contemplativeinquiry

This blog is about contemplative inquiry

Tag: Osho

BREATHING SPACE

“Once it happened that a man was very ill. The illness was that he continually felt that his eyes were popping out and his ears were ringing – continually. By and by he became crazy, because it went on for twenty-four hours a day. He couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t do his work.

“So, he consulted doctors. One doctor suggested, ‘remove the appendix’, so the appendix was removed, but nothing happened. Another suggested, ‘remove all the teeth’, so all his teeth were removed. Nothing happened; the man simply became old, that’s all. Then somebody suggested that the tonsils should be removed. There are millions of advisors, and if you start listening to all of them, they will kill you. So, his tonsils were removed, but nothing happened. Then he consulted the greatest doctor known.

“The doctor diagnosed, and he said, ‘nothing can be done because the cause cannot be found. At the most you can live six months more. And I must be frank with you, because all that could be done has been done. Now nothing can be done’.

“The man came out of the doctor’s office and thought, ‘if I only have six months to live, then why not live well?’ He was a miser and had never lived, so he ordered the latest and biggest car; he purchased a beautiful bungalow, he ordered thirty suits, he even ordered shirts made to order.

“He went to a tailor who said, ‘thirty-six sleeves, sixteen collar’.

“The man said, ‘no, fifteen, because I always use fifteen’.

“The tailor measured again and said, ‘sixteen!’

“The man said, ‘but I have always used fifteen!’

“The tailor said, ‘Okay then, have it your own way, but I tell you, you will have popping eyes and ringing in the ears!’ And that was the whole cause of his illness!

“You are missing the divine for not very great causes – no! Just a fifteen collar – and the eyes cannot see, they are popping; and the ears cannot hear, they are ringing. The cause of man’s illness is simple, because he is addicted to small things.”

(1) Osho The Mustard Seed: Discourse on the Sayings of Jesus from the Gospel According to Thomas Shaftesbury: Element, 1975

WISDOM’S FAITH

I’m asking myself whether ‘faith’ has any role in my spirituality. I think it may.

At the cognitive level I’m the kind of sceptic who holds questions open and tolerates ambiguity. I admire the Greek Pagan philosopher Pyrrho and his school (1). Like the early Buddhists who Pyrrho met in India, Pyrrhonists steered away from metaphysical propositions. They did not seek ease through right answers, but in a space of contemplative equanimity where uncertainty can be embraced. It gave them a lightness of being. I find this good for my mental life, which is potentially freed from an attachment to views and ideologies that turns them into things – property to be safeguarded or weapons to be deployed. I am also empowered to keep asking questions and to see the value in contrary points of view.

But the cognitive level isn’t everything. At the heart level, I lean into an intuited understanding uncompromisingly spelled out by Douglas Harding : ‘God is indivisible. This is so marvellous because it means the whole of God is where you are – not your little bit of God, but the whole of God. If we resist this, it’s because we are resisting our splendour, our greatness. The wonderful proposition of all the mystics that I know and would care to call real mystics is that the heart of you, the reality of your life, the reality of your being, your real self is the whole of God – not a little bit of that fire but the whole fire”.(2)

That intuition, sometimes concerned to avoid the ‘G’ word and sometimes not, has been with me for much of my life in some form. One of the stronger prompts, almost thirty years ago, was a careful reading of The Mustard Seed (3). Here, the Tantric teacher Osho works through the Gospel of Thomas. I have loved this text ever since to the point of accumulating a number of editions and commentaries. Douglas Harding has a chapter on it in one of his books (4). But the Gospel and its commentators did not persuade me to take this non-dual Gnostic view, and nor have kundalini yoga, sitting meditation, or the Headless Way exercises*. What they have done is given my intuitive sense of knowing room to show itself. That sense of knowing has grown stronger and is now anchored in. Practice is an affirmation and celebration rather than inquiry. It’s not something I want to argue about, and I wouldn’t much mind if I was proved to be metaphysically misguided. It’s just where I’m taking my stand.

The old Gnostics had the phrase Pístis Sophia, retrospectively used to name one of their texts, (5). English translations have varied: ‘Wisdom in Faith’, or ‘Faith in Wisdom’. To many Gnostics, Sophia was a celestial being, so another option is ‘The Faith of Sophia’ (and by extension, presumably) the faith of a devotee. Wisdom says that knowledge doesn’t get us everywhere. An element of faith, which I experience as a kind of permission-giving, or surrender, is needed for this commitment.

