Osho on Confucius
28th September is the birthday of a very influential philosopher Confucius. His philosophy permeates both religion and politics in China making him one of the most influential figures in human history. Born in 551 BC in Zou (a province of China), Confucius lost his father at the age of three and was raised by his mother. They were poor so he began working at an early age. He took up any available jobs in the local government and assiduously worked his way up the ladder. In a fortuitous confluence of dynastic rivalries and his growing reputation as a philosopher, Confucius rose to the position of Minister of Crime.
His philosophy, that came to be known as Confucianism, focuses on ethics, morality, righteousness, justice, family loyalty and ancestor veneration. Confucius stressed on the importance of study of ancient Chinese texts religiously. His most famous work, The Analects of Confucius, is a collection of his sayings and ideas compiled by his followers. In the book though Confucius presents himself as a transmitter who invented nothing. Confucius’s ideology and teachings expectedly won him the respect of the aristocracy and governments. His descendants were honoured by successive imperial governments with titles of nobility and official posts.
Osho has spoken extensively on Confucius in His discourses. Osho says Confucius was a great rationalist, a pragmatist and realist. He wasn’t a mystic but a moralist. The world has not known such a great formalist. He was simply manners, morality, culture and etiquette. He has continued to influence China for over 25 centuries.
Osho shares a practice introduced by Confucius in ancient China that turned the whole practice of Medicine around. It remained functioning for centuries after Confucius. Osho says Confucius advised the emperor that doctors should be paid for keeping people healthy, not for curing them. It is dangerous if people pay doctors when they are sick because doctors would like people to be sick so that they have an opportunity to treat them. Confucius said that everybody should register for a personal physician and everybody should pay his doctor a certain sum for keeping him healthy. The payment should stop when the person falls sick. Doctors should be made responsible for the expense of nursing a person back to health. This would make the doctors authentically invested in people’s health.
Osho attributes the overwhelming embracing of Buddhism in China to Confucius. Osho says Confucius was a materialist. He denied the inner. To him, everything was outer. He believed that there is no God, no soul, no heaven, no hell and all religions are useless. Consciousness is just a by-product of five elements getting together, and death is the end. There is no life before death and no life after death. You come from nothingness and go into nothingness. His whole teaching was focused on ethics, morality and social behaviour. Infact it is because of Confucius that China turned to Communism because his thinking was very close to that of Karl Marx. And Confucius had been such a dominant and influential figure in China that the whole soul of the Chinese people was parched; was hungry for religion. Millions and millions of people… a great appetite… that Buddhism fulfilled.
Q: BHAGWAN, BEAUTIFUL, RARE BEINGS, SUCH AS LAO TZU, LIEH TZU, AND CHUANG TZU, HAVE EVOLVED OUT OF CHINA. THAT WAS THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO. CHINA TODAY HAS CHANGED ITS FACE TO A ROBOTLIKE COUNTRY. IN YOUR VISION, DO YOU SEE ANY POSSIBILITY OF SPIRITUALITY RISING AGAIN IN CHINA?
A: Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Lieh Tzu, were certainly great Masters that have walked on the earth — rare human beings — but they have not made a clear-cut way so that others can also follow. No religion came into being because of these three great Masters. It remained a philosophy. They attracted people, but the attraction never went beyond intellect. And there is a reason for it.
China has lived under the influence of Confucius, and Confucius was exactly an ancient Karl Marx, a sociologist of great insight, but he was not a religious master. He gave China its social structure, he gave China the principles of behavior and etiquette, but he never gave anything that leads to interiority. And Confucius’ influence is the greatest in China. It is because of Confucius that communism became important. They fitted with each other very intimately, with no contradiction.
Communism cannot fit with Hinduism, communism cannot fit with Jainism, but it can fit with Confucianism, because Confucianism is not a religion; it is only a sociology, and there is no conflict between Confucius and Karl Marx.
Now Confucius is twenty-five centuries older than Karl Marx, but he has said everything essential that Karl Marx repeats after twenty-five centuries. And the moment China discovered communism it felt that it was just what they had always been thinking about. So communism is not just accidental, and not imported. Although it looks like it is imported, it is not imported; it is Confucius and his teaching, turning and taking a new phase, a new color.
This is the reason why China and Russia could not stay together. Both are communist countries, both believe in Karl Marx and DAS KAPITAL, but Russia does not have the background of Confucius, while China has a long tradition of Confucianism. So Russian communism is pure Marxian. Chinese communism is just communism for name’s sake, it is basically ninety percent Confucianism.
And these three great Masters remained individuals. Once in a while somebody was impressed by their writings, but it remained intellectual, so there is no hope in the near future of Lieh Tzu, Chuang Tzu or Lao Tzu being born again in China, or their influence in any way changing the course of China’s history, because in fact they have never been of any great importance in China’s mind. Confucius and Lao Tzu were contemporaries. Confucius had even gone to meet Lao Tzu, because Lao Tzu was certainly a man of tremendous qualities. Confucius was a great thinker, but only a thinker. He had nothing as far as his own inner consciousness is concerned, no experience, no idea who he is, but he had planned for the society perfectly well, a very mannered, cultured society.
Hearing that Lao Tzu was nearby, living in a cave beyond the lake, he went to see him. A few of his disciples also went, but he told them, “You wait outside the cave.” They said, “Why? It will be good, we can listen.” He said, “You don’t understand. I will tell you the reason later on. Let me go first. If I feel it right I will call you in.”
They stayed outside, Confucius went in. Lao Tzu was sitting silently. He did not say to Confucius even to sit down, and Confucius was man of manners, etiquette. He had not expected that a great sage, Lao Tzu, would not even ask. He did not say hello or even hi — even that short form, “hi.” He simply sat down, looking at Confucius, and Confucius said, “Sir, don’t you believe in manners?”
Lao Tzu laughed. He said, ‘I thought you knew all the manners — what is the need for me to tell you? If you feel like sitting, you will sit down! You are not a man who does not know manners. If you like to stand up, it is my etiquette not to disturb you. You can stand up!” Confucius said, “But you… you did not even say hello.” Lao Tzu said, “I said it. You could not hear it. It was a test: I said it silently. I wanted to know whether the famous philosopher Confucius understands silence or not. So you understand only words — that much is decided! And you have expectations. You cannot sit down on your own, you have to be told. This cave does not belong to me. When I came here, nobody said ‘sit down,’ because nobody was here. Why should I say it? It is not my cave, nothing belongs to me. Just the way I am sitting, you can sit down. You are not a child to be told.”
Confucius had never met such a man. And on each point he was rebuffed badly. Then Lao Tzu said, “If you really want to learn anything, first go and renounce all the idiots you have collected as your disciples. You don’t know anything and you have thousands of disciples. It is hilarious! You just go and tell them the truth, that you don’t know anything, and then come, because I teach only if somebody does not know. If he knows it already, why should he bother me? An old man… Leave me alone!”
Confucius came out, and he had not the courage to say to his disciples that he did not know. He had thousands of disciples, he was the most famous man at that time. Very few people knew about Lao Tzu. Confucius has remained a shadow over the whole of Chinese history. It is only somewhere in the footnotes you can find the name of Lao Tzu.
Confucius was not courageous enough to say “I do not know.” The disciples said “You didn’t ask us to come in. He said, “It was good that I didn’t ask you to come in. And please don’t ask the reason. That man is not a man; he is a dragon. He is dangerous, avoid him as far as possible. This is my first and last meeting with that old guy!”
And he was perspiring. It was a cold morning and the cave was very cool, but he was perspiring. The disciples said, “But why are you perspiring?” He said, “I am alive — that’s enough! Just take me away from here.”
Lao Tzu has never been a great influence. He was a silent man. Once in a while somebody would come who was courageous enough to be with him He was not ready to come down to meet you, to be with you and to be amongst you. It simply was not his characteristic. He would remain on top of the hill. You would have to go to the hilltop, he was not going to come into the valley. He was not like a man, which I am. I can come to any depth where you are hiding and catch hold of your head and pull you out. He was not that kind of man; he would simply sit on top of the hill. Anybody who wants… but who wants to go that far? He never wrote a single word, he never gave a single speech — just a few conversations here and there, and only if somebody asked something. And then too, he was not nice, as is expected of Masters. Confucius was right that he was a dragon. He would kill you!
Chuang Tzu is a very important person in the history of the whole world, not only China. There is not a single person in all history who can be compared with Chuang Tzu. He wrote the most absurd parables. To understand his parables you will have to be something close to his consciousness, otherwise you will understand those parables as jokes. Those parables are the most significant religious stories, but they are absurd.
They contradict — the same story goes into so many contradictions, you are at a loss to figure out what he wants or where is the conclusion, or what is the meaning of it all. But if you can meditate and with meditative eyes look at his stories, you will be surprised: he is saying things which cannot be said through words, and just to say them he has created all those contradictions. Figuring out those contradictions you will suddenly come to understand a truth which was not said in the story at all, but if you try to figure out the contradiction meditatively, that truth is bound to be revealed to you. It is just there, but he has not said it.
He was certainly the strangest creator of parables. There are parables of Aesop; in India there are parables of Panchtantra — beautiful stories — but all have simple mottos, simple teachings, there is nothing great about them. They explain to you a certain truth. But Chuang Tzu looks mad to anyone who reads him, hence he was never an influence. How could he be an influence? People were even afraid to go to him because he would say things that if they got into your head, you would become crazy. What to do about those things?
For example, he would say, “Last night I slept and dreamed that I had become a butterfly. I have been wondering since I woke up in the morning: perhaps the butterfly has gone to sleep and is dreaming that she has become Chuang Tzu. What is your opinion? Which is true? Chuang Tzu dreaming himself as a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming herself as Chuang Tzu — what is the truth?”
