An article by Avijit Pathak, Professor of Sociology at JNU, published on 29 August 2020 in The New Leam.
Osho—the controversial ‘spiritual guru’—might evoke mixed emotions. Yet, his deep insights make us reflect and wonder. Beyond dogmas and all sorts of conditioning—Osho composes a song of an altogether different kind; and in a beautiful evening, a seeker allows himself to be merged with its rhythmic flow.
As a seeker, I try my best to decondition my mind and open the windows of my consciousness. I am aware that it is an exceedingly difficult task. I fail repeatedly. There are many reasons. To begin with, my ‘academic’ identity as a sociologist often limits my thinking; it is not always easy to free myself from the trap of its methods and techniques, discourses and texts, and modes of argumentation and theoretical construction. Likewise, our political ideologies often obstruct the creative flow of ideas: the ability to see beyond Marx or Ambedkar, liberalism or socialism, atheism or religion, and socialism or feminism. Yes, I realize that I too feel tempted to establish my belief with some sort of egotistic pride, and, as a result, become terribly non-dialogic. However, this awareness of my conditioning and limitations has also helped me to unlearn many things, become somewhat non-judgmental, and with compassionate listening, evolve a relationship with even Osho—the much-talked about ‘controversial’ spiritual guru. I know that the circle I belong to is unlikely to be sympathetic towards Osho; possibly, he would be condemned and castigated; and many stories would be repeated about his wealthy ‘disciples’, their life-styles, and their experiments with love, sexuality and meditation.
Yet, I believe that dance transcends the dancer; and even if the controversy surrounds Osho’s life, his deep insights and explorations into the interiority of human existence are illuminating. Why should I deprive myself of the sublime beauty of his speeches or writings, even if I am not always very easy with many practices associated with his ashrams? Osho, as I see, is not merely a guru with the galaxy of Rolls-Royce cars—an enemy of Ronald Regan or Morarji Desai, or the priests of organized religions. Osho, I feel, is also a teacher-philosopher, and insights and revelations, I have no hesitation in saying, are illuminating—the way the snow-clad Himalayan peak illumines us. With philosophy and literature, and mysticism and psychology—he looks like a flowing river. Unlike what academicians do with the burden of knowledge, Osho communicates, whispers into my ears, and heals me. Unlike the priests of organized religions, Osho doesn’t burden me with moralism or ritualism; and he tells a rhythmic story filled with laughter and humour, and religiousness and literary sensibilities. The beauty is that I need not be his ‘disciple’; yet, I can engage with him.
In this article, I will make an attempt to share the tales of my journey with him. Yes, this is yet another beautiful evening; I take his books, and allow myself to be nurtured by the song he sings…
Preparation, Purification and Perfection
Preparation does not mean preparing for a verbal examination or a written examination. Preparation means preparing for an existential examination; it means going deeper into meditation.
– Osho, The World Beyond Time, Sterling Publishers, New Delhi, 2008
As a student / teacher, I am familiar with what our education system regards as examinations. These examinations, we are told, evaluate our ability to memorize select texts, think ‘logically’, apply the ‘skills’ we learn, and acquire the specialized knowledge in academic disciplines. Yes, examinations are everywhere—from play schools to doctorate programs. And our ‘top ranking’ universities produce ‘knowledgeable’ persons—physicists and historians, mathematicians and biologists, or anthropologists and geologists. Yet, the world we live in is extremely violent; and there seems to be no positive correlation between one’s educational achievement and one’s psychic / spiritual health. Envy, aggression, narcissism, petty politics and competitiveness: we–the educated class—are not free from these negative emotions.
I have often asked myself: Is there any other way of looking at studentship, education and life-trajectory? No academic journal has given a meaningful answer to my question; no ‘expert’ has satisfied me; and seminars / conferences have seldom gone beyond dry ‘facts’ and soulless ‘theories’. However, this evening as I begin to contemplate on what Osho regards as ‘preparation, purification and perfection’, I experience a sense of joy; I begin to feel that possibly I too was waiting to receive this wisdom.
Well, we often prepare for school / college examinations; and these days, coaching centres or the traders of knowledge help us to prepare for these examinations. Preparation, for all practical purposes, means the ability to acquire the exam strategy—how to become ‘smart’ and ‘efficient’, and solve quickly the riddles relating to physics and mathematics, or English grammar and general knowledge. When I am tired of this psychic violence that goes on in the name of ‘preparation’, Osho tells me a different story. Yes, real studentship is like ‘preparing for an existential examination’. And this means a great deal of unlearning. The mind has already been burdened with texts and scriptures, or tales of ‘success’ and ‘failure’. No preparation is, therefore, possible without deconditioning the mind. As Osho says,
Preparation means that you drop all your conditionings, you drop your prejudices, you drop what you think you know and you do not know: you get as innocent as possible. Your innocence will be the preparation.
