Existence: Experience of Pure ‘Isness’
Osho on Christian Mystic St. Bernard
Born in 1090, in France, Saint Bernard, was a Cistercian monk and mystic, founder and abbot of the abbey of Clairvaux and one of the most influential churchmen of his time. He was sent to found Clairvaux Abbey at an isolated clearing in a glen known as the Val d’Absinthe, about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) southeast of Bar-sur-Aube. In the year 1128, Bernard attended the Council of Troyes, at which he traced the outlines of the Rule of the Knights Templar, which soon became an ideal of Christian nobility. In 1139, Bernard attended the Second Council of the Lateran and criticized Peter Abelard vocally. Bernard advocated crusades in general and convinced many to participate in the unsuccessful Second Crusade, notably through a famous sermon at Vezelay 1146. Bernard was canonized just 21 years after his death by Pope Alexander III. In 1830 Pope Pius VIII declared him a Doctor of the Church.
Bernard of Clairvaux(Saint Bernard) is the attributed author of poems often translated in English hymnals as: “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”, “Jesus the Very Thought of Thee” and “Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts”.
Osho talks about God and his presence, and mentions Saint Bernard. He says, “that was what Saint Bernard was doing — trying to make God impersonal. But they don’t understand that it means destroying your whole structure of religion. If they truly understand the phenomenon they will destroy all Bibles, all churches, popes, the Vatican … all should be finished, there is no need. God is everywhere — there is no need for any priest to stand between you and God. He is surrounding you, he is in the air, and he is in your blood and in your bones. He is in your very marrow and he is in your inner space — as he is everywhere. But to know that he is everywhere is not a logical conclusion. To know he is everywhere has to be an existential experience. First you have to go into yourself. Unless you know it in yourself, you cannot say it is in the trees and it is in every animal and it is in every living being. You are a living being — first enter into yourself.”
OUR BELOVED MASTER,
ST. BERNARD WROTE: “WHO IS GOD? I CAN THINK OF NO BETTER ANSWER THAN: HE WHO IS.”
ECKHART STATED: “THOU MUST LOVE GOD AS NOT-GOD, NOT-SPIRIT, NOT-PERSON, NOT-IMAGE, BUT AS HE IS — A SHEER, PURE, ABSOLUTE ONE, SUNDERED FROM ALL TWONESS AND IN WHOM WE MUST ETERNALLY SINK FROM NOTHINGNESS TO NOTHINGNESS.”
IF ONE SUBSTITUTED THE PRONOUN `HE’ WITH `IT’, WOULD NOT THESE TWO CHRISTIAN MYSTICS BE SPEAKING THE LANGUAGE OF ZEN?
Maneesha, you can change the `he’ into `it’, and certainly they will be speaking the language of Zen, but you cannot do that. It is their statement, not yours. They are still saying `he’. They are not even saying `she’; `it’ is far away — although they have come very close to the point. That’s why both the saints were in trouble with the orthodox church, particularly Eckhart who was tortured, harassed, threatened to be expelled if he published his books. His books were published after his death because of these statements. The statement is tremendously good, but still, somehow the faint image of God is present. “Who is God? I can think of no better answer than: He who is.” Using the word `he’ and saying “who is,” is very close; only the `he’ is standing in between. That’s what I have been telling you — even a very thin concept of God as a person is going to create enough of a barrier for you.
St. Bernard has come very close, but to be close is still to be at a distance. Closeness is a kind of distance. What does it mean? You may be one inch away, or one mile away, or one thousand miles away — you are away. Even one inch away — you are away. That one inch is as thick as the China Wall, solid rock. When St. Bernard says, “He who is,” using the word `he’, he accepts a personality, and not only a personality but a male personality. Both are wrong. Existence is neither male nor female. It expresses in the both — as female, as male, but it itself is simply pure isness. Its expression will be manifold, but its essence is the same. A woman in her interiority is as pure a consciousness as a man in his interiority. If St. Bernard had really experienced isness, he would not have used the word `God’ or `he’. He seems he must have been a great giant, but only intellectual.
Many times philosophers have come very close, but then they go on in a round and go far away. Just coming close is not enough, but even this was condemned by the church, by the pope. Certainly St. Bernard has some conception of a male God, and you cannot change his statement. If you change his statement, then it comes exactly to what Zen is. But then it will not be the statement of St. Bernard, it will be your statement.
So I would say that he came very close, but because of the `God’, and because the programming in his mind of the Christian God was still there, that prevented him from the quantum leap from mind to no-mind.
His idea is still within the mind. He has logically and rationally worked out that if God is there he can only be described as “He who is.” But this is not the exact experience. The exact experience will not use the word `God’, will not use the word `he’. It is male-chauvinistic, and it gives a personality to existence which it has not. It is infinite, so it cannot have a personality. It cannot be called who, and it cannot be called he. So St. Bernard is still not enlightened — intellectually great, logically great, but existentially still a little far away from the truth.
Eckhart comes even more close, maybe just a fragment of an inch away, when he says, “Thou must love God as not-God, not-spirit, not-person, not-image, but as he is — a sheer, pure, absolute One, sundered from all twoness and in whom we must eternally sink from nothingness to nothingness.” He has come very much closer than St. Bernard, and hence he was more condemned than St. Bernard, because he was destroying the whole Christian theology. But still I say he is within the framework of the Christian God, although he seems to be a far more refined intellect than St. Bernard — a very thin barrier, a Japanese rice-paper barrier. But that is enough to keep your eyes closed.
