Tao: The Pure Essence
Osho on Tao
Watch your own absent-mindedness. Watching it will create attentiveness in you. Watch what is happening within you: thoughts passing, memories arising, a cloud of anger, a dark night of sadness, or a beautiful morning of joy. Watch all that passes in you. Become more and more watchful. Slowly slowly you will become an integrated watchfulness. And the method taught by THE SECRET OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER is how to become integrated in your inner light.
This is the story of this book before we enter into the sutras. The book comes from an esoteric circle in China. The founder of this esoteric circle is said to have been the well-known Taoist adept, Lu Yen. Where did Lu Yen get this secret teaching? He himself attributes it to Master Kuan Yiu-hsi, for whom, according to tradition, Lao Tzu wrote down his TAO TE CHING.
Lao Tzu never wrote a single word in his whole life. He declined again and again the invitation to write anything. He conveyed to his disciples what he had come to know, but he was not ready to write, because he said, ‘The Tao which can be said is not the true Tao.’ The Tao which can be expressed is already falsified. It can be learned only in intimate contact with the Master. There is no other way of communicating it. It can only be learned in a deep communion where the disciple and the Master meet, where the disciple holds nothing back, where the disciple and the Master overlap, where their consciousnesses merge into each other. Only in such a meeting, communion, can Tao be conveyed.
So he refused again and again.
He lived a long life. But when he was going to die he left China on a water buffalo. Why on a water buffalo? His whole teaching had been the teaching of the watercourse way. He said: One should be like water — flowing, fluid, fresh, always moving towards the ocean. And one should be like water — soft, feminine, receptive, loving, non-violent. One should not be like a rock. The rock appears to be very strong but is not, and water appears to be very weak but is not. Never be deceived by appearances. Finally the water wins over the rock and the rock is destroyed and becomes sand and is taken to the sea. The rock disappears finally — against the soft water. The rock is masculine; it is the male mind, the aggressive mind. Water is feminine, soft, loving, not aggressive at all. But the non-aggressive wins. The water is always ready to surrender, but through surrender it conquers — that is the way of the woman. The woman always surrenders and conquers through it. And the man wants to conquer and the ultimate result is just a surrender and nothing else. Hence, he chose a water buffalo when he left the country.
Where was he going? He was going to the Himalayas to die into that eternal beauty.
A real man knows how to live and how to die. A real man lives totally, dies totally. A real man lives in benediction and dies in benediction.
He was going into absolute aloneness in the Himalayas. But he was caught on the border. And the man who caught him on the border was Master Kuan Yiu-hsi. He was a guard at the last post of the Chinese border. Lao Tzu had to pass that post; there was no other way to get out of the country. And Kuan Yiu-hsi persuaded him: ‘You are going to die, you are leaving the country forever, and soon you will be leaving the body. Please write just a few words. And I won’t allow you to get out of the land if you don’t write them. This price you have to pay.’ And Lao Tzu had to sit in Kuan Yiu-hsi’s hut for three days, and there he wrote the TAO TE CHING.
The tradition of THE SECRET OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER IS said to have originated with Lu Yen. Lu Yen himself attributes it to Master Kuan Yiu-hsi for whom, according to tradition, Lao Tzu wrote down his TAO TE CHING. Kuan means ‘the Han-ku pass’, hence he is called Master Kuan, that is ‘Master of the Han-ku pass.’ And he must have been a great adept, otherwise it would have been impossible to persuade Lao Tzu to write. His whole life he had declined — he could not decline the invitation of this man. This man must have had something that it was impossible even for Lao Tzu to say no to. This is how the tradition of THE GOLDEN FLOWER is connected with Lao Tzu.
But it didn’t start with Lao Tzu. Lao Tzu himself says that whatsoever he is saying has been said before, again and again, down the centuries. He is not bringing a new truth in the world but only a new expression. It is always so. Truth is the same, only expressions differ. What Lao Tzu said is the same as what Krishna had said before him. What Krishna said is the same as what Buddha said later on. What Buddha has said is the same as Mohammed, as Jesus, as Zarathustra have said although their expressions are so different that you will need great intelligence to see to the very core. The structure is different, the language is different, their ways of saying it are different; naturally, because they are different persons, different individuals, with their own uniqueness. But truth is neither new nor old; and wherever truth is, it is eternal. The book, THE SECRET OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER, is one of the eternal sources where one can again become alive, one can again find the door to the divine.
Master Lu-tsu said: THAT WHICH EXISTS THROUGH ITSELF IS CALLED THE WAY (TAO).
The word ‘Tao’ essentially means ‘the Way’. Nothing can be said about the goal. The goal remains elusive, inexpressible, ineffable. But something can be said about the Way. Hence, Taoists have never used the word ‘God’, ‘truth’, NIRVANA, no; they simply use the word ‘Way’. Buddha says, ‘Buddhas can only show you the Way. If you follow the path, you will reach to the truth.’
