He who views life superficially and takes its outer most level to be everything fails to see the usefulness of the void. Those who confine themselves to reason alone, and do not go into the depths of thought, cannot comprehend the fact that what is non-present is the support of existence.
Those who think in terms of mathematics - to them, life appears positive. But the positivity of life cannot exist for a moment in the absence of its negative aspect. This they cannot see. Let us try and understand this by way of examples.
One of the basic sutras of Lao Tzu is that life is based on the rule of opposites. Life does not oppose its contradictions. Rather, it works in collaboration with its counter-forces. Ordinarily it appears that if your enemy dies you will be a happier man, but you do not know that with the death of your enemy something within you, which existed entirely on account of the enemy, also dies. Therefore it happens many times that you lose much more by the death of an enemy than by the death of a friend. The opposition of the enemy awakens the challenge within you, and the mutual hostility gives rise to and nourishes those qualities within you which would have otherwise remained dormant.
That is why Lao Tzu has said: "Any friend will do, but choose your enemies wisely." Friends do not influence our lives as much as enemies do because a friend can be disregarded but we cannot afford to neglect an enemy. We can forget a friend but an enemy is never forgotten. It never dawns on us, however, that an enemy can so influence our life. Mahatma Gandhi would never have become a mahatma had it not been for the British. It was the opposition of the British Rule that brought him into being.
Great men are born when a country is in great trouble. It is the calamity that causes great men to be born, not vice versa. The hour of calamity. the hour of tension, produces great men. Hitler has written, "No leader is born without a great conflict." Therefore the greater the leader, the greater should be the battle. You cannot name a single leader who was born in times of peace. So he who desires to be a great leader has to make arrangements for a great conflict.
Life works on the law of the opposites - where the contradiction is visible and the collaboration on which it actually works is not. Let us examine this from different aspects in order to understand it better. If we were to remove Ravana from the epic of RAMAYANA, nothing would remain of the epic except Rama; and with him alone, it would not be possible to construct the narrative. Rama could have existed on this earth without Ravana, but then the Rama of the epic would have been lost completely. It is the very challenge of opposition to Ravana that brings out the resilience and temperance of Rama's character and reveals the brilliance of his personality.
Ravana made a great contribution towards the exaltation of Rama. It would not have been possible for either Rama or Ravana to be born without each other. They grOw with each other's support.
This is the truth, but those who view things superficially see them to be enemies, opposed to each other. The profound reality of life is, however, that they are partners. It is not necessary that they themselves should be aware of this, but on a very subtle plane these seeming opposites are partners, co-sharers, collaborators and friends. Not only is life not formed without the opposites but it does not develop without the opposite. The opposite is inevitable.
Freud has discovered a priceless truth. He says: "We also hate those whom we love." This was a startling discovery even for Freud himself. It was a terrible blow for all mankind especially for lovers. Lovers cannot believe they are capable of hatred towards those whom they love. The fact is, however, that all lovers know this within themselves, though they may not admit it. Therefore, Freud was resisted for a long time. Ultimately he could not be proven wrong. Gradually, the truth was accepted.
Those whom we love we also despise, for love cannot stand without hatred. If you love somebody and you analyse it honestly, you will find yourself loving and hating alternately. You hate in the morning, love in the afternoon, hate in the evening and again love at night. Your love is periodical.
The one you quarrelled with in the morning and decided it was impossible to live with, you again reconcile with and swear you would be lost without.
The ancient prophets of love have declared that love is complete and perfect only when there is no strife between the lover and the beloved. Freud however says that the greater the love, the greater the strife between the lovers. If there is no strife between two lovers, according to Freud - they are not in love; they are just fooling themselves. If you do not fight with your wife (or husband), it means your relationship has vanished long ago, so much so that there is no need for strife any more. Freud is not talking about the spiritual love. He is talking about that which passes for love in our society, what we generally know as love.
In this so-called love that we know, strife is an inevitable part. But lovers (and married couples) want there to be no strife, no conflict, in their relationship. Then, love would be bliss. But they are not aware of the facts of life. The day strife ends, love will end also. In fact, conflict cannot be ended by the sort of love we indulge in. Conflict exists because of expectations - great expectations. The greater the love, the more the expectation. The greater the expectation, the greater the frustration.