Now, if this gets into your mind, you are going to be puzzled, and you had not come to get puzzled. You are already confused and this man is confusing you more. So only very rarely a person would be able…. When he used to tell this story to anybody, that was enough, and the man would escape. “Nobody knows. Even I don’t know whether I am dreaming you are here or you are dreaming I am here. This is beyond me. And I am not such a philosopher. You meditate over it. If you come to any conclusion, I live just nearby, and you can inform me. This is my name, but please don’t harass me.
Just one young man, when he told this story, said, “Wait. I have the answer.” Chuang Tzu said, “Really?” He said, “Yeah.” He went out. He had brought a bucket of ice-cold water and he poured it on Chuang Tzu and said, “Wake up!”
Chuang Tzu said, “Really great! I was waiting for something like this answer. You are accepted as my disciple. You are the right man.”
That’s what has to be done: if somebody is talking about dream and he became a butterfly or a butterfly became a dream, all that he needs is to have a bucket of ice-cold water thrown on him so he wakes up, whoever he is. If he is Chuang Tzu, he will be Chuang Tzu. If he is a butterfly, he will be a butterfly. Things will be cleared. “Anyway, the sleep has to be broken.”
He said, “This answer was so close to the story but it never happened to anybody. Thousands have heard the story, and they laugh and they talk about it and they tell it to each other, and it has spread all over the country; but not a single man thought of a single solution. All that is needed is to wake up the man, whoever he is. Waking up will be decisive. Only that can be decisive.”
So the young man said, “Have I to do anything more or are you satisfied?” Chuang Tzu said, “I am perfectly satisfied, because more will be too much. You just sit down. You are accepted.” He said, “I had come to be accepted. I have listened to great masters, but I have not found anything great. I have been to many monasteries, but all is ordinary. Then I heard about your story and then I thought, ‘Here is something extraordinary. Now I have to find this man.'”
And all his stories are like that…. Now how many people can you influence? So these people remained peaks, reaching to the stars, but beyond human intelligence. They never were influential in China. In fact, listening to me you have become aware of their names. Otherwise, ordinarily nobody bothers about Chuang Tzu, Lieh Tzu or Lao Tzu. Nobody has written commentaries on these people. I am the only man who has spoken for years continuously…
I spoke for one year continuously on Lao Tzu, every day. His book is very small, he wrote it in three days. I spoke on it one year in Hindi, and then when people from outside started coming, I spoke again on a few chosen parts.
And you know me — my memory is not good, so I forgot what I said in Hindi — I had to interpret it again. So the Hindi books are being translated and you will be puzzled, because what I have said in Hindi I have not said in English, and what I have said in English I have not said in Hindi. In fact, there was a gap of four, five years between the two series, and I never look back to what I said yesterday, and I don’t feel any obligation to remain consistent with it. Certainly, what I said in English is more up to date, because it is five years afterwards. And this gives me an immense freedom. Any day if it happens to me, I can start speaking on Lao Tzu again, because I don’t know now what I have spoken on him — whether in Hindi or English. Both are forgotten. I can give you a third commentary. Otherwise, these peoples’ names are not known — what to say about their influence.
So in China it seems very difficult.
The meeting of Confucius and Karl Marx is very dangerous. They both are materialists, they both believe only in certain moral rules, and they don’t think that there is anything beyond this life. In Russia, there is more possibility that we may have many more sannyasins. China seems to be far away; it is more difficult to penetrate the Chinese skull. It is made hard, first by Confucius and now it has got a new coating — more modern, more contemporary — of Marxism. But nobody can deny the fact that perhaps, if China becomes richer, more affluent, more educated, more open to the outside world — as is happening, it is opening its doors to the outside world-then there is a possibility sometime in the future that the Chinese youth can be approached. But China is the most difficult country out of all the countries for the transformation of man.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: The Last Testament, Vol 2
Chapter title: Organism, Not Organization
8 September 1985 pm in Jesus Grove
Osho has spoken on eminent philosophers Aristotle, Berkeley, Confucius, Descartes, Feuerbach, Hegel, Heidegger, Heraclitus, Huxley, Jaspers, Kant, Kierkegaard, Marx, Moore, Nietzsche, Plato, Pythagoras, Russell, Sartre, Socrates, Wittgenstein and many others in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha Vol.2,3,4,6,8,10,11,12
- The Empty Boat
- From Bondage to Freedom
- From Misery to Enlightenment
- The Search
- The Revolution
- Dogen, the Zen Master: A Search and a Fulfilment
- Walking in Zen, Sitting in Zen
- One Seed Makes the Whole Earth Green
- Sufis: People on the Path Vol. 1, 2
- Dang Dang Doko Dang
- Beyond Psychology
- The Rebel
- The Messiah Vol. 1, 2
- The Perfect Master Vol.2