His statement is beautiful: “Thou must love God as not-God.” But why use the word `God’ at all if it is to be loved as not-God? Why not say, “Thou must love not-God, not-Spirit, not-person, not-image, but just the sheer existence, pure, absolute One, sundered from all twoness, and in it we must eternally sink from nothingness to nothingness”? But his beginning, “Thou must love God,” is a Christian programming.
Zen has dropped all programming. It has dared as much as human consciousness is capable of.
Now making this statement has a certain compromise with the church. “Thou must love God” — so the Christian church is satisfied that he is still talking about God, although a little crazy, because he says, you must love God as not-God. Then who is he? a woman? a man? a tree? the ocean …? What do you mean by “not-God”? So Christianity condemned him, but because he was saying, “Thou must love God,” they told him not to publish such writings while he was alive, because they would create doubt in people’s minds. And they have been doing that even today.
They prevented one great French scientist, Chardin, from publishing his papers about the Peking man — he discovered the Peking man — “because your papers will go against Christianity.” And because he was an ordained priest, he had to follow the orders from the Vatican. They destroyed a great man. He could have contributed much. But if you don’t have any feedback, if other scientists don’t know what you are writing, what you are discovering, and you don’t know their opinions … It needs constant feedback.
Science grows, not by one scientist, it grows amongst all the scientists. There is a constant dialogue going on through papers, through conferences, through books, through periodicals … a constant dialogue is happening all around the world. That’s how science tries to figure out the best hypothesis about anything.
Now preventing Chardin from publishing any paper, from attending any conference, from writing any book while he was alive — and of course when you are dead somebody else will write it, you will not … Somebody else does not have the same scientific background, nor the same discovery. And after your death what happens to your ideas will not be a feedback; you will not be able to improve upon it. They destroyed a great scientist of the same caliber as Albert Einstein. But I am also angry at Chardin. Rather than stopping his writings and researches, why did he not resign from being a Christian priest? He resigned from science in favor of Christian superstition. Nobody has raised the question that he is also part of the whole slavery game; everybody has condemned the Vatican.
I condemn the Vatican, but I also condemn Chardin — Chardin more than the Vatican. The Vatican has been doing that for centuries — that is not new. But why was Chardin such a sheep? Why could he not gather the courage? A man of such tremendous intelligence should have left the priesthood. What was in it? A religion that prevents you from declaring truth is not worth being part of. But he proved a coward — he stopped writing. And now a Chardin society exists in France which publishes his works and papers and his researches — but it is too late. If somebody raises a question, Chardin is not there to answer. And by the time Chardin died, other scientists had come to better hypotheses. If he had been allowed, or if he had had the guts to come out of the church, he would have managed to refine. It is a continuous growth and evolution. Science is not something static.
When Albert Einstein was asked, “If you had not discovered the theory of relativity, do you think it would ever have been discovered?” Albert Einstein said, “It would not have taken more than three weeks.” And finally it was found that somebody in Germany had already discovered it before Albert Einstein, but he was a lazy guy and did not publish the paper. So not after three weeks, but three weeks before, it had been found. Einstein was right — that when something is there, sooner or later it has to be discovered. You cannot go on missing it if there is a truth in it. Eckhart also proved to be a little cowardly, just like Chardin. He came very close, but he continuously maintained that he loved God. Of course he has those conditions “as not-God …” Then as what? And if you are loving only the isness of existence, then why go on calling it God? Why continue that old superstition, that old lie? Just a compromise with the Vatican, just a fear that if you don’t do that much you are taking a risk with your life.
I was born into Jainism, and when I started speaking against their ideologies — and when I say anything I say it with my total being — they were unable to answer me. Their highest command decided to expel me from Jainism. But I wrote to them: “You need not expel me, I expel your whole Jainism and your whole Jaina society. You need not expel me, I have already expelled you.” So they were shocked, they could not figure out what to do. They could not expel me, I was already outside — what does it matter? And I don’t think it has done any harm to me.
Compromise is always cowardly. Truth never compromises.
Maneesha, both these people were very close to Zen, but both were cowards. God makes people cowards. Religion makes people cowards. Otherwise, what was the risk? Eckhart should have left Christianity, St. Bernard should have left Christianity, and then they would have been the very first Zen masters in the West. But they missed that great opportunity, that great dignity. They remained slaves of the Christian church. I want you to be lions and not like sheep as Jesus wanted you to be. He has insulted humanity very badly.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: I Celebrate Myself: God Is No Where, Life Is Now Here
Chapter title: Ringing bells in your heart
14 February 1989 pm in Gautam the Buddha Auditorium
Osho has spoken on many Western Mystics like Jesus, Gurdjieff, Magdalen, Rumi, Socrates, Theresa, Zarathustra, St. Francis, Dionysius, Boehme, Eckhart, Baal Shem and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- Sermons in Stones
- Come Come Yet Again Come
- Come Follow To You
- Socrates Poisoned Again After 25 Centuries
- The New Dawn
- The Sword and The Lotus
- Beyond Psychology
- The Empty Boat
- I Celebrate Myself: God Is No Where, Life Is Now Here
- Zarathustra: A God That Can Dance
- The Perfect Master
- Sufis: The People of the Path
- The Diamond Sutra