Zen: A Discipline

Osho on Zen

GOD HAS A TREMENDOUS SENSE OF HUMOR! Religion remains something dead without a sense of humor as a foundation to it. God would not have been able to create the world if he had no sense of humor. God is not serious at all. Seriousness is a state of disease; humor is health. Love, laughter, life, they are aspects of the same energy.

But for centuries people have been told that God is very serious. These people were pathological. They created a serious God, they projected a serious God, out of their own pathology. And we have worshipped these people as saints. They were not saints. They needed great awakening; they were fast asleep in their seriousness. They needed laughter — that would have helped them more than all their prayers and fasting; that would have cleansed their souls in a far better way than all their ascetic practices. They did not need more scriptures, more theologies; they needed only the capacity to laugh at the beautiful absurdity of life. It is ecstatically absurd. It is not a rational phenomenon; it is utterly irrational.

Moses went up the mountain. After a long time God appeared. “Hello, Moses. Good to see you. Sorry you had to wait, but I think you will feel it was worth it because I have something very special for you today.”

Moses thought for a second and then said, “Oh, no, Lord, really. Thank you, but I don’t need anything right now. Some other time perhaps.”

“Moses, this is free,” said the Lord.
“Then,” said Moses, “give me ten!”
That’s how the Jews got the Ten Commandments.

Sujata, Zen has something Jewish in it. It is really very puzzling why Zen did not appear in the Jewish world. But the Chinese also have a tremendous sense of humor. Zen is not Indian, remember. Of course, the origin is in Gautam the Buddha, but it went through a tremendous transformation passing through the Chinese consciousness.

There are a few very wise people who think that Zen is more a rebellion against the Indian seriousness than a continuity of it. And they have a point there; a certain truth is there. Lao Tzu is more Jewish than Hindu — he can laugh. Chuang Tzu has written such beautiful and absurd stories; nobody can conceive of an enlightened person writing such stories, which can only be called, at the best, entertainment. But entertainment can become the door to enlightenment.

Zen is originally connected with Buddha, but the color and the flavor that came to it came through Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Lieh Tzu and the Chinese consciousness. And then it blossomed in Japan; it came to its ultimate peak in japan. Japan also has a great quality: of taking life playfully. The consciousness of Japan is very colorful.

Zen could have happened in the Jewish world too. Something like it really DID happen — that is Hassidism. This story must have come from Jewish sources, although it is about Jesus. But Christians have no sense of humor. And Jesus was never a Christian, remember. He was born a Jew, he lived as a Jew, he died as a Jew.

Jesus is hanging on the cross singing, “Da-di-li-da-dum-dein….”
Suddenly Peter hisses from underneath, “Hey, Jesus!”
Jesus goes on, “Da-di-dum-da-dum-da-dei….”
Peter, now more urgently, “Hey, Jesus, stop it!”
Jesus continues happily with “Di-duah-duah….”
Finally Peter yells, “For God’s sake, Jesus, cut it out! Tourists are coming!”

Try to understand Zen through laughter, not through prayer. Try to understand Zen through flowers, butterflies, sun, moon, children, people in all their absurdities. Watch this whole panorama of life, all these colors, the whole spectrum. Zen is not a doctrine, it is not a dogma. It is growing into an insight. It is a vision — very light-hearted, not serious at all. Be light-hearted, light-footed. Be of light step. Don’t carry religion like a burden. And don’t expect religion to be a teaching; it is not. It is certainly a discipline, but not a teaching at all. Teaching has to be imposed upon you from the outside and teaching can only reach to your mind, never to your heart, and never, never to the very center of your being. Teaching remains intellectual. It is an answer to human curiosity, and curiosity is not a true search.

The student remains outside the temple of Zen because he remains curious. He wants to know answers and there are none. He has some stupid questions to be answered: “Who made the world? Why did he make the world?” And so on and so forth. “How many heavens are there and how many hells? And how many angels can dance on the point of a needle? And is the world infinite or finite? Are there many lives or only one?” These are all curiosities — good for a student of philosophy but not good for a disciple. A disciple has to drop curiosity. Curiosity is something very superficial. Even if those questions are answered, nothing will have happened to your being; you will remain the same. Yes, you will have more information, and out of that information you will create new questions. Each question answered brings ten more new questions; the answer creates ten more new questions.

If somebody says, “God created the world,” then the question is, “Why did he create the world? And why a world like this? — so miserable. If he is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, could he not see what he was doing? Why did he create pain, disease, death?” Now, so many questions….

