Don’t be Indecisive
Birthday of Russian writer and philosopher Leo Tolstoy
09th September is the birthday of the famous Russian writer and philosopher Leo Tolstoy. Born in an aristocratic family in Russia in 1828, he was orphaned by the age of 9 and brought up by relatives. He lived a prodigal life of leisure and luxury as an adolescent. Abandoning his study of law and languages midway, Tolstoy started writing. During this phase he also ran up huge gambling debts. At 23, he joined the army serving in the artillery. Appalled by the deaths in warfare, soon he left the army. By the time he turned 30, Leo Tolstoy was transformed from a profligate and privileged society author to a non-violent and spiritual anarchist. He had 13 children and many grand and great-grandchildren mostly living outside Russia due to the public outrage and hostility towards czars and nobles. Tolstoy himself had renounced his aristocratic lifestyle and even the royalty from his books. He continued to live in Russia with his wife, with whom he was known to be irretrievably disengaged. He died in 1910 at the age of 82 on a railway station in Russia having fled his home the previous night.
His most famous novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina have been made into Hollywood movies. His highly acclaimed book A Confession deals with his own struggle with melancholy and existential crisis in his early fifties. It describes his search for an answer to the ultimate philosophical question: If God does not exist, since death is inevitable, what is the meaning of life?
Despite his prolific and extraordinarily brilliant work, Tolstoy did not win a Nobel Prize in Literature. Osho says nobody is more worthy of a Nobel Prize than Leo Tolstoy. His creativity is immense, he was unsurpassed by anyone. He was nominated, but refused by the committee because of his unorthodox stories on Christianity. The Prize committee opens its records every fifty years. When records were opened in 1950, researchers rushed to see whose names were nominated and cancelled and for what reason. Leo Tolstoy was nominated, but never given the prize as he is not an orthodox Christian.
Osho says Leo Tolstoy is one of Russia’s wisest men of the 20th century and his ideas on non-violence deeply influenced Mahatma Gandhi’s ideology. Mahatma Gandhi declared three persons his master. The first was Leo Tolstoy, the second was Henry Thoreau, and the third was Emerson.
Osho relates a beautiful anecdote from Tolstoy’s life. Osho says once Leo Tolstoy was asked – How many experiences did you have of divine ecstasy in your life? Tolstoy started crying. He replied – Not more than 7 in my life of 70 years, but I am grateful for those 7 moments and miserable too. In those moments it was evident that is could have been the flavour of my whole life but that didn’t happen. Those moments came and went on their own. But I am still grateful to God that even without any conscious effort on my part, once in a while He has been knocking at my doors.
YOU SAID THAT ONLY A TOTAL DISCONTINUITY FROM THE PAST CAN CREATE A NEW MAN. HOW CAN THIS HAPPEN IN PRACTICAL TERMS?
It looks difficult. It looks almost impossible, but it only looks so; otherwise it is very simple. You just have to watch within yourself what the connection is you are keeping with the old — and why you are keeping it. Is it just a habit because from the very childhood you have been taught certain concepts, ideas, certain religions, cults, creeds? — or is there some nourishment that you get from them? Or, on the contrary, are they sucking your blood?
You just have to see within yourself about each thing — whether it is political, social, or religious — that you have carried from the past; that the past has given to you through education, and through other means in the society. You just have to see what the reason is that you are still holding on to it.
And my experience is that nobody is being nourished by it, so there is no reason to hold on to it. Almost everybody is sucked by the dead, the old, the past. It does not allow you to be new, young, contemporary. It keeps pulling you back. It is not something friendly to you — you have just never looked at it and seen that you are carrying enemies within you, parasites within you. And you are simply carrying them because of old habits, because they have always been there — as long as you can remember they have been there. As long as you can remember you have been a Christian, or a Hindu, or a Mohammedan. It is just a question of habit.
