Two Traps of the Mind

Birthday of German Novelist Franz Kafka

Born on 3 July 1883, Franz Kafka was a German-Czech novelist and short story writer who became a prominent author figure of the early 20th century, primarily after his demise. Kafka’s works essentially combine realism and fantasy, mainly setting isolated protagonists in eccentric muddles and plights. Case in point, his publication ‘The Metamorphosis’ depicted a tale where the protagonist wakes up to find himself turned into an insect without any reservations. His other works include The Trial, The Castle, Contemplation, and A Country Doctor.

Kafka was a lawyer by profession, studying at the University of Prague under his father’s wishes. He graduated in 1907 and worked in an insurance company till 1922 at which point his physical health forced him to retire. Kafka persevered in his writing throughout his profession, characterizing his works with ‘anxiety and alienation’. His unconventional pieces prompted the word ‘Kafkaesque’, which is used to describe surreal and bizarre present environments mirroring his work.

Osho narrates a story about Kafka, “Let this truth go as deep In you as possible: that life is already here, arrived. You are standing on the goal. Don’t ask about the path.

In Franz Kafka there is a parable; It looks like zen, almost zen. Kafka says, ‘I was staying in a strange town. I was a new arrival there, and I had to catch a train early in the morning. But when I got up and looked at my watch, I was already late so I started running. When I came to the tower and looked at the tower-clock I became even more afraid that I would miss my train, because my watch was itself late. So I started running… not knowing the path, not knowing the way… and the streets were clean and deserted. It was early in the morning, a cold winter morning, and I couldn’t see anybody.

Then suddenly I saw a policeman. Hope came into me. I went to the policeman and I asked about the way, and the policeman said, “The way? Why are you asking me?”

And I said to him, “I am a stranger in this town and I don’t know the way, that’s why. Please show me the way, and don’t waste time — I am already late and I will miss the train, and it is important to catch the train.

The policeman laughed and he said, “Who can show the way to anybody else?”

The policeman said this, and he waved a hand and moved away smiling.’

Here ends the parable. It looks exactly zen. In the West they think this is surrealistic, absurd. It is not. Of course from a policeman it looks more absurd than from a zen master, but sometimes policemen can be zen masters.

Who can show you the way? — because basically the way does not exist.

You are always on the goal. Wherever you are is the goal. The way does not exist.”

Osho Says….


This has been asked by Swami Prem Dhyan. When he came just six months before, he was one of the most miserable persons I have ever come across. And it has been a miracle! He has changed totally! Now I can say just the opposite, ‘He is one of the most happy persons around here.’ These two questions are natural because now he is going to leave, he will be going back home. The fear arises. Will he be able to keep this happiness that has happened to him? The future…. And the second question: he feels sorry for all those years that he lived but did not really live, that he missed. He could have lived those years as happy as he is now. The past….

These are the two dangers to be alert about. Whenever you become tremendously happy immediately mind starts spinning its web. And two are the methods of the mind, because mind exists either with the past or with the future. It immediately says, ‘Look, you could have been so happy your whole life.’ Now the mind is distracting you.

Say to the mind, ‘What does it matter? Those twenty years, or thirty years, or fifty years, are gone. Whether I lived them happily or unhappily, they are gone — it makes no difference.’ In the morning, when you awake, what difference does it make that you dreamed a very sweet dream or that it was a nightmare? What difference does it make? When you awake in the morning both were dreams. And the night is over and you are no more asleep. When the mind says, ‘Look, you could have been this happy always,’ the mind is creating an absurd desire. You cannot go back, you cannot do anything about the past, the past is gone and gone forever, irreversibly gone. Just think, even if you had been happy all those fifteen years, what difference does it make now? Whether happy or unhappy, it is just a memory. In fact, whether your past existed or not, what difference does it make now?

Bertrand Russell has written somewhere that sometimes he starts brooding about whether the past really existed or whether he simply imagines that it existed; were you a child really or did you simply dream about being a child? How can you differentiate now? Both are in the memory — whether you dreamed about it or whether you lived it, both are part of memory and there is no way to differentiate. The past is in the memory — real, unreal, both. And psychologists say that when people say something about their past, don’t trust them, because in their past many imaginations and dreams have mingled and mixed. Their past is not factual. And there is no way now because everything is contained only in the memory. Whether you were really living it or you had just dreamed it, both have mixed and melted into each other.

