The Search for Power
Osho on Power
A MONK ASKED THE BUDDHA: WHAT IS MOST POWERFUL AND WHAT IS MOST ILLUMINATING?
We are all asking only these two questions. First, what is most powerful? Because we are all on a power trip. We want to be powerful because we feel we are impotent, we feel we are weaklings, we feel we are limited. A thousand and one limitations surround you. Everywhere you come against a wall and you feel powerless. Each moment of life brings you the feeling of helplessness. So, the question is very pertinent, a very human question. What is the most powerful thing in the world? The monk must have been a seeker of power. Now, you have to understand it.
The very effort, the very desire to be powerful, is one of the obstacles to attaining power.
People who try to become powerful never become powerful. They are destroyed by their own search. Because the effort to become powerful means you are in conflict. You want fight — that’s why you want to be powerful.
Otherwise, why do you need power in the first place? You must have some aggression, some violence, some grudge. You want to prove and perform. You want to prove to others that you are powerful and they are not. Deep down somewhere, like a shadow in the unconscious, an Adolf Hitler is seeking its way towards your conscious mind — or a Nadir Shah, or a Napoleon, or an Alexander. Everybody is carrying an Alexander within himself.
This desire for power has created many things in the world. Science has come as a desire for power, and it has created power. But that power is destroying humanity. It has come to such a state that people like Albert Einstein feel that they have done a crime against humanity.
In the last days of his life, somebody asked Albert Einstein, ‘If you were born again, what would you like to become?’
He said, ‘Never a physicist again, never a scientist. Rather, I would like to become a plumber.’
He was a very sensitive man, very understanding. And only in the end could he understand that he has released so much energy, and he has made humanity aware of such a destructive force — atomic energy — that if humanity destroys itself, he is bound to be one of the most responsible persons.
The very framework of science is to conquer nature. That is the very terminology of science — conquest of nature. We have to overpower nature and we have to destroy all mysteries of nature, and we have to find all the keys of power, wherever it is. But the very idea takes you away from nature, makes you antagonistic to it and becomes destructive. The ecology of the earth has been destroyed by this power seeking. In the outside, in the inside — both — the natural rhythm of life is disturbed.
I have heard: A very unusual idea occured one day to Frederick of Prussia. He was in the country when he saw some sparrows eating some grains of wheat. He started to think and reached the conclusion that these small birds consumed a million pecks of wheat a year in his kingdom. This cannot be allowed. They have to be either conquered or destroyed. Since it was difficult to exterminate them, he promised a price for each dead sparrow. All Prussians became hunters and soon there were no more sparrows in the country. What a great victory. Frederick of Prussia was very happy. He celebrated the event as a great conquest over nature. The king was very happy until the following year when he was told that caterpillars and locusts had eaten the crops because without sparrows the whole rhythm of life was destroyed. Sparrows go on eating caterpillars and locusts. There being no sparrows, the whole crop was destroyed by caterpillars. Then it was necessary to bring in sparrows from abroad. And the king said, ‘I certainly have made a mistake. God knows what he is doing.’
The great scientific minds of this century are coming, by and by, slowly, reluctantly, to recognize that a great mistake has been done. The very desire to be powerful is against nature, because the very desire to be powerful is antagonistic. Why do you need to be powerful? You must be thinking in terms of destroying somebody. Power is needed to destroy. Power is needed to dominate. Power is needed to conquer.
The monk must have asked, ‘What is the most powerful thing in the world?’ In fact the actual word must have been siddhi. The monk must have asked, ‘What is siddhi, what is power?’
Science tries to penetrate nature to get more power, and there are many systems which penetrate your innermost being — but again the goal is to get more power. Whether you become powerful in a scientific way, or you become powerful in a psychic way, it makes no difference. Now the West is becoming interested in psychic sciences, but the urge is the same — to be more powerful. So
first try to understand why man seeks power in the first place. The very desire is that of a soldier. You want power because without power you cannot be a great ego. For ego, power functions as food, nourishment. You seek power because only with power will you be able to say ‘I am’. The more money you have, the more power you have, the more you can feel at ease with your ‘I am’. The more you can destroy people, the more you can feel that nobody can destroy you.
Now psychologists say that people are interested in murdering, killing, in war, because when they kill others they feel very powerful. They feel power against death. They think they can create death — they can kill others. Now, they feel in a deep way that they have become immortal. Even death is under their control. It is foolish, but the idea arises. People who love killing are people who are afraid of death. Adolf Hitler was very much afraid of death — so much so that he never allowed anybody to stay with him in his room in the night. Not even a girlfriend was ever allowed, he was so afraid of death. Who knows? — the girlfriend may turn out to be a spy, may be an agent in the hands of the enemy. He never trusted even love. He was one of the most lonely men who has ever existed on earth… and so afraid, continuously trembling. But he continued killing people — that was just to balance the fear. The more he killed, the more he felt that he had power. The more he felt that he had power, the more he felt that death could not destroy him. He started feeling as if he was immortal.
