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Osho’s Final Message? by Swami Prem Islam

( This article first appeared In Viha Connection. A couple of last-minute cuts needed to make it fit the page by Viha have been re-instated. I've since realised that the article contains an error. It's not right that Osho only told the story about Tanka Tennen burning the statue twice, He told it several times, though attributing it to someone other than Tanka Tennen. I decided to let this stand, as only a minor illustrative point is lost. It in no way whatever detracts from my conclusion: that I believe Osho left a final hidden message for His people.
I've also found another Osho quote which seems to relate to what I believe to be Osho's message about His continuing presence. Again, I havn't wanted to change to original article to incorporate it. But it has a very similar theme to the quotes in the article of somehow being a channel for the master.

"But if a living Master is not available, then it is very difficult: ninety-nine percent of the work will have to be done by you, and only one percent can be done by a Master who is no more alive. For example, you can follow Christ, you can follow Buddha, but ninety-nine percent of the work will have to be done by you; only one percent can be done by Buddha. You will have to create such intensity, such passion; you will have to become afire. In becoming afire, in becoming a tremendous longing for truth, you will make Buddha alive again -- through your intensity. He is there! dissolved into existence, no more residing in a body. Not that he is not there: he is there, bodiless. Christ is there bodiless. If you can create a tremendous longing, that very longing will function as a body for Christ. He will become alive for you! If you really love Christ and you are ready to die for him, he is living for you, because you will become his body. You will start functioning as HIS body. [...] If your intensity is such that you can say, "It is total. My love has no doubt, no lingering shadow, it is shadowless," then a dead Master becomes ALIVE in you, and you can follow him. Then your innermost core becomes his vehicle.[...]
The easier way is to find a living Master who is still in the body. You need not become his body. You can contact him easily because he is visible.[...] It will be difficult for you to connect with a dead Master -- dead only in the sense that he has no body any more. Otherwise he is there! Nothing is ever lost. The fragrance is there: the flower is gone. [...]

I repeat it again: it will be almost impossible for you to follow a dead Master -- because then you will have to become his vehicle. And if you are capable of becoming the vehicle of a Christ, then why can't you become a Christ yourself? If you are capable of contacting a Buddha who disappeared twenty-five centuries ago, then who can prevent you from becoming a Buddha on your own? [...] You ARE enlightened, only the ego has to be taken away."

Osho, Philosphia Perennis, Volume 1 Chapter 4, 1978 )

I have always wished Osho had left a last message. Not that His last words didn’t satisfy me, they surely did: that volcanic fire burning to the last; the serene bequests of the objects in His room, with the mystic’s uncertainty as to what some of those things actually were; the craftsman-like way He checked the rightness of even His ultimate words. It was a scene no scriptwriter could have invented, its very matter-of-factness His deathbed teaching. And yet, at the time, I hoped for some public guidance as to the direction of His work: What should we all do now, please, Osho? (Okay, colour me in as only human.) He did, we are told, leave abundant private guidance and instructions to the Inner Circle. Some is apparently secret, but the Inner Circle are happy to share their general understanding. Since Osho left His body, I’ve asked individual members a number of questions.
I find them respectful of my inquiries and generous with their time, and utterly devoted to Osho – even as some of them fervently deny the value of devotion. They have a keen sense of the ways one can live in the past without realizing it. They are courageous in acting as they feel His instructions indicate. They have a calmness in dealing with difficult situations which I envy. Such calmness can only come from dealing with many, many difficult situations and I feel grateful that they are willing to face so many challenges for Osho’s work. I enjoy talking to them. On a heart level and a being level, these dialogues are always beautiful.
Yet, with some Inner Circle members (happily not all) it is difficult to arrive at common sense common ground: Do we or don’t we share the same understanding of Osho’s work? After twenty-odd years of working alongside each other it should be so easy to tell, yet I can come away bemused.
