Birthday of Helen Keller
Helen Adams Keller was an American author, disability rights advocate, political activist and lecturer. Born in West Tuscumbia, Alabama, she lost her sight and hearing after a bout of illness at the age of nineteen months. She then communicated primarily using home signs until the age of seven, then she met her first teacher and life-long companion Anne Sullivan, who taught her language, including reading and writing.
Keller was a prolific author, writing 14 books and hundreds of speeches and essays on topics ranging from animals to Mahatma Gandhi. The Story of My Life is the autobiography of Helen Keller. She campaigned for those with disabilities, for women’s suffrage, labor rights, and world peace.
When Keller was young, Anne Sullivan introduced her to Phillips Brooks, who introduced her to Christianity, Keller famously saying: “I always knew He was there, but I didn’t know His name.”
I NEVER DID GET TURNED ON BY CLASSICAL MUSIC, AND ART GALLERIES BORED ME SILLY. SO, IS IT POSSIBLE TO GO FROM THE FIRST LAYER, THE HEAD, TO THE THIRD LAYER, THE CENTER, AND SORT OF BYPASS ALL THIS AESTHETIC GARBAGE?
Nirgun, yes, it is true: in the name of aesthetics, there is much garbage. But
when I use the word ‘aesthetics’ I don’t mean the garbage collected in the museums and art galleries. When I use the word ‘aesthetics’ I mean a quality in you. It has nothing to do with objects — paintings, music, poetry — it has something to do with a quality in your being, a sensitivity, a love for beauty, a sensitivity for the texture and taste of things, for the eternal dance that goes on all around, an awareness of it, a silence to hear this cuckoo calling from the distance…It is not garbage: it is the very core of existence.
But I can understand that you must be getting bored with the so-called classical music and paintings collected in the art galleries. And you must be a little bit puzzled why people go on talking so much about all this nonsense.
Aesthetics is just an artistic approach towards life, a poetic vision. Seeing colors so totally that each tree becomes a painting, that each cloud brings the presence of God, that colors are more colorful, that you don’t go on ignoring the radiance of things, that you remain alert, aware, loving, that you remain receptive, welcoming, open. That’s what I mean by the aesthetic attitude, the aesthetic approach. Music has to be in your heart, your very being has to be musical, it has to become a harmony. A man can exist as a chaos or as a cosmos. Music is the way from chaos to cosmos.
A man can exist as a disorder, a discord, just noise, a market place, or a man can exist as a temple, a sacred silence, where celestial music is heard on its own, uncreated music is heard on its own. The Zen people call it the sound of one hand clapping. In India, for centuries mystics have been talking about anahat nad — the unstruck sound. It is there in your very being; you need not go anywhere to listen to it. It is the ancient most music, and the latest too. It is both the oldest and the newest. And it is the music of your own being, the hum of your own existence. And if you can’t hear it, you are deaf.
And there is no way, Nirgun, to bypass it. Museums you can bypass, art galleries you can bypass — in fact, you should bypass them. You need not be worried about art and art criticism — forget all about it. But you have to become an artist of life itself. I say Buddha is a poet, although he never composed a single poem. Still I insist that he is one of the greatest poets who has ever lived. He was not a Shakespeare, a Milton, a Kalidas, a Rabindranath — no, not at all. But still I say: Shakespeare, Milton, Kalidas, Rabindranath, are nothing compared to his poetry. His life was his poetry — the way he walked, the way he looked at things….
Just the other night I came across one of the most beautiful statements of Saint Teresa of Avila. She says: All that you need is to look. Her whole message is contained in this simple statement: All that you need is to look. The capacity to look — and you will find God. The capacity to hear — and you will find his music. The capacity to touch — and every texture becomes his texture. Touch the rock and you find God.
It is not a question of objects of art: it is a question of an inner approach, a vision — of seeing things artistically. And, Nirgun, you have that quality! In fact, because of that quality you were bored by classical music and you were bored by galleries — because in an unconscious way, in a groping way, you feel something far superior inside you. But you are not yet fully aware of it.
