Saturday, July 31, 2010
Krishna: His Relevance Today
OSHO has spoken on practically every great spiritual tradition and master known to us and their teachings. The list of masters includes Krishna, Buddha, Mahavir, Zarathustra, Guru Nanak, Jesus, Kabir, Patanjali, Ashtavakra, Bodhidharma, Meera, Rabia, Dariya, Hakim Sanai, Chuang Tzu, Lao Tzu, Yakusan, Dionysius, Ta Hui, Atisha, Ko Hsuan, Rinzai, Nansen, Ma Tzu, Kyozan, Joshu, Hyakujo, Dogen, Heraclitus, Pythagoras . . . to name only a few. On each of these, he has given a series of talks and on some several series.
Given below is Osho’s answer to a question someone asked him about the relevance of Krishna for our times. Osho’s book Krishna: The Man and His Philosophy [Krishna Meri Drishti Mein in the Hindi original] begins with this question-answer.
Q: WHAT ARE THE DISTINGUISHING VIRTUES OF KRISHNA THAT MAKE HIM RELEVANT TO OUR TIMES? WHAT IS HIS SIGNIFICANCE FOR US? PLEASE EXPLAIN.
Krishna is utterly incomparable, he is so unique. Firstly, his uniqueness lies in the fact that although Krishna happened in the ancient past he belongs to the future, is really of the future. Man has yet to grow to that height where he can be a contemporary of Krishna’s. He is still beyond man’s understanding; he continues to puzzle and battle us. Only in some future time will we be able to understand him and appreciate his virtues. And there are good reasons for it.
The most important reason is that Krishna is the sole great man in our whole history who reached the absolute height and depth of religion, and yet he is not at all serious and sad, not in tears. By and large, the chief characteristic of a religious person has been that he is somber, serious and sad-looking – like one vanquished in the battle of life, like a renegade from life. In the long line of such sages it is Krishna alone who comes dancing, singing and laughing.
Religions of the past were all life-denying and masochistic, extolling sorrow and suffering as great virtues. If you set aside Krishna’s vision of religion, then every religion of the past presented a sad and sorrowful face. A laughing religion, a religion that accepts life in its totality is yet to be born.
And it is good that the old religions are dead, along with them, that the old God, the God of our old concepts is dead too.
Every religion, up to now, has divided life into two parts, and while they accept one part they deny the other, Krishna alone accepts the whole of life. Acceptance of life in its totality has attained full fruition in Krishna. That is why India held him to be a perfect incarnation of God, while all other incarnations were assessed as imperfect and incomplete. Even Rama is described as an incomplete incarnation of God. But Krishna is the whole of God.
And there is a reason for saying so. The reason is that Krishna has accepted and absorbed everything that life is.
Albert Schweitzer made a significant remark in criticism of the Indian religion. He said that the religion of this country is life negative. This remark is correct to a large extent, if Krishna is left out.
But it is utterly wrong in the context of Krishna. If Schweitzer had tried to understand Krishna he would never have said so.
But it was unfortunate that we did not allow Krishna to influence our life in a broad way. He remains a lonely dancing island in the vast ocean of sorrow and misery that is our life. Or, we can say he is a small oasis of joyous dancing and celebration in the huge desert of sadness and negativity, of suppression and condemnation that we really are. Krishna could not influence the whole spectrum of our life, and for this we are alone to blame. Krishna is not in the least responsible for it. We were not that worthy, that deserving, to have him, to imbibe him, to absorb him.
Up to now, man’s mind has thought of and looked at life in fragments – and thought dialectically.
The religious man denies the body and accepts the soul. And what is worse, he creates a conflict, a dichotomy between the body and spirit. He denies this world, he accepts the other world, and thus creates a state of hostility between the two. Naturally our life is going to be sad and miserable if we deny the body, because all our life’s juice – its health and vitality, its sensitivities and beauty, all its music – has its source in the body. So a religion that denies and denounces the body is bound to be anemic and ill, it has to be lackluster. Such a religion is going to be as pale and lifeless as a dry leaf fallen from a tree. And the people who follow such a religion, who allow themselves to be influenced and conditioned by it, will be as anemic and prone to death as these leaves are.
Krishna alone accepts the body in its totality. And he accepts it not in any selected dimension but in all its dimensions. Apart from Krishna, Zarathustra is another. About him it is said he was born laughing. Every child enters this world crying. Only one child in all of history laughed at the time of his birth, and that was Zarathustra. And this is an index – an index of the fact that a happy and laughing humanity is yet to be born. And only a joyful and laughing humanity can accept Krishna.
