have been no difficulty in throwing it away then. But now after so much asceticism you have purified it so much that there will be great difficulty in dropping it. So a Hindu seeker experiences great difficulty at the final step – how to drop this clear crystal in the feet of god?

Buddhist spiritual discipline is very difficult in the beginning – because to make the taste of senses a meditation is an arduous task. The very nature of the senses is unconsciousness, and what is meant by meditation is consciousness. So, to indulge in the pleasure of senses consciously, to indulge so totally that no ego remains within, that no indulger remains, is arduous because the senses make us go to sleep; it is for the purpose of falling asleep that we take shelter in them. And Buddha says to stay awake from the very beginning, and that one has not to control the senses with the ego but the very ego itself has to be removed. This is why Buddha says neither is there any soul inside nor any ‘I-ness’ – There simply is none within. Only you as a chariot are; there is no other charioteer within you. Move on with this very understanding.

So the beginning is very arduous, but the end is easy – Because whosoever will proceed with this understanding will not come to a day when all of a sudden he will have to throw away his enhanced ego into God. Such a man will slowly discover one day that the ego is no more there.

His disappearance will be so easy. One day he will suddenly find that “I am not, only Brahman, the ultimate reality, is.” This state Buddha has called nirvana.

But if we look at the system of spiritual discipline as a whole then both are the same. Whether it is difficulty in the beginning and easiness in the end, or easiness in the beginning and difficulty in the end, altogether both are the same thing. Both weigh equal.

Hence every seeker has to think for himself. If you want to walk with Buddha the difficulty is at the very beginning; if you want to walk with Shankara the difficulty is at the end. So it all depends on you. The difficulty itself is there, that you will have to cross over. It all depends on you – on your own inclination, your own attitude, your own life, your own type of personality. Understand them clearly and proceed accordingly – you will reach to the same place. Buddha calls it nirvana, Shankara calls it Brahman. Shankara takes you there through refining the eternal; Buddha takes you there through refining the moment.

This is why Buddha’s thinking could not take roots in India because there was a long tradition of Hindu thinking here and Hindu thinking had opposed the moment so much that it was difficult to even conceive that one can attain to truth through the moment. And Hindu thinking had opposed and controlled the senses so much – because the very definition Patanjali gave to yoga was: Chittavritti nirodhah, controlling the dispositions of the senses. This was nothing less than putting chitta, the mind, and vritti, the dispositions, into fight. There was a long tradition of it. Buddha’s statements looked contradictory to this stream and it appeared as if they would shatter the whole edifice of Hindu thinking.

Hence Hindus saw in Buddha the kind of enemy they have not been able to see in anybody else. Hindus did not oppose Mahavira that much – that is why Jainas could survive in India – because Mahavira’s spiritual discipline also is of will, of overcoming the senses. Its basic form is Hindu. Hence there is no basic gap between Jainas and Hindus. There may be differences in an ideological conversation but their structure of the personality is the same. This is why Jainas could survive in India, but it became impossible to let Buddhists survive. Buddha had to be uprooted. There was reason to uproot him: his view of the spiritual journey was absolutely contrary. That drop of honey that has dripped, one has to be dissolved in its taste so absolutely that the very drop of honey becomes Brahman. Here, in the Hindu concept, the drop of Honey which represents the senses is an illusion. In Buddha’s concept, the very drop of honey is Brahman, the ultimate truth.

Both are right. And when I say both are right, this creates even greater difficulty. It is always easy to say one right and the other wrong, because the two look opposites. And the greatest art of religion is wherever you find opposites, don’t be in a hurry to call one wrong. Religion is nothing but a name of the synthesis of the opposites. So don’t be in a hurry. The mind wants to call the opposite wrong. According to mind only one of the two can be right – how can both be right?

Life is much vaster than the mind. Mind is very narrow. In it, only one of the opposites can be right. In life, both can be right. Intellect is very small. There is no place in it to accommodate the opposites. Existence is vast, and in it are contained all opposites; there the opposites are side by side. The more your spiritual vision sharpens the more you will find that all opposites merge.

-OSHO

From Nowhere to Go But In, Chapter Eight    Nowhere to Go But In

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Life Is Real Only When I Am

The ancient Indian philosophies say the world is Maya. Maya is a sanskrit word used to describe the unreality of the world. What does it mean to say the world is unreal?

