East and West: The Inner vs the Outer

The West has chosen the outside world, celebration and pleasures. The East has chosen the inner silence. But both the alternatives are choosing half the man and some kind of misery. The inner is real – as real as the outer

Could you say something about silence and celebration of life?

In the West, celebration is associated with the American idea of having a good time which is synonymous with noise, loud music, watching movies, smoking, sex, and release of energy as such, while silence and serenity are automatically associated with boredom and excessive accumulation of energy which results in tension and anxiety. Please comment. 

“The question you have asked has many implications. It is not a single question; it is one question consisting of many questions of importance. I would like to go into each dimension of the question; only then you may be able to find the answer.”

“The first thing to remember is that man consists of two worlds, one that leads outward and one that leads inward. Man is a duality: he is a body and a soul. And because of this tremendous duality, all the problems of the world have arisen.”

The duality is not a simple one. It is what I have called a “gestalt duality.” In a gestalt duality you can never see both worlds together; if you choose to see one you have to forget about the other.

“As an example I have told you about a small children’s book where they have a picture made of simple lines, but in those lines there are two possibilities: if you fix your eyes on the picture, either you can see an old woman or you can see a beautiful young girl. You can see each separately. If you go on staring at the old woman, suddenly you will find a strange change: the old woman has disappeared and a beautiful young girl is in front of you.”

“If you still persist in staring…because the eyes are not meant to stare; naturally they are continuously moving. Movement is intrinsic to your eyes. They get tired of staring at a thing, they are always in search of something new. Because of this, soon you will find the young woman disappearing and the old woman replaced again. They are both made of the same lines, just different combinations, but you cannot see both together. That is impossible. Because if you see the young woman, where will you find the lines that make the old woman? If you see the old woman, you don’t have extra lines to create the young woman. You can see each separately, but you can never see them together. This is gestalt duality, and this is the reality of man.

The East has seen man only as a soul, as a consciousness, as an introvert being. But because it has chosen one gestalt, it has to deny the other.

“That’s why in the East for centuries the mystics have consistently been denying the reality of the world. They say it is just a dream, it is maya, it is illusion. It is made of the same stuff as dreams are made of. It is not really there, it is only a mirage, only an appearance. The East has denied the outside – has to deny, because of the inner necessity of the gestalt duality.”

The West has chosen the outside world and has to deny the inner world. Man is only a body. Physiology, biology, chemistry, but not a consciousness, not a soul; the soul is only an epiphenomenon.

“And because only the outside is considered to be real, it was possible for science to develop in the West. Technology, thousands of gadgets – possibilities to land on the moon, and the vast universe that surrounds you. But knowing all this, there has been a deep emptiness in the Western mind: something is missing.”

“It is difficult for the Western logic to pinpoint what is missing, but it is absolutely certain that something is missing. The house is full of guests but the host is missing. You have all the things of the world, but you are not. A tremendous misery is the outcome.”

You have all the pleasures, all the money, all that man has ever dreamt of and in the end of centuries of effort, suddenly you find you don’t exist. Your inside is hollow, there is nobody.

“The East has also faced its own misery. Thinking that the outside is unreal, there is no possibility of scientific progress. Science has to be objective – but if objects are only appearances, illusions, there is no point in dissecting illusions and trying to find out the secrets of nature. Hence the East had to remain poor, had to remain hungry, had to remain under all kinds of slaveries for centuries.”

“These two thousand years of slavery are not just an accident. The East was prepared for it. It has accepted it – what does it matter, in a dream, whether you are a master or a slave? What does it matter if in dream you are being served with delicious food or you are hungry? The moment you wake up, both dreams will prove invalid. The East has consented to remain starved, hungry, enslaved, and the reason is that it has chosen a different gestalt: the real is the inner.”

“The East has learned ways to be silent, to be peaceful, to enjoy the bliss that arises as you drown deeper into your interiority. But you cannot share it with anybody else; it is absolutely individual. At the most you can talk about it.”

So the whole East for thousands of years has been talking about spirituality, consciousness, enlightenment, meditation, and on the outside has remained a beggar, sick, hungry, enslaved.

“Who is going to listen to these slaves and their great philosophies? The West has simply laughed. But the laughter has not been only on one side. The East has also laughed, seeing that people are accumulating things and losing themselves. We have lived in a very strange, schizophrenic state of mind for thousands of years.”

“You are saying, ‘In the West, celebration is associated with the American idea of having a good time.’ That brings me to another implication. Only a miserable man needs a good time. Just as a sick man needs medicine, a miserable man needs a good time; it is a very cunning strategy to avoid your misery.”

“The misery is not avoided; you only forget for the time being that you are miserable. Under the influence of drugs or under the influence of sex or under the influence of your so-called having a good time, what are you actually doing? You are escaping from your inner emptiness. You are getting involved in any kind of thing. One thing you are afraid of is your own self.”

It has created a certain madness, but because everybody in the West is in the same boat, it becomes very difficult to recognize.

“Millions of people are watching football – and you call these people intelligent? Then who are you going to call retarded? And not only are these people immensely involved in games like football, they are jumping, they are shouting, they are fighting. And because there are no stadiums big enough to accommodate the whole country, everybody is sitting glued to his chair in front of the television. And they are doing the same stupid acts – sitting in their chairs, shouting….”

