Anguish: Not Knowing Oneself
THE WORLD IS ON FIRE….
What does Buddha mean by fire? He means anguish. What Soren Kierkegaard means by anguish, anxiety, despair, misery, that’s what Buddha means by fire. It is a symbol. Everybody is on fire because everybody is divided, split, schizophrenic. Everybody is on fire because there is great anxiety in the world; the anxiety of “whether I am going to make it this time or not.” There is great anguish in every heart — the anguish of not knowing oneself, the anguish of not knowing from where we are coming and to where we are going, and who we are and what this life is all about. What is the meaning of life? — this is our anguish, our agony. Life seems to be so futile, so utterly meaningless, a mechanical repetition. You go on doing the same things again and again — for what? The anguish is that man feels very accidental; there seems to be no significance. And man cannot live without experiencing some significance, without experiencing that he contributes something meaningful to the world, that he is needed by existence, that he is not just a useless phenomenon, that he is not accidental, that he is required, that he is fulfilling something tremendously significant. Unless one comes to feel it, one remains on fire.
The existentialist thinkers have made many words well-known. One of those words is ‘anguish’; anguish is spiritual agony. It is not that everybody feels it; people are so dull, so stupid, so mediocre. Then they will not feel the anguish, they will go on doing small things their whole lives and they will die. They will live and they will die not knowing what life really was.
In fact when people are dying they become aware for the first time that they have been alive; in contrast to death they become alert: “I have missed an opportunity.” That is the pain of death. It has nothing to do with death directly but only indirectly. When one is dying one feels great pain; the pain has nothing to do with death. The pain is: “I was alive and now all is finished and I could not do anything meaningful. I was not creative, I was not conscious, I lived mechanically, I lived like a somnambulist, a sleepwalker.”
The mediocre mind goes on living without being worried. He seems to be happier than the intelligent person; he laughs, he goes to the club and to the movies, he has a thousand and one occupations, and he is very busy without any business. The more intelligent you are, the more sensitive you are, the more you will feel that this life — the way you are living it — is not the right way, is not the right life; something is wrong in it. The unintelligent person lives like driftwood; he becomes so much concerned with sightseeing that he forgets all about the ultimate, he forgets all about the goal, he forgets all about the journey. He becomes too absorbed in sightseeing. He is curious but his curiosity is superfluous. He never inquires, because inquiry needs guts, inquiry is risky. Inquiry means you will be facing great problems, you will be coming across ultimate problems, and who knows whether you will be able to solve them or not? He remains only curious. The curious person is the stupid person; his curiosity keeps him occupied, his curiosity keeps him engaged, so he never becomes aware of the real problems…
Buddha says: THE WORLD IS ON FIRE! Fortunate are those who can understand it, not only intellectually but existentially. Can’t you see your life is nothing but anguish? Now there are two ways to get rid of this anguish, this fire; one is to become so involved in meaningless things that you can forget your anguish, so that the anguish cannot raise its head because you are so occupied: the whole day occupied with money, power, prestige, running after shadows, and when you come back home you are so utterly tired that you fall asleep. And then too you remain engaged in your dreams. Dreams are nothing but reflections of your day; the same game continues in your sleep. People pass their whole lives in this way. People cannot sit silently even for a few minutes.
And the whole Buddhist approach is that unless you are capable of sitting silently for hours together, doing nothing, just being, you will never know who you are and you will never go beyond your anguish.
So the first way is to become occupied, involved in anything, whatsoever it is, the only purpose being that you can keep the ultimate question of your life repressed. There is no time…
THE WORLD IS ON FIRE:
AND ARE YOU LAUGHING?
The world is on fire and you are playing cards?… and you are playing chess? The world is on fire and you are reading a detective novel? The world is on fire and you are gossiping? The world is on fire and you are going to a movie? And remember YOU ARE the world Buddha is talking about…Nobody seems to be serious. Everybody is clowning, everybody is laughing — or at least pretending to laugh, at least pretending to be happy, at least bragging about his pleasures, the joys of life, and maybe not only deceiving others but being deceived by his own bragging. One may start believing in one’s own lies: then they start appearing almost like truths.
Buddha is saying: ARE YOU LAUGHING? AND THE WORLD IS ON FIRE!
Certainly it shows only one thing:
YOU ARE DEEP IN THE DARK.
WILL YOU NOT ASK FOR LIGHT?
