Constancy | Patience

The message for us on the calendar is “Cultivate your own spirit.” This is very important point, and this is how we practice Zen. For us, to give lecture or to recite sutra, or to sit, of course is Zen. Each of these activities should be Zen, but if your effort or practice does not have the right orientation it will not work at all. Not only will it not work but it may spoil your pure nature. The more you know something about it the more you will get spoiled. You will just have stains on your mind, and your mind will be filled with rubbish. It is quite usual for us to gather various pieces of information from various sources and you think you know many things, but you don’t know anything at all. This is quite usual. But our understanding of Buddhism should not be just gathering of many pieces of information and knowledge. Instead of gathering knowledge you should accept knowledge as if you were hearing something which you already knew. This is called emptiness. Or you may say omnipotent self — knowing everything. You are like a dark sky. Sometimes a flashing comes through the dark sky and then you forget all about it. After the flashing passes there is nothing, but the sky will not be surprised even if a thunderbolt breaks through all of a sudden. This will not cause any surprise for the sky. But when the lightning hits through we will see the wonderful sight. We are always prepared for watching the flashing.People may be interested in various sights, and they may go for a sightseeing trip. In China, Rosan is a famous place for its misty scenery. I haven’t been to China yet, but there must be beautiful mountains there, and white clouds or mist may come and go through the mountains. It must be a very wonderful sight. Although it is wonderful, a Chinese poem says, “Rosan is famous for its hazy sight on a rainy day. Seko (the great river) is famous for its tide, coming and going. That’s all.” That’s all, but splendid. This is how we appreciate things.On the other hand we should not accept various pieces of information just as the echo of ourselves. But we should not be surprised at seeing something and hearing something. If you accept things as an echo of yourself it does not make any sense. So, “Rosan is famous for its misty sight,” does not mean to appreciate the mountain recollecting some scenery you have seen before. “It is not so wonderful. I have seen that sight before. Or I have painted much more beautiful paintings. Rosan is nothing.” This is not our way. We appreciate with quite a new feeling. We do not accept it as an echo of ourselves. Even though you have various pieces of knowledge, if you accept the knowledge as if you were collecting something familiar to you only, then as a collection it will be very good, but that is not our way. And we should not try to surprise people by some wonderful treasures. That is not our way at all. We should not be interested in something special. If you want to appreciate something fully you should forget yourself, even, and you should accept it as utter darkness of the sky — accept lightning.Sometimes we think it is impossible for us to understand something — something unfamiliar to us. Some people may say, “It is almost impossible to understand Buddhism as our cultural background is quite different from Oriental cultural background. How is it possible to understand Oriental thought?” Of course Buddhism cannot be separated from the cultural background. It is true. But if a Buddhist comes to the United States he is no longer a Japanese. I am living in your cultural background. I am taking nearly the same food as you take, and I am communicating with you. Narrow-minded people may say that it is impossible, but it is possible. Even though you do not understand me so well, I want to understand what you are talking about. I can understand — maybe more than anyone who can speak and understand English. That is true. If I can understand several words in a long sentence it is all the better, but even though I cannot understand English at all I think I can communicate with people. So, in this way there is possibility as long as we exist in the utter darkness of the sky — world — as long as we live in emptiness.I have always said that we must be very patient if we want to understand Buddhism, but I was seeking for a better word for patience. I think it is better to translate it as “constancy.” Constancy is better than patience. Patience means to be forced for some time — that is patience. But constancy means constant faculty or ability, or possibility to accept things. There is no particular effort involved, but only the constant ability or faculty which we have to accept. For people who have no idea of emptiness this ability may be patience, but for the people who know, even just intuitively what is emptiness, they will be able, in everything they do (even though it is very difficult) to dissolve their problems by constant ability or faculty. So that is what we mean by “Ning” in Chinese or Japanese language. So I think it is better to interpret “Ning” as constancy. This is our way of practice and our way of continuous practice. If so, even after you attain enlightenment, it will be necessary for us to have another enlightenment, and one after another we have to have enlightenment, if possible, moment after moment. That is enlightenment before you attain enlightenment and after you attain enlightenment.-Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

