When thinking ceases, then I am
Osho on French Philosopher Rene Descartes
René Descartes (1596–1650) was a creative mathematician of the first order, an important
scientific thinker, and an original metaphysician. During the course of his life, he was a
mathematician first, a natural scientist or “natural philosopher” second, and a metaphysician
third. Descartes’ influence in mathematics was great; the Cartesian coordinate
system was named after him. He is credited as the father of analytic geometry, the bridge
between algebra and geometry—used in the discovery of infinitesimal calculus and analysis.
Descartes has often been called the father of modern philosophy, and is largely seen as
responsible for the increased attention given to epistemology. Descartes’ Meditations on
First Philosophy (1641) continues to be a standard text at most university philosophy
departments. It was the 17th-century arch-rationalists like Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz
who have given the “Age of Reason” its name and place in history. Leibniz, Spinoza and
Descartes were all well-versed in mathematics as well as philosophy, and Descartes and
Leibniz contributed greatly to science as well. Descartes was also one of the key figures in
the Scientific Revolution.
Osho talks about Descartes and says, “There is a famous dictum of a western philosopher, Rene Descartes: COGITO ERGO SUM – I think, therefore I am. This is absurd: I THINK. therefore I am? It shows that thinking is primary and being is secondary — I think, therefore I am. Thinking is secondary. being is first. First you are, then you think. If you are not, then who is going to think? Thinking cannot exist in a vacuum. If somebody says, “I am, therefore I think”, it is right. But to say “I think, therefore I am” is simply absurd. But still there is a meaning to it: Descartes is the father of western philosophy, and the whole western mind has been influenced by two persons – Aristotle and Descartes. So in the west everything goes through thinking; EVEN BEING GOES THROUGH THINKING. Even being is not a simple fact; you have to think about it first, then you are — as if it is a logical conclusion. It is existential, it is not logical.
So first stop thinking that you are a man or woman. Just know it. Knowing is direct. Somebody else can be in suspicion, but you should not be in suspicion. Somebody else can think about whether you are a man or a woman — and if you live in hippie style, sometimes it can be very difficult… If others are in suspicion as to whether you are a he or a she, it is okay. But you yourself? — then the doubt has entered very deep and has become a disease. Drop that.”
YOU SAID THAT THE MASTER IS LIKE THE SKY; HE APPEARS TO BE, BUT HE IS NOT.
I THINK I AM, THEREFORE I AM. IS THIS THE ONLY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ENLIGHTENMENT AND UNENLIGHTENMENT?
It is one of the most significant differences.
In the Western philosophy there are few names which are more important than the name of Descartes. Descartes’ whole philosophy is based on the single statement, “I think, therefore I am.” But it is obviously very childish because you are not thinking constantly, still you are; you are not thinking while you are asleep, still you are; you may be in a coma, you are not thinking, still you are. “I think I am, therefore I am.” Thinking seems to be the most significant part. It is a conclusion of thinking that “I am,” but when you are not thinking, what happens? In meditation there will be no thinking. And those who have meditated for thousands of years, their experience has to be compared. They say, “When thinking ceases, then I am”, just the opposite of Descartes — because thinking is a disturbance. And when you are engaged with thoughts, you are engaged with something objective, and you are not an object. When all thoughts have disappeared and you are sitting silently doing nothing, the East says, “For the first time you know you are — because now there is no object to distract your consciousness. Your whole consciousness is settled at the center, in the heart.”
And it is not a conclusion; it is not “therefore…” What Descartes is saying is “my existence is a logical conclusion: I think, therefore I am.” It is not an existential experience, it is a logical conclusion. The East says, “When there is no thought, you experience that you are.” There is no question of “therefore…” Descartes can be refuted because it is only a logical conclusion. It is so simple to refute him, and he has become the father figure of Western philosophy! It is so simple to refute him because when you are asleep, you are — and you are not thinking. Even when you are just going for a walk, you are not thinking. If Descartes is right, then a person will be in a continuous trouble; he will have to think continuously, “I am thinking,” to keep himself alive. The moment he forgets thinking, he is finished.
It would be rather more mature to say, “I am, therefore I think. I am, therefore I dream. I am, therefore I meditate.” Then every possibility is open. Then you can do many things, everything: “I am, therefore I am silent.” I can be simply in my amness, doing nothing. There is no need for anything to prove it; my existence is self-evident. That’s what Descartes is missing. He’s trying to prove one’s self.
It reminds me of a Sufi story I have told many times to you, but those stories are such that they have so many aspects, so many implications.
Mulla Nasruddin is sitting in the coffee house and bragging as ever about everything — that there is nobody as generous as he is. Somebody said, “Mulla, we go on tolerating your bragging about everything, but about this generosity — we have never seen any proof of it. For years we are friends. You have been drinking coffee, and you have never even paid the bill, other friends are paying. We have invited you many times to our houses for dinner; you have never invited us even once. Even a miser would have thought of it. And still you have some nerve: `I am the most generous man in this city.'”
He said, “Then come on, all of you, the whole coffee house — everybody is coming for dinner at my house. Close the coffee house. The owner, the servants, everybody is coming.” A procession of about fifty or sixty people went towards Mulla Nasruddin’s house. And he was just ahead, going along with strong willpower. And as he was coming close to home, he started staggering a little. He hesitated.