(1) https://contemplativeinquiry/2019/04/27/pyrho-scepticism-arne-naess/

(2) Douglas Harding Face to No-Face: Rediscovering Our Original Nature David Lang, 2015 (edited by David Lang)

(3) Osho The Mustard Seed: Commentaries of the Fifth Gospel of Saint Thomas Shaftesbury, UK: Element, 1975

(4) Douglas Harding A Jesus for Our Time Chapter 14 in Look for Yourself: The Science and Art of Self-Realisation

(5) Pistis Sophia: A Gnostic Gospel translated and edited by G.R.S Mead Blauvelt, NY: Spiritual Science Library, 1984 (first American edition)

www.headless.org/

EPICURUS AND THE BUTTER

“Epicurus had a garden just near Athens. He was also one of the rarest of men, just like Chuang Tzu. He didn’t believe in God, he didn’t believe in anything, because belief is nonsense. Only foolish people believe. A man of understanding has faith, not belief. Faith is different. Faith means trusting life, trusting it so absolutely that one is ready to go with it, anywhere.

“He had a small garden, and he lived there with his disciples. People thought that he was an atheist, immoral. He did not believe in God, he did not believe in the scriptures, he did not believe in any temple. He was an atheist. But he lived in such a great way. His life was superb, magnificent, even though he had nothing, even though they were very poor. The king heard about them and wanted to see how they lived, and how they could be happy without belief. If you could not be happy even with a belief in God, how could these people be happy without God?

“So he came one evening to visit Epicurus’ garden. He was really surprised, amazed – it was a miracle. They had nothing, almost nothing, but they lived like emperors. Like gods they lived. Their whole life was a celebration.

“When they went to the stream to take their bath, it was not simply a bath; it was a dance with the river. They sang and they danced and they swam and they jumped and they dived. Their eating was a celebration, a feast, and they had nothing, just bread and salt, not even butter. But they were so thankful that just to be was enough; nothing more was needed.

“The emperor was very much impressed, and he asked Epicurus: ‘next time I come, I would like some gifts for you. What would you like?’

“Epicurus said, ‘Give us time to think. We never thought that anybody would give us gifts, and we have so many gifts from nature. But if you insist, then bring us a little butter, nothing else. Just that will do.’”

  • Osho When the shoe fits: commentaries on the stories of the Taoist mystic Chuang Tzu London: Watkins Publishing, 2004

 

BUDDHA FAILED

Here is the late Tantric teacher Osho’s take on Gautama Siddhartha’s awakening.

“Buddha failed absolutely. After six years he was completely frustrated, and when I say completely, then I mean completely. Not even a single fragment of hope remained; he became absolutely hopeless. In that hopelessness he dropped all effort. He had already dropped the world, he had already left his kingdom; all that belongs to this visible world he had left, renounced.

“Now after six years of strenuous effort he also left all that belongs to the other world. He was in a complete vacuum – empty.  That night his sleep was of a different quality because there was no ego; a different quality of silence arose because there was no effort; a different quality of being happened to him that night because there was no dreaming.

“That night, when there was nothing to be done – this world was already useless, now the other world was also useless – all motivation to move ceased. There was nowhere to go and there was no one to go anywhere. That night sleep became samadhi, it became satori; it became the ultimate thing that can happen to a man. Buddha flowered that night and in the morning he was enlightened. He opened his eyes, looked at the last star disappearing in the sky, and everything was there. It had always been there, but he had wanted it so much that he couldn’t see it. It had always been there, but he had been moving so much in the future with desire that he could not look at the here and now.

“That night there was no desire, no goal, nowhere to go, and no one to go anywhere – all effort ceased. Suddenly he became aware of himself, suddenly he became aware of reality as it is.”

 

  • Osho When the shoe fits: commentaries on the stories of the Taoist mystic Chuang Tzu London: Watkins Publishing, 2004

THE WAY OF SOPHIA

“A Sufi mystic was staying with Rabiya. His name was Hasan. He must have heard Jesus Christ’s statement: ‘knock and it shall be opened to you. Ask and it shall be given to you. Seek and you will find it’. So every day in his morning prayer, afternoon prayer, evening prayer, night prayer, five times a day he said to God, ‘I am knocking, Sir, and I am knocking so much. Why has it not opened up to now? I am beating my head against your door, Sir. Open it.