First it is important to see there are really two worlds. There is the world as it exists, a world without judgments, without names and even without divisions. It is One world.

Then, there is the world that we see. And to be more accurate there are billions of worlds that are seen, because each person sees their own world. We can experience this daily by watching different news reports. One television commentator sees the world differently from another. But it is not just political visions that differ. An environmentalist and an industrialist will not see the same world. A poet and a scientist will not see the same world. A Christian and a Moslem will not see the same world. Even two lovers will not see the same world. So the question is which vision is real?

All worlds are colored by prejudices, philosophies, religions, moralities, histories, desires and fears. And because these qualities are projected on to the world by the personalities – they are not real. If we can look at the world without any words, and that means without thought, then only, can we see the real world. When we look at the world as we do most of the time, through the lens of our conditionings, past experiences and hopes for the future — we are seeing maya, an unreal world projected on top of a very real existence.

At even a deeper level, when we look at the so called “real world,” scientists will tell us that it is not as it appears. We look out into the world and see separate distinct objects, but physicists will not agree. They see organizations of elements made up of protons, neutrons and electrons surrounded by vast amounts of space that stay together for some time before disbanding and joining up in other groups. So the idea of real distinct solid objects is simply a fantasy. It is an appearance for some time only to disappear later. It too is maya.

Understanding that the world is indeed maya frees us from the tyranny of our mind, of our projections. We begin to withdraw some of the support that sustains this unreal world—our belief in it. We understand that indeed the world is not black and white, in fact, it is not even in color because colors too are false distinctions with labels supplied by our conditioning. We begin to rest more in the perceiving than the perceived. And it is this ending of projecting the unreal that restores our bliss of being that has been constantly dissipated by creating and maintaining the world of maya.

From this vantage point, we look at a sunset, and even that is an inaccurate description of the situation. We see a happening (what we refer to as a sunset) without comparing to yesterday’s event, without wondering where we will see it tomorrow, without even naming it or pasting qualities onto it. We simply allow the event to unfold without either grasping or rejecting.

From this vantage point existence or life simply is What Is. It follows then that to live in the “real world” it is necessary to live in a place that is outside of, free of, the mind and all of its projections. When I Am without any past, without projecting into the future, without dividing an otherwise indivisible whole, then, and only then Life is Real.

-purushottama

This post is from a collection of essays, stories, insights and poems that have occurred to me along the Way titled Here to Now and Behind.

The Illusion of Materiality – John Levy

THE ILLUSION OF MATERIALITY

1. Materiality. Our notion of materiality coincides with the twin illusions that objects exist independently of their being perceived; and that these objects, whether solid, liquid or gaseous, consist of three dimensions. In order to understand how the notion of a three-dimensional object arises, it will be necessary first to understand how we form the notion of extension in length and breadth.

2. Length and Breadth. Extension, in length, in breadth, or in both together, is an idea formed by our memory of discontinuous though successive sensations which, from the commonsense standpoint, may appear either as physical or mental. These sensations give us the impression that we have perceived a surface. But there has been no immediate perception of a surface. As an example, let the reader behold this printed page, held at reading distance.1 He will notice that the eyes or the page must be moved if more than a very limited portion is to be seen: and that while he observes one portion, he cannot observe the others. Thus the impression of having seen a page is not the product of a single, comprehensive glance. It derives from the memory of several distinct glances. At this stage, we may usefully recall that if the percipient is repeatedly and similarly affected by a more or less constant group of sensations, he forms the notion of a specific object.

3. Depth. Having found extension in length and breadth to be a notion, let us now consider extension in depth, or from a surface inwards. Our knowledge of this dimension likewise cannot be the result of direct perception, for sensations are of surfaces. Nevertheless, the idea of depth is inherent in the notion we have of surfaces, a surface without substance being quite inconceivable , whatever abstraction-mongers may tell us.