Past is just memory but the mind can create great trouble, and by creating that fuss it will deprive you of the happiness that is available right now. You just say to the mind, ‘I am finished with the past and I don’t care a bit whether it was happy or unhappy, it is gone and gone forever. Now is the only moment.’

If you don’t listen to this trap then the mind has another trap for you. It will say, ‘Okay, the past is gone but the future — what about the future? At least you can manage the future. It has yet to happen. You can plan for it. And this beautiful space in which you are now, won’t you like it to be there forever and ever?’ Again the desire will arise. Don’t say yes to it because again it will lead you away from the present. And happiness is always herenow. Happiness is something that belongs to the present.

Now say to the mind, ‘I am not worried about the future at all because if I can be happy now, this moment, I can be happy forever because the future never comes as future, it always comes as the present. And now I know the secret of being happy in the present so why bother about the future? Tomorrow will not come as tomorrow, it will come as today. And I have the key to open the door. At least this moment I am happy and I know how to be happy in this moment. All moments that will come will come always like this moment.’ Have you watched? There is no difference between one moment and another moment. Time is completely beyond discrimination. It is always pure now.

So beware. These are the two traps of the mind. Mind cannot live without misery so mind is trying to create misery so it can disturb your peace. Then it will be perfectly happy. Once you start feeling sorry for your past — it does not matter for what you feel sorry — if you feel sorry, you start getting sad, depressed. And once you start getting too concerned about the future, you become full of desire, tense — worried whether you will be able to manage or not, whether you will be able to perform or not. Between these two rocks the fragile moment of the present is crushed. So you have to be very alert. When one is unhappy one can remain without alertness — one has nothing to lose. When one is happy, one has to be very careful and cautious — now one has a treasure to lose. And it can be lost within a second, within a split second. One step wrong and it can be lost. And these are the two directions in which you can lose your treasure.

A person who is poor, a beggar, need not be worried that he can be robbed. But a person who has treasures has to be very cautious. When Buddha walked so cautiously, why was he walking so cautiously? He had something, something tremendously fragile which could be dropped in any moment of unawareness and be lost.

There is a Zen story. A king in Japan used to visit his capital every night. He became aware that a beggar was always sitting alert under his tree; he never found him asleep. The king went at different times but he was alert the whole night, just sitting there, completely immobile, with his eyes open.

Out of curiosity he asked the beggar, ‘What are you being so cautious for? For what are you guarding? I can’t see that you have anything that could be stolen or that anybody could cheat you. Why do you go on sitting like that and watching?’

The beggar laughed and he said, ‘Sir, as far as I am concerned I would like to ask you the same question. Why so many guards? Why so much army around the palace? I don’t see that you have anything to be guarded. I have never seen a bigger beggar than you. You are completely empty, I can see through and through you. I don’t see any treasure there. What are you creating so much fuss about? As far as I am concerned, I have a treasure and I have to be alert about it. A single moment of unconsciousness and it can be lost.’

And the beggar said, ‘Look into my eyes, because my treasure is hidden within me.’

And it is said that the king looked into the eyes of the beggar, entered into his eyes and was completely lost. It was a tremendously luminous space. He became a disciple to this beggar.

This beggar was a Zen Master and the king had been in search for many years and he had been to many Masters but he could never feel the vibe of the unknown. With this beggar he could feel it almost crystallized in front of his eyes, he could touch it. Something Divine had happened to this man.

So when you have a little treasure to guard, guard it. Now these two will be the thieves — the past and the future. You be alert. Nothing else is needed, just alertness. Just shake yourself out of sleep. Whenever you start falling into the trap, give yourself a jerk and remember.

I would like to tell you one of the most beautiful parables that has been written down the centuries. Parables have almost disappeared from the world because those beautiful people — Jesus, Buddha, who created many parables — have disappeared.

A parable is not an ordinary story, a parable is a device — a device to say something which cannot ordinarily be said, a device to hint at something which can be hinted at only very indirectly. This parable is written in this age; a very rare man, Franz Kafka, has written it. He was really a rare man. He struggled hard not to write because, he said, what he wanted to write could not be written. So he struggled hard but he could not control the temptation to write, so he wrote.

And he wrote in one of his diaries, ‘I am writing because it is difficult not to write, and knowing well that it is difficult also to write. Seeing no way out of it, I am writing.’ And when he died, he left a will in the name of one of his friends to say, ‘Please burn everything that I have written — my diaries, my stories, my parables, my sketches, my notes. And burn them without reading them. Because this is the only way that I can get rid of that constant anxiety that I have been trying to say something which cannot be said. And I could not resist so I have written. Now this is the only way. I have written it because I could not control myself. I had to write knowing well that it could not be written, so now, without reading it, destroy, burn everything utterly. Nothing should be left.’ But the friend could not do it. And it is good that he did not.

