YOU SAY THAT BUDDHA WOULD NOT SPEAK OF GOD BECAUSE IT CANNOT BE PROVEN. YET IN THE NEXT BREATH HE SPEAKS OF OTHER LIVES, AND REINCARNATION. HOW DOES THIS FIT INTO SCIENTIFIC FACT?
A BUDDHA SAYS THERE IS NO SOUL. WHAT IS IT THAT REMAINS AFTER DEATH? WHAT IS REINCARNATION? I VAGUELY UNDERSTAND THAT IT CAN BE THE FORMLESS THAT REMAINS, BUT CAN THAT HAVE AN INDIVIDUAL ENTITY? THE SAME WAVE IS NOT REBORN.
THE QUESTION IS VERY SIGNIFICANT. It is one of the most fundamental contributions of Buddha to human consciousness — the idea of no-self. It is very complex. You will have to be very silently alert to understand it, because it goes against all the patterns that you have been conditioned to. First a few analogies, so you have a certain idea what he means by no-self. Your body is a bag of skin. The skin defines your body; it defines where you and the world starts. It is a demarcation around you. It protects you from the world, it divides you from the world, and it allows you only certain apertures to enter into the world or let the world enter in you. If there is no skin, you will not be able to exist. You will be losing your boundaries with all that surrounds you. But you are not your skin. And skin goes on changing. It is just like the snake who goes on getting out of his old skin again and again. You also get out of your skin again and again many times. If you ask the physiologists, they will say, ‘If a man is going to live seventy years, then nearly ten times he will change his skin completely.’ But the process is very slow, so you never become aware. Such a tiny part changes every moment that you cannot feel it; your feeling is not so subtle. The change is very subtle. The skin goes on changing and still you go on thinking to yourself that this is your body, the same body. It is not the same body, it is a continuum.
When you were in your mother’s womb, the first day you were just a small cell, invisible to the naked eye. That was your skin that time, that was your body. Then you started growing. After nine months you were born — then you had a totally different body. If suddenly you come across yourself just one day old, just born, you will not be able to recognize that this is you. You have changed so much. But still you think you are the same. In a way you are the same because you are the same continuity. In a way you are not the same because you have been continuously changing.
In the same way, just like the skin, is the ego. The skin holds your body into a pattern, into a definition, into a limit. The ego holds the contents of your mind into a limit. The ego is the inner skin so that you know who you are; otherwise you will be lost — you will not know who is who; who is me and who is the other. The idea of self, I, ego, gives you a definition, a utilitarian definition. It makes you clearly separate from others. But that too is a skin, a very subtle skin, that holds all the contents of your mind — your memory, your past, your desires, your plans, your future, your present, your love, your hate, anger, sadness, happiness — it holds all that in a bag. But you are not that ego either. Because that too goes on changing and that changes more than the bodily skin. Each moment it is changing.
Buddha uses the analogy of a flame. A lamp is lighted: you see the flame, but it is continuously changing, it is never the same. By the morning when you put the light off, you don’t put the same flame off. It has been continuously changing the whole night. Every single moment the flame is disappearing in the smoke and the new flame is replacing it. But the replacement is so fast that you cannot see the absence — that one flame has gone, another has come. That is gone, another has come. The movement is so fast that you cannot see the gap between the two. Otherwise there is only a continuity; it is not the same flame. But still, in a way, it is the same flame because it is the continuity of the same flame. It is born out of the same flame. Just as you were born out of your parents — you are a continuity. You are not the same. You are not your father, you are not your mother — but still you are your father and your mother, because you continue the same tradition, the same line, the same heritage. Buddha says the ego is a continuity, it is not a substance — continuity like a flame, continuity like a river, continuity like the body.
The problem arises… we can concede to it that okay, it may be so: if a person dies at death and everything disappears, then perfectly true — maybe it is just a flame. But Buddha says a person is reborn — then the problem arises. Then who is reborn? Then again, a few analogies. Have you seen a big house on fire, or a jungle on fire? If you watch you will come to see a phenomenon. Simply a flame jumps from one tree and reaches to another tree. It has no substance in it, it is just a flame. It has no material in it, it is just pure energy, a quanta of energy, a certain quantity of energy — it jumps from one tree and reaches to the other and the other is on fire. Or, you can bring an unlighted torch close to a lighted torch? What happens? The flame from the lighted torch jumps to the unlighted torch. It is a quantum leap, it is a jump. The pure flame jumps towards the other torch and starts another continuity…Buddha says when a person dies, his whole life’s accumulated desires, his whole life’s accumulated memories, his whole life’s sanskaras, karmas, jump like energy waves into a new womb. It is a jump. The exact word is in physics: they call it ‘quantum leap’ — ‘a leap of pure energy without any substance in it’.
Buddha is the first quantum physicist. Einstein followed him after twenty-five centuries, but they both speak the same language. And I still say that Buddha is scientific. His language is of modern physics; he came twenty-five centuries before his time. When a person dies, the body disappears, the material part disappears, but the immaterial part, the mind part, is a vibration. That vibration is released, broadcast. Now, wherever a right womb is ready for this vibe, it will enter into the womb. There is no self going, there is nobody going, there is no ego going. There is no need for anything substantial to go, it is just a push of energy. The emphasis is that it is again the same bag of the ego jumping. One house has become unlivable, one body is no more possible to live with. The old desire, the lust for life — the Buddha’s term is tanha, lust for life — is alive, burning. That very desire takes a jump…
Hence I say Buddha is very scientific. He does not talk about god, but he talks about immaterial no-self. Just as modern science has taken the idea of substance out of its metaphysics, Buddha took the idea of self out of his metaphysics. Self and substance are correlates. It is difficult to believe that the wall is non-substantial and in the same way it is difficult to believe that no self exists in you. Now, a few things more which will make it more clear. I cannot say that you will understand it, but it will make it more clear. You walk, you are walking, you have gone for a morning walk. The very language — that we say ‘you are walking’ — creates a problem; in our very language is the problem. The moment we say somebody is walking, we assume that somebody is there who is walking — the walker. We ask, how is walking possible if there is no walker? Buddha says there is no walker, only walking.
Life does not consist of things. Buddha says life consists of events. And that is exactly what modern science is saying: there are only processes, not things — events. Even to say that life exists is not right. Only thousands and thousands of living processes exist. Life is just an idea. There is nothing like life…
You see a river. Does a river really exist, or is it just a movement? If you take the movement out, will there be a river? Once the movement is taken out the river will disappear. It is not that the river is moving; the river is nothing but rivering…
Buddha says the very idea of self is because of language. You feel hungry: in language we say ‘I am hungry’. Language creates the idea of I. How to say it? To be exactly right you can only say ‘hunger’. ‘I am hungry’ is bringing something absolutely false in it. ‘Hunger’ — that’s enough. Watch your processes and you will feel it. When you feel hungry today, just watch it. Is there really somebody who is hungry or is there just hunger? And is it just a language pattern that gives it a twist and divides it in two, and you start feeling ‘I am hungry’? Buddhism is the first religion which brought this message to the world — that your religions, your philosophies, are more grounded in your linguistic patterns than in anything else. And if you can understand your language better, you will be able to understand your inner processes better. He was the first linguist, and his insight is tremendously meaningful.
YOU SAY THAT BUDDHA WOULD NOT SPEAK OF GOD BECAUSE IT CANNOT BE PROVEN.
Yes, he would not speak about god because it cannot be proven and he would not speak about god because the god that you think exists, exists not. Your god is again the same old fallacy of self. You think you have a self, so the whole universe must have a self. Because you have a self, the whole universe must have a supreme self. That supreme self is god. Buddha says you don’t have any self. The universe is, but there is no supreme self in it… millions of processes, but no supreme self. There is no center to it; it is all circumference. Very difficult to catch hold of it — unless you meditate. That’s why Buddha never goes into metaphysical discussions; he says, ‘Meditate.’ Because in meditation these things become so clear.
