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.

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