4. The Physiological Aspect of Tridimensionality. The notion of depth has its physiological basis in two parallel factors: the conventions of the sense of touch and binocular vision, the second being impossible without the first. Binocular vision ‘provides the stereoscopic effect, the appreciation of depth and distance ; this depends on the fact that the images of an object formed by each eye are slightly different and that these two images are presented simultaneously to the brain without appearing double’. So that we may understand in what way two distinct images, that is to say, two distinct perceptions, come to appear in consciousness as one, let us examine a similar process performed in the brain with respect to tactile sensations, since it can easily be verified. ‘The skin offers a good instance of how our conventional reading of sensations “the words of a sensory language”, depends merely upon habituation. A pencil slid between the tips of the middle and index finger is felt as one stimulus because these surfaces are normally adjacent and we have learnt to fuse their sensations ; but, if the fingers are crossed, surfaces which are never normally in contact are brought together and a pencil placed between them is now felt as double. In this case, association does not occur automatically, as is normal; instead the two sensations appearing as one, two separate sensations are experienced. If we did not have the testimony of our eyes or the knowledge of the experiment we were making, the two sensations would remain, and in fact they are, quite discrete. This should now be applied to the faculty of grasping, in which the physic logical basis of tridimensionality certainly lies. But it must be clear from these considerations that the physiological aspect of perception cannot be separate from the psychological. This will be dealt with in due course.

5 . Continuity. The response to sensory stimuli that exceed a certain minimum threshold continues for a brief period after the event. Ultimately this response is cerebral and belongs to the domain of biochemistry. In normal circumstances, distinct groups of sensations and their prolongation, succeed one another with sufficient rapidity to make them appear as though they formed an unbroken line. There will, however, be no difficulty in understanding that objective continuity is an illusion, if what was said regarding the interval between two thoughts be borne in mind. We do not normally take note of this interval because we wrongly assume that when nothing objective is present to consciousness, what subsists is nothingness and no consciousness. The sense of continuity cannot therefore be derived from the objective, physiological side of perception ; it is derived from the single, immutable and non-temporal consciousness in which all perceptions occur, as we shall see in a later chapter.

6. The Psychological Origin of Tridimensionality. When our attention goes outward, we become conscious of sensations and instinctively perform the mental process described in the second article of this chapter, completing it with another, which is to imagine what we cannot possibly perceive, namely, the other side or the inside of the surface we perceive notionally.2 We then gain the impression of having perceived a three-dimensional object. Our habit of combining tactile with visual and other sensations is due partly, if not wholly, to the fact that we are able to have the feeling of, or touch, those parts of our body we cannot see : analogy does the rest. As an illustration of how we create the appearance of the world, we need only look at a painting and ask ourselves where the recognition of nonexistent objects in a non-existent space comes from. It does not come from the coloured canvas : it comes from our habit of associating physically experienced and imaginary sensations to form ideas. The solid world of the five senses is created by us in the same way.3

7. The Aim of This Analysis. I have given a very simplified account of a complex process, for this work, as already stated, is written from a point of view and with a purpose differing essentially from the standpoint of empirical science. My aim here is to separate from the objective side of human experience the conscious principle that informs it. The meaning of sensory perception and of memory will be discussed at a later stage when we come to analyse the nature of desire.

8. Summary. From all these considerations, it is evident that materiality is an illusion created by the combination through memory of visual and tactile sensations, whether these are experienced as physical or mental, relative to actual and imaginary movements of the perceiver’s body and senses.

1 I say ‘at a reading distance’, because it often happens that what afterwards is called a surface falls within the field of a single visual or tactile focus of attention. In such cases, we either look or feel more minutely, or else, and this is the most usual, we unwittingly call on past experience to supply imaginitively the sensations that combine to form the notion of a surface or an object.

2In practice we do not always actually see or feel in imagination the other side or the inside of a surface, the idea of materiality being so much a part of our mental habit that we do not need to. In sensory perception, as in ratiocination, even those who are least developed among us often arrive at conclusions by an elliptical process which is probably the best measure of good and bad brains. While this method is being practiced, it may be necessary to disentagle ourselves at first from this pragmatically useful unreliable short cut.

3As a further illustration and towards completing what was said about the attribution of life and consciousness to others (Ch. VIII), let me cite the sound- film. Out of the mechanical play of light on a screen and the vacuous sound- waves that fill the hall during its projection, we create for ourselves, as in a dream, a living world in which we participate entirely, by running up and down the whole vast gamut of thought and feeling.

-John Levy

From The Nature of Man According to Vedanta. Sentient Press

The entire book can be downloaded from:

https://pgoodnight.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/john-levy-nature-of-man-according-to-vendanta.pdf