Thursday, August 21, 2008

Osho: "Courage" Part 10 - The Way of Innocence

(Cover) Courage: The Joy of Living DangerouslyThese are my notes covering "The Way of Innocence", the final section of the first chapter, "What Is Courage?" of Osho's bookCourage: The Joy of Living Dangerously.

I had a lot of difficulty summarizing this part of the book. In part I found this section difficult and challenging to grasp. But it also seemed somewhat contradictory with earlier sections. And I have strongly conflicting feelings about some of it.

Clinging to a Corpse

The real question is not of courage, the real question is that the known is the dead, and the unknown is the living. Clinging to the known is clinging to a corpse. ... everything you know is of the past, it is already gone. It is part of a graveyard. Do you want to be in a grave, or do you want to be alive?

Thus he continues a theme from earlier in the book: to be truly alive we must venture constantly into the unknown. But while in earlier pages he has extolled experience and knowledge as essential precursors to trust, Osho here seems to condemn them.

Whatever you know, accumulate -- information, knowledge, experience -- the moment you have explored them you are finished with them. Now carrying those empty worlds, that dead load, is crushing your life, burdening your life, preventing you from entering into a living rejoicing being.

But Osho must not actually be condemning "information, knowledge, experience." Rather I think he means for us to use them then let go. So for example, I get hungry and need to eat, then I eat a sandwich, using it to satisfy my requirement. Afterward the nutrients have been absorbed and are no longer recognizable as food, they are part of me. But what's left over is just shit and we dispose of it as far away from us as possible.

Innocence: No Past, Only Future

The man of understanding dies every moment to the past and is reborn again to the future. His present is always a transformation, a rebirth, a resurrection. It is not a question of courage at all... It is a question of clarity, of being clear about what is what.

Thus is the Way of Innocence introduced. In Osho's view Innocence subsumes courage because "There is no need to have courage if you are innocent." And we are all born innocent, but lose it through the corruption of our "past".

I love history, the stories of mankind's turbulent, beautiful, and too-often blood-soaked journey. To me it is a story with an arc -- there is progress and change. Yet Osho apparently considers history as being of less than no value, because it not only offers nothing new, but it extends its corrosive influence upon our childlike innocence.

The past corrupts because it gives you memories, experiences, expectations... They may help you to succeed in the world, but in your innermost being you will be a failure.

In part, Osho is treading familiar ground here, the well-known (but poorly practiced) notion that excessive devotion to the material life will starve our spiritual prospects.

You can take from this world only that which you have brought in. ... In this whole world what can you gain? What can you take away with you? ... All that you possessed was not yours; the very idea of possession was wrong.

And he relates the long parable of the chakravartin, an emperor who achieves total world domination, an unprecedented feat. But only to learn when he dies that he is but the latest in an endless chain of chakravartins. And thus his life's accomplishments become meaningless in his eyes.

Of course I do accept the idea that we can take nothing out of the world. In fact, I think St. Paul said it better:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
-- 1 Timothy 6:6-10, New International Version

But, Solomonic rumblings to the contrary ("All is vanity") notwithstanding, the Judeo-Christian world view does not leap from this rejection of the material to suggest that history is meaningless! And even if I no longer accept that we are participants in God's plan until Jesus returns to launch the millenial kingdom, I still believe we are part of a grand story that gives meaning to our lives.

Know Who You Are

Without possessions, success, fame -- who are you?

Of course this question is nothing new, I've been hearing it in variations since my teenage years. But that makes it no less a valid and important question. To a significant degree I've devoted myself to providing an answer. I agree with Osho that

The first and foremost thing is to know who I am.

But in revisiting this question he points out that the inevitable creep of materialism in our lives results in our assumption of a false identity, the identity defined by our role and possessions in life. At one time I would have accepted this. But now I would say that such an identity is not false, it is simply incomplete. We are much more than that. And more significantly, we are capable of much more than that.

So Osho proceeds down the line that says we have traded the one thing that we truly have -- our innocence, our integrity, our self-respect --for empty possessions that leave our souls still panting.

