Question – Beloved Osho, Are the Upanishads and Zen the same?
Osho – They are not. The upanishad is a happening between the master and the disciple, Zen is the happening in the disciple himself. The master may help him, may create devices, show the path – but Zen is basically an individual experience. It is not like love. It happens in your aloneness. It is not a relationship.
Upanishad is the greatest relationship. It cannot happen if the master is alone. He may be full, overflowing; but it cannot happen because the receiving end is absent. It cannot happen if the disciple is alone, however open, however available – but available to what? Open to what?
Upanishad is a more human phenomenon than Zen. It is closer to human reality because it is closer to love. It can be understood more easily, because it is very difficult to find a person who has not tasted something of love in some moments. There is some experience which can be used to explain to him what happens when a master and a disciple dissolve into each other. So the first thing: the upanishad is a totally different phenomenon than Zen.
And the second thing: the experience is the same. The paths are different, but finally – whether you have followed Zen and reached alone to the peak, or you have allowed a master to hold your hand in deep trust and reached the peak – it does not matter how you reach the peak. Your vehicles can be different, your means can be different; the peak is the same. The experience of finding oneself and simultaneously finding the whole secret of existence is the same.
So on the one hand I say they are totally different.
On the other hand, I say they are exactly the same.
And there is no contradiction in these two statements.
The paths are different but the ultimate finding is the same.
Zen is an arduous path, a hard and long way. But it is up to you – there are people who love to go the hard way. The simple way does not appeal to them; the hard way is exciting. Upanishad is not a hard way. It is a very simple and relaxed experience. It is the shortest way possible to the ultimate reality.
But there are different kinds of people in the world; they all need different paths to reach to their fulfillment. These are the two extremes. In this sense, Zen and upanishad are as far away from each other as two points can be; and yet, the final conclusion is always the same. One is a hard way, a long way, but a few people need it.
One mystic in Sri Lanka was dying. He declared that the next morning he would be dying. He had thousands of followers; they all gathered. He was old, almost ninety years, and he had been teaching these people for sixty years. And the Buddhist teaching is a very hard way. But the mystic, at the point of death said, ”I have been teaching you the way I have followed, the way that has helped me to attain to the ultimate. But I now know that there is a shortcut in reaching to the ultimate too – so short that if somebody wants to go with me, stand up! I am leaving.”
People looked at each other, at those about whom they thought, ”These are very religious people, perhaps they may stand up. As far as I am concerned there are so many problems.”
Nobody stood up. Only one man raised his hand.
The old man said, ”Even that is a great consolation to me. But why are you not standing up?”
He said, ”Because I don’t want to go right now, but I want to know here the shortcut is in case at some time I want to go. Why bother with the hard and long way? That’s why I just raised my hand. I cannot stand up. As far as the hard way is concerned, we know – because for sixty years you have been teaching it. And at the last moment…. You are a strange fellow. At least tell us where the short way is!”
The mystic said, ”The short way has a condition: it is only for those who are ready to go right now. I give another chance – stand up!”
Even that man’s hand went down, and there was utter silence. And everybody was looking at each other…. The old man died.
People want the way to be hard and to be long because this is a good excuse for avoiding – because the way is so long and so hard… life is so short and so many problems, so many responsibilities; so much has to be done. The children are growing up, they have to be married, the business is not good – or the business is so good that this is not the moment to meditate.
Upanishad is the shortest possible way. Neither has the disciple to do anything nor has the master to do anything. Doing is not part of it.
I have quoted the great Zen poet Basho many times to you: ”Sitting silently, doing nothing, the spring comes and the grass grows by itself.” As far as upanishadic methodology is concerned, even doing nothing is not needed. And what are you going to do even if the grass grows by itself?
Whether you sit silently or not, it will grow. Whether you sit silently or not, the spring will come. You are unnecessarily taking the credit for the grass growing by itself – because you have been sitting silently, doing nothing! Even when you were not, the grass used to grow; when you will not be here the grass will continue to grow. It has nothing to do with you.
The upanishad does not even ask you to sit silently doing nothing. Even doing nothing is a doing. The whole approach of the upanishad is so totally different… the disciple is available, the master is overflowing, and something transpires. Nobody is doing it. Nobody can take the credit for it; hence, I say the way of the upanishad is the most mysterious way in the whole human consciousness and its evolution. Zen is mysterious, but yet it can be understood. Upanishad is simply mysterious, there is no way of understanding it. You can have it, you can dissolve into it, but there is no question of explanation – only experience.
All over the world there have been mystery schools. In Greece, Pythagoras founded mystery schools. In the religion of the Jews, Baal Shem founded a mystery school called Hassidism. In China there is the mystery school of tao, and when Buddhism reached China a new mystery school, a chain of new mystery schools opened, ch’an. The same mystery school, ch’an, reached Japan with the name ‘zen.’ But the word ‘zen’ or ‘ch’an’, or the Buddhist word ‘jhan’ are all different forms of the Sanskrit word ‘dhyan’. In India dhyan has been known for centuries – before Gautam Buddha ever meditated, that mystery school was there.
There was the mystery school of tantra. There were the mystery schools of different types of yoga. I have gone through all these schools not as a scholar – that is not my approach – but as an experiencer. I can say to you: nothing rises higher than the mystery school of upanishads – because it is the shortest. Nobody is expected to do anything, and yet the miracle happens.
Source – Osho Book “The Osho Upanishad”