And when there is frustration, there is conflict. If there are no expectations if there is no demand on the lover, if there are no hopes pinned on the other, all conflicts will stop immediately. Then we accept life as it is.
But Freud says, "Great lovers cannot live in peace." Another unique personality of the West, De Sade, has said, "Love is an illness". He calls love an illness because we invite love, and hatred is there instead. Love and hatred are two sides of the same coin. Therefore, hatred will go on side by side with love.
Hatred cannot stand on its own. If you think you have hatred towards someone, you are mistaken because of the simple fact that hatred cannot exist alone. You can hate only that person for whom you still have some measure of love. If you try and analyse your feelings about someone you really hate, you will find some strings of love that unknowingly tie you to him. If all ties of love are broken, all means of hatred have also vanished.
Hence, we are tied to both our friends and our foes. For the friend there is love outside and hate within; for the foe there is hate without and love within. Our ties with both are however the same.
This may be difficult to understand, because we have great expectations for love. Let us try to understand this from different angles.
A man toils all day long. Now, according to our reasoning, a man who has toiled throughout the day should find it impossible to relax all night. He who is used to working all day should pass his nights also in work. The fact is however that he who toils throughout the day sleeps profoundly at night.
The man who does not exert himself throughout the day should find no difficulty in relaxing at night because his experience of relaxing throughout the day should be good practice for sleeping at night.
But a person who relaxes in the day finds it difficult to sleep at night. Actually, he who toils all day long accumulates the opposite aspect (relaxation). He who relaxes, accumulates the opposite of relaxation. So he who relaxes in the day toils at night by changing sides time and again. He cannot sleep.
We cannot escape the opposite. The opposite is always standing by. If you wish to sleep at night, you shall have to exert yourself in the day. The greater the exertion, the deeper the sleep. So a very interesting thing happens: Those who work very hard, and have no time for relaxation, attain the height of relaxation. And those who have all the means to relax - to them, relaxation is a vexing problem Do what they may, they cannot relax.
Unfortunately, we live by our superficial standards. We say: we must relax in the day in order to know how to relax at night. This is straight and simple logic. But it has nothing to do with life. This is just the same as saying we should not have any conflict with those whom we love. But life exists in opposites - just like electricity exists because of its negative and positive poles. If we take away one, the other gets lost simultaneously and there cannot be any electricity.
But it is very difficult to accept the opposite. He who accepts the opposite is a Sannyasin according to me. Lao Tzu calls such a person, wise.
To accept the opposite means that if, today, you have come and paid respect to me, I should accept the fact that at some level within you, disrespect is also gathering towards me. This fact cannot be escaped. If I accept your respect, I should also be prepared to receive disrespect from your hands at a later date. If I accept your obeisance with full knowledge of this fact, your reverence will give me no pleasure. Similarly, your disrespect will not make me unhappy either. Deep within your reverence, I shall spy the seed of irreverence; and deep within your irreverence, I shall see the spark of reverence.
If a man hurls a shoe at me, why should he take so much trouble if he is not concerned with me?
Surely there is some connection between him and me somewhere. The shoe he throws at me is much more expressive than the garland that another person puts round my neck. This man's leaning towards me is great. his restlessness is acute. He is bound to do something or other for me. If I become aware of the trouble he is taking for me, the sting of his disrespect will not hurt me. And if I become aware of the other side of the coin when I am honoured and respected, the illusion of reverence will vanish Then respect and disrespect appear to be two sides of the same coin. He to whom this becomes clear, transcends both sides.
Life is bound by opposites from all directions. When we see one side of life, we forget the other. It is this error that is the greatest misfortune of mankind. When we are looking at one aspect of life, we become completely oblivious of the other.
When we look at a flower, we never glance at the thorn; when we look at the thorn, we forget the flower. And the flower and the thorn grow on the same tree, the same branch. They are fed by the same channel, they are alive because of the same roots. The same gardener waters them and the same sun sends its rays towards them They come from the same existence. Deep within, they are one. But when we look at the flower, we forget the very existence of the thorn; and the more forget the thorn, the sharper it pricks. Then, when the thorn pricks, the flower vanishes from our vision and we are only aware of the pain of the thorn. We even forget that it was because of the flower that we had to suffer the prick of the thorn. We enjoyed the aroma of the flower and the prick was the result.
