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Chapter 6: Underlying Great Doubt There Is Great Satori

Hakuin said:
My humble advice to you distinguished persons who study the profound mystery of the buddha-dharma is this: Your close examination of yourself must be as urgent as saving your own head were it ablaze; your efforts to penetrate into your own original nature must be as tireless as the pursuit of an indispensable thing; your attitude toward the verbal teachings of the buddhas and patriarchs must be as hostile as that toward a deadly enemy.
In Zen, he who does not bring strong doubt to bear upon the koans is a dissolute, knavish good-for-nothing. Therefore it is said: “Underlying great doubt there is great satori; where there is thorough questioning there will be a thorough-going experience of awakening.”
Do not say, “Since my thoughts are always flying about in confusion, I lack the power to apply myself to genuine concentration on my koan.”
Suppose that, among the dense crowd of people in the hurly-burly of the marketplace, a man accidentally loses two or three pieces of gold. You will never find anyone who, because the place is noisy and bustling or because he has dropped his pieces of gold in the dirt, will not turn back to look for them. He pushes any number of people about, stirs up a lot of dust, and weeping copious tears rushes around searching for his gold. If he doesn’t get it back into his own two hands, he will never regain his peace of mind. Do you consider the priceless jewel worn in the hair, your own inherent, marvelous Tao, of less value than two or three pieces of gold?

Maneesha, Zen is the only revolutionary religion in the world. All the other religions are traditional, orthodox, superstitious, fundamentally based on belief. Any religion that is based on belief is a fiction, because belief simply means a repressed doubt.

Zen is an exception: it does not believe in anything - not even in the scriptures, not even in the sutras of Gautam Buddha. Belief, as such, is denied completely. I agree with it, without any condition; that has been my own whole approach.

Truth has to be experienced, not believed. Once you believe in it you will never experience it. Truth has to be searched for. Out of necessity, you have to doubt all the theories and ideologies propounded by the scriptures and others. If you don’t doubt them, you will be in a sheer confusion. If you believe in them you will stop there, at your belief. Your god will be a belief, not a truth. Your own very self will be just a belief, not something that you have lived, not something that you have danced, not something that you have touched. All beliefs take you away from yourself.

To find out the truth, you have to learn the art of disbelief.

Hence Zen has a very special position. Atheists also disbelieve, but they stop at their disbelief, just as theists stop at their belief. The atheist’s disbelief is only negative belief; it is nothing different. But when Zen talks of disbelief or doubt, it simply means a challenge to explore; not something to settle at, but to begin from there. You have discarded and eliminated all beliefs, all disbeliefs: then your pure consciousness asserts itself on its own accord. And the beauty of spontaneous flowering is the only beauty in the world.

Hakuin says

- and Hakuin is one of the masters to be listened to very carefully -

My humble advice to you distinguished persons who study the profound mystery of the buddha-dharma is this: your close examination of yourself must be as urgent as saving your own head were it ablaze.

He is saying that your inquiry should be so intense and total.as if it is a question of life and death. If you don’t find it, your life is futile and fruitless. Unless you find it, you cannot blossom and dance and sing in joy. There will not be any rejoicing, any celebration, any festivity in your life. Your life will be a dark, unending night where the sun never rises.

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