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Zen: The Path of Paradox

Zen: The Path of Paradox

by Osho

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In Zen: The Path of Paradox, Osho suggests Zen as a possible bridge between East and West, and between the scientific and the spiritual. "Without science," Osho said, "the East has lost much; without meditation, the West has lost much. I am trying to bring together East and West, because together they will create the whole." Osho encourages the reader to


In Zen: The Path of Paradox, Osho suggests Zen as a possible bridge between East and West, and between the scientific and the spiritual. "Without science," Osho said, "the East has lost much; without meditation, the West has lost much. I am trying to bring together East and West, because together they will create the whole." Osho encourages the reader to throw off the accumulated "knowing" of a lifetime--to let go of physical, mental, and emotional tensions, to relax into the flow of an extraordinary discourse and become receptive to the present moment and the potential within.

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St. Martin's Press
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First Edition
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5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

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The Path of Paradox

By Osho

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2001 Osho International Foundation
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-13060-0



Like the empty sky it has no boundaries, yet it is right in this place, ever profound and clear. When you seek to know it, you cannot see it. You cannot take hold of it, but you cannot lose it. In not being able to get it you get it. When you are silent it speaks; when you speak, it is silent. The great gate is wide open to bestow alms, and no crowd is blocking the way.

First, a few fundamentals ...

Zen is not a theology, it is a religion — and religion without a theology is a unique phenomenon. All other religions exist around the concept of God. They have theologies. They are God-centric not man-centric; man is not the end, God is the end. But it is not so for Zen. For Zen, man is the goal; man is the end unto himself. God is not something above humanity, God is something hidden within humanity. Man is carrying God in himself as a potentiality.

So there is no concept of God in Zen. If you want, you can say that it is not even a religion — because how can there be a religion without the concept of God? Certainly those who have been brought up as Christians, Mohammedans, Hindus, Jews, cannot conceive of what sort of religion Zen is. If there is no God then it becomes atheism — it is not. It is theism to the very core, but without a God.

This is the first fundamental to be understood. Let it sink deep within you, then things will become clear.

Zen says that God is not extrinsic to religion, it is intrinsic. It is not there, it is here. In fact there is no "there" for Zen, all is here. God is not then, God is now — and there is no other time. There is no other space, no other time. This moment is all. In this moment the whole existence converges, in this moment all is available. If you cannot see it, that does not mean that it is not available — it simply means you don't have the vision to see it. God has not to be searched for, you have only to open your eyes. God is already the case.

Prayer is irrelevant in Zen — to whom to pray? There is no God sitting there somewhere in the heavens and controlling life and existence. There is no controller. Life is moving in a harmony, of its own accord. There is nobody outside it giving it commandments. When there is an outside authority it creates a kind of slavery. A Christian becomes a slave, the same happens to a Mohammedan. When God is there commanding, you can be at the most a servant or a slave. You lose all dignity.

Not so with Zen. Zen gives you tremendous dignity. There is no authority anywhere. Freedom is utter and ultimate.

Had Friederich Nietzsche known anything about Zen he might have turned into a mystic rather than going mad. He had stumbled upon a great fact. He said, There is no God. God is dead — and man is free. But basically he was brought up in the world of the Jews and the Christians, a very narrow world, very much confined within concepts. He stumbled upon a great truth: There is no God. God is dead, hence man is free. He stumbled upon the dignity of freedom, but it was too much. For his mind it was too much. He went mad, he went berserk. Had he known anything like Zen he would have turned into a mystic — there was no need to go mad.

One can be religious without a God. In fact, how can one be religious with a God? That is the question Zen asks, a very disturbing question. How can a man be religious with a God? — because God will destroy your freedom, God will dominate you. You can look into the Old Testament. God says, I am a very jealous God and I cannot tolerate any other God. Those who are not with me are against me. And I am a very violent and cruel God and I will punish you and you will be thrown into eternal hellfire. How can man be religious with such a God? How can you be free and how can you bloom? Without freedom there is no flowering. How can you come to your optimum manifestation when there is a God confining you, condemning you, forcing you this way and that, manipulating you?

Zen says that with God, man will remain a slave; with God, man will remain a worshipper; with God, man will remain in fear. In fear how can you bloom? You will shrink, you will become dry, you will start dying. Zen says that when there is no God there is tremendous freedom, there is no authority in existence. Hence there arises great responsibility. Look — if you are dominated by somebody you cannot feel responsible. Authority necessarily creates irresponsibility; authority creates resistance; authority creates reaction, rebellion in you — you would like to kill God.

That's what Nietzsche means when he says God is dead — it is not that God has committed suicide, he has been murdered. He has to be murdered. With him there is no possibility to be free — only without him. But then Nietzsche himself became very afraid. To live without God requires great courage, to live without God requires great meditation, to live without God requires great awareness — that was not there. That's why I say he stumbled upon the fact, it was not a discovery. He was groping in the dark.

For Zen it is a discovery. It is an established truth: There is no God. Man is responsible for himself and for the world he lives in. If there is suffering, you are responsible; there is nobody else to look to. You cannot throw off your responsibility. If the world is ugly and is in pain, we are responsible; there is nobody else. If we are not growing we cannot throw the responsibility on somebody else's shoulders. We have to take the responsibility.

