“All civilizations live through beliefs and faith,” explains Osho. From ‘Hidden Mysteries’, Ch 2, Part 9 of 9.
If some primitive is brought into your house at night, and you want light, you get up from where you are, walk a few feet to the nearest wall, flip a switch and there is light. The primitive will not think that there is any connecting wire between the switch and the bulb; he might even think that there is some trick, and that your getting up and going to the wall to flick a switch is just a ritual. The switching of the first button turns on the light, the second turns on the fan and the third one a radio. If he does not know about electricity he will think that you are performing some trick near the wall, some ritual.
But suppose that one day when you are not home, the electricity goes off, and that primitive person goes to the wall and turns the switch…. When he finds that there is no light and that neither the fan nor radio come on, he will think that he has made a mistake in the ritual – that he did not take the right number of steps from the chair to the wall, or that he did not put the right foot down first, or that you were muttering some mantra while turning on the switch. He cannot understand or have any idea about what electricity is.
In relation to religion similar things happen. What we call religious rituals are outward, superficial actions observed by us. Those who know nothing of the inner arrangements also go through the same actions. Sometimes, when something happens, we feel perhaps the rituals are helpful; at other times when nothing happens we feel earlier successes must have been accidental, because if the ritual is right it should always produce a result. So whatever we do not understand appears to be like a ritual from the outside. This happens even with those who are highly intellectual people – because intellect is, in a way, childish, and an intellectual person is, in a sense, juvenile, because intellect cannot take you very deep.
Three hundred years ago when the gramophone was introduced into France, when a scientist announced he had invented the gramophone, the French academy of sciences convened to verify his claim. The scientist began the demonstration by putting on a record: the president of the Academy watched carefully for a while and then immediately got up and took hold of the inventor by the neck! He thought that the scientist was playing some trick with his throat; otherwise how could a voice come out from the machine? He pressed his neck even tighter, but the voice continued! The inventor never expected this from a scientist. He became frightened and asked the president what he was doing. The inventor said it was no trick, and asked the president to go out of the room with him; the voice of the gramophone could still be heard. All the other scientists present protested and said that there was some trick, that this was the work of the devil; otherwise how could a small disc start speaking? Today we can laugh at this because we know what a gramophone is; otherwise, we would have reacted in a similar way.
If one day an atom bomb explodes, destroying the whole of civilization except for a record-player which happens to be with an aboriginal tribesman… If he puts on that record-player, any remaining population may kill him because he will not be able to explain how the record speaks. Even you may not be able to explain how a record “speaks.”
It’s interesting to note that all civilizations live through beliefs, faith. Only three or four people may know how the record-player works; the rest just have faith in its working. You switch on a button and there is light; you do it daily but can you explain how it happens? Only a few people know the secrets of its working; the remaining people only utilize the benefits of the discoveries. But when those secrets are lost, those who have just utilized their benefits will be at a loss; they will be afraid if one day the light bulb doesn’t light up.
The tirtha and the temple have their own science, and that science has specific rules for the whole process. The second step follows the first, and the third follows the second; even if one step is missed, the result will not be the same.
It should also be understood that once a civilization is highly developed, when science is properly understood, the ritual and methodology becomes simplified, they don’t remain complex. When technology isn’t properly developed, the process remains very complicated.
For example, what can be easier than flicking a switch to produce light? Would whoever invented electricity have lit his lamp so easily? What could be as easy and simple as my voice being recorded while I speak? We do not have to do much for it, but do you think that making the tape recorder was so easy? If someone asks me how speech is recorded on this tape machine, I will say that he has only to speak and his voice will be recorded. But it has taken a long time for the development of the tape recorder. Now the process is simplified, and because it is simplified the technology has reached the common man. The common man has only the final results in his hands.
Religion too is like this. When Mahavira is working on some religious principles, he stakes his life for it. But you know the evolved process very easily. It becomes as easy for you as pressing a button. But this is the real difficulty – the inventor gets lost and only the button remains in your hand and you may not be able to explain how to activate the process or how it will work.
At the moment, scientists in America and Russia are very keen to evolve telepathic methods to communicate with their astronauts in space. The spaceship ‘Luna’ got lost in space because its radio stopped working, so they are alert to the danger of relying too much on a machine in space. If radio contact is lost, the astronauts will be lost forever; we will not be able to re-establish contact with them. While in space, they may want to report their findings, but they will not be able to convey them to us, so some alternative method is needed so that even if the machine does not work, thoughts can be transmitted. So American and Russian scientists are very keen on developing telepathy.
America appointed a commission to collect knowledge that exists anywhere in the world related to telepathy. After three or four years this commission reported that telepathic communication is possible but that those who are able to use it are not able to explain how they do.