About 2500 years ago the prophet Isaiah spoke to the same yearning:

Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.

-- Isaiah 55: 2, New International Version

Of course Isaiah and Osho would differ over the answer. Isaiah's great theme is to call on the people of Israel to repent and turn again to Jehovah God. In contrast, Osho calls on us to empty our minds because

Mind is the cause of all unpeace, all restlessness. Peace is when there is no mind.

But a stone is mindless and has perfect peace. I do not aspire to be like a stone.

Trust In The Unknown

Osho concludes the chapter "What Is Courage?" by reminding us to always "trust in the unknown" because the biggest threat to our peace is our mind, the "accumulated known", and "the unknown cannot be the mind."

And thus we come back to courage. Because we must gather courage to move into the unknown, to take the unfamiliar path, often the more difficult path. To deal with the known requires no courage, but

The moment you cross the boundary of the known, fear arises, because now you will be ignorant, now you will not know what to do... mistakes can be committed; you can go astray.

And mistakes are dangerous. We are right to fear them, Osho never suggests otherwise. But this fear imprisons us in the realm of the known, and such prison is, in his view, death.

Life can only be lived dangerously -- there is no other way to live it. It is only through danger that life attains to maturity, growth. One needs to be an adventurer.

And hence the imperative need for courage in order to live.

Not all of Osho's teachings make sense to me. I suppose one could argue that they are unfamiliar and therefore require courage to accept. But that would lead to the silly conclusion of accepting all unfamiliar teachings, and that would make no sense at all.

But the main thrust of this book rings true to me: a life lived entirely in familiar comfort is diminished. Not "dead" -- I will not devalue the many good souls who live this way -- but less than what it could be. And men and women make history when they attempt the new and unfamiliar, not when they choose the safety of the known.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Osho: "Courage" Part 9 - Belief, Doubt and Trust

(Cover) Courage: The Joy of Living DangerouslyContinuing the section "The Way of Trust" in the first chapter of Osho's bookCourage: The Joy of Living Dangerously.

People... have been taught to believe, they have not been taught to know... Never believe. If you cannot trust it is better to doubt.

Osho's view of religion is that for most people it is an empty set of hand-me-down false beliefs, by which he means something quite superficial, in which they have no real confidence. This was not, however, my own experience in many years as a practicing Christian. In fact I am doubtful whether it applies to any but the most superficial religionists, even if they happen to be in the majority. So many people are willing to die for their faith, even if false, that I think they must have great trust, great confidence.

Nevertheless, this is really just a distraction from the main thrust of Osho's argument. He wants us to know by our own experience and thus have confidence in what we know.

Trust has become a belief, not an experience... All beliefs are borrowed; others have given them to you, they are not your flowerings... Trust is personal; belief is social.

So as a first step he advocates the replacement of hand-me-down "belief" with doubt, not because doubt is in itself a good place to be -- on the contrary it is a "nightmare" of division and indecisiveness. But this unstable state will motivate us to go beyond it, to press on, to experience, to know.

And unless you know, you cannot be liberated. Knowledge liberates, only knowing liberates.

So Osho's essential point here is that simply trying to cultivate "trust" for it's own sake is what supports empty religious beliefs. Instead:

Discover trust within yourself, don't cultivate it. Go deeper into your being, to the very source of your being, and discover it... How can you trust anybody or anything if you don't trust yourself?

Osho wants to prepare us for a great journey of discovery. For this we will need courage, and that courage must be supported by a certain amount of trust. And that trust must begin with ourselves. Emphasizing these things, he returns to the topics of intelligence and heart.

Intelligence is intellect in tune with your heart.
The heart knows how to trust.
The intellect knows how to seek and search.

Using a parable of two beggers, one blind and one legless, who cooperate to escape a fire, Osho makes the point that

Alone your intellect is blind. It.. can move fast but because it is blind it cannot choose the right direction in which to go.