One phrase which gets in my way among others is “scientific meditation.” I’ve heard current members of the Inner Circle use this as if it replaces the rest of His teachings. White Robe Brotherhood is, I have been told, just a scientific meditation, nothing to do with sitting with a Master even if many experience it so. Working in the Buddhafield is said to be nothing but scientific meditation, so the management has no need to involve workers in the goals of the project, and there is no need for workers to feel ownership of those goals or even know what they are. The old-style sannyas ceremony created by Osho has been modified to reflect the viewpoint that “no-one is giving sannyas.” However, if Osho regarded it that no one is giving sannyas, as many of His discourses about sannyas suggest, then presumably His ceremony already reflected this truth.
I’m not saying that the view of Osho’s work as a science is wrong. It’s not, it’s right – if you hold the jewel of understanding to the sun at a certain angle, this is one facet that the light shines through. But physicists have discovered light to be both a particle and a wave. In an analogous way, I experience that Osho’s work is both a science, and something else. As with light, it seems false to say that it is one rather than the other. It is both. For example, I do feel that for many new sannyasins in Pune, taking sannyas is nothing to do with the Master Osho, but is a glorious universal ceremony on the path. But at the same time, for many others I’m clear it is to do with this Master. For me this duality creates no problems. But when the jewel of understanding is taken out of my hand and held in one fixed position so that I can’t see the light at all, that does create problems.
The intention of the Inner Circle in emphasizing Osho’s process as a science is, apparently, to make the work in Pune accessible to the millions who buy His books but would not call themselves “Osho’s people” and have zero interest in a sannyas lifestyle. This is a worthy aim, but I feel that the Inner Circle’s general policy is that they are the only ones who can address this issue. “Osho left His work to us,” is a phrase I’ve heard repeatedly.
I know that Osho’s private administrative guidance always did have a different flavour from His public speech, but I have come to feel a dissonance between what I hear Osho saying publicly and what seems to illuminate the Inner Circle’s policies. This gap has consequences. Management science reveals that organizations where management and key workers have clear common goals tend to succeed; those where they do not, tend to fail.
This perceived dissonance came to a peak for me at a meeting in Pune for group leaders and people giving sessions, which I attended last spring (2001). Listening to the public Osho, it’s clear to me that to the very last He found a value in the master-disciple relationship, and that His goal for the work is unequivocally enlightenment. To the general astonishment of the meeting participants, we were asked to stop talking about enlightenment with the newcomers, because a cursory check-the-check-box survey had shown that they came to Pune “for meditation, not for enlightenment.” The meeting degenerated into dismayed confusion. It’s only fair to say that the meeting’s convenor promptly backtracked and claimed that she had meant nothing except that we should learn to speak the newcomers’ language. This however was unnecessary to ask, as all therapists obviously do that. The emotional response that the announcement caused was strong: “despair” was a word widely used afterward by those attending. So I stand by what I heard.
I cannot stretch my understanding of Osho to drop enlightenment, or to drop talking about it, even to attract newcomers. Again, I began to wish He had left some public guidance at the end of His time with us, and it came to me that perhaps He has. I’ve become convinced that Osho consciously delivered a body of final messages to His people, and that many of us heard them all without realizing it: those messages are hidden throughout the Zen discourses as meanings between the lines.
It’s impossible to prove this. But I’m sure I’ve caught Him sending such hidden messages in earlier times. At the end of Rajneeshpuram, I was in one of the German communes, struggling to keep awake during His discourses after working 12 hours a day in an environment where “be joyful” had real traces of a military order. There He was, telling all these stories about His questioning, disobedient childhood. I remember comparing His childhood with my regimented life and asking myself: Why am I doing this? Within three months, I’d left the commune, within a few more months Rajneeshpuram itself had dissolved.
I only later wondered if Osho had featured His early life deliberately. I counted and, yes, references to His childhood are four times higher in the Ranch discourses than before or since. I can’t prove it, yet I’m sure He spoke about His childhood to shake the tree. Osho didn’t dictate any outcome, didn’t raise any resistance or emotion, or give any chance for politics. He didn’t give any order. But He shook the tree.
