Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Osho and Meaning of Sufism

Osho’s interpretation of Sufism is one of the most attractive interpretations currently available. He argued that exoteric dimension is dispensable for the practice of Sufism and this makes him unique amongst modern interpreters and “masters” of Sufism. He claimed to be a Sufi master. His more or less Nietzschean interpretation of mysticism and Sufism is intriguing, provocative and at times inconsistent and problematic. While highly insightful occasionally he takes too many liberties with the classical canons of scholarship. His lucid and easily accessible style is his strength.
   Osho, amongst the most famous (or notorious) mystics and mystical philosophers of the twentieth century with worldwide following is quite a category in himself. He is indeed a phenomenon, a unique synthesis of traditional mystical thought and (post) modern thought. He is one of the most interesting products of clash of ideas and sensibilities that fashion modern man. Appropriating quite divergent and even contradictory thought currents he is a unique modern mystic  speaking of the personal, the individual and the existential , of isness, of present moment, of eternity here and now, affirming life in “paganist” sense, rejecting all creeds, dogmas and churches, preaching about the suspraformal light or better darkness, celebrating contradictions and chaos of life, frankly advocating logic of excess and deficit and polar opposites in place of  neat Aristotelian logic of non-contradiction, mincing no words in acknowledging and defending illogicality  and irrationally of existence and religion, denying metaphysics of presence and the possibility of rational metaphysics and theology.
His credentials as an expositor and interpreter of mysticism and religion can hardly be questioned. His phenomenal memory, devastating wit, and wide readings and encyclopaedic scholarship combined with a graceful, delightful, penetrating, effective and moving style make him quite attractive across cultures and traditions to a wide variety of people. His translation of religion in terms of more mystical religiosity makes him so dear to modern man fed up with orthodox exoteric understanding of formal religion. His delinking of mysticism from formal religion is his most original but controversial and problematic contribution. His canvas is far wider than any contemporary mystic being arguably the most prolific author of the twentieth century. He has read so widely and commented on so diverse subjects in so diverse contexts that it is simply impossible to comprehensively treat him. All this is made more difficult by his notorious inconsistency.
Osho’s approach is distinguishable form almost all classical traditional and modern approaches. He attempts to reread or reinterpret traditional scholarship and tailors it for his own purpose.  He calls himself a Sufi and is least worried about authority of his own interpretation.  He seems to reject traditional tools of scholarship in favour of his own existential experientialist approach.  He doesn’t respect even logic. He offers no apology for his inconsistencies and contradictions. He calls himself consistently inconsistent.  He advocates no theories, no opinions and no dogmas in his interpretation of Sufism.  He is too staunchly antiauthoritarian to respect any authority on mysticism -- any classical authority, mystical philosopher or theologian or aalim.  He, echoing Ibn Arabi, self avowedly takes his knowledge directly from the sources from which prophets have taken it.  The very question of misinterpretation he disallows on a prioiri grounds.  He claims to transcend the questioning and interpreting mind.  He has nothing to do with any kind of interpretation/misinterpretation of mysticism. He rejects all the technicalities, speculations, niceties, subtleties, meticulous details associated with traditional scholarship.  He minces no words in defending his position, in critiquing the position of his adversaries.  He speaks like a master and claims to be a Sufi Master. He claims to be in the tradition of Mansur. We start by discussing his explication of the term Sufi and his ingenious appropriations/interpretations of the same.

Defining Sufi and Sufism
He quotes a rhymed definition in ancient Persian dictionary: Sufi chest, Sufi sufist who is a Sufi?  A Sufi is a Sufi. This definition would be rejected as tautological by many scholars especially the Westerners.  In fact the Western logical propositional framework will be hard put to make sense of this definition.  But Osho who is essentially an easterner, a mystic finds this definition so apt, so beautiful.  He says:
This is a beautiful definition.  The phenomenon is indefinable.  ‘A Sufi is a Sufi.’  It says that the Sufi can't be defined:  there is no other word to define it, there is no other synonym, there is no possibility of defining it – linguistically there is no other indefinable phenomenon. You can live it and you can know it, but through the mind, through the intellect it is not possible.  You can become a Sufi -- that is the only way to know what is available. You needn’t go into a dictionary, you can go into existence (Osho, 2004:8).
This existential non-philosophical approach distinguishes his exposition from most of the “scholarly,” “learned” and historical exposition of the same. This also makes him invulnerable to much of traditional critiques of mysticism. He refutes both modern as well as postmodern critics with this definition. This answers all those who reject cognitivity of mystical experience, who criticize or explicate it from the outside.  So all non-mystics are debarred from passing any comments on the essence of mysticism.  Non-initiates, the laity, the exoteric theologians, the philosophers are thus denied any claim to understand, interpret or evaluate claims of mysticism. It makes mysticism an autonomous language game immune to all outside critique.  It does away with all narratives, little or grand as there are no logical propositions, no linguistic formulations and no thought constructions.  He thus takes recourse to no problematizable doconstructable narrative or thesis.  He dispenses with all scriptures as exoterically understood.  He invokes no authority other than the self authenticating authority of mystic himself – which is none other than the authority of lived experience, the light of consciousness. He as a “Sufi” has no theories to defend, to argue for or against.  Sufism is transferred only from person to person, not from a book.  It can't be transferred  by scriptures.  “It also just like Zen – a transmission beyond word”(Osho, 2004:9). It is an experience. It is prelinguistic or paralinguistic apprehension or perception.  It is just awakened state, a state of attention.  One becomes a mirror reflecting Reality.  It is a state of pure awareness.  The Sufi by virtue of mystic experience gets transported into a state where speech comes without words.  He is utterly silent and thus in silences are all questions answered. There are no questions and thus no need of answer as the very questioning self is transcended, deconstructed.
            In the age that following Nietzsche is more or less post-metaphysical the only metaphysics possible is what may be called as the metaphysics of silence that has been characteristically the via negative of traditional mysticism. It describes the undifferentiated Absolute, the God beyond God or Godhead, the Beyond-Being or Non-Being or the Supraformal Essence. Here language and all representational stratagems fail. Here even the negative theology is not smart enough to do justice to the Divine Darkness, the Void, the Nameless Nothing.  Osho has read in his own way the tradition of negative divine that has been much emphasized in nontheistic religions like Buddhism. Osho’s rereading of it seems to be partly influenced by modern sensibility that distrusts all the traditional accounts of existence and knowledge claims as formulated in theologies and traditional cosmologies. But it has ample warrant nonetheless as the precedents for it are to be found in traditional authorities. To quote just two statements of Sufis:
            Be silent that the Lord who gave thee language may speak. Rumi
The furthest from God among the devotees are those who speak the most of him.  Bistami
The silence of the Buddha on fourteen metaphysical questions is the religious answer to all of them and Osho refers again and again to this silence. The Prophet of Islam has also explicitly forbidden discussion on the Essence.
He expands the scope of the term very much. Quoting  Abul Hasan’s statement that “Sufism was once a reality without a name and now Sufism is a name without reality” he says, “For many centuries Sufism existed without a name. It existed as reality.  That is why I say Jesus was a Sufi, so was Muhammad, so was Mahavir and so was Krishna.  Anyone who has come to know God is a Sufi. (Osho, 2004:9)  Thus he least cares for traditional historical approach that attempts to situate Sufism in the 1st or 2nd or 3rd C.E. Hijra.  A Sufi is one who has come to know God and knowing God isn’t knowing or believing in some personal God or theology but simply oneself.  That is why he calls “atheist” or non-theist Mahavir and Buddha Sufis. Sufism is an experience that needn’t be understood in theistic/atheistic format.  In fact for Osho theology is antithesis of Sufism. He has no respect for exoterism and rational metaphysics. 

