“Life is like playing on the sitar, if you are too loose, you are lost, if you are too tight, you are lost. The wise have always followed the middle path,” says Osho. From our series 1001 Tales, compiled by Shanti.
In Gautama Buddha’s life there is a beautiful story….
He was passing through Shravasti – a very rich and famous city of those days – and the king of Shravasti was one of the most egoistic persons in every way.
He was an extremist about everything. He lived in extreme luxury. The whole day he was sleeping, and the whole night was a night of dining and wining and dancing and gambling – his whole life was upside down.
He had a beautiful palace. Even on the steps he had not made a railing. On each step there were naked young women standing to function as a railing, so he could go on putting his hand from one naked young woman to another.
This man heard of Buddha because so many people told him, ”At least once you should listen to this man. There is some beauty, there is some truth, and there is some magnetic force in the man. What he says is not theoretical, what he says seems to be coming from the very innermost being, his own experience. He does not quote authorities, he is not a scholar. He says what he has known, and he says it with such authority that it is impossible not to be touched by it.”
So many said this to him, that finally he managed one day to get up early in the morning and go to listen to Gautama Buddha. Whatever the people had said was no exaggeration. In fact, the man was much more than the people had said about him. He had a certain gravitation that pulled you towards him.
Shron stood up – that was the name of the king of Shravasti – touched Buddha’s feet and said, ”Please initiate me, I want to become a monk.”
It was a surprise. Nobody had ever thought that this man would become a monk. Even Gautama Buddha told him, ”You have heard me only once, you should take some time to think it over; there is no hurry.”
But that was not the type of Shron’s personality. He said, ”When I said, ‘I want to be a monk,’ I want to be a monk – and right now!”
He was an extremist. He became a monk. He renounced the kingdom.
Buddhist monks don’t live naked, but Shron started living naked. People reported to Buddha that he seemed to be really a great ascetic. Buddha said, ”You have not understood the man. He is simply an extremist.”
Buddhist monks eat one time a day. Shron would eat only once every two days. He defeated all the monks. He defeated even Gautama Buddha. When they were traveling, every monk would travel on the road, but Shron would always go by the side of the road. In the thorns, the rough stones, his feet would be bleeding. And people started respecting him immensely. Even the other monks thought they were not so great in renunciation as Shron was. Even a few started thinking that they should be followers of Shron rather than Buddha.
After six months, Shron became black – he had been a beautiful man – because he was always standing naked in the hot sun. He destroyed his body by not eating, he destroyed his feet by walking over rough stones, thorns, bushes, when there was a road available. Within six months he was badly sick, and Gautama Buddha himself went to see him.
It was a rare occasion because it was not reported that Gautama Buddha had ever gone to see any other sick monk before or after.
The news went like wildfire amongst all the monks that certainly Shron was a great ascetic, otherwise Buddha would not have gone to see him just because he was sick. But Buddha had gone for some other purpose. He did not ask Shron about his sickness. He said to him, ”I have heard that when you were a king you used to play the sitar and you were a master artist. There was not anyone else in the whole country comparable to you – is that right?”
Shron said, ”Yes. I love to play the sitar, and I had devoted my whole life to the sitar. I had come to such a mastery that there was no competitor to me.”
Buddha said, ”I have come to ask a few questions. One: when the wires of the sitar are too tight, will it give birth to great music?”
Shron said, ”To great music? It will not give birth to any music. Too tight wires will simply break.”
Buddha said, ”And if the wires are too loose, will it give great music?”
Shron said, ”You are asking strange questions. When the wires are too loose, they don’t have tension enough to create music.”
Then Buddha said, ”What is the position in which the wires should be so that great music can be produced?”
And Shron said, ”They have to be in exactly the middle position, where you can say they are not loose and they are not tight. And it is one of the secrets of the art to adjust the wires to the exact middle.”
Buddha said, ”I don’t have anything more to ask you. I have just come to remind you that life is also like playing on the sitar: if you are too loose you are lost, if you are too tight you are lost. Each extreme is a death, and to find the exact middle is the whole art. You were too loose living in utter luxury. Now you are too tight living in an unnecessarily ascetic way. Come into the middle, listen to me, for the wise have always followed the middle path, they are never at the extremes. Only fools are at the extremes.”
Osho, The Sword and the Lotus – Talks in the Himalayas, Ch 12, Q 1