Agony is the way to ecstasy

Osho A-Z

Osho speaks on ‘Agony and Ecstasy’: “Agony means: I don’t know who I am…. Ecstasy is the flower of agony.”

Sorrow and Joy

You exist first, and then you have to find who you are. The animals, the trees, the rocks, know first who they are, then they exist; hence there is no spiritual enquiry. No animal bothers asking the questions: Who am I? What is the meaning of my life? He knows it already; there is no question, there is no doubt, no enquiry.

Man is a continuous enquiry, a continuous question. To the very last breath he goes on growing. To the very last breath he can change his whole life pattern.

He can take a quantum jump.

There is no necessity for him to just go on following the path that he has followed. At the very last moment he simply can step aside. There is nobody to prevent him, it is his freedom. Man is the only animal in existence who has freedom — and out of the freedom is agony.

Agony means: I don’t know who I am.

I don’t know where I am going and why I am going. I don’t know whether whatever I am doing I am supposed to do or not. The question continuously remains; not even for a single moment does the question leave. Whatever you do, the question is there: Are you sure? Is it the thing for you to do?

Is this the place for you to be?

The question leaves not even for a single moment. And this is as deep as anything can be in you, at the very core of your being. This is the agony — that the meaning is not known, that the purpose is not known, that the goal is not known. It seems as if we are accidental, that by some accident we are born.

No other animal, no tree, no bird is accidental; they are planned. Existence has a whole program for them. Man seems to be totally different.

Existence has left man utterly free.

Once you become aware of this situation then agony arises. And it is fortunate to feel it. That’s why I say it is not ordinary pain, suffering, misery. It is very extraordinary, and it is of tremendous value to your whole life, its growth, that you should feel agony, that each fiber of your being should feel the questioning, that you should become simply a question. And naturally it is frightening. You are left in a chaos. But out of this very chaos the stars are born.

If you don’t start stuffing out of fear, if you don’t start escaping from your agony…. Everybody is trying to escape, finding ways: falling in love, doing this, doing that — somehow, somewhere engaged. One thing is not finished, and you start doing another thing because you are afraid. If there is a gap between the two and the question raises its head, and you start feeling agony, then it is better to continue, to go on running; don’t stop. People start running from their birth till they die.

They don’t stop, they don’t sit by the side of the road under a tree.

To me the statues of Buddha and Mahavira in the East, sitting in a lotus posture under a tree, do not mean anything historical. They mean something far more significant.

These are the people who have stopped running. These are the people who have stepped out of the road on which the whole procession of humanity is going.

They are real dropouts, not the Californian type which within a few years drops in again. No, these are real dropouts who never drop in again.

Sitting under a tree is just representative. You will be surprised to know that after Buddha’s death, for five hundred years his statue was not made. Instead of a statue only a tree was made. For five hundred years, in the temples that were made and dedicated to Buddha, there was only a tree carved on the stone or marble, nothing else.

It was enough to remind one to step out of the road, because this has been for thousands of years the tradition, to plant trees on both the sides of Indian roads — huge trees with big branches almost meeting over the middle of the road so the road is completely covered with shadow. Even in the hottest summer you can go on the road in coolness, in the shadow.

So the tree became the symbol of dropping out of “the road.” The road is the world, where everybody is going somewhere, trying to find something, and in fact basically trying to forget himself because it hurts. To remember oneself hurts, and the only thing that everybody is doing is to get engaged, concentrated — after money, after power, after this, after that. Become a painter, become a poet, become a musician, become someone and go on becoming. Don’t stop, because if you stop you become aware of your hurt; the wound starts opening up. So don’t give it a chance. This is the road.

For five hundred years they managed simply to have the tree. It was a beautiful symbol of stepping aside. But as time passed, people started forgetting the symbol. The simple tree — they could not understand what is supposed…. They started worshipping trees. It was at that time when Alexander the Great visited India, five hundred years after Buddha. He had seen those temples with trees, and he had asked people, but nobody knew what they meant, just tree worship. And all over India, even today, trees are worshipped; it has remained.

Then the Buddhist monks who could understand started making statues of Buddha. But five hundred years had passed; there was no photography possible in those days, so they had not even any idea of how Buddha looked.

At that time Alexander visited India. Alexander looked beautiful, he was a beautiful man, so the statues of Buddha are really Alexander’s statues. That face is not Indian, that face is Greek. That’s why when you see the Buddha’s face, you cannot think that it is an Indian face. It is a Greek face, and not an ordinary Greek face — the face of one of the most beautiful Greek men. It is Alexander’s face. They got the idea from Alexander’s face. It was very fitting. It fits better with Buddha than with Alexander, so I don’t have any objection.

