The Real Freedom: Freedom from Self
Osho on Buddha
THE MESSAGE OF THE BUDDHA CAN BE CONDENSED INTO ONE WORD. That word is freedom. Freedom, absolute and unconditional. Freedom not only from outer bondage but from inner too. Freedom not only from others but from oneself too. Other religions also talk about freedom, but not in that penetrating sense in which Buddha talks about it. Other religions talk about freedom in the sense that the self has to be free. Buddha talks in a diametrically opposite sense, with a new dimension to it. He says: One has to be free from the self itself. The self is bondage. You are not in bondage because of others, you are in bondage because of yourself. Unless YOU disappear, bondage will continue. It may change forms, it may become modified here and there, it may become more convenient, comfortable, but it will remain. The moment you disappear, the moment you see yourself as an absolute emptiness, who can make a slave of you? How can emptiness be reduced to slavery? When you are not, how can you be imprisoned? When you are not, freedom is total. Freedom from the self is real freedom.
These sutras are of immense value. Remember, when Buddha talks about freedom he does not mean the ordinary freedom talked about by the politicians, by the priests, and others. The social and the political freedom is: you are completely free as long as you think, act, dress, earn, speak and buy like everybody else. You are free, AS LONG AS… And the conditions are so many that the freedom remains bogus. You can’t be free unless absolutely whatsoever happens spontaneously in you is allowed and accepted. Man has been programmed, you have been given blueprints — what to be, how to be, what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. And those programmes have been put so deep down in your being that you have become unconscious of them. It appears as if you are acting out of freedom; you have been tremendously deceived.
Even when you think you are acting out of freedom, even when you think you are acting out of your own conscience, you are not. The society is controlling you in a very subtle way. The moment the child is born, the society starts programming the child. The society treats you like a computer; it goes on feeding and programming you. By the time you become a little alert, you are already programmed — you are already a Christian or a Hindu or a Jain. You are already fixed; you are no more liquid, you are no more flowing. And you will function out of this fixity, out of this obsession, that the society has put inside you. It is like an electrode put inside your brain. You will not know anything about it, but it will control you. That’s what conscience is.
Buddha is absolutely against conscience. He is all for consciousness, but never for conscience. That’s his revolution. His religion is the most revolutionary religion that has happened in the world up to now. He frees you from conscience. To be free from conscience is to be free from politics, society, religions, ethical codes…
But man becomes very afraid: so much freedom? A great panic arises in you — because you have been taught that basically you are bad; unless you are taught to be right, forced to be right, you will be bad. Down the ages, this nonsense has been put into everybody’s head, that man is naturally evil, that goodness has to be practised, cultivated, that saintliness is not a natural phenomenon, that it comes out of arduous effort. The evil is natural and the good is unnatural. For the good you have to work hard. For the evil you need not work at all, it will take possession of you. God has to be achieved through great cultivation of prayer, yoga, meditation. And evil — the Devil? He is always available to you.
This is an utterly wrong picture of human nature. Just the opposite is true: God is natural, evil is unnatural.
This is the dignity Buddha brings to humanity, this is the grandeur that he introduces you to again. This is your inheritance, natural inheritance. Buddha says: Man is naturally good. Nobody wants to be bad — if people are bad, they have been FORCED to be bad. Love is natural, compassion is natural, mercy is natural. Hatred, murderous instincts, are not natural; they are perverted, enforced, compelled. When a person is compelled he becomes bad — he HAS to become bad just to survive. Otherwise natural spontaneous flowering happens of its own accord. Conscience is the effort of the society to make something good out of you. Consciousness is not an effort to make something good out of you, consciousness is just allowing your suchness to bloom.
The first sutra:
THE MIND WHICH IS UNATTACHED
TO ALL THINGS IN THE WORLD,
DOES NOT THINK, DOES NOT FEEL,
IS FLUID AND FLEXIBLE.
THIS IS FREEDOM: a mind which is fluid and flexible. How can a Christian mind be fluid and flexible? How can a Hindu be fluid and flexible? He already has fixed ideas about reality, about himself, about how life should be. He cannot be fluid, he cannot be free. He has accepted a certain bondage of ideology; he has started living in a prison. He may call that prison his church or his temple, he may call that prison the sacred Vedas, the holy Bible — whatsoever you want to call your prison, you can call it. These are good names. Behind good names you hide the ugly reality. A really alive person can’t be a Hindu, can’t be a Mohammedan, can’t be a Buddhist. A really alive person is simply alive, flowing, available, responsive, spontaneous. He lives in suchness. He is like a mirror — he has no fixed idea; whatsoever is encountered is reflected in its totality, in its trueness, in its authenticity.