Fast forward to the final discourse series of His life, The Zen Manifesto from February to March1989. Osho was telling a quite different type of story, that of the Master Tanka Tennen. Tennen burned a beautiful Buddha statue to keep warm on a cold night, and when the monks who owned it complained, he told them that truth was in themselves, not in any statue. How I laughed at those silly monks! But so soon afterward we were burning Osho’s body, and that wasn’t funny.
As I see the device, the characters are once removed (for the monks, read you and me; for the statue, read Osho), but the structure of the story contains the meaning. The story of Tennen, for example, is one final reminder of Osho’s injunction – endlessly repeated since the earliest days – not to become focussed on Him, not to become mere devotees of beauty, but to realize that the truth is within. Osho first told that particular story in Pune One, but not again until the final month in which He spoke. Is that a coincidence?
There are other examples. Throughout the final years of Zen discourses there are all those stories of Masters and disciples: The disciple stays with the Master and becomes enlightened, leaves and becomes enlightened, comes back, leaves, stays, the Masters agree, they don’t agree but, still, they don’t compete. At the time, I genuinely thought He was talking about medieval China. But ten years on, sannyasins come and go to other Masters, come back, realize they had never been with Him, realize they have never left Him. So I ask, was Osho narrating the ancient past or describing the proximate future? A couple of examples:
With the blessing of his Master Hyakujo, Ungan leaves Hyakujo, and becomes the disciple of Yakusan:
Hyakujo simply said, "It is perfectly good. You go. Be as rich as possible. Learn from as many Masters as possible. It is a question of truth, not of belonging to me. You are not my possession. I love you, I want you to grow higher than me, I want you to be richer than I am. Take every opportunity – never miss it." (Christianity: The Deadliest Poison and Zen: The Antidote to All Poisons, Chapter 1)
Eno knows that he will die soon, before one of his disciples becomes enlightened:
This is the beauty of Zen, no competition at all. The whole thing is that everybody should become enlightened. Where he becomes enlightened is not important. Who is the Master who makes him enlightened is not important. Seeing death coming, Eno said to Sekito, "You are bound to become enlightened, but my death is very close. It is better you go to Seigen." (God is Dead, Now Zen is the Only Living Truth, Chapter 1
[Eno] was absolutely correct in his judgment; it was Seigen who finally managed Sekito's enlightenment.
But enlightenment happens in silence. That's why my whole effort here is to make you as silent as possible. Then you don't need even a Seigen. Sitting anywhere – in your room, under a tree, in the garden, by the side of the river, anywhere – if your silence deepens, Existence itself gives you the initiation into Buddhahood. And when it comes directly from Existence itself, it has a far greater beauty than when it comes through a Master. (God is Dead, Now Zen is the Only Living Truth, Chapter 2)
Nothing of this is new – Osho has been saying things like this, directly and indirectly, for 20 years. What I’m drawing attention to is the concentration of these references in the final Zen discourses. This seems to me to indicate that these discourses are in some sense His conscious final testament, and can be used as such as we feel our way forward.
Some have regarded specific stories as Osho’s last message. In Viha Connection a couple of years ago, Christian pointed out words which Osho put into the mouth of Yakusan:
“I have said the unsayable in as many ways as it was possible to say it. I have expressed the inexpressible in thousands of ways, and so many people have become enlightened. Now all these meditators should sit by the side of those who have become enlightened. I have done my work, now I want to retire.” (Yakusan: Straight to the Point of Enlightenment, Chapter 2)
Christian saw this as a call for those who became enlightened with Osho to be present in Pune. However, I feel Osho is not dictating any one specific next step. Rather, He is validating many possibilities, leaving us free and responsible in the creativity of each moment.
Did He intend simply a diaspora to other Masters? I don’t think so. I think He left one special message about the possibility of the continuation of His work after His death. It is contained in the “call me Gautam Buddha” episode.
In late 1988, in the middle of the Zen discourses, Osho said that He had had an experience in which the soul of Gautam Buddha asked to be a guest within Osho, and that He allowed this and we should thus address Him as “Beloved Buddha.”