Sufism and Wool Symbolism
Osho has argued for an ecocentric interpretation of religion and for this purpose he has especially drawn on Sufism. His interpretation of certain Sufi statements and especially the term Sufi and wool symbolism is very interesting and insightful from ecocentric viewpoint. He raises the question why the Sufis used to wear woolen robes and why was wool the symbol of Sufism.  He asserts that nobody has answered it and forwards his own thesis:

The symbolism is that wool is the garb of the animals and a Sufi has to become as innocent as an animal. The Sufi has to attain to a primal innocence. …. He is in tune with existence as deeply as any animal. He has dropped all kinds of philosophies, he carries no conceptualizations in his mind, his mind is without content. He is, but he is no more in the mind. To be without mind—that is the meaning of woolen robe. To be like innocent animals, not to know what is good and what is bad …. and then the highest good arises, the ‘summum bonum’….. The animal doesn’t choose. Whatsoever is, is. The animal simply accepts it; its acceptance is total. It knows no choice. So does a Sufi. A Sufi knows no choice. He is choicelessly aware. Whatsoever happens he accepts as a gift, as a God-given thing. Who is he to choose? He doesn’t trust his mind, he trusts in the universal mind” (Osho, 1999:12). “[Animal] has nothing and yet will find great peace, silence, joy celebration” (Osho, 1999: 14). By asserting animal symbolism Sufi declares that he is not doer on his own record (Osho, 1999: 14).
It is generally accepted that environmental crisis hasn’t been a serious problem of traditional cultures and premodern civilizations. Tribal societies, primitive people don’t know it. Mind, reason, civilization, desires, possessions, divisions, conflicts, disequilibrium, disharmony go hand in hand. Intellect as traditionalist perennialist writers conceive it isn’t distanced from nature. It is a sort of mirror reflecting Reality. It is choicelessly aware of the flow of events. Tribal people are closest to ‘animals’ in the above defined sense of the term and that is why they possess ecological health. Animal doesn’t possess ego-consciousness and thus doesn’t look at the world as the other, as an object. He lives in the world. He is tuned to the rhythm of nature. He flows with it.
Modern man has lost the innocence of animal and that is why he is alienated. He doesn’t trust the given as God given. He can’t thank Existence for the gift of life. Animals never complain. They are reconciled with their fate. They have submitted in the real sense of the word. They can’t rebel. They don’t hoard as they are not possessive. They know nothing of greed. Animals look at nature without having any ideas, choices, wants, interests. They just delight at seeing creation. They know no exploitation of nature because they are content with what they have, with what nature has bestowed them. The ‘Sufi’ word could also have been derived from sufa which means purity and by implication transcendence. It means renunciation. One renounces and becomes a faqeer. The Sufi has to renounce all possession or at least attachment to possessions or things.
Osho’s other observations on Sufism also express his ecocentric thought. Non-doing, actionless action or wu wei is one of the important motifs in Osho. The Gita and Taoism have explicated this conception. It is an ideal mode of ecocentric action. Eliminating the doer and letting Existence do its will. It is the posture of surrender and trust in the action of the whole. In fact God is the only doer. It is illusion to believe that we are the real agents of action. A Sufi is a hollow bamboo, a flute on which nature plays the notes and what conflict can there be in such a case with environment. He doesn’t look at it egoistically, capitalistically. He believes more in giving than in taking. His dwellings are usually caves, forests, countrysides, or what comes closest to virgin nature. The Sufis have given voice to mute nature. For them chirping birds deliver sermons and brooks are books. Even trees are reported to have developed some sort of relationship with them. He must be content to be nothing. He must not be to let Existence speak through him, to let God play on the note of his life. The Sufi is one ‘who has arisen in the morning and doesn’t know whether he will be dead in the evening.’ He is utterly resigned to the present moment. He has no will to be worried about his state tomorrow and that is why he is perfectly at peace. He is ibn-al-waqt (the child of time) or rather for him time doesn’t exist. Not in time but out of time he lives. So his relationship with nature can’t be dictated by calculating utilitarian aggrandizing morality. As the Sufi doesn’t act out of the mind and it is mind which separates man from nature and distorts his primal innocence so his actions can’t be but in tune with nature. He doesn’t flow against the stream. He is at maqami-raza which is a state of absolute submission. Not his but his Heavenly Father’s will is done and God is the totality of existence. Transcendence of mind, thought, ideas, ego means nothing now separates a Sufi from nature, his primal or paradisiacal innocence. Sufism as love affair with the world or whole (at whatsoever terms it sets as love doesn’t negotiate but willingly surrenders as it transcends ego boundaries by very definition) means he is reconciled with the environment (environment understood in the widest sense of the term). He isn’t opposed to it unlike Camus but loves it with all his heart and soul. He doesn’t mourn the fact of being born. He isn’t therefore alienated or rebellious. He delights in creation. He sings the praises of all forms as they manifest the Essence or God. All creation sings the praise of God by virtue of mere existence (which is a state of submission). He joins trees, brooks, birds, and stars in consenting to the state in which God chose him to be. He doesn’t resent. It is he who experiences innocence of becoming. He sees God everywhere, in every atom, in every leaf blade. He sings, dances in mad ecstasy because everything comes from his Beloved. He accepts every misery as a kiss from the Beloved. Raza, the station of Sufi means total acceptance. He is pleased with God as God is pleased with him. Accepting servant-hood means he consents to his creaturely status. He doesn’t want to be superman, to be God. Rather he chooses not to be at all, chooses to annihilate ego so that only God can say I am. And not he. It is extreme humility on the part of al-Hallaj when he said, “I am the Truth.” This is because, as Rumi says, it is God who said this as Mansur himself had got annihilated in the experience of fana.

