Osho on Athenian philosopher Plato
Born in 427/428 BCE, in Athens, Plato was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought and the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. He is widely considered a pivotal figure in the history of Ancient Greek and Western philosophy, along with his teacher, Socrates, and his most famous student, Aristotle. Plato has also often been cited as one of the founders of Western religion and spirituality. Plato was an innovator of the written dialogue and dialectic forms in philosophy. Plato is also considered the founder of Western political philosophy. His most famous contribution is the theory of Forms known by pure reason, in which Plato presents a solution to the problem of universals known as Platonism (also ambiguously called either Platonic realism or Platonic idealism). He is also the namesake of Platonic love and the Platonic solids.
His own most decisive philosophical influences are usually thought to have been along with Socrates, the pre-Socratics Pythagoras, Heraclitus and Parmenides, although few of his predecessors’ works remain extant and much of what we know about these figures today derives from Plato himself. Unlike the work of nearly all of his contemporaries, Plato’s entire body of work is believed to have survived intact for over 2,400 years. Although their popularity has fluctuated, Plato’s works have consistently been read and studied.
Osho says, “Plato is simply a record-keeper — he has not a single idea of his own! He is a devoted lover of Socrates, and whatever Socrates says, he goes on recording it, writing it. Socrates has not written anything — just as no great master has ever written anything. And Plato is certainly a great writer; perhaps Socrates may not have been able to write so beautifully. Plato has made Socrates’ teachings as beautiful as possible, but he himself is no one. Now the same work can be done by a tape recorder. And Aristotle is merely an intellectual, with no understanding of being, or even a desire to search for it. These people are taught in the universities. I was constantly in a fight with my professors. When they started teaching Plato, I said, “This is absolute nonsense, because Plato has nothing to say of his own. It is better to teach about Socrates. Plato can be referred to — he has compiled it all. But Socrates’ name has become almost a fiction, and Plato has become the reality”
YEARS AGO DURING A PSYCHOSYNTHESIS WORKSHOP, WHEN WE WERE IN A HYPNOTIC STATE THE LEADER TOOK US THROUGH PLATO’S ALLEGORY OF THE CAVE, WHERE THE MEN WERE STANDING BY THE FIRE LOOKING AT THE SHADOWS ON THE WALL, NEVER HAVING SEEN THE OPENING OF THE CAVE.
THIS LEFT A DEEP IMPRESSION ON ME, AND I WOULD BE SO GRATEFUL TO HEAR YOU SPEAK ON THIS.
Plato’s allegory is of slaves who, working in a cave, see only their shadows on the walls and believe that what is happening on the walls is the only reality. They don’t know of any other reality except those shadows… they don’t even know that those shadows are their own. They know nothing about the outside world, outside their cave; it doesn’t exist for them. This is one of the most beautiful allegories — of tremendous importance. It is our allegory. Translated into our life, it means we are living in a certain cave and we are seeing shadows on a certain screen and we know nothing else about the screen. We know nothing about there being a world beyond the screen; we know nothing about these shadows on the screen, even that they are our own. Looked at rightly, it is the allegory of our mind.
What do you know of the world? Just a small skull is your cave; and just the screen of your mind… and the things which you call thoughts, emotions, sentiments, feelings, are all shadows — they don’t have any substance in them. And you get angry, you get depressed, you are in anguish — because you have learned to be identified with those shadows. You are projecting them; they are your own shadows. It is your own anger that is projected on the screen of the mind. And then it becomes a vicious circle: that anger makes you more angry, more anger projects more anger, and so on and so forth. And
we go on living our whole life without ever thinking that there is a world of reality beyond the mind, on the outside, and there is also a world of reality beyond all these sentiments, feelings, emotions — beyond your ego. That is your awareness.
The whole art of meditation is to bring you out of the cave so that you can become aware that you are not those shadows but that you are a watcher. And the moment you become a watcher, a miracle happens: those shadows start disappearing. They feed on your identity; if you feel identified with them, then they are there. The more you identify with them, the more nourished they are.
When you are just a watcher — just seeing, not judging, not condemning — slowly, slowly those shadows disappear, because now they don’t have any food. And then there is such a tremendous clarity, perceptivity, that you can see the world beyond — the world of sunrise and the world of clouds and the world of the stars; that is your outside. And you can become aware of your inside, which is far more mysterious.
The outside world is so beautiful, but the inside world is a thousand fold more beautiful.
Once you are somehow capable of getting out of the cave you become part of a universal consciousness.
Inside, you have the whole eternity; you have been here forever and you will be here forever. Death has never happened and cannot happen. And outside there is a tremendously beautiful existence. And now to call them `outside’ and `inside’ is not right; those are the old words when the skull was dividing them in two. Now it is one. Your consciousness and the beauty of a sunset and the beauty of a starry night, your consciousness and the freshness of a rose — they are no longer separate because the principle of separation is no longer there. It is all one cosmic whole. And I call this experience the only holy experience.