In the report there is an account of a certain tribe in America: in every village of that tribe there is a special kind of small tree, and through the help of the tree the tribe communicates messages from one village to the other. For example, if a man had gone to the nearby village to get some household requirements, if his wife suddenly remembers that she has forgotten to ask him to bring a particular article, she tells the tree to convey the message to her husband. In the evening when the husband arrives home, he has brought the article. The members of the commission watched this happening, and they were very puzzled.
When we talk with someone on the telephone, the primitive person is bound to be puzzled. We aren’t, because we know the system. And when we listen to the radio there is nothing alarming about it for us because we know what it is. But we are certainly surprised when we are told that some people transmit messages through a tree.
The members of the commission stayed with that tribe for three or four days and set up their own experiments. They talked to the people of the village; no one was able to explain how the transmission of messages happened, they only said that it had always happened. They take care that it does not die – a ritual is made of transplanting a branch of it. Their fathers and their forefathers have always used the tree to pass on messages but they did not know how it worked. The vital energy of the tree was being used for telepathy, but why that tree was used and how the telepathy works the tribal people do not know. The key is lost with the people who discovered it.
Buddhists do not allow the original bodhi tree – the one under which Buddha became enlightened – to die. Now you can understand why. When the original tree was withering, King Ashoka sent one of its branches to Sri Lanka. That branch became a tree and is still there. A branch of it was brought back to India and planted in Bodhgaya. The same tree has been kept in continuity. The Bodhgaya tirtha is valuable because of that tree.
When Buddha became enlightened the tree must have deeply absorbed something of Buddha’s consciousness. It was an unprecedented and extraordinary event, the experience of enlightenment happening to Buddha. If lightning strikes a tree, the tree will be burned, so it is not difficult to imagine that when the lightning of consciousness struck Buddha, the tree too became enlightened in some way.
Buddha must have given some secret instruction not to allow the tree to die. He said, “Don’t worship me – it is enough to worship this tree.” That is why for five hundred years after his enlightenment, idols of him were not made. The bodhi tree was the idol and it was worshiped. The pictures of Buddhist temples of those days is only of the Bodhi tree and the circular aura of Buddha in the middle, but no image of Buddha himself. That tree had its own experience of the event of enlightenment and became charged. Those who know use the tree to establish communication with Buddha.
So it is not the town of Bodhgaya, but the bodhi tree that is of value. Buddha had walked and lived under that tree for a long time before his enlightenment; his footprints have been preserved under it. When Buddha became tired in meditation, he would walk by that tree for hours on end. Buddha did not live with anyone as much as he did with that tree. He could not have lived with any human being with as much ease and innocence as he did with that tree. He slept under it, sat under it and walked around it; he must have talked to it. The whole life energy of that tree was filled with, saturated with, and charged by Buddha.
When King Ashoka sent his son Mahendra to Sri Lanka, Mahendra asked, “What shall I take with me as a present?” Ashoka replied that they had only one present, and that there could be no better present in this world than that of the bodhi tree, and that he could take a branch of it as a present. So that branch was taken to Sri Lanka. No other king in this world has ever given a branch of a tree as a present. Can such a thing be a present? But the whole of Sri Lanka was affected with the energy vibrating from the branch of that bodhi tree.
People said that Mahendra had made Sri Lanka Buddhist, but they were wrong. The conversion of Sri Lanka happened through the branch of the bodhi tree; that branch turned those people to Buddhism. Buddha had given a secret message that the branch should be sent to Sri Lanka, and that the right time and the right person to carry it should be waited for. When that right person arrived, the branch was sent.
Mahendra and Sanghamitra were Buddhist bhikkus and were living during Buddha’s time. The bodhi tree could not be sent to Sri Lanka through just anyone; only a person who had lived with Buddha, who had known Buddha, and who would not carry the branch simply as a branch of a tree but as a living buddha, could be entrusted with the job. One day, through some other person, it will have to be brought back to India.
The history behind this history is worth remembering. This is the secret history which travels behind the mundane history. The real history is that where the actual roots are; otherwise there is a network of events that happen on the surface. That is not the real history – which is printed in newspapers and books.
If we ever become capable of focusing our sight on the real history, we will be able to understand the secrets of all these things.
Osho, Hidden Mysteries, Ch 2 (translated from Hindi), Part 9 of 9
1. There are hidden meanings not visible from the outside
2. The whole purpose of the places of pilgrimage
3. All religions have developed their own code languages
4. Every religion has its own keys
5. The whole of the River Ganges is an experiment of alchemists
6. All methods of helping a seeker were found in tirthas and temples
7. The tirtha is a mass experiment
8. There are a few tirthas that are eternal
List of all excerpts published: Hidden Mysteries