This is ancient language. Now, since Sigmund Freud, we can translate darkness as unconsciousness and light as consciousness. That will be easier to understand, because when you talk about darkness and light it looks poetic, and Buddha is very scientific though he is full of poetry. But his poetry is not mere poetry, it has a great science in it, great alchemy in it. His poetry is because of his experience, but his poetry is not just to entertain you. His poetry is out of his grace, his very being is poetic, but his message is scientific, as scientific as it can be. He is talking about the unconscious and the conscious. He says you are deep in the dark if you are not aware that the world is on fire, that people are living in anguish — and they may not even be aware of it. That way the anguish is doubled or multiplied, because if you are aware of your anguish you can get out of it. When the house is on fire and you are asleep, the danger is far more. If the house is on fire and you are awake, the danger is far less — you can escape, you can get out of the house. Neighbors can help you to come out, you can make a phone call to the fire department. You can do something! At least you can jump out of the window. But if you are asleep then things are more difficult…
Unless you can find a buddha you will be following some other blind person. Unless you are with a man like Buddha, Jesus, Zarathustra, Lao Tzu, you will be with people who are just like you. That is one of the greatest calamities that is happening to the modern mind, to the modern man. The spiritual guides have disappeared
— long ago they disappeared. They were replaced first by the priests. Now the priests are being replaced by the psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, psychologists. The priests were blind, now the psychiatrists, the psychoanalysts are blind. They don’t know what they are doing, they don’t know where they are. They go on helping people and they are unconscious, sometimes even more than the patient. They are insane, sometimes more so than the patient, but they are professional experts, they have studied, they are full of information. They know everything about light without ever having experienced any light. They know everything about what integration is, but it is only ABOUT — they don’t have any inner integration. Their own beings are in fragments, falling apart.
One can be helped only by a buddha, by one who is awakened, because only the awakened can wake those who are fast asleep. If you are asleep and your psychoanalyst is asleep, who is going to wake you up?…
You will come across such preachers everywhere who practice what they preach, but what they preach is not their own experience; what they preach is all borrowed. It may look like wisdom but it is not. And you cannot avoid it. You will have to knock on many doors before you find the right one. That’s the only way, that’s how things are. And it is good to knock on many doors because knowing many pseudo masters, slowly slowly you will become aware of what it is to be a real master.
By knowing the false you will become capable of knowing the real. To know the false as false is a great step towards the real.
THE WORLD IS ON FIRE: AND ARE YOU LAUGHING? YOU ARE DEEP IN THE DARK. WILL YOU NOT ASK FOR LIGHT? And to ask for light is to ask for meditation. Modern psychology has still not arrived at that point; it is still entangled with analysis. Analysis cannot bring light in. You can go on analyzing darkness for years, for lives, for centuries; by analyzing darkness you will not arrive at light. How can you arrive at light by analyzing darkness? You will have to find someone who knows how to create light — that has nothing to do with darkness! When the light is created, darkness disappears, darkness is no longer found. But vice versa is not true: don’t start pushing away darkness in order to attain to light — you will be wasting your life, your energy, your opportunity. Don’t fight with darkness! Psychoanalysis is still fighting with darkness, with disease.
And that is the difference between religion and psychoanalysis. Religion is a positive effort to create light; psychoanalysis is a negative effort to dispel darkness — at the most it can help you to be normally abnormal, that’s all.
At the most it can help you to adjust to a society which itself is ill. It can help you to be in working condition again. That’s all the society needs and requires of you, that you should be a good doctor or a good engineer or a good stationmaster or a good clerk or a good collector. That’s all that society asks; society is not concerned with your inner health, with your wholeness. Society wants you to be a perfect machine. And if you are doing the work given to you well, efficiently, that’s enough. Society is not at all interested in your transformation; on the contrary, it is very much afraid of your transformation, because if you become transformed society will not be so easily able to oppress, exploit you. It will not be so easy to enslave you. If you become transformed, if you become full of light, you will be rebellious. Light brings rebellion…
Seek light! And the only way to seek light is to learn how to meditate, how to be aware, how to be more watchful. Buddha’s way was VIPASSANA — vipassana means witnessing. And he found one of the greatest devices ever: the device of watching your breath, just watching your breath.
Breathing is such a simple and natural phenomenon and it is there twenty-four hours a day. You need not make any effort. If you repeat a mantra then you will have to make an effort, you will have to force yourself. If you say, “Ram, Ram, Ram,” you will have to continuously strain yourself. And you are bound to forget many times. Moreover, the word ‘Ram’ is again something of the mind, and anything of the mind can never lead you beyond the mind.
Buddha discovered a totally different angle: just watch your breath — the breath coming in, the breath going out. There are four points to be watched. Sitting silently just start seeing the breath, feeling the breath. The breath going in is the first point. Then for a moment when the breath is in it stops — a very small moment it is — for a split second it stops; that is the second point to watch. Then the breath turns and goes out; this is the third point to watch. Then again when the breath is completely out, for a split second it stops; that is the fourth point to watch. Then the breath starts coming in again… this is the circle of breath. If you can watch all these four points you will be surprised, amazed at the miracle of such a simple process — because mind is not involved.
Watching is not a quality of the mind; watching is the quality of the soul, of consciousness; watching is not a mental process at all. When you watch, the mind stops, ceases to be.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 5
Chapter title: The world is on fire
11 October 1979 am in Buddha Hall
Osho has spoken on ‘anguish, agony, misery, despair’ in many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master
- Come Follow To You, Vol 1, 4
- The Discipline of Transcendence, Vol 1, 2
- From Personality to Individuality
- From Unconsciousness to Consciousness
- From the False to the Truth
- The Mustard Seed: My Most Loved Gospel on Jesus
- Vigyan Bhairav Tantra, Vol 1, 2
- God is Dead, Now Zen is the Only Living Truth
- The Perfect Master, Vol 1
- Sufis: The People of the Path, Vol 1
- From Death to Deathlessness
- The Transmission of the Lamp
- Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega, Vol 1, 4
- Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol 3