The Essence of Meditation
Birthday of German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche
15th October is the birthday of the famous German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. A man of extraordinary intellect, Nietzsche’s work as a philosopher has had a phenomenal impact on modern intellectual history. In his short life of 55 years, he produced revolutionary pieces of work that influenced generations of philosophers to come notably Camus, Heidegger, Jung, Sartre, Weber and Yeats. Whilst his provocative ideas courted much controversy, his concept of Übermensch (Over Man) was misrepresented by his sister to fit with her German nationalistic ideology and came to be usurped by the Nazis. Nietzsche is wrongly criticised as a predecessor to Nazism since he has infact criticized anti-Semitism and pan-Germanism.
“God is Dead” is Nietzsche’s best-known remarks. Osho has spoken extensively on Nietzsche in His discourses. Osho says Friedrich Nietzsche, according to me, is one of the greatest seers of the Western world; his eyes really go penetrating to the very root of a problem. But because others could not see it — their eyes were not so penetrating, nor was their intelligence so sharp – Nietzsche lived alone, abandoned, isolated, unloved, unrespected.
Osho explains Nietzsche’s famous quote “Man is just a bridge between two eternities, the eternity of nature and the eternity of God.” Osho says Nietzsche has many insights to reveal. His statement is very significant. He is saying that man is a bridge, a means to go beyond. Man is in the middle – half nature and half God – tense like a rope stretched between two eternities. Man is divided – sometimes moving towards nature, sometimes moving towards God – a constant trembling and wavering. Become settled. And either way will do. Chuang Tzu is in favour of moving backwards and being settled again in nature. Buddha is in favour of moving ahead, becoming settled in God. Either go back, or go to the very end, but don’t stay on the bridge.
NIETZSCHE WROTE: “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 LAST PHRASE SEEMS SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DESCRIPTION OF THE ART OF MEDITATION. WOULD YOU COMMENT?
Friedrich Nietzsche is a strange philosopher, poet and mystic. His strangeness is that his philosophy is not the ordinary rational approach to life; his strangeness is also that he writes poetry in prose. He is also a strange mystic, because he has never traveled the ordinary paths of mysticism. It seems as if mysticism happened to him. Perhaps being a philosopher and a poet together, he became available to the experiences of the mystic also. The philosopher is pure logic, and the poet is pure irrationality. The mystic is beyond both. He cannot be categorized as rational, and he cannot be categorized as irrational. He is both, and he is neither.
It very rarely happens that a philosopher is a poet also, because they are diametrically opposite dimensions. They create a tremendous inner tension in the person. And Nietzsche lived that tension to its very extreme. It finally led him into madness, because on the one hand he is one of the most intelligent products of Western philosophy, without parallel, and on the other hand so full of poetic vision that certainly his heart and his head would have been constantly fighting. The poet and the philosopher cannot be good bedfellows. It is easy to be a poet, it is easy to be a philosopher, but it is a tremendous strain to be both. Nietzsche is not in any way mediocre — his philosopher is as great a genius as his poet. And the problem becomes more complicated because of this tension between the heart and the mind. He starts becoming available to something more — more than philosophy, more than poetry. That’s what I am calling mysticism.
His statement is of tremendous importance: “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.” I have always been telling you that you can choose a friend without being too cautious, but you cannot afford an enemy without being very alert — because the friend is not going to change you, but the enemy is going to change you. With the friend there is no fight, with the friend there is no quarrel; the friend accepts you as you are, you accept the friend as he is. But with the enemy the situation is totally different. You are trying to destroy the enemy and the enemy is trying to destroy you. And naturally you will affect each other, you will start taking methods, means, techniques from each other. After a while it becomes almost impossible to find who is who. They both have to behave in the same way, they both have to use the same language, they both have to be on the same level. You cannot remain on your heights and fight an enemy who lives in the dark valleys down below; you will have to come down. You will have to be as mean, as cunning as your enemy is — perhaps you will have to be more, if you want to win.
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.
Two kids were playing on the sea beach. One of them asked the other, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
He said, “When I grow up I want to be a great prophet. I’m going to speak of profound truths.”
The first boy said, “But they say nobody listens to the prophets, so why become a prophet?”
“Ah,” he said, “us prophets are very obstinate.”
This very obstinacy became a problem, because the whole society was against him, a single man single-handedly fighting for truths which people cannot even understand, but are absolutely ready to misunderstand. If a man is sincere and if he cannot understand a thing he should say, “I do not understand it.” But people are not so sincere. When they don’t understand a thing they immediately start misunderstanding it. Misunderstanding is their way of hiding their ignorance. 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…
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
Osho has spoken on notable Psychologists and philosophers like Adler, Jung, Sigmund Freud, Assaguoli, Aristotle, Berkeley, Confucius, Descartes, Feuerbach, Hegel, Heidegger, Heraclitus, Huxley, Jaspers, Kant, Kierkegaard, Laing, Marx, Moore, Nietzsche, Plato, Pythagoras, Russell, Sartre, Socrates, Wittgenstein and many others in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- The Hidden Splendour
- The New Dawn
- This, This, A Thousand Times This: The Very Essence of Zen
- Nirvana: The Last Nightmare
- Beyond Enlightenment
- Beyond Psychology
- Light on The Path
- The Discipline of Transcendence
- The Dhammapada
- From Bondage to Freedom
- From Darkness to Light
- From Ignorance to Innocence
- The Secret of Secrets, Vol 1
- From Personality to Individuality
- I Celebrate Myself: God Is No Where, Life Is Now Here