30 October 2005

The Book of Man

Have you heard of Osho? Until very recently, I foolishly thought that Osho was some kind of Japanese interior design concept. Well, that's not it. Osho is actually one of the world's best-known spiritual teachers of the twentieth century.

Osho was from India and passed away in 1990. Just to give you an idea of Osho's influence - the Sunday Times in London listed him as one of the "1000 Makers of the 20th Century". Osho has also been described as one of the 10 people - along with Gandhi, Nehru and Buddha - who have changed the destiny of India.

I discovered Osho while browsing in Kinokuniya. Osho books occupy quite a number of bookshelves there. I flipped through a few of the books and found them to be a captivating read. I bought two titles, "Sermons in Stone" and "The Book of Man", and shall be reading them this week.

Right now, I am not very familiar with Osho yet. From my brief browsing, it seems that Osho has an opinion on just about everything. He is simultaneously profound and irreverent (his autobiography is entitled "Autobiography of a Spiritually Incorrect Mystic"). He regularly intersperses his musings on meditation and spirituality with funny jokes (some dirty too, but all quite funny).

Osho's grand vision was the birth of a new kind of human being, which he called "Zorba the Buddha". Zorba is a rebel, representing the ultimate that any of us can aspire to be, and this is Osho's rebel:
"... a man who is in search of his original self, of his original face. A man who is ready to drop all masks, all pretensions, all hypocrisies and show to the world what he, in reality, is. Whether he is loved or condemned, respected, honoured or dishonoured, crowned or crucified, does not matter; because to be yourself is the greatest blessing in existence. Even if you are crucified, you will be crucified fulfilled and immensely contented.

A man of truth, a man of sincerity, a man who knows love and who knows compassion, and who understands that people are blind, unconscious, asleep, spiritually asleep ..."
In case you're wondering what Osho's personal influences were, well, I don't know. Flipping through his books, I find references to Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Sufism, Lao Tzu. At the same time, as I said, Osho seems to have an opinion about everything - from pornography to psychoanalysis to Hiroshima to homosexuality to sociology to Socrates to American business entrepreneurship.

Well, I won't say any more about Osho (at least, not until I get to know him better). So I'll just end here with one of his little jokes:
A man asked a rabbi, "Why didn't Jesus choose to be born in twentieth-century America?

The rabbi shrugged his shoulders and said, "In America? It would have been impossible. Where can you find a virgin? And secondly, where can you find three wise men?"


Admin said...

Buddha also touched on many topics in his era but it seems that there are more "contraversial" issues in modern days.

And yes, no matter what religion one believes in, it is important to be TRUE to yourself and the people around you. Intelligence is merely a tool to a person but spiritual training is all of the person.

Goh Meng Seng

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Heheh! Didn't know that a worldly politician like yourself would be interested in spiritual/religious things.

Osho might appeal to you because his view is that spirituality cannot be divorced from the earthlier, more material concerns of human existence. He tells a lot of funny jokes about holy people who retreat into a hermetic existence, living in a cave in the Tibetan mountains and so on.

Here is his criticism when someone asked him about Meher Baba, another Indian mystic:

"... he is interested only in your spiritual growth - as if spiritual growth is something separate from the whole structure of society, religion, education, past, all the traditions, conventions ...

So he remains interested in your spiritual growth, but spiritual growth is a complex phenomenon - it is connected with many other things. Unless your conditionings are changed, unless your belief systems are changed, unless your mind is unburdened of the past - there are so many things to be cleaned - only then can the still small voice of your being be heard.

Meher Baba takes spiritual growth out of context ..."

-- Now we see why Osho has opinions about everything. He is a spiritual teacher, but he sees spirituality as something interwined with everything else in our lives ......

Anonymous said...

If you enjoy his books, you should track down some of his videos he made while living in Puri, midway between Bombay and Goa, before he moved his ashram to Oregon.

He was one of the most mezmerizing public speakers I've ever seen.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Wow, cool, thanks for letting me know. You know anything more about the ashram in Oregon? Coincidentally I am finding two reasons to travel to Oregon in June next year.

expat@large said...

Beware of all things quasi-religious and new-age. Ref: http://mysticbourgeoisie.blogspot.com/ Chris Locke is writing a book on the links beween mysticism, racism, fascism and all the new age money-extraction-from-the-gullible self-help crap that we are swamped in (again).

Stay cynical, stay sane is my advice to all.

Good karma to your new blog. Promise I won't try to upset you again.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Actually, to be honest, I am much more frightened of organised, mainstream religions.

Personally I believe that each of us has a direct line to God (by whatever name you want to call him). It's just that most of the time, we don't hear him so well.

It usually gets worse when a bunch of priests, monks, rabbis, nuns, pastors etc all start yakking at the same time, trying to pass the message. You ever play the "broken telephone" game? That's the problem. I prefer to try to fix the telephone, and call God directly.

Thing is that each of us has a different kind of telephone which works differently. So each of us has got to figure out our own way of fixing it, and using it.


Osho, by the way, simply thinks that God is everywhere, in everything, and more or less by default, each of us is a potential god. Except that most of us are spiritually asleep, and don't know it. If we wake, then something happens - it's what the Buddhists call "enlightenment".

Admin said...

Dear Mr. Wang,

Before I get myself into politics, I mainly write about social and religious issues. I was even nicked as the "resident Buddhist" of soc.culture.singapore. ;)

In my private life, I practice Buddhism and take the five precepets. I would say that a total retreat from the earthly world is a very very attractive proposition to me but I just cannot let go. My attachment is my practice.

Unlike the author, I believe that if a person lacks the foundation, isolation is the best environment for him to reflect and cleanse himself from the poisons of living. However, one must have enough earthly exposures before he could continue practice. This sounds a bit contradictory but it is not. You want to be clean, you must first understand what is dirty. But after you understand what is clean and dirty, it doesn't matter anymore and you could discard the dirty and be truly free from dirt. This is different from "craving" to be clean but just free from dirt.

Thus it depends on which stage of practice you are in. If you are just at a stage of trying to understand how to be clean, you will need to learn the dirty part first. Thus, it is not wrong to say that spirituality could be gained or practice in earthly living but this is only the elementary stage. Once you learn the dirt from the earthly engagement, it is time for you to be free from dirt instead of trying to be clean.

Thereafter, after you have achieved the stage of enlightenment, you would have acquired TRUE FREEDOM and FREE WILL to decide whether you want to go back to earthly living or to stay retreat from it.

Sometimes, some people ask me why as a practicing Buddhist, I want to get myself "dirty" in earthly politics. I would answer, this "dirty place" of politics is where I am practicing my spirituality. I am just at the beginning stage of my path.

Goh Meng Seng