The Authentic Question
Birthday of English Poet D. H. Lawrence
11th September is the birthday of the English writer and poet D H Lawrence. Born in 1885 as the son of a barely-literate miner, he lived his early life in a coal mining town of Nottinghamshire, England. His fondness for roaming in the open wooded patches of the hilly countryside instilled in him a deep appreciation of nature. It also became a setting for much of his fiction. At the age of 23, he became a teacher and moved to London. His poems and short stories caught the attention of publishers and his career as a professional author took off.
D.H. Lawrence eloped with a married German lady, Frieda Weekley, who he eventually married after her divorce. They faced persecution in England owing to Frieda’s German parentage and Lawrence’s open contempt for war during the WWI years. The constant harassment at the hands of the authorities forced them to leave England. They travelled around the world, a period he terms as ‘savage pilgrimage’ and he produced some of his finest works in this period including poems about the natural world in Birds, Beasts and Flowers.
D.H. Lawrence was a prolific writer but earned neither acclaim nor wealth in his life. Rather he faced massive criticism and hostility in his short life of 44 years owing in part to the sexual overtones in his works. His famous novels The Rainbow and its sequel Women in Love in which unconventional female characters take centre stage were banned in UK for obscenity. His book Sons and Lovers was heavily criticised. His painting exhibitions too were extremely controversial.
Osho says D. H. Lawrence is a great poet and has something of the mystic in him too. He had glimpses of great insight but he did not become interested in meditation; he never tried to seek and search for his innermost core. And he was very close to it, so close that even not knowing about it something of it has penetrated into his words.
Talking about the sexual flavour in D.H. Lawrence’s works, Osho says his sex is beautiful, more beautiful than the renunciation of your celibate monks, because his sex is with full awareness. Through inner search D.H. Lawrence has come to conclude that he is going to live with sex. He has accepted the fact; now there is no hitch, no guilt. Rather, sex has become glorious. So, a D. H. Lawrence, fully aware of his sex, accepting it, living it, has a beauty of his own. A Mahavir, fully aware of the fact and then coming to leave it, to quit it, has a beauty of his own. They BOTH are beautiful – D. H. Lawrence and Mahavir! But the beauty is not of sex and not of quitting sex, the beauty is of awareness. This must be remembered – you may not come to the same conclusion as Buddha; there is no necessity. You may not come to the same conclusion as Mahavir; there is no inevitability. If there is any inevitability there is only one, and that is of awareness. When you are fully aware, whatsoever happens to you is beautiful, is divine.
I HAVE QUESTIONS, BUT THEY ARE NEVER COMPLETE, AND I DON’T KNOW HOW TO ASK.
No question is ever complete, because the completion of a question will mean it has its answer in itself.
A question by its very nature is incomplete. It is a desire, a longing, an inquiry, because something needs to be completed. It is part of human consciousness that it demands completion. Leave anything incomplete and it becomes an obsession; complete it and you are free of it. Completion brings freedom.
Hence, it is not only your questions that are incomplete. You are more alert that you have seen the incompleteness of each question.
Secondly, you don’t know what to ask. Nobody knows. All of our questions are out of our ignorance, out of our unconscious, out of our dark soul. Nobody knows exactly what his question is, what is essential to be asked — because the moment you know what your question is, you will immediately find the answer within yourself. To be absolutely confident about the question means the answer is not very far. It is very close, because confidence comes from the answer, not from the question.
But still, man has to ask. Although all questions are incomplete and you do not know what to ask, still man has to ask because man cannot remain silent. It is possible not to ask — that does not mean you don’t have questions, that simply means you are not bringing them out. Perhaps you are afraid to be exposed, because each question will indicate towards your ignorance. There are millions of people who never ask for the simple reason that to be silent at least appears to be wise. To ask the question is to show your wounds, is to show all the dark spots in your being. It needs courage.
Secondly, there are questions which are not out of your ignorance but out of your borrowed knowledge — which are the worst questions possible.
A question that comes out of ignorance is innocent, has purity. It is unpolluted, uncorrupted; it shows your courage, your trust.
But there are questions which come out of your borrowed knowledge. You have heard much, you have read much, you have been informed from the parents, teachers, priests, politicians, all kinds of demogogues, all kinds of pretenders to knowledge — and you have been collecting their whole garbage.
Purna has sent me a beautiful present: a very artistic, beautiful wastepaper basket with a note — “Osho, if you feel my questions are just garbage, throw them in this wastepaper basket. You need not answer them.”
Questions coming out of knowledge are garbage. You don’t know anything about God, the universe; you don’t know anything about the soul, reincarnation, future lives, past lives. All that you know is simply hearsay. People have been chattering around you and you are collecting all kinds of information that seems to be important to you. Why does it seem important? — it seems important because it covers your ignorance. It helps you to feel as if you know. But remember, it is a very big `as if.’ You do not know, it is only as if…Those questions are meaningless; you should not ask them. They really show your stupidity.