Patience | Budhism

Kneeling in the Snow

Talk two of six on patience or kshanti

The title of this talk comes from an image that stuck in my mind after reading a book several years ago. I don’t recall the title of the book now. It was written by a Dutch man and was about his experiences of living in a Zen monastery in Japan. One of the things he mentioned was the tradition of making newcomers wait outside for a few days as a sort of test of their aspiration and commitment to join the monastery. They would have to hold themselves in a particular position, probably more like squatting than kneeling, and just wait. Sometimes the Abbot would send someone out to chase them away. This was a compassionate act to give them respite from their uncomfortable position, although the novices wouldn’t necessarily know that. So if they really wanted to join the monastery badly enough, they would just wait – kneeling in the snow – as I’ve put it (perhaps fancifully). They would be patient.Can you imagine the dark, angry, resentful thoughts that might assail you if you were put in that position? Even if you knew it was a ritual of waiting – you would still find it hard to put up with. So the ability to exercise patient endurance was seen as a necessary prerequisite for monastic life. It’s as if the Zen monks are saying “If you don’t have patience, if you can’t endure, well, don’t bother, because you won’t get very far”. So this patient endurance is Kshanti, or at least an aspect of Kshanti. And as we can see from the example, it requires effort. It requires energy to be patient and to endure. It also requires positive emotion. Without positive emotion the aspiring monk would simply think that the Abbot hated him and he would go away disillusioned, despondent and resentful. Similarly, without positive emotion we may think that the spiritual life is just too much, that other people are making it impossible for us, or that we don’t have what it takes. So we need energy and positive emotion, and both of these are aspects of patience and are developed through the practice of patience.The alternatives to patience in the spiritual life are frustration, anger and waste of energy. By trying to force ourselves to grow we hinder our growth. If we try to force others to change we prevent them from changing. Patience is needed to further our own spiritual growth and to help others to grow. This does not mean a lack of effort, in fact it means great effort. Patient effort, enduring effort, persistent, consistent effort is greater, more noble, than the violent effort of frustration and anger. And patient enduring effort is also more successful. This sort of effort, the effort that persists day after day, the effort that persists during good times and bad times, is an effort that understands and uses the law of karma. Actions have consequences. Skilful actions have beneficial consequences. Patient, enduring effort in skilfulness of body, speech and mind brings about spiritual progress. Patient, persistent effort in ethics, meditation and study brings about spiritual growth. Patience is a Perfection (paramita) because it is an aspect of Reality, an aspect of Wisdom. The Wisdom of Enlightenment is expressed in the concept of the law of conditionality. The law of conditionality states that everything arises in dependence on conditions. Spiritual progress too arises in dependence on conditions, and in the absence of those conditions it does not arise. We need to patiently and persistently create and put in place the conditions for spiritual growth to arise. This is in accordance with the law of conditionality.If we try to attain spiritual insight in the absence of the right conditions we will more likely achieve a headache or frustration. What are the right conditions for spiritual growth then? There are two aspects to the correct conditions for spiritual growth. There is the inward-looking aspect that aims at self-knowledge and psychological integration through ethical practice, through self-questioning, through reflection and meditation and through internal dialogue. There is the outward-looking aspect that aims to overcome the illusion of a separate self-hood, the illusion of ego identity, through ethical practice, through friendship, co-operation and communication. There needs to be a constant movement between going deeper into the inward-looking aspect and being ever more expansive in the outward-looking aspect. This is the creative tension of the spiritual life which eventually leads to a transcendence of inward and outward. Through the persistent effort to gain a deeper and more honest self-knowledge and at the same time be in more generous and open communication with others, we create the conditions for transcendent Insight to manifest in our experience. So we have to continuously make an effort in these two directions, the inward and outward, if we want to make progress. We have to meditate every day, steadily and persistently and patiently working on our minds to change unskilful mental states into skilful mental states. We have to practice generosity constantly in our actions and words and thoughts, always bringing ourselves back to the spirit of generosity when we gravitate towards selfishness and fear.Patience, then, is necessary if we are to progress spiritually. We have to exercise patience towards the natural world, towards ourselves, and, of course, towards others. So let us look at these three areas now and at how to develop patience in relation to them. In the Bodhicaryavatara (the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life) Shantideva says “There is nothing which remains difficult if it is practised. So, through practice with minor discomforts, even major discomfort becomes bearable. The irritation of bugs, gnats, and mosquitoes, of hunger and thirst, and suffering such as an enormous itch: why do you not see them as insignificant? Cold, heat, rain and wind, journeying and sickness, imprisonment and beatings: one should not be too squeamish about them. Otherwise the distress becomes worse.”(8) So here we are being exhorted to be patient with the natural world; insects, itches, the weather. Shantideva seems to be saying that we should use these relatively minor things to develop our ability to practice patience so that when it comes to more major and significant things we will be ready. He is also saying that if we don’t practise patience in relation to such things as the weather or itches or insect bites, then we will increase our suffering rather than lessen it. To put it another way, the more we seek comfort in our lives, the more precious we are about ourselves, the less we will be able to endure any discomfort or hardship, and therefore we create more potentiality for suffering and distress. It has been said that we late 20th century Westerners suffer from the “disease of preciousness”(9), by which is meant that we have little ability or willingness to endure discomfort or hardship. If this is the case, then it is bad news for our spiritual development. The spiritual life is not easy. It requires discipline and an ability to endure suffering and distress. Change produces discomfort and if we shy away from discomfort we will shy away from change. We will “squander our