Critiquing Exotericism
Though he relegates many important considerations to the background in his explications and takes a too simplistic view of the matter, one must admire his straightforwardness, boldness and honesty in presenting the core of Sufism.  He minces no words in his frank outright rejection of the letter of exotericism in favor of the spirit of esotericism.  I quote his answer to the above mentioned question.“It (Sufism) is essential core of Islam and yet is a rebellion against the establishment of Islam too.” (Osho, 2004:8). “Christ is real, Christianity is false religion.  Muhammad is real, Mohammedanism is false…The Spirit of Muhammad is asserted by Omar Khayyam; the spirit of Muhammad is asserted by a thousand and one Sufi mystics again and again”(Osho, 2004:30). He further explains:

The enemy who was fighting against Muhammad will become the priest.  The essential religion will always go against the established religion.  Sufis are the very heart but the heart is bound to be against the mind, the intellect....  The priest lives in the head; the man of prayer lives in the heart. They are two polarities, their languages are different …(Osho, 2004:33).  “The priest speaks the language of knowledge and the Sufi speaks the language of love. They don’t meet, they don’t communicate.  Communication is impossible. The priest is blind, he has never seen the light, he only believes in it.  The Sufi has seen the light; it isn’t a belief any more.  He knows it” (Osho, 2004:35).
He identifies sharia with the body of religion and Sufism with its spirit or soul.  It is prophet or Master who breathes life in the corpse of sharia. He says:
Sharia means the body of religion.  It may be alive, it may be dead – both are possibilities … When a Muhammad is alive Sharia is alive – because Muhammad breathes life in it.  But when Muhammad is gone there will be a corpse.  Sharia means exotericism – the ritual, the formal, the sundry religion. It doesn’t affect you at all.  It gives you a certain respectability in the society. It is more existential than spiritual. And it is more political than religious (Osho, 2004:59).

Osho’s rejection of forms in the interests of supraformal essence or spirit is what sharply distinguishes him from the perennialists. It is one thing to lament over excesses of literalism in religion but another thing to be blind to the symbolic and other functions of forms. Perennialists too are critical of exotericism when it worships the letter and becomes exclusivist but according to them one can’t, generally speaking, enter into the sanctuary of esoteric truth except through the shell of forms. As Schuon has commented that forms will be dispensable only when there are only Buddhas around. Generality Sufi authorities have defended the formal religion as providing the medium and the necessary discipline for realizing the esoteric core. Sharia and tariqa are not antagonistic. It is only certain libertines who have rejected the need of forms. Rejection of forms exposes a traveler on the path to all sorts of dangers. It is the centuries old experience that justifies, besides the scriptural warrant, the indispensability of forms. The devil, the lower self proves far smarter than libertines imagine in outwitting them. Sharia is the beginning of mystical path as well as a protection against the influence of nafs-i-amara. Further clarification will be done in the following paragraphs.

Sufism and Metaethical Transcendence

Osho’s critique of formal religion is linked to his critique of moralism and what certain libertines have called the religion of the letter or the religion of the commandments. Advocacy of metaethical transcendence discernible in many great mystics is taken to its extreme in Osho’s discourses.
It is the religion of the commandments that modern man finds so irritating. Mysticism has also traditionally been critical of legalistic moralism and plainly advocated the transcendence of good/evil binary or what has been called as metaethical transcendence. Certain mystics have even denied the literal reading of the commandments. Osho is perhaps the most outspoken critic of moralism that has traditionally been the prerogative of Church. There is hardly anything that can be properly called the revealed law and its breach as sin in Osho’s scheme. Although the advocates of traditional religion and mysticism such as the perennialists are also critical of moralism and maintain a clear distinction between virtue and morality they are not critical of the sacred law. For them it provides an ideal disciplinary stratagem to curb the lower self or ego so that the divine consciousness is born and their defence of metaethical transcendence for the saints doesn’t imply rejection of law and ethics. The mystic transcends the self will and thus the choosing consciousness. By transcending the desiring self or what the Quran calls nafsi amara which incites one to evil, only good comes from the mystic because he has transcended the plane of mind, the plane of desiring self which chooses and is caught up in the net of time or desires. His hands have become God’s hands and God acts through him, as the Prophet of Islam put it. The perfect man is moral without being moralistic. He calls for a transformation of consciousness so that our will become God’s will. Morality doesn’t become acquiring to something from without. It flows spontaneously. The perfect man radiates only goodness. He needn’t choose good against evil. He no longer judges as Jesus didn’t judge. Man of God is beyond good and evil. “What after all, is right and what is wrong? That thought or action which takes you towards God is right, and that thought or action which takes you away from God is wrong" as Swami Ramdas has said. Since a subject-object duality is transcendence in Unitarian or Tawhidic perspective (as the Sufis interpret it) all distinctions, binaries, categories, judgments (which includes judgments of good and evil, right and wrong) lose their meaning (or are at least relativized) as conceived in dualist framework or epistemology. As conceptual intellect and autonomous self will, the discriminating consciousness, are transcended, usual binary ethical categories lose their relevance in judging/critiquing what is revealed to the Sufi or mystic. A few representative quotes (taken from Perry’s A Treasury of Traditional Wisdom, 1979) from the great mystical and religious authorities follow:
The man of God is beyond infidelity and religion. To the man of God  right or wrong are alike.-----Rumi                                                                                                                                                                                   One who hath here escaped attachment whether to virtue or vice … him I call Brahman.      Dhammapada, XXVI, 412                                                                                                           