But questions arising out of your ignorance — just like a child asking — those questions are incomplete, not very great questions, but tremendously important.
One day a small child was walking with D.H. Lawrence in a garden, and was continuously asking questions of all kinds. And D.H. Lawrence was one of the most sincere men of this century, condemned by governments, by priests because of his sincerity, because he would say only the truth, because he was not ready to be diplomatic, a hypocrite, because he would not compromise. Even before this small child he showed such authentic sincerity, which even your great saints have not shown. The child asked, “Why are the trees green?” A very simple question, but very profound. All the trees are green — why? What is the matter with the trees? When there are so many colours, when the whole rainbow of colours is available — some tree can be yellow, some tree can be red, some tree can be blue — why have all the trees chosen to be green?
In D. H. Lawrence’s place, any parent, any teacher, any priest, anybody — x, y, z — would have told some lie, that “God made them green because green is very soothing to the eyes.” But this would have been deceptive, a lie, because D.H. Lawrence does not know anything about God, does not know why the trees are green. In fact, no scientist who has been working with the trees knows, although he can show that it is because of a certain element, chlorophyll, that trees are green. But that is not the answer for the child. He will simply ask, “Why have they chosen chlorophyll — all the trees?” It is not a satisfactory answer.
D.H. Lawrence closed his eyes, waited for a moment in silence… what to say to this child? He did not want to be a deceiving person to an innocent child – although the question is ordinary, any answer would do. But the question has come from innocence; hence it is very profound.
And D. H. Lawrence opened his eyes, looked at the trees and said to the child, “The trees are green because they are green.” The child said, “Right. I was also thinking that.”
But D.H. Lawrence remembered it in his memoirs: “To me it was a great experience. The love and the trust the child showed towards me because of sheer sincerity. My answer was not an answer; according to logicians, it was a tautology. `The trees are green because they are green’ – is this an answer?”
In fact, D.H. Lawrence is accepting that: My child, I am as much ignorant as you are. Just because there is a difference of age does not mean that I know and you do not know. The difference of age is not the difference between ignorance and knowledge. Trees being green is part of the mystery of the whole existence. Things are what they are. A woman is a woman, a man is a man. A rose is a rose; call it by any name, it still remains the rose. That morning, in that small incident, something tremendously beautiful is hidden.
Ask questions — not out of knowledge because all that knowledge is borrowed, unfounded, pure rubbish. Ask out of your ignorance. Remember, the ignorance is yours — be proud of it.
The knowledge is not yours. How can you be proud of it? And the question is not to cover the ignorance. The question is to bring some light, so that the ignorance, the darkness, disappears.
I cannot give you any better answer than D.H. Lawrence, but I can give you something else which Lawrence has no insight about.
I can give you a space, a silence in which you can realize the mystery on your own. You ask the question, whatever the question is. Just remember: don’t ask out of knowledge, ask out of your own authentic ignorance. And my answers are not answers infact. My answers are killers — they simply kill the question, they take away the question, they don’t give you any answer to hold on to.
And that is the difference between a teacher and a master: the teacher gives you answers so that you can hold those answers and remain ignorant — beautifully decorated on the surface, libraries full of answers, but underneath, below the surface, an abysmal ignorance.
The master simply kills your questions. He does not give you an answer, he takes away the question. If all your questions can be taken away…
listen carefully to what I am saying:
If all your questions can be taken away,
your ignorance is bound to disappear, and what remains is innocence. And innocence is a light unto itself. In that innocence you don’t know any question, any answer, because the whole realm of questions and answers is left behind. It has become irrelevant; you have transcended it. You are pure of questions and pure of answers. This state is enlightenment.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Nepal.
Discourse series: Beyond Enlightenment
Chapter title: Innocence is a light unto itself
4 October 1986 pm in
Osho has also spoken of eminent writers like Fyodor Dostoevsky, John Milton, Leo Tolstoy, Byron, Shakespeare, Kalidasa, John Ruskin, Kahlil Gibran, Oscar Wilde, Rabindranath Tagore and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- Come, Come, Yet Again Come
- The Transmission of the Lamp
- The Book of Wisdom
- The Dhammapada: the way of the Buddha Vol. 1, 3, 7, 9, 10, 12
- The Discipline of Transcendence Vol. 1, 2, 3
- The Last Testament Vol. 1, 3, 5
- The Messiah Vol. 1, 2
- The Art of Dying
- The Fish in The Sea Is Not Thirsty
- Light on the Path
- The Secret
- The Hidden Splendour
- The New Dawn
- Beyond Enlightenment
- The Golden Future