pain”, to paraphrase Rilke. (9) Hopefully for those of us who are practising Buddhists, it is not quite so bad, and we understand the need to sometimes “suffer into consciousness”. (10) We can train ourselves to be patient in the face of discomfort by practising patience in relation to the natural world – especially perhaps the weather. The glorious variety of the English weather gives us a great opportunity. Let’s hope we don’t waste it in complaining and comfort seeking. Of course, it’s not just the natural world that presents us with opportunities to practise patience. There are lots of minor irritations that occur all the time in city life which we can choose to respond to with anger or with patience – delays on public transport, the till closing down in the supermarket or post office, power cuts, burst water mains, and so on. Just this morning we had no hot water upstairs because our boiler broke down. So there are all sorts of minor difficulties that we can use as a way of training ourselves to be patient.The second area in which we need to practise patience is ourselves. We need to be patient with ourselves. This means being patient with our bodies – with illnesses and the process of aging. It also means being patient with our spiritual progress. Because we have a body, we are prone to illness, aging, and eventually death. This is how it is. Sometimes when people are ill they feel very sorry for themselves and want a lot of sympathy. It is as if they had received an unjust punishment. But illness goes hand in hand with having a body, there is no escaping that, and we need to be patient and forbearing in relation to this fact of life. We should also be truthful. I think sometimes people are prone to exaggerate their suffering and illnesses in order to gain sympathy. Not every headache is a migraine. Not every cold is influenza. We need to continue to be truthful, in the sense of factual accuracy, even when we are ill. It is of course important to look after ourselves and to alleviate suffering where possible, for ourselves and others. It is also important to let others know when we are unwell so that they can help if necessary. But we need to be patient with the course of nature and not childishly petulant. Illness is not a moral retribution or punishment, it is a physical phenomenon and therefore the question of justice or injustice doesn’t enter into it. Whether we are deserving or undeserving is irrelevant. You could say that nobody deserves to be ill. The same applies to the process of aging. We can refuse to accept it and fight against it. We can expend large amounts of energy, time and money trying to maintain our youthfulness. We can be extremely careful about what we eat and when we eat it. We can take the right vitamin and mineral tablets. We can wear the right clothes, get the right kind of haircut, and go to even greater lengths to stay young. But we will grow old and we will die. It is in the nature of natural things to go through the cycle of birth, decay and death. So as we start to experience our bodies deteriorating we need to accept the fact of aging and patiently amend our lifestyle and outlook so that we can grow old gracefully. After all there is a lot to be said for growing old. Older people have gained experience and therefore the opportunity for wisdom. Older people are less at the mercy of their physical appetites and therefore have a better chance of attaining tranquillity and equanimity. When you are older it is less important what other people think of you and therefore there is a great opportunity for your uniqueness and individuality to flourish. As for death, well from a Buddhist perspective the dissolution of the body is simply yet another opportunity for the liberation of consciousness and nothing to be feared. The worst that can happen to us is that we will be reborn and if we play our cards right, so to speak, and set up the right conditions and tendencies in our lives, then being reborn may not be so bad – it may even be better than this time around. So we need to practise patience in relation to our own bodies, our illnesses, our aging and our inevitable death. We also need to practise patience in relation to our spiritual progress. We need to be patient with our meditation practice and patient with our friendships. Sometimes we hear people say “I’m not a good meditator”. In fact I’ve heard myself say it! Usually what we mean is that we are not having strong experiences of dhyana, we are still working with the hindrances. So the question is, what is a good meditator? What are the distinguishing characteristics of a good meditator? A good meditator is someone who meditates regularly and who makes an effort in meditation. Meditating regularly means meditating at least once a day for a minimum of twenty minutes. Making an effort in meditation means making an effort to transform unskilful mental states into skilful mental states and making an effort to return to the object of concentration when we notice our distraction. A good meditator, then, is a patient meditator, one who is consistent and persistent. Developing spiritual friendship also requires patience. There isn’t really a point at which you can say “Now I’ve developed this friendship; no more effort is required”. Spiritual friendship is a process rather than a thing and therefore there is really no end to it. It just carries on deepening. If we want to engage in spiritual friendship we have to be patient with the unfolding process of it, the gradual deepening of trust and growth in honesty and caring. More generally in relation to our endeavours to live the spiritual life and make spiritual progress there are four points we should bear in mind. Firstly, it is important to develop positive routines or habits and to be disciplined. Secondly, we should expect difficulties. Thirdly, we should not be looking for powerful experiences, or even the powerful experience. Fourthly, it is fundamentally important that we try to develop and maintain an attitude of goodwill towards ourselves. The discipline of a positive routine helps us to be regular and consistent in our practice. It also builds strength and stamina, both physical and mental. It builds strength and stamina because we are not wasting energy. When we set up a positive routine for our meditation and study and so on, we don’t have to engage in any internal debate about what to do next, and in this way we save our energy for getting on with what matters. The forces of resistance are strong in us and if we give them a chance they will take over. The discipline of a routine helps us to deal with our resistance to practice. The second point to bear in mind in relation to our spiritual progress is that we can expect difficulties. Perhaps we could go even say that we should not only expect difficulties, but we should welcome them. The difficulties we experience in the spiritual life are often a sign of progress, of greater awareness and greater ethical sensitivity. When we embark on the spiritual life, the life of self-transformation, we can expect to experience difficulties because only part of us wants to progress spiritually. For a time that may be to the fore and carry us along nicely. But then we become more conscious