The sacred makes you speechless
I HAVE HEARD YOU SAY THAT GAUTAM BUDDHA'S WORK CAME TO AN END WHEN HE BECAME ENLIGHTENED, AND YOU STARTED YOUR WORK AFTER YOUR ENLIGHTENMENT. COULD YOU SAY SOMETHING ABOUT THIS?
Prem Pankaja, one of the most important things to be remembered by all is the way you have started your question. The question is, "I have heard You say." Usually, people drop the first part. They simply say, "You have said this." And there is such a great difference between the two, such an immense difference that it is unbridgeable, and needs a great understanding.
Whatever you hear is not necessarily the thing said; what is said is not necessarily what you hear. The obvious reason is that I am speaking from a different space of being, and you are hearing from a totally different space. In the transmission, many things change.
It is always a sign of understanding to remember that whatever I have said may be totally different than what you have heard. Your question should be about what you have heard, because how can you ask a question about something which you have not heard?
Gautam Buddha, in his whole life, never allowed people to write down what he was saying. His reason was that if you are writing it down, your attention becomes divided.
You are no longer total. You have to hear and you have to write, and what he is saying is so subtle that unless you are total, you are going to miss it. So rather than writing it down, try with your totality and intensity to approach your heart, to let it sink within you.
He spoke for forty-two years continuously. After his death, the first question was to write down whatever the disciples remembered; otherwise it would have been lost to humanity.
They did a great service, and also a great disservice. They wrote down... but they came to see a strange phenomenon -- that everybody had heard something different. Their memory, their remembrance, was not the same.
Thirty-two schools sprang up, proclaiming, "This is what Buddha has said." Only one man -- a man to be remembered forever, his closest disciple, Ananda -- who was not even enlightened before Buddha died.... Just out of his humbleness, knowing, "I was unenlightened, how can I hear exactly what comes from an enlightened consciousness? I am going to interpret it, I am going to mix it with my own thoughts, I am going to give it my own color, my own nuance. It cannot carry within me the same meaning it has brought, because I don't have yet those eyes that can see and those ears that can hear."
Out of this humbleness, the memories that he remembered and wrote down became the basic scriptures of Buddhism. They all start with "I have heard Gautam Buddha say."
And all the thirty-two philosophical schools -- they were great scholars, far greater than Maitreya, than Ananda, far more capable to interpret, to bring meanings to things, to make systems out of words -- those thirty-two schools slowly, slowly became rejected.
And the reason for their rejection was that they had missed a single beginning: "I have heard...." They were saying, "Gautam Buddha said" -- the emphasis was on Gautam Buddha.
Ananda's version is the universally accepted version. Strange... there were enlightened people, but they remained silent because what they had heard was not possible to be expressed. And there were unenlightened philosophical geniuses who were very articulate, and they wrote great treatises -- but they were not accepted. And the man who was not enlightened, not a great philosopher, but just a humble caretaker of Gautam Buddha, his words have been accepted. The reason is these beginnings -- "I have heard...." I don't know whether he was saying it or not. I cannot impose myself on him.
All that I can say is what echoed in me; I can talk about my mind -- not the mindless silence of Gautam Buddha."
Buddhist scriptures, in this way, are the only scriptures in the world which have this quality of the great difference between the master and the disciple, between one who has arrived and one who is trying to arrive.
You are asking, Pankaja, "I have heard You say that Gautam Buddha's work came to an end when he became enlightened, and You started Your work after Your enlightenment."
It is one of those strange incidents of history, where the obvious is completely ignored. I have talked, discussed, with a few very great scholarly Buddhist monks. One was Bhikshu Sangharakshita. He was an Englishman, but while he was young, searching, he found that Christianity had nothing to give and became a Buddhist. When I met him, he had become very old. He used to live in the Himalayas, in Kalimpong. He has written great books on Buddhism with such love and such insight that one feels full of awe.
I have been discussing many times with Bhikshu Ananda Kausalyayan, who is the most prominent Buddhist scripture scholar and who has written much with depth and profundity. And the third man was Doctor Bhikshu Jagdish Kashayap. He was the head of the great Institute of Buddhist Studies.