Have you watched? — in wartime people look very radiant. In wartime people look very fresh. Ordinarily they look very bored. When war starts, you can see — their step has changed, their eyes have now a glimmer, a radiancy… their face looks more alive, as if the dust of the boredom is gone. Something sensational is happening. It should not be so, but
whenever there is war people feel a power over death — they can kill. Immediately, in the shadow of their unconscious they feel, ‘Even death is within our boundary. We can bring it or we can stop it.’ People love destruction just as a measure of providing security against death. The search for power is the search not to surrender, not to feel helpless, not to be in a state where you are not in control. And the religious man is doing just the opposite. He is seeking a state where he is not in control but the whole is in control — call it god, call it the supreme, or whatsoever you like to call it. The religious person is one who wants to be in such a deep harmony that there is no question of conflict. He is seeking love. He is seeking a love affair with the universe. He never asks about power. He asks how to lose separation, how to merge. He asks, ‘How to be in such a total surrender that I don’t move in any way against the whole or separate from the whole, so that I can move with the river of life. And wherever the river of life goes, I can go with it’.
WHAT IS MOST POWERFUL? ASKED THE MONK.
THE BUDDHA SAID:
MEEKNESS IS MOST POWERFUL.
Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.’ The statement looks absurd, because the meek? — they have never been powerful enough to inherit the earth. And we cannot conceive that they will ever be able to inherit the earth. But Jesus is saying something very true: Blessed are the meek. And when he says they shall inherit the earth, he is saying this same message that Buddha is saying. MEEKNESS IS MOST POWERFUL — that is his meaning when he says they shall inherit the earth.
Meekness is powerful, but the power has a totally different connotation now. Meekness is powerful because now there is nobody against you. Meekness is powerful because you are no more separate from the whole — and the whole is powerful. Meekness is powerful because you are no more fighting, and there is no way of your being defeated. Meekness is powerful, because with the whole you have already conquered. All victory is with the whole. Meekness is powerful because you are riding on the wave of the whole. Now there is no possibility of your ever being defeated.
It looks paradoxical, because the meek person is one who does not want to conquer. The meek person is one who is ready to be defeated. Lao Tzu says, ‘Nobody can defeat me because I have accepted defeat already. Now how can you defeat a defeated person? Lao Tzu says, ‘Nobody can defeat me because I am standing as the last person in the world. You cannot push me any further back — there is no “further back”. I am the last person.’ Jesus also says, ‘Those who are last in this world will be first in my kingdom of god.’ Those who are the last will be the first? It does not seem possible in this world. In this world, aggressive people, violent people, tend to power, tend to be victorious. You will find the most mad people in the most powerful places, because to reach to that point one has almost to be crazy for power, the competition is such. The competition is so violent that how can a meek person reach to a state of power? No… but that is not the meaning.
When Buddha says, MEEKNESS IS MOST POWERFUL, he is saying you cannot defeat a meek person because he has no desire to conquer. You cannot force a meek person to be a failure because he never wanted to succeed. You cannot enforce a meek person to be poor, because he has no desire for riches. Poverty is his richness. Not to be anybody in particular is his way of life. To be a nobody is his very style. What can you take away from him? He has nothing. He cannot be cheated, he cannot be robbed. In fact, he cannot be destroyed because he has already surrendered that which can be destroyed. He has no self, no ego of his own. It happened when Alexander was going back from India, he wanted to take a Sannyasin with him. When he was coming to conquer India, his teacher, the great philosopher Aristotle, had told him, ‘When you are coming back, bring a gift to me. I would like to see a Sannyasin from India.’ That is something very original to the East. That contribution belongs to the East. The West has given great warriors, the East has given great sannyasins. Aristotle was intrigued with the very idea of Sannyas, what it is.
Alexander, going back, remembered. He enquired. The people of that village where he was staying told him, ‘Yes, there is a sannyasin, but we don’t think you will be able to take him back.’ He laughed at the foolishness of the villagers, because who can prevent Alexander? He said, ‘If I want to take the Himalayas, even they will follow me. So you don’t be worried, just tell me where he is.’ They told him.
He was a naked fakir, a naked man standing just by the side of the river outside the village… a beautiful person. Dandamis was his name — that’s how Alexander’s historians have remembered him. Two soldiers were sent. They told the sannyasin, ‘Alexander the Great wants you to follow him. You will be a royal guest. Whatsoever you need will be provided, every comfort will be made possible. Accept the invitation.’
The naked man started laughing. He said, ‘I have dropped all wandering. I don’t go anywhere any more. I have come home.’