I have accepted Gautam Buddha's soul as a guest, reminding him that I am a non-compromising person, and if any argument arises between us, "I am the host, and you are the guest – you can pack your suitcases!" But lovingly and with great joy he has accepted a strange host – perhaps only a strange man like me could do justice to a guest like Gautam the Buddha. Twenty-five centuries ago he was the most liberated, but in twenty-five centuries so much water has flowed down the Ganges. It is a totally new world of which he knows nothing.
With great respect he will have to depend on me to encounter the contemporary situation.
He understood it immediately. His clarity of vision has remained pure all along these twenty-five centuries. I am blessed to be a host of the greatest man of history. And you are also fortunate to be a witness of a strange phenomenon. (No Mind: The Flowers of Eternity, Chapter 2)
After a few days, Osho said that Gautama could not cope with Osho’s ways, and He had asked Gautama to leave.
This evening exactly at six o'clock when I was taking my jacuzzi, he became very much disturbed – "Jacuzzi?" Taking a bath twice a day was again a luxury.
I said, "You have fulfilled your prophecy that you will be coming back. Four days are enough – I say goodbye to you! […]
"You have seen for four days that I am doing the work that you wanted to do, and I am doing it according to the times and the needs. I am not in any way ready to be dictated to. I am a free individual. Out of my freedom and love I have received you as a guest, but don't try to become a host."
[…] He is so accustomed to his way, and that way is no longer relevant.
So now I make a far greater historical statement, that I am just myself. (No Mind: The Flowers of Eternity, Chapter 5)
A truly strange occurrence which you can interpret in many ways, and so strong it probably has many parallel significances. Let’s summarize it in one possible way:
Gautama’s soul exists after 25 centuries, Osho plays host but when Gautama cannot fit in with His ways, He in His freedom asks Gautama to leave. All this happens out of love, and is not a Master-disciple relationship. It has to do with Osho doing the work that Gautama wanted to do.
Now, as with the Tanka Tennen story, keep the structure, shift the characters around:
Osho’s soul can exist for at least 25 centuries, and can be the guest of another. If Osho doesn’t fit in any way, then that host can in his or her freedom ask Osho to leave. The relationship is not Master-disciple, and is not needed for enlightenment, indeed might only be possible with an enlightened host. It is rather to do with Osho continuing His distinctive work. It is out of love.
Or maybe it’s different, maybe He means…well, you read the original and you decide. I don’t want to fall into the trap of interpreting Osho on behalf of others, but I am sure this story means something about the continuation of His unique work.
My overall sense is this. If Osho had spoken directly of His impending death, the disturbance would have whirled people’s minds away into the future. Instead, He unobtrusively gave His blessing to any and every interaction between Masters and us – and pointed out the silent doorway through which no Master – not Osho, not Seigen – is needed. He created a freedom. Then He offered, almost invisibly, that if in that freedom it arises in any of us to play host to Him, much as He played host to Buddha, then that possibility exists. This type of mystical experience of the Master is one of the things that appear to be specifically denied by those who claim that Osho’s work is a science. Yet, whatever the Gautam Buddha episode is about, it is centrally placed in the middle of what I believe to be Osho's final testament. And what it is not, is scientific meditation.
If Osho was giving public messages in tandem with His private guidance to the Inner Circle, then I assume that He said the equivalent things in private as in public – to do otherwise would tear the Buddhafield apart. In other words, I take it He did at the last leave the jewel of understanding in my own hands, even if He placed it there so very gently that I hardly noticed it. Osho did not leave the understanding of His work to a chosen few. Imagine taking down a book from the shelf and as you open it, a piece of paper flutters out. And you pick it up and see the familiar handwriting of someone you loved who had died: an envelope, perhaps used as a bookmark, the unexpectedness of it taking you off guard and carrying you right back to the scent and touch of that person. And turning it over, finding it’s not a bookmark, that it’s addressed to you by name, “to be opened only after my death,” some message sent across the years. You stand there reading it, over and over, knowing you are hearing the final secrets of your friend’s heart. Well, I opened Osho’s final Zen discourses and this is what fluttered into my hands. In the end I’m simply inviting you to also take these discourses from your shelves and re-read them. And if you find a paper there you hadn’t noticed before, don’t be surprised. It just might be Osho’s final message to you.