None of these three people have noticed the difference -- that Ananda's version is humble and truer because he is saying what is reflected in his being, and he can authoritatively say only that. When I pointed it out to them, they were all surprised -- "We have been studying our whole life, but we never thought that this has any significance. We always thought that it is just the way Ananda writes."
And when I said to them, "No Buddhist, except a few Zen masters, are going to agree with me...." The whole of Asia is Buddhist. In different countries it has taken different shapes, different rituals. But one thing is similar everywhere -- that Buddha worked for six years, hard enough to attain enlightenment. He attained enlightenment after six years of hard work -- this is just accepted.
But when I came to see the life of Gautam Buddha, I was simply amazed, because in a way it can be said that he attained his enlightenment after six years of hard work, but that is not the whole truth. It is not even a small fragment of the truth. The truth is, he attained enlightenment only when he dropped all desire for it, all work for it, all hope for it.
This gap between the hard work and relaxing and dropping the idea that anything like truth exists.... He had done everything that was told to him, and yet no silence had descended on him. He had not been able to enter into his innermost being. He had knocked on all the doors, but no door was opened. His work was so total and intense that he could not conceive that there was anything more to be done.
I have been to the small river Niranjana, by the side of which he had become enlightened one full-moon night. That day, the most important experience happened -- which is not even talked about by the Buddhists, by the followers. It does not look important, they are not to be blamed. He had tortured his body, he had been fasting for months, and he had become so weak... and Niranjana is a very small river. He had got into the river for his morning bath, but even the smallest river and its current was too much; he started going down with the river. He could not manage to get out of it. He hung to the root of a tree.
That moment was momentous. Hanging to the root of the tree in the river, a thought arose in him, "What kind of stupid life have I been living? All this asceticism, all this arduous effort, has led me nowhere to truth, but only to weakness. It has not given me an abundance of life; it has brought me closer to death. How is this kind of discipline, which is being taught by all the schools, going to help me cross the ocean of life and reach the further shore?"
A question mark about his whole lifestyle, and in a clear moment, in a transparent moment on that morning -- the sun was rising -- something changed in his whole being.
He had renounced his kingdom; in that moment he renounced his renunciation too. He had renounced this world; in that moment he renounced that world too. He had renounced ambition, power, prestige -- and now he saw that in a subtle way even the effort to achieve enlightenment is nothing but ambition, that it is also a desire. A desire for a more eternal life, desire for truth, but anyway it is also a desire.
As he struggled to get out of the river, that desire was also dropped. He rested under a bodhi tree. For the first time in his whole life he was utterly relaxed. There was nowhere to go, nothing to find, no effort to be made. And amazingly, the silence that he was seeking started descending on him like rain.
By the evening he was a totally changed man -- calm and cool, at home, at ease. The center that he was searching for -- he laughed about it, because the seeker himself was the sought. He had been doing something absurd. The center of his being was not something separate from himself. Unless all desires disappear, all ambitions disappear -- unless you have nothing to do, nothing left to be done; you are just sitting, peacefully....
He found the center.
He was the center.
There was no object anywhere else.
One of the most important Danish philosophers, Soren Kierkegaard, has said that "Subjectivity is all." You can call it religion, you can call it truth, you can call it nirvana.
But your own subjectivity, your own being....
And by the evening, a beautiful incident happened. It was a full-moon night -- it has just passed here, one or two days ago; it was the same full-moon night -- a woman in the nearby village.... In India people worship trees, they worship animals, they worship stones, they worship mountains, they worship the sun, the moon. On the surface it looks very childish, but deep down the question is not what you worship; the question is that you worship. Whether it is the sun or the moon or a tree or a river, these are only excuses; the real thing is worship. That woman was a worshiper of the tree under which Gautam Buddha was sitting.
The moon had risen... this is the strongest moon in the whole year, the most beautiful.
