Life today is one big rush! Everything has to happen now, or better yesterday.
Exactly where does everyone think they are rushing to? Modern humans have caught some frenetic disease that causes them to run around in circles like chickens with no heads.
Everyone seems to be desperately racing against everyone else in a competition that always ends with us all coming first equal in our graves!
With an unfinished to-do list as our epitaph.
Our ancestors took about 7 million years to travel from their previous habitat up in the trees to the point where our particular species, Homo sapiens, appeared, about 300,000 years ago.
Just to get some perspective, if we imagine this journey as happening over one year – and we are looking back from December 31st – and we came down from the trees on January 1st, Homo sapiens turns up in mid-December. Agriculture and the beginning of fixed settlements starts about noon on New Year’s Eve.
Buddha, Lao Tzu, Mahavira, Zarathustra, Socrates, Pythagoras, Patanjali, the members of the Axial Age arrived around 9 o’clock in the evening of New Year’s Eve. Jesus arrives around 9.30 pm. Descartes, Leibniz, and Newton, Shakespeare, Milton, and Bach all turn up around 11.25 pm.
And here we are at exactly midnight on the last day of this very long year, constantly saying there is not enough time!
It seems we didn’t always live like this.
Farm laborers from pre-capitalist times, who were offered an increase in hourly wages on the assumption that they would then work longer hours on the harvest, often did the opposite. Now they could earn the same as before but more quickly, so they decided to work fewer hours!
Osho tells a funny story making the same point.
“They were making a railway line, the first railway line – from Calcutta to Bombay, joining the two biggest cities – and a man was resting under a tree, looking at all the work that was going on… an Indian. A British officer came close to him and said, ‘You can earn much if you join the work. I have been watching you the whole day for many days: you come, you enjoy seeing what is happening, but you simply lie down under the shade of the tree.’
“The man asked, ‘But what will I get by earning the money?’
“And the British officer said, ‘After earning the money you can relax and rest.’
“He said, ‘This is strange – I am already relaxing and resting. That’s why I said why bother about earning money? What will money add to my relaxation and rest?’
“And you don’t have an answer for him.
“This was the situation in India before the British Raj started. All the people in a family were not working; just a few people who wanted to work, who loved to work, were working. The remaining people were just enjoying – playing on the flute, going for a swim, resting under trees, climbing trees, eating fruits – because the earth was so fertile and the population was so small that there was no need for everybody to work; it was unnecessary. One man working was enough for a five-man family; the other four can simply enjoy.” 1
With industrialization, everything about time, work, and energy has changed, as Osho explains:
“By and by, as civilization has progressed and technology has taken much of human labor, we don’t have anything which requires hard work, and that has become a problem.
“In the past, people suffered because they didn’t have enough energy to cope. Now, and particularly in the West, we are suffering from more energy than can be used. That can become restlessness, neurosis, madness. If energy is there and not used rightly, it goes sour, becomes bitter. We create energy every day, and it has to be used every day. You cannot accumulate it; you cannot be a miser about it.
“In the past, man was doing hard work as a hunter, a farmer. By and by that work has disappeared, and societies are more affluent and have more and more energy; restlessness is bound to be there. Hence the Americans are the most restless people in the world, and part of it is that they are the most affluent society.” 2
They say, “The business of America is business” – but of course, they mean, “The business of America is busyness.”
Seems this madness might be fueled by another of those offerings from that God who just keeps on giving.
Between Luther and Calvin and their rebellion against the Roman Catholics, they provoked the Reformation. In the process, they somehow invented the idea that working hard, being successful, and acquiring wealth was a sign of their God’s preordained blessings. Yep! You’re on the list for Heaven.
By the time the Puritans began their invasion of North America, the “Protestant work ethic” was part of their indoctrination system.
Even today, Christians have all kinds of nutty conspiracy theories that they spuriously claim to have some biblical origin, about the dangers of an “empty mind” or “idle hands” being “the Devil’s workshop.”
Then of course, there is that other little nugget of joy that comes to Christianity from Judaism: the hypothesis that we only have one life. Hypothesis? We don’t do hypotheses! We cannot fill our donation boxes with pleas for money from the Son of a Hypothesis. So, we insist that this is “a belief.” With that subtle flick of the priest’s magical wand, “belief” becomes “truth.”