I see it as perfectly right. Even if while Buddha was alive their heads were changed, it would have been perfectly good. What Alexander was… what he was doing he could have done even with Buddha’s face, there was no trouble. But Buddha certainly needs a beautiful face, very symmetrical, very harmonious with his inner self. The beauty that is shown on the face, in the proportion of his body, is the beauty of his soul.

Agony is the experience that you have come into the world a clean slate, a tabula rasa; nothing is written on it. This is your original face.

Now, you can do two things. One is, being afraid of this vacuum, you can start running after something or other — earning money, power, learning, asceticism, becoming a sage, scholar, politician — somehow to give you a feeling of identity, somehow to hide your own inner chaos.

But whatever you do the chaos is there and is going to remain there. It is an intrinsic part of you. So those who understand don’t try in any way to escape from it. On the contrary, they try to enter into it.

These are the two ways: either run away from it as everybody else is doing, or run into it. Reach to its very center howsoever painful, fearful — but reach to the center, because that is you. And it is good at least one time to be at the very exact center of your being.

The moment you reach that center then the second word becomes significant: ecstasy.

Ecstasy is the flower of agony.

Agony is not against ecstasy.

Agony is the way to ecstasy.

You just have to accept it — what else can one do? It is there. You can close your eyes — that does not mean that the sun has disappeared; it is still there. And everybody is trying to close his eyes; the sun is too glaring. Close your eyes, completely close your eyes. Forget about it, don’t look at it… as if it is not there. Believe it is not there.

These pseudo-religions are trying to teach you exactly that:

Try to reach to God, try to reach heaven, follow Jesus Christ.

But none of them says don’t follow anybody and don’t look for any paradise or heaven because this is all trying to deceive yourself.

Encounter yourself, face yourself.

Have a one hundred and eighty-degree turn.

Look into the chaos that is there, into the agony that is there. And if it is your nature, then howsoever painful it is, we have to become acquainted with it. And the miracle is, it is painful to pass through it but it is just the greatest bliss when you have passed and reached the center of your being.

Agony is all around the center, and the ecstasy is just in the center. Perhaps agony is just a protective shell — ecstasy is so valuable it needs protection. And nature has created such a protective wall, what to say of others? — even you start running away from it. Who is going to enter into your agony if you yourself are running away?

The moment you think of it, agony seems to be a tremendous gift of nature. It changes its whole color, its fragrance, its meaning. It is a protective wall, so protective that even you start running away from it.

Don’t run away from yourself whatever the case may be. A man’s mettle is judged by his entering into his own inner chaos. You are worthy to call yourself human beings when you have reached to the center, and you can see from the center, around yourself. You are blissful — not only are you blissful, from the center the whole existence is blissful too.

Agony and ecstasy are two sides of your being. They both make you one organic unity, one whole.

So I am not telling you how to get rid of agony.

That’s what pseudo-religions have been telling you for centuries.

I am telling you how to befriend agony, how to be in love with the chaos.

Once you are in love with the chaos, the freedom that chaos brings, the unbounded space that chaos brings, enter into it till you reach the center.

To find oneself is to find all.

Then there is nothing missing, then there is no question left. Then for the first time you have the answer. Although you cannot convey the answer to anybody else, you can convey the way you found it.

That’s what the function of a Master is.

He does not give you the answer.

He does not make you more knowledgeable.

He simply shows you the method, how he found himself. He encourages you to take a jump into your chaos, into your agony.

The Master is simply a proof that you don’t need to be afraid. If this man can find his center, passing through all the agony, there is no reason why you cannot do it too. And once you know the taste of ecstasy, your whole life, for the first time, has something that can be called godliness. A new quality arises in you, a new flare, a new flame. But that is our nature, everybody’s nature.

I have never tried in my life to become anybody. I have simply allowed life to take me wherever it wanted. One thing I can say to you, I have not been a loser; it was a great joy to be taken over by nature. I have not at all interfered. I have not even been swimming, because in swimming you are at least throwing your hands about. I have been just going with the stream, floating with wherever the stream is going.

Fortunately all streams reach finally to the ocean. The small, the big, somehow or other they all find their way to the oceanic. And the oceanic feeling I call the religious feeling.

When your small drop drops into the ocean…

In one sense you are no more.

In one sense you are for the first time.

On one hand there is death, and on the other hand there is rebirth.

Osho, From Darkness to Light, Ch 8

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