Our vision is always partial. Partial vision is ignorance. Partial vision is not wrong, but it is not complete. It sees only one half of reality. The other half seems so contradictory that we cannot relate the one to the other.
On the face of it, it is difficult to relate the opposites. You can never imagine that a person who clings to your neck, today and vows that you are aU that means anything to him in the world and life would be meaningless without you, would thrust a knife into you. Logic needs consistency. But here, there is no consistency. How can this very person kill you? But the reality of life is that he can. This is the very depth of life. He who has no relationship with you does not bother to kill you. He is not interested in you. Can you make someone an enemy without first making him your friend? Also, one who becomes your sworn enemy could not have just been a slight acquaintance. The proportion is equal: the greater the friendship, the greater the enmity. Machiavelli, in his book THE PRINCE, has written, "The greater the intimacy, the more cautious you should be of your friend." This is cunning advice, but it has some truth in it. The thicker the friendship, the more vigilant we should be because the danger is greater. Machiavelli says, "If you do not want your enemies to know the facts, take care that your friends do not know them." He has also said, "Do not treat your enemy in a way that you may regret some day when he becomes your friend, because an enemy can become a friend any day."
Life changes every moment. Nothing is stable. Life swings from one extreme to the other. The opposites are united in the profound depths of existence; but on its surface they are far apart. He who sees only the surface of life cannot understand Lao Tzu because he talks of the ultimate polarity of existence.
Lao Tzu says: "THE THIRTY SPOKES OF THE WHEEL COMBINE AT THE CENTRE, BUT THE USEFULNESS OF THE WHEEL DEPENDS ON THE EMPTY SPACE OF THE HUB IN THE CENTRE." Look at the wheel of a cart and you will find that it is the hub on which the whole movement of the cart depends. In the empty centre there is a pin, and the amazing thing is that the whole moves but the pin is stationary. It is motionless. The more fixed the hub, the easier is the motion of the wheel. This is the law of opposites. The empty space where the pin is fixed is the centre of all movement. This is its secret. The wheel cannot move without this vacant centre. This means that where we see things saturated, solid, there is an emptiness deep within their depths also. Let us understand this a little.
If you were to meet Buddha on the road-side with his begging bowl, he would appear absolutely empty - bereft of everything. He has no wealth, no status, no palaces, no glory Had you met him a little earlier, he had all these. But when he had all these, Buddha felt that, in spite of these, he was empty within. There was nothing in the world outside that was not his for the asking - the wheel was completely full - but the hub was empty. And he felt: of what use was this outside fullness if he felt so poor and empty within? So he renounced everything. One day, he came out of his palace and became a beggar on the road.
Now, when you see him as the Buddha, the beggar, the outside is empty but the inside is full. The whole concept of renunciation is based on this fact. This secret was understood long ago: that if you are engrossed with accumulating outside wealth, you will remain empty within. With all that you have acquired on the outside, there is an inevitable emptiness within. If you wish to be full within, you should be prepared to be empty without, because both cannot happen at the same time. If you wish to be full within and full without, that cannot be because life works on the law of the opposites.
You have to understand the polarity.
If you wish to be filled with God within, you should give up the idea of filling yourself with material wealth. You have to let go of all clinging to outside things Then only will the filling start within but then, outside, emptiness will spread.
A king came to Buddha and asked, "You find everything that a man could desire. Why did you leave your palace and run away? Sometimes in the heat of stress, one tends to make a rash decision. But do not worry, your father is a good friend of mine, he will listen to me and take you back. And if, for some reason, you do not feel you should stay under anybody's obligation, I have a daughter. You can marry her and be the master of all I possess, for I have no son."
The king never looked once at Buddha while he gave his long proposal. He would have seen Buddha laughing. When he finally looked up and asked, "What do you have to say?" Buddha smiled and said, "You think I have no possessions. I think you have none. You are right and so am I. Only, our ways of thinking are different. You have everything outside of you and I have nothing around me. It is only natural that you should pity me and try to help me return to my riches. But I see myself filled within whereas I see there is nothing within you". Buddha told him further, "I have known both kinds of riches. What you offer is nothing as compared to what I left behind. And I say unto you, King, I now possess everything. Before, I had nothing. You have only one experience, of riches which you consider everything. Listen to me. Now know the other. Take this begging bowl and enter sannyas."