Philosophy is an exercise in futility. A student comes out of curiosity. Unless he becomes a disciple he will not become aware that curiosity is a vicious circle. You ask one question, you are given the answer, the answer brings ten more new questions, and so on and so forth. And the tree becomes bigger and bigger; thicker and thicker is the foliage. And finally the philosopher has only questions and no answers at all. Surrounded by all those stupid questions…stupid I call them because they have no answers; stupid I call them because they are born out of childish curiosity. When one is surrounded by all those questions and there is no answer, one loses sharpness, one loses clarity, one is clouded. And one is no more intelligent. The more intellectual one becomes, the less intelligent he is.

The professor who had committed his wife to a mental institution was talking to the chief of staff. “How will we know when my wife is well again, doctor?”

“We have a simple test we give all our patients,” he replied. “We put a hose into a trough, turn on the water, give the patient a bucket, and tell him to empty out the trough.”

“What does that prove?” inquired the professor.

“Elementary, sir,” the doctor assured him. “Any sane person will turn off the hose.”

“Isn’t science wonderful!” he replied. “I never would have thought of that!”

He must be a professor of philosophy; he can’t be less than that. The professor only knows questions. He is lost in the jungle of questions. The philosopher remains immature.

Maturity is of consciousness, not of intellectuality. It is not of knowledge, it is of innocence.

Yes: NOT TO KNOW IS THE MOST INTIMATE. And to function out of that not-knowing is to function in an enlightened way. To respond out of not-knowing is to respond like a Buddha. That is true response because it is not clouded, not distorted, not contaminated, not polluted and poisoned by your mind and your past. It is fresh, it is young, it is new. It arises to the challenge of the present. It is always in synchronicity with the new, with the present. And the present is always new, it is always moving — it is dynamic. All your answers are static, and life is dynamic. HENCE

ZEN IS NOT INTERESTED IN ANSWERS — or in questions. It is not interested in teaching at all. It is not a philosophy; it is a totally different way of looking at things, at life, at existence, at oneself, at others. Yes, it is a discipline. Discipline simply means a methodology of becoming more centered, of becoming more alert, of becoming more aware, of bringing more meditativeness to your being; not functioning through the head, not even through the heart, but functioning from the very core of your being, from the very innermost core, from the center of your being, from your totality. It is not a reaction — reaction comes from the past — it is a response. Response is always IN the present, TO the present. Zen gives you a discipline to become a mirror so that you can reflect that which is. All that is needed is a thoughtless awareness.

The first thing to be dropped is curiosity, because curiosity will keep you tethered to the futile. It will keep you being a student; it will never allow you to become a disciple.

Boris, who was from Russia, had been in America only a few months. He did not speak English very well.

One day he was asked, “Boris, what is it that you are most anxious to see in America?”

“Well,” replied Boris, “I weesh most to meet the most famous Mrs. Beech, who had so many sons in the last war.”

Get it? He must have heard all the Americans calling each other “sonofabitch, sonofabitch…” so he is very much interested, anxious, curious, to know about Mrs. Beech, the famous Mrs. Beech.

Curiosity is always like that. It is foolish, but it can keep you tethered to the mind. And don’t think that there is some curiosity which is spiritual, metaphysical. No, nothing like that exists; all curiosity is the same. Whether you inquire about “the famous Mrs. Beech” or you inquire about God it is all the same. Inquiry from the mind will have the same quality — of childishness.

There is a totally different kind of esquire that arises from the deeper recesses of your being.

Zen is interested in discipline, not in teaching. It wants you to be more alert so you can see more clearly. It does not give you the answer; it gives you the eyes to see. What is the use of telling a blind man what light is and all the theories about light? It is futile. You are simply being stupid by answering the curiosity of a blind man. What is urgently needed is treatment of his eyes. He needs an operation, he needs new eyes, he needs medicine. That is discipline.

Buddha has said: “I am a physician, not a philosopher.” And

Zen is absolutely a treatment. It is the greatest treatment that has come to humanity, out of the work of thousands of enlightened people — very refined. It can help to open up your eyes. It can help you to feel again, to be sensitive to the reality. It can give you eyes and ears. It can give you a soul. But it is not interested in answers.


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

Discourse Series: Ah, This!
Chapter #5
Chapter title: See Right at Once
7 January 1980 am in Buddha Hall


Osho has spoken on ‘Zen’ in many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. Rinzai: Master of the Irrational
  2. The Buddha: The Emptiness of the Heart
  3. Communism and Zen Fire, Zen Wind
  4. The First Principle
  5. Dang Dang Doko Dang
  6. The Grass Grows By Itself
  7. Live Zen
  8. The Miracle
  9. Take It Easy, Vol 1
  10. This, This, A Thousand Times This: The Very Essence of Zen
  11. Walking in Zen, Sitting in Zen
  12. The Zen Manifesto: Freedom From Oneself
  13. Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol 1
  14. Zen: The Solitary Bird, Cuckoo of the Forest
  15. Zen: The Quantum Leap From Mind to No-Mind

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