But we also have our heart. The heart "which sees, which feels, but which has no legs." Thus they must work together, our intellect under the direction of our heart.

In the hands of the heart the intellect becomes intelligent. It is a ... total transformation of energy. Then the person does not become an intellectual, he simply becomes wise.

Osho is endearing in many ways, and one is his bias toward action and experience. Wisdom is not an end in itself, but a tool to guide us in life's great adventure. And with greater confidence in our own capabilities, we gain the courage necessary to step up and step out.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Selah

Selah -- Pause, crescendo, or musical interlude.

For a number of years, mostly in my 20's, I followed a rigorous Bible reading schedule. It was one I had devised myself, and included a feature gleaned from someone's observation that there are 31 chapters of Proverbs -- perfect for reading one chapter a day and thus re-reading all of Proverbs every month. He also observed that there are 150 Psalms, thus reading 5 a day would get through all of them in a month. God must have intended it so! I followed this practice with religious zeal for a number of years.

Stand in awe, and sin not: Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah
-- Psalms 4:4

My New American Standard Bible had lots of annotations, and the one I remember most is the explanation of Selah, a mysterious word that appears in many of the Psalms. According to these scholars, in a public recitation of the Psalms the selah denotes an intended "pause, crescendo or musical interlude."

I don't read the Bible much anymore, but its words have had a lasting influence on me.
They pop up at the oddest times. I can remember years ago, my wife quietly talking to me during the sermon, whereupon I responded, "Let the women keep silent in church." (1 Cor 14:34) To my then-surprise, she did not appreciate this scholarly rebuke.

Lately I've been feeling a little bad about not having updated my blog in a week. It's not that I've run out of things to say, just that I didn't feel the same urgency to say them.

And then this morning it came to me. Selah. A pause, crescendo or musical interlude.

I've paused, to take stock, look around, and reflect on what's been said.

A crescendo of events in my personal life has taken place.

And a musical interlude is often a welcome alternative to speech.

Selah.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Kin of Ata

Several months ago I read The Kin of Ata Are Waiting For Youby Dorothy Bryant. It's a beautiful book and it launched me reading much more of her excellent work.

I collected a series of quotes from the book and decided to post them here.


You Always Come Down

"... you always come down, no matter how high you've been; ... it's a law of gravity of the soul."

-- p. 25



Creation

The day came when a piece of the sun fell to the ocean. It fell and floated on the ocean. It separated itself into earth and water and plants and animals. It was no longer sun, but each of its parts was a part of the sun and a sign of the sun. And all parts, earth and water and plants and animals, were content in their division, content in their expression of the sun, content to be a single part multiplying itself under the light of the sun, striving and being, as a sign of the sun but never true sun, lost to the form of the true sun.

Until the single multiple signs formed the human part. And the human part of the sun was not content. The human part suffered because within it was the knowledge of the fall from the sun and the yearning to return.

It knew and it did not know. It suffered and yearned. It suffered and yearned for what it did not know. And out of its suffering and yearning grew the cry of the people, yearning to know the way back to the sun.

-- p. 64



Donagdeo

Donagdeo: not productive of good, valuable, or enlightening dreams. Opposite of nagdeo.

"Each person find for himself what is donagdeo. To force anyone to do or not to do something is also donagdeo. Nothing is forbidden. Nothing is taboo. But I listen to Salvatore because he is usually right."

-- p 67, 68



"We made love again..."

We made love again, more slowly this time. I had meant to give her great pleasure, but I began to fumble nervously like a boy, to feel foolish and stupid. It was her steady eyes on me, her total and open acceptance of me, her quiet pleasuring in my touch of her ...

-- p. 110



"We must dance the dance"

"Of course, the movements have meanings behind them. If we were sure of the meanings, we would not need the dance. There is a great danger in trying to interpret the dance in words. Words get between us and the dance and the meaning behind the dance -- just one more thing between us and the meaning. One must dance the dance and go through it to the meaning."

-- pp 117-118.