There is an antithesis, a contrariness everywhere. So Lao Tzu says: "The wheel of the cart moves.
The spokes are filled, but the centre is empty. And on this emptiness depends the movement of the cart."
We cannot see this emptiness. Emptiness means that which cannot be seen. The visible is always dependent on the invisible. This polarity remains everywhere: the visible depends on the invisible, the word is born out of silence, life exists because of death. But the other side is forever invisible.
Again, to explain his point further, Lao Tzu gives another example. He says: "A pot is formed out of clay, but its use lies in its emptiness. " We form a pot out of clay, but actually speaking, where is the pot - in the clay or in the emptiness of the pot? When you buy a pot, do you buy it for the sake of the pot or for the empty space within it? Water can be put only into the emptiness not into the walls of the pot. The more empty space there is within, the more useful is the pot. The usefulness of the surrounding clay walls depends on the empty space it contains within its boundaries, that is all. The actual pot is the space within, but what is visible to the eyes is the earthen pot and not the emptiness.
You do not go to the market to buy emptiness; you go to buy a pot. The price you pay is the price of the clay of the vessel. The bigger the vessel the greater the price. It depends on the amount of clay that goes into making the pot and not the emptiness within. But the usefulness of the vessel depends upon the empty space it contains within itself. No matter how fine or ornamental the clay- work, if the vessel is not empty it becomes useless; it defeats the purpose for which it was bought.
Emptiness has its uses.
Lao Tzu then goes on to talk about the houses we build. What is a house? We are sitting here.
We would say that we are sitting in a house, but if we asked Lao Tzu, he would say we are sitting in emptiness. The house consists of the walls on the four sides. No one sits within these walls; they only serve the purpose of dividing the outside space from the space within. Their use lies in providing a boundary that is all. This has its uses, it is necessary, but that is all. Nobody sits within the walls; we all sit in the empty space that the walls surround.
So what do we actually make use of in a house? Its emptiness. The more empty a house, the more useful it is. We cut doors and windows in walls and make balconies, courtyards and rooms, but their usefulness depends upon the emptiness within. Lao Tzu says, "Usefulness is not where it appears to be. The usefulness of a thing depends on the opposite factor."
Do you realise that when you build a house, you are building an emptiness? No. You design the walls and the doors; you have no concept of the emptiness within the walls. If you observe properly, you will find that you are shaping the emptiness within the house with the help of the walls and windows.
You are unknowingly giving shape to the void. The form is visible to the naked eye, whereas it is the emptiness contained within that is of real use to us and is more precious.
Therefore, we find that at times a hut is more spacious than a palace. Everything depends on the empty space within. I have often noticed that if a poor man is requested to accommodate a guest, he readily obliges; but if a rich man is asked to put up a guest, he pleads lack of space. Now it is evident that there is more space in a rich man's bungalow than in a poor man's hut, but the bungalow is so filled with things that there is no space left.
I was once the guest of a millionaire. He took me to his sitting room, but I found that there was no place to sit anywhere. It was almost like a museum. There was furniture of all sorts and places, and of different periods, which my host had gathered together. I said, "The furniture is all right, but where does one sit?"
He was taken aback by my remark. "That never occurred to me" he exclaimed. "It was a sitting room once upon a time, but I bought things indiscriminately and filled up the place. Now, as you say, there is no place to move!"
This happens easily with things on the outside, but it happens with the same ease within us also.
When you are fascinated by a person, you begin to love his body. You never give thought to the empty space within him, which we call the atman. It is as if a man goes to buy a pot and is so enchanted by the art of the potter who has designed it that he forgets to note whether there is enough space within to hold water.
A man falls in love in exactly the same way. He gives no thought to the inside of the person - whether there is enough empty space within, for him to enter into. He is attracted by the form, the looks of the person. Later he regrets and curses himself for his error of judgment. The error is only this:
that man is not significant because of the body alone. The body is necessary, but it is the amount of empty space, the void within him, that decides his excellence. This very space is the atman (the self).
When we ask how much atman is within a person, what is meant is how much can be put into him, how much emptiness is within him. If trivial abuse becomes difficult for him to contain within himself this means there is very little ATMAN (space) within.
