Adi Shankaracharya was an Indian philosopher and theologian who consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta. The historical fame and cultural influence of Shankara may have grown centuries later after his death, particularly during the era of Muslim invasions and consequent devastation of India.
Shankar is known for his systematic reviews and commentaries on various hindu text and most famously on Brahm sutra, which is known as Brahmsutrabhasya. Also His commentaries on ten principal Upanishads are also considered authentic by scholars. The Daksinamurti Stotra, the Bhajagovinda Stotra, the Sivanandalahari, the Carpata-panjarika, the Visnu-satpadi, the Harimide, the Dasa-shloki, and the Krishna-staka are also some of his works.
Osho spoke many times about Adi shankracharya during His discourses and tried to explain many things with his stories.
Osho says ‘Adi Shankaracharya, the first shankaracharya, who established four temples — the four seats of shankaracharyas for all the four directions. Perhaps in the whole world, he is the most famous of those philosophers who are trying to establish that everything is illusory. Without doubt he was a great logician, because he went on conquering other philosophers; he moved all over the country and defeated all other schools of philosophy. He established his philosophy as the only right vision, the only right perspective: that all is maya, illusion.’
Osho also says ‘There have been people like Shankaracharya who say that the outer world is illusory, MAYA. In a way he is doing the same as the so-called scientists have been doing: now he has become obsessed with the inner. Because he has chosen the inner awareness as the ONLY awareness, the world becomes illusory; he has to reject the world. The scientist has to reject consciousness, and Shankaracharya and the Vedantins have to reject the outer world; they say that it is illusory. But neither the scientist behaves according to his science nor do Shankaracharya and his followers behave according to their philosophy — they cannot. The scientist is continuously using his consciousness; even when he denies it, in that very denial he is using his consciousness. You cannot deny consciousness; that is the only thing which is indubitable, undeniable.’
Nietzsche is right. “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”
The second part of the statement is actually the very essence of meditation: it is gazing into emptiness, nothingness, into an abyss. And when you gaze into an abyss it is not one-sided; the abyss is also gazing into your eyes. When I am looking at you, it is not only that I am looking at you; you are also looking at me. The abyss has its own ways of gazing into you. The empty sky also gazes into you, the faraway star also looks into you. And if the abyss is allowed to gaze into you, soon you will find a great harmony between yourself and the silence of the abyss, you will also become part of the abyss. The abyss will be outside you and also inside you.
What he is saying is immensely beautiful and truthful.
The meditator has to learn to gaze into things which he wants to become himself. Look into the silent sky, unclouded. Look long enough, and you will come to a point when small clouds of thoughts within you disappear, and the two skies become one. There is no outer, there is no inner: there is simply one expanse.
For thousands of years meditators have been gazing at the early sun in the morning, because later it becomes too difficult to gaze into it. But the early sun, just rising above the horizon, can be looked into without any danger to the eyes. And if you allow, then the light and the color that is spread all over the horizon starts spreading within you — you become part of the horizon. You are no longer just a gazer; you have become part of the scenery.
An ancient parable in China is that an emperor who was very interested in paintings, and had a great collection of paintings, announced a great prize for the best painting. All the great painters of the country arrived in the capital and started working.
One painter said, “It will take at least three years for me.”
The emperor said, “But I’m too old.”
The painter said, “You need not be worried. You can give me the award right now. If you are not certain of your life, I am certain about my painting. But I’m not asking either. I am just saying that I am going to do a job that has never been done. I want to show you what a painting should really be; so forget about your death and forget about the award. You allow me three years and a separate place in the palace. Nobody can come while I’m working; for three years I have to be left alone.”
Each day was such an excitement for the emperor. The man was a well-known painter, and not only a painter — he was a Zen master too. Finally those three years passed, and the painter invited the emperor… he took him into the room. On the whole wall he had painted a beautiful forest with mountains, with waterfalls, and a small footpath going round about and then getting lost into the trees behind the mountains.
The painting was so alive, so three-dimensional, that the emperor forgot completely that it was a painting and asked the painter, “Where does this footpath lead to?”
The painter said, “I have never gone on it, but we can go and have a look at where it goes.”
The story is that the painter and the emperor both walked on the path, entered the forest, and have not returned since then. The painting is still preserved; it shows the footprints of two persons on the footpath. It seems to be absolutely unbelievable, but the meaning is of tremendous importance. The painter is saying that unless you can be lost in a painting, it is not a painting. Unless you can become part of the scene, something is dividing you; you are not allowing yourself, totally, to be one with it, whether it is a sunrise or a sunset…
A meditator has to learn in different ways, from different sides of life, to be lost.
Those are the moments when you are no more, but just a pure silence, an abyss, a sky, a silent lake without any ripples on it. You have become one with it. And all that is needed is — don’t be just a passer-by, don’t be a tourist, don’t be in a hurry. Sit down and relax. Gaze into the silence, into the depth, and allow that depth to enter into your eyes, so that it can reach to your very being. A moment comes when the gazer and the gazed become one, the observer and the observed become one. That is the moment of meditation — and there are no more golden experiences in existence. These golden moments can be yours… just a little art, or rather a little knack, of losing yourself into something vast, something so big that you cannot contain it. But it can contain you! And you can experience it only if you allow it to contain you.
