Uddalaka’s son asks, “Father, who am I?”

1001 Tales told by the Master Discourses

Osho comments on a beautiful parable in the Upanishads. “The deepest core of being is non-being. The foundation of isness is nothingness.” “Life and death are not two things but two wings – two wings of the same phenomenon.” From our series 1001 Tales, compiled by Shanti.

Form exists on the base of the formless. The form comes out of the formless just as waves come out of the sea, and then the form drops, dissolves into the formless again. The name arises out of the nameless, falls back, returns to the original source, becomes nameless again. Life arises out of death and moves to death again. The very basic thing to remember is that these opposites are not opposites, they are complementary. Death is not against life, nonexistence is not against existence, non-being is not against being. They are two polarities of the same phenomenon, which transcends all understanding.

Sometimes it expresses itself as being and sometimes as non-being, but it is the same that expresses in both. This has to be understood as deeply as possible because your whole sadhana, the whole effort towards ultimate understanding, will depend on it. Unless you are ready to become non-being you will never become a real authentic being. It looks like a paradox.

Jesus says to his disciples: Unless you lose yourself you will not gain yourself. If you cling to yourself you will be destroyed, if you don’t cling you will be saved. He is saying that if you move into non-being, only then is the being saved.

In India there exists a very old and very beautiful parable in the Upanishads.

Bodhisattva Svetaketu

A great sage, Uddalaka, was asked by his son, Svetaketu, “Father, who am I? What is it that exists in me? I try and try, I meditate and meditate, but I cannot find it.”

Svetaketu was a small child but he raised a very very difficult question. Had somebody else asked the question, Uddalaka could have answered easily, but how to help a child to understand? And he was asking the greatest problem that exists.

Uddalaka had to create a device. He said, “You go there, yonder, where you see the Banyan tree and you bring a fruit from it.”

The child ran; he brought a small fruit from the Banyan tree.

The father said, “Now you cut it. What do you see inside it?”

The child said, “Millions of small seeds.”

The father said, “Now you choose one seed and cut that seed. Now what do you see in it?”

The child said, “No-thingness.”

The father said, “Out of that no-thingness arises this big tree. In the seed, just at the center, exists no thingness. You cut it – there is no-thing, and out of that no-thingness arises the being of this big tree. And the same is true with you, Svetaketu.”

And one of the greatest sayings ever uttered by any human being was born: “Tat-Twam-Asi, Svetaketu” – “That art thou, thou art that, Svetaketu.”

You are also that no-thingness which exists just at the heart of the seed. Unless you find this non-being within you, you will not attain to authentic truth. Then you can move in theories, then you can philosophize, but you will not realize.

The boy meditated on his nothingness and he became very silent. He contemplated, he enjoyed this nothingness, he felt it very deeply. But then again a question arose. After a few days he came to the father again, and he said: “I can feel, but things are still not very clear, they are vague, as if a mist surrounds everything. I can see that out of nothingness everything is born, but how does nothingness mix with thingness? How does isness mix with nothingness? How does being mix with non-being? They are paradoxical.”

The father was again in difficulty – whenever children raise questions it is very difficult to answer them. Almost ninety-nine per cent of the answers that grownups give to children are false – just face-saving devices. You deceive. But Uddalaka didn’t want to deceive this child. And his curiosity was not only a curiosity, it was deep inquiry. He was really concerned. His body may have been that of a child but his soul was ancient. He must have struggled in the past, tried hard to penetrate into the mystery. He was not just curious – he was authentically concerned. It was not just a vagrant question in the mind, it was very deep-rooted.

The father said, “You go and bring a cup of water.”

The boy fetched a cup of water.

Then the father said, “Now you go and bring a little sugar.”

He brought the sugar, and the father said, “Mix them both.”

The sugar dissolved into the water, and the father said, “Now, can you separate the sugar from the water?”

The boy said, “Now it is impossible. I cannot even see where the sugar has gone.”

The father said, “You try.”

The boy looked into it but he couldn’t see any sugar; it had dissolved, it had become water.

Then the father said, “You taste it.”

The boy tasted, it was sweet.

And the father said, “Look, just like this. You may not be able to decide what is being and what is non-being; they are melting into each other just like water and sugar. You can taste and you can know that this water contains sugar. You may not be able to separate them right now – in fact nobody can ever separate them because they are not separate.”

Water and sugar can be separated – that was just a device to make the child understand – but non-being and being cannot be separated, life and death cannot be separated. It is impossible. They are not separate, how can you separate them? They always exist together. In fact to say that they exist together is not to say it rightly, because the very word “together” carries the concept of twoness. They are not two, they are one. They only appear two.

From where have you come? Have you ever pondered over this very basic problem? – from where have you come? Nothingness. Where are you moving, where are you going? Nothingness. From nothingness to nothingness… and just in between two nothingnesses arises being. The river of being flows between two banks of nothingnesses. Being is beautiful, but non-being is also beautiful. Life is good, but death is also good – because life cannot exist without death. Ordinarily you think that death is against life, that it destroys. No, you are wrong. Without death life cannot exist for a single moment. It supports it. It is the very base. Because you can die, that’s why you can live.

Life and death are not two things but two wings – two wings of the same phenomenon.

Osho, Tao: The Three Treasures, Talks on Fragments from Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, Vol 1, Ch 7 (excerpt)

Series compiled by Shanti
All excerpts of this series can be found in: 1001 Tales

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