When thinking stops, suddenly you see the thinker has disappeared. It was a shadow. And when the thinker disappears, how can you say, how can you feel ‘I am’? There is no ‘I’ left, you are pure space. That’s what Buddha calls anatta, the pure space of no self. It is a tremendous experience.
… YET IN THE NEXT BREATH HE SPEAKS OF OTHER LIVES AND REINCARNATION.
He speaks, and Buddhists have always been in trouble because of it. Buddha is so scientific that he cannot twist the fact. If he was not such a scientific man, if he was just a metaphysician, either he would have accepted self to make his whole philosophy look consistent, or he would have dropped the idea of reincarnation, because both things look contradictory. But he is such a scientist that he will not enforce anything from his mind on reality. He simply stated the fact. If it is contradictory, he says, ‘Maybe it is contradictory, but it is so.’… He entered into the innermost core of your so-called self and he was also puzzled — what to do? There is no self, and there is reincarnation. Now if he was not really such a great scientist, and if he was just an ordinary philosopher, then he would have forgotten; he would not have talked about this fact at all — he would have chosen. The choice is simple: either you say there is no reincarnation because there is no self….That’s what people who don’t believe in the soul have always been saying. The atheists, charvakas, they have always been saying that there is no self — when you die you simply die, nothing survives, and there is no rebirth. That’s simple, logical. Or there are eternalists, theists, people who believe in the self. They say that you die but only the body dies; your self, your center survives. Your soul, your atma survives; it is eternal. That too is logical.
Buddha is very illogical and he is illogical because his insistence not to go against reality is absolute. His emphasis is this: that whatsoever reality reveals we have to listen to it. We are not here to impose our own ideologies on it. Who are we?…
Buddha changed the whole language, the whole philosophical style. There has never been such an original man before. It was almost impossible to understand him because he was not speaking the same language as you speak, and he was bringing some new visions into the world. The person who does not believe in the soul is very old, nothing new in it. Marx is not saying anything new. For thousands of years there have been atheists who have denied soul, who have denied rebirth. Neither Mahavir nor Patanjali are saying anything new, because there have always been people who have believed in the soul and reincarnation.
Buddha is bringing a real vision, very original. He says: there is no soul and yet there is reincarnation. It is a quantum jump. So when I say that he is a scientist, I mean it. And if you understand the language of modern physics, you will be able to understand Buddha. In fact, to understand Buddha without understanding modern physics is impossible. For the first time, modern physics has provided a parallel. Heisenberg, Planck, and Einstein, they have provided a parallel. Matter has disappeared; there is only energy, with no self in it, no substance in it. And what Buddha says is the same: anatta, no self…
Nirgrantha says, I VAGUELY UNDERSTAND THAT IT CAN BE THE FORMLESS THAT REMAINS.
No, it is not a question of vaguely comprehending. Intellectually there is no way. The way is only meditative, existential. You don’t figure it out through intellect, you simply move more into meditation, open a new dimension of vision. Nobody has emphasized meditation as much as Buddha. His whole method is meditation. And what is meditation?
Meditation is by and by becoming thoughtless; not falling into sleep — remaining alert and yet becoming thoughtless. Once thoughts disappear, everything is crystal clear — that the thinker was just a by-product of moving thoughts. It was a bundle of thoughts and nothing else. It had no separate existence.
Then you walk, but the walker is no more there; then you eat, but the eater is no more there; then you sleep, but the sleeper is no more there; then you live, but there is nobody who is living; then you die, and there is nobody who is dying.
You are just a pure space in which millions of processes exist, in which life flows with all its processes and you remain uncorrupted by it. You are like an open sky… clouds come and go.
One of the most beautiful names given to Buddha is tathagata. It means ‘thus came, thus gone’. There was no one who came and there was no one who has gone — just coming and going. That is the meaning of tathagata — just a process of coming and a process of going; there was no one who has come and no one who has gone.
