Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Osho: "Courage" Part 5 - Listen to Your Heart

(Cover) Courage: The Joy of Living DangerouslyPart 5 of my series summarizing and commenting upon Osho's bookCourage: The Joy of Living Dangerously.

Osho writes:

Don't listen to the scriptures -- listen to your own heart... Listen very attentively, very consciously, and you will never be wrong ... you will never be divided ... you will start moving in the right direction without ever thinking of what is right and what is wrong.

Not surprisingly, this contrasts sharply with the Judeo-Christian view:

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"
-- Jeremiah 17:9

Yes, the contrast is so clear: in the religions I know, the heart is not to be trusted, it is a source of error. In its native wickedness, tainted by original sin, it seeks to lure us into falsehood and ruin. Therefore we have Scriptures to which we must adhere, rightly interpreted by prophets, priests, prelates and padres.

And it's easy to cite examples of sociopaths and megalomaniacs, the Genghis Khans, Hitlers and Mansons of the world who "listened to their heart". But one could also cite many who have listened to the Scriptures and caused equal destruction.

Don't follow rules imposed from the outside. No imposed rule can ever be right -- because rules are invented by people who want to rule you.

Osho argues that Jesus and Mohammed did not give rules to the world but rather they gave their love. Only after they were gone did their followers codify rules of conduct -- Scriptures -- in order to have something to follow. In his view this makes us imitators.

"Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ."
-- St. Paul (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Never be an imitator, be always original.
-- Osho

So once again, the contrast is razor sharp. Many people think of America as basically a Christian nation. Yet in this respect Osho's teaching seems perhaps more truly American than even the Bible:

You are not in any way less than anybody else. Respect yourself, respect your own inner voice and follow it.

It's important to understand that Osho is not suggesting our hearts will always lead us "to the right." He argues that it will lead us generally in the right direction, even if along the way we stumble, wander astray and knock on some wrong doors. And this is why courage is so important: these wanderings are real dangers. And because of that we must be always alert, always prepared to recognize what is wrong so that we can leave it. Moving on toward the right.

This is a central problem with most of us:

People have been taught never to do anything wrong, and then they become so hesitant, so fearful, so frightened of doing wrong, that they become stuck.

Afraid of making a mistake, we become like rocks, devoid of movement. Osho urges us to have the courage to make mistakes, even "as many mistakes as possible" but not frivolously, moving purposefully. "Don't commit the same mistake again."

Thus we grow. "It is part of your freedom to go astray." Sure. "It is part of your dignity to go even against God." Well that's intense. "This is how you will start having a spine."

To go against God? I believe Osho's point is that we may think we know "what God wants", but he doesn't believe we can really know that. "The thing that is right today may be wrong tomorrow." To rail thus against moral absolutes invites a battery of counter-arguments, but let's keep moving.

"That which is harmonious with existence is right." So there is some absolute after all, if dangerously vague. But here again is his essential point:

You will have to be very alert each moment, because it has to be decided each moment afresh. you cannot depend on ready-made answers for what is right and what is wrong. ... Life goes on changing continuously ... Life moves so fast ... It is not a stagnant pool, it is a Ganges, it goes on flowing... So one thing may be right this moment and may not be right the next... The only possible thing is to make people so aware that they themselves can decide how to respond to a changing life.

Each moment is a surprise and no ready-made answer is ever applicable.

Challenging? Most certainly. But how literally can we take this view? At the core of "learning" is to take lessons from one experience and apply them to subsequent experience. The fire is hot, it will burn you. This does not change, and a ready-made answer is both useful and sensible.

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