So you have to see exactly what traditions and past inheritances are doing to you. You have to be very clear-cut, and then the thing is very simple. If you see that you are carrying parasites just because of old habits, that you are nourishing your own enemies who are destroying your life, your youth, your newness — who are making you almost dead before death comes — it won’t take any great effort not to cling to them. You will simply drop them, there is not much of a question. It is your decision to keep them or not to keep them. You will simply drop them. The moment you see that you are carrying poison, something destructive, which is going to spoil everything in your life — not because I say so; you have to see it with your own eyes — then it is so easy to get rid of the past.
And the moment you are discontinuous with the past, you have immense freedom to grow. Suddenly you are fresh and young, free of the parasites, free of the burden, free of an unnecessary load, luggage which was nothing but junk. But you were carrying it because your fathers, your forefathers, everybody was carrying it. It is simply a question of seeing what the past is doing to you. Is it a friend or an enemy? And just the insight will do the work.
I have heard about one patient who was having his session with the psychoanalyst. The psychoanalyst had been trying hard for months to convince him that his whole sickness was imaginary. His sickness was that he was feeling continuously that strange creatures were crawling all over his body; and all the time he was just throwing them off. And there was nothing.
For months the psychoanalyst was telling him that there was nothing: “You just look. I don’t see anything — and you go on throwing off those strange creatures which are just your imagination.” But the man had no time even to listen. While the psychoanalyst was talking he was just throwing… from all over the body.
In this session he was sitting very close to the psychoanalyst. And as he started throwing off his strange creatures, the psychoanalyst said, “Wait! Don’t throw them on me!” Because for six months, trying to convince him, the psychoanalyst himself had become convinced that there must be something there — because this man is intelligent, he is a professor, and if he goes on throwing off those things, there must be something there. So he said, “Wait! You can throw them anywhere else, but you can’t throw them on ME.”
The psychoanalyst himself became convinced: “And I don’t want to deal any more with you, because I have started suspecting, once in a while, that some strange creature is crawling on me. I know that it is just imagination, but….”
You have to see that even imagination starts being active. Seeing certainly is action. You don’t have to do anything after seeing. You see it, and that very moment you are disconnected from the thing if it is not nourishing you but torturing you. It is very simple.
And it is one of the most fundamental things… to get rid of the whole past, to be absolutely discontinuous with it. Then you have a simplicity, a lightness, because there is no load. And you have a health of mind, of soul — which was sucked away, so that you had never had any experience of it. You feel new vitality and new blood running through your veins. And because you are now discontinuous with the past, you don’t have memories, psychological memories. If you want to remember, you can remember, but they are no longer a force on you. They don’t have any power over you so you have to remember them. Now there are no memories, no connections with the past. You have only the present, and you have a vast future. Of course you cannot do anything in the future, you can only do anything you want to do in the present. But it goes on: as the future becomes the present, your growth, your action, your intelligence, your creativity — anything that you are working at — keeps growing. And the pleasure of growth is immense. To be stuck somewhere is one of the most horrible feelings.
Leo Tolstoy used to have a dream which tortured him his whole life — and it can torture anybody, that kind of dream. And it was not that he had it once, it was almost every night, the same dream — which is very rare. Very few people see the same dream, unless the dream is so significant that the unconscious has to remind you that you have to do something. His dream was that he sees a vast desert; as far as he can see it is desert; sand and sand and nothing else. Hot sun… the sand is almost burning. And two shoes – they are his shoes – are walking. He is not in them; that was the most horrible thing; just the shoes going on and on, and the desert is endless. So, the whole night may pass and the shoes are walking on, and the desert never comes to an end. There is nobody in those shoes, but the shoes are his. And he would always wake up perspiring, trembling.
This was his lifelong torture; and he was stuck with the dream. There was no way to move. He even started becoming afraid of going to sleep because he knew what was going to happen: the moment he falls asleep, the dream will be there. And it goes nowhere – just simply goes on and on. He talked to one of his friends Chekhov; another great, creative novelist of the same calibre as Tolstoy; about the dream. Chekhov said, “Unless you do something, the dream will continue, because the dream wants you to do something. It is about you. And even in your dream you are trying to deceive yourself — that’s why you are not in your own shoes, so only the shoes have to walk. But the shoes are yours and you are in them. And this is something about your life. Anybody can see it — there is no need of any great psychoanalyst to analyse it.”