Since I have known God, neither truth nor falsehood has entered my heart.
Abu Hafs Haddad       
It exceedeth all things in a supraessential manner and it is revealed in its naked truth to those alone who pass right through the opposition of fair and foul.                           Dionysius
He (Bayazid) was asked concerning the command to do good and shun evil.  He answered, ‘Be in a domain where neither of these things exist: both of them belong to the world of created beings: in the presence of Unity there is neither command nor prohibition. -----Attar
In a rare few He completely effaces the ego, and thee go beyond virtue and sin, good or bad.  As long as man has not realized God, he retains the sense of differentiation and the knowledge of good or bad.-----Sri Ramakrishna
Osho’s position is complete rejection of legal injunctions. His ashram practice clearly flouted the commandments by which traditional religions stand. His notoriety in orthodox religious circles was primarily because of his disrespectful attitude towards the law. It is his quite unique and heterodox position. Religions speak of the revealed law that alone guarantees one’s salvation though that itself is nonetheless seen primarily as a means rather than an end in itself. Osho is also for killing the ego but he believes that the traditional law or morality is based on faulty psychology, the suppression of the natural instincts and thus results in perversions. This critique of the law is carried to it pathological extreme in his Rajneesh Bible, the work which is most offensive and most irresponsible piece of writing from Osho. Here one at times doubts whether he deserves to be read at all. One can see here a sick mind, a case of mystical pathology which hardly cares for truth, for objectivity, for scholarship, for etiquettes. The kind of language he uses against traditional authorities of all religion is hardly acceptable to any decent person. Here he degenerates into a polemicist and rhetorician and advocates extremely flimsy and vulnerable arguments and gives a host of plainly false statements about the first Sufi, the foundation of esotericism in Islam, the Prophet. Here he contradicts his otherwise eulogizing tone towards the founders of religion in general.

Sufism, Theology and Philosophy
Sufism gives only method or path or tariqah; it doesn’t give proofs or arguments. “Sufis aren’t concerned with theology at all; they are only concerned with methodology.  They aren’t worried about whether God is or isn’t. They say:  Don’t talk non sense!  Here is a way.  Go through it and see for yourself.”18
This much can be granted but Osho asserts that theology is a jungle of lies as a thorough going esotericist, a sort of batinite thinker. He has argued for modernizing Sufism by making it available to all and the sundry. He rejects any need of sharia for a practizing Sufi. He delinks Sufism from formal religion completely. He rejects esoterization of Sufi message and Shiekh cult. For him Sufism needn’t be practiced according to strict discipline of silsilahas. He considers himself a Sufi master. Osho has no use for kalam and philosophy. He has no use for scripture either. Both the Quran and the prophetic traditions are dispensable for Sufism according to him.

Choiceless Awareness and the Sufi practice of zikr       
Osho interprets zikr or remembrance of God in his “pagan” manner. To be in zikr is just to be aware choicelessly aware, moment to moment aware about Existence or Reality.  God is nothing but existence, phenomenal and transcendental when one becomes alert one attains the Infinite.  That is what the Hindus have called  Infinite awareness or chit – utter bliss is his” (Osho, 2004:68).  Prophet’s declaration about himself that he is never asleep and is awake even while in sleep is beautifully explicated by Osho

The state ghafla – unconsciousness – has to be transformed into state of zikr – remembrance …..And unless awareness becomes so deep that even while you are asleep you are aware, it isn’t of much use.  Ordinary people look alert and are asleep.  They walk on the streets, go to their jobs, do their work, come back home, have children, have a wife, grow a family and die.  And they remain in a state of ghafla, they remain asleep.  A man is called aware when he can fall asleep and still remain transparently alert deep down.  Only then do Sufis say that this man has attained to jikr – remembrance. And in this remembrance of one’s being one starts feeling God, experiencing God. (Osho, 2004:66-67).

Farz-i-dayim (the Sufi practice of constant prayer or perpetual remembrance of God) for Osho would be simply conscious doing of all actions, being choicelessly aware. To keep the track of breaths would translate in Osho’s terms into being aware, doing everything as a witness or watcher. All zikr and other practices are simply meant to still the mind, otherwise there is nothing mystical and sacred about them. None of the names of God which Sufis repeat are indispensable.
The concept of heightened attention or awareness as the key religious virtue he borrows from Krishnamurti. Of course the Sufis have said about it but the way Krishnamurti and Osho interpret it in their secularized demythologizing framework is something unprecedented.  For them to be aware of God is to be primarily aware of the immanent God in the phenomena. Hierarchy of existence and all the five degrees of divine presence aren’t exhausted by being merely aware of nature of flowing streams and chirping birds and buzzing bees.  Osho equates Sufi notion of jikr with Hindu conception of Sakshin (the witness), Buddhist notion of samyak samrith (the right mindful) and Nanak’s Surat (remembrance) (Osho, 2004:72).