In a way, it is like becoming a child once again. However, as Osho reminds us, a child need not necessarily be always pure. In fact, children are not free from anger, hatred, greed and jealousy. ‘If one child has a doll, the other becomes so jealous that they will start fighting’. In fact, there are many ugly instincts we have inherited with nature, and with our birth. And this is the reason why preparation alone is not sufficient; we must go through a process of purification. School Principals or Vice-chancellors have never spoken of the process of purification. Instead, we have been continually asked to be competitive, or to be ‘winners’, ‘achievers’ and ‘leaders’. We have normalized the ethos of competitiveness; and as a result, we negate our specificity and uniqueness; we imitate the ‘toppers’; we evolve some sort of sadomasochism. Hence, purification is needed.
Purification is almost going through a fire of understanding in which all that is instinctive and ugly burns down. And it is a great experience that only the ugly burns. That which is beautiful blossoms. In purification you lose all trace of hate and instead, suddenly a spring of love bursts forth—as if the rock of hate was preventing the spring.
Indeed, purification is a ‘deeper meditation’ than preparation. Because it can turn greed into compassion, or hate into love. And then, everything, says Osho, is ‘light, fragrant and fresh’. This invariably leads to ‘perfection’. One becomes awakened or enlightened.
Contrast this ‘alchemy of human transformation’ with what the learning machine does these days. In a way, what the system regards as ‘education’ destroys us. Awakened intelligence is not its goal; deconditioning or purification hardly matters; what is important is the cultivation of instrumental rationality. We get degrees; we become clever, strategic and instrumental; we become doctors, engineers, managers and professors; we make bombs, cause war, pollute the environment; and we manufacture theses and books on our decay. But then, Osho makes me see the absurdity of the entire thing. I hear the call from the distant peak…
Celebrating the Spirit of Meditative Education
God is not a manufacturer, he is a creator. He does not manufacture people like cars on an assembly line. You can have many Ford cars exactly alike—that’s the difference between a machine and a man. A machine can be duplicated, a man cannot be duplicated, and the moment you start duplicating, imitating, you become more like a machine—then you are no longer respectful toward your humanity.
– Osho, Learning to Silence the Mind, St. Martin’s Griffin, New York, 2012
We live in a society that loves to hierarchize and stigmatize. Not solely that. Here is a society that is eager to ‘normalize’ and ‘standardize’ people. Think of it. Your child is silent and introvert. She looks at the sky, observes a tree carefully; and she is not very efficient in mathematics and history. Even if you are a sensitive parent, it is quite likely that schools and neighbours would pressurize you, and remind you that what is happening to your child is not good; she must be ‘smart’ and ‘pushy’; and she must ‘impress’ her teachers through her knowledge in physics and geography. In other words, she ought to be like what an achievement-oriented society wants—ambitious, extrovert and competitive. In a way, we loathe uniqueness; we do not want a child to evolve and grow in her own way. Instead, a sort of uniformity—or the societal definition of ‘normalcy’—governs our educational practices. What do these schools, coaching centres and management / engineering colleges seek to do? They manufacture ‘products’: well-fed/well-clothed employees. And Osho captures it so beautifully:
Every child starts that way—with awe, with wonder, with great inquiry in his heart. Every child is a mystic. Somewhere on the way of your so-called growing you lose contact with your inner possibility of being a mystic, and you become a businessman or you become a clerk or you become a collector or you become a minister. You become something else, and you start thinking that you are this. And when you believe it, it is so.
No wonder, Osho reminds us repeatedly of the dangers of ‘conditioning’. In fact, true meditation is not indoctrination; it is to make one aware of the treasure within. However, we destroy this possibility. We make them believe that ‘success’ is what matters. Moreover, we teach them that they are ‘Hindus’, ‘Muslims’ or ‘Christians’. This indoctrination destroys the ‘natural intelligence’ of the child. The result is that ‘they start losing their natural rhythm, their natural elegance, and they start learning plastic behaviour’.
Is it possible to change this pattern? Can education be a meditative experience? In a society that conditions the mind, fills it with all sorts of bookish knowledge and thoughts, and equates religion with the ritualism of Hinduism, Islam or Christianity, Osho’s approach to meditative education might annoy our priests, ideologues and teachers. Yet, I feel, it is wonderful.
Meditation is a way to go within yourselves to that depth where thoughts don’t exist, so it is not indoctrination. It is not teaching you anything; in fact, it is just making you alert to your inner capacity to be without thought, to be without mind. And the best time is when the child is still uncorrupted.
Your truth is not to be thought about, it has to be seen. It is already there. You don’t have to go anywhere to find it. You don’t have to think about it, you have to stop thinking so that it can surface in your inner being. Unoccupied space is needed within you so that the light that is hidden can expand and fill your being.
– Osho, I Teach Religiousness, Not Religion, Hind Pocket Books, Delhi, 2000
My evening with Osho, I realize, is immensely beautiful. It is a song. No television news. No academic anxiety to ‘perform’. No burden of the intellect. I feel like reading his books—the way I see a mountain peak, a flowing river, a tiny bird flying in the sky. It seems I have become empty. With the lightness of being, I am silencing the noisy mind. And is it that I have ceased to become a ‘Hindu’, ‘a ‘Muslim’, a ‘Marxist’, a ‘sociologist’, an ‘intellectual’? And then, I feel he is whispering:
You need a total let-go, an utterly peaceful, tensionless, silent state of being. And suddenly… the explosion.