Osho comments on the last stanzas of Desiderata: ‘Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.’
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with god, whatever you conceive him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
We have come to a beautiful end of the journey. These are the last sutras of Desiderata. Each word of these sutras is pregnant with immense possibilities. Each word has a multi-dimensional meaningfulness; hence it has to be meditated upon. Go slowly with each word.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
What is a wholesome discipline? The word discipline comes from the same root as the word disciple. It means learning. Remember, learning is a verb, not a noun. It does not mean knowledge; it means the constant process of knowing. Knowledge is a dead thing; you can accumulate it. Even a computer can have knowledge, but a computer cannot learn, cannot be a disciple. A computer can only reproduce whatsoever has been fed into it; it is mechanical.
Knowledge is mechanical accumulation: learning is a conscious process. It is a process like a river, always moving from the known towards the unknown, always ready to explore. Knowledge stops, learning never stops.
A man like Socrates is a man of learning. Even at the moment of death he is still learning. When he was given the poison, his disciples started crying and weeping. He said, “Don’t miss this opportunity to learn something about death. It is one of the greatest events in life, in fact the greatest event, because it is the culmination, the crescendo, the climax. Wait, watch, meditate over what is happening to me.”
That’s actually what he did. The others were crying and weeping; they were not in a state of exploration – as if they knew what death was. Nobody knows what death is, although you all have died many times; but you still don’t know what death is because you missed the opportunity of learning; you were not alert enough to learn. Hence, again and again you have died, again and again you have missed the opportunity. You have missed the opportunity because you go on believing as if you know what death is. You don’t even know what life is, how can you know what death is?
Once a man came to me and asked, “What happens after death?”
I said, “Forget about it! First try to learn what happens before death. Have you learned that? Do you know what life is?”
He said, “I don’t know.”
I said, “You are alive and you don’t know what life is – how can you know what death is? You will know it only when you are dying. But if you don’t know life, the same way you will miss that opportunity too.”
Socrates remained alert to the very last moment. He went on telling his disciples to the very last moment what was happening to him. He was learning, he was teaching.
A real Master is always a disciple. A real Master is always learning. He never claims knowledge; in fact he claims agnosia, a state of not knowing. That’s what Dionysius calls it: a state of not knowing. Socrates has said: “I know only one thing, that I know nothing.” This is agnosia. One has to remain in a constant state of not knowing; one has never to allow oneself to become knowledgeable. The moment you become knowledgeable the process of learning stops, you have come to a full point.
Socrates said to his disciples, “Listen, you can weep and cry later on. That can be done later on, that is not very essential right now. Right now something immense is happening. My feet are becoming numb, they are dying, but strange: although they are dying, I don’t feel I am dying.” Then he said, “My legs have gone absolutely numb, I don’t feel them. They are dead, but I am still whole. Nothing is missing. As far as my consciousness is concerned, it has not even been touched by death.” Then he said, “My hands are disappearing.” Then he said, “Now I am even afraid any moment my heart will stop; it is sinking. But I am still as whole as I have ever been, so one thing is certain: that by the death of the body one does not die. Death happens to the body, not to the consciousness, because my consciousness is still intact.”
His last words were, “My tongue is getting numb and I cannot say anything more, but remember, even up to now I am as whole as I have ever been. Nothing has died in me. Something has died around me, on the periphery, but in contrast the center is in fact more alive than ever. I feel more alive because the body is dead, all the life has become concentrated. It has disappeared from the body, from the circumference. It has become focused on a single point: I am.”
These were his last words. This is the process of learning.
A knowledgeable person is always a stupid person; he is unintelligent. You will not find pundits intelligent; they cannot be. They know – the process has stopped long long before. The professors are almost always stupid people. It is very rare to come across a professor who is still learning. They stopped the day they left their universities; the day they graduated, the day they became MAs or PhDs or DLitts, they died.
Taoists in China have a saying that a man dies nearabout the age of thirty; then it is only a question of when you are going to bury him. You may bury him after thirty years, forty years, fifty years, that is another matter, but as far as life is concerned a person dies nearabout thirty.
This saying is certainly true. In fact, psychologists say that the average human being’s mental age is only twelve years. That means the mind has become dead, has stopped functioning at the age of twelve – not even thirty. That’s why people go on behaving childishly.
And remember, to be childlike is totally different from being childish. To be childish is ugly: to be childlike is to be a sage. To be childlike means to be in the state of agnosia, learning. To be childish means you already know. Only a childish person can think that he already knows, that there is nothing left to know.
The more stupid you are, the sooner you become knowledgeable. The more intelligent you are, the more difficult it is to become knowledgeable – because to become knowledgeable means you have come to the very end of your intelligence. You are finished, you are spent.
This is the first meaning of “wholesome discipline.” Your priests, your imams, your popes, your shankaracharyas are all dead people. They go on quoting from the scriptures like parrots, but if you just dig a little deep in them you will not find anything; you will find only rubbish. You will find them as ordinary as anybody else. The only difference is that their egos are puffed up with borrowed knowledge.