Sufi Meditations
Osho applauds Sufi dances and loud recitations and even qawalies. His dynamic meditations are based on similar psychological insights. Sama and gina are ideally suited to transcend the realm of mind. Osho has used some variants of Sufi techniques and has highly praised certain methods of Sufis as conducive to the practice of mysticism in modern age. Osho has especially praised Mulla Nasruddin. His light hearted approach to mysticism, his eulogization of laughter as the mystical method par excellence allies him with Mulla Nasruddin’s use of humour as a mystical method. He has spared Nasruddin and Mansoor only from his otherwise universally critical attitude towards traditional figures of mysticism.
His Unitarian interpretation of Sufism is consistent and thoroughgoing rejection of all dualist interpretations. He is the most uncompromising spokesperson of wahdatul wajud and isn’t careful enough to maintain many important distinctions at certain planes where they need to be maintained. His interpretations at many places border on crass pantheism and rejection of theism. There has been no Sufi who has unqualifyingly rejected  theistic God. For him God of theism is a plain fiction and only Absolute or Godhead, God beyond God, the undifferentiated essence, the One is to be affirmed.
            The essence of prayer is meditation and love. Osho explains Sufi notions of gnosis and ishq or love in a way that would best appeal the postmodern sensibility, that escapes deconstructionist postmodernist critiques “All kinds of meditations presuppose one thing- thoughtlessness. And this point has to be understood in reference to Sufism too. Just as there are thoughts in the mind so there are emotions in the heart. Thoughts have to go if you want knowing to arise, and if you want loving to arise in your heart then your sentimentality and your emotions have to go.

 Thoughts are not intelligence and sentimentality is not love. And there are only two ways… Sufis have two names. All the religions talk about two ways. Sufis say the first way is marifa; marifa means the way of knowing. And the second way is mahaba; mahaba means the way of love. These are what Hindus call jnanmarga and bhaktimarga (Osho, 2004:82).
Osho’s main emphasis is on fana, on dropping the self so that one attains baqa, eternity, Godhead.  Every experience (which includes even orgasm, apprehension of beauty etc.) in which ego is transcended even momentarily give us inkling of God. To be enlightened is to be oceanic – when a drop has mingled in the sea or rather become the sea. He sees his name Osho as being derived from William James’ word ‘oceanic’ which means dissolving into the ocean, the ocean called Wajud or Existence or God.  Osho’s heterodox stand comes from his identifying all mundane experiences of collapse of ego boundary or real transcendence of ego with the ultimate experience of Sufi. That is why everyday dance too is an authentic or genuine opening towards heaven; God is experienced in dance, in signing when the ego is no more.  The psychic and the spiritual (the realm of the Psyche and the realm of the Spirit) are many times confounded in his writings.  He falls in the category of what Schuon would call the libertine. But this isn’t always the case. He, generally speaking, doesn’t deviate much from what constitutes the essence of the mystical traditions of the world.  But he gives too many concessions to modern and postmodern “perversions” as traditionalist authors call them.  In his attempt to own the (post)modern sensibility he sometimes takes too many liberties with the tradition.  In the name of the spirit he kills the letter and that takes him to a very dangerous terrain.  However one can’t but admire his translation of what appear as abstract, unintelligible, far off, too heavenly or otherworldly notions and concepts in terms of ordinary, lived and concrete experience.  His exposition of spiritual significance of dance is superb

The dancer disappears but the dance continues. The song cannot die because the song is out of God. The dancer can’t live eternally because the dancer is out of your mind, just a fiction. The dance is the reality, the dancer is just a fiction- hence Sufis have developed many methods through dance; the whirling dervish, the turn. (Osho, 2004:88).   

Master-Disciple Relationship
His analysis of Master-disciple relationship is also superb.  He beautifully argues how fana-fi-shaykh leads to fana-fillah.  Sheikh or Master is manifestation of God, the ideal pole of man, the inward essence of man, the pole of existence.  Only the Master can lead one to God and Master is God’s proof (shahid), His witness (shahid). Explaining Master-disciple relationship vis-à-vis therapist – patient relationship he says:

the client and the therapist relationship  is relationship  and a relationship between a disciple and Master is not  a relationshp at all because the disciple  has to disappear into the therapist ; they retain their identities. They remain two.  In the relationship with the Master the disciple has to disappear, and when there is no disciple, naturally the Master has disappeared also because the Master can’t be there without a disciple.  The Master is the idea of the disciple when the disciple has disappeared the Master has disappeared.  And there is only God, One God.
            If you are ready to disappear I (Master) am already not there.  I exist only in your mind. (Osho, 2004:88).

The Sufi belief in saving influence of Master’s presence or nazr figures beautifully in Osho. In his discourses on Sufism he says:
I say meditation can’t be done – one can be in meditation but one can’t do it… I am saying to you that if you can simply listen to me, that will bring enlightenment. There is no need to do anything else, just by hearing it, just by seeing what is transpiring here between me and you, just by being with me, you will become enlightened- not by doing anything (Osho, 2001: 162).

Osho and Tawhid-i-Wujudi
Non-duality or Unitarianism is the hallmark of all traditional mysticism. Mystical vision is the vision coincidentia oppositorum. All diversity is unified in the single essence of God. God as Ibn Arabi puts it is the essence of the existence. God as Reality can’t be but one and can’t be reduced to a person. It is the concept of Godhead or Absolute that grounds Unitarianism. However it is this Unitarianism that may easily slip into pantheistic position which being based on the rejection of God’s transcendence is a plain heresy and plainly rejected by all traditional authorities. It has also been observed in the history of mysticism that this has degenerated into facile rejection of hierarchic gradation of reality and men. There is no distinction between the sinner and the saint, the saint and the prophet, the divine and the satanic, this worldly and the otherworldly. The impersonal Absolute is the Totality; it is no way to be confused with the familiar personal God. The mystic transcends all binaries, all dualities and it is here that dualistic theology fails to make sense of the experience of Unity. Reason because of its penchant for conceptual categorization and classifications is simply bowled over while analyzing the most fundamental intuitions of mystics and the writings of philosophers that primarily elaborate the mystical vision such as Bradley and Hegel as Stace has argued in his Time and Eternity. It is the Unitarian vision that is the unifying thing of all mysticism and it is here that we can genuinely speak of certain extremely Unitarian statements (ecstatic utterances, shatuhat) that are quite shocking to the exoteric sensibility and Osho’s genius lies in ever shocking both theologians and philosophers. But he is again expressing the intuition of the mystic and thus speaks from experience and we find the similar statements in other great mystics. To quote a few representative statements quoted from W. N. Perry’s A Treasury of Traditional Wisdom (1979).
that is most characteristically described as the realization of the One, the vision that transcends all dualities. The experience or intuition of simple and undifferentiated Godhead – the Unity – is the primary experience from which Unitarianism or monism is derived. The Absolute, the One is