and frequently what we become more conscious of is the parts of us that don’t want to change. We become aware of our resistance to spiritual growth and spiritual practice. We become aware of internal conflict. And sometimes part of that internal conflict gets projected outside on to other people or on to the situation we live and work in. And so our internal difficulty becomes an external difficulty too, and the spiritual life begins to feel painful and we wonder what we are doing. Why are we putting ourselves through all this? After all, we took up meditation because we wanted to be happy and relaxed. And so, thinking in this way we fail to see the positive side of our difficulties; we have become more conscious, we have had a measure of success. If we carry on through our difficulties we will eventually get a clearer perspective and come to a realisation of the real significance of difficulties in the spiritual life. Although I’ve said we should expect difficulties, it is much more in the spirit of Kshanti as patience to have no fixed expectations at all. Sangharakshita has said, “Fixed expectations are the antithesis of patience”. (12) Really, what is required of us is that we are prepared for every eventuality, that we learn to live happily with impermanence and change. Change often does seem to be at the least an inconvenience, and can even be traumatic. To change is to move beyond current attachments, and that is difficult, because our attachments are what give us security and stability. Through our spiritual practices we are developing an inner stability and security – that is what metta is. The third point to bear in mind in relation to our spiritual life is that we should not be looking for powerful experiences. This is a wrong way of thinking about the spiritual life and constitutes a hindrance to spiritual progress. It is an acquisitive, even consumerist attitude and has more to do with our mundane preoccupations than with anything of spiritual significance. Sangharakshita speaks about this in his seminar on The Ten Pillars of Buddhism. He says: ­”You experience something as powerful when there’s a great discrepancy between it and you. But on the higher spiritual levels that isn’t the case, you can’t have that sort of experience. To take an example: if you’re wallowing on the kama-loka plane, and suddenly there supervenes a dhyana type experience, you experience that as dramatic or even powerful, because it is so different from your normal state. But if, say, while you’re in the third dhyana you experience the fourth it doesn’t have that sort of impact because there isn’t that sort of discrepancy between the third and the fourth dhyana. So what a lot of people are after is the powerful type of experience, that is their model for a valid or higher experience, something that really knocks you off your seat almost, knocks you off your feet, something violent almost. This is how they think of it. But actually the more advanced you become in spiritual life, the less likely you are to experience things in that sort of way. But I have been rather interested, not to say rather amused sometimes, by the extent to which people talk of powerful experiences. They’ve almost a hankering after powerful experiences. And in Tibetan Buddhist circles one sometimes hears people saying things like “Oh, it’s a very powerful initiation” or “such and such lama gives very powerful initiations” or “he belongs to a very powerful line” et cetera, et cetera. I think this is quite revealing. It’s as though they don’t want to rise above their present level, they want to just be as they are or what they are, and then have the experience come along from outside and just hit them, and give them some sort of transcendental shock. This seems to be their sort of model of spiritual experience very often.”(13) So you may have strong experiences in meditation from time to time and they may give you faith that there are states of consciousness beyond what you usually experience, but don’t get distracted by these experiences or start to chase after them. What is really important is whether you are kind and generous and truthful the rest of the time and whether your relations with others are becoming more friendly. Strong or powerful experiences in meditation are an occasional by-product of the spiritual life for some people. They are not what the spiritual life is about. What is significant in the spiritual life is what sort of person you are becoming and how you behave, especially how you behave towards other people. The fourth point to be borne in mind in relation to following the spiritual path is that we should develop and maintain an attitude of goodwill towards ourselves. An attitude of goodwill towards ourselves means being patient with ourselves. It means working from the assumption that we are fundamentally alright. Too often people seem to have an assumption that they are basically or fundamentally worthless. This is often unconscious even, but it nevertheless affects behaviour and relationships. So we need to have an attitude of goodwill towards ourselves, an attitude of friendliness, of metta. This is vitally important in the spiritual life. When you have high ideals and high standards, you will find yourself often falling short of them and when you do fall short you can either berate yourself for being a useless person and get into a self-deprecating, self-hating mood or you can acknowledge your failing, confess what needs to be confessed and resolve to do better next time. You are inevitably going to fall short of your ideals again and again. You need to be patient and with an attitude of goodwill towards yourself, just keep on making an effort. You cannot force-grow yourself. Plants that are force-grown are the weakest plants. In the spiritual life we want to bring all of ourself along on the path. We want to become a sturdy, robust individual, capable of coping with the world and capable of handling the experience of the Transcendental Insight. We don’t want to create a beautiful, effete, head-in-the-clouds sort of person who is easily overwhelmed by the slightest whiff of a setback, like some hothouse rose. The foundation, the grounding for a sturdy, robust individual is a strong feeling of self-metta, a strong experience of goodwill towards oneself. So we can exercise patience towards ourselves by being realistic about illness, aging, and death, and by applying steady effort in our spiritual life with an attitude of self-metta.As well as exercising patience towards the natural world and towards ourselves, we must also exercise patience towards other people. According to the Dhammapada, “patience is the greatest asceticism”. (14) This was quite a statement to make in ancient India where people practised all sorts of strange and severe austerities, starving and mutilating themselves in the hope of spiritual attainment. So when the Dhammapada says that patience is the greatest asceticism, it is saying that it is both more difficult to practise than mortification of the flesh and more efficacious than any other austerity. This probably applies particularly to patience towards other people. Being patient with others means particularly being patient with the faults and failings of others. It