If someone throws a stone and there is no place within where it could be contained, it returns back, doubly charged. If we throw a stone into an empty space, it cannot rebound; but if it hits a wall, it is bound to rebound. If a man lives in reactions, it shows that there is no empty space within. No sooner do we throw a stone than it is thrown back. Nothing can be contained by such a person, because there is no empty space within him.
The true flower of love, however, blooms in this very space within. I am not talking about Freudian love. I am talking of the love, which we are not even conscious of. I talk of that love in which there is neither hate nor love; that love where flowers and thorns are both absent; where only the underlying current, the intrinsic essence of love flows.
But where do we take the trouble of seeing and witnessing this emptiness within? We don't. Many times when someone went to Lao Tzu and paid his respects, Lao Tzu would not return his salutation for an hour or more. Often the man would be greeted by Lao Tzu long after he had forgotten that Lao Tzu had not returned his greetings. Perhaps this man had already debated within himself whether it was worth-while coming to a person who did not even have the courtesy to accept his greetings.
One day, a friend questioned him about his strange behaviour with newcomers. "A person comes to you, he greets you, and you take an hour to reciprocate. What sort of courtesy is this?" he asked him.
Lao Tzu replied, "I must wait at least till the person's salutations reach me. I must take it within my heart; it must rest there awhile. What is the hurry? I feel it would be very discourteous and the limit of impatience to return his greeting as sooner as it is offered. Then it would be like a task that is finished with, and is no more."
This sounds queer on the face of it. An hour is a long period, and the person concerned has already forgotten the incident. But his salutations remained in Lao Tzu's heart all that while; it echoed within his heart for one full hour! It was not a mechanical happening, like you press a button and the fan works. It was a live response not a mechanical reaction which takes place immediately. You press a button: the light comes on; you press it again; the light goes off. The light cannot stay on once you press the button because it is mechanical.
A man abuses you and the flame of anger ignites immediately within you. It is a mechanical response. A man praises you and you feel elated. This is as mechanical as pressing a button.
Someone is pressing a button, and you automatically feel happy or miserable. How much you go through within a span of twenty-four hours! Everyone you come across presses a button, and you immediately have to react accordingly.
Someone abuses you, and you are beside yourself with rage. Someone smiles at you, and life seems filled with flowers. Someone does not look at you, and you feel miserable; your life is filled with darkness. You have to keep changing your color, like a chameleon. There is no atman within you, no empty space. Therefore, things rebound from the surface. Space within means patience; it means a state of equilibrium. It means that anything that goes within me will have to take some time to travel within me before it reaches me. So Lao Tzu says, "It takes time for the visitors' greetings to reach my inner being and echo within me; and, also, for the reply to form within, which I can then offer."
When we fall in love, we have no knowledge of the space within the person. Nor do we bother to find out. We buy only the pot without examining its capacity to hold water.
Rabindranath Tagore has written a song about a bodhi-bhikshu: A bodhi-bhikshu passes through a village, and the village prostitute is standing on her terrace. The word "prostitute" is derogatory, so ancient people, who were wise, called her the daughter-in-law of the whole town. Nowadays, things are just the opposite. Psychologists say that wives and prostitutes are the same. The former has a life-long contact; the latter believes in short-term contracts.
This prostitute who is standing on the terrace, happens to see this sannyasin youth passing.
Sannyas fills a person with a particular beauty that is never obtained or known by a house-holder.
The reason is that with sannyas, a freedom is born, an independence bereft of all bondage. This freedom gives rise to a unique beauty. Sannyas allows an empty space to form within a person; it is the advent of the atman within. He no longer lives by reactions. He begins to live in his own way now. No one can force his way of life; he chooses his own path. He designs and fashions his own path. He is, in a way, the owner and master of his life. So a unique beauty and integrity is born within him - a different dignity and majesty.
The prostitute looked at him and fell in love with him. She came down from her terrace and approached the bhikshu, entreating him to be her guest for the night. The youth looked at her and said, "You have many to love you. You are young; you are beautiful. Your nights will not be lonely if I go away. But someday, when all your lovers discard you, and someday, when there is no one to hear your cry of woe, then I shall come."