Bypass the art galleries and you will not be losing anything. But you cannot bypass the aesthetic layer of your being: you have to go through it. Otherwise you will always remain impoverished; something will be missing, something of immense value. Your enlightenment will never be total. A part of your being will remain unenlightened; a corner of your soul will remain dark — and that corner will remain heavy on you. One has to become totally enlightened. Nothing should be bypassed, no shortcuts are to be invented. One has to move very naturally through all the layers, because all those layers are opportunities to grow.
Remember it: whenever I use the words ‘music’ or ‘poetry’ or ‘painting’ or ‘sculpture’, I have my own meaning.
When Helen Keller, the blind woman, came to India, she visited Jawaharlal Nehru. She was blind, deaf. She touched Nehru’s face; with both her hands she felt Nehru’s face, and she was immensely delighted. She expressed her great joy. She stated, “I have felt the same quality in Nehru’s face as I felt when I touched beautiful Roman statues — the same coolness and the same proportion and the same form.”
Now this woman has a heart of a sculptor — blind, deaf, but she has the genius of a great artist. Because she was deaf and blind, she had to find new ways to feel life. And sometimes curses prove blessings. She would touch water, she would feel its coolness, its flow, its life, its vibe.
You will never feel it, because you can see the water; you can say, “What is there?” Because she could not see, she could only feel the texture of a rock…you can see and you will miss — you will not feel the texture of it.
Sometimes it is tremendously significant to close your eyes and just touch the rock, and feel as if you are blind and you have only hands and you have to use the hands as your eyes. And you will be surprised — you are in for a surprise. For the first time you will see that the texture has its own dimension. Because she had no eyes and no ears, her sense of smell was just at the optimum. She could feel the perfume of things, of people. She could discriminate between one tree and another tree just by the fragrance of it. She could even distinguish persons just by their smell. Now she is as aesthetic as any Picasso, Dali, Van Gogh — or even more so…
So, Nirgun, you can avoid the art galleries, you can bypass Picassos, but you cannot bypass the aesthetic layer of your being. You cannot bypass the aesthetic dimension; otherwise you will remain impoverished, lopsided, something will be missing in you. And I would not like anything to be missing in my sannyasins. They have to be as scientific as possible. I don’t mean — again remember — that you have to become a physicist or a chemist or a biologist or a physiologist. I don’t mean that! When I say you have to be a scientist, I mean you have to be scientific — it is a metaphor. Always remember: I am talking in metaphors and similes and parables. You have to be scientific. To approach the world, the objective world, rightly, the only way is science. If the Bible says that the earth is not round but flat, don’t believe in it — be scientific. The earth is round and not flat. The Bible has no right to say anything about something objective. The Bible is a religious book; it has its own dimension. Don’t confuse these dimensions…
I would like you to be scientific — as far as the world is concerned, be scientific. As far as your inner reality is concerned, be religious. And there is a world between the two, the world of in-between, the twilight world, where the objective and the subjective meet. That is the world of aesthetics. About that, be an artist, be a poet, be a musician. All these dimensions fulfilled and you will become spiritual; all these dimensions enriched will make you the fourth man, the spiritual man. My sannyasins have to be the fourth — integrated, whole. Nothing has to be bypassed, Nirgun. Everything has to be lived, loved, experienced. Everything has to be absorbed, so that you become as rich as it is possible to become.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 1
Chapter title: The beginning of a new phase
28 June 1979 am in Buddha Hall
Osho has spoken extensively on ‘art, poetry, music, dance, painting’ and people of aesthetics like Picasso, Michael Angelo, Salvador Dali, Van Gogh, Byron, Bhavabhuti, Coleridge, Dinkar, D.H. Lawrence, Kalidas, Kahlil Gibran, Keats, Omar Khayyam, Milton, Yeats, Shelley, Rabindranath Tagore and many more in the course of His talks. More on this subject can be referred to in the following books/discourse titles: