Born in 341 BC, Epicurus, was an ancient Greek philosopher and sage who founded Epicureanism, a highly influential school of philosophy. He was born on the Greek island of Samos to Athenian parents. He had his own school established known as “the Garden”, in Athens. Epicurus and his followers were known for eating simple meals and discussing a wide range of philosophical subjects.
Epicurus is said to have originally written over 300 works on various subjects, but the vast majority of these writings have been lost. Only three letters written by him—the letters to Pythocles, and Herodotus—and two collections of quotes—the Principal Doctrines and the Vatican Sayings—have survived intact, along with a few fragments of his other writings.
For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to help people attain a happy (eudemonic), tranquil life characterized by ataraxica (peace and freedom from fear) and apnoea (the absence of pain). He advocated that people were best able to pursue philosophy by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. He taught that the root of all human neurosis is death denial and the tendency for human beings to assume that death will be horrific and painful, which he claimed causes unnecessary anxiety, selfish self-protective behaviours, and hypocrisy. According to Epicurus, death is the end of both the body and the soul and therefore should not be feared. Epicurus taught that although the gods exist, they have no involvement in human affairs. He taught that people should behave ethically not because the gods punish or reward people for their actions, but because amoral behavior will burden them with guilt and prevent them from attaining ataraxia.
Epicureanism reached the height of its popularity during the late years of the Roman Republic. Epicurus’s teachings gradually became more widely known in the fifteenth century with the rediscovery of important texts, but his ideas did not become acceptable until the seventeenth century, when the French Catholic priest Pierre Gassendi revived a modified version of them, which was promoted by other writers, including Robert Boyle. His influence grew considerably during and after the Enlightenment, profoundly impacting the ideas of major thinkers, including John Locke, Jeremy Bentham, and Karl Marx.
Osho, when he talks about Epicurus, says, “I feel deep affinity with a man who was born two thousand years ago in Greece. His name was Epicurus. Nobody thinks of him as religious. People think that he was the most atheistic man ever born, the most materialistic ever born; he was just the opposite of the religious man. But that is not my understanding. Epicurus was a naturally religious man. Remember the words ‘naturally religious’; religion happens to him. That’s why people overlooked him, because he never sought. The proverb: Eat, drink and be merry, comes from Epicurus. And this has become the attitude of the materialist. Epicurus in fact lived one of the most austere of lives. He lived as simply as anybody has ever lived. Even a Mahavir or a Buddha were not so simple and austere as Epicurus, because their simplicity was cultivated; they had worked for it, it had been a practice.”
WHY DO I SEEM TO FEEL MORE AFRAID OF LIFE THAN OF DEATH?
DEATH IS UNKNOWN. You cannot be really afraid of that with which you are not at all acquainted. Fear is a relationship — you have to know something to be afraid of it. Nobody really is afraid of death. And whenever somebody says ‘I am afraid of death’ he is simply saying that he is afraid to lose life. Death is absolutely unknown. So everybody is afraid of life — it is life that is the problem, not death. It is life that gives you anguish and nights without sleep. And
what is the fear of life? There are many fears but they can be reduced to a few basic fears. One is that life is slipping by and you have not lived yet. That’s the panic, basic panic — that life is going out of your hands, every moment you have less and less life. And you have not lived yet. Great fear arises: are you going to miss? Will you be able to make it this time? And who knows? There may be no other time. Life may not happen again — who knows? This seems to be the only life, and every day it is turning into a wasteland, hence the fear.
Secondly, it is life that ultimately brings death. Death is the crescendo of life, the finishing touch. If you are afraid of death, that too is basically fear of life — that life will bring death one day. That the trees will be there and the flowers will be there and the spring will come and the grass will be green and you will not be here. And while you are here you are not much here either. And sooner or later, grass will be growing on your grave. And you will not be able to walk on it. And while you can walk on it and enjoy the feel of it and the dewdrops and the coolness and the sunlit morning, you are not enjoying it. Because you cannot enjoy, that’s why you are afraid of life. And life is turning into death, the unknown. The known is always disappearing into the unknown. The light is always disappearing into darkness.
So life will take you one day to the door of death. But why are you not living? What hinders you from living? You have conditions, that are what is hindering. You have conditions — that ‘If THIS happens, only then will I be happy. And life is not going to oblige you. You have to surrender to life. Your conditions don’t allow you the surrender; you have to drop conditions. You have to say, ‘Whatsoever happens, I am going to enjoy. I am going to enjoy unconditionally.’