It was a terrible blow to her pride. No one had ever refused her. She returned to her house filled with grief and shame. Twenty years later, on a moonless night, someone lay groaning on the roadside. A passing bhikshu stopped by. He passed his hand over her face and asked what ailed her. She said she was thirsty; she wanted water. He went to the village nearby and brought a lamp, and some water. In the light of the lamp, he saw the face of the woman who had invited him to be with her twenty years before. She was now a leper thrown out by the village-folk, Today, when there was no one to give her a mouthful of water, her guest returned.
He said, "Open your eyes and look at me. Twenty years ago you invited me to be with you. Your invitation has reached within me now. I have come here now because your time has come."
She opened her eyes and said, "It would have been better if you had not come now. What is the use of coming now? You should have come then, when I was young, when I was beautiful and desirable."
The bhikshu replied, "But now you are more experienced, more wise. You have seen life, you have seen and experienced its pains and frustrations. Today your body is nothing but you have a little atman within you. Then you had your body alone, and no atman."
There is something within which is contrary to the body, and yet united and blended with it. If we keep in mind this example of what is opposite to the body, we shall be able to understand Lao Tzu's sutras. The example of the pot is just for illustration. Deep within, it pertains to man.
About existence he says: "THEREFORE, THAT HAS A (POSITIVE) EXISTENCE SERVES FOR PROFITABLE ADAPTATION, AND WHAT HAS NOT, HAS (ACTUAL) USEFULNESS." When things are present, they have their advantages; but their non-presence can have a profound usefulness also.
For instance, youth has its uses; but when youth is gone, that too has its uses. The abatement of youth is a profound development in itself. This we rarely recognise, because most of us become old in body only. Our consciousness never matures. Our understanding remains at the level of childhood.
There is a very interesting fact: when an old man dreams, he always dreams of himself as a youth and never as an old man. This fact has been discovered by analysing thousands of dreams. This means only one thing: he still considers himself young. The body does not cooperate, the body is old and weak but the mind within refuses to become old. The mind within reveals itself in dreams.
If a man considers only youth to be a useful part of life and sees no usefulness thereafter, he will not be aware of the value of negation. Once he understands the value of negation, old age will appear more beautiful than youth. There is thrill and excitement in the beauty of youth, but there is no depth.
There is swiftness. there is speed, but there is no depth. The beauty of youth is shallow, superficial.
When youth is lost, and when someone understands the usefulness of this loss, his old age gains a beauty that youth can never rival.
And this is right, because old age comes after youth. Old age is a further development of life, so it has a dignity, a depth - an infinite depth. This is the outcome and result of the evolvement of youth into age. It is a natural result of the absence of youth.
Life is a mystery but he who catches hold of the mystery of life alone and knows nothing of the mystery of death does not understand the full mystery. There is nothing in existence to equal death.
Death is the absence, the non-existence.
Lao Tzu says that positive existence has its uses, but negative existence is in class by itself - it is the supreme usefulness. It has a different meaning altogether. But we see meaning only in life. We see no meaning in death. Death, to us, is an end - where life finishes for us. We do not see in it a beginning, a new opening. It is not an entry into new vistas, but a sudden closing of old doors.
We have no knowledge of death. This is because we are tied to the positive. The positive troubles us, and we have no knowledge of the negative. If we understand this negative aspect, we shall understand non-existence.
We keep count of our waking hours and strive to make-do with as little sleep as possible. In the West, the scientists are trying to find ways and means whereby we can do away with sleep. If we do not sleep, we get an added period of twenty years to one active life. If a man lives for sixty years, twenty years are lost in sleep. Now, instead of extending life by twenty years, would it not be better to retrieve these twenty years of sleep and live them? Then one would be able to live the full sixty years of his life. So scientists are working towards a life without sleep. They do not know that they will be forcing the positive to its utter extreme.
He who forgets to sleep - his waking hours will be filled with dejection and become meaningless.
Have you noted that when you prepare to sleep at night, the light in your eyes is almost abated?
When you get up in the morning, they are fresh and sparkling again. The night is not passed in vain.
Night is a means of regaining strength through non-existence. Sleep means to be immersed in the negative, the void, so that the void rejuvenates us again.
