The Miracle of Ordinariness
Osho on Ordinariness
BANKEI WAS PREACHING QUIETLY TO HIS FOLLOWERS ONE DAY WHEN HIS TALKING WAS INTERRUPTED BY A PRIEST FROM ANOTHER SECT. THIS SECT BELIEVED IN THE POWER OF MIRACLES, AND THOUGHT THAT SALVATION CAME FROM REPEATING HOLY WORDS.
BANKEI STOPPED TALKING, AND ASKED THE PRIEST WHAT HE WANTED TO SAY.THE PRIEST BOASTED THAT THE FOUNDER OF HIS RELIGION COULD STAND ON ONE BANK OF THE RIVER WITH A BRUSH IN HIS HAND AND WRITE A HOLY NAME ON A PIECE OF PAPER HELD BY AN ASSISTANT ON THE OPPOSITE BANK OF THE RIVER. THE PRIEST ASKED, “WHAT MIRACLES CAN YOU DO?”BANKEI REPLIED,”ONLY ONE. WHEN I AM HUNGRY I EAT, AND WHEN I AM THIRSTY I DRINK.”
The only miracle, the impossible miracle, is to be just ordinary. The longing of the mind is to be extraordinary.
The ego thirsts and hungers for the recognition that you are somebody. Somebody achieves that dream through wealth, somebody else achieves that dream through power, politics, somebody else can achieve that dream through miracles, jugglery, but the dream remains the same: I cannot tolerate being nobody.
And this is a miracle — when you accept your nobodiness, when you are just as ordinary as anybody else, when you don’t ask for any recognition, when you can exist as if you are not existing. To be absent is the miracle.
This story is beautiful, one of the most beautiful Zen anecdotes, and Bankei is one of the superb masters. But Bankei was an ordinary man.Once it happened that Bankei was working in his garden. Somebody came, a seeker, a man in search of a master, and he asked Bankei, “Gardener, where is the master?”Bankei laughed and said, “Wait. Come from that door, inside you will find the master.”
So the man went round and came inside. He saw Bankei sitting on a throne, the same man who was the gardener outside. The seeker said, “Are you kidding? Get down from this throne. This is sacrilegious, you don’t pay any respect to the master.”Bankei got down, sat on the ground, and said, “Now then, it is difficult. Now you will not find the master here because I am the master.”It was difficult for that man to see that a great master could work in the garden, could be just ordinary. He left. He couldn’t believe that this man was the master; he missed. We are all in search of the extraordinary. But why are you in search of the extraordinary? It is because you also long to be extraordinary. With an ordinary master, how can you become extraordinary, exceptional?
Bankei was talking, lecturing, and one man stood and asked about miracles. He belonged to some other sect, a sect which worked through mantras, holy names. Remember that a mantra is a secret technique to achieve more power. A mantra is not spiritual, it is political, but the politics are of the inner space, not of the outer. The mind can become powerful if you narrow it down; narrowing is the method. The more narrow the mind, the more powerful it becomes. It is just like the sun’s rays falling to the ground. If you focus those waves, those rays, through a lens, fire can be created. Those rays were falling all spread out but now they have been narrowed down through the lens. They have become one-pointed, concentrated; now fire is possible. The mind is energy, in fact, the same energy that comes through the sun, the same subtle rays. Ask the physicists. They say the mind has a voltage of electricity, that it is electrical.
If you can focus the mind through a lens, the mantra is a lens, and you go on repeating Ram, Ram, Ram, or Om, Om, Om, or anything, just one word — if you go repeating and repeating and repeating it, and the mind’s whole energy is centered in that one word — it becomes a lens. Now all the rays are passing through that lens. Narrowed to one point it becomes powerful, you can do miracles. Just by thinking you can do miracles.
But remember, those miracles are not spiritual. Power is never spiritual. Powerlessness, helplessness, to be nothing, is spiritual; power is never spiritual. This is the difference between magic and religion; magic is after power, religion is after nothingness. A mantra is a part of magic not of religion at all, but everything is a big mess, mixed up. People who are doing miracles are magicians, not spiritual in any way. They are even anti-spiritual because they are spreading magic in the name of religion, which is very dangerous. Through a mantra the mind is narrowed; it is more narrowed, more powerful, and then anything can be done. There is only one thing you will miss — you will miss yourself. All miracles will be possible, the ultimate miracle you will miss. You will miss yourself because through narrowing down you can achieve an object. The more the mind is narrowed, the more it becomes fixed to an object; it becomes objective. You are hidden behind and the object is outside.
So if you are a man of mantras you can say to this tree, “Die,” and the tree will die; you can say to a man, “Be healthy,” and the disease will disappear, or, “Be unhealthy,” and the disease will enter — many things you can do. You can become somebody, and people will recognize you as a man of power but never a man of God. A man of God is born when the mind is not narrowed at all, when the mind is not flowing in one direction but is overflowing in all directions. There is no lens, no mantra, just the energy flowing in all dimensions everywhere. That flowing energy, that energy overflowing everywhere, will make you alert about yourself because then there is no object. Only you, only subjectivity exists, and through you, you will become aware of God, not through any power.