You are in love with a woman or with a man, and immediately a thousand and one conditions are there: ‘I will love only if these things are fulfilled — that you will not look at anybody with loving eyes. Then I will love you.’ Now, nobody can promise it. And even if one promises it, nobody can keep it. You are asking something absurd. If some beautiful man passes by, how is your woman not going to look at him — how? She may not look, she may close her eyes, she may look somewhere else — but she has looked at the man. In that moment she had moved, her heart had missed a beat. How are you going to avoid? There are so many beautiful women in the world. You can at the most pretend. So all conditions create pretensions, because all conditions are unnatural.
A man who really wants to live, lives unconditionally; he doesn’t make requirements of life. He says, ‘Whatsoever comes, I am going to dance. Whatsoever the situation, I am going to dance. I am going to live it, I am going into it with my whole being.’ Then the fear of life will disappear. Lived, there is no fear. Unlived, life creates fear. Let me repeat: Because you are not living life, that’s why the fear. And the life is disappearing, and you are wasting a great opportunity. And the opportunity may not come ever again. Or even if it comes, will you be able to do something else? You will repeat the same. You have been repeating — it is not the only life that you have come to, you have been through many lives. You have lived for eternity, in a thousand and one forms, and always you have been missing. And you have been missing because of your conditions. See to it that conditions are dropped. That you love for the sheer joy of love and that you live for the sheer joy of living.
Be a hedonist. Be an Epicurean. To me, Epicurus is on the right track towards the Garden of Eden — his commune was called ‘The Garden’. He has been immensely misunderstood. I know there is something even beyond Epicurus, but it goes through him. You will have to pass through the Garden of Epicurus, only then will you reach to the shrine of Buddha — otherwise not. Hedonism is beautiful — eat, drink, and be merry — but it is not the whole story. It is just the beginning, the porch of the palace. There is far more, far beyond it, far more to life. But you have to pass through the porch. And your so-called religions have taught you to be anti-hedonistic — that’s why the fear. Your religions have taught you misery. They talk of bliss but they create misery. They go on preaching to you how to be blissful, but whatsoever they do and whatsoever methods they supply are self-destructive. They don’t allow you really to be blissful.
Be happy here. And remember, I am not saying this is all to life. Epicurus is the beginning of a Buddha. You can stop at Epicurus, then you will miss much. But it is better to stop at Epicurus than not to enter into Epicurus at all. Because then you miss all. I teach you spiritual hedonism — that is my message to you. First be hedonistic as far as the first body is concerned. Then be hedonistic as far as the second body is concerned. And then be hedonistic totally in the third body.
Buddha is orgasmic. But you have to learn the orgasm from the physical, you have to go from abc. There are people who want to jump to xyz — and they don’t know anything about abc. They have not yet even learned how to live in the body in the world, and they want to live in Heaven. They will not be able to live there, it will be impossible. Just think of yourself — if you are by accident welcomed into Heaven, what will you do there? You will be as miserable as you are here — maybe more miserable, because there life will be more thrilling. There will be more exploration, more love, more intensity in everything. There will be more PASSION — what will you do there? You have not been able even to live on this earth — which knows passion, which knows love, which knows joy, but in moderate quantities. In Heaven there are no limits. Heaven knows no moderation — it is excess, it is ecstasy.
Start learning how to be unconditional. For small conditions people miss much. Just a small thing can destroy their whole joy — and they don’t even see the proportion of it. A man has just said something to you, it hurts. And the man has always been beautiful and you have loved the man — but he has just uttered a word, and it hurts, and the friendship is broken. You don’t know the joy of friendship, otherwise you would not have broken it for such a small thing — for trivia. You have been living with your wife beautifully, and just a small thing, just a small negativity from her, and bridges are broken and you start thinking of divorce. Petty things, meaningless things, go on destroying. And because you can’t live, naturally you are afraid of life.
YOU SAY: WHY DO I SEEM TO FEEL MORE AFRAID OF LIFE THAN OF DEATH?
Then there is one thing more:
Life requires more than death will ever require. Life requires a willing surrender. Death does not care for you. It simply comes, without any notification even. It simply comes and takes you away, it drags you, you are not asked, your cooperation is not asked. Death pays no respect to you, and gives not even a single moment’s time to prepare. It happens. Life is more respectful towards you — it gives you time, it gives you freedom to choose, it gives you opportunities to cooperate or not to cooperate. Hence the fear. The fear of life is really fear of your own self. You know yourself, that you are going to miss. Knowing yourself the way you are, your fear is perfectly on the right track. It says the way you are, you are going to miss. Life will bring a challenge and you will shrink…
Just few days before, a young man came to me from the West. I was looking into his head and into his heart — his heart was ready for sannyas but his head was not ready. Now I was really confused by him — what to do? Should I give him sannyas? His heart is saying yes. A great pulsation in the heart, the heart is simply crying for it. And the head goes on saying no. It is as if you are on a crossroad and the red and the green, both lights, go on. And it is very difficult to decide whether to pass or not to pass — one light says one thing, another light says another just the opposite.