This is why physicians say that it is impossible for a man to recuperate from an illness if he does not get the required amount of sleep. If a man loses all possibility of regaining strength from within, no amount of medicine can cure his illness. Physicians now admit that at most we can only help a man to get well. Actually, it is the patient himself who is basically responsible to cure himself. But this is only possible when he gives up all the positive aspect of life and loses himself in the darkness of the night completely.
As soon as we lose ourselves in the void, we reach the deeper levels of life, which are the support and the original roots of life. From there, we imbibe the fresh energy of life. This very energy gleams in our eyes in the morning and becomes the happy songs of the birds. It is the same energy that causes the flowers to open in the morning. Every thing sleeps at night, the trees, the birds, the animals and also man.
But of late, most men find it difficult to sleep. By and by, it seems that all mankind will be unable to sleep. That will be the end of sanity for man. We can never hope to be well and healthy again if we ignore and discard the negative aspect of life.
Lao Tzu says: "Sleep is first; waking is secondary." The negative, the relaxation is first; the labour afterwards. The greater the relaxation, the greater will be the energy to work. This negative aspect, this non-existence, will have to be understood thoroughly. We can understand it in various ways.
As I said, sleep is non-existence and waking is positive. Sleep is negative. We are active in our waking period and inactive (silent) in our sleep. A man who dreams all night feels he has not slept at all, because dreaming is the middle state between waking and sleeping The mind oscillates between the two and remains active. That is why at times people find themselves so tired when they get up in the morning. They are more tired than at the end of the day.
A villager once went to visit his friend who lived in the main city of the country. When he returned to his village, his friends asked him what difference he found between life in the village and life in town.
He said, "There is a definite difference. In the village, people go to sleep completely tired with the day's toil, and they get up in the morning completely refreshed. The people in town seem fresh in the evenings and look tired in the mornings. The town hums with life and is awake in the evenings - the clubs, the hotels and the cinema houses buzz with activity. In the mornings you find these people as good as dead. They get up with great difficulty and drag themselves to work, for work they must. There is no life in them; they look like lifeless, spineless creatures moving about."
The negativity of sleep is lost. From morning till night we talk, and then in dreams also we talk. We find people talking in their sleep! All twenty-four hours we keep babbling. Silence is non-existence; words are existence. Words are positive: silence is emptiness. But for the man who is lost in dreams and who has never experienced the silence within, who has no knowledge whatsoever of the silence within, who is filled with words, words and words throughout - he remains bereft of the profound depths of life. Words are useful, but they are not an end in themselves. Words are necessary, but they are not enough in themselves. Words are required, but more than words, "no-word" is required.
More than words, silence is required.
Remember, those whose words bear substance and weight, those whose words are filled with the breath of life, are the people who have the capacity of silence. All the great truths that have been propounded on this earth have been uttered by men who knew the art of silence. When a Buddha speaks, each word has a magic of its own. When a Mahavira speaks, his every word is packed with intense silence. When a Jesus speaks, he has thirty years of silence behind him. No one knew where Jesus was and what he did for those thirty years.
Mahavira stood silent in the jungles for twelve long years without uttering a single word. Then when he spoke, his words had a different quality altogether. Then his words had a different power, a different strength that was out of the ordinary. Each word he uttered became profound with the strength of silence. Each word that was born out of his silence had a distinctive weight, a distinctive value of its own.
You can speak the same words. There is no difficulty in that, because Mahavira coined no new words. Buddha, Christ and Krishna spoke the common language of the people. Whatever Krishna said in the Gita was well understood by Arjuna. Nowhere did Arjuna say that he could not follow what Krishna said, because Krishna spoke the language that Arjuna knew well. And yet when Krishna spoke, the words took on a distinctive quality, a certain weight and value which would not have been the same if Arjuna had spoken those very words.
So one meaning of words is that which is given in the dictionary, and another meaning of words is that which penetrates into them from the silence within. Thus it is that often when such a person like Krishna speaks, whatever he says becomes poetry; whereas another person may write poems and yet his rendering will be stale lifeless. In some, the words seem to die as soon as they cross the lips; whereas in others, each word becomes a drop of nectar as soon as it reaches the lips because they have truly set out on the journey to the vast void. Theirs are words that have total silence behind them. Words that are conceived and nourished within the womb of silence are filled with the energy of life.
