Osho again on Sufi path

Review by H.P. Sah

Singing Silence. Pages 215. Rs 100. The Royal Way. Pages 216. Rs 100. Both by Osho. Diamond Pocket Books, New Delhi.

A machine works according to its design. It cannot do anything for which it is not built. Human beings work according to their will. Autonomy of will distinguishes human beings from automata. The difference between man and machine is unquestionable to all of us. But is this difference valid? We hardly ever feel the need to raise such questions. While listening to the lectures of Rajneesh (or Osho), you will definitely feel the need to raise such a question because it helps you “see” that most people behave in a mechanical way for most of the time.

George Gurdjieff used to say that people pass their lives in sleep: although they think that they are awake, in fact they are asleep. Sufis also talk of “sleep” pervading our life, and our waking state is often under the influence of sleep. Osho’s lectures on Sufism published in a book form under the titles “Singing Silence” and “The Royal Way”, give us a clear understanding of sleep.

In fact this has been one of the themes on which Osho had spoken all through his life. So there is nothing new in these two books for those who knew him closely and listened to his lectures frequently. But for thousands of persons who are too busy to read Osho books or spare time to listen to his lectures, the handy pocket book editions of Osho’s lectures will prove to be a great help to acquaint themselves with the spiritual dimension of life.

Silence cannot be sung, but it can be heard. It can be felt, and on occasion it is distinctly felt by all. So in one sense, we can hear silence. Various sorts of external and internal noise have so suffused the eternal silence that we are unable to hear it. But yet we have not lost the capacity to hear it.

We can still hear something other than noise also. That is why all of us love to listen to good music. Music creates a space in which internal noise is silenced for a while. But once the music is over, we are back again in our noisy world without having any awareness of the fact that it was silence in which we were lost and the notes of music only helped in creating a space within which silence could appear prominently.

Sufis have developed a method — a “tariqa” — by which one can become aware of the eternal silence, which is the source of ecstasy. Sufis know the art of helping one hear silence: they know the art of “singing silence”.

Our upbringing, training and our approach to environment all have conditioned us to respond to every situation in a mechanical way. Stereotype roles are taught to us and we have formed habits of acting accordingly. In all normal situations we act guided by our habit. Only in moments of crisis we stumble and become aware of the situation and of ourselves. But soon we get used even to that situation and begin to respond mechanically: we fall back to “sleep” again.

To face reality it is necessary to decondition ourselves from the whole set-up of artificially cultivated mechanical responses. We have to unlearn the old mechanical way of living and have to become as innocent as animals.

The Arabic word “suf” which is the root of “sufi” means wool. Osho interprets suf as a symbol of animal. He says that one can not enter the world of Sufis unless one becomes innocent like animals.

One has to throw away all masks that social and religious institutions have given us in the name of civilsation and education. It requires a great deal of courage. It is extremely dangerous to stand against established norms. One has to be prepared to pay a heavy price for doing what Mansoor or Sarmad did.

According to different interpretations, the word sufi is derived from different roots such as sufia which means wisdom, or sufa which means purity. Osho explains all these meanings in his lectures in “Singing Silence”. In his view, all these meanings indicate one single fact that Sufis dissociate themselves from the unreal world of borrowed knowledge and have got up from the sleep to see the truth for themselves.

A scholar on Sufism may find Osho’s interpretations to be against historical facts. But Osho is not interested in scholarship at all. In fact, he is not clarifying Sufism; he is trying to give insights into the spiritual life of Sufis. He says: “I will not be talking about Sufism. I will be talking Sufism”.

Osho’s lectures are not grave, systematic and a consistent philosophical discourse. He loves telling jokes of Mulla Nasruddin and quotes philosophers out of context. Very often he ridicules philosophy and philosophers. But he is serious about parables and stories of saints’ lives.

One such story in “Singing Silence” reveals an important truth about the character of a true saint. Once a person came to see Sufi saint Bahauddin Shah. He tried to flatter thesaint by saying that he possessed many spiritual qualities and his simplicity was the proof that he was a true saint.