I tried to persuade him, I tried to seduce him towards his heart. But the more I tried, the more he became stubborn — the more the head became stubborn. The heart was joyous. When I was trying to persuade him to take the jump, the heart was taking such leaps of joy. The heart was becoming a big flame, it was almost tangible. Anybody who has eyes could have seen it? the heart was aflame. But the head was becoming darker and darker. Now an opportunity. a challenge is there. I am the challenge in that moment for him, life is coming through me in that moment.
Sannyas is the challenge to surrender, sannyas is the challenge to explore something new that you have not known before.
The head never knows anything new. The head is always borrowed, the head knows only things from others. It is second-hand, it is never original — it can’t be original. It collects rubbish. But it feels secure, it feels logical. The heart is illogical. And you are afraid to go with the heart, you don’t know where it will land you. The head moves on the superhighway, the heart will drag you into some labyrinth in the jungle of life — you will be alone there… The heart makes you alone — you are neither a Christian nor a Hindu nor a Mohammedan. Suddenly you are alone, the whole crowd has disappeared, you start feeling afraid. And life comes only when you are alone.
When you take hold of your life in your own hands, when you are no more part of an insane crowd. when you are no more part of this pathological world. But then you have to be alone, and in aloneness there is fear.
When a challenge like love or sannyas or samadhi or God provokes you, you feel as if death is coming close by. It is a sort of death. You will have to die to the past, to the old; only then can you be reborn to the new. Fear grips you. You say, ‘I will have to think.’ That’s what that young man said: ‘I will have to think. I will have to wait.’ Thinking can never lead you into the new. Logic can never give you any new conclusions, it goes on repeating the same. Logic is vicious, circular, it moves in the same rut. Whatsoever conclusions come through logic were already in the premise, they are not new. Maybe now they are more articulate, that’s all, but they were given in the first premise.
Only love — and love means illogical, paradoxical — takes you to new conclusions. Because love knows how to take a leap. Logic is continuous with the past, it knows no leap. Love knows leaps, quantam leaps. It can jump from the old to the new, with no bridge in-between. Love can give you a discontinuity with the past. But then there is fear. And love is very life — if you miss love you will miss life, and then there will be fear that ‘I am missing.’
You are missing because you have not been able to allow your heart. You are continuously controlling through the head. The ‘heady’ people always miss. Get deeper into your being, move towards the heart. And the heart is not the ultimate, you have to move even deeper than the heart. And then you come to your navel — what the Japanese call ‘hara’. These are the three centers: hara — two inches below the navel; heart, and head. The head is the farthestmost boundary-line — when you are farthest from your being, you are in the head. When you are close to your being, you are in the heart. When you are at the very core of being, you are in the hara. And only through the hara, fear disappears. Only through the hara do you live for the first time authentically, sincerely, with no fear. And that life needs to be lived. That life can be lived only if you don’t divide existence into two — body/mind, matter/soul, God/existence. If you divide, you will remain in the intellect. Drop all divisions, live as one.
All the three bodies have to be lived as one. They are three aspects of your being — the physical body, the bliss body and the Buddha body. And I am not against any — I am not saying choose the Buddha body against the physical body. If you choose the Buddha body against the physical body, your Buddhahood will miss something, will lack something. It will not be perfect, it will not be the total flowering. When you don’t reject anything, when your acceptance is utter, then you bloom. Then you bloom into a thousand-petalled lotus, SAHASRAR.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: This Very Body The Buddha
Chapter title: On the Wings of the Wind
14 December 1977 am in Buddha Hall
Osho has spoken on famous writers and philosophers like Albert Camus, Aristotle, Berkeley, Byron, Bukharin, Confucius, Descartes, Feuerbach, Fyodor Dostoevsky, D.H. Lawrence, H.G. Wells, Hegel, Huxley, John Milton, Kahlil Gibran, Kalidas, Kant, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Nietzsche, Rabindranath Tagore, Schiller, Shakespeare, Socrates, Voltaire, Wittgenstein and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- Come Come Yet Again Come
- Beyond Psychology
- The Dhammapada: the way of the Buddha Vol.1,3,7,9,10,12
- The Transmission of The Lamp
- I am That
- The Perfect Master
- The Golden Future
- Communism and Zen Fire, Zen Wind
- The Invitation
- The Great Pilgrimage: From Here to Here
- The Last Testament, Vol 5
- God is Dead, Now Zen is the Only Living Truth
- Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol 3