This man asked Bankei, “What type of miracles can you do? My master, through mantra, through the holy name, can do miracles. He will stand on one bank of the river, and disciples will stand on the other bank with a paper in their hands, a half-mile distant, and he will write from here and the words will come on the paper on the other bank. This our master can do. What can you do?”
And Bankei said, “We know only one miracle here, and that is when I feel hungry I eat, and when I feel sleepy I sleep. Only this much.” Not much of a miracle. Your mind will say, “What type of a miracle is this? It is nothing to be proud of.” But I say to you Bankei has said the real thing. That’s what a Buddha can do, that’s what a Mahavira is doing, that’s what a Jesus is to do. Only then is he a Christ, otherwise not. What he is saying is such a simple thing. He says, “When I am hungry I eat.” Is it so difficult that he calls it a miracle? I say it is difficult for you; for the mind it is the most difficult thing — not to interfere. When you feel hungry the mind says, “No, this is a religious day and I am on a fast.” When you don’t feel hungry the mind says, “Eat, because this is the time every day that you eat.” And when the stomach is overfilled the mind says, “Go on eating, the food is delicious.” Your mind interferes.
What is Bankei saying? He is saying, “My mind has stopped interfering. When I feel hungry I eat, when I don’t feel hungry I don’t eat. Eating has become a spontaneous thing; the mind is not a continuous interference.
When I feel sleepy I go to sleep.” No, you are not doing this. You go to sleep as a ritual, not when you feel sleepy. You get up as a ritual because it is brahmamuhurta, and you are a Hindu and you must get up before sunrise. Because you are a Hindu, you get up. Who is this Hindu? It is the mind. You cannot be a Hindu, you cannot be a Mohammedan; there is no sect for you but the mind. The mind says, “You are a Hindu, you must get up,” so you get up.When the mind says, “Now it is time to go to sleep,” you go to sleep. You follow the mind, not nature.
Bankei is saying, “I flow with nature; whatsoever my whole being feels, I do it. There is no fragmentary mind manipulating it, manipulation is the problem.” You go on manipulating and this disturbance, interference, this manipulation from the mind is the problem.
Even in dreams you go on manipulating — ask the psychologists; they say while awake, you continue manipulating. The mind doesn’t allow you to see what is there, it projects; the mind doesn’t allow you to hear what is being said to you, it interprets. Even in dreams you are false because the mind goes on playing tricks on you. Freud discovered that our dreams are also false. You want to kill your father so in the dream you don’t kill your father. You want to poison your wife but you don’t poison your wife even in a dream, you poison some woman who somehow resembles your wife. The mind is interfering continuously…
Bankei is saying: “We know only one miracle. We allow nature to have its own course, we don’t interfere.” Through interference comes the ego: the more you interfere, the more you manipulate, the more you feel you are somebody. Look at the ascetics — their egos are so refined and subtle, so shiny. Why? It is because they have interfered the most; you have not interfered so much. They have killed their sex, they have destroyed their love, they have suppressed their anger, they have completely destroyed their hunger and the feeling of the body. They have reason to be egoists: they are some bodies. Look in their eyes, there is nothing except ego.
Their bodies may be almost dead but their egos are at the supreme-most peak. They have become Everests. These monks and saints will not be able to understand what Bankei means. He says, “We know only one miracle — to allow nature to have its own course. We don’t interfere.” If you don’t interfere, you will disappear. Fighting is the way to be there.
People come to me and ask how to drop the ego. I tell them, Who will drop it? If you try to drop it you will be the ego, and someday you will claim that you have dropped the ego. And who is this claimer, who is claiming it? This is the ego, and the most subtle ego always tries to pretend egolessness.
I also know only one miracle, to let nature have its course, to allow it. Whatsoever is happening, don’t interfere, don’t come in the way, and suddenly you will disappear. You cannot be there without resistance, fight, aggression, violence; the ego exists through resistance. This has to be understood very deeply — the more you fight, the more you will be there…
The ascetic is fighting with himself; the soldier is fighting with others; the businessman, fighting with others; the monk, fighting with himself. The monk and the ascetic are more cunning, they have chosen a path where victory is inevitable. You are not so calculating, your path is hazardous. You may be a success, you may be a failure, and your success can turn into a failure any moment because there are so many fighters around you, and you are such a small, tiny existence — you can be destroyed. But fighting with yourself you are alone, there is no competition. So those who are very cunning escape from the world and start fighting with themselves. Those who are not so cunning, are more simple, are in the world and go on fighting with others. But the basic essential thing remains the same — fighting.
Bankei is saying, “I am not a fighter; I don’t fight at all. When I feel hungry I eat, when I feel sleepy I go to sleep; when I am alive I am alive, and when I die I will die. I don’t come in the way.” And he says, “This is the only miracle we know.” But why call it a miracle? Animals are doing it already, trees are doing it already, birds are doing it already; the whole existence is doing it already. Why call it a miracle? Man cannot do it. The whole existence is a miracle except man. The Christian story seems to be very meaningful: that man has been turned out of the Garden of Eden seems to be very relevant, most significant. The whole existence is a continuous miracle, it is a continuum; miracles are happening every moment. Existence is miraculous but man has been turned out.