Krishna has a great future. After Freud the world of religion is not going to be the same as it was before him. Freud stands as a watershed between the religions of the past and the religion of the future. With Freud a great revolution has taken place and man’s consciousness has achieved a breakthrough. We shall never be the same again after Freud. A new peak of consciousness has been touched and a new understanding, an altogether new perspective, a new vision of life has come into being. And it is essential to understand it rightly.
The old religions taught suppression as the way to God. Man was asked to suppress everything – his sex, his anger, his greed, his attachments – and then alone would he find his soul, would he attain to God. This war of man against himself has continued long enough. And in the history of thousands of years of this war, barely a handful of people, whose names can be counted on one’s fingers, can be said to have found God. So in a sense we lost this war, because down the centuries billions of people died without finding their souls, without meeting God.
Undoubtedly there must be some basic flaw, some fundamental mistake in the very foundation of these religions.
It is as if a gardener has planted fifty thousand trees and out of them only one tree flowers – and yet we accept his scripture on gardening on the plea that at least one tree has blossomed. But we fail to take into consideration that this single tree might have been an exception to the rule, that it might have blossomed not because of the gardener, but in spite of him. The rest of the fifty thousand trees, those that remained stunted and barren, are enough proof the gardener was not worth his salt.
If a Buddha, a Mahavira or a Christ attains to God in spite of these fragmentary and conflict-ridden religions, it is no testimony to the success of these religions as such. The success of religion, or let us say the success of the gardener, should be acclaimed only when all fifty thousand trees of his garden, with the exception of one or two, achieve flowering. Then the blame could be laid at the foot of the one tree for its failure to bloom. Then it could be said that this tree remained stunted and barren in spite of the gardener.
With Freud a new kind of awareness has dawned on man: that suppression is wrong, that suppression brings with it nothing but self-pity and anguish. If a man fights with himself he can only ruin and destroy himself. If I make my left hand fight with my right hand, neither is going to win, but in the end the contest will certainly destroy me. While my two hands fight with themselves, I and I alone will be destroyed in the process. That is how, through denial and suppression of his natural instincts and emotions, man became suicidal and killed himself.
Krishna alone seems to be relevant to the new awareness, to the new understanding that came to man in the wake of Freud and his findings. It is so because in the whole history of the old humanity Krishna alone is against repression.
He accepts life in all its facets, in all its climates and colors. He alone does not choose, he accepts life unconditionally. He does not shun love; being a man he does not run away from women. As one who has known and experienced God, he alone does not turn his face from war. He is full of love and compassion, and yet he has the courage to accept and fight a war. His heart is utterly non violent, yet he plunges into the fire and fury of violence when it becomes unavoidable. He accepts the nectar, and yet he is not afraid of poison.
In fact, one who knows the deathless should be free of the fear of death. And of what worth is that nectar which is afraid of death? One who knows the secret of non-violence should cease to fear violence. What kind of non-violence is it that is scared of violence? And how can the spirit, the soul, fear the body and run away from it? And what is the meaning of God if he cannot take the whole of this world in his embrace?
Krishna accepts the duality, the dialectics of life altogether and therefore transcends duality. What we call transcendence is not possible so long as you are in conflict, so long as you choose one part and reject the other. Transcendence is only possible when you choicelessly accept both parts together, when you accept the whole.
That is why Krishna has great significance for the future. And his significance will continue to grow with the passage of time. When the glow and the glamor of all other godmen and messiahs has dimmed, when the suppressive religions of the world have been consigned to the wastebasket of history, Krishna’s flame will be heading towards its peak, moving towards the pinnacle of its brilliance.
It will be so because, for the first time, man will be able to comprehend him, to understand him and to imbibe him. And it will be so because, for the first time, man will really deserve him and his blessings.
It is really arduous to understand Krishna. It is easy to understand that a man should run away from the world if he wants to find peace, but it is really difficult to accept that one can find peace in the thick of the marketplace. It is understandable that a man can attain to purity of mind if he breaks away from his attachments, but it is really difficult to realize that one can remain unattached and innocent in the very midst of relationships and attachments, that one can remain calm and still live at the very center of the cyclone. There is no difficulty in accepting that the flame of a candle will remain steady and still in a place well secluded from winds and storms, but how can you believe that a candle can keep burning steadily even in the midst of raging storms and hurricanes? So it is difficult even for those who are close to Krishna to understand him.
For the first time in his long history man has attempted a great and bold experiment through Krishna.
For the first time, through Krishna, man has tested, and tested fully his own strength and intelligence.
It has been tested and found that man can remain, like a lotus in water, untouched and unattached while living in the throes of relationship. It has been discovered that man can hold to his love and compassion even on the battlefield, that he can continue to love with his whole being while wielding a sword in his hand.
