Mind: Greatest Companion or Barrier
Osho on Japanese poet Issa
Born on June 15 1763 in Japan, Kobayashi Issa was a Japanese poet and lay Buddhist priest of the Joda Shinshu. He is known for his haiku poems and journals. He is better known as simply Issa a pen name meaning Cup-of-tea. Issa’s haiku are as attentive to the small creatures of the world—mosquitoes, bats, cats—as they are tinged with sorrow and an awareness of the nuances of human behavior. In addition to haiku, Issa wrote pieces that intertwined prose and poetry, including Journal of My Father’s Last Days and The Year of My Life.
Osho explains a haiku by Issa and says, “Issa wrote:
I HAVE NOTHING AT ALL —
BUT THIS TRANQUILITY!
Perhaps he was writing for you. Just watch this tranquility, this coolness — I have nothing at all. But to have such tranquility and such coolness, you don’t need anything. You have all! You have the whole universe within you — in the dewdrop the whole ocean, in the seed the whole greenery of the earth. “I have nothing at all” — Issa is right. He does not possess anything, but a great tranquility surrounds him, and this coolness that penetrates deep into the very center of your being. That tranquility is present here, and that coolness is possible to be felt by you. Issa has put the whole of Zen into a small haiku.”
ONCE IN AN ASSEMBLY OF MONKS, UMMON HELD UP HIS STAFF, AND SAID, “WE ARE TOLD IN THE SCRIPTURES THAT AN ORDINARY MAN THINKS THE STAFF IS A REAL EXISTENCE; THAT THOSE OF THE HINAYANA TAKE IT AS NOTHING; THAT THOSE BELIEVING IN THE PRATYEKABUDDHA TAKE IT AS AN ILLUSORY EXISTENCE; THAT BODHISATTVAS SAY ITS REALITY IS EMPTINESS. BUT I SAY UNTO YOU, TAKE THE STAFF AS JUST A STAFF. MOVEMENT IS MOVEMENT; SITTING IS SITTING. BUT DON’T WOBBLE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!” UMMON PICKED UP HIS STAFF, AND, SHOWING IT TO THE ASSEMBLED MONKS, SAID, “MY STAFF HAS TURNED INTO A DRAGON AND SWALLOWED UP THE WHOLE WORLD. WHERE ARE THE POOR MOUNTAINS AND RIVERS AND GREAT EARTH NOW?”
Maneesha, man has been thinking for centuries about who he is. All great philosophies are born out of this basic question, but no philosophy is the answer. Zen, for that reason, should never be understood as another philosophy. It is an anti-philosophical attitude. It is non-thinking, no-mind — just a straight penetration into reality.
Mind has a habit to go round and round. Its existence is peripheral. Only on your circumference does it exist. The moment you jump towards your center it disappears. It cannot go with you, within yourself. It can go with you towards the farthest star — and it is a great companion as far as objective research is concerned. But the same companion becomes the greatest barrier when you turn from the outside and start searching within. Mind is the instrument for outside inquiry; no-mind is the opening of the door of your inner world. You are not just the body and you are not just the mind. You are much more, you are a mystery that can never be reduced to any language.
These anecdotes are efforts out of compassion to bring to your notice this inexplicable, inexpressible reality of your inner world.
ONCE IN AN ASSEMBLY OF MONKS, UMMON, a great Zen master, HELD UP HIS STAFF, AND SAID, “WE ARE TOLD IN THE SCRIPTURES THAT AN ORDINARY MAN THINKS THE STAFF IS A REAL EXISTENCE; THAT THOSE OF THE HINAYANA SCHOOL OF BUDDHISM TAKE IT AS NOTHING; THAT THOSE BELIEVING IN THE PRATYEKABUDDHA — that is another school of Buddhism — TAKE IT AS AN ILLUSORY EXISTENCE.”
Pratyekabuddhas, Hinayana, Shankara, Bradley, and there are many philosophers who think that the world you see is simply made of the same stuff as dreams — it is nothing. Although they say so, their behavior does not prove their philosophy. Even Bradley, when going out of his house, does not go out through the wall; he finds the door. If the wall is made of the same stuff as dreams, why bother about the door? Just pass through the wall! You can pass through the mountain if your standpoint is really correct. Why do you go on eating, drinking, clothing your body, when everything is nothing?
These philosophies can be reduced to a single word — maya, illusion; everything is illusion. And there is a very subtle reason for the insistence on illusion. They want you to renounce the world because it is illusory. As far as I’m concerned, if it is illusory, then there is no need to renounce it. It is not there — what are you renouncing? Your very effort to renounce it makes it real! All the monks and the saints who have renounced the world, have given a certificate that the world is real.
You don’t renounce dreams … I have never heard of a single man in the whole history of humanity renouncing his dreams. One simply wakes up, looks here and there, and finds that there are no dreams. He was simply asleep — now he is awake. There is no need to renounce that which is not. But all these philosophers were trying by every means and argument to prove that everything is unreal — money, power, prestige, relationship, husband, wife, children, parents, all are unreal. So don’t waste your time with unreality. Renounce! so that you can attain to the real.
But I hope it is absolutely clear to you that you can renounce something only if it is real. Your very renouncing proclaims its reality, and also your cowardliness. You don’t have guts to encounter it, that’s why you are escaping. It is not renunciation, it is escape, pure and simple escape, out of a cowardly mind who cannot encounter the arduous realities of life. Zen is not in favor of renouncing anything.
Ummon is giving explanations about Hinayana philosophers, Pratyekabuddha philosophers, Bodhisattva philosophers:
BODHISATTVAS SAY ITS REALITY IS EMPTINESS.
Ummon is simply one of the most insightful masters who has walked on the earth. He says, BUT I SAY UNTO YOU, TAKE THE STAFF — and he is holding his staff in his hand — AS JUST A STAFF. MOVEMENT IS MOVEMENT; SITTING IS SITTING. There is no need to talk about whether it is real or unreal; the very division between reality and unreality makes all kinds of confusions in your mind. What to choose, what not to choose, whether it is real or unreal. Take everything as it is, without any judgment about its reality or unreality. BUT DON’T WOBBLE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES! What is wobbling? The arising of thought — whether this is real or unreal — and you have started wobbling. Just see things straight as they are, they don’t need any judgment from you. A staff is a staff.
UMMON PICKED UP HIS STAFF, AND, SHOWING IT TO THE ASSEMBLED MONKS, SAID, “MY STAFF HAS TURNED INTO A DRAGON AND SWALLOWED UP THE WHOLE WORLD. WHERE ARE THE POOR MOUNTAINS AND RIVERS AND GREAT EARTH NOW?”
His meaning is that if you can realize a non-judgmental clarity, even this simple staff becomes your greatest meditation. And in that meditation the oceans will disappear and the mountains will disappear, because in that meditation you will disappear. The observer suddenly becomes the observed.
Yuishen, another master, wrote in praise:
WHY, IT IS BUT THE MOTION OF EYES AND BROWS!
AND HERE I HAVE BEEN SEEKING IT FAR AND WIDE.
AWAKENED AT LAST, I FIND
THE MOON ABOVE THE PINES,
THE RIVER SURGING HIGH.
The river is the river, the pines are the pines, and the moon is the moon. All that is needed is a clarity of vision, not that stupid mind that goes on continuously making judgments…
IN LEAF DEW.
If you have the clarity, then just in the early morning sun, when on the lotus leaf the dewdrop shines like a pearl, you have seen the whole teaching of the Buddha. But your eyes have to be unclouded. Thoughts are your clouds. Meditation is nothing but brushing away your thoughts, keeping your consciousness clean and reflective.
Maneesha has asked:
BELOVED OSHO, WHY DO WE GO TO SUCH PAINS TO AVOID THE OBVIOUS?
the mind is interested only in the difficult. The obvious is not difficult. The mind is interested to go to the Everest; it can go to the moon; it is trying to reach to the further stars and planets. The mind enjoys conquering, and you can conquer only that which is difficult. The obvious has no appeal for the mind. On the contrary, the obvious is the danger; it is the death of the mind and its desires and longings. You are the obvious. That’s why mind never looks inwards. It is so simple, it is already there –
what is the need? First become the world’s greatest celebrity, become famous, become powerful. As far as your own self is concerned, it is already there, you don’t have to conquer it. And mind is a conqueror; its whole joy is in victory.
But being yourself is not a victory. You have always been yourself, knowingly or unknowingly.
Your Buddhahood is your essential existence. Mind will never become interested in going inwards, because there awaits its death. There is no function for it, there is nobody to conquer. Just a pure space, a silence. Mind, in fact, tries to avoid the obvious. It goes away as far as possible, so that the obvious cannot destroy it.
It will think about God — you cannot go farther away than God — it will think about heaven and hell, and it will not for a single moment stop in silence to see, “Who am I?” And miraculously, it is by entering into your isness that you have entered into the very mystery and the poetry and the music and the dance of existence. It is not dry land, it is lush green; it is full of fragrance, a beauty incomparable, a truth which is the highest possible experience for consciousness. But it is all very obvious.
Here we are trying every way somehow to get rid of the mind, so we can see the obvious which the mind is avoiding…
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: Zen: The Solitary Bird, Cuckoo of the Forest
Chapter title: Don’t wobble
29 June 1988 pm in Gautam the Buddha Auditorium
Osho has also spoken on other Zen Masters and Mystics Mahakashyap, Bodhidharma, Hyakujo, Ma Tzu, Nansen, Dogen, Isan, Joshu, Kyozan, Basho, Bokuju, Sekito, Yakusan, Bankei, Sosan, Nan-in and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master
- Ancient Music in the Pines
- Ah, This!
- Dang Dang Doko Dang
- Dogen, the Zen Master: A Search and a Fulfillment
- Hsin Hsin Ming: The Book of Nothing
- God is Dead, Now Zen is the Only Living Truth
- Isan: No Footprints in the Blue Sky
- Joshu: The Lion’s Roar
- Kyozan: A True Man of Zen
- The Language of Existence
- Ma Tzu: The Empty Mirror
- Nansen: The Point of Departure
- Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen, with Basho’s Haikus
- No Mind: The Flowers of Eternity
- No Water, No Moon
- Yakusan: Straight to the Point of Enlightenment
- Zen: Zest, Zip, Zap and Zing
- This Very Body the Buddha