When there is no God you are thrown back to yourself. Growth happens. You have to grow. You have to take hold of your life, you have to take the reins in your own hands. Now you are the master. You have to be more alert and more aware because for whatsoever is going to happen, you will be responsible. This gives great responsibility. One starts becoming more alert, more aware. One starts living in a totally different way. One becomes more watchful. One becomes a witness.

And there is no beyond. ... The beyond is within you, there is no beyond beyond you. In Christianity the beyond is beyond; in Zen the beyond is within. So the question is not to raise your eyes to the sky and pray — that is meaningless, you are praying to an empty sky. The sky is far lower in consciousness than you. Somebody is praying to a tree. ... Many Hindus go and pray to a tree, many Hindus go to the Ganges and pray to the river, many pray to a stone statue, many pray to the sky or many pray to a concept, an idea. The higher is praying to the lower.

Prayer is meaningless, Zen says. Only meditation — it is not that you have to kneel down before somebody, drop this old habit of slavery; all that is needed is that you have to become quiet and silent and go withinward to find your center. That very center is the center of existence too. When you have come to your innermost core you have come to the innermost core of existence itself. That's what God is in Zen. But they don't call it God. It is good that they don't call it God.

So the first thing to remember is that Zen is not a theology, it is a religion — and that, too, with a tremendous difference. It is not a religion like Islam. There are three fundamentals in Islam: one God, one book, and one prophet. Zen has no God, no book, no prophet. The whole existence is God's prophecy; the whole existence is his message. And remember, God is not separate from this message either. This message itself is divine. There is no messenger — all that nonsense has been completely dropped by Zen.

Theology arises with one book. It needs a Bible, it needs a holy Koran. It needs a book that pretends to be holy, it needs a book that tries to say that it is special — that no other book is like this, this is a Godsend, a gospel. Zen says everything is divine so how can anything be special? All is special. Nothing is non-special so nothing can be special. Each leaf of every tree and each pebble on every shore is special, unique, holy. It is not that the Koran is holy, not that the Bible is holy. When a lover writes a letter to his beloved that letter is holy.

Zen brings holiness to ordinary life.

A great Zen master, Bokoju, used to say, How wondrous this! How mysterious! I carry fuel, I draw water.

How wondrous this! How mysterious! Carrying fuel, drawing water from the well, and he says, How mysterious! This is the Zen spirit. It transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. It transforms the profane into the sacred. It drops the division between the world and the divine. That's why I say it is not a theology, it is pure religion.

Theology contaminates religion. There is no difference between a Mohammedan and a Christian and a Hindu as far as religion is concerned, but there is great difference as far as theology is concerned. They have different theologies. People have been fighting because of theology.

Religion is one; theologies are many. Theology means the philosophy about God, the logic about God. It is all meaningless because there is no way to prove God and there is no way to disprove God either. Argumentation is just irrelevant. Yes, one can experience, but one cannot prove — and that's what theology goes on doing. When you look at it from a distance you will laugh, it is so ridiculous.

In the Middle Ages, Christian theologians were very concerned, very troubled, puzzled about problems that will not look like problems to you. For example, how many angels can stand on the point of a needle? Books have been written about it — great argumentation. ...

Mulla Nasruddin, the owner of two lovebirds, sent for a veterinarian. "I'm worried about my birds," he announced. "They haven't gone potty all week."

The doctor looked inside the cage and asked, "Do you always line this thing with maps of the earth?"

"No," answered Mulla Nasruddin. "I put that in last Saturday when I was out of newspapers."

"That explains it!" replied the vet. "Lovebirds are very sensitive creatures. They're holding back because they figure this planet earth has taken all the crap it can stand!"

Theology is crap. And because of theology, religion becomes poisoned. A really religious person has no theology. Yes, he has the experience, he has the truth, he has that luminosity, but he has no theology. But theology has been of great help to scholars, pundits, the so-called learned people. It has been of great interest to the priests, to the popes, to the shankaracharyas. It has been of great benefit to them; their whole business depends on it.

Zen cuts the very root. It destroys the very business of the priest. And that is one of the ugliest businesses in the world because it depends on a very great deception. The priest has not known, and he goes on preaching. The theologian has not known, but he goes on spinning theories. He is as ignorant as anybody else — maybe even more so. But his ignorance has become very, very articulate. His ignorance is very decorated — decorated with scriptures, decorated with theories, decorated so cunningly and cleverly that it is very difficult to detect the flaw. Theology has not been of any help to humanity but certainly it has helped the priests. They have been able to exploit humanity in the name of foolish theories.

Two psychiatrists meeting in a busy restaurant got to talking, and one said he was treating a rather interesting case of schizophrenia. At that, the other analyst balked.

"What's so interesting about that? Split-personality cases are rather common, I would say."

"This case is interesting," responded his colleague. "They both pay!"

That's how theologians have lived. Theology is politics, it divides people. And if you can divide people you can rule them.

Zen looks at humanity with undivided vision — it does not divide. It has a total look. That's why I say that Zen is the religion of the future. Humanity is growing slowly toward that awareness where theology will be dropped and religion will be accepted purely as an experience.