It is this paradox that makes Krishna difficult to understand. Therefore, people who have loved and worshipped him have done so by dividing him into parts, and they have worshipped his different fragments, those of their liking. No one has accepted and worshipped the whole of Krishna, no one has embraced him in his entirety. Poet Surdas sings superb hymns of praise to the Krishna of his childhood, Bal Krishna. Surdas’ Krishna never grows up, because there is a danger with a grown-up Krishna which Surdas cannot take. There is not much trouble with a boy Krishna flirting with the young women of his village, but it will be too much if a grown-up Krishna does the same.
Then it will be difficult to understand him.
After all, we can understand something on our own plane, on our own level. There is no way to understand something on a plane other than ours.
So for their adoration of Krishna, different people have chosen different facets of his life. Those who love the GEETA will simply ignore the BHAGWAD, because the Krishna of the GEETA is so different from the Krishna of the BHAGWAD Similarly, those who love the BHAGWAD will avoid getting involved with the GEETA. While the Krishna of the GEETA stands on a battlefield surrounded by violence and war, the Krishna of the BHAGWAD is dancing, singing and celebrating. There is seemingly no meeting-point whatsoever between the two.
There is perhaps no one like Krishna, no one who can accept and absorb in himself all the contradictions of life, all the seemingly great contradictions of life. Day and night, summer and winter, peace and war, love and violence, life and death – all walk hand in hand with him. That is why everyone who loves him has chosen a particular aspect of Krishna’s life that appealed to him and quietly dropped the rest.
Gandhi calls the GEETA his mother, and yet he cannot absorb it, because his creed of non-violence conflicts with the grim inevitability of war as seen in the GEETA. So Gandhi finds ways to rationalize the violence of the GEETA: he says the war of Mahabharat is only a metaphor, that it did not actually happen. This war, Gandhi says over and over again, represents the inner war between good and evil that goes on inside a man. The Kurushetra of the GEETA, according to Gandhi, is not a real battlefield located somewhere on this earth, nor is the Mahabharat an actual war. It is not that Krishna incites Arjuna to fight a real Mahabharat, Mahabharat only symbolizes the inner conflict and war of man, and so it is just a parable.
Gandhi has his own difficulty. The way Gandhi’s mind is, Arjuna will be much more in accord with him than Krishna. A great upsurge of non-violence has arisen in the mind of Arjuna, and he seems to be strongly protesting against war. He is prepared to run away from the battlefield and his arguments seem to be compelling and logical. He says it is no use fighting and killing one’s own family and relatives. For him, wealth, power and fame, won through so much violence and bloodshed, have no value whatsoever. He would rather be a beggar than a king, if kingship costs so much blood and tears. He calls war an evil and violence a sin and wants to shun it at all costs. Naturally Arjuna has a great appeal for Gandhi. How can he then understand Krishna?
Krishna very strongly urges Arjuna to drop his cowardice and fight like a true warrior. And his arguments in support of war are beautiful, rare and unique. Never before in history have such unique and superb arguments been advanced in favor of fighting, in support of war. Only a man of supreme non-violence could give such support to war.
Krishna tells Arjuna, “So long as you believe you can kill someone, you are not a man with a soul, you are not a religious man. So long as you think that one dies, you don’t know that which is within us, that which has never died and will never die. If you think you can kill someone you are under a great illusion, you are betraying your ignorance. The concept of killing and dying is materialistic; only a materialist can believe so. There is no dying, no death for one who really knows.” So Krishna exhorts Arjuna over and over again in the GEETA, “This is all play-acting; killing or dying is only a drama.”
In this context it is necessary to understand why we call the life of Rama a story, a biography, and not a play, not leela. It is because Rama is very serious. But we describe the life of Krishna as his leela, his play-acting, because Krishna is not serious at all. Rama is bounded, he is limited. He is bound, limited by his ideals and principles. Scriptures call him the greatest idealist: he is circumscribed by the rules of conduct and character. He will never step out of his limits; he will sacrifice everything for his principles, for his character.
Krishna’s life, on the other hand, accepts no limitations. It is not bound by any rules of conduct, it is unlimited and vast. Krishna is free, limitlessly free. There is no ground he cannot tread; no point where his steps can fear and falter, no limits he cannot transcend. And this freedom, this vastness of Krishna, stems from his experience of self-knowledge. It is the ultimate fruit of his enlightenment.
For this reason the question of violence has become meaningless in Krishna’s life. Now, violence is just not possible. And where violence is meaningless, non-violence loses its relevance too. Nonviolence has meaning only in relation to violence. The moment you accept that violence is possible, non-violence becomes relevant at once. In fact, both violence and non-violence are two sides of the same coin. And it is a materialistic coin. It is materialistic to think that one is violent or non-violent.
He is a materialist who believes he can kill someone, and he too is a materialist who thinks he is not going to kill anyone. One thing is common to them: they believe someone can be really killed.