God is neither true nor good.        Meister Eckhart
 There is in reality neither truth nor error, neither yes nor no, nor any distinction, whatsoever, since all – including the contraries- is one.         Chaung-Tse
            Behold the world mingled together
            Angel with demons, Satan with the archangel
            All mingled like seed and fruit
            Infidel with faithful, and faithful with infidel
All the point of the present [which alone is real for Sufis] are gathered
            All cycles and seasons day, month and year
            World at beginning is world without end.          Shabistari
 The very nature of the Great Way is voidness of opposition.    Haung Po
 There is neither body nor soul for I am the Soul of Souls.
I have expelled duality from myself. I have seen the two worlds as one.
Let me seek One, say One, know One and desire One.
O Mussulmans!
Is there lover in the world? Then I am he!
Muslim, Pagan, Christian monk? Lo, I am he!
Shibli, Karkhi, Bayazid and Junayd,
Bu-Hanifa, Shafi, Malik, I am he!
Throne and carpet, Tablet, Footstool, Height and Depth,
Whether one with God or surrendered – all you see!
I, “Two bowshots off,” “above”, and “night still”,
Yea, I am Injil, Psalter, Koran, utterly!
Cup-boy and lees, minstrel and cup, lute-string and song,
Sweetheart and lamp, wine and carouse, all these I be!
Sects and creeds seventy-and-two in the world?
Not one that remain; but all of them see thou in me!
Four elements in the World, Soul and Body too,
Earth, Air, Water and Fire, what are they all but me?
Truth, falsehood, evil and good, easy and hard, I am;
Knowledge, virtue, temperance, faith and piety!
Blazing fire of Hell, fierce-flaming am I;
Yea! Garden of Paradise and houri heavenly!
Wearer of coat of skin, with quiver and lariat I;
Yet crown and diadem of both world’s majesty!
Celestials and fairies, Jinn and Man I am;
This Earth and Heaven, and in them whatever there be!
“O Shams-i-Tabriz, what is the end of your claim?”
Hear then the gist: The Soul of the Soul, I am He.
Rumi in Diwani-i- Shamsi Tabrez

Osho’s following statement gets thus contextualized:

For a Buddhist, and particularly for a Zen Buddhist, there is nothing profane and nothing sacred… It(Zen) doesn’t believe in the sacred, it doesn’t believe in the profane. It doesn’t believe in anything, it is all one. Dog or God it is all one. Buddha, no Buddha – it is all one. The ignorant, the wise – it is all one. The sinner and saint – it is all one” (Osho,1979:29).

 This is typical Osho who fails to realize the dangers of extreme monism that disregards distinction and hierarchies that are real at a certain plane and can’t be whitewashed with the brush of monism. Failure to respect such polarities as servant-God, world-God, sinner saint and distinct ontological grades that the traditional doctrine of hierarchy of existence maintains amounts to serious misreading of traditional understanding of Unitarianism of Sufis. Denial of the relative validity of the fundamental distinctions is denial of doctrine itself that only transcends rather than fuses diversity of phenomena. There is a distinction between the sinner and the saint, the saint and the prophet, the satanic and the divine, samsara and nirvana for a consciousness that is still to lose discriminating vision on the way to nirvana. One can’t deny in the name of Unitarian vision the provisionally real character of these distinctions as long as one lives in the world of multiplicity. It is only a nirvanic consciousness that can declare that samsara is nirvana. A person who only knows samsara and trapped in the dualistic vision can’t declare this as several authorities have made clear. Only a nirvanic consciousness can assert, from the viewpoint of eternity, that time is not, that no distinction really exists, that samsara is nirvana. It is not possible for the dualistic consciousness to assert so. Osho’s discourse about the illusoriness of ego and thus his call for its transcendence means that we need to respect the world of multiplicity or distinctions at the relative plane. From the viewpoint of Absolute nothing is, the universe of manifestation is not; it is now as it was then. So the world of duality and distinctions of which theology takes a note and which conceptualizing intellect takes cognizance is not to be bracketed off as Osho seems to imply sometimes in his overemphasis on Brahman to the exclusion of Maya. There is no dualism but dualities are there and experienced by everyone. The vision of the One doesn’t abolish the duality of Lord and servant as long as the servant continues to live in the world of finitude as Ramakrishna used to say. Certain kinds of pain of which flesh is necessarily heir to don’t cease to trouble the body of even a Buddha as long as he continues to eat and sleep till death. Parinirvana, the beatific vision in its full glory is not possible in this world. It is death alone that tears the veil completely as man is no longer fettered by body. Existence is a fetter and we need to move beyond existence for the consummation of religious life. This is the claim of traditional eschatologies. Osho echoes certain libertine claimants of Sufism who argued for an interpretation of wahdatul wujud that nullified the sacred law.

