From Effort to Effortlessness

Osho on Enlightened Zen Master Nan-in






The first thing to be understood: Awareness should be moment-to-moment, but it can be only when it has become effortless. With effort you will lose contact again and again, with effort you will have to rest. Effort cannot be continuous, it is impossible. How can you make an effort continuously? You will get tired and then you will have to relax. Every effort needs relaxation. So if awareness is through effort, then awareness cannot be a constant, continuous flow. There will be moments when you will have to lose awareness. Those will be the moments of relaxation from the effort. Life pulsates. Life always moves to the opposite. Effort, then you have to rest. Again you make the effort, then you have to rest. But there IS an awareness which goes beyond life — the transcendental. Then there is no pulsation; it is effortless, it is spontaneous.

What happened to this monk, this disciple of Nan-in? The master asked: Where have you left your shoes — on the right or on the left? He hesitated. And he realized that in the moment of leaving the shoes he was not aware — otherwise he must have known where he had left them, on the left or on the right. His consciousness is not yet continuous. That shows only that his consciousness is not yet effortless. He has still to remember, consciously make effort. His mindfulness is still with a tension. He has not yet become mindful. So sometimes he succeeds, sometimes he fails. Nan-in is asking only: Is your awareness now natural? You need not manipulate it? You need not do anything about it? It is there — whatsoever you do it is there? Or do you have to make an effort for it to be there? If the effort is there it is a strained thing, and a strained thing is bound to be unnatural. An unnatural awareness is not really awareness — it exists only on the periphery, not in you. If it exists in you there is no need to make any effort.

What I am trying to say is: Effort is always on the periphery. You cannot touch the center through effort. You can do something on the periphery — you can change your behavior, you can change your so-called character. On the periphery, with effort, you can become a good man from being bad, you can become virtuous from being a sinner; you can even become a saint — on the periphery, with effort. But the center can never be touched and penetrated through effort — because no action can lead to you. You are already there! There is no need to do anything. You have to be simply silent, spontaneous, and then the center arises. It comes out of the clouds. There is a break, a gap. You suddenly realize your spontaneous awareness. YOU ARE AWARENESS. It is nothing you do, it is nothing which has to be done — your very nature is awareness. Hindus have called you SATCHITANANDA. They have used three words — SAT, CHIT, ANANDA. Sat means the existential, that which can never go into non-existence. Sat means the true, which can never become untrue. Sat means the eternal — which was, which is, which will be. Chit means awareness, consciousness. That is your nature! You have always been conscious. You are conscious, you will be conscious. That consciousness cannot be taken from you, but it exists at the very core of your being, not on the periphery. It is you, but you are not in contact with yourself. And ananda means bliss, ecstasy. It is not that you have to achieve bliss — it is you. You have always been blissful, you cannot be otherwise; there is no possibility. You cannot change it.

You will say this seems absolutely absurd — because we ARE in misery. You are in misery because you have become too much obsessed with the periphery. You have forgotten completely the center. You have become too much engaged with others, too much occupied with others, so that the whole attention is focused on the other, and you have fallen into the shade, into the darkness. Satchitananda you are. THE Zen master, Nan-in, is asking the disciple: Have you now become alert to who you are? Are you now rooted in your nature? If the disciple was really rooted in his nature, what would have been the case? The story is very difficult to understand. It is not a question of leaving the shoes on the left or on the right. That is not the point of the story. That seems to be the point, but it is not. The real point is: when Nan-in asked this, the disciple hesitated. That is the real point. And in that moment of hesitation he was not aware that he was hesitating. If he had been aware that there was hesitation, he would have been accepted. But at THAT very moment he lost awareness.

And you cannot deceive Nan-in. If you go to see Nan-in you can remember very well where you have left your shoes. That is not difficult. If Nan-in asks you: Where have you left your shoes, on the left or on the right? you can immediately answer: On the right. And STILL you will lose. That is not the point, that is just a deception. Nan-in is diverting the mind just to see right now what is happening in him. In the very moment when Nan-in asked: Where are your shoes, on the right or on the left? the disciple missed. In that very moment he hesitated — and he was not aware of the hesitation. He started thinking. In that very moment that he became unaware, Nan-in looked into him. That question was just to divert the mind, it was just a deception. The disciple failed, so he cannot be sent to teach others. He is not yet ready, he is not yet aware. How can one who is not aware teach others? Whatsoever he is going to teach will be false. There are many teachers who are not aware of their own selves. They can be good teachers, efficient, artful, but that is not the point. They cannot be of any help…

Awareness is something like an infectious disease. When a master is alert, aware, you become infected with his awareness. Sometimes, just sitting by the side of the master, you suddenly become aware — as if the clouds have gone and you can see the open sky. Even for a moment…but that becomes a deep change in the very quality of your being. Even not making any effort on your part, just being near a master who is a pool of silent awareness, suddenly you become silent — he touches you. The closed doors open or as if in a dark night suddenly there is lightning, and you see the whole. It disappears because it cannot be retained by you. If it is not attained by you, you will lose it — but you will never be the same again. You have known something, something that was previously unknown. And now this knowing will remain a part of you. There will arise a desire, there will arise a new ambition: to attain this, to make this permanent — because even for a moment it was so blissful, it showered so much happiness on you, so much joy.

