Anguish: A Quest

Osho on Enlightened Sage Ramana Maharshi

30th December 1879 is the birthday of the Hindu sage Ramana Maharishi, revered as an enlightened being world-wide.

He left his home aged 17 after he had a vision of death where he identified a “Self” or “I” which was neither the body nor the senses but a state of unintermittent self-awareness. Thereafter, he became a sannyasin at the holy hill Arunachala, Tamil Nadu. He began teaching self-enquiry as the path to liberation. He suggested seekers pay constant attention to the “I” to reach a state of effortless self-awareness where the ego evaporates. His method of self-enquiry comprises of questioning “who am I” within, till one arrives at the true nature of Self, which is Awareness.

He was of the view that meditation at specific hours of the day is good for beginners but self-enquiry should be a continuum throughout one’s waking hours. He discouraged renunciation of family or work in favour of a monk’s life of meditation. He emphasized that the path of self-enquiry can be blended with day to day life.

Osho has spoken on Raman Maharishi in His discourses. Osho says Raman Maharishi had no Master, he had nobody to guide him; but just sitting silently watching his own mind, he transcended his mind and he came to know himself. So, whenever anybody asked him – What are we supposed to do? – he had only one answer his whole life: Meditate on “Who am I?” Just by watching; a moment comes when all thinking disappears. As your watchfulness grows, the mind disappears. And the disappearance of the mind is the beginning of knowing your Self. This is the highest peak of consciousness, and unless a man achieves it, he has wasted his life in trivia.


ANGUISH has something of anxiety in it, but it is not just anxiety. It is much more, much more profound. Anxiety means you are concerned with a particular subject, in a state of indecisiveness. You cannot figure out whether to do a thing or not to do it. What will be the right way to do it? What to choose? –

there are so many ways. You are always standing on a crossroad. All the roads seem to be similar; certainly leading somewhere, but whether they lead to the goal that you have been aspiring to….Anxiety is that condition of to do or not to do, to choose this or to choose that.

But the object of the anxiety is clear: that you are indecisive about ways, indecisive about two persons, indecisive about two jobs. Anguish has no particular object. Anguish is felt by very rare people. Anxiety is felt by everybody, it is a common experience. Anguish is felt only by the genius, by the highest peak of intelligence. It has no particular object; there is nothing for you to choose between, no “this or that.” There is no question of choice.

Then what is the problem with anguish?

You will have to understand a certain phenomenon. There are things in the world — animals, birds, man… anxiety happens to all… to the trees, to the animals, to the birds, to man. As far as anxiety is concerned it is universal. But anguish is felt only by a very few rare men. They are the very cream, the highest peak of consciousness. I will try to explain it to you. It is a little difficult to understand but not impossible. A rock is born, a tree is born, a lion is born, an eagle is born, but they differ from man. The difference is: Their being precedes their existence. For example, a rock is there; it is alive, it grows. The Himalayas are still growing — one foot every year. Somebody should say to it, “Now it is meaningless, you are already the highest. Don’t take so much trouble.” It must be a troublesome thing: thousands of miles, thousands of peaks, the work must be enormous. Even to grow one foot every year is no small thing for the Himalayas. “And now there is no need. Howsoever big you become, you will remain only the highest mountain in the world. You have surpassed all the mountains, you have left them far behind.” But the Himalayas go on growing, it is a living being. Mountains don’t understand. Man does not understand, what to say about mountains!

A rock, a tree, a lion, an eagle — their essence precedes their existence. What they are going to be, they are already programmed for. That is their essence. A rose is going to be a rose. Even before the flowers have come, you know those flowers are not going to be marigolds. The bush is of a rose; the essence of the rose is already there — only existence has to happen. The basic program is already provided by nature, it has just to be manifest…Except for man, everything — every bird, every animal — in existence comes in this way: essence first, then manifestation. They are programmed by nature; their whole life is not an evolution but an unfolding. All that they are going to become is already in the basic program, and they cannot move a single inch from the program. It is not in their power to decide whether to be a rose or to be a marigold. Hence there is no anxiety about this. They are never asked to decide about their essence. They are never on the crossroads, they are always following a single route. There is nothing for them to choose about “being.”…

In man, existence precedes essence. First he is born, and then he starts discovering what he can be. That is anguish.