Tolstoy had a wife who was a constant torture, but he was a man of no decision: he could not decide whether to divorce her or to continue. He had many children, and he lived like a poor man. He was a Christian, a practicing Christian. Although he was a Count and had immense riches and had thousands of acres of land, he lived like a poor man, ate like a poor man, had clothes like a poor man. His wife lived like a princess and tortured him continually because he was being stupid: trying to practice Christianity by being poor because, “Blessed are the poor.” She would not even take him to social parties, to meetings, or to the royal family — no. She could not even stand to see him in his rags. And he had made himself a buffoon — the whole town laughed about it: “This is stupid. We have seen Christians — but that does not mean that you have to live like this.”
And this man was one of the greatest creative novelists of the whole world; but he had no decisiveness about anything. Either renounce everything… but what is the point of living in a palace and wearing rags? Having all his money in a bank account and never using it because he has to live like a poor man? So, he was torturing himself, he was being tortured by the wife, he was being taunted by everybody — and he belonged to the highest strata of the society. Even the czar, the king of Russia, was continually taunting him: “What are you doing? We are also Christians, but that does not mean…. And if you really want to be a Christian, then renounce everything — be a Christian!”
But the trouble with him was his indecisiveness. And that was his dream: that there is a desert, and he knows there is nothing else except this desert; it is hot and it is burning, and there is no end to this misery. The shoes go on walking — and only the shoes. That is very significant. It seems as if deep down he does not want to be poor, deep down he does not want to live the way he is living. Just mentally he has got the idea that he has to be poor. So, he is not in the shoes but the shoes are his — that he can see absolutely. And the day Chekhov analysed his dream, that very night he left the palace and went far away in a train to one of his small farms, which was in the forest, to live there. That was the only night — in the train — that the dream did not appear.
But he was not young anymore. He was very old, he was weak, he could not live the life of a monk, of austerity. On the small station… he arrived in the morning, and the farm was far away; it was difficult for him to walk to the farm. So, he was waiting for some vehicle. The stationmaster said, “By the evening some vehicle comes which takes the post office things, and it passes through your farm, so you can go in it.” But he died on the station platform, on a bench waiting for the vehicle. But before dying he was happy because that dream had not occurred, and a great weight had disappeared from his chest.
So, the moment you see something, don’t be indecisive. Act according to your insight, and life is very simple and immensely beautiful. We just have to be clear about what has to be left behind, what is unnecessary to carry; and what has to be done: that which you feel, not because Jesus says, or Buddha says, or anybody else says. But what you feel like doing — do it. Take the whole responsibility of doing it on yourself. And there is nothing much in it. You will be discontinuous with the past. And you will be the New Man. Everybody has the capacity to be the New Man or to remain the old. Just a clear insight and action according to the insight is needed. This much courage is certainly needed.
I think that even though Leo Tolstoy died on a railway station as a beggar on a bench, he died very peacefully, very blissfully. In his whole life this was the first time he had taken a decision — and the dream had disappeared. It was simply an unconscious reminder, continuously, “Do something; you are unnecessarily caught in a net — you can get out of it. Nobody is holding you; you are simply sitting there.”
Listen to complete discourse at mentioned below link.
Discourse series: Light on the Path Chapter #28
Chapter title: Act according to your insight
2 February 1986 am in Kathmandu, Nepal
Osho has also spoken of eminent writers like Fyodor Dostoevsky, John Milton, Leo Tolstoy, Byron, Shakespeare, Kalidasa, John Ruskin, Kahlil Gibran, Oscar Wilde, Rabindranath Tagore and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- Come, Come, Yet Again Come
- The Transmission of the Lamp
- The Book of Wisdom
- The Dhammapada: the way of the Buddha Vol. 1, 3, 7, 9, 10, 12
- The Discipline of Transcendence Vol. 1, 2, 3
- The Last Testament Vol. 1, 3, 5
- The Messiah Vol. 1, 2
- The Art of Dying
- The Fish in The Sea Is Not Thirsty
- Light on the Path
- The Secret
- The Hidden Splendour
- The New Dawn
- Beyond Enlightenment
- The Golden Future