If we understand it this way, it will be easier to follow. If a child is conceived in its mother's womb and it comes out without undergoing nine months of silence within her, it becomes an abortion and not a birth. It is a dead happening. But when the child goes through the nine months of silence, nine months of darkness and negation, it attains life. In exactly the same way, when there is the silence of a womb within a person, then the word that is born and nourished within this silence becomes filled with the breath of life.
All the words we speak are like abortions. We read the newspaper and run to give the news to others. You read a book and wait impatiently for your son to return from school so that you can lecture him. This is plain abortion. The words are not allowed to nurture in silence. We are all aborted in the mind. No sooner do we hear something than we Fling it at others. Others also do the same - we all fling words at each other.
Whenever anybody approached the Zen fakir Bokoju, the first thing he told him was, "If you want to learn words, go else-where; if you want to learn silence, you may stay. We make use of words here, but only enough to point to silence."
Silence is non-existence and words are existence. All that is invisible, in every aspect of life, is profound. That which is beyond our remembrance and knowledge, that which cannot be caught by experience, that alone is priceless. He who worries less about the positive aspects of life and that which is within the reach of the senses, and who cares more for the non-existent void, the negative silence, sets out on the journey for life's supreme truth. Lao Tzu says: "Always seek the depths; do not be entangled at the surface. Always seek the opposite." That is the fundamental root of everything because it is through this alone that the beauty, the essence, the vigour and the power of life are attained.
Everywhere the opposite is forever present in the depths of life. If we keep in mind the depth with our whole outlook on life becomes totally different. He who can see hatred in love, is freed from both. Then a unique type of love is born, a love that is totally unfamiliar and unknown to us.
This love is not relationship but a state of being. It is this love that made Christ say; "Love is God."
It is this love that Mahavira defined as ahimsa (non-violence) and Buddha as compassion. Lao Tzu gave no name to this love for he said all names are defiled. If he said love, people would take it in its ordinary meaning: the way they love. If he said compassion, they would take it to be their type of compassion. Whatever he said, people would it define as it suited them. Words have been so much used by people who are sick in the mind themselves that they have become aggressive. Words have become contaminated with the sicknesses of man. No word has escaped the virus. Therefore Lao Tzu preferred to give no names. He said, "I give no words. I only say, where both are not, and yet something remains, that is It. That alone is worth attaining."
Let me suggest one more thing before we end. If we ponder over words and silence, we will invariably find the silence hidden behind word. But this silence is joined to the word. There is another silence - the great silence - where there is neither word nor silence. It is, however, difficult to name it.
Existence is divided by the law of opposites, and it works accordingly. But the depth of existence is undivided where both the opposites are lost. Then it is difficult to say that one remains. Our language is such that as soon as we say "one", it gives the idea of two immediately. Sit quietly sometime and try to think of "one" without thinking of "two" and you shall know what I mean. God is one, but when we say "one", we automatically remember "two". Our "one" is a part of a chain of figures. Our "one", therefore, has no meaning. This is why Hindus have not said that God is one.
They have said, "He is indivisible." They have made use of negation, They did not say, "He is One"; they said, "He is not two." They could just as easily have made a straight forward simple statement, but they knew that "one" gives rise to "two". So they very sagaciously stated that He was advaita, not two. While saying this, they have hinted that He is One, but they have not made use of this word directly. It was enough that the idea of His one-ness is caught by our understanding without making direct use of the word.
So, he who understands and knows the law of opposites, will soon find himself outside of it.
Existence consists of opposites, but we only see one side of the opposites.
So, there are three things to be taken note of. One is that we see only one side of the opposites and not the other. The second thing is to see the pairs of opposites in their entirety. When we see them in their entirety, a third thing will become apparent to us, which is beyond the pairs of opposites.
Where we stand, we see love only; we cannot see hatred. If we see hatred, we do not see love. If we see both, we shall be able to see a third thing which is neither of the two, and which is beyond them.
The indivisible reality is only attained when we are capable of understanding the complete usefulness of the law of the opposites. And this can only be understood, says Lao Tzu, when you seek the negative in the positive. On seeking this, you will find that the positive rests entirely on the negative. And when the positive and the negative are both lost, then that is attained which, after attaining, there is nothing more to be attained.