But if the master, if the teacher, is not himself aware, he can teach about awareness but he cannot teach awareness. And teaching about awareness is useless — it is verbal, it is a theory. You can learn the theory from him, but you cannot learn the fact. Hence, before this disciple leaves Nan-in, Nan-in must look into him — and this is a very different phenomenon. In the world of education, a student is examined, but only his memory is examined, never he himself. Always his memory is examined — never HE. Nan-in is not examining the memory of the disciple. He is not asking: Where have you left your shoes, on the right or on the left? He is not asking for a perfect memory, because where he left the shoes is now past. He is trying to see into the being of the disciple right now. He is not examining the memory, but trying to look into the consciousness THIS very moment. The past is not the question. The present, the presentness is the question.

Just imagine that disciple sitting before Nan-in. Nan-in asks, and the disciple is lost in the past. He tries to think where he has left the shoes. He tries to think whether he can remember or not. He tries to think whether he has missed awareness or not. Right now he has become a confusion. His whole consciousness has become cloudy. He is no longer here. He is not in the presence of Nan-in, he has gone into the past, he has gone into thinking — he is not meditative. The hesitation, the thinking, the effort to try…you cannot escape Nan-in. He will see through you, he will see all the clouds, he will see you are not here and now. Then you cannot be allowed to teach. You cannot be sent out, because what will you teach? That which you have not got you cannot teach. You can pretend, but that pretension will be dangerous, because if you pretend that you are aware and you are not, that pretension will become infectious. A pseudo-master creates pseudo-disciples, and then like ripples that pseudo-ness goes on spreading.

The most dangerous sin that a man can commit is to pretend awareness. Even if you murder a man it is not such a great sin, because, really, you cannot murder. You can only destroy the body, the soul moves into another. You only destroy one game, another starts immediately.

A murderer is not such a great sinner. But if you pretend that you are aware and you are not, if you pretend that you are a master and you are not, you are doing such harm, such infinite harm, that no sin can be compared to it — because others will get the pretension. They start pretending, and then it will go on and on — just like when you throw a stone into a silent lake, ripples arise and they go on and on. One ripple creates another, pushes another, and it goes on and on to the very boundaries of the lake. The lake of consciousness has no boundaries. Once a ripple is created it will go forever; forever it will continue. You will not be here, but your pretensions, your falsity, will continue and many will be deluded by it. A false master is the greatest sinner in the world. That’s why Nan-in won’t allow anybody to go and teach unless he has become enlightened himself. Then the very light that burns within you helps others to be lit. The very fire that burns within you makes others warm. The very life that has happened to you helps others to come out of their deadness.

But remember: alertness, awareness, or consciousness can be continuous only when it has become effortless. In the beginning effort is bound to be there, because otherwise how are you going to start? You will make an effort, you will try to be mindful, you will try in every way to be conscious, but the effort will create a tension. And the more you make the effort, the more tense you will be. There will be tiny glimpses, but because of the tension the ecstasy will be missed. You have to pass through this state also, of making effort. One thing you will become aware of sooner or later: that whenever you make effort, awareness comes to you but it is a very tortured awareness, nightmarish. It is very heavy, it sits just like a rock on your head. It is not joyful, it is not weightless. It is not dancing. But while making this effort, sometimes, suddenly you will become aware — when you were not making the effort. And that awareness will be light, joyful, dancing, ecstatic. This will happen only to those who are making efforts. While making efforts, sometimes, when you are not making effort, this glimpse will happen to you. And then you will become aware that through effort you cannot achieve that ultimate — only through non-effort it happens.

To many meditators around me it happens. They come to tell me that while meditating in the morning, in the evening, nothing much is happening. But suddenly in the night or suddenly in the afternoon they are sitting, and something starts — and they were not doing anything. This will happen. Just as when: you forget a name and you feel it is just on the tip of the tongue, you become very much strained, you make every effort to bring it to consciousness. It does not come, and the more you make an effort, the more you feel lost. You know that you know, continuously you know that you can remember. It is just around the corner, but some barrier, something like a block is there, and the name is not coming to you — it may be the name of a cherished friend! And then the whole effort becomes so futile you leave it. You start reading a newspaper, or go for a smoke, or you go in the garden for a walk or you just start digging in the garden. And suddenly it pops up. Suddenly the name is there, the friend is standing there, the face is there.

What happened? When you were making the effort you were so tense, that very tenseness became the block, the very tenseness narrowed down the passage. The name wanted to come, the memory was knocking on the door, but the very tenseness became the closedness. That’s why you were feeling it was just on the tip of the tongue. It was! But because you were so tense, so worried about it, so anxious to bring it out, your anxiety became a lock. When a mind is very much anxious, it becomes closed. All that is beautiful and true happens only when you are not anxious about it. All that is lovely happens only when you are not even waiting for it — not asking, not demanding. Then the mind has no blocks. That’s why it happens when you have forgotten it.