also means being patient with difference. Sometimes others are just different from us and we interpret that as a failing on their part and get annoyed with them. The main reason why it is so difficult to be patient with others is because we experience ourselves as the centre of the universe. And from this standpoint we can get hurt and upset and angry when others don’t seem to be going along with it. So in order to develop patience towards others we need to get beyond selfishness and begin to see that real self-interest includes the interests of others. This requires imagination and a willingness to question our anger and indignation. Imagination is a prerequisite for the spiritual life. Without imagination we would not be able to conceive of a higher ideal or of the possibility of changing ourselves. Imagination is also essential to the development of metta and compassion. It is through our ability to imagine what it is like to be another person that we can empathise and sympathise with others. We all have imagination. We daydream, we fantasise, we tell stories, we exaggerate, we fall in love, we save money; all of these require imagination. To consciously use our imagination in order to develop a greater empathy with others is perhaps more rare. But it is what we need to do if we are to progress spiritually. And it is certainly what we need to do in order to develop greater patience in our relations with others. There is a story in the Pali Canon where the Buddha comes upon some young boys tormenting a crow with sticks, just the sort of thing young boys do. The Buddha doesn’t chase them away. Instead he gets them to use their imagination. He asks them how they would feel if they were treated like the crow. They say of course that they wouldn’t like it because it would be painful. So He explained to them that the crow too feels pain and doesn’t like to be beaten. And understanding this they leave the crow alone. (15) Just like those children, we too need to imagine beyond ourselves and not just in terms of suffering but much wider and deeper than that. We have to use the experience of our own humanity, even the experience of our own selfishness, to make an imaginative connection with all humanity. By doing this we prepare the ground for metta to arise. Metta can be seen as understanding. Understanding is a great antidote to anger. If we can understand why others behave as they do we will be less likely to hold onto feelings of anger towards them. There is a French proverb, “to understand all is to forgive all”. So if there is someone who annoys us by their behaviour, perhaps we need to get to know them better, to understand why they are like they are. When we see others as we see ourselves we can more easily feel friendliness and goodwill towards them and we can be more patient with them. When we become impatient with others and experience anger and annoyance towards them there is a strong tendency to justify ourselves. Anger often masquerades as truth. But we should never trust our anger. It is more likely to lie to us than tell the truth. When we get angry with someone or some situation we should make an effort to take our attention away from whatever happened and turn our attention to a questioning of our own response. Our tendency might be to go over the details of what happened in an obsessive manner and continue to wind ourselves up into fresh feelings of outrage. But we should question this. We should ask ourselves “Why an I responding with anger? Is this the only possible response? Is there perhaps a more creative response? Why don’t I choose a different response? What is behind my anger? How should I have to change in order to have a more creative response? Do I want to change? What will the consequences be if I carry on being angry?”, and so on. By questioning ourselves in this way we can use our anger as an opportunity for gaining greater self-knowledge. We can also create a gap in our experience for a more creative response to arise. In the Bodhicaryavatara Shantideva gives a number of reflections on anger in the chapter on Kshanti. He says for instance: “Having found its fuel, the frustration of my desires, hatred sets in. Because I undertake what is to my detriment, and omit what is to my advantage, frustration sets in. Thus fuelled hatred consumes me. It is the fault of the childish that they are hurt, for although they do not wish to suffer, they are greatly attached to its causes. I do not want to suffer; but in my confusion I desire the causes of my pain – so why be angry with others when you are the cause of your own pain” He also says: “Why be unhappy about something if it can be remedied? And what is the use of being unhappy about something if it cannot be remedied?”(16) Elsewhere Shantideva reflects on the relation between self and other: “All have the same sorrows, the same joys as I, and I must guard them like myself. The body, manifold of parts in its divisions of members, must be preserved as a whole; and so likewise this manifold universe has its sorrow and its joy in common. Although my pain may bring no hurt to other bodies, nevertheless it is a pain to me, which I cannot bear because of the love of self; and though I cannot in myself feel the pain of another, it is a pain to him which he cannot bear because of the love of self. I must destroy the pain of another as though it were my own, because it is a pain; I must show kindness to others, for they are creatures as I am myself… Then, as I would guard myself from evil repute, so I will frame a spirit of helpfulness and tenderness towards others … We love our hands and other limbs, as members of the body; then why not love other living beings, as members of the universe?”(16) So by reflecting in this way, by questioning our irritability and anger and by consciously exercising our imagination to develop empathy, we can develop patience towards other people and in the process gain greater self-knowledge and make progress on the spiritual path. Perhaps I should make it clear at this point that there is a distinction to be made between being patient and being passive. To be patient doesn’t mean being a doormat and allowing others to walk all over you. That would not be consistent with self-metta. Patience can create the gap between feeling and response where we can sow the seeds of spiritual attainment and move towards ever greater self-transcendence.I will leave the last word with Shantideva, who is very persuasive indeed about the benefits of exercising patience. He says: “Never mind future Buddhahood arising from the propitiation of living beings! Do you not see good fortune, renown, and well-being right here and now? “Serenity, freedom from disease, joy and long life, the happiness of an emperor, prosperity: these the patient person receives while continuing in cyclic existence.“(14)Notes: 8. The Bodhicaryavatara, translated by K.Crosby and A. Skilton 9. The Supreme Mystery, Cittapala, Padmaloka Books 10. The Duino Elegies, Rilke 11. The Oresteia, translated by R. Fagles 12. Seminar on The Jewel Ornament of Liberation 13. Seminar on The Ten Pillars of Buddhism 14. The Bodhicaryavatara, chapter on Forbearance 15. quoted in The Ten Pillars of Buddhism 16. The Bodhicaryavatara Kshanti