Just in front of the house he said to the people, “Listen, please. You are all married and you know… I have also got a wife. In the morning she sent me to purchase vegetables, and I have not returned home. The whole day I have been gossiping here and there. I have eaten with friends, and then I was in the coffee house with you. I had completely forgotten about the vegetables. And she must be angry. And you know I am a simple man. And now seeing that sixty persons are invited for dinner — and in the house, I tell you truly, there is nothing. So you just wait. First let me go in, so that I can console her. And then I will take you in. Just a few minutes… be kind.”
They said, “We understand wives. You go in. It is perfectly right. In front of sixty people, getting insulted is not good. You go alone and first settle with your wife. We are waiting.”
He closed the door, went in, and told the wife, “The whole coffee house has come, they were so insistent, for dinner. And you know that we are poor people. And I have not even brought the necessary things that you had asked, because I had no money. How can you manage? So I have thought of a way. You simply go and ask them, `Why are you waiting here? What are you doing here?’ And don’t be afraid.”
The wife said, “But they will say that you have invited them for dinner.”
He said, “You forget about it. You simply say that I am not in the house.”
The wife said, “But they have seen you — they have come with you, and they have seen you enter in the house. They are sitting on the steps, and you entered the house and closed the doors.”
Mulla Nasruddin said, “You don’t be worried. You just do what I am saying. You simply insist that I am not in the house; since the morning nothing has been heard about me.”
The wife said, “If that is the only way, I will go.” And she also had to agree; otherwise, from where to produce a dinner for sixty people? And she said, “I will see you later on. First I will go and finish with them.”
She opened the door and asked really strongly, “What are you doing here? Who are you?”
They said, “We are Mulla Nasruddin’s friends.”
She said, “Whoever you are, your friend has not turned up at home the whole day. From the morning he has been missing. Go and find out where he is.”
They said, “This is too much. He came with us. He told us to wait here, and went in just to make a settlement with you about the dinner.”
She said, “Nobody has come in.”
But they said, “We are not leaving like this, because that man goes on bragging about everything, and this is too much. We had to close the coffee house. He had brought us here. And now this is insulting. We will go inside the house and search for him.” The poor woman could not think what to do, because they were too many, and she could not prevent sixty people.
Mulla Nasruddin was hiding upstairs, looking from a small window at what was happening there. And when he saw that “those idiots are coming in the house to search for me, and they are going to find me,” he opened the window and shouted, “Listen! He may have come with you, but he could have gone from the back door.” He himself is saying it! “And don’t you feel ashamed? — arguing with a poor woman whose husband has not come home since the morning? You should feel ashamed! And it is simple logic. He may have entered through the door. You may be right. And who knows whether you are right or wrong? For argument’s sake, you may be right that he entered into the house, but there is a back door; he may have gone back out again. Find him.” Those sixty people looked at each other, “What kind of man is this? He himself is saying `I am not in the house.'”
Descartes perhaps never came to know the Sufi story. He is also doing the same, saying the same thing. He is saying you have to prove that you are in the house. And he is trying to prove “I think, therefore I am”. “I am” is secondary; thinking is primary. Thinking is a proof. But he does not know that the whole East has been making the effort not to think. And thousands of people have succeeded in coming to the state where thinking disappears. And their experience is that when thinking disappears, only then you are. Before that it was illusory: You had not really tasted your existence; you had seen yourself as if in a mirror, a reflection.
If you ask me, I will say: “I am, because there is no thinking. I am, only when there is no thinking.” Thinking is a barrier, not a proof.
But the Western philosophy is a process of thinking, and the Eastern way is a process of getting free of thinking. They have moved in diametrically opposite directions. The West has produced great thinkers, but not a single Buddha. And thinkers who are great — Immanuel Kant, Hegel, or Descartes — if you look at their lives, you will find them just like you — no peace, no silence, no compassion, no sensitivity, no awareness. Nothing of the essential has happened to them. They are great thinkers, but they are not great beings. In the East they have been trying to get rid of thinking, so that the being can have all the scope, the whole space. Gautam Buddha may not be a great thinker, but he is a great being.
And who cares about thinking? It is like thinking about food — you are a great thinker about food — but you are sitting hungry. And somebody has eaten delicious food and does not think at all about food. Why should he think about it? The essential thing is not thinking about food, but eating food. These great philosophers have been thinking about love, but they have not loved; they have been thinking about peace, but they are as angry as anybody else, as violent as anybody else; they have been thinking about silence, but they don’t know any taste of it… they have had many thoughts about it. So
one thing has to be remembered: Thinking about something is one thing; and to be that which you have been thinking about, is quite another. And that is the real thing: to be.
So I would like you to remember — forget Descartes — never to make your existence secondary to any logical argument. It is self evident. It needs no proof, for or against. And it reveals itself totally when there are no thoughts, no emotions, no feelings –
when the whole inner sky is absolutely empty of all the junk and furniture that you call thinking. In that silence, in that serenity, you become a shrine, you become holy. For the first time you know your godliness.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho.
Discourse series: The Transmission of the Lamp
Chapter title: Go on, go on!
8 June 1986 pm in Punta Del Este, Uruguay.
Osho has spoken on 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 many of His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
1. The Hidden Splendour
2. The New Dawn
3. This, This, A Thousand Times This: The Very Essence of Zen
4. Nirvana: The Last Nightmare
5. Beyond Enlightenment
6. Beyond Psychology
7. Light on The Path
8. The Dhammapada
9. From Bondage to Freedom
10. From Darkness to Light
11. From Ignorance to Innocence
12. The Secret of Secrets, Vol 1
13. From Personality to Individuality
14. I Celebrate Myself: God Is No Where, Life Is Now Here
15. Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol 1
16. From Unconciousness to Consciousness
17. Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega, Vol 4