How to attain such a mind? Every child brings such a mind into the world. No child is born in any ideology, with any ideology. All children are born innocent, pure, unpolluted, mirror-like. But the society immediately jumps on them, grabs them, starts writing on their clean consciousnesses, creates CONSCIENCE — helps them to become attached to certain things, helps them to be against certain other things, starts giving them a shape.
Freedom is a kind of formlessness. Bondage is a form. Bondage has a clarity, remember, because bondage can have a definition. Freedom is vague, nebulous, cannot have a certain shape. It changes, it changes with the situation. It remains mobile — it is a process, it is not a thing. And it is a dynamism, not a dead defined phenomenon. Freedom is indefinable, unpredictable. You can predict the life of a prisoner, you cannot predict the life of a free man. One never knows what tomorrow is going to bring, one never knows how he will act tomorrow, how he will respond — because he never responds from the past.
And only the past is available for us. We can judge only from the past, and his future is never a continuity of the past. The prisoner lives according to the past; he has a character. His future is going to be nothing but an extension of the past — he is predictable. It is said in Eastern ancient scriptures that astrology can be of help to a person who is still unconscious, but it is absolutely meaningless about a Buddha. A mechanical person can be predicted: his past is available, and his future is not going to be very very different from it — maybe a little bit different here and there, in details, but the general trend is fixed. But a man of awareness is absolutely unpredictable. How he will react, respond, nobody knows. He HIMSELF does not know it — remember it. How can he know? How can the mirror know what is going to be reflected in it next moment? Whether a cloud will pass, or a man or a woman or a child — who knows? And nobody may pass, it may remain empty — then it will reflect emptiness. The unconscious man is like a painted picture, fixed. The conscious man is only a mirror.
There is a very beautiful Sufi parable:
It happened that in a great king’s court a Taoist painter arrived. And he said he could do something which nobody else could do. The painter of the king’s court was offended; he said, “I am ready to accept the challenge. We both will do paintings and then the king can judge.”
The king was also intrigued. He knew his painter — he was one of the rarest, the best of his country — he believed that his painter would defeat this Chinese. Six months’ time was given.
They started painting. The Chinese covered his wall with a curtain and would not allow anybody to look inside at what he was doing. And just in front of the wall on another wall, the other painter was doing a great painting, and everybody was allowed to see what was happening. Six months passed and the whole capital knew that their painter was going to win. He had never done something like this — it was unique, it was so alive. And the final day came and the king arrived and he looked at his painter’s painting. It was unique. He said, “Nobody can defeat you. I cannot comprehend that that Chinese will be able to do something better than this — it is impossible, it is HUMANLY impossible. You have done the last thing.’ It was so alive.
And then the curtains were opened, and the king was puzzled. The Chinese had not done any painting. He had simply rubbed and rubbed the wall and made a mirror out of it. For those six months he had been trying to convert the wall into a mirror, and now it was a mirror. And it was mirroring the painting of the other painter. There was no painting on it, but there was depth — because the other painting was flat. This painting was three-dimensional, because the painting was reflected deep into the wall. It had depth, it had a beauty. And the king said, “You have defeated my man. But you cheated us — you have not painted anything.”
And the Chinese said, “But this is what we call REAL painting — to create a mirror. His painting is dead! My painting will remain dynamic, it will change as the seasons change. It will be an alive phenomenon, it will have many moods. Come evening, and it will have a different colour to it. Come the morning, the sun rising, and it will have a different colour to it. And come the night… My painting is not a dead thing, I have made something alive.” The Chinese painter was a Taoist; he knew that only a mirror can be alive. You can make a beautiful painting — howsoever beautiful it may be, it is still dead, it is stagnant. Only a mirror can remain flowing.
Each child is born with this mirror. But immediately we start imposing paintings on the child’s mirror. We don’t accept his freedom. Not yet in the history of humanity has that fortunate moment come when we can accept the freedom that a child brings again and again into the world. He brings the freedom of God, he brings Buddhahood again and again. But we crush that Buddhahood. We immediately start defining him, we immediately start making him a fixed phenomenon, because we want a predictable man. We are afraid of unpredictable people, we start creating character. We are afraid of consciousness, we create conscience. We destroy beauty, grandeur, splendour. Then you see these ordinary people all over the world; then you see this mediocre stupid world. And behind each mediocre mind is a Buddha. And behind each stupid mind is a mirror-like phenomenon. It can be rediscovered. How to rediscover it?