This is one of Kafka’s parables. Listen to it, meditate over it. I gave order for my horse to be brought from the stable. The servant did not understand me. I myself went to the stable, saddled my horse and mounted. In the distance I heard a bugle call. I asked him what this meant. He knew nothing and had heard nothing.

At the gate he stopped me, asking, ‘Where are you riding to, Master?’

‘I don’t know,’ I said, ‘only away from here. Away from here, always away from here. Only by doing so can I reach my destination.’

‘And so you know your destination?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ I answered. ‘Did not I say so? Away from here — that’s my destination.’

‘You have no provisions with you, ‘ he said.

‘I need none,’ I said. ‘The journey is so long that I must die of hunger if I don’t get anything along the way. No provisions can save me because the journey is so long, I cannot carry enough provisions for it. No provisions can save me because it is, fortunately, a truly immense journey.’

Now this is the parable. ‘The destination,’ he says, ‘is away from here. Away from here is my destination.’ That’s how the whole world is moving: away from here, away from now. You don’t know where you are going but one thing is certain — you are going away from here, away from now. The parable says it is an immense journey. It is really endless because you can never reach away from here. How can you reach ‘away from here’? Wherever you will reach, it will be here. And again you will be trying to go away from here. There is no way to reach this destination. If away from here is the destiny then there is no way to reach it. And we are all escaping away from here.

Watch. Don’t allow this parable to become your life. Ordinarily everybody is doing this — knowingly, unknowingly.

Start moving into the here, start moving into the now. And then there is tremendous happiness — so much so that it starts overflowing from you. Not only YOU delight in it, it starts overflowing, it starts becoming your climate, it becomes like a cloud around you. So whoever comes close to you becomes full of it. Even others will start partaking of it, participating in it. And the more you have, the more you will be drowning into the herenow. Then a moment comes when you don’t have any space left for yourself — only happiness exists; you disappear. But of two things — the past and the future — be alert.

And now, Prem Dhyan, you have something to lose — you are fortunate because you have something to lose. And you have a tremendous responsibility not to lose it. The mind will go on trying its ways for a time being. When you become so alert that the mind cannot penetrate you and cannot disturb and distract you, then by and by the mind starts dropping. Then one day it understands well that now there is no way with you — so it leaves you. Then it stops haunting you. That day will also come. As you could not believe before that this happiness was possible, you may not be able to believe what I am saying now. The day will also come when there will be no distraction.

Then again you will have to be even more alert because you will start crying, ‘Why did I waste so many years with this distraction?’ And then you will become again concerned with the future. Many times you will come to face this past and future in many, many different ways. It is like a person going to the peak of a hill — he moves round and round the hill, the path moves round and round, and many times you come to the same view, to the same place. A little higher, but the same place — the same trees, the same sky. Again and again, many times before you reach to the peak, you come to the same point — a little higher of course, but the same point, again and again. Many times you will come again and again to this same distraction of past and future. This is just the beginning. But one day one reaches the peak and when one reaches the peak, all becomes available simultaneously: the valley, the sky, the clouds, the height, the depth — everything becomes available. That’s what enlightenment is.


This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune. 

Discourse Series: Dang Dang Doko Dang

Chapter #10

Chapter title: Lady You Need Love!

20 June 1976 am in Buddha Hall


Osho has also spoken of eminent writers like Fyodor Dostoevsky, John Milton, Leo Tolstoy, Byron, Shakespeare, Kalidasa, John Ruskin, Kahlil Gibran, Oscar Wilde, Rabindranath Tagore and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. Come, Come, Yet Again Come
  2. The Transmission of the Lamp
  3. The Book of Wisdom
  4. The Dhammapada: the way of the Buddha Vol. 1, 3, 7, 9, 10, 12
  5. The Discipline of Transcendence Vol. 1, 2, 3
  6. The Last Testament Vol. 1, 3, 5
  7. The Messiah Vol. 1, 2
  8. The Art of Dying
  9. The Fish in The Sea Is Not Thirsty
  10. Light on the Path
  11. The Secret
  12. The Hidden Splendour
  13. The New Dawn
  14. Beyond Enlightenment
  15. The Golden Future
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