Song for the Ceremony of Light

Already far from Home
Far from the source of life
We have strayed further
To the deepest dark.

Now turn, turn, turn
We now turn back
Turn, turn, turn
Back to the light of life.

Rejoice in the darkest night
Dark night brings deep dreams
The farther we go
The closer to our Home

So turn, turn, turn
We now turn back
Turn, turn, turn
Back to the light of life.

-- p. 126



"All are correct"

"How many versions of that story are there?" I asked Salvatore.
"Many," he answered. "Every dream has many, many versions. ... There is no correct version. All are correct, all are changing."
...
"If one of them is true, then another cannot be."
"They are all true. And they are all untrue, as words are always untrue. Words are not dreams. Dreams are not reality. They are only dreams."
"Then what is the reality?"

-- pp.164, 168



The Noblest Effort

Wasn't all art impossible? Art was an attempt to capture the real, to pin it down, to keep it still, so that we can understand. It is impossible. But it is the noblest effort.

-- p.164



Words - Laughter - Silence

We stopped talking and laughed again. Laughter was better than words; silence better than both.

-- p.202



"And then there was light"

There was an instant of silence ...

And then there was light. Indescribably warm, glowing light. Light was everywhere. It shone on everything, through and into everything; it came out of everything, out of everyone. It was like a fire that does not consume, but not like a fire, like . . . like nothing else, nothing else was like it. But all things were full of it. The faces around the table, the table itself, the walls, the windows, everything was alive, everything lived in and through the light.

And I too. I too. From the center of my being the light broke in waves, in orgasmic waves, outward to the extremities of my body, every cell of my body melting together in the waves of light that flowed outward from my center, and over me from the very air around me, from everything. I breathed it into me and it poured out of me, sweeping through me like a million orgasms. I was full and whole. I was part of the light and of all the other things that shone in and with the light. All were one. And whole.

...
I have not spoken since then.

-- pp.217-18

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Osho: "Courage" Part 8 - The Way of Trust

(Cover) Courage: The Joy of Living DangerouslyContinuing my series on Osho's bookCourage: The Joy of Living Dangerously with "The Way of Trust", a section in the first chapter, "What Is Courage?".

Trust is the Greatest Intelligence

Osho argues that fear and insecurity give rise to doubt, being the opposite of trust. And that we are afraid because we lack confidence in our own intelligence. If we believed in our own intelligence then we would not be afraid of being "cheated". Personally, I would be more afraid of failure than of being cheated, but the principle appears to be the same.

Trust needs great intelligence, courage, integrity. It needs a great heart to go into it. If you don't have enough intelligence, you protect yourself through doubt.

A cynic could point out that these assertions are self-serving for a teacher: if you doubt his words it shows you lack intelligence! But the real truth at the heart of his teaching is that we must learn to believe in ourselves, to trust ourselves and our own judgment. And armed with this confidence, we must finally have the courage to act.

If you have intelligence you are ready to go into the unknown because you know that even if the whole known world disappears and you are left in the unknown, you will be able to settle there.

I still find it somewhat awkward to be discussing this in terms of intelligence. So it is useful to remember that Osho has previously said

Intelligence is aliveness, it is spontaneity. It is openness, it is vulnerability. It is impartiality, it is the courage to function without conclusions.

and he has very carefully distinguished this intelligence from "intellect". Thus armed with our confident, wide-eyed spontaneity we can approach one of his most important statements:

Don't try to understand life. Live it! Don't try to understand love. Move into love. Then you will know -- and that knowing will come out of your experiencing.

When I was a teenager, I recall thinking deeply about the meaning of life. For several years, as I became self-aware, I struggled trying to figure it out. Until one day I delved deeply inside myself, seeking and seeking for the answer, only to discover that there was no solution to this "problem" because life is not a problem to be solved.

For nearly 40 years now I have tried to live by this principle. So when I read Osho's next words, I felt that I had come home:

Life is not a problem... It is a mystery to be lived, loved, experienced.

