Atisha: Love in Action

Osho on Buddhist Enlightenend Master Atisha

Atisha ‘Atisa DIpankara Srijana’ was a Buddhist religious leader and master. He is generally associated for his work carried out at the Vikramshila monastery in Bihar. He was one of the major figures in the spread of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism in Asia and inspired Buddhist thought from Tibet to Sumatra. He is recognised as one of the greatest figures of classical Buddhism.

Atisha was from a royal king family. But due to his serious attraction towards spirituality he never liked this royalty. The palace was not more than a prison for him. Inspite of his parents reluctance for his spiritual search, he managed to move out of the palace and started the search of a master and succeeded.

Osho saysAtisha is really very very scientific. First he says: Take the whole responsibility on yourself. Secondly he says: Be grateful to everyone. Now that nobody is responsible for your misery except you, if it is all your own doing, then what is left? BE GRATEFUL TO EVERYONE.

Religion is not a science…. Religion is not a science in the sense physics, mathematics and chemistry are sciences. But still it is a science because it is the ultimate knowing: the word science means knowing. And if religion is not a science, what else can be? It is the highest knowing, it is the purest knowing. Ordinary science is knowledge, not knowing: religion is knowing itself. Ordinary science is object-oriented — it knows something, hence it is knowledge. Religion is not object-oriented; it has no object, it knows nothing. Knowing knows itself, as if the mirror is reflecting itself. It is utterly pure of all content. Hence religion is not knowledge but knowing. Science is a lower kind of knowing, religion is a higher kind. Religion is PHILOSOPHIA ULTIMA: the ultimate knowing. The difference between the two is not of the spirit — the spirit is the same — but the difference is certainly of purity.

Science is mixed with much mud. Religion is pure essence, pure fragrance. The mud has disappeared, the lotus has appeared. And at the ultimate stage even the lotus has disappeared, only the fragrance abides. These are the three stages of knowing: the mud, the lotus and the fragrance. Religion cannot be grasped, because there is no object in it. But still it can be understood. It cannot be explained, but it can be experienced. There is no way of informing you about religion, because it cannot be reduced to information. But you can be shown the way, the path to it — fingers pointing to the moon. The fingers are not the moon, obviously, but the fingers can point to the moon. These “Seven Points of Mind Training” of the great master Atisha, are fingers, seven fingers pointing to the moon. Don’t be caught by the fingers, don’t become too much obsessed with the fingers. That is not the point, that will be missing the point. Use the fingers and forget them, and look where the fingers are pointing. And when you see the moon, who bothers about the fingers? Who remembers them? They automatically become nonessential; they disappear. That’s why for those who have experienced religion, all the scriptures become utterly useless, all methods become nonessential. When the goal is achieved, the path is forgotten.

Atisha is one of the rare masters, rare in the sense that he was taught by three enlightened masters. It has never happened before, and never since. To be a disciple of three enlightened masters is simply unbelievable — because one enlightened master is enough. But this story, that he was taught by three enlightened masters, has a metaphorical significance also. And it is true, it is historical too. The three masters that Atisha remained with for many years were: first, Dharmakirti, a great Buddhist mystic. He taught him no-mind, he taught him emptiness, he taught him how to be thoughtless, he taught him how to drop all content from the mind and be contentless. The second master was Dharmarakshita, another Buddhist mystic. He taught him love, compassion. And the third master was Yogin Maitreya, another Buddhist mystic. He taught him the art of taking the suffering of others and absorbing it into your own heart: love in action. This could happen because all these three masters were great friends. They had started their search together; while they were on the way they had remained together, and when they attained they were still together.

Atisha became a disciple of Dharmakirti. Dharmakirti said to him, “I will teach you the first principle. And for the second you go to Dharmarakshita, and for the third to Yogin Maitreya. This way you will know all the three faces of the ultimate reality, the three faces of God — the trinity, the TRIMURTI. And this way you will learn each face from the person who is the most perfect in it.” These are the three ways people reach to the ultimate. If you reach through emptiness you attain the other two also, but your path remains basically that of emptiness — you know more about emptiness, so emptiness will be emphasized in whatsoever you teach. That’s what happened in Buddha’s case. He had attained through emptiness, hence his whole teaching became emptiness-oriented. There is no God in Buddha’s teaching, because God is a thought, a content, an object — God is the other, and Buddha had attained by dropping the other. Buddha had attained by emptying his mind totally, hence there is no place for God, no place for anything at all. His path is the purest VIA NEGATIVA.

That was also the case with Dharmakirti. He was the perfect master of emptiness, a master par excellence of emptiness. And when Atisha had learned how to be empty, the master said, “It will be better for you to go to Dharmarakshita for the next step, because he has attained from a totally different path. Just as you can reach Everest from different sides, he has reached from a totally different path, the path of compassion. I can also teach you the path of compassion, but my knowing about that path is only known from the top. “I have reached through the path of emptiness. Once you reach the top, you can look down at all the paths, they are all available to your vision. But to follow a path in its different dimensions, to follow a path in all its details, small details, is a totally different thing.” And to look at it from a helicopter or from the mountain-top is certainly a different vision; it is a bird’s-eye view. And Dharmakirti said, “If there had been nobody available here, I would have taught you the other too. But when a man like Dharmarakshita is just here, my neighbor, living in another cave just nearby, it is better you go to him.”