In fact, the person wanted to hear in response his own praise by Bahauddin Shah. The person would be very much like us whose egos get flattered by false praise and are hurt by true criticism. We adopt all cunning measures to promote and nurse our ego and in this process we don’t hesitate to fool a saint.

A Sufi master, however, cannot be fooled. Complete dissolution of the ego is the aim of Sufism and a Sufi saint does nothing which may strengthen a person’s ego.

So Bahauddin Shah, totally unaffected by the flattery, replied bluntly to the person that he was pretending to have those high qualities which he did not possess. The reply was contrary to the expectation of the person. His ego was badly hurt. But that is what a saint is supposed to do.

Osho, through this story, cautions us against the wayword ways of our ego and gives us a valuable insight into the nature of a true saint. A true saint, whether he belongs to the Sufi tradition or any other, remains completely untouched by praise and criticism. That is exactly the nature of a “sadguru” as described by Ramana Maharishi.

Most religions preach that one should have full faith in God. But those religious traditions which aim to attain spiritual experience, give more importance to the guru than God, or equate guru to God himself. If divinity is not merely an ideal but a living reality, it can be seen most clearly in an enlightened master. The spark of the divine is distinctly visible in a “sadguru”.

In Sufism, where experience reigns over dogmas, the master is given the highest importance. Without having contact with a living master, one cannot enter into the world of Sufis. A disciple has to surrender himself at the feet of a master. This is the specific feature due to which sufism is distinctly different from orthodox Islam, although it has emerged from the latter. In Sufism the master is more important than the book.

Osho explains the reason for this departure very clearly and boldly in his lectures on Sufism collected under the title “The Royal Way”. He says books are dead and can be exploited both by us and by the so-called religious authorities to serve petty ends. A living master cannot be exploited or “misused”. Our domineering ego can interpret the words of holy books to suit our convenience.

A living master does not allow it to happen. He is a vigilant witness of the spiritual progress of his disciple and can see his ego in all its disguises. Only he knows what will strengthen the ego of his disciple and what will dissolve it. Books in the absence of the master becomes useless; rather they become dangerous.

Osho’s comments on the holy books may sometimes appear provocative. They are not. His comments are thought-provoking. Similarly, his emphasis on the importance of surrender at the master’s feet may be seen as an attempt to persuade his audience and reader to surrender at his feet. It may be a matter of dispute but his valuable insight into the world of Sufism cannot be rejected due to that controversial argument.

By reading these comments the reader will feel the need to decide for himself which way he wants to form his opinion. No one can remain indifferent about these comments and this is the power of Osho’s words that involve the reader in the discussion.

Osho did it through his lectures when he was present. Even years after his passing away he continues to do the same by his recorded speech and transcribed words.

Sufism is “The Royal Way”on which everyone can walk. But the way is not the same for everyone. If differs from person to person to person depending on their psychic levels of development. So an enlightened master is needed who can guide each individual on his individual journey. Once the person is initiated into the path of Sufism, it becomes the responsibility of the master to look after the disciple on his spiritual journey and help him at every turn till he reaches the ultimate destination.

Before a master passes away, he appoints his successor who could continue to help his disciples on their path. Masters come and go, but the “silsila” of the masters is always kept alive so that the path of the seeker remains always lighted and he can progress in his journey without any interruption.

Osho indicates in one of his lectures that a Sufi master sends his disciples to a different enlightened master if he finds that the time of his withdrawal from world has come but none of his own disciples has attained enlightenment. While “silsila” shows how much care a Sufi master cares for his disciples, it also reveals the complete egolessness of the master who lives only to kindle new lamps to spread spiritual light everywhere.

After years of the death of Osho, it is heartening to see that some publisher has brought out his lectures in a book form. The price of the books is high for a paperback edition. More people will read Osho’s books if the price is lowered a little.

It would be good if Osho’s lectures on yoga, tantra, tao, etc. are published in a paperback edition. More people would be able to know what Osho actually said apart from what they hear from others as what he said.

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