And Gautam Buddha was looking almost like a god under the tree in the silence of the forest, by the side of the river -- particularly to that woman. She had asked the tree something and her desire had been fulfilled, and so she had promised that she would come with delicious food to offer to the god of the tree. She thought perhaps the god of the tree had come out of the tree and was sitting and waiting.
And Buddha was hungry; he had not eaten for many days, so when she offered -- her name was Sujata -- he accepted. He slept for the first time in these six years of torturous search, without any tension, without any dreams. Just a silence was the only experience that was becoming deeper and deeper; his sleep was becoming samadhi. When there are no thoughts, no desires, and the mind is quiet, sleep becomes samadhi; it becomes enlightenment.
And in the morning, when he opened his eyes... just visualize... nowhere to go, nothing to achieve. And as he saw the last star disappearing in the sky, he saw himself also disappearing in the sky. This he called nirvana, disappearing. He became absent, just a pure silence, a nothing... a joyful silence, a silence that has a song in it, a silence which is an invisible dance.
This was the day of his enlightenment. Buddhist scholars for twenty-five centuries have thought that he achieved this state because of those six years of arduous effort. I differ from them absolutely. And they have not been able to prove to me... and they think that I am crazy because they think that if it were true, then in twenty-five centuries people would have seen it. But I say that he attained enlightenment because he dropped the desire to attain it.
Pankaja, I said Gautam Buddha's work came to an end when he became enlightened. He worked too hard. I have never worked for enlightenment; I have never followed any discipline, any scripture, any religion, any ascetic path. Where Buddha reached after six years of arduous effort, I found myself there from the very beginning -- sitting under a tree, relaxed. People used to think -- my teachers, my friends -- that I must be mad. Even sometimes I used to think, "Perhaps they are right, because everybody has ambition; I don't have any. Everybody wants to become this and that, and I want simply to sit silently and not to do anything, and just be myself."
Enlightenment to Buddha was the culmination of his whole work. My work started after my enlightenment. I have never searched for it. It is one of those mysteries which have no explanation. It knocked on my door, and I said to it, "Come in, it is open." I have not even taken the trouble to open the door. I have left it open always.
The day I became enlightened, then my work began. My work is you; Gautam Buddha's work was himself.
I have lived for you.
I have no other reason to be alive, because all that life could give to me, it has given to me without asking. It has been very generous to me. But after my own enlightenment, I felt the first urge in my being -- that this is so simple, so natural, that it should happen to everybody. And unless it happens to everybody, the world is going to remain in misery and in suffering. Gautam Buddha was enlightening himself; I have been enlightening others. So where his work was completed, my work starts.
WHENEVER I TRY TO WRITE WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO TELL YOU BEFORE GOING BACK TO THE WEST, I FIND MYSELF AS SPEECHLESS AS LANCELOT.
IT IS MORE THAN GRATITUDE, MORE THAN LOVE, MORE THAN YOU AND ME. AND YET, SOME LONGING TO CONVEY THIS FEELING IS THERE, STRONG, AND DOESN'T GO;THERE IS A QUIET SADNESS AND A BURNING FIRE. BELOVED MASTER, HOW CAN I EXPRESS THE IMMENSITY THAT HAS FILLED ME SO MANY TIMES WHEN SITTING IN YOUR PRESENCE AND LIVING IN YOUR BUDDHAFIELD?
Satyam Svarup, the moment it happens it is always more than love, it is always more than joy, it is always more than gratitude, because life is more than you and more than me. It is so multi-dimensional, it is so vast.... Only if you are not aware of it, are you capable to express your feelings. But the moment awareness enters in your life, explanations start disappearing, expressions become impossible, because whatever you can say falls very short.
There have been many people on the earth who have achieved the ultimate, but we don't even know their names for the simple reason that the moment they achieved, they became dumb -- the silence was so deep, they could not find a way to convey what had happened to them.
There are many mystics in the world, but very few masters. Every mystic is not a master.
It is a rare combination of articulateness, of using words in such a way that they carry wordlessness in them, to say things in such a way as if nothing has been said, to be in such a way as if you are not. And the more you are absent, the more you are a pure presence.