Effort is needed. In the beginning, effort is a must — futile, but still a must. The futility will be realized by and by. When you have glimpses, sudden glimpses, with the feeling that you were not making any effort and those glimpses have showered upon you, gifts from the divine, then you can leave the effort — and leaving the efforts, more and more gifts will come. In the East we have always believed, and believed rightly, that enlightenment is nothing like an achievement. It is like a grace, it is a gift, it is PRASAD. God gives it to you, you cannot snatch it away from his hand. For a Western seeker this is very difficult to realize, because in the West in the last few centuries, the whole human mind has been converted into a snatching thing. You have snatched everything from nature. Whatsoever secrets science knows, they are not given, they have been snatched. You have forced nature violently to open her doors of mysteries.

Because you have succeeded with matter, you think that the same can happen with the divine also. That cannot happen, that is impossible. You cannot attack heaven and you cannot go there with bayonets. You cannot force the divine to open its heart to you because whenever you are forcing you are closed. That is the problem; whenever you are force you are closed and if you are closed the divine cannot be revealed to you. When you are not forcing but floating like a white cloud, just roaming, not making any effort to reach anywhere, when there is no goal and no effort, when you don’t want to achieve anything and there is no straining for it, when you are happy as you are, when you are happy as the world is, when you accept things as they are and you don’t want to change anything — suddenly, you are transported into a different dimension of being. You realize the doors have always been open — they were never closed, they cannot be closed. The divine mystery has always been near you. It was never very far. It cannot be because you are part of the divine. Wherever you go the mystery moves with you.

It is not a question of searching and seeking. It is a question of remaining silent and allowing. When you seek you miss, because a seeker is always violent. When you search it will not come to you, because the mind that is searching is too preoccupied, it is not available. It is never here and now, it is always somewhere in the future: when the discovery will be made, when the research will be completed, when the seeking will come to an end. It is always somewhere in the end, it is not here. The divine is here, so you never meet. A seeker never reaches. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be a seeker. You will have to be in the beginning, there is no other way. In the beginning you have to be a seeker, you will have to seek and make all the efforts. Just by making all the efforts and becoming a mad seeker you will realize that it happens only when you are in a non-seeking mind.

Sometimes resting it will come to you. Sometimes sleeping it will descend on you. Sometimes just walking on the road it will be there. Sometimes just looking at the sun rising in the morning — not doing anything, just a passive awareness — looking at the sun rising or the moon shimmering on a cold night in a lake or a flower opening its petals — and you are just a passive awareness…Nothing is needed on your part. When a flower is opening, no help is needed from you. There are foolish people who will try to help. They will destroy the whole beauty of the flower, and the flower will never really open then. Even if you force it to open, it will be a closed flower. The flowering has not happened, it is a forced thing. Anything forced never flowers. You are not needed to help the sun to rise. There are people who think that their help is needed. There are people who create much mischief, MUCH mischief, because they think their help is needed everywhere.

In real life, wherever reality is happening, nobody’s help is needed. But it is very difficult to resist the temptation because when you help you feel you are doing something. When you do something, you create the ego. When you don’t do anything, the ego cannot exist. In a non-doing moment the ego disappears. Looking at the sun rising, looking at a flower opening, looking at the moon shimmering in a cold lake, not doing anything — suddenly, it will descend on you. You will find the whole existence is filled with the divine, your every breath is divine. With effort, reach to effortlessness. With seeking, reach to a state of no-seeking. With mind, arrive at no-mind.


Listen to complete discourse at mentioned below link.

Discourse Series: My Way: The Way of the White Clouds Chapter #10

Chapter title: You are the Way

19 May 1974 am in Buddha Hall


Osho has also spoken on many Zen Masters and Mystics Mahakashyap, Bodhidharma, Hyakujo, Ma Tzu, Nansen, Dogen, Isan, Joshu, Kyozan, Basho, Bokuju, Sekito, Yakusan, Bankei, Sosan, Yoka, Nan-in, Ikkyu and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master
  2. Ancient Music in the Pines
  3. Ah, This!
  4. A Bird on the Wing
  5. Dang Dang Doko Dang
  6. Dogen, the Zen Master: A Search and a Fulfillment
  7. Hsin Hsin Ming: The Book of Nothing
  8. God is Dead, Now Zen is the Only Living Truth
  9. Isan: No Footprints in the Blue Sky
  10. Joshu: The Lion’s Roar
  11. Kyozan: A True Man of Zen
  12. The Language of Existence
  13. Ma Tzu: The Empty Mirror
  14. Nansen: The Point of Departure
  15. Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen, with Basho’s Haikus
  16. No Mind: The Flowers of Eternity
  17. No Water, No Moon
  18. Yakusan: Straight to the Point of Enlightenment
  19. Zen: Zest, Zip, Zap and Zing
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