Friedrich Nietzsche is right; he must have said what he had experienced himself. It was unfortunate that he was born in the West. In the East he would have been in the same category as Gautam Buddha or Mahavira or Bodhidharma or Lao Tzu. In the West he had to be forced into a madhouse. He himself could not figure it out. It was too much: on the one hand his great philosophical rationality, on the other hand his insights into poetry, and those sudden glimpses of mystic experiences… it was too much. He could not manage and started falling apart. They were all so different from each other, so diametrically opposite… he tried hard somehow to keep them together, but the very effort of trying to keep them together became a nervous breakdown. The same experience in the East would have been a totally different phenomenon. Instead of being a nervous breakdown, it would have been a breakthrough.
The East has been working for thousands of years; its whole genius has been devoted to only one thing, and that is meditation. It has looked into all possible nooks and corners of meditation, and it has become capable to allow poetry, to allow philosophy, without any problem, without any opposition and tension. On the contrary they all become, under meditation, a kind of orchestra — different musical instruments, but playing the same tune.
There have been many misfortunes in the world, but I feel the most sorry for Friedrich Nietzsche because I can see what great potential he had. But being in a wrong atmosphere, having no precedent and having no way to work it out by himself, alone…. It was certainly too much for an individual, for any individual, to work it out alone. Thousands of people have worked from different corners, and now, in the East, we have a whole atmosphere in which any kind of genius can be absorbed. And meditation will not be disturbed by genius; meditation will be enhanced, and his own particular dimension — poetry, literature, science — will also be enhanced. Nietzsche was just in a wrong place, surrounded by wrong people who could only think of him as mad. And to them, he appeared mad…The people who have come to know some truth are certainly obstinate. You can crucify them, but you cannot change their minds. You can throw them into madhouses, but they will go on repeating their insights. Their insights become more valuable than their lives themselves.
The East, at least in the past, has been the best soil for prophets, for philosophers, for poets, for mystics. It is no longer the case, but still something of the past goes on echoing in the atmosphere. The West has corrupted the East too. The West knows the tradition of Socrates being poisoned, it knows Jesus Christ’s crucifixion; the East was absolutely innocent. It was an accepted fact that everybody had the right to say his truth. If you don’t agree with him, that does not mean that you have to kill him. Don’t agree — that is your right; at least we can agree to disagree with each other, but there is no need to bring swords when you don’t have arguments. Swords cannot become arguments. But the atmosphere has been changing for almost two thousand years, since this country became invaded again and again by barbarous, uncivilized, uncultured people who had no idea what philosophy was. And finally, for three hundred years the West has tried in every possible way to corrupt the mind of the East through its educational system — through schools, through colleges, through universities.
Now even in the East crucifixion is possible. Just the other day one of the great Hindu religious leaders, equivalent to the pope of the Catholics, Shankaracharya Svarupananda, was here for a few days. I told Neelam, when she informed me of this, that he would say something against me certainly. But he spoke against me only on the last day, before leaving, so when the information came to me, he had already gone. What he had spoken against me is so poor that one feels great pity. What has happened to the great philosophical traditions of the East? — and these people represent those traditions. He said about me: “He is the most dangerous man, unparallelled in the history of mankind.” He has not given any reason why. To me this is a compliment. But at least I have the right to ask what is the reason for giving me such a great compliment — “unparallelled in the whole history of mankind.” And what danger am I?
This was not the way of the East. When I was listening to his statement I remembered about the original shankaracharya, Adi Shankaracharya. He is a predecessor of nearly fourteen hundred years ago. He died a young man, he died when he was thirty-three. He created a new tradition of sannyasins, he created four temples in all the four directions, and he appointed four shankaracharyas, one for each direction. I remembered about him that he traveled all over the country defeating great, well-known philosophers — that was in a totally different atmosphere. One great philosopher was Mandan Mishra; he had a great following. Still in his memory a town exists. I have been there many times. It is on a beautiful bank of the Narmada, one of the most beautiful rivers. That is the place where the river descends from the mountains, so it has tremendous beauty. The city is called Mandala, in memory of Mandan Mishra.
Shankara must have been at the age of thirty when he reached Mandala. Just on the outskirts of the town, by a well, a few women were drawing water. He asked them, “I want to know where the great philosopher Mandan Mishra lives.”
Those women started giggling and they said, “Don’t be worried, you just go inside. You will find it.”
Shankara said, “How will I find it?”
They said, “You will find it, because even the parrots around his house — he has a big garden and there are so many parrots in the garden — they repeat poetries from the UPANISHADS, from the VEDAS. If you hear parrots repeating, singing beautiful poetries from the Upanishads, you can be certain that this is the house of Mandan Mishra.”
He could not believe it, but when he went and he saw, he had to believe. He asked Mandan Mishra — he was old, nearabout seventy — “I have come a very long way from South India to have a discussion with you, with a condition: If I am defeated, I will become your disciple, and if you are defeated, you will have to become my disciple. Naturally, when I become your disciple all my disciples will become your disciples and the same will be true if you become my disciple — all your disciples will become my disciples.”
Old Mandan Mishra looked at the young man and he said, “You are too young and I feel a little hesitant whether to accept this challenge or not. But if you are insistent, then there is no way; I have to accept it. But it does not look right that a seventy year old man who has fought thousands of debates should be fighting with a young man of thirty. But to balance, I would suggest one thing” — and this was the atmosphere that has a tremendous value — “to substitute, I will give you the chance to choose the judge who will decide. So you find a judge. You are too young, and I feel that if you are defeated at least you should have the satisfaction that the judge was your choice.”
Now where to find a judge? The young man had heard much about Mandan Mishra’s wife. Her name was Bharti. She was also old, sixty-five. He said, “I will choose your wife to be the judge.”
This is the atmosphere, so human, so loving. First Mandan Mishra gave him the chance to choose, and then Shankara chose Maridan Mishra’s own wife! And Bharti said, “But this is not right, I’m his wife, and if you are defeated you may think it is because I may have been prejudiced, favorable towards my husband.”
Shankara said, “There is no question of any suspicion. I have heard much about your sincerity. If I’m defeated, I’m defeated. And I know perfectly well if your husband is defeated, you will be the last person to hide the fact.”
Six months it took for the discussion. On each single point that man has thought about they quarreled, argued, quoted, interpreted, and after six months the wife said, “Shankara is declared victorious. Mandan Mishra is defeated.”
Thousands of people were listening for these six months. It was a great experience to listen to these two so refined logicians, and this was a tremendous experience, that the wife declared Shankara to be the winner. There was great silence a for few moments, and then Bharti said, “But remember that you are only half a winner, because according to the scriptures the wife and husband makes one whole. I’m half of Mandan Mishra. You have defeated one half; now you will have to discuss with me.”
Shankara was at a loss. For six months he had tried so hard; many times he had been thinking of giving up — the old man was really very sharp even in his old age. Nobody has been able to stand against Shankara for six months, and now the wife says his victory is only half. Bharti said, “But I will also give you the chance to choose your judge.”
He said, “Where am I going to find a better judge than Mandan Mishra? You are such simple and fair and sincere people. But Bharti was very clever, more clever than Shankara had imagined, because she started asking questions about the science of sex.
Shankara said, “Forgive me, I am a celibate and I don’t know anything about sex.”
Bharti said, “Then you will have to accept your defeat, or if you want some time to study and experience, I’m willing to give you some time.”
He was caught in such a strange situation; he asked for six months and six months were given. “You can go and learn as much as you can because this will be the subject to begin with, then later on, other subjects. It is not easy,” Bharti said, “to beat Mandan Mishra. But that half was easier! I am a much harder woman. If I can declare the defeat of my husband, you can understand that I am a hard woman. It is not going to be easy. If you feel afraid don’t come back; otherwise we will wait for six months.”
This atmosphere continued for thousands of years. There was no question of being angry, there was no question of being abusive, there was no question of trying to prove that you are right by your physical strength or by your arms or by your armies. These were thought to be barbarous methods; these were not for the cultured people. Nietzsche was in a very wrong place in a wrong time; he was not understood by his contemporaries. Now, slowly, interest in him is arising; more and more people are becoming interested in him. Perhaps it would have been better for him to delay his coming a little. But it is not in our hands when to come and when to go.
And people of his genius always come before their time. But he should have his respected place in the category of the Buddhas. That day is not far away. When all other so-called great philosophers of the West will be forgotten, Friedrich Nietzsche will still be remembered, because he has depths which have still to be explored, he has insights which have been only ignored; he has just been put aside as a madman. Even if he is a madman, that does not matter. What he is saying is so truthful that if to get those truths one has to become mad, it is a perfectly good bargain.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: The Golden Future
Chapter title: Just a little knack of losing yourself
24 April 1987 pm in Chuang Tzu Auditorium
Osho has spoken on Mystics like Dadu, Daya, Farid, Gurdjieff, J. Krishnamurti, Kabir, Lalla, Magdalen, Mallibai, Meera, Nanak, Patanjali, Rabiya, Raman Maharishi, Rumi, Sahajo, Sai Baba, Saraha, Socrates, Teresa, Tilopa, Valmiki, Zarathustra 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
- The Hidden Splendour
- Beyond Enlightenment
- The New Dawn
- The Sword and The Lotus
- The Fish in the Sea is Not Thirsty
- Socrates Poisoned Again After 25 Centuries
- Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega
- The Path of Love
- The Book of Wisdom
- Beyond Psychology
- My Way: The Way of the White Clouds