Symbolist Reading of Religion
Osho is for a thorough symbolist reading of religion and is more comfortable with negative theology. His distrust of rational metaphysics is shared by other mystical philosophers, Sufis and perennialists (for the perennialists metaphysics being concerned with the supraphenomenal, the Infinite demands intellective intuition and ultimate identity of knowing and being and is not the prerogative of all and the sundry. It demands severe ethical discipline if it is to be practically realized; the noetic vision that the ancient philosophers tried to awaken demands practice of virtues. This has been argued succinctly by Ghazali in his various writings including his famous Alchemy of Happiness. All these things make it impossible to teach metaphysics to everyone. It is not an abstract inquiry by means of reason primarily. Metaphysics on a purely rational plane is indeed impossible as we have been reminded by philosophers from Kant to Derrida. Metaphysical questions (which the Buddha would beautifully dissolve by silence i.e., refusing their ultimate legitimacy), it is argued, are raised by thought, thought operating in and through time. These questions belong to the domain of natural order, to use the expression of Stace. God is revealed only is a state of no-mind, in a state of utter silence. He unveils to a loving heart rather than to a thinking mind as the Sufis would say. It is only to the aashiq or lover that the countenance of God is shown. This is the most important assertion of great Sufi poets such as Rumi.  Revelation comes only when the realm of the known ceases. Reason belongs to the realm of the known, of time, of thought, of mind. God wholly transcends natural order and rationalist is unable to transcend natural order and thus for perennialists as well as for Osho not eligible to dabble in matters divine.
 Absolute in its absolutenss, the highest metaphysical stage of Reality, is undifferentiated. It is Infinite. So nothing from the world of relativity, no categorization, no definition, no conceptualization is relevant. Wahdatul wajud (Oneness of Being) envisages the idea that the Supreme Reality is both absolute and infinite. It can’t be approached rationally. This is asserted by both Sufis and Osho. The Absolute allows of no augmentation or diminution or of reality or division.
The infinite as another fundamental aspect of the Real is limitless for it isn’t determined by any limiting factor. It has no boundary. The true infinite is the metaphysical “Whole” which can in no way be limited. There is nothing outside it for then it would not longer be the whole. The metaphysical “Whole” is “without parts” for these parts of necessity being relative and relative have no existence from its point of view. This true Infinite or the metaphysical “Whole” under a certain aspect is understood as universal possibility. “There are no ‘distinctive’ or ‘multiple’ aspect existing really in the Infinite, it is our limited determinate and individual conception which makes us conceive like that. That limitation comes from the human side to make the Infinite expressible. The imperfection of a definite and conditioned existence mustn’t be transferred to the unlimited domain of universal Possibility itself” (Qaisar, 1998:134). 
Many modern philosophers and postmodernists are right in emphasizing these limitations and denying rational knowledge of the whole. In fact the whole can't be spoken at all. The doctrines of Infinite and universal possibility in Sufi metaphysics appropriate all postmodern critique. By definition they are all inclusive and totally total conceptions. A Sufi denies reason’s totalizing view and says that to intuition only is vision of God given and nothing, no linguistic formulation or conception, can problematize revelations of intuition because they aren’t of the order of finite, of relative, of time, of this world (or even in a way, of the next world).
There really exists nothing but Self and universe is its exteriorization in traditional mysticism. The gnostic (the term is here used in primordial and non-sectarian sense) traces everything to Source. God is perceived also as Az-Zahir. So life becomes celebration, a feast as it is dance, play of God. It isn’t Osho alone in the history of mysticism to have sung of the joy of life and making religion a feast. It is only those whom William James calls sick souls who happen to be pessimists who see the world as the work of malicious spirits. There is no other but the Self perceiving itself. To be true to the Self is to be true to God. Sufism substitutes the Perfect Man or Godman for the Superman. And the Perfect Man appropriates God/or is appropriated by God. So duality disappears. One can easily declare (though it isn’t declaration of self or man but really God who is declaring this as He alone is) “I Am” or “I am the Truth” or “Glory to Me.” One discovers God within. The Self is its own beloved. God perceives Himself in the mirror, Love celebrates itself. Nothing exists save the Self. The Aarif (gnostic) sees with the eye of certainty. As the realm of time and thought is transcended only pure perception, pure awareness, awareness of ‘what is’ remains. Infinite appears, Unknown dawns. Everything becomes blissful. One is joyous with the whole of existence. Every beautiful thing expresses the beauty of the Beloved. By surrendering our self we get liberated by the Infinite. By overcoming subject-object duality or knower-known duality utter certainty is achieved, the certainty of intellectual intuition as knowing and being become one.
In Islamic mysticism the Supreme Principle or Absolute is designated as a hidden treasure in an oft quoted prophetic tradition which even if not authentic for scholars of hadees (prophetic traditions) expresses something which plainly follows from the Quranic emphasis on divine transcendence. And hidden He remains even now. Absolute in itself has really never manifested and can't manifest. It remains unknowable. The Absolute in its absoluteness is Nameless and It has no signs by which It can be approached. It is beyond all perception, conception and imagination. No qualification or relation (even such a category as existence) can be attributed to It for It even transcends transcendence. No linguistic category can describe It. It lives in permanent abysmal darkness and is ‘‘the most unknown of all the unknowns” (Qaisar, 1998:132). It is Gayyibul-gayyib. None can have, in principle, access to It. The Pure Absolute or Essence (Dhat) in its fundamental aspect is beyond the insatiable human quest and all attempts to reach It, track it, pinpoint it, catch It in the net of language or realm of the finite or time, to conceptualize It, to imagine It, to speak about It, to affirm anything of It are doomed. Before the Ipseity or Dhat one can only be bewildered as Khaja Gulam Farid says. To quote him: “Where to seek! Where to find You Friend. All the fiery creatures, human beings, forces of Nature and the entire world is amazingly drowned in the sea of bewilderment. The Sufis, devotees, men of wisdom and learning have ultimately lost. Arshi and Bistami while embracing each other cry in vain…saints, prophets, mystics, poles and even messengers and deities incarnate proclaim weepingly that He is beyond the reach of vision. Scientists, erudites, gnostics and professionals in all humility have admittedly resigned. Ask Farid naive and simple: where do you find.” (Quoted in Qaisar, 1998:133). Rumi encountering the Absolute and dissolving in It  makes the same point in the following famous lines of Diwan-i- Shamsi Tabrez:

O Muslim what can I do? For I do not know myself,
I am not a Christian nor a Jew, a fire worshipper not a Muslim.
I am not of the East or the West, not of Land nor of Sea.
I am not of the Elemental not of the Circling Spheres.
I am not of earth nor of air, of water nor of fire.
I am not of the Empyrean nor of the outspread carpet of the world, indeed I am not in the category of creation at all.
I am not Hindustan nor of China nor form near-by Bulgaria.
I am not of the land of Iraq nor of the dust of Khurasan.
I am not of the Faith (or the present obligations of religion) not of the hereafter, nor of Heaven nor of Hell.
I am not from Adam nor from the garden of Paradise.
 My dwelling is without location, my trail without trace.