A learner never depends on borrowed knowledge. He himself tries to experience life, love, death – everything. He tries to explore every possibility. He never misses an opportunity; he never misses any challenge of life. He risks; he takes all challenges, accepts them, welcomes them. And whenever the unknown calls him he is ready – ready to go, to take a jump, to go into the uncharted, to go into the unmapped, to go into the unmeasured, unfathomable. It needs courage.
Otherwise, it is very easy and cheap to become knowledgeable. It needs no courage; any coward can become knowledgeable. But knowledge remains skin-deep – not even that deep.
A wealthy jazz musician decided to go to church one Sunday. After the service he approached the preacher with much enthusiasm. “Reverend,” he said, “that was a swinging sermon, man. I flipped my lid… that was the grooviest!”
“I am happy you liked it,” said the Reverend, “but I wish you would not use those terms in expressing yourself!”
“I am like sorry, man… Reverend, but I dug that sermon so much!” said the cat. “In fact, it sent me so much, I flipped a C-note into the collection pot!”
The Reverend said, “Crazy, man, crazy!”
Just skin-deep! Just scratch a little bit and you will not find much difference. There is not any difference; the qualitative difference is non-existential. Maybe there exists a difference that is of quantity – you know less, they know more – but it is of quantity. And a quantitative difference is not really a difference, not a difference that makes any difference. The quality is the same; you are moving in the same way. Between the rich man and the poor man the difference is not of quality, the difference is of having less money or more. With the ignorant and the knowledgeable it is the same.
The real difference happens when there is a Buddha around; then you know the difference of quality. He functions from a different level altogether.
I have heard:
Hillary was on the last leg of his momentous climb. Just as he was about to reach the virgin summit of the highest peak on this earth, he saw a Hindu monk squatting in the snow ahead of him. Hillary was so astonished he could not utter a single word. But the Hindu monk, seizing the opportunity, said, “How much for your watch?”
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. The discipline is wholesome, healthy, only when it comes not out of the mind but out of meditation. Mind is only a small part of you; whatsoever comes out of the mind is going to remain fragmentary. And we live in the mind; mind means knowledge – borrowed, accumulated, not experienced. Experience happens only when you go into something totally, not only mentally.
You can know much about love. There are thousands of books in the libraries about love, but you will not know love that way. You have to be in love to know love.
Knowing about love is not knowing love. Knowing about God is not knowing God. By knowing about God you will become a great theologian but not a mystic. You will not be a Christ or a Buddha or a Lao Tzu or a Zarathustra. You will be simply a pundit who has become capable of repeating the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran, the Bible, the Dhammapada, the Talmud; but the pundit knows nothing. He has not tasted God; he has not become drunk with the divine yet.
Mind is a very small fragment of your totality; its function is to know about. If you really want to know something, not only about… Remember, the meaning of the word about is around; about and about means around and around. One goes in circles but never reaches the center. And the real thing is at the center. It is the center that matters.
A man like Ramakrishna is absolutely unknowledgeable. You can even call him ignorant – ignorant in the sense that he is not a scholar; he cannot quote scriptures. But there is no need for him to quote scriptures. He knows God; he need not know God through anybody else. He knows God because he knows through totality; he contacts existence through his totality.
The discipline is wholesome, healthy, organic, when it happens not through a fragment but when you are intensely, passionately, totally involved in something. You cannot love through the mind; for that you will have to enter into the world of no-mind. That’s what meditation is all about.
True learning happens through meditation. Meditation means putting aside the past and looking into the present, making an immediate contact with the now and the here – because God is now, God is here. God is always now and always here. Mind lives in the past because it lives in knowledge. Knowledge means that which you have known, understood, learned. And existence is now and mind is then, existence is here and mind is always there. Mind looks backwards; it is like a rearview mirror. If you are backing your car the rearview mirror is okay, but if you are going forwards then it is dangerous to go on looking in the rearview mirror. And if you become fixated on the rearview mirror you are bound for an accident. You are in great danger, you are being suicidal. Life moves always forwards; it has no possibility of going backwards.
When the first Ford car was made it had no reverse gear – that’s how life is. The reverse gear was added later on – from experience, because when you wanted to come back home you had to go miles around to do it. Then the thought happened that it would be better… Even if you had gone just a few feet ahead of your house you could not come back; you had to take a long route. Maybe you had to go around the whole town, then you could come back. Then the reverse gear was added to it.
But God has not yet added any reverse gear. There is really no need to go back. The past evaporates. There is no past. It leaves only traces in your memory system; otherwise it is not there. Existence is always present; past is only memory and future is only imagination. There is no future, no past. That which exists is the only real thing, and mind does not allow you to be in contact with it. How can you learn? How can you experience? Your experience cannot be wholesome, healthy. It will be sick, it will be unhealthy. And it has turned every person almost into a monster.
Your head goes on becoming bigger and bigger, and everything else has become so shrunken that it is almost disappearing. People are just like heads, with small legs and hands; just heads. This is a state of being a monster. Man has become a monster: he has lost all balance, all harmony. The head has exploited everything; it has destroyed your organic unity. It is like a parasite that goes on becoming bigger and bigger at the cost of your totality.
Osho, Guida Spirituale, Ch 13 – Part 1 of 3
Featured image: ‘Leaf Study 3’, painting by Sidd Murray-Clark – www.siddart.com