Only one life? Osho explains the implication of accepting this belief:
“If there is only one life you have to be in a hurry. You have to do everything quick, and you have to do everything skillfully so you need not do it again, because time is short. In the West, time is money. Because time is so short – seventy, eighty years…. Half of it will be simply wasted in sleep; most of it will be wasted in earning bread and butter, the remaining in looking at the TV. What is left for you? Hence there is a great hurry in the West and a great longing for speed – without ever thinking where you are going. Everybody is going… the only question is that one should go fast. Who cares where? – because who has time to bother about where? The only question is: with what speed are you going?” 3
Of course, the end result of this rush after “something” out there is inevitably disappointment:
“Today, no other country is as hopeless as America, and yet it is one of the most prosperous and well-off countries. By any comparison, it has everything that anyone could wish for, and yet people there feel they do not have anything. There is a reason for the hopelessness. People became disillusioned by all the things they thought would bring happiness.” 4
Faced with such hopelessness, even in people living in what Ronald Reagan would describe as “mankind’s best hope,” it is no surprise to find so much pain and suffering.
As Osho summarizes the situation:
“I am dealing with the contemporary man, who is the most restless being that has ever evolved on the earth.
“But people do become silent; you just have to allow them to throw out their madness, insanity, then they themselves become silent.
“They start waiting for the moment when I will say, ‘Be silent.’ They become tired of their gibberish. They also become aware that this gibberish is there.” 5
How does humanity respond to this restlessness? It just goes faster and faster in exactly the direction that won’t relieve the pain!
Do you need to reach the moon today? Could you wait a little? Is there something there that is going to disappear soon?
Do you need to release artificial intelligence before you are even sure what it will do? Could you not wait a moment?
Just watch America and China hurtling toward conflict. Why? What is the rush? Two testosterone-fueled gangs determined to prove they are the biggest dog on the block! Even at the risk of a global Armageddon?
China has been trying to work out what civilization means and how to manage it for a few thousand years already. After all this time – including the guidance of some of the wisest humans who have ever lived – they have come up with the genius solution: Might is right. This is frankly pathetic. Isn’t that exactly what fuels the USA too?
Are you really prepared to blow up the planet over such a trivial disagreement – based on a primitive misunderstanding?
Perhaps just some wrestling match between Biden and Xi would be a more appropriate way to settle these things.
Osho really supports this kind of solution. As he describes one such example:
“Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev are scowling at each other across the conference table in Geneva. They are perched on the brink of nuclear war, in a dispute over who has control of the small oil-producing country, Abu Dhabi.
“’Look here, Reagan,’ says Mr. Gorbachev. ‘Why should we destroy the whole world just because of a small piece of real estate?’
“’You are right’” replies Reagan. ‘But how can we settle this argument without a war?’
“‘Simple,’ says Gorbachev. ‘You and I can have a contest of courage right now – man to man.’
“‘Great!’ says the senile president of America. ‘What shall we do?’
“‘Well, in Russia,’ says Gorbachev, ‘we settle things like this: we just stand in front of each other, and each one of us gets to take a good kick at the other, right between the legs. Whoever can get up the quickest afterwards is the winner.
“’Great idea!’ says Reagan. ‘Let us get started.’
“The two men stand up, and Gorbachev goes first. He winds up and lets fly a mighty kick that nails Ronald right in the nuts. Reagan screams, falls over, and rolls around on the ground with his eyes popping out. After about five minutes of this, he manages to drag himself to his feet.
“’Okay,’ gasps Ronnie, ‘now it’s my turn.’
“’Oh!’ says Gorbachev. ‘Never mind – you can have Abu Dhabi!’” 6
And if the US has now reached the dizzying heights of civilization that it is banning Shakespeare and embracing Trump – the “stable genius” who says that the global climate catastrophe is a hoax – then please, let them self-destruct.
At least for the sake of the other six billion of us who share this planet, we beg you to lay off. Take a few deep breaths, go back to your drawing boards, and stop this childish nonsense before we all get hurt!
You nearly blew up the planet over Cuba, and now you are rushing headlong into a global disaster over Taiwan.
These are two small islands close to your mainlands. The US, to paraphrase Chomsky, has to behave like a mafia don, disciplining the Cubans for not doing its bidding, so others in the neighborhood won’t be tempted to challenge the boss. What right does the US have to dictate to the Cuban government that it must be what the US calls a “democracy”? Is that why they supported the pre-communist dictator, Batista? The hypocrisy is mind-bending.
And now China is doing the same. “They” – the people who live on the Island of Taiwan – have to do what “we” tell them to do! And like the US-Americans, if we have to destroy the planet to prove we are right, so be it.
What would Osho say about how these ignorant politicians misunderstand dependence and independence?
