Interpreting a spiritual anarchist’s early guidance.
Like his contemporary, J. Krishnamurti, Osho opened new doors to truths that for many had become dead. The two did not get along. Perhaps Osho’s self-professed madness clashed with Krishnamurti’s earnestness. Still, each in his way rejected intellectual, social and spiritual tradition. Along very different paths from the norm and from one another, these two heterodox thinkers shone fresh light on ancient wisdom.
The controversial and enigmatic Osho still has what the British would call a ‘Marmite’ quality. Like the savoury spread, he leaves few people indifferent. You either love him or hate him. I find his irreverence and willingness to offend refreshing. Although I’m not a fan of his ‘bling’ style and fleet of Rolls Royces, I applaud his open refusal to conform to the pious template we impose on spiritual teachers. Better to sin honestly than feign saintliness while exercising inevitable human frailties in dark corners.
Osho would never submit to or issue commandments, free-wheeling spirit that he was. Still, as a young teacher, he listed the following in answer to a playful question about his version of the Ten Commandments:
- Never obey anyone’s command unless it is coming from within you also.
- There is no God other than life itself.
- Truth is within you, do not search for it elsewhere.
- Love is prayer.
- To become a nothingness is the door to truth. Nothingness itself is the means, the goal and attainment.
- Life is now and here.
- Live wakefully.
- Do not swim — float.
- Die each moment so that you can be new each moment.
- Do not search. That which is, is. Stop and see.
Four of these resonate with me right now, seeming to dance with one another. Here’s what they mean to me.
Life is now and here
Isn’t it odd that we need reminding of life’s immediacy and intimacy? Yet we do — especially those of us whose seeking relies heavily on words and their underlying concepts.
Life is experiencing. It is reality experiencing itself. That experiencing is never ‘there’ or ‘then’. It is always Here and Now. Now is the present moment. Here is this personal perspective.
Neither you nor I have access to other times. At best, we have references (memories, anticipations, intentions) to them, in and from this present moment. In this sense, Now contains, for us, the past and future. We needn’t worry or work to ‘be in the present’. There is no-when-else we can be!
Our immediate experience can, though, be littered and crowded with those purely mental, forward- and backward-looking elements. Such moments have less room for the body’s perceptual and sensory information that imparts a better sense of connection to the current moment. Although the mind can seem to drift to other times, the body cannot. So our bodies help us recognise our eternal home in the present.
This body and mind are a mechanism for experience, and Here is the label I can apply to the unique personal perspective they yield. My personal experience does not include and cannot access the personal perspective of another. I cannot see from ‘there’.
What does this imply? I can’t know another’s motives. Even with the greatest empathy in the world, I cannot know what they feel. How then, can I attribute my problems to them? How can I change them? Perhaps I would best tend Here, with this rather than fuss with that, there. These words aren’t moral commands, they are pointers to better understanding and more skilful action.
There is no God other than life itself
God’s Now is eternity. It holds all moments, outside of time. God’s Here is stillness, with no movement, no experience and therefore no perspective. What I’ve just written points to God at rest — eternal nothingness that is also the source of everything that happens. And what happens is everything that can possibly happen — all alternatives, all variations of experience, from all perspectives.
All happening, which is to say all manifestation, all experience, is God at play. God’s play is life. So I don’t think Osho is demoting God with this commandment’s announcement. He might be saying that life is God’s manifestation. Life is God’s existence, God’s body. God doesn’t ‘show up’ any other way.
All life is through one or other finite life. One or other Here. There is no distinct God’s-eye view. Life is God’s experiencing of his own body, and that body is all objects of experience — perceptions, sensations, thoughts. But all experience is within a moment and from a perspective. God does not analyse, compare, aggregate, or otherwise operate across moments and perspectives. This hearkens back to the truth that life is Now and Here.
Remember, a person is a collection of moments that contain a consistent perspective. But here’s the zinger: you are not a person. You are life. Every sentient being’s perspective is a Here. As life, you — not the personal perspective that constitutes one personal Here but that which you truly are — are also God. You are that which knows every moment from every perspective, including the one that bears your current name. You, God and life are one.
That Thou Art.
The implications are seismic. What need you fear? Nothing lies outside you to inflict harm. What mistake can you make? Every moment is perfectly whole and sufficient, despite any judgement it contains. What limits you? What opportunity can you miss? You experience everything that is possible, and you do so eternally.
Do not swim — float
This seems an instruction to the person, not to that which you really are. Perhaps it could be re-phrased as a declaration: persons don’t swim, they float.
Life flows. In this metaphor, it is the stream and the channel that holds the stream. All finite lives flow as microcurrents within it. No microcurrent moves independently from the overall stream of life. Eddies seem to flow against the stream, but they are formed by the forces of the larger flow itself.
This means there is no swimming — no separate propagation within life’s stream other than the turbulent movement that the stream itself imparts. There is only infinitely varied floating, even though the floating often feels like swimming (or even sinking).
So trust in life (your true self) as the intelligent process that guides your personal decisions and actions.
Die each moment so that you can be new each moment
Each moment is complete and sufficient unto itself, a perfect experience from a unique perspective.
Recognise the truth that you (as a person, the Son) are new each moment. You die and rise again, until the final time you die and rest. Death is not a one-off, an ending to be feared. It is an integral and familiar part of life’s rhythm.
Do this in recognition that you (as life, God, the Father) are eternal, without birth, without death, but containing every birth, life and death.
The person who understands this, the jnani, can travel without baggage, since anything relevant from the past is contained in the current moment. The jnani can relinquish without clinging, since every past moment exists eternally and is not lost.
The jnani can accept without seeking, since every possibility is experienced eternally. Any preference unmet in this moment or this life is met in another, and that which experiences those alternatives is the very same consciousness that knows this current one. That which accepts without exception all that arises in any moment is the very same love that embraces this current experience.
The jnani can laugh at life’s dramas while intimately partaking in the divinity of every failure, heartbreak, victory and elation. All one moment at a time, each yielding to the next, seamlessly, without effort.
I share this without claiming these words capture Osho’s meaning. Instead, this is what his ‘commandments’ elicit in me. He couldn’t know exactly what his words would evoke any more than you or I know what others will take from ours. That is part of the mystery in the gap between ‘here’ and ‘there’.
I normally access teachers through their books. Osho is an exception. Most of what I know of him comes through the Netflix documentary: Wild Wild Country and through the aphorisms and other quotes shared in osho.herenow Instragram posts.