First one has to become empty, utterly empty. But you have not to cling to emptiness, otherwise your life will never know the positive expression of religion. Your life will miss the poetry, the joy of sharing; you will remain empty. You will have a kind of freedom, but your freedom will be only freedom from, it will not be freedom FOR. And unless a freedom is both — freedom from and freedom for — something is missing, something is lacking; your freedom will be poor. Just to be free from is a poor kind of freedom. The real freedom starts only when you are free for. You can sing a song and you can dance a dance and you can celebrate and you can start overflowing. That’s what compassion is. Man lives in passion. When the mind disappears, passion is transformed into compassion. Passion means you are a beggar with a begging-bowl; you are asking and asking for more and more from everybody; you are exploiting others. Your relationships are nothing but exploitations — cunning devices to possess the other, very clever strategies to dominate. When you are living in the mind, in passion, your whole life is power politics. Even your love, even your social service, even your humanitarian works, are nothing but power politics. Deep down, there is a desire to be powerful over others.

The same energy, when the mind is dropped, becomes compassion. And it takes a totally new turn. It is no longer begging; you become an emperor, you start giving. Now you have something — you had it always, but because of the mind, you were not aware of it. The mind was functioning like darkness around you, and you were unaware of the light within. The mind was creating an illusion of being a beggar, while all the time you had been an emperor. The mind was creating a dream; in reality you never needed anything. All had already been given. All that you need, all that you can need, is already the case. God is within you, but because of the mind — mind means dreaming, desiring — you never look within, you go on rushing outwards. You keep yourself in the background, your eyes are turned towards the outside, they have become focused there. That’s what the mind is all about: focusing the eyes on the outside.

And one has to learn how to unfocus them from there — how to make them loose, less rigid, more liquid, so that they can turn inwards. Once you have seen who you are, the beggar disappears. In fact it had never existed; it was just a dream, an idea. The mind is creating all your misery. With the mind gone, misery is gone, and suddenly you are full of energy. And the energy needs expression, sharing; it wants to become a song, a dance, a celebration. That is compassion: you start sharing. Atisha learned compassion from Dharmarakshita. But compassion has two faces. One is inactive compassion: the meditator sits silently in his cave, showering his compassion over the whole existence. But it is a very inactive kind of compassion. You have to go to him to partake of it, he will not come to you. You will have to go to the mountains to his cave to share his joy; he will not come to you. He will not move in any way, he will not take any active step. He will not flow towards others, he will not seek and search for the people with whom he can share his dance. He will wait.

This is a feminine kind of compassion: just like a woman waits — she never takes the initiative, she never goes to the man. She may love the man, but she will never be the first to say “I love you.” She will wait; she will hope that one day or other, sooner or later, the man will propose. Woman is inactive love, passive love. Man is active love, man takes the initiative. And in the same way, compassion has two possibilities: the feminine and the masculine. From Dharmarakshita, Atisha learned the feminine art of being in love with existence. One more step was needed: Dharmarakshita told him, “Go to Yogin Maitreya” — these three masters were all living together in the same vicinity — “Go to Yogin Maitreya and learn how to transform the baser energy into active energy, so love becomes active.” And once love is active, compassion is active, you have passed through all the three dimensions of truth — you have known all. You have known utter emptiness, you have known compassion arising, you have known compassion showering. Life is fulfilled only when all these three have happened.

Because Atisha learned under three enlightened masters, he is called Atisha the Thrice Great. Nothing more is known about his ordinary life, when and where exactly he was born. He existed somewhere in the eleventh century. He was born in India, but the moment his love became active he started moving towards Tibet, as if a great magnet were pulling him there. In the Himalayas he attained; then he never came back to India. He moved towards Tibet, his love showered on Tibet. He transformed the whole quality of Tibetan consciousness. He was a miracle-worker; whatsoever he touched was transformed into gold. He was one of the greatest alchemists the world has ever known. These “Seven Points of Mind Training” are the fundamental teaching that he gave to Tibet — a gift from India to Tibet. India has given great gifts to the world. Atisha is one of those great gifts. Just as India gave Bodhidharma to China, India gave Atisha to Tibet. Tibet is infinitely indebted to this man.

These seven points, the smallest treatise you can find, are of immense value. You will have to meditate over each statement. They are the whole of religion condensed: you will have to unfold each statement. They are like seeds, they contain much. It may not be apparently so, but the moment you move into the statements deeply, when you contemplate and meditate and start experimenting with them, you will be surprised — you will be going into the greatest adventure of your life.


Listen to complete discourse at mentioned below link.

Discourse Series: The Book of Wisdom Chapter #1

Chapter title: Atisha the Thrice Great

11 February 1979 am in Buddha Hall


Osho has spoken on Krishna, Jesus, Buddha, Mahavira, Shiva, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Lieh Tzu, Bodhidharma, Nansen, Joshu, Ma Tzu, Hyakujo, Atisha, Patanjali, Kabir, Nanak, Saraha, Tilopa and many other enlightened Masters” in many of His discourses. More on them can be referred to in the following books/discourse titles:

  1. Vigyan Bhairav Tantra
  2. The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha
  3. The Mustard Seed: My Most Loved Gospel on Jesus
  4. The Path of Love
  5. Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master
  6. When the Shoe Fits
  7. Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen, with Basho’s Haikus
  8. Krishna: The Man and His Philosophy
  9. The White Lotus
  10. Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega, Vol 1
  11. The Tantra Vision, Vol 1
  12. Ma Tzu: The Empty Mirror
  13. Nansen: The Point of Departure
  14. Vigyan Bhairav Tantra, Vol 1
  15. Joshu: The Lion’s Roar
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