Osho suggests that it is because we are afraid that our restless, fearful minds try to solve the problem of life. In fear we require explanations -- an explanation is a map, and a map gives a feeling of familiarity to the unknown.

But life is like that, and no map is possible because life goes on changing. Every moment it is now. There is nothing old under the sun... Only change is permanent... Life is not stagnant... It is not measurable, it is an unmeasurable mystery. Don't ask for explanations.

When one can look at life "without questions", and plunge ahead with courage and fearlessness, Osho calls it "maturity of mind". I think in this he is insisting that our intelligence should be sufficient in a given situation to simply act without a long analysis.

As I look inside myself, there are certainly more than enough occasions on which I have stood aside from events, watching them and wondering about them, when I could have been a participant. In every case, lurking at the core is fear. What if instead I had been bold, trusting in my ability to navigate the unknown?

Fortunately, I have those memories as well -- times when I've stood forth and sailed into uncharted spaces. Not without bangs and bruises, but the rewards have been great.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Osho: "Courage" Part 7 - Truth vs. Science

(Cover) Courage: The Joy of Living DangerouslyContinuing my series on Osho's bookCourage: The Joy of Living Dangerously. This post continues to address "The Way of Intelligence" in the first chapter.

Truth is an Experience

In the preceding section Osho discussed the imperative "to be, not to think" -- to know in a religious way rather than through science. Only through religiousness can one "penetrate to the heart of reality." Thus he continues

Truth is an experience, not a belief. Truth never comes by studying about it; truth has to be encountered.

In this statement Osho continues to dismiss the value of reason and science as tools to understand reality. This is because he believes the important features of reality are beyond the "known". To begin to know in this previously unknown domain requires the experience of it.

The person who studies about love is like the person who studies about the Himalayas by looking at the map of the mountains. The map is not the mountain! ... The mountain is in front of you, but your eyes are full of maps.

This of course is true. But maps are valuable tools for rendering a large amount of knowledge, and are at their most useful in giving guidance when journeying into the unknown. Unless of course they are speculative and inaccurate. Every religion offers us "maps" to eternity.

Even the progress of science is most often hampered by the scientist's inability to see past his or her pre-conceptions, the pre-judged conclusions that may be wrong and must be overturned:

The prejudiced eye is blind, the heart full of conclusions is dead.

As discussed previously, Osho wants us to function with active, alert intelligence rather than living according to a set of pre-drawn "conclusions" that constrain our discovery of the world.

Too many a priori assumptions and your intelligence .. becomes dull. Dull intelligence is what is called intellect... Intellect is a corpse... To be alive is a totally different matter.

Science Is Factual, Mystery is Existential

Science means being definite about facts, and thus prevents one from "feeling the mysterious." This is because

The more definite you are, the more the mystery evaporates... Science is the murder of mystery.

Osho goes on to describe science as the "dimension of the mind" and I believe he feels he is proving thus that the mind is inadequate to know the mysterious. But if "the mysterious" is defined as "that which cannot be known by the mind," then he is simply stating a tautology.

As a tautology it is no less true, just less profound, and possibly unprovable.

So we are left with this assertion: there are mysteries of existence which cannot be touched by science and reason. He has previously called this truth. But if something is intrinsically unknowable, what of it? Why should we then take any notice of it, since it is inescapably unnoticeable?

Meditation: the Dimension of the Mysterious

Osho now introduces, I believe for the first time in this book, the idea of meditation, as yet unexplained. Meditation is offered as a tool, a pathway by which one can explore the otherwise unknowable "dimension of the miraculous, the mysterious."

Meditation makes everything undefined... takes you into the unknown, the uncharted... takes you slowly, slowly into a kind of dissolution where the observer and the observed become one.

Osho contrasts this dissolution/participation with the strict observation required by science. Yet science is not our only tool for knowing the world with our minds. We use science to form conclusions and those conclusions are tested. This is a kind of objective truth that is proven. But once we use science to design and construct, say, an airplane or a boat, then we can openly enjoy its use with no more thought to the science behind it. We can feel and experience it, reveling in it, and how can one argue that this is not using our minds?