Spirituality rejects both violence and non-violence. It accepts the immortality of the soul. And such spirituality turns even war into play.
Spirituality or religion accepts, and unreservedly accepts, all the dimensions of life. It accepts sex and attachment together, relationship and indulgence, love and devotion, yoga and meditation, and everything there is to life.
And the possibility of the understanding and acceptance of this philosophy of totality is growing every day – because now we have come to know a few truths we never knew in the past. Krishna, however, has undoubtedly known them.
For instance, we now know that the body and soul are not separate, that they are two poles of the same phenomenon. The visible part of the soul is known as the body, and the invisible part of the body is called the soul. God and the world are not two separate entities; there is absolutely no conflict between God and nature. Nature is the visible, the gross aspect of God, and God is the invisible, the subtle aspect of nature. There is no such point in the cosmos where nature ends and God begins. It is nature itself that, through a subtle process of its dissolution, turns into God, and it is God himself who, through a subtle process of his manifestation, turns into nature. Nature is manifest God, and God is unmanifest nature. And that is what advaita means, what the principle of one without a second means.
We can understand Krishna only if we clearly understand this concept of advaita, that only one is – one without a second. You can call him God or Brahman or what you like.
We also have to understand why Krishna is going to be increasingly significant for the future and how he is going to become closer and closer to man. It will be so, because the days when suppression and repression ruled the roost are gone. After a lengthy struggle and a long spell of inquiry and investigation we have learned that the forces we have been fighting are our own forces. In reality we are those forces, and it is utter madness to fight them. We have also learned we become prisoners of the forces we oppose and fight, and then it becomes impossible to free ourselves from them. And now we also know that we can never transform them if we treat them as inimical forces, if we resist and repress them.
For instance, if someone fights with sex, he will never attain to brahmacharya, to celibacy in his life. There is only one way to celibacy and that is through the transformation of the sex energy itself. So we don’t have to fight with the energy of sex; on the contrary, we should understand it and cooperate with it. We need to make friends with sex rather than make an enemy of it, as we have been doing for so long. The truth is, we can only change our friends; the question of changing those we treat as enemies simply does not arise. There is no way to even understand our enemies; it is just impossible. To understand something it is essential to be friendly with it.
Let us clearly understand that what we think to be the lowest is the other pole of the highest. The peak of a mountain and the valley around its base are not two separate things, they are part and parcel of the same phenomenon. The deep valley has been caused by the rising mountain, and in the same way the mountain has been possible because of the valley, one cannot be without the other. Or can it? Linguistically the mountain and the valley are two, but existentially they are two poles of the same thing.
Nietzsche has a very significant maxim. He says a tree that longs to reach the heights of heaven must sink its roots to the bottom of the earth. A tree that is afraid to do so should abandon its longing to reach the heavens. Really, the higher a tree the deeper its roots go. If you want to ascend to the skies you will have to descend into the abyss as well. Height and depth are not different things, they are two dimensions of the same thing. And their proportions are always the same.
Man’s mind has always wanted to choose between the seeming opposites. He wants to preserve heaven and do away with hell. He wants to have peace and escape tension. He desires to protect good and destroy evil. He longs to accept light and deny darkness. He craves to cling to pleasure and to shun pain. His mind has always divided existence into two parts and chosen one part against the other. And from choice arises duality, which brings conflict and pain.
Krishna symbolizes acceptance of the opposites together. And he alone can be whole who accepts the contradictions together. One who chooses will always be incomplete, less than the whole, because the part he chooses will continue to delude him and the part he denies will continue to pursue and haunt him. He can never be rid of what he rejects and represses. The mind of the man who rejects and represses sex becomes increasingly sexual. So a culture, a religion that teaches suppression of sex ends up creating nothing but sexuality; it becomes obsessed with sex.
Up to now we have stubbornly denied the Krishna who accepts sex; we accept him only in fragments.
But now it will be quite possible to accept him totally, because we are beginning to understand that it is the energy of sex itself that is transformed into the highest kind of celibacy, into brahmacharya through the process of its upward journey to the sahasrar, to the ultimate center in the head. We are beginning to learn that nothing in life has to be denied its place and given up, that we have to accept and live life in its totality. And he who lives wholly attains to life’s wholeness. And he alone is holy who is whole.
Therefore I say that Krishna has immense significance for our future. And that future, when Krishna’s image will shine in all its brilliance, is increasingly close. And whenever a laughing, singing and dancing religion comes into being it will certainly have Krishna’s stone in its foundation.
From a talk given by Osho on 20 July at CCI Chambers, Bombay.
Note: In the painting above, we find Krishna in one of his leelas. He is enjoying the cowherd girls dressing him up as a woman – probably as Radha.