You are asking me, "Whenever I try to write what I would like to tell You before going back to the West, I find myself as speechless as Lancelot."
You are fortunate. It is part of blissfulness to be so silent; you know something has to be said, but there is no way to say it. You know there is a great blissfulness overflowing you, a gratitude in your heart, and it does not look right not to express them. But all words are so earthly, and all these experiences are so unearthly, that there is no way of translating them. Even the great masters who tried to convey something of the inexpressible had to find strange ways.
Just the other day, I received the news of a man in the part of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan. He is one hundred and twenty-five years old, and he has joked about death three times. This was the third time.
He dies; doctors declare that he is dead and there is great mourning -- friends and relatives, and preparations -- and at the final moment when they are taking him to the graveyard, he opens his eyes and he starts laughing! The first time he did it people thought, "It may have been just a coma, and we were misled." The second time they were more alert not to be deceived by the old fellow; in every way they made certain that he was dead. But still, the same thing happened: at the last moment, just when they were putting him into the grave, he said, "Wait!" He said, "Can't you see the joke?"
And he has performed it now again at the age of one hundred and twenty-five. This is his way, a strange way of saying to you that life is eternal and death is just a joke. He is saying it by his own life. And this time he has said, "Now I am very old, and I cannot go on doing this strategy for long, so perhaps this is the last time. Remember -- the fourth time I may be really dead."
But they said, "We can't believe you. Every time you say, `Next time I may be really dead.'" He is showing the eternity of life and consciousness. He is a master. Without words, he is saying what the UPANISHADS have said: Amritasya putra -- "You are sons and daughters of eternity." But his way of saying it is far more significant, because words can be used in a very poetic way and still they may not be true, they may not be the experience of the poet. But this man knows how to go deep -- so deep into himself that there is no medical way to find out that he is still alive.
Speechlessness is bound to happen with anything that you can experience but you cannot bring to words. You see a beautiful sunset -- what can you say? You see a bird on the wing in the sky -- so beautiful, just the expression of freedom -- but what can you say?
And whatever you say will always fall short of the target.
Only mundane things can be said.
The sacred makes you speechless.
Because "it is more than gratitude...." You say "gratitude" and you certainly feel you have not said it; the word is so small and the experience is so big -- and yet there is a great longing to convey the feeling.
These are the mysteries of life: when you cannot say, the urge becomes more and more powerful to say it. The musician says in his own way, the poet says in his own way, the painter says in his own way, but nobody succeeds -- something remains beyond all expression.
That something beyond expression is God, is truth, is enlightenment, is liberation. But these words also don't say it; they only indicate -- just fingers pointing to the moon.
You are right, "There is a quiet sadness and a burning fire... how can I express the immensity that has filled me so many times when sitting in Your presence and living in Your buddhafield?"
You will have to go through an alchemical change. That sadness is beautiful; it is not misery, it is just the sadness of experiencing the beyond and the inability to express it.
And the burning desire to express it turns into creativity -- you can paint, you can sing, you can dance; you can find your own way somehow to indicate the beyond, and the burning fire will not be a torture to you. It will become a great joy of creativity.
So don't make it sadness, and don't make it a suffering. Feel blessed! Change it into a great laughter. It is only a question of getting out of the bed from the right side.
The Mother Superior of the convent awoke in a happy mood, dressed and set off to visit her flock. "Good morning, Sister Augusta. God bless you. Are you happy at your work?"
"Yes, Reverend Mother, but I am sorry to see you got out of bed on the wrong side this morning."
The Mother Superior ignored the remark, and passed on to another nun. "Good morning, Sister Georgina. You look pleased with yourself."
"I am, Reverend Mother, but it is a pity you got out of bed on the wrong side today."
The Mother Superior, greatly puzzled, moved on to a young novice, "Tell me, little sister, do you also feel I got out of bed on the wrong side?"
"I am afraid so."
"But why? Am I not as happy as a songbird? and pleasant to you all?"
"Yes, Mother, but you are wearing Father Vincenzo's slippers."
The Golden Future