In other words, one uses the map to plan and navigate. But one does not drive or hike by looking at the map, nor would anyone want to, it would be silly and dangerous.

Osho's argument is that use of the mind = science, science requires detachment, detachment leads to cold indifference and "indifference kills mystery." Therefore use of the mind kills mystery and one must therefore "open a new door in your being" through meditation.

I think his deprecation of science and the mind seems ill-placed and annoying. His effort would be better spent perhaps in supporting his concept of the unknowable mysteriousness, and why it embodies truth.

On the other hand, I find his teaching is much more compelling when he is less negative and more rational:

Looking at the flower, become the flower, dance around the flower, sing a song. The wind is cool and crisp, the sun is warm, and the flower is in its prime. The flower is dancing in the wind... Participate with it! Drop indifference, objectivity, detachment... Become a little more fluid, more melting, more merging. Let the flower speak to your heart... enter your being. Invite him -- he is a guest! And then you will have some taste of mystery.

Now I can get my mind behind that!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Osho: "Courage" Part 6 - The Way of Intelligence

(Cover) Courage: The Joy of Living DangerouslyContinuing my series on Osho's bookCourage: The Joy of Living Dangerously. In this part we begin to examine the section, "The Way of Intelligence".

Intelligence is aliveness, it is spontaneity. It is openness, it is vulnerability. It is impartiality, it is the courage to function without conclusions.

Functioning Without Conclusions

Osho's meaning is not immediately clear without remembering that he has just finished urging us to abandon "ready-made answers" and think with originality (see previous post, "Listen To Your Heart"). So he is equating these "ready-made answers" with conclusions: decisions and determinations based on analyses that we have already made. To function within our conclusions is to live within the safety and security of the known.

In opposition, Osho proposes that we function in innocence. But what could he mean? Clearly he does not mean that we should act as if we have never learned anything:

One may go astray, but that is how one arrives. Going many, many times astray, one learns how not to go astray... Knowing what is error, one comes closer and closer to what is truth. It is an individual exploration; you cannot depend on others' conclusions.

So it is all about learning for yourself. But here we have a very broad statement. It seems certain that he does not mean, "Jump off a cliff to test for yourself whether it is dangerous." Or see for yourself how fast you can drive the mountain road before your car leaves the highway.

And does he then mean that it's ok to depend on our own conclusions, just not the conclusions of others? I think not, because our own conclusions are apt to be overly general, or perhaps mistaken or obsolete. They too should be re-examined or refined.

I hope he returns to this topic, because to "function in innocence" still seems to me hopelessly vague.

Born as a No-Mind

If you were born as a no-mind, then the mind is just a social product. It is nothing natural, it is cultivated.

Do you agree with Osho that our minds are imposed upon us by family and society? My four children are each quite different. Yes, they do share much "mind" that is of course a product of their upbringing. But they also think for themselves, have their own experiences and have drawn their own conclusions. Even from the day they were born they had their own unique personalities. Is that not part of the mind?

Existence precedes thinking. So existence is not a state of mind, it is a state beyond. To be, not to think, is the way to know the fundamental.

Ironically, for a section titled "The Way of Intelligence" Osho is advocating that we adopt a "nonthinking approach", a religious approach in order to know "the fundamental." That's because

Thinking can think only about the known -- it can chew the already chewed. Thinking can never be original... At the most, thinking can imagine new combinations, but it cannot know the unknown... So thinking goes in a circle, goes on knowing the known again and again and again.

In contrast, "religiousness" is a superior way to know because

It drops all that hinders, it unblocks you; you start flowing into life. You don't think that you are separate, looking. You don't think that you are a watcher, aloof, distant. You meet, mingle and merge into reality.

And that is Osho's central objective,

To come upon reality originally, radically, to come upon reality without any mediator -- to come upon reality as if you are the first person to exist -- that is liberating. The very newness of it liberates.

Indeed!