“Immaturity knows two things: dependence and independence. Both are immature states of mind. Maturity knows interdependence.” 7
How can the UK be “independent” from Europe? It is bound to be interdependent. They indulged themselves in a particularly British political theater, a kind of feudal satire called “Brexit.” Trusting politicians with their future, they rushed into this absurdity – which anyone with two underemployed grey cells could have foreseen is having hugely destructive repercussions. Of course, nothing is learned as everyone gets ready for yet another futile act in the endless play called politics, of choosing between tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee.
It is the same with Catalonia, Scotland, the Basque Country, Gibraltar, the Malvinas or the Falkland Islands…. The endless list of so-called “trouble spots” – where people are demanding to be “independent” as a way of escaping from being “dependent” – would virtually all disappear in one second of maturity by embracing interdependence. None of these people want to be dependent on some big violent neighbor telling them what to do. Was all that talk of “self-determination” just another dose of eyewash? And whatever they want, they cannot be independent either. As Osho explains:
“Life does not exist as separate islands; not a single man is an island. Everything is interwoven.
“You have heard these two words, dependence and independence. Both are unreal; the reality is interdependence. We are all so interdependent on each other – not only men on other men, not only nations on other nations, but trees and man, animals and trees, birds and the sun, the moon, and the oceans…everything is interwoven.” 8
If you enjoy rushing around and responding to “emergencies,” and want to get things done immediately, perhaps there are more useful ways of using that energy anyway.
What about eliminating nuclear weapons as you promised in 1968?
What about stopping the use of coal today which alone would dramatically curtail the climate catastrophe? Or how about you give up killing animals for your dinner, which might also save some of the millions of people who are going to die because of the same climate crisis? On that front, maybe you could just slow down instead of insisting on endless economic growth as part of your top-dog competition.
Or, how about preventing the one billion cases of “physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect” that children have suffered “within the past year” that the UN has identified?
Or ending the almost universal dismissal of feminine qualities – not to mention all the ugly misogynistic violence that plagues the world?
There are so many insanities that could be stopped today with a little intelligence.
We are a species gone frantic for all the wrong reasons. Shopping, I have to do that today. Discover the root cause of systemic racism? End slavery? – Ah, that can wait till later.
What is the intelligent solution to this apparent contradiction between the Western scientific conditioning that everything has to happen yesterday, and the traditional Eastern mindset that believes there is no rush: leave everything till tomorrow:
“As far as the outside world is concerned the Western attitude is absolutely right; everything should be done as totally, as perfectly as possible, because there may be no other moment to improve upon, and don’t leave this world with something incomplete. That will be your signature. Leave this world with something complete, perfected, to your heart’s content – that’s perfectly beautiful as far as the outside world is concerned.
“The Western approach is absolutely correct. For the outside existence, I would like the whole world to become the West.
“And for the inside world, I would like the whole world to become the East: there don’t be in a hurry, there just sit and don’t pull the grass.
“Just sit silently, wait, let things happen. You watch, you don’t be a doer – that watching is meditation, that non-doing is meditation, that waiting is meditation.
“Up to now we have been dividing the world in a geographical way, in East and West, in two hemispheres. I would like to divide in a totally different way: not the earth, not the globe, not geography, but each man…. His outside is the West, his inside is the East. And each man has to be a total world. When he is working on the outside, work perfectly, efficiently. And when you are inside, forget all about the outside world and its methods. Then relax. Then just fall into a let-go….
“And then it happens – remember, it happens. It cannot be done. It is a happening!” 9
Now what does that mean?
In the next article we will explore, “What Does It Mean to Do Nothing?”
And then, “How to Discover the Magical Art of Allowing?”
The talks that are excerpted in this article can be read in full by following these links:
1. Osho, The Path of the Mystic, Talk #4 – The Tolling Bell
2. Osho, Above All, Don’t Wobble, Talk #13 – Health Is a Function of Love
3. Osho, The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol. 08, Talk #8 – Chaos Is a Womb
4. Osho, Into the Void, Talk #2 – Meditation: A Scientific Process
5. Osho, The Zen Manifesto: Freedom from Oneself, Talk #8 – Inscape – the Ultimate Annihilation
6. Osho, Rinzai: Master of the Irrational, Talk #2 – Empty Heart, Empty Mind
7. Osho, Sufis: The People of the Path, Vol. 1, Talk #10 – The Original Signature
8. Osho, Hari Om Tat Sat – The Divine Sound: That Is the Truth, Talk #5 – The Earth Is More than Paradise
9. Osho, Nirvana Now or Never, Talk #20