All Extremes Fail
Birthday of German writer Hermann Hesse
02nd July is the birthday of German-born Swiss poet, novelist and painter Hermann Karl Hesse. Born in 1877, Hesse exhibited traits of being strong-willed, prodigious and passionate from early childhood. Hesse won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. His best-known works include Demian, Steppenwolf, Siddhartha and The Glass Bead Game, each of which explores an individual’s search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality.
As reflected in his works like Demian, Hesse believed that “for different people, there are different ways to God”. Osho has talked about Hesse on many occasions in His discourses.
Osho says that the word ‘philosia’ coined by Hesse, is the accurate translation of the Eastern term ‘darshan’. Philosophy means ‘the love of thinking, inquiry’ whereas ‘darshan’ means ‘to see’. Darshan is not philosophy. Darshan is ‘philosia’ – the love of seeing.
Osho also counts Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha amongst one of the very rare books in the world and places it on the list of ‘Books He has Loved’.
I RECALL A BEAUTIFUL STORY OF HERMANN HESSE. A WOMAN IS PREGNANT AND AN OLD WISE MAN TELLS HER THAT SHE MAY HAVE ONE WISH GRANTED IN RESPECT TO HER CHILD. SHE WISHES THAT HER CHILD BE LOVED BY ALL. THIS WISH IS FULFILLED, AND ALTHOUGH THE YOUNG BOY IS BAD, HE IS LOVED BY EVERYONE. BY THE TIME HE HAS BECOME A YOUNG MAN, HE HAS EVERYTHING AROUND HIM THAT HE EVER WANTS. BUT HE IS SO UNHAPPY THAT HE WANTS TO COMMIT SUICIDE. HOWEVER, THE OLD WISE MAN REAPPEARS AND INDICATES THAT HE CAN HAVE ONE WISH.
THE YOUNG MAN WISHES TO BE ABLE TO LOVE EVERYONE RATHER THAN BE LOVED BY EVERYONE. HIS WISH IS FULFILLED. HIS BEAUTIFUL FACE BECOMES OLD AND UGLY, AND THE WHOLE TOWN TURNS AGAINST HIM. HE IS STONED AND CAN FIND NO FOOD OR CLOTHES. BUT HE IS OVERFLOWING WITH LOVE, AND EVERY SMALL THING IN LIFE BECOMES A LOVE AFFAIR.
HE DECIDES TO GO ON A PILGRIMAGE, AND ONE COLD NIGHT HE ENCOUNTERS THE SAME OLD WISE MAN, WHO RECEIVES HIM WITH TREMENDOUS LOVE. THE PILGRIM RELAXES INTO THE OLD SAGE AND BECOMES AN INNOCENT CHILD AGAIN.
OSHO, WOULD YOU PLEASE COMMENT?
Hermann Hesse is one of the Western minds who has come very close to the Eastern way of looking at things. Perhaps there is no other man of his quality who understands the East better. This story is an indication of his understanding of the Eastern wisdom about love.
The first wish the mother asks is that her child should be loved by all. Looking at the words you will not understand what is hidden behind them. He becomes a young man, he has everything, he is beautiful. Although he is not well-mannered, he is spoilt because everybody loves him unconditionally. But he is not satisfied. As he goes on becoming more mature, the situation comes to a point where he wants to commit suicide.
This is the whole history of all those who want to be loved. Why is he in so much despair? He should be happy. What more can you ask? — everybody loves you, in spite of you. But to the perceiving eye there is something: when you are loved by everybody you become an object of love. You lose your individuality, you lose your integrity, you lose your subjectivity. You become an object. Everybody loves you like a beautiful piece of art — and nobody wants to become an object. That’s what his mother forgot. That’s what millions of people in the world have forgotten. The wish looks perfectly good, but its implications are very dangerous. First, it reduces you from the high status of a subjective consciousness into an objective reality. Everybody loves you without bothering whether you are worthy of it or not. And you are not worthy of it; it is because of the blessing of the old wise man that they are loving you. Their love has spoiled you; you are not of any worth. You understand it, that you are not worthy, but still people are loving you. A great guilt arises in you that something has gone wrong.
Love has to be earned. Unearned love is just like a beggar — without earning anything, spreading his begging bowl before you. Man wants everything to be earned; he wants to be worthy of it. He should not be just a beggar. He is reduced to an object, he is reduced to a beggar. And the boy had no love for anybody, because that was not part of the wish. So you can see: he cannot understand love either. The fire should be burning on both sides simultaneously. He has no fire; he is utterly cold, ice-cold. He has never loved anybody. And you can understand the misery of a person who has never loved — because he does not know what love is. According to the blessing everybody is loving him, but according to his understanding, nobody has loved him because he does not know the feel of love. He has never loved anybody — how can he know it? So all that love surrounding him is just meaningless. As far as he is concerned nobody has loved him. And he is not aware of the wish of his old mother, of the blessing of the old sage. And even if he had been aware, it would not have made any difference.
To understand love, first you should be loving, only then can you understand love.
