But sooner or later, a person starts feeling that life has gone down the drain. Optimism turns sour and becomes pessimism. Optimism, that hopefulness, turns upside-down; a hopelessness settles in. Then everything looks dark and dismal. First you used to count the roses, now you start counting the thorns. First you used to say, “How beautiful this roseflower and what a miracle! It grows amongst thousands of thorns.” You were poetic, you had some aesthetic sense; you still believed that life is going to be a fulfillment.
But soon the day comes when the roses start fading away and you start counting the thorns, and you cannot believe in the roses anymore. You start saying, “It is impossible! The rose must be a dream, the rose must be maya, illusion, hallucination. How is it possible amongst thousands of thorns, how is a rose possible?” It looks contradictory, it looks illogical, it cannot happen in the nature of things. You start counting nights; before, you used to count days.
The optimist says, “There are two days, and between two days just a small night to rest.” And the pessimist counts the nights; he says, “There are two long nights – nightmares, ugly dreams, tortures – and just a small day sandwiched between the two.” Life is the same: you can count the days or you can count the nights. If you count the days you are an optimist, if you count the nights you are a pessimist, but there is really no difference.
The optimist can become a pessimist, the pessimist can become an optimist. They are not contraries; they are two points on the same spectrum.
One has to go beyond both. A sannyasin has to go beyond both – neither hope nor hopelessness. No need to count days, no need to count nights. Be a watcher! No need to count thorns, no need to count roses. Be a watcher….
I don’t teach you optimism. In the West it is very fashionable nowadays; it is called “positive thinking.” That is a new name for optimism; the old name has become a little too out of fashion, out-of-date. The new name is positive thinking. I don’t teach you positive thinking, because positive thinking carries the negative in its wake.
I teach you transcendence – neither positive nor negative. Be a watcher: witness both. When there is day, witness the day, and when there is night, witness the night – and don’t get identified with either. You are neither the day nor the night; you are the transcendental consciousness. Become more and more centered there in that transcendence.
True religion is not positive, nor is it negative. It is neither via negativa nor via positiva; it is via transcendence.
One September morning after Labor Day, Levin and Ostrow met for lunch. They had not seen each other for several months.
“I have just lived through a summer I never thought I would see,” said Levin. “June was a disaster – never have I seen a June like that. When July came, I realized that June was terrific, because with July I went right into the cellar. July was so bad….”