Zen masters have always been saying that this man never existed, this man called Gautam the Buddha never existed. Yes, he came certainly, and he went also, but he never existed. It is just like a dream process. A dream comes and goes and by the morning you know it never existed.
Once you understand yourself as pure space and many things happening, you become detached. Then you become fearless, because there is nothing to lose, there is nobody to lose anything. Then you are no more full of lust for life, because you don’t conceive of any self. Then you are not afraid of death and you are not in a lust for life. Then you don’t think of the past and then you don’t project the future. Then you simply are — as pure as the vast sky outside; you also become a pure sky inside. And the meeting of these two skies, the inner and the outer, is what Buddha calls nirvana…
Buddha’s vision is very existential and nothing is as liberating as Buddha’s vision. Because if you believe in a soul you can leave the world, but then you will desire paradise — because you don’t leave your self. Desire shifts into a new dimension. You drop greed, but really you don’t drop it — subtle greed arises. Just see the paradise of Mohammedans or Christians or Hindus. It looks so worldly, so profane. Because whatsoever these religions are telling you to drop here, is provided there, and in bulk…So the self exists here as the center of desire and god exists as the center of fulfilling that desire. Buddha says both are not, get rid of both; neither god is, nor self is. Look at reality, don’t move in desires. Drop fantasies, stop dreaming and look at what is. And he says there is only this impermanent world of processes — this flux-like world, this vortex of reality… everything impermanent and changing, nothing is permanent. That is the meaning of his insistence that there is no self, because you are trying to make something in you permanent. You say, the body changes, okay; the world changes, okay; relationships change, become rotten, okay — but the self, the self is eternal. Yes, this visible world changes — but the invisible god, he is eternal. You want something eternal so desperately that you start believing in it. It is your desire that the eternal should be there.
Buddha says there is nothing eternal. Everything is impermanent, everything is in flow. Understand this, and this very understanding will liberate you.
Remember, when others talk of liberation, they talk of liberation for the self. When Buddha talks of liberation, he talks of liberation FROM the self. And that is a tremendously radical standpoint. Not that you will be liberated, but liberated from you. The only freedom that Buddha says is real freedom is freedom from you.
Otherwise your mind will go on playing games. It will go on painting new desires on new canvases. Nothing will change. Canvases you can change. You can get out of the marketplace and sit in a temple — nothing will change, your mind will project the same desires in heaven and paradise. Look at this mind. Look at its desires. Watch, become aware. Again and again I will have to remind you, because I am talking in non-buddhist language. So when Buddha says become aware, he means: be awareness. There is nobody who becomes aware, there is only awareness.
Yes, you will never be born again, but if you carry the idea that you are, then you will remain in a continuum. If you drop the idea of the self, the continuum disappears; you evaporate. That’s what nirvana is. Just as if you put off a lamp and the light ceases, disappears, you put off your desiring mind and all misery, and all transmigration, and all suffering, ceases. Suddenly, you are not there. But that does not mean that nothing is, otherwise there will be no difference between a charvak and a Buddhist, then there will be no difference between the atheist and Buddha. There is tremendous difference. He says you cease and for the first time reality takes over. But he never gives it any name, because naming is not possible — to name it is to falsify it. To say it is, is to be untrue to it. He keeps quiet, absolutely silent about it. He indicates the way how to experience it. He does not spin and weave a philosophy around it.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: The Discipline of Transcendence, Vol 1
Chapter title: Thus come, thus gone
30 August 1976 am in Buddha Hall
Osho has spoken on ‘Buddha, freedom, no self, liberation’ in many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master
- The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha
- The Discipline of Transcendence
- The Heart Sutra
- Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega
- Vigyan Bhairav Tantra
- The Buddha: The Emptiness of the Heart
- Take It Easy, Vol 1, 2
- The Ultimate Alchemy, Vol 1, 2
- The Zen Manifesto: Freedom From Oneself
- The White Lotus
- The Revolution
- Tantra: The Supreme Understanding