Osho on Baal Shem
Born in 1698 in Poland, Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer known as the Baal Shem Tov or as the Besht, was a Jewish mystic and healer who is regarded as the founder of Hasidic Judaism. “Besht” is the acronym for Baal Shem Tov, which means “One with the Good Name” or “one with a good reputation”.
The little biographical information about the Besht comes from oral traditions handed down by his students (Jacob Joseph of Polonne and others) and from the legendary tales about his life and behavior collected in Shivḥei ha-Besht (In Praise of the Ba’al Shem Tov by Kapust and Berdychiv).
A central tenet in the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching is the direct connection with the divine, “dvekut”, which is infused in every human activity and every waking hour. At the core of the Besht’s teaching is the principle of devekut, and he demanded that devekut exist in all daily acts and in social contacts. Man must worship God not only when practicing religious acts and holy deeds, but also in his daily affairs, in his business, and in social contacts, for when a “man is occupied with material needs, and his thought cleaves to God, he will be blessed”. Prayer is of supreme importance, along with the mystical significance of Hebrew letters and words. His innovation lies in “encouraging worshipers to follow their distracting thoughts to their roots in the divine”.
Osho when he talks about Baal Shem recalls an anecdote and says “When Baal Shem was dying, somebody asked, “Are you prepared to meet the Lord?” He said, “I have always been ready. It is not a question of becoming ready now — I have always been ready. Any moment he could have called me!” The man asked, “What is your readiness?” Baal Shem said, “I know a few beautiful jokes — I will tell him those jokes. And I know he will enjoy them and he will laugh with me. And what else can I offer to him? The whole world is his, the whole universe is his, I am his, so what can I offer to him? Just a few jokes!” Baal Shem is one of the great buddhas who has come out of the Jewish tradition, one of the most loved by his disciples. He was the founder of Hassidism.”
THIRTEEN YEARS AGO I LEFT THE WORLD, DEADLY WOUNDED, AND CAME TO YOU. YOU HEALED ME AND GAVE ME BACK EVEN MORE THAN LIFE.
THEN ONE YEAR AGO I WENT BACK TO THAT SAME WORLD I HAD ESCAPED FROM, FEELING LIKE A CHILD JUST OUT OF KINDERGARTEN, WHO BARELY KNOWS THE ABC. NATURALLY THERE WERE DARK MOMENTS. DURING THOSE MOMENTS AN INNER VOICE — WAS IT YOUR VOICE, OSHO? — KEPT HAMMERING AT ME, “DON’T GET LOST IN YOUR EMOTIONS — WATCH!” FOR MONTHS THIS VOICE BECAME MY CONSTANT COMPANION UNTIL SUDDENLY A REALIZATION HAPPENED TO ME: THAT THE DARKNESS AND THE CONFLICT WERE CREATED BY MY OWN FEARS, DESIRES, JUDGEMENTS. THIS GLIMPSE WAS SURROUNDED BY A CALM, RELAXED FEELING OF FREEDOM AND ACCEPTANCE.
NOW, EXPERIENCING AGAIN THE OVERWHELMING BEAUTY OF SITTING AT YOUR FEET, I CAN SEE THAT NO MATTER HOW LONG I WATCH, THIS DESIRE TO BE IN YOUR PRESENCE WILL REMAIN WITH ME.
BELOVED OSHO, IS IT REALLY POSSIBLE NOT TO LONG FOR SOMETHING SO UNIQUE AND BEAUTIFUL?
Lalita, the spiritual path has many crossroads. On each crossroad, one feels as if one has arrived. In a certain way it is true, too. It is a certain blessing which was never known before, a peace that is absolutely new, a silence undreamt of, and a love, the fragrance of which one has desired, longed for lives and has never found. Naturally one feels the home has come. This is one of the most difficult tasks for the master — to push you on, to say to you, “This is only the beginning; there is much more waiting for you.” And although it is inconceivable to you that there can be anything more than this, the trust, the love, the devotion towards the master helps you to move.
These moments come again and again. Each time it becomes in a way more difficult, in a way easier. It is difficult in the sense that each new realization, new achievement, new revelation is so vast, so absorbing, that everything you have known before simply fades away — so it becomes more difficult to move on. But on the other hand, it becomes easier to move on because each time the master has said to you, “Move on” you have always gained more; it has never been a loss, it has always been a new door to a new mystery, a new sky beyond the old one. So the trust also has increased. It is easier now to listen to the master and move on…
you are asking me what can be more beautiful than to be in the presence of the master. Why not dissolve in the presence? To be in the presence of the master, there is still separation. Why be in the presence? Why not become the presence itself? And only then you will know that to be in the presence was only the beginning of a journey that ends in becoming the presence… Just don’t stop anywhere. It is possible… make it your realization. Become the light yourself, and then whatever is experienced is inexpressible.
In your dark moments, while you have been away for one year, you have heard the word `watch’. With your innocent mind, it is very simple for me to speak to you from any distance, a heart-to-heart communion. Those words were mine, and you have recognized them. Because there are things you need not bother about, you simply have to watch and they pass on — anger, greed, jealousy.
All the components of darkness have one quality in common: that if you can watch them they start dispersing. Watching is enough; you are not supposed to do anything with them.
In the life of one of the great mystics, Baal Shem, there is an incident. He used to go towards the river in the middle of the night just to be in absolute silence, alone, to enjoy the peace and the beauty of the night. Just on the bank of the river was a rich man’s mansion, and a watchman was there who was puzzled about this man, Baal Shem. Every night, exactly as the tower bell was tolling twelve, Baal Shem would appear out of the darkness.
The poor watchman could not contain the temptation to inquire, “Why do you come here every night and sit next to the river in the darkness? What is the purpose of it?”
Rather than answering him, Baal Shem asked, “What is your work?”
He said, “I am a watchman.” Baal Shem said, “Exactly — that is my work. I am a watchman.”
The watchman said, “That is strange. If you are a watchman, then what are you doing here? You should be watching the house where you are the watchman.” Baal Shem said, “There is something to be explained to you: You watch somebody else’s house; I watch my own house. This is my house. Wherever I go, I go with my house — but I am continuously the watchman.” I love the story.
Be continuously a watchman of all dark moments. They will pass away. In fact, that is the definition: anything you watch, if it disappears by watching that means it was something wrong. If by watching it becomes more clear, closer, that means it was something to be absorbed. There is no other definition of good and bad. It is watching that decides — the only criterion. What is sin and what is virtue? That which disappears is sin, and that which comes closer, becomes clearer, wants to become part of you, is virtue. Watching is certainly the golden key of spiritual life.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse series: Beyond Enlightenment
Chapter title: Whatsoever Happens in Silence is Your Friend
30 October 1986 pm in Buddha Hall, Pune.
Osho has spoken on many Western Mystics like Jesus, Gurdjieff, Magdalen, Rumi, Socrates, Theresa, Zarathustra, St. Francis, Dionysius, Boehme, Eckhart, Baal Shem and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- Sermons in Stones
- Come Come Yet Again Come
- Come Follow To You
- Socrates Poisoned Again After 25 Centuries
- The New Dawn
- The Sword and The Lotus
- Beyond Psychology
- The Empty Boat
- I Celebrate Myself: God Is No Where, Life Is Now Here
- Zarathustra: A God That Can Dance
- The Perfect Master
- Sufis: The People of the Path
- The Diamond Sutra