“Rabiya heard it one day. Rabiya heard it the second day. Rabiya heard it the third day. Then she said, ‘Hasan, when will you look? The door is open. You go on talking nonsense – ‘I am knocking, I am knocking’ – and the door is open all the time. Look! But you are too concerned with your knocking and asking and desiring and seeking, and you cannot see. The door is open.” (1)

For me Rabiya is the Sophia in this story, the teacher and guide. Sophia emerges in the eastern Mediterranean. She is most associated with contexts that are urban, multicultural and entranced by the power of the written word. She inherits the rose from Aphrodite and Isis, and the grove from Asherah, the lost goddess of Israel. She becomes a traveller, eastward bound on the Silk Road, taking other names.

The Sophia of my experience is not quite the being of the traditions, though the traditions have fed me (2, 3). As a living presence, anam cara and guide, she undermines my pompous attempts to impose narrative order on the cosmos and thus possess the infinite. She stands for creative mythology, continuous revelation, and a compassionate free spirit. Infinitely sceptical and infinitely believing, she embraces the life of the senses, feeling and thinking. Yet she points also to other possibilities: nourishment in the silent heart of being, and the energy of what Coleridge called the primary imagination and Druids call Awen.

  1. Osho Zen: the path of paradox New York, NY: Osho International Foundation, 2001
  2. Caitlin Matthews Sophia Goddess of Wisdom, Bride of God Wheaton, ILL: Quest Books, 2001
  3. Anne Baring & Jules Cashford The myth of the Goddess: evolution of an image London: Arkana, 1993
  4. Samuel Taylor Coleridge Biographia Literaria: or biographical sketches of my literary life and opinions London: Dent, 1965 (Edited with an introduction by George Watson)

 

OSHO, GOD AND BEING HUMAN

Some reflections by Osho. I extend the word ‘God’ to include any ego ideal. It brings this piece closer to home.

“Man has always been thinking of himself as the most superior creation in existence. Man has thought of himself only as next to God and feels very happy. That, too, we say just to be polite; deep down you know that God is next to you.

“Even when you are a great worshipper … every moment you are trying to manipulate God according to you. ‘Do my will!’ That’s all your prayer means. That’s all your prayer means. ‘Do according to me. Listen to me’. Your whole effort is to convert God into your servant. You call him ‘Lord’. ‘Master’, but those are just briberies; you are trying to manipulate him. You say, ‘I am nobody, you are all’ – but deep down you know who is who. In fact even when you fight for your God, it is your God. Even when you sacrifice yourself on some pedestal, some altar, it is to your God that you sacrifice. When you bow down to an image of God in a temple, a mosque, in a church, it is to your image that you have created, to your God. You are bowing down to your own creation. You are bowing down as if before a mirror.

“Remember we are fuelling our egos in every way possible – gross or subtle, direct or indirect. And a really religious person is one who knows this, becomes aware of this, and in that awareness the ego disappears. A really religious person has no idea who is superior. A religious person cannot say, ‘I am superior to the tree, I am superior to the animal, I am superior to the bird.’ A religious person cannot say, ‘I am superior’. A religious person has come to know that ‘I am not’ and in that experience of ‘I am not’ joy flows in; the rock has been removed.”

Osho (1990) Tao: the pathless path New York: St. Martin’s Griffin

CONSIDERING KARMA

I’ve been wondering about the traditional doctrine of karma and rebirth, and what place it now has. Both Paganism and the New Age inherit a nineteenth century Theosophical version of this doctrine, positing a personal soul journey, a movement through time in successive incarnations, depending on track record and learning needs. It is somewhat different from the Buddhist view (and also the one attributed by classical writers to the ancient Druids) but my sense is that it still has considerable authority. It was treated as a given by my mentors at the London Centre of Transpersonal Psychology, when I studied with them in the late 80s and early 90s.