To experience the whole is the only holy experience. It has nothing to do with churches, temples, synagogues; it has something to do with you coming out, slipping out of the clutches of the mind. And it is not difficult, it is just that you have not tried it.
One Japanese professor has been training small children to swim. His idea has been that in the mother’s womb the child is in a certain liquid which is exactly the same as the ocean water, with the same constituents. And the child floats in that water. It is well-known that whenever a woman becomes pregnant, she starts eating more salty food. She needs more salt because the child needs ocean water. And this has given the idea to the evolutionists that man must have first been born in water. And if you look at the child’s growing stages — in a photograph every day for nine months — you will be surprised: he begins by being a fish. In the Hindu religion God’s first incarnation is a fish. It cannot be coincidental, because even to conceive of God as a fish would have looked condemnatory. But for thousands of years Hindus have believed that God originated first as a fish. And to them God is life; they are just different words.
This Japanese professor thought that if life was first born in water, then swimming should be intrinsic; it has not to be learned. To prove his point he started working with small babies, and he has been immensely successful. Six-month-old babies can swim. And now he is trying with three-month-old babies — and they are swimming. And his expectation is that one day he will be able to show to the world that the just-born baby can be put in a tub of water and he will be swimming. Swimming is not an art which has to be learned, it is something that we already know. But how many people know swimming? — Not very many people. Although it is something intrinsic we have the capacity to ignore it, to forget it.
The English word `sin’ is very beautiful. I love it because its original meaning is forgetfulness. It has nothing to do with the crimes we call sin. It is concerned with only one crime, and that is forgetfulness. We have forgotten ourselves; the remedy is remembrance.
Plato’s allegory rightly depicts the situation which we are in. But Plato never went further than that. Plato himself was never a meditator; the allegory remained a philosophical idea. If he had interpreted this allegory and had given it a turn towards meditation, the whole Western mind would have been different. This allegory would have changed the whole Western mind and the history that followed Plato — because Plato is the founder of the whole Western mind.
Socrates never wrote anything; he was Plato’s master. Whatever we have about Socrates is from Plato’s notes of him talking with others — the famous Socratic dialogues. As a student he was just taking notes on them. Those notes have survived. In those notes is this allegory. It is difficult to know for what purpose Socrates was using the allegory, but it is certain that Plato misused it — he was not a man who was in search of truth, he was a man who wanted to think about truth. But to search for truth is one thing and to think about truth is totally different: thinking keeps you within the cave. It is only non-thinking that can take you out of the cave.
So be silent, be still, whenever you can find the time. Allow silence to settle in you like a lake, so silent that there is not even a ripple — no thought in your mind — and suddenly you are out of it.
And only then will you understand that the allegory is not for philosophical purposes; it is for authentic search, it is for realization. Plato never gave that interpretation. So the whole Western mind followed Plato — he was a genius — and philosophy remained only a thinking about truth.
What can you think about truth? Either you know it or you don’t know it. Sometimes even geniuses can do such stupid things that it looks unbelievable. How can you think about truth? — It is almost like a blind man thinking about light. What can he think about light? — he does not even know darkness.
Ordinarily, people think that blind people are living in darkness. You are wrong, because to see darkness you need eyes — as much as you need them for light. So don’t be in a misunderstanding. Because you close your eyes and there is darkness, that does not mean that a blind person sees darkness. You see darkness, because you can see light and you can see its absence. The blind man cannot see light, so he cannot see its absence. What can he think about light? And whatever he thinks is going to be wrong. He needs not a philosopher but a physician.
And Gautam Buddha has actually said, “I am not a philosopher, I am a physician. I don’t want you to become great thinkers, I want you to become great seers.”
And if you can see, then it is not a question of thinking; you simply know it. And the way to see is to learn the simple art of non-thinking.
In the beginning it will be difficult because you have become so accustomed to it. It has become such an old habit that it goes on by itself; it has its own momentum. Even if you don’t want to think, it goes on and on. But if you are a little patient and you just watch the mind going on with its routine, without giving it any energy anymore, just seeing it as if you are seeing a film on a screen, remaining aloof, alert, watchful, without getting identified — soon the mind disappears. And
the disappearance of the mind is your coming out of the cave. For the first time you see the world that is surrounding you — its beauty, its tremendous silence. And you can see your own being — its immense light, its great blessings, its ultimate benediction.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: The Transmission of the Lamp
Chapter title: Get in tune with the essence
30 May 1986 pm in Punta Del Este, Uruguay.
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 Splendor
- 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