They said, ‘Don’t be stupid. The great Alexander can force you to go. If you don’t go as a guest, you will go as a prisoner. The choice is yours. Anyway you will have to go.’
He started laughing again. He said, ‘I have dropped the very thing that can be imprisoned. Nobody can make me a prisoner. I am freedom.’
Alexander himself came. He took his sword out and he told the Sannyasin, ‘If you don’t come with me, this sword is here and I will cut your head.’
The Sannyasin said, ‘You can do it. In fact I have done it already. I have cut my head myself. And if you cut my head, you will see it falling down on the ground and I will also see it falling on the ground, because I have become a witness.’
It is said that Alexander could not gather courage to kill this man. He was so happy, he was so fearless, he was so blissful.
When Buddha says, MEEKNESS IS MOST POWERFUL, he means one who does not exist as an ego is meek. One who does not exist as an ego cannot be conquered, cannot be defeated, cannot be destroyed. He has gone beyond. By going beyond the ego, you go beyond death. By going beyond the ego, you go beyond defeat. By going beyond the ego, you go beyond powerlessness. This is a totally different concept of power — the power of a Sannyasin. This power is no more out of conflict. This power is not created out of friction.
You say electricity is created out of friction. You can create electricity out of friction, you can create fire out of friction. If you rub both your hands, they will become hot. There is a power that comes out of friction — by conflict. And there is a power that comes by cooperation — not by friction but by harmony. That’s what Buddha says — ‘One who is in accord with the way is great.’ One who is in accord with the way is powerful. But to be in accord with the way, one has to be meek.
Blessed are the meek. Certainly they shall inherit the earth. History will never know about them, because history has nothing to do with them. History knows only friction, history knows only mischief. History knows only mischief-mongers. History knows only mad people — because history records only when something goes wrong. When everything goes absolutely in tune, it is out of time and out of history also. History does not report much about Jesus — in fact, nothing. If the Bible was not in existence, there would have been no record about Jesus. And I would like to tell you that many people like Jesus have existed, but we don’t have any record about them. History never took any note. They were so meek, they were so silent, they were so in tune, so deep in harmony, that not even a ripple was created around them. They came and they left, and they have not left even a footprint. History has not been recording Buddhas. That’s why when you hear about a Buddha or a Mahavira or a Zarathustra, they look like mythological figures, not historic. It appears that they never existed, or they only existed in the dreams of man, or they existed only in the poetries of a few imaginative, romantic people. They look like wish-fulfillments. They look like how man would like man to be… but not realities. They were real. They were so real that no trace has been left behind them.
Unless you create some mischief, you will not be leaving your signature on history. That’s why history records only politics, because politics is the mechanism of mischief. The politician is in conflict. The religious person lives in harmony. He lives like trees. Who records about trees? He lives like rivers. Who records about rivers? He moves like clouds. Who bothers about clouds?
The meek person is one who is in harmony. And Buddha says he is the most powerful. But this concept of power is totally different. To understand it, a few things will be good to remember.
In Japan they have a beautiful science — aikido. The word ‘aikido’ comes from a word ‘ki’. ‘Ki’ means power. The same word in Chinese is ‘chi’. From ‘chi’ comes t’ai chi — that too means power. Just equivalent to ki and chi is the indian word ‘prana’. It is a totally different concept of power.
In aikido they teach that when somebody attacks you, don’t be in conflict with him — even when somebody attacks you. Cooperate with him. This looks impossible, but one can learn the art. And when you have learned the art, you will be tremendously surprised that it happens — you can cooperate even with your enemy. When somebody attacks you, aikido says go with him. Ordinarily when somebody attacks you, you become stiff, you become hard. You are in conflict. Aikido says even take attack in a very loving way. Receive it. It is a gift from the enemy. He is bringing great energy to you. Receive it, absorb it, don’t conflict. In the beginning it looks impossible. How? Because for centuries we have been taught about one idea of power, and that is that of conflict, friction. We know only one power and that is of fight. We know only one power, and that is of no, saying no. You can watch it even in small children. The moment the child starts becoming a little independent, he starts saying no. The mother says, ‘Don’t go out.’ He says, ‘No, I will go.’ The mother says, ‘Keep quiet.’ He says, ‘No. I want to sing and dance.’ Why does he say no? He is learning ways of power. ‘No’ gives power.
Aikido says, ‘say yes’. When the enemy attacks you, accept it as a gift. Receive it, become porous. Don’t become stiff. Become as liquid as possible. Receive this gift, absorb it, and the energy from the enemy will be lost and you will become the possessor of it. There will be a jump of energy from the enemy to you. A master of aikido, without fighting, conquers. He conquers by non-fighting. He is tremendously meek, humble. The enemy is destroyed by his own attitude. He is creating enough poison for himself; there is no need for you to help him. He is suicidal. He is committing suicide by attacking. There is no need for you to fight with him.