Sufi Distinction between Saint and Sage
Osho points out that the Sufis make an important distinction between saint and sage. Saints are flat, boring, sad, never doing any wrong, scrupulously pious, a sterotype, conformist. He is only positive. He suppresses the negative part. He isn’t whole, stupid, mediocre, carrying negative in the unconscious. He is an antithesis of criminal. In his dreams the negative part surfaces up.. Their dreams are sexy, criminal. The saint and the sinner both are ordinary types of people. They are each other’s foils, giving each other definition. They are business partners. In contrast the sage is neither positive nor negative. He doesn’t choose. He absorbs both. He is for total acceptance. Whatever has been given by God he transforms into unity. He is whole. (Osho, 2001: 190-92). “The  sage accepts both, brings them together- mediativeness and sexuality” (Osho, 2001: 193).
Osho has masterfully read Surah Ikhlas that expresses the Quranic view of divine unity. He needs not your prayers, he needs not your praises. He is uncreated nor he creates anything: the existence is eternal, it has no beginning and no end… These fundamentals avoid the inconsistency in the creation theories of other faiths” (Chaitinya, 2001: 204). The whole existence only reflects god, the whole existence functions as a mirror (Osho, 2001: 101).
Sufi notion of total acceptance (raza) and absolute gratefulness (shkr) stand appropriated beautifully in the following remarks.

If there is dancing and there is singing and there is joy and there is love, and life is respected not denied, not negated but affirmed, with all that it contains- with all the pains and all the pleasures, with all the agonies and all the ecstasies- then life is praised in its totality, only then does rejoicing happen. (Osho, 2001: 73).

Remarking on the oft quoted statement that Sufism is not qal but hal, a thing that needs to be tasted he says: “Sufism is not something that can be shown, proved, examined, certified, sanctioned. It is so interior” (Osho, 1981:217).

Sufism and Interfaith Dialogue
Sufism has traditionally been inclusive but certain esotericists stretch this inclusivism very much. As Osho says:

A Sufi has nothing to do with Hinduism or Mohammedenism, or Christianity. A Sufi can happen anywhere! In any religion, or in no religion. A Sufi is a wanderer, a Sufi is universal. A Sufi belongs to the whole world and the whole world belongs to the Sufi. All is his, and he uses all situations to transcend (Osho, 1981:10).  I am using the word ‘Sufi’ in the widest meaning of the word. Buddha is a Sufi, Jesus is a Sufi. Ramana is a Sufione who is fed up with philosophies(Osho, 1981:15) . Seeing is believing. That is what the Sufis say (Osho, 1981:17).

Interpretation of Ihsan
His translation and commentary on three aspects of Islam which include, Islam, iman and ihsan is marvelous. I quote his concluding words that summarize his views on it: “If you can have Islam- surrender, peace, silence; iman- faith, religiousness, commitment; ihsan- authenticity, virtue, totality… you have the map (of ultimate felicity) (Osho, 2001: 154). According to him Ihsan means not to be split and further elaborates:

If you don’t want to see God, forget about it. Be in the world; let the world be your only reality. One day or other you will be frustrated. Then the search for God will start. But there is no need to go right now. If you are not ripe yet, it is better to remain in the world. The world will make you ripe for God. If you are really ready, then don’t ride on two horses. Then choose. That is the meaning of ihsan- authenticity, sincerity (Osho, 2001: 152).

This is in accord with the approach of Sufi masters who don’t hunt for disciples but simply wait until the disciple is ripe for the same (Osho, 2001: 154).

Appropriation of Naqshbandiyah
Osho links his resorting to contradictions to the Sufi order Naqshbandi’s practice. “And that is my device – to give you contradictory statements. That is my design. It is a naqshbandi” (Osho, 2001: 148). He wishes to destroy our clinging to thoughts, dogmas, anything of the mind.. He asserts that his statements are devices to shock, to destroy the clinging mind  He notes that Sufism recognizes the place of intellect also. It is not anti-intellectual like Zen, therefore not extremist. Sufism is therefore moderate and more balanced (Osho, 1981:78).
What emerges from these observations is that Osho’s explication of Sufism while quite interesting and of some value for modernist audience suffers from the limitation of heterodoxy. Traditional Sufism will find him an eccentric genius who is there to destroy the age old channels of grace that different silisilahs preserve. Tariqah without sharia is a heterodox notion that has been flouted before by Batinites only to be condemned by the masters of Sufism. However he does rightly and boldly take to task elitist occultist interpreters of Sufism and orthodox exponents of exotericism. He jolts his audience out of the slumber and complacent attitude with regard to received opinion. He minces no words and doesn’t keep the secret secret and this does result in certain profanation of the teaching. Much of traditional practice and associated paraphernalia of classical Sufism is thrown overboard by him. He presents a challenge to pir worship and ruthlessly exposes many corruptions that are going on in the name of Sufism. He makes it as simple as possible but fails to conform to the spirit of what Schuon calls universal orthodoxy to do justice to diverse dimensions and complexities of the issue. Calling him a counterfeit guru as perennialists usually do may be going to far but one must censure him for his perverse, unfounded, outlandish heterodox views though at the same time appreciate his gift for explicating difficult and abstract looking conceptions in traditional Sufism. He can make certain negatively conditioned persons receptive to Sufism. Fundamentally he shares the Sufi view of God and man and differs mainly in his too individualistic and modernist a sensibility that he brings in while commenting on Sufism.

  1. Osho, Sufis:  The People of the Path, Diamond Pocket Books Pvt.Ltd. 2004, New Delhi.
  1. Osho, Walking in Zen, Sitting in Zen, Full Circle, 2001
  2. Osho, The Perfect Master, Vol.2, Rajnesh Foundation, Poona, 1981
  3. Osho, Osho, Take it Easy : Poems of Ikkayu, Vol. 1  Rajneesh Foundation International Vol. 1., 1979
  4. Osho, (2004),Singing Silence, Diamond Pocket Books Pvt. Ltd.,New Delhi
  5. Qaisar, Shahzad, Metaphysics and Tradition, Gora Publications, Club Road, Lahore, 1998

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