Why has man been turned out? The story says because he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge and God had forbidden it. God said, “don’t eat the fruit of this tree, the tree of knowledge. All the trees are open to you except this one.”…and the moment he ate the fruit he became conscious of the ego; he became aware that “I am”. Immediately he was thrown out of the Garden of Eden. It is a beautiful story; the story is really a key to all the secrets. This knowledge has turned you out of the miraculous world that you are in. Before this Adam was like a child — naked but not aware that he was naked; naked but not aware that there was some guilt in it. He loved Eve but the love was natural; he was never aware that something wrong was going on or that there was some sin. There was no sin; before knowledge there is no sin. A child cannot commit sin; only an old man can be a sinner, so all sinners are old. A child cannot be a sinner. How can it be a sinner? A child is innocent because a child is not aware of himself, that he is.
Adam was like a child, Eve was like a child; they enjoyed but there was no one who was enjoying. They were part of this mystery, of the miracle. When they felt hungry they ate, when they felt sleepy they slept, when they felt like loving they loved. But everything was a natural phenomenon, the mind was not there as the manipulator. They were part of this universe — flowing like rivers, flowering like trees, singing like birds — they were not separate. Separation came with the knowledge that “I am.” The first thing Adam and Eve did was to try to hide their nakedness; the childhood was lost. Whenever a child begins to feel that he is naked, that is the point where Adam and Eve were turned out of the Garden of Eden.
It has always been my feeling that the answer to the Christian story exists in Mahavira — not in Jesus, but in Mahavira — because if by eating the fruit of knowledge Adam became aware and felt guilty that he was naked, then the answer exists in Mahavira. The moment Mahavira became silent the first thing he did was to become naked. And I say Mahavira entered the Garden of Eden again, he became a child again. The Christian story is half, the Jain story is the other half; they make the whole. The whole existence is a miracle; you have fallen out of it.
Bankei said, “We know only one miracle; we have entered in this great miracle again. We are no more separate as egos, we are not individuals. Hunger is there but there is no one who is hungry. Sleep comes but there is no one who is sleepy. The ego is not there to resist or to decide; we flow, we drift.” Nothing is wrong and nothing is good. This is the beyondness, the transcendental attitude where no evil exists and no good. You have become innocent.
Your saints cannot be innocents because their goodness is forced too much; their goodness is already ugly. Their goodness is managed, controlled, cultivated, it is not innocent…And unless saintliness becomes childlike, it is not saintliness at all, it is just a sinner hiding, hiding through a facade.
Bankei has said, “We know only one miracle.” What is that miracle? It is to be childlike. Whenever a child feels hungry he starts crying — he is hungry. Whenever he feels sleepy, he goes to sleep…
When you are here and now, sitting totally, not jumping ahead, the miracle has happened. To be in the moment is the miracle.
But I know Bankei will not appeal to you. Sai Baba can appeal to you because with Sai Baba your mind has a logic, a tuning. With Bankei your mind cannot be tuned, it has to be dropped — only then can that tuning happen. With Sai Baba you can understand things — with logic it is the same — what your mind says is that a miracle is happening. This is not religion at all, this is simply magic. And there is no difference between a Houdini and a Sai Baba. The only difference, if there is any, is that Houdini was more honest than Sai Baba because he simply said that he was a magician, that these were tricks. And all that Sai Baba can do, any magician can do, but you will not pay much respect to a magician because he is so sincere and honest that he says, “These are tricks.” So you say, “Okay, so these are tricks; no miracle.”
When somebody says, “These are not tricks, this is a miracle, divine power manifesting through me,” then your mind starts jumping. Then you think, “If I can become a close disciple of this man then I also can become somebody, I can also do something.”
If you have come in search of such a miracle from me you have come to the wrong person.
I am Bankei reborn. I know only one miracle — to be here and now: when feeling hungry, to eat; when feeling sleepy, to sleep; just to be ordinary and just to be part of the cosmos. If you are in search of such a miracle much can happen near me, but if you are not in such a search nothing will happen near me. And remember, you will be responsible for it because your whole search is wrong, and then there can be no tuning with me. So decide clearly in your mind, come to an understanding of what type of miracle you are searching for. I can make you most ordinary, I can make you simple human beings, I can make you like trees and birds. There is no magic around here, only religion, but if you can see, this is the greatest miracle.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: A Bird on the Wing
Chapter title: The Miracle of Ordinariness
15 June 1974 am in Buddha Hall
Osho has spoken on ‘Zen, ordinariness, nature, innocent, religion’ in many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- From the False to the Truth
- Theologia Mystica
- Zen: The Path of Paradox
- Zen: Zest, Zip, Zap and Zing
- Walking in Zen, Sitting in Zen
- Ah, This!
- From Bondage to Freedom
- Sat Chit Anand
- The Rebel
- The Transmission of the Lamp
- Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master
- When the Shoe Fits
- Vigyan Bhairav Tantra, Vol 1, 2