Millions of people are suffering: they want to be loved, but they don’t know how to love. And love cannot exist as a monologue; it is a dialogue, a very harmonious dialogue. So much love being showered on the man, and still he decides to commit suicide…because
it is not what people give to you that satisfies, it is what you give to people that satisfies. It is not by being a beggar that you can be contented, it is by being an emperor, and love makes you an emperor when you give. And you can give so much, inexhaustibly, that the more you give, the more refined, the more cultured, the more perfumed your love becomes — the more there is contentment.
But that poor fellow was in a difficult situation. Everybody was loving him and he did not know what love is. Just fed up with this love he decides to commit suicide. The old sage appears again because the sage knew that that was going to be. The mother had asked something — according to her a great wish but not according to the sage. He knew this wish would lead to suicide. He says, “I can give you one wish.” And you can see immediately what the boy asks for, because that is what he is lacking.
The story is tremendously methodological. On the surface you may not understand it, but underneath everything is so well-connected. The second wish proves what I have been telling you. He asks that he does not want others to love him, he wants to love others. In that, he is showing that the first wish is meaningless without this second wish. He wants to love everyone.
But the story here may seem strange to you, that as the wish is granted, the young and beautiful man changes into an ugly and old man. It indicates that it is only in old age that people come to understand what they missed in their life: they never loved. In their whole life they wanted others to love them, and were miserable. They always wanted to get more and more love; they were greedy. At the end, when people start forgetting them because they have become old and ugly, they have a look at their whole life, at what was missing; and the revelation — they never gave, they only wanted…And you have in all languages, “the dirty old man” — in all languages the same expression — because in old age, when he is no longer young and no longer beautiful and everything has turned ugly and he is ready to die, the understanding arises that he missed one thing. That’s why his whole life has been empty and meaningless; he never loved, he never gave. So now he wants to love people. But who wants to love an old and ugly man? He is disgusting. His love looks like lust — not love but the lust of a dying man.
So the story is significant in that as the young man receives the blessing of the old sage, suddenly he becomes old and ugly. He is granted the wish to love. The whole story is about humanity: now he can love, but nobody will receive his love; now he can give, but everybody will be escaping from him. He will be disgusting. Talking about love is a faraway thing; nobody wants even to sit with him. He is half dead and he wants to love you. And naturally he will want to love the young, the beautiful, and obviously he will be denied. He has moved from one extreme of the pendulum to the other extreme of the pendulum; either by itself is only half, and no extreme can be fulfilling. Seeing the situation that neither was he satisfied when people were showering their love on him, nor was he satisfied by loving people — because now it is difficult to find people to love — he goes on a pilgrimage, and for the last time he meets the sage.
The sage knew, because this is the dialectic: the mother had chosen one part, which proved wrong; he had chosen the other part, which is going to prove wrong. Both together they can prove right, but not separately. But now, seeing that both have failed, he has come to a kind of transcendence and sees that all dualities fail. And when he meets the old man, the old man hugs him and he becomes just like an innocent child — exactly the same child that the mother had brought to the old sage to be blessed. Life has done a whole circle; he is back again as a small child. That too is very significant, because
each of life’s failures brings you a little understanding, a little transcendence. It is that little understanding and that little transcendence of dualities that gives you a new birth after death — again as an innocent child; again, an opportunity not to fall into the same old trap. But people go on falling into the same old trap again and again; it becomes habitual.
The innocence of childhood will come after each failure of the extreme — after the failure of both extremes. But you may start again the whole game….
In the East they are right in saying that circles of life go on moving in the same rut with the same failures, into the same ditches with the same miseries — and nobody seems to learn anything.
If somebody really learns, and the transcendence beyond duality is no longer the blessing of a saint but your very understanding — it arises out of your own being — then there is no longer any need for a new birth. This is what I call enlightenment — the understanding that all extremes fail. Remain in the middle, exactly in the middle, where the pendulum stops and the clock stops, where time stops — no movement, no desire, no goal, nowhere to go, but just to be here now.
Now that this innocence is arising out of you, this presence is born out of you, you will not need another birth.
Your education in the world is finished. Now you can be accepted in the wider existence, with all the awakened ones.
The story is certainly very beautiful; try to go deeper into its implications. And there are thousands of stories like this, which people simply read like stories. Almost always they are in the books of children, who cannot understand anything; they simply read the story. These stories are needed to be read by those who are meditating, who are no longer childish, who have a certain maturity, so that they can open the hidden meaning of the story. Wherever you find such stories, you can bring them to me. They contain the wisdom of the ages.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: The Transmission of the Lamp
Chapter title: Spreading a net of perfume
28 May 1986 am in Punta Del Este, Uruguay.
Osho has also spoken of eminent writers like Fyodor Dostoevsky, John Milton, Leo Tolstoy, Byron, Shakespeare, Kalidasa, John Ruskin, Kahlil Gibran, Oscar Wilde, Rabindranath Tagore and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- Come, Come, Yet Again Come
- The Transmission of the Lamp
- The Book of Wisdom
- The Dhammapada: the way of the Buddha Vol. 1, 3, 7, 9, 10, 12
- The Discipline of Transcendence Vol. 1, 2, 3
- The Last Testament Vol. 1, 3, 5
- The Messiah Vol. 1, 2
- The Art of Dying
- The Fish in The Sea Is Not Thirsty
- Light on the Path
- The Secret
- The Hidden Splendour
- The New Dawn
- Beyond Enlightenment
- The Golden Future