He has no program, no determined guidelines given from nature, no map to follow. He is just left as pure existence. He has to work out everything on his own. Life is every moment a challenge, so every moment he has to choose. Whenever he has to choose there is anxiety — but anxiety is particular. Anguish is a general state of the human being. He is in anguish from birth to death because he has no way of knowing what his destiny is, where he is going to land. Of course, very few people feel anguish because very few people are so conscious about themselves, their existence, where they are moving, what they are becoming, what is going to happen. They are too concerned with trivia. So all human beings experience anxiety. Trivia creates anxiety. …

Anguish is, in short, the quest of who you are.

One of India’s greatest seers of this age, Raman Maharishi, had only one message to everyone. He was a simple man, not a scholar. He left his house when he was seventeen years old — not even well educated. It was a simple message. To whoever would come to him — and from all over the world people were coming to him — all that he said was, “Sit down in a corner, anywhere….” He lived on a hill, Arunachal, and he had told his disciples to make caves in the hills; there were many caves. “Go and sit in a cave, and just meditate on, Who am I? All else is just explanations, experiences, efforts to translate those experiences into language. The only real thing is this question, Who am I?”

I have come in contact with many people, but I never came in contact with Raman Maharishi; he died when I was too young. I wanted to go, and I would have reached him, but he was really far away from my place, near about fifteen hundred miles. I asked my father many times, “That man is getting old and I am so young. He does not know Hindi, my language; I don’t know his language, Tamil. Even if somehow I reach there — which is difficult….” It was almost a three-day journey from my place to Arunachal… changing so many trains. And with each change of train, the language changes. As you move from the Hindi language territory, which is the biggest in India, you enter the language of Marathi. As you pass from Marathi, you enter the state of the Nizam of Hyderabad, where Urdu is the language. As you go further you enter Telugu-and Malayalam-speaking areas, and finally you reach Raman Maharishi who spoke Tamil.

I said, “For me to travel it will be… and you are not even supporting me with a ticket. I will have to travel without a ticket. For a hundred miles I can manage, I have managed.

When you won’t give me a ticket I simply go to the ticket collector and say, “This is the trouble: my father will not give me a ticket, but I want to go so I will have to travel without a ticket. But I don’t want to travel like a thief, so I am informing you.” And it always happened that the man thought, “No person who is traveling without a ticket comes to the ticket collector to inform him.”

But the ticket collector would say to me, “Okay. You sit down, I will take care. After a hundred miles I will be waiting for you at the gate so I can let you off at the station; otherwise you may be caught there — if you are not caught on the train. I am the ticket collector on the train for the next hundred miles; but on the station you may be caught, so I will be there.”

I have traveled many times in my early childhood without a ticket because my father thought that if a ticket was not given to me how could I go? But soon he learned that I have my ways. He asked me, “Can you tell me how you manage not to be caught?”

I said, “I cannot tell you, it is a secret. But I have told my grandfather; you can ask him.”

People around the world are all living in anxiety. Even if it is told to you — and that’s what Raman was telling to people — “Go into the anguish….” I could not manage to see Raman, but I met many people who had been his disciples, later on when I was traveling. When I went to Arunachal I met his very intimate disciples, who were very old by then, and I did not find a single person who had understood that man’s message.

It was not a question of language, because they all knew Tamil; it was a question of a totally different perspective and understanding. Raman had said, “Look withinwards and find out who you are.” And what were these people doing when I went there? They had made it a chant! They would sit down, chanting, “Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?” — just like any other mantra. There are people who are doing their JAPA, “Rama, Rama, Rama,” or “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna….”

At Arunachal they were using this same technology for a totally different thing, which Raman could not have meant. And I said to his disciples, “What you are doing is not what he meant. By repeating, ‘Who am I?’ do you think somebody is going to answer? You will continue to repeat it your whole life and no answer will be coming.”

They said, “On the one hand we are doing what we have understood him to mean. On the other hand we cannot say you are wrong, because we have been wasting our whole life chanting, ‘Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?’ ” — in Tamil of course, in their language — “but nothing has happened.”