In Japanese they have a special word for it. They call it konomama or sonomama — "Thisness" of existence. "This" — capital "This" — is it. This "isness" of life is God. It is not that God exists, but the very isness is divine: the isness of a tree, the isness of a rock, the isness of a man, the isness of a woman, the isness of a child. And that isness is an undefined phenomenon, undefinable. You can dissolve into it, you can merge into it, you can taste it — How wondrous! How mysterious! But you cannot define it, you cannot pinpoint it logically, you cannot formulate it into clear-cut concepts. Concepts kill it. Then it is the isness no more. Then it is a mind-construction.

The word God is not God, the concept "God" is not God. Neither is the concept "love" love, nor is the word food food. Zen says a very simple thing. It says: remember that the menu is not the food. And don't start eating the menu. That's what people have been doing down the centuries: eating the menu. And of course if they are undernourished, if they are not flowing, if they are not vital, if they are not living totally, it is natural — it is predictable. They have not lived on real food. They have been talking too much about food and they have completely forgotten what food is.

God has to be eaten, God has to be tasted, God has to be lived — not argued about. The process of "about" is theology. And that "about" goes round and round, it never comes to the real thing. It is a vicious circle.

Logic is a vicious circle — and Zen makes every effort to bring you out of that vicious circle. How is logic a vicious circle? The premise already has the conclusion in it. The conclusion is not going to be something new, it is contained in the premise. And then in the conclusion, the premise is contained.

It is like a seed: the tree is contained in the seed and then the tree will give birth to many more seeds and in those seeds, trees will be contained. It is a vicious circle: seed, tree, seed. It goes on. Or, egg, hen, egg, hen, egg ... it goes on ad infinitum. It is a circle.

To break out of this circle is what Zen is all about — not to go on moving in your mind through words and concepts but to drop into existence itself.

A great Zen master, Nan-In, was cutting a tree in the forest. And a professor of a university came to see him. Naturally the professor thought, "This woodcutter must know where Nan-In lives," so he inquired. The woodcutter took his axe in his hand and said, "I had to pay very much for it."

The professor had not inquired about his axe. He was inquiring where Nan-In lived; he was inquiring if he would be in the temple if he went there. And Nan-In raised the axe and said, "Look, I had to pay very much for it."

The professor felt a little puzzled and before he could escape, Nan-In came even closer and put his axe just on the head of the professor. The professor started trembling and Nan-In said, "It is really sharp."

And the professor escaped!

Later on, when he reached the temple he came to know that the woodcutter was nobody but Nan-In himself. Then he inquired of one of Nan-In's disciples, "Is he mad?"

"No," the disciple said. "You had asked if Nan-In was in and he was saying yes. He was showing his 'inness' and 'isness.' That moment he was a woodcutter. That moment, axe in his hand, he was totally absorbed in the sharpness of the axe. He was that sharpness in that moment. He was saying 'I am in' by being so immediate, by being so totally in the present. You missed the point. He was showing you the quality of Zen."

Zen is non-conceptual, non-intellectual. It is the only religion in the world that preaches immediacy, moment-to-moment immediacy — to be present in the moment; no past, no future.

But people have lived with theologies and those theologies keep them childish, they don't allow them to grow. You cannot grow by being confined in a theology, by being a Christian or a Hindu or a Mohammedan or even a Buddhist. You cannot grow; you don't have space enough to grow. You are confined very much, in a very narrow space; you are imprisoned.

A young preacher took a hundred thousand dollars from the church safe and lost it on the stock market. Then his beautiful wife left him. In despair he went down to the river and was just about to jump off the bridge when he was stopped by a woman in a black cloak with a wrinkled face and stringy gray hair.

"Don't jump," she rasped. "I'm a witch, and I'll grant you three wishes if you do something for me!"

"I'm beyond help," he replied.

"Don't be silly," she said. "Alakazam! The money is back in the church vault. Alakazam! Your wife is home waiting for you with love in her heart. Alakazam! You now have two hundred thousand dollars in the bank!"

"That's w-w-wonderful," stuttered the preacher. "What do I have to do for you?"

"Spend the night making love to me."

The thought of sleeping with the toothless old hag was repellent, but certainly worth it, so they retired to a nearby motel. In the morning, the distasteful ordeal over, the priest was dressing to go home when the bat in the bed said, "Say sonny, how old are you?"

"I'm forty-two!" he replied. "Why?"

"Ain't you a little old to believe in witches?"

That's what happens. If you believe in God you can believe in a witch, it is the same package. If you can believe in one kind of nonsense, you can believe in all kinds of nonsense. But you never grow. You remain juvenile.


Excerpted from Zen by Osho. Copyright © 2001 Osho International Foundation. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Osho is one of the most provocative and inspiring spiritual teachers of the twentieth century. Known for his revolutionary contribution to the science of inner transformation, the influence of his teachings continues to grow, reaching seekers of all ages in virtually every country of the world. He is the author of many books, including Love, Freedom, Aloneness; The Book of Secrets; and Innocence, Knowledge, and Wonder.

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