THE MIND WHICH IS UNATTACHED
TO ALL THINGS IN THE WORLD,
DOES NOT THINK, DOES NOT FEEL,
IS FLUID AND FLEXIBLE.
This is the sutra to discover it again. If you are attached to anything, you are fixed. A mirror cannot afford attachment. You are standing before the mirror: while you are standing there you are being reflected, reflected totally. The mirror is joyous in reflecting you; the mirror celebrates you, your presence. But the moment you are gone, you are gone. The mirror does not cling to your picture. The mirror does not create a memory of you; the mirror will never think of you again. The mirror will never have any nostalgia, the mirror will never think, “How beautiful a person he was! And when is he going to come again?” And
the mirror will not follow you — not even in thought, not even in dreams. The moment you disappear, you have disappeared. This is non-attachment. When you are there, you are there. The mirror lives you, loves you, welcomes you, takes you to its very heart. But the moment you are gone, you are gone — the mirror is empty again. This is the whole secret of non-attachment: live in the world, but don’t be of the world. Love people, but don’t create attachments. Reflect people, reflect the beauties of the world — and there are so many. But don’t cling. The clinging mind loses its mirrorhood and mirrorhood is Buddhahood. To keep that quality of mirroring continuously fresh is to remain young, is to remain pure, is to remain innocent. Know, but don’t create knowledge. Love, but don’t create desire. Live, live beautifully, live utterly, abandon yourself in the moment. But don’t look back. This is the art of non-attachment.
And that’s where we go on missing. You love a woman, and then one day she is gone, gone with somebody else. Or, if not with somebody else, she is still with you but no more with you. Her heart no more throbs for you; that bridge is broken. Or she is dead — a thousand and one things are possible. Or maybe she still loves you, is not dead, has not left you, but your heart no longer beats with her heart. Suddenly that joy in her being has disappeared from you. It came from the blue, it came from nowhere — suddenly one day it was there, and another day it is gone. It came like the wind, and you were thrilled with the new breeze. And now the wind blows no more. The woman is there, she still loves you, but your heart no longer responds.
What to do? Go on clinging? Go on thinking of the past? Go on imagining about the future? Go on hoping against all hope that something will happen again? that some day that wind will come again, that some day clouds will disappear and the sun will be shining? Then you are getting entangled, and you are losing that purity of being a mirror, hence all misery. Misery is nothing but the shadow of attachment. And hence all stagnancy. The attached person becomes a stagnant pool — sooner or later he will stink. He flows no more. The flow keeps you pure. Yes, these banks are beautiful, but the river goes on flowing. Yes, these trees are beautiful and these birds are beautiful. But the river goes on flowing. The river is utterly thankful, grateful, but it doesn’t stop, it doesn’t become a stagnant pool. So should be the river of consciousness.
THE MIND WHICH IS UNATTACHED
TO ALL THINGS IN THE WORLD…
And remember, you cannot choose: “I will not be attached to these things, I will be attached only to THESE things.” Even if you are attached to one single thing, that is enough to destroy your mirror-like quality. That is enough to keep you from moving, that is enough to destroy the flow. And remember also, not only the things of THIS world, but the things of the so-called other world will also hinder you, will destroy your spontaneity. Remember: Never be attached. Now, even the so-called religious people are very much attached. If a Hindu passes by a church, he does not bow down to the church — his God does not live there. If he passes by a Hindu temple, he immediately bows down with such reverence. But his reverence is false, pseudo; his reverence is impotent. If the reverence was real then why didn’t it happen when he was passing by a mosque or a church or a gurudwara? God is everywhere. Why this confinement? Does God only exist in a Hindu temple? Then God is a prisoner. Because people are prisoners, their gods have also become prisoners.
The reverence is not true, it has not happened yet: it is just an empty gesture. If he has come to see the beauty, the existence of God, then he will bow down everywhere, anywhere — wherever he has an occasion to bow down, he will not miss the opportunity. He will bow down beside a rosebush, because God has happened as a rose. And he will bow down to a child who is giggling, because it is God and nobody else who is giggling.
Real reverence has nothing to do with the OBJECT of reverence. Real reverence is something inside you, flowing.
Don’t be attached to the things of the world, and don’t be attached to the things of the other world, because things are things. It makes no difference whether they are of this world or the other world — attachment is the problem…
Ikkyu has put the Buddhist message beautifully in this sutra.