But it’s never been universal and as part of my own inquiry I present two other perspectives from within the Asian traditions themselves. One is from the late Tantric Master Osho and the other from the Buddhist scholar Stephen Batchelor. I particularly like Steven Batchelor’s statement that “shifting concern away from a future life and back to the present … demands an ethics of empathy rather than a metaphysics of fear and hope.” This to him is more important than the truth or otherwise of the doctrine itself. However I start with Osho, in an iconoclastic mood.

OSHO

“You live encapsulated inside your buffers, philosophies, consolations. Life ends one day – you can console yourself. … You can start believing in the theory of reincarnation: that you will be reborn and the soul is eternal … Or you can think that it is only the body that dies. And what is a body? Nothing but bones, marrow, flesh, blood; it is nothing of worth, it is useless, a dirty bag – so let it die. But your pure soul is going to be forever and ever – a buffer is created. These buffers don’t allow you to see what reality is; they are the way to console yourself.

“Yes. There is misery, but one can protect oneself from misery by creating conceptions, rationalizations. … For example in the East … they say … if you are miserable, you must have done something wrong in the previous life. Something has gone wrong in your past, you have done some wrong karma; hence you are miserable. Now things are explained, so no one has to suffer. … The whole philosophy of karma is that you have sown already, now you are reaping; you have done, so it is a natural consequence. It consoles you. So nobody is doing anything unjust to you. God is not unjust, fate is not unjust, the world is not unjust, the society is not unjust, it is your own karma.

So what to do? One has to pass through it, and one has to keep one’s equanimity, one’s equilibrium. And don’t do such a thing again, otherwise in the next life you will suffer again. So that is the only thing that can be done: you cannot change the past, but you can still manage the future … a beautiful consolation”.

Osho (1990) Tao: the pathless path New York: St. Martin’s Griffin

 

STEPHEN BATCHELOR

“It is often claimed that you cannot be a Buddhist if you do not accept the doctrine of rebirth. From a traditional point of view, it is indeed problematic to suspend belief in the idea of rebirth, since many basic notions then have to be rethought. But if we follow the Buddha’s injunction not to accept things blindly, then orthodoxy should not stand in the way of forming an understanding.

“A difficulty that has beset Buddhism from the beginning is the question of what it is to be reborn. Religions that posit an eternal self distinct from the body-mind complex escape this dilemma – the body and mind may die but the self continues. A central Buddhist idea, however, is that no such intrinsic self can be found through analysis or realized in meditation. Such a deep-seated sense of personal identity is a fiction, a tragic habit that lies at the root of craving and anguish. How do we square this with rebirth, which necessarily entails the existence of something that not only survives the death of the body and brain but somehow traverses the space between a corpse and a fertilized ovum?

“Different Buddhist schools have come up with different answers to this question, which in itself suggests their views are based on speculation. Some claim that the force of habit-driven craving immediately reappears in another form of life; others posit various kinds of non-physically based mental consciousness that may spend several weeks before locating a suitable womb.

“The idea of rebirth is meaningful in religious Buddhism only insofar as it provides a vehicle for the key Indian metaphysical doctrine of actions and their results known as ‘karma’. While the Buddha accepted the idea of karma as he accepted the idea of rebirth, when questioned on the issue he tended to emphasize its psychological rather than its cosmological implications. “Karma”, he often said, “is intention” i.e. a movement of the mind that occurs each time we think, speak or act. By being mindful of the process, we come to understand how intentions lead to habitual patterns of behaviour, which in turn affects the quality of our experience. In contrast to the view often taught by religious Buddhists, he denied that karma alone was sufficient to explain the origin of individual experience.

“Where does this leave us? It may seem that there are two options: either to believe in rebirth or not. But there is a third alternative: to acknowledge in all honesty that I do not know. … Regardless of what we believe, our actions will reverberate beyond our deaths. Irrespective of our personal survival, the legacy of our thoughts, words and deeds will continue through the impressions we leave behind in the lives of those we have influenced or touched in any way.

“If our actions in the world are to stem from what is central in life, they must be unclouded by either dogma or prevarication. Agnosticism is no excuse for indecision. If anything, it is a catalyst for action; for in shifting concern away from a future life and back to the present, it demands an ethics of empathy rather than a metaphysics of fear and hope.”

Stephen Batchelor (1997) Buddhism without beliefs: a contemporary guide to awakening London: Bloomsbury

 

 

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