On Truth and Obligation

That’s what has been happening down the ages. That is the way of autohypnosis. John Lilly is absolutely wrong. “What the mind believes,” he says, “is true….” It is not. It only appears true.
And he says “… or it becomes true.” It never becomes true by being believed, but it starts appearing true. Yes, for the believer it becomes true, although it is not true, because belief begins in ignorance. Belief cannot create truth; truth is already the case.
Remember the first preliminary of Atisha: truth is. You need not believe in it for it to be. Your belief or your disbelief is not going to make any difference to the truth. Truth is truth, whether you believe or you disbelieve.
But if you believe in something it starts appearing as true to you at least. That’s what the meaning of belief is: belief means to believe in something as true – you know that you don’t know, you know that the truth is unknown to you, but in your ignorance you start believing, because belief is cheap.
To discover truth is arduous, it needs a long pilgrimage. It needs a great emptying of the mind, it needs a great cleansing of the heart. It needs a certain innocence, a rebirth: you have to become a child again.
Only very few people have ever dared to discover truth. And it is risky, because it may not console you; it has no obligation to console you. It is risky: it may shatter all that you have known before, and you will have to rearrange your whole life. It is dangerous: it may destroy all your illusions, it may shatter all your dreams. It is really going through fire; it is going to burn you as you are, it is going to kill you as you are. And who knows what will happen later on?
How can the seed know that by dying in the soil it will become a great tree? It will not be there to witness the happening. How can the seed know that one day, if it dies, there will be great foliage, green leaves, great branches, and flowers and fruits? How can the seed know? The seed will not be there. The seed has to disappear before it can happen. The seed has never met the tree. The seed has to disappear and die.
Only very few people have that much courage. It really needs guts to discover truth. You will die as yourself. You will certainly be born, but how can you be convinced of it? What guarantee is there? There is no guarantee.
Hence, unless you are with a master who has died and is reborn, who has crucified himself and is resurrected – unless you come across a man like Christ or Buddha or Atisha – you will not be able to gather enough courage.
Seeing Atisha, something may start stirring in your heart, a chord may be touched, something may be triggered, a synchronicity. The presence of somebody who has arrived may create a great longing in you, may become the birth of an intense passionate search for truth.
Belief cannot give you the truth, it only pretends. It is cheap, it is a plastic flower. You need not take all the trouble of growing a rosebush, you can simply go to the market and purchase plastic flowers – and they are more lasting too, in fact they are almost eternal. Once in a while you can wash them, and they are fresh again. They will not deceive you, but at least they can deceive the neighbors, and that is the point. You will know all along that they are plastic flowers. How can you forget it? You have purchased them! The neighbors may be deceived, but how can you be deceived?
And I don’t think that even the neighbors are deceived, because they have also purchased plastic flowers. They know they are deceiving you, they know you are deceiving them. Everybody is perfectly aware that everybody else is deceiving. “But this is how life is,” people say. Nobody is really deceived. People just pretend to be deceived. You pretend that you have real flowers, others pretend that they are deceived. Just watch, observe, and what I am saying will be experienced by you. It is a simple fact; I am not talking philosophy, just stating facts.
What John Lilly says is utter nonsense. He says, “What the mind believes is true.” It is never true, because belief has nothing to do with truth. You can believe that this is night but just by your believing, this is not going to become night. But you can believe, and you can close your eyes and for you it is night – but only for you, remember, not in truth. You are living in a kind of hallucination.
There is this danger in belief: it makes you feel that you know the truth. And because it makes you feel that you know the truth, this becomes the greatest barrier in the search. Believe or disbelieve and you are blocked – because disbelief is also nothing but belief in a negative form.
The Catholic believes in God, the communist believes in no God: both are believers. Go to Kaaba or go to the Comintern, go to Kailash or to the Kremlin, it is all the same. The believer believes it is so, the nonbeliever believes it is not so. And because both have already settled without taking the trouble to go and discover it, the deeper is their belief, the stronger is their belief, the greater is the barrier. They will never go on a pilgrimage, there is no point. They will live surrounded by their own illusion, self-created, self-sustained; it may be consoling, but it is not liberating. Millions of people are wasting their lives in belief and disbelief.
The inquiry into truth begins only when you drop all believing. You say, “I would like to encounter the truth on my own. I will not believe in Christ and I will not believe in Buddha. I would like to become a christ or a buddha myself, I would like to be a light unto myself.”
Why should one be a Christian? It is ugly. Be a christ if you can be, but don’t be a Christian. Be a buddha if you have any respect for yourself, but don’t be a Buddhist. The Buddhist believes. Buddha knows.
When you can know, when knowing is possible, why settle for believing? But again, the society would like you to believe, because believers are good people, obedient, law-abiding. They follow all formalities and etiquette, they are never trouble-makers. They simply follow the crowd, whichever crowd they happen to be in; they simply go with the crowd. They are not real men, they are sheep. Humanity has not yet arrived.
Somebody once said to George Bernard Shaw, “What do you think about civilization?”
He said, “It is a good idea. Somebody should try it.”
It has not yet been tried. Humanity is still arriving; we are still groping between animality and humanity. We are in limbo: man has to be born, man has to be given birth to; we have to prepare the ground for man to appear.
And the most significant thing that will help that man to come will be if we can drop believing – if we can drop being Christians, Hindus, Mohammedans, Jainas, Buddhists, communists. If you can drop believing, immediately your energy will take a new turn: it will start inquiring. And to inquire is beautiful. Your life will become a pilgrimage to truth, and in that very pilgrimage you grow.
Growth is a by-product of the inquiry into truth. Believers never grow, they remain childish. And remember, to be childlike and to be childish are poles apart, they are not the same thing. It is beautiful to be childlike. The man of trust is childlike and the man of belief is childish. To be childlike is the ultimate in growth; that is the very culmination – consciousness has come to the ultimate peak. To be childlike means to be a sage, and to be childish means to be just un-grownup.
The average mental age of human beings on the earth today is not more than twelve years. When for the first time this was discovered, it was such a shock. Nobody had ever thought about it; it was just by accident that it became known. In the First World War, for the first time in human history, the people who were candidates, who wanted to enter the army, were examined. Their mental age was inquired into, their IQ was determined. This was a great revelation – that they were not more than twelve years; the average age was just twelve years.
This is childishness. The body goes on growing, and the mind has stopped at the age of twelve. What kind of humanity have we created on this earth? Why does the mind stop at twelve? Because by the time one is twelve, one has gathered all kinds of beliefs; one is already a believer, one already “knows” what truth is. One is a Christian, another is a communist; one believes in God, one does not believe in God; one believes in The Bible and the other believes in Das Kapital; one believes in the Bhagavad Gita, another believes in the Red Book of Mao Zedong.
We have drilled concepts and ideologies into the innocent minds of poor children. They are already becoming knowers. Do you know – by the age of seven, a child already knows fifty percent of all that he will ever know. And by the time he is fourteen he has almost arrived; now there is nowhere to go, he has only to vegetate. Now he will exist as a cabbage. If he goes to college then, as they say, he may become a cauliflower. A cabbage with a college education is a cauliflower. But there is not much difference, just labels change. The cabbage becomes an M.A., a Ph.D., this and that, and just to show respect we call it a cauliflower. But the mental age is twelve.
The real man grows to the very end. Even while he is dying, he is growing. Even the last moment of his life will still be an inquiry, a search, a learning. He will still be inquiring – now inquiring into death. He will be fascinated: death is such an unknown phenomenon, such a mystery, far more mysterious than life itself – how can an intelligent man be afraid? If in life he has not been afraid to go into the uncharted and the unknown, at the moment of death he will be thrilled, ecstatic. Now the last moment has come: he will be entering into the darkness, the dark tunnel of death. This is the greatest adventure one can ever go on; he will be learning.