THERE ARE THREE LAYERS in your existence. One is thinking. Deeper than that is feeling. Deeper than that is being. Thinking is the most superficial; being, the most profound. And between the two is feeling. There are religions which are thinking-oriented — they create theologies. They create great philosophies, they invent proofs for God — as if God needs proofs, as if God can be proved or disproved. Then there are religions of the heart, religions of feeling, which don’t create theologies, they create devotion. They are far better than the first — their prayers are more true, because they are more full of tears. Their expressions are more authentic, because they are less verbal. They dance, they sing, they cry, they weep — they live through feeling, through the heart. But Buddha goes even deeper. He says: The head is superficial, the heart is a little deeper but not deep enough. Thinking is in words, thoughts, syllogisms. Feeling is emotions, sentiments. But both are disturbances.
Try to understand this. When your mind is full of thoughts you are distracted, disturbed, pulled apart. And when your mind is not full of thoughts but your heart is throbbing with great feeling, then too you are excited. Then too, you are feverish. Love is a fever — even love for God creates great passion, stirs you, does not calm you down.
Buddha says: Thoughts distract, feelings distract. Come to the deepest core of your being, where thoughts disappear and feelings too. Then what is left? Simple being, one just is. That is TATHATA, suchness. One simply is — nothing is stirred; no thought, no feeling, just pure existence. That pure existence has no fever in it, no passion, no movement — it is not going anywhere, it is not doing anything.
In that moment, time disappears. One transcends time; it is a transcendental moment. In that moment, one comes to know reality as it is. When you think, you can’t see reality as it is, because your thinking becomes a barrier. Your thinking colours reality. When you feel, then too you cannot see reality as it is, because your eyes are full of tears and your heart is full of emotions. When thinking and feeling both disappear, only then the contact — the contact with truth.
THE MIND WHICH IS UNATTACHED
TO ALL THINGS IN THE WORLD,
DOES NOT THINK, DOES NOT FEEL,
IS FLUID AND FLEXIBLE.
And then you attain to that freedom, fluidity, flexibility, spontaneity. Then you don’t live out of your past and you don’t live out of your future. Then you don’t have any programme; then you are not a robot. Then you live moment to moment — as life reveals itself, you live it. And you are always true to life, because you have nothing to come between you and life. Your response is always total, it is never a reaction. You don’t have any ready-made answers — if a question arises, the very arising of the question creates an answer in you. Not that you had the answer already there, and the question only provoked a dead answer that was lying there in your memory. There is no answer in you, you are simply there. A question comes, and an answer arises — fresh, young, here-now. That answer is true. No answer as such is true. But the quality of the answer, if it is spontaneous, that quality has truth. See the difference.
A Christian missionary had come to see me, and he was saying, “You go on teaching so many things — you confuse us. Why don’t you create a small book, something like a Christian catechism, in which all the essential questions have been answered? — so we can know and be certain what you mean.”
I said, “That is impossible. By the time the book would be ready, my answers would have changed — because I don’t have fixed answers.”
Answers arise as responses — they depend on the questions. Or, even more, they depend on the questioner. Sometimes it happens, one sannyasin asks a question and I answer him. And another sannyasin asks exactly the same question and I answer him in a totally different way. Because, more than the question, the questioner is important. The question has a context — the context is in the questioner. You can ask the same question, but no two persons can REALLY ask the same question. How can they ask the same question? They are so different, their roots are so different, their experiences are so different. For millions of lives, they have lived differently. Behind their question is their whole past — all their experiences, all their misfortunes, curses, blessings, failures, successes. The words may look exactly the same, but they can’t be. Behind the words, the beings are different. When you don’t have a certain answer ready-made, then you simply respond — to the question, to the questioner, to the moment. And then you are true to the moment. Next moment, things will not be the same. It is one thing in the morning, it is another thing in the evening. Today it is one thing — how can it be the same tomorrow? No catechism is possible.
And all catechisms are false — because then the question is irrelevant, the answer becomes important and a fixed entity. Then the answer is dead, then it doesn’t breathe. Then it has no heart, it has no soul, it is a corpse. Mind has to be fluid. And when the mind is fluid it has splendour, it has immense beauty. Mind has to be freedom. And when mind is freedom then it is never a small mind. Then it is cosmic. When mind is absolutely free, it is not YOUR mind or MY mind. How can it be yours? and how can it be mine? When mind is freedom it is simply the mind, the mind of all the mind of the trees and the rocks and the stars, you and me. It is cosmic.