“I know one man – because his team was losing, he became so mad he destroyed his television! I was staying with the man and I asked him, “Are you ready to go into an insane asylum? In the first place, football should be for children. You have passed that age long before, but mentally your age is not more than twelve or thirteen years. And what you have done with the television makes me suspect that not only are you retarded, you are insane too.”

“Just last year in California, the University of California made a survey, a whole year’s survey about boxing matches. Each time there are boxing matches – which are ugly, inhuman, animalistic – the rate of crime in the whole state of California rises by thirteen or fourteen percent. And that rise remains after the matches are finished; it goes on lingering for at least one week. Slowly, slowly it comes back to normal.”

“People start murdering, people start committing suicide, people start raping; all kinds of crimes suddenly start growing. Still, boxing is not condemned by any country as a criminal game which should be stopped immediately. And if any government tries, the whole country will stand up against the parliament and will protest, because boxing is such a ‘good time.’ Two idiots are doing things on your behalf. You also wanted to do the same things, but you kept yourself in control. Now it is “having a good time” because somebody else is doing it and your own repressed energies are expressed. It is something to be understood: why should you be interested in two persons behaving barbarously, harming each other? Certainly you also have the same desires. Perhaps you don’t have the guts….”

But it is something much more complicated: the whole West has become slowly slowly just an observer.

“Somebody else makes love in the film, somebody else fights in the boxing matches, somebody else plays football, and deep down you get identified with these people. It is good that in movie houses it is kept dark, because I have watched people crying in a movie house, knowing perfectly well that it is an empty screen and a film is being projected. I have seen people laughing, I have seen people standing up, thrilled, and I have always wondered…it seems that man has left everything to the professionals and he has become just a watcher.”

“Obviously the professional can do the thing better than you can. But remember: things are not going to stop here. In one existentialist novel, the writer has a very definite clarity about the future, that soon only servants will be making love. Why should you bother? – you can pay the servant. But why should your wife bother? She can also pay another servant.”

“I am reminded of a very rich man who was bothering and torturing his psychoanalyst. The psychoanalyst in the West is the highly paid professional; hundreds of dollars per hour. Very few people can afford to be mad. But this man used to talk two hours, three hours…. The patient talks on the couch and the psychoanalyst listens, but there is a limit. The man was driving the psychoanalyst mad, every day the same story. And he could not even stop him because he was paying so much; he was his best client.”

“Finally he thought of a plan and he told the man, ‘Because of you, I cannot see my other patients. A simple device will be very helpful: I will leave my tape recorder. You talk to my tape recorder as long as you want, and in the night I will listen to whatever you have said to the tape recorder more silently, more attentively than I can in the office, because I am worried about other patients who are waiting.’ The rich man immediately agreed.”

“The psychoanalyst was not thinking that he would agree so easily. The next day when the psychoanalyst was entering the office, the rich man was coming out. He said, ‘What is the matter? Where are you going? What about your session today?'”

“He said, ‘The session is over, because I have also worked out a plan: in the dark night, in the silence, without any disturbance of you and your presence, I talk to my tape recorder. Now my tape recorder is on the couch talking to your tape recorder. Why should I waste my time?'”

People have become so outward that they cannot even for a single moment sit silently; that is the most difficult thing in the world.

“People are fidgeting. What is the fear? The fear is, you may encounter your emptiness and once you encounter your emptiness, your life will lose all interest, all juice, all meaningfulness, all significance.”

Everybody is running from himself. And this running from themselves people call “having a good time.”

“Western man’s life can be divided in two parts – and I have moved around the earth and watched all kinds of idiots. These are the two parts: first is having a good time and second is having a hangover. By the time the hangover is over the time comes for having a good time. In a vicious circle, they go on between these two, wasting their lives and reaching nowhere.”

“Reaching to the grave cannot be called reaching somewhere. It simply means that now the wheel is so tired and so bored with having a good time and suffering hangovers that it wants to rest inside a grave. People rest only in their graves. Out of the grave, there is no time to rest.”

In the East, we chose the opposite gestalt. We found treasures and mysteries and secrets, but the difficulty with the inner is that you cannot materialize it. You cannot prove it in a court; you cannot even have a witness.

“Except you, you cannot allow anybody else into your inner world. Naturally, the East slowly slowly created isolated individuals. These isolated individuals were constantly harassed by the crowd, by the marketplace. They wanted their inner silence, their inner serenity, their calmness, undisturbed. The conclusion was: renounce the world, move to the Himalayas or deep into the forest where you can be absolutely yourself.”

But both the alternatives are choosing half the man. And the moment you choose half the man, you are going to fall into some kind of misery.

The miseries may be different, but misery is absolutely guaranteed. The East is miserable because of its Gautam Buddhas, Mahaviras, Bodhidharmas, Kabirs. It is in misery because of its greatest inner explorers. And the West is in misery because of Galileo, Copernicus, Columbus, Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell. These are the great people of the West and the East, and all these great people have chosen man in his half.

To choose man in his half has been the root cause of human misery up to now.

Abridged from Osho, Om Mani Padme Hum, Talk #13

Read here part 2 of East and West: The Inner vs the Outer titled “The Inner Is as Real as the Outer”.

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