You just try it sometimes. You have watched it — the same phenomenon happening in many ways. You see a drunkard walking on the road, and then he falls in the gutter. But he is not hurt. By the morning you will see him again going to the office, perfectly healthy and okay. The whole night he was in the gutter. He fell, but he has not broken his ribs or his bones, he has no fracture. You fall — and you will immediately have a fracture. What is happening when a drunkard falls? He falls so totally, he goes with it. He is drunk, he cannot resist.
It is said about Chuang Tzu…. He came across an accident. A bullock cart had gone upside down, had fallen in a ditch. The driver was hurt very much, the owner was hurt; he had fractures. But a drunkard was also travelling in the bullock cart with the owner. He was not hurt at all. He was not even aware of what had happened, he was snoring. He had fallen on the ground. The others were crying and weeping and he was fast asleep. Chuang Tzu said, ‘Seeing this, I understood what Lao Tzu means when he says “let go”.’ Children are doing this every day. You watch children. The whole day they fall here and there, but they are not hurt. You do the same. It will be impossible for you — you will have to be hospitalized. Within a day, twenty-four hours, you will be hospitalized. The children fall in accord. When they fall they are not resisting, they are not going against the fall, they are not trying to protect themselves. They don’t go stiff. In fact, they fall in a very relaxed way.
Aikido, t’ai chi, or what Jesus calls meekness, what Buddha calls meekness, depend on the same principle — the principle of harmony. You try it in your life; you just try in small experiments. Somebody slaps your face. Try to absorb it, receive it. Feel happy that he has released energy on your face — and see how it feels. You will have a totally different feeling. And that has happened many times unawares. A friend comes and slaps you on your back. You don’t know who it is — then you look. He is a friend and you are feeling happy. It was a friendly slap. You look back and he is an enemy, and you feel hurt. The quality of the slap immediately changes with your attitude. If it is a friend you accept it. It is beautiful, it is a loving thing. If he is the enemy, then it is not loving, it is full of hate. The slap is the same, the energy is the same, the same impact of energy, but your attitude changes.
You can watch it many times. Just now it is raining. You will be going back home. You can take it in an aikido way, or you can take it in the ordinary way. The ordinary way is that you will see that your clothes will become wet, or you may get cold, or this may happen, or that may happen. And you will be against the rains. You will be running towards home in a bad mood, antagonistic. This has happened many times. You try aikido. You relax, you enjoy the falling drops of water on your face. It is tremendously beautiful. It is so soothing, so cleansing, so refreshing. What is wrong in your clothes getting wet? Why be so worried about it? They can be dried. But why miss this opportunity? The heaven is meeting with the earth. Why miss this opportunity? Why not dance it? Don’t rush and don’t run. Slow down, enjoy. Close your eyes and feel the drops falling on your eyelids, moving on your face. Feel the touch of it. Accept it… a gift from heaven. And suddenly you will see — it is beautiful, and you have never looked at it that way.
Try it in ordinary life experiences. Conflict you have always been in. Now try accord. And suddenly you will see — the whole meaning changes. Then you are no more in antagonism with nature. Suddenly the sun arises, the clouds have disappeared, and a great light falls on your face. Take it easily, take it as a love gift from the sun. Close your eyes, absorb it. Drink the light. Feel happy, blessed. And you will see — it is a totally different energy. Otherwise you start perspiring. You may perspire still, because heat is heat, but deep down the meaning has changed. Now you perspire, but you feel good. Nothing is wrong in perspiring. It cleanses you, it takes toxins outside, it releases poison from the body. It is a purifying fire. Just the attitude….
MEEKNESS IS MOST POWERFUL.
And meekness means the attitude of no-friction, no-conflict… the attitude of harmony. ‘I am not, god is’ is what meekness is. ‘I am not, the whole is’ — that is the meaning of meekness…He does not become a barrier. He allows the whole to have its way. Buddha says this is real power.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: The Discipline of Transcendence, Vol 2
Chapter title: The challenge of the buddha
31 August 1976 am in Buddha Hall
Osho has spoken on ‘Power, meekness, surrender, harmony, nothingness, love, religion, nature, Sannyas, energy’ in many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- Beyond Psychology
- Communism and Zen Fire, Zen Wind
- From Bondage to Freedom
- The Messiah
- The Rebel
- Zen: The Path of Paradox
- Ecstasy – The Forgotten Language
- My Way: The Way of the White Clouds
- Sufis: The People of the Path
- The Ultimate Alchemy
- Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega
- Beyond Enlightenment
- Tao: The Pathless Path
- From the False to the Truth
- A Sudden Clash of Thunder