A real man never believes; he learns. A real man never becomes knowledgeable; he always remains open, open to truth. And he always remembers that “It is not that truth has to adjust to me, but just vice versa: I have to adjust to truth.” The believer tries to adjust truth to himself, the seeker adjusts himself to truth. Remember the difference; the difference is tremendous. One who believes, he says, “Truth should be like this, this is my belief.”
Just think of a Christian…. If God appears not like Jesus Christ but like Krishna, not on the cross but with a flute and girlfriends dancing around him, the Christian will close his eyes; he will say, “This is not my cup of tea.” Girlfriends? Can you think of Jesus with girlfriends? The cross and girlfriends can’t go together. Jesus hanging on the cross and girlfriends dancing around? It won’t fit, it will be very bizarre. He was waiting for Christ to appear, and instead of Christ this guy, Krishna, appears: he seems to be debauched. And the flute? The world is suffering and people are hungry and they need bread – and this man is playing on the flute? He seems to be utterly uncompassionate, he seems to be indulgent. The Christian cannot believe in Krishna: if God appears as Krishna, then the Christian will say, “This is not God.”
And the same will be the case with the Hindu who was waiting for Krishna: if Christ appears, that will not be his idea of God – so sad, such a long face, so gloomy, with such suffering on his face.
Christians say Jesus never laughed. I don’t think they are right, and I don’t think they are representing the real Christ, but that’s what they have managed to propagate. The Hindu cannot accept the revelation; he must think this is some kind of nightmare. Jesus will not appeal to him.
The believer cannot even trust his own experience. Even if truth is revealed, he will reject it, unless it fits with him. He is more important than truth itself: truth has an obligation to fit with him. He is the criterion, he is the decisive factor. This kind of man can never know truth; he is already prejudiced, poisoned.
The man who wants to know truth has to be capable of dropping all concepts about truth. Everything about truth has to be dropped. Only then can you know truth. Know well: to know about truth is not to know truth. Whatsoever you know may be utter nonsense; there is every possibility that it is utter nonsense. In fact people can be conditioned to believe any kind of nonsense; they can be convinced.
Once I went to address a conference of theosophists. Now, theosophists are people who will believe any bullshit – ANY! The more shitty it is, the more believable. So I just played a joke on them. I simply invented something; I invented a society called “Sitnalta.” They were all dozing, they became alert. “Sitnalta?” I made the word by just reading “Atlantis” backwards. And then I told them, “This knowledge comes from Atlantis, the continent that disappeared in the Atlantic ocean.”
And then I talked about it: “There are really not seven chakras but seventeen. That great ancient esoteric knowledge is lost, but a society of enlightened masters still exists, and it still works. It is a very very esoteric society, very few people are allowed to have any contact with it; its knowledge is kept utterly secret.”
And I talked all kinds of nonsense that I could manage. And then the president of the society said, “I have heard about this society.” Now it was my turn to be surprised. And about whatsoever I had said, he said that it was the first time that the knowledge of this secret society had been revealed so exactly.
And then letters started coming to me. One man even wrote saying, “I thank you very much for introducing this inner esoteric circle to the theosophists, because I am a member of the society, and I can vouch that whatsoever you have said is absolutely true.”
There are people like these who are just waiting to believe in anything, because the more nonsensical a belief is, the more important it appears to be. The more absurd it is, the more believable – because if something is logical, then there is no question of believing in it.
You don’t believe in the sun, you don’t believe in the moon. You don’t believe in the theory of relativity: either you understand it or you don’t understand it; there is no question of belief. You don’t believe in gravitation; there is no need. Nobody believes in a scientific theory – it is logical. Belief is needed only when something illogical, something utterly absurd, is propounded.
Tertullian said, “I believe in God because it is absurd: Credo Quia Absurdum, my creed is the absurd.”
All beliefs are absurd. If a belief is very logical, it will not create belief in you. So people go on inventing things.
Man is basically a coward, he does not want to inquire. And he does not want to say “I don’t know” either.
Now, that president of the theosophical society who said, “I have heard about this society” – he cannot say that he does not know, he does not have even that much courage. To accept one’s ignorance needs courage. To accept that you don’t know is the beginning of real knowledge. You go on believing, because there are holes in your life which have to be filled, and belief is easily available.
There are three hundred religions on the earth. One truth, and three hundred religions? One God, and three hundred religions? One existence, and three hundred religions? And I am not talking about sects – because each religion has dozens of sects, and then there are sub-sects of sects, and it goes on and on. If you count all the sects and all the sub-sects, then there will be three thousand or even more.
How can so many beliefs, contradictory to each other, go on? People have a certain need – the need not to appear ignorant. How to fulfill this need? Gather a few beliefs. And the more absurd the belief is, the more knowledgeable you appear, because nobody else knows about it.
There are people who believe in a hollow earth, and that inside the earth there is a civilization. Now, if somebody says so you cannot deny it; you cannot accept it, but at least you have to listen attentively. And that serves a purpose: everybody wants to be listened to attentively. And one thing is certain, this man knows more than you. You don’t know whether the earth is hollow or not; this man knows. And who knows? He may be right. He can gather a thousand and one proofs; he can argue for it, he can propound it in such a way that you at least have to be silent if you don’t agree.
Believers and believers and believers – but where is truth? There are so many believers, but where is truth? If John Lilly is right, then the world would be full of truth, you would come across it everywhere. Everybody would have truth, because everybody is a believer. No, it is all nonsense.
He says, “What the mind believes is true or becomes true.” No. What the mind believes is never true, because truth needs no belief. Belief is a barrier to truth. And what the mind believes never becomes true, because truth is not becoming, truth is being; it is already the case. You have to see it – or you can go on avoiding seeing it, but it is there. Nothing has to be added to it, it is eternally there.
And the best way to avoid truth is to believe. Then you need not look at it. Your eyes become full of belief; belief functions as dust on the eyes. You become closed into yourself, the belief becomes a prison around you. Belief closes you: then you are living within yourself in a windowless existence, and you can go on believing whatsoever you want to believe. But remember, it is belief, and belief is a lie.
Let me say that even when the truth is told to you, don’t believe in it! Explore, inquire, search, experiment, experience: don’t believe in it. Even when truth is conveyed to you, if you believe in it, you turn it into a lie. A truth believed is a lie, belief turns truth into a lie.
Believe in Buddha and you believe in a lie. Believe in Christ and you believe in a lie. Don’t believe in Christ, don’t believe in Buddha, don’t believe in me. What I say, listen to it attentively, intelligently; experiment, experience. And when you have experienced, will you need to believe in it? There will be no doubt left, so what will be the point of belief? Belief is a way of repressing doubt: you doubt, hence you need belief.
The rock of belief represses the spring of doubt.
When you know, you know! You know it is so; there is no doubt left. Your experience has expelled all darkness and all doubt. Truth is: you are full of it. Truth never creates belief.
How to attain to truth? By dropping all kinds of beliefs. And remember, I am saying all kinds – belief in me is included. Experience me, come along with me, let me share what I have seen, but don’t believe, don’t be in a hurry. Don’t say, “Now what is the point? Now Osho has seen it, all that is left for me is to believe it.”
What I have seen cannot become your experience unless you see it. And it is the experience of truth that delivers you from ignorance, from bondage, from misery. It is not the belief that delivers you, it is truth.
Jesus says, “Truth liberates.” But how to attain to truth? It is not a question of belief, but a question of meditativeness. And what is meditation? Meditation is emptying your mind completely of all belief, ideology, concept, thought. Only in an empty mind, when there is no dust left on the mirror, truth reflects. That reflection is a benediction.