I said, “You can go on chanting for many more lives; nothing is going to happen. It is not a question of chanting ‘Who am I?’ You are not to utter a single word, you have simply to be silent and listen. At first you will find, just like flies moving around you, thousands of thoughts, desires, dreams — unrelated, irrelevant, meaningless. You are in a crowd, buzzing. Just keep quiet and sit down in this bazaar of your mind.”

Bazaar is a beautiful word. English has taken it over from the East, but perhaps they don’t know that it comes from “buzzing”: a bazaar is a place which is continuously buzzing. And your mind is the greatest bazaar there is. In each single mind in such a small skull, you are carrying such a big bazaar. And you will be surprised to know that so many people reside in you — so many ideas, so many thoughts, so many desires, so many dreams. Just go on watching and sitting silently in the middle of the bazaar.

If you start SAYING, “Who am I?” you have become part of the bazaar, you have started buzzing. Don’t buzz, don’t be a buzzer; simply be silent. Let the whole bazaar continue; you remain the center of the cyclone. Yes, it takes a little patience. It is not predictable at what time the buzzing will stop in you, but one thing can be said certainly: that it stops sometime or other. It depends on you how much of a bazaar you have, for how many years you have carried it, for how many lives you have carried it, how much nourishment you have given to it, and how much patience you have to sit silently in this mad crowd around you  — maddening you, pulling you from every side.

You are aware of anxiety. But you are not aware of anguish yet. In the first place, when you do feel anguish, you will feel in a tremendous turmoil, in a very deep depression… a fathomless abyss just opening in front of you, and you are falling into it. It is terrible in the beginning, but only in the beginning. If you can be patient, just a little patient, and allow whatever is happening, soon you will be aware of a new quality in your being: All that is happening is around you, it is not happening in you. It is something without, not within. Even your own mind is something on the outer side.

At the innermost center there is only one thing: That is witnessing, watching, observing, awareness. And that’s what I call meditation. Without anguish you cannot meditate. You have to pass through the fire of anguish. It will burn much rubbish and leave you cleaner, fresher. And your being is not far away. It is there, very close by, but just the buzzing of all the thoughts does not allow you to hear it, to see it, to feel it.

Anguish is the enquiry into one’s self putting the question mark unto oneself.

You have asked things like, “Who is God?” and “Who created the world?” All those questions are just for retarded minds. A mature mind has only one question. Not even two, just a single question: Who am I? And that too you have not to ask verbally, you have just to be in that state of questioning. You are not to repeat, “Who am I?” you have just to be there, watching, looking; not verbally asking, but existentially asking. And that existential question is terrible in the beginning, painful in the beginning, but brings all the blessings in the end.

Gautam the Buddha has said, “My path in the beginning is bitter, but in the end, very sweet.” What path? He is not talking about the Buddhist religion; although that’s how the Buddhist monks will interpret it. He is talking about the path that I am talking to you about — the path that takes you inwards. Yes, it is bitter in the beginning but sweet in the end. It is deathlike in the beginning and eternal life in the end. And all the blessings of the existence are yours. You are so blessed that you can bless the whole of existence. That’s the meaning of the word, Bhagwan: the Blessed One. The Blessed One is born out of the birth pangs of anguish…


This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune. 

Discourse name: From Personality to Individuality
Chapter title: Anxiety: Who are you? Anguish: Who am I?
Chapter #6
4 January 1985 pm in Lao Tzu Grove


Osho has spoken on Mystics like Dadu, Daya, Farid, Gurdjieff, J. Krishnamurti, Kabir, Lalla, Magdalen, Mallibai, Meera, Nanak, Patanjali, Rabiya, Raman Maharishi, Rumi, Sahajo, Sai Baba, Saraha, Socrates, Teresa, Tilopa, Valmiki, Zarathustra and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. Sermons in Stones
  2. Come Come Yet Again Come
  3. The Hidden Splendour
  4. Beyond Enlightenment
  5. The New Dawn
  6. The Sword and The Lotus
  7. The Fish in the Sea is Not Thirsty
  8. Socrates Poisoned Again After 25 Centuries
  9. Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega
  10. The Path of Love
  11. The Book of Wisdom
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