Zen is Pure Essence


the deeper I look into Zen, the more things become crystal clear. One thing is its absolute uniqueness in the world of religions. In comparison to Zen, all the religions look like entertainment. Formal rituals, social conditionings — Zen goes through them like a sword cutting all the ropes that bind you. It has no ritual, it has no mantra, it has no way of sacrificing anything to anyone. The very basis of sacrifice, God himself, is missing in Zen. Without God you cannot create rituals, sacrifices. Without God all your religions will look absolutely meaningless. If God is removed, what will become of Hinduism and Islam and Christianity? With the removal of a hypothesis the whole edifice of those religions falls completely to the ground. It is a single hypothesis, and a hypothesis is not a reality. A hypothesis is only man’s projection.

It is true man wants some security, it is true that man wants some safety. He is insecure in this vast universe, too small and too alone, too helpless. And there is always death: any moment it can knock at your doors. Out of all these insecurities, anxieties, fears, has arisen the hypothesis of God. People cling to it, because without it their lives will become such an anxiety, they will go insane. Taking God away from them, you are taking their very sanity, their very intelligence, their mind, their whole conditioning of millions of years. According to me, unless you are able to throw away the hypothesis of God and heaven and hell, all projections, you cannot be an authentic seeker. You have to drop all that which has made the so-called religions around the world. Their base is the same; they may create much theology around the hypothesis, they may fight with each other over their theologies, but essentially they are all the same. Their gods may have different faces, but the god is there. Their hell and heaven may have different climates, but they are there. They go on arguing about that which is imaginary, and they think that this argumentation, which they have continued for centuries, is of some importance. In fact, it is an effort to deviate man’s mind: fight over the non-essentials so nobody raises the question… nobody has the time to ask about the essentials.

Zen is pure essence, unpolluted, uncorrupted by any non-essential. You cannot take away anything from Zen, because it is only a declaration of your self-nature; neither can you add anything to Zen, because anything added will be artificial. Zen is absolutely in favor of nature.

It is not against entertainment; in fact only Zen is capable of laughing, of entertainment, but its entertainment is not different from its enlightenment. The very quality of entertainment differs.

J. Krishnamurti, a man who struggled for ninety years — his last words have some great meaning. One of my friends was present there. Krishnamurti lamented, he lamented his whole life. He lamented that “people have taken me as an entertainment. They come to listen to me….” There are people who have listened to him for fifty years continually, and still they are the same people as had come for the first time to listen to him.

Naturally it is annoying and irritating that the same people… Most of them I know, because J. Krishnamurti used to come only once a year for two or three weeks to Bombay, and slowly, slowly all his followers in Bombay became acquainted with me. They all were sad about this point: What should be done? How can we make Krishnamurti happy? The reason was that Krishnamurti only talked, but never gave any devices in which whatever he was talking about became an experience. It was totally his fault. Whatever he was saying was absolutely right, but he was not creating the right climate, the right milieu in which it could become a seed. Of course he was very much disappointed with humanity, and that there was not a single person who had become enlightened through his teachings. His teachings have all the seeds, but he never prepared the ground.

Zen does not deny entertainment the way J. Krishnamurti condemned it in his last testament to the world. He said, “Religion is not entertainment.” That’s true, but enlightenment can be vast enough to include entertainment in it. Enlightenment can be multidimensional. It can include laughter, it can include love, it can include beauty, it can include creativity. There is nothing to keep it from the world and from transforming the world into a more poetic place, a more beautiful garden. Everything can be brought to a better state of grace.

Zen does not talk about great principles, that has to be noted. It simply creates the device and leaves you to find the way out. Obviously it has been immensely successful. Not a single Zen master has ever lamented that “my disciples have not listened to me. I have been an utterly disappointed failure. Humanity has betrayed me.” Not a single Zen master even mentions it once. If something does not succeed, that only means your device was not right. You have not looked into the person and into his potential rightly. Perhaps your device was good for somebody else but not for this person.

Zen has only created devices, leaving you completely free to find the truth. And it is strange, more people have become enlightened through Zen than through any other religion of the world. The other religions are very big, and Zen is a very small stream. You can see these small things, and a master uses them in such a way that they start pointing to the moon.


It is one of the Zen koans. It does not mean anything; it simply gives you a puzzle that cannot be solved. Now, asking somebody, “WHAT IS THE WHITE COW OF THE DEWY GROUND?” — what kind of metaphysical question is this? No religion will ask such a question…

The Zen koans are puzzles without any answer. ANZAN RESPONDED BY SAYING: “MOO! MOO!” No answer is the right answer. One has to be utterly in silence; only silence can answer a Zen koan. But Anzan has used his mind and tried to figure out some way to indicate what the white cow is. He has brought the mind in.

RINZAI COMMENTED: “YOU ARE DUMB! Do you think you can deceive me by making such sounds? Can’t you speak? Are you dumb?” The koan needs a response. This moo, moo won’t do.

ANZAN SAID: “HOW ABOUT YOU?” He was thinking, “What could be more appropriate than this answer?” In fact, no answer is ever appropriate for a Zen koan. That has to be remembered. Don’t look for any answer, just look for silence. Just be utterly silent. In your silence the master will be able to see your answer.

ANZAN SAID, “HOW ABOUT YOU? — if you think my answer is not right, and I am dumb.”

RINZAI OBSERVED, “YOU ANIMAL! Making the sound moo, moo you have proved that you are still using the animal mind.”

In Zen, mind is an animal heritage, and unless you go beyond mind, you are not an authentic human being. Just your body is that of a human being, but your mind is a very long process of four million years of animals; it contains all the animals you have gone through.

You are not newcomers, you are old, as old as the time life has existed on this earth, and you have passed through all the phases of animals. Your consciousness carries a tremendous past.

So when Rinzai says, “YOU ANIMAL!” he is not condemning him. He is simply stating the fact that he is still using the animal mind. Only when you are in a state of no-mind do you go beyond the animal. You go beyond your past, you open up to the universe; you are no more simply repeating your past heritage. Your past heritage is the heritage of all animals. His saying this is not condemnatory; in Zen there is no condemnation. People may misunderstand, but he is simply saying that you are using the animal mind to figure out what the answer will be. I wanted you to go beyond the human mind, beyond the animal mind, because no-mind only is the answer to every koan, to every question, to every quest.

A single answer — no-mind. Be so silent that there is no thought at all. So it does not matter what the koan is, the answer is the same: utter silence, going beyond the animal mind.


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

Discourse Series:

Rinzai: Master of the Irrational

Chapter #5
Chapter title: Relax and disappear
28 October 1988 pm in Gautam the Buddha Auditorium


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

  1. Ah, This!
  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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