Truth will have to be your own experience. Nobody can define the truth, but the Way can be defined; the Way can be made clear. The Master cannot give you the truth, but the Master can give you the Way. And once the Way is there then all that is needed is to walk on it. That has to be done by the disciple. I cannot walk for you, and I cannot eat for you. I cannot live for you, and I cannot die for you. These things have to be done by oneself. But I can show the Way, I have walked on the Way. Tao simply means ‘the Way’.
THAT WHICH EXISTS THROUGH ITSELF IS CALLED THE WAY.
And the definition is beautiful.
Lu-tsu says, ‘That which exists by itself, that which needs nobody else’s support, that which has always existed whether you walk on it or not…’ Whether anybody walks on it or not does not matter, it always exists. In fact, the whole existence follows it unknowingly. If you can follow it knowingly your life will become a great blessing. If you follow it unknowingly, then you will go on stumbling, then you cannot enjoy it as it should be enjoyed. A man can be brought into the garden, and he may be unconscious. He may be drunk or he may be in a coma or under the impact of chloroform. He can be brought into the garden. He is unconscious. The songs of the birds will be heard by his ears, but he will not know. And the fragrance of the flowers will come riding on the breeze to his nostrils, but he will not know. And the sun will shine on him and will shower light on him, but he will not know. And the breeze will caress him, but he will not know. And you can put him under the shade of a big tree and the coolness of it, but he will not know. That’s how man is.
We ARE in Tao, because where else can we be? To live is to be on the Way. To live is to live in God. To breathe is to breathe in God. Where else can we be? But just as the fish lives in the ocean and is completely oblivious of the ocean, we are living in Tao and are completely oblivious of Tao. In fact, it is so obvious, that’s why we are so oblivious.
The fish knows the ocean so well… the fish is born in it, the fish has never been out of it, the fish takes it for granted, hence the fish is not aware of it. We are on the Way, we are in God, we live in Tao, through Tao, but we are not aware of it.
The Tao exists, because without the Tao trees will not grow, and stars will not move, and the blood will not circulate, and the breath will not come in. Life will disappear.
Life is possible only if there is a fundamental law holding it. Life is possible only if there is something that supports it. Look at the immense order in existence. It is not a chaos, it is a cosmos. What makes it a cosmos? Why is there so much harmony? There must be a law that keeps the harmony going, flowing, keeps everything in accord. But we don’t know about it. We don’t know anything about our own being, and we are joined through our being with Tao.
TAO HAS NEITHER NAME NOR SHAPE. IT IS THE ONE ESSENCE, THE ONE PRIMAL SPIRIT.
It is the ocean of life that surrounds us. It is within and without — the pure essence. It is existence, it is the primal spirit. No name can contain it. All names are its name, and no shape is particular to it because all shapes are Tao’s shape. Tao exists in millions of forms. In the tree it is green, in the flower it is red. In man it is man, in fish it is fish. It is the same law. You can replace the word ‘Tao’ with ‘God’ and it will be the same. What Christians and Mohammedans call God, Taoists call Tao, Buddhists call it Dharma, Jews used to call it Logos, but they mean the same thing. No name can contain it, or, it can be expressed by any name.
ESSENCE AND LIFE CANNOT BE SEEN. THEY ARE CONTAINED IN THE LIGHT OF HEAVEN. THE LIGHT OF HEAVEN CANNOT BE SEEN. IT IS CONTAINED IN THE TWO EYES.
You can see the form, you can see the body — the body is the form, the substance that surrounds the essence — but you cannot see the essence. The essence is invisible to the eyes, unapproachable by the senses. It has to be felt immediately, not through any media. You see my body, I see your body — it is through a medium. My eyes are telling me you are here. Your eyes are telling you that I am here. But who knows, the eyes may be deceiving — they do deceive sometimes. In the night, in the dark, you see a rope as if it were a snake. And when you see it as a snake it affects you as a snake. You are afraid, you start running. Or you can see in the desert an oasis which is not there, which is only a projected phenomenon because you are so thirsty that you want it to be there, so you create it there. Eyes deceive many times. So who knows?
If truth is known through a medium then it will always remain suspect, doubtful; it can’t have any certainty — absolute certainty it can’t have. And a truth which is not absolutely certain is not truth at all. The truth has to be absolutely certain; it cannot be approximately certain. Then there is only one way: it should be known without a medium. One should know it directly, immediately. One should know it without any senses. And that’s how it is known. You cannot see life, but you can feel it. It is a subjective experience, not an object.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: The Secret of Secrets, Vol 1
Chapter title: Animus and Anima
11 August 1978 am in Buddha Hall
Osho has spoken on ‘Tao, essence, existence, way’ in many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- Zen: The Special Transmission
- When the Shoe Fits
- Tao: The Pathless Path
- Tao: The Golden Gate
- Tao: The Three Treasures
- Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen, with Basho’s Haikus
- The Empty Boat
- The True Sage
- The White Lotus
- The Original Man
- Be Still and Know
- Beyond Psychology
- The Path of the Mystic