Freedom – Zen

Soen-sa said, “Freedom means no hindrance. If your parents
tell you to do something and you think that you are a
free person so you will not listen to them, this is not true
freedom.True freedom is freedom from thinking, freedom
from all attachments, freedom even from life and death. If I
want life, I have life; if I want death, I have death.”
‘No, I won’t change; I am free!’, then you are attached
to your dirty shirt or to your freedom itself. So you
are not free. If you are really free, then dirty is good and clean
is good. It doesn’t matter. Not changing my shirt is good;
changing my shirt is good. If my parents want me to change,
then I change. I don’t do it for my own sake, only for theirs.
This is freedom. No desire for myself, only for all people.”
So always keep don’t-know
mind. This is true freedom.”
“Where is your question coming from?This
is your treasure. It is precisely what is making you ask the
question at this very moment. Everything is stored in this
precious treasure-house of yours. It is there at your disposal,
you can use it as you wish, nothing is lacking. You are the
master of everything. Why, then, are you running away from
yourself and seeking for things outside?”
This don’t-know mind cuts off all thinking,
and is the true quiet mind

Trust – story – totality

I love an ancient Indian story:
Narada, the great Indian mystic, is going to see God. Playing on his VEENA, he passes a forest, and comes across a very old sage sitting under a tree.
The old sage says to Narada, “You are going to God — please ask one question from me. I have been making all kinds of efforts for three lives, now how much more is needed? How much longer do I have to wait? When is my liberation going to happen? You just ask him!”
Narada laughed and said, “Okay.”
As he progressed, just by the side, under another tree, a young man was dancing with his EKTARA, singing, dancing — very young. May have been only thirty. Jokingly, Narada asked the young man, “Would you also like any question to be asked of God — I am going. The old man, your neighbor, has asked.”
The young man did not reply. He continued his dance — as if he had not listened at all, as if he was not there at all.
After a few days, Narada came back. He told the old man, “I asked God. He said three lives more.”
The old man was doing his JAPA on his beads. He threw the beads. He was in a rage. He threw the scriptures that he was keeping with him, and he said, “This is absolutely unjust! Three lives more?!”
Narada moved to the young man who was again dancing, and he said, “Although you had not answered, and you had not asked, just by the way I asked God about you too. But now I am afraid — whether to tell it to you or not? Seeing the rage of the old man, I am hesitating.”
But the young man did not say anything; he continued to dance. Narada told him; “When I asked, God said, ‘Tell the young man that he will have to be born AS many times as there are leaves on the tree under which he is dancing.’”
And the young man started dancing even more ecstatically, and he said, “So fast?! There are so many trees in the world and so many leaves… only this much? Only these leaves? Only this many lives? I have already attained! When you go next, thank him.”
And it is said the man became liberated that very moment. That very moment he became liberated! If there is such test, such totality of trust, time is not needed. If there is no trust, then even three lives are not enough. And my feeling is that old man must be around somewhere on the M.G. Road! He cannot have become liberated yet. Even three lives won’t do. Such a mind can’t become liberated. Such a mind is what hell is.

Trust – Quotes

“If you want to learn anything, learn trust – nothing else id needed. If you are miserable, nothing else will help – learn trust. If you don’t feel any meaning in life and you feel meaningless, nothing will help – learn trust. Trust gives meaning because trust makes you capable of allowing the whole descend upon you.”

Doubt, Belief, Faith and Trust | Sitting Quietly, Doing Nothing

…And your readiness means that doubt should simply disappear from the mind. It should not be suppressed, you should not try to defeat it, because defeated it will remain in you; suppressed, it will remain part of your unconscious and it will go on affecting you. Don’t fight your doubting mind, don’t suppress it. Rather, on the contrary, you simply bring more and more energy into trust. You simply be indifferent to your doubting mind, nothing else can be done.
Indifference is the key: you simply be indifferent. It is there – accept it. Bring your energies more and more towards trust and love – because it is the same energy which becomes doubt; it is the same energy which becomes trust. Remain indifferent to doubt. The moment you are indifferent your cooperation is broken, you are not feeding it – because it is through attention that anything is fed. If you pay attention to your doubt, even if you are against it, paying attention to it is dangerous because the very attention is the food; that is your cooperation. One has just to be indifferent, neither for nor against: don’t be for doubt, don’t be against doubt.
So now you will have to understand three words. One word is ”doubt,” another word is ”belief,” the third word is ”trust” or ”faith”. Doubt is a negative attitude towards anything. Whatsoever is said, first you look at it negatively. You are ` against it, and you will find reasons, rationalizations how to support your ”againstness.” Then there is the mind of belief. It is just like the mind of doubt only standing upside down; there is not much difference. This mind looks at things positively and tries to find reasons, rationalizations how to support it, how to be for it. The mind who doubts suppresses belief; the mind who believes suppresses doubt – but they both are of the same stuff; the quality is not different.
Then there is a third mind whose doubting has simply disappeared – and when doubt disappears, belief also disappears. Faith is not belief, it is love. Faith is not belief because it is not half, it is total. Faith is not belief because there is no doubt in it, so how can you believe? Faith is not a rationalization at all: neither for nor against, neither this nor that. Faith is a trusting, a deep trusting, a love. You don’t find any rationalizations for it, it simply is so. So what to do?
Don’t create belief against faith. Just be indifferent to belief and doubt both, and bring your energies towards more and more love; love more, love unconditionally. Not only love me, because that is not possible: if you love, you simply love more. If you love, you simply exist in a more loving way – not only towards the master, but towards everything that exists around you: towards the trees and the stones, and the sky and the earth. You, your being, your very quality of being, becomes a love phenomenon. Then trust arises.