When mind is fluid, it is God. When mind is flexible, then mind is no more a bondage.
ALL BUDDHAS AND BODHISATTVAS
ACHIEVE BUDDHAHOOD AND NIRVANA
AS A RESULT
OF THE MERCIFUL VOW.
BUDDHA HAS INSISTED again and again that the greatest pitfall for a meditator is his self-centeredness. It has to be understood. Particularly for those who have come to me as sannyasins, it is of immense import. A meditator, unconsciously, unknowingly, becomes very self-centered. He thinks only of himself — his meditation, his joy, his silence, his peace, his experience, his ecstasy, his truth and God. And the problem is, the more you become self conscious, the less is the possibility of meditation. This is a dilemma — every meditator has to face it. Meditation happens only when there is no self. Consciousness is okay, but SELF-consciousness is not okay at all. But whenever you try to be conscious you become self-conscious. You don’t know how to make yourself conscious without allowing yourself to become self-conscious. For you, self-consciousness has existed always as consciousness. It is not. Consciousness has no self in it, and self-consciousness has no consciousness in it. Self-consciousness is just ego. Consciousness is egolessness.
Buddha had a specific device to destroy this dilemma. The device was compassion, mercifulness. Each of his sannyasins had to take a vow: “I will not enter into nirvana unless I have helped all the beings of the world to enter into nirvana.” It seems to be almost impossible.
The story is told about Buddha that when he reached the gate of nirvana, the gates were thrown open. Rarely it happens — millions of years pass before a person comes to the gate. For millions of years the gatekeeper was just waiting and waiting for somebody to come. Rust must have gathered on the gate, it had not been opened for so long, for so many million years. The gatekeeper was happy, he opened the door. But Buddha didn’t enter the gate. The gatekeeper asked, “Why are you standing outside? Come in, you are welcome. You have earned it.”
Buddha said, “I cannot enter. I have taken a vow: unless all living beings enter into nirvana before me, I cannot enter. I will be the last. So I will have to wait — you can close the door. And I will have to wait infinitely, because millions and millions of beings are suffering and groping in the dark, trying to come. When they all have passed, when I see that now nobody is left behind, then only will I enter.”
This is just a parable, but of immense significance. The meaning is:
when you start meditating, don’t become too self-conscious. Help, be compassionate. Help others to meditate. And whatsoever you gain out of meditation, shower it on others. Share it — in sharing, it will grow.
Whenever you meditate and you come upon beautiful spaces, IMMEDIATELY pray to existence: “Let my joy be showered over every being — conscious, unconscious. I don’t want any personal claim over it.” When you attain to satoris, share. Don’t hold then, don’t become possessive. If you become possessive you will kill them.
There are things which are immediately killed, the moment you possess them. In your experience there is only one thing that is immediately killed if you possess it — that is love. Satori is even more so. When you attain to a silent space, a meditative experience inside, don’t possess it! This is the vow. Don’t say, “This is mine.” Don’t become egoistic about it, don’t start bragging. Don’t start walking in a special way, don’t start looking at people, thinking, “These poor people, they have not attained yet.” Don’t start pretending that you are a Buddha.
If you have attained to satori, become more humble, feel more grateful. And share it and shower it on others. Don’t hold it — it is not a treasure to guard, it is a treasure to be shared. And the more you share, the more will be coming to you. The more you hoard it, you will be surprised one day, to find your fists are empty. It is like love. You fall in love, love is there dancing — it is almost tangible, you can touch it. Immediately you start grabbing, you start possessing. And you have killed it! You may not become aware right now, but sooner or later you will see you have killed it. Love is a bird on the wing — don’t encage it. Samadhi is more so — you cannot catch hold of it. Enjoy it.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: Take It Easy, Vol 2
Chapter title: The Bodhisattvas’ Merciful Vow
8 May 1978 am in Buddha Hall
Osho has spoken on ‘Buddha, freedom, religion, compassion, consciousness, emptiness’ in many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master
- The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha
- The Book of Wisdom
- The Discipline of Transcendence
- The Heart Sutra
- No Mind: The Flowers of Eternity
- Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega
- Vigyan Bhairav Tantra
- The Ultimate Alchemy
- The Tantra Vision
- From Darkness to Light
- The Buddha: The Emptiness of the Heart
- Take It Easy, Vol 1, 2
- The Zen Manifesto: Freedom From Oneself
- Tantra: The Supreme Understanding