Question – Beloved Master, What is the definition of a Pessimist?
Osho – Shivananda, a pessimist is an optimist who has become frustrated with his optimism. He hoped too much and failed, he dreamed too much and could not achieve anything substantial. The pessimist is an optimist standing on his head; they are not different fellows — that’s what I want to make clear to you. Unless you have been an optimist you can never be a pessimist. First you have to become an optimist.
And each child is brought up with great optimism. All parents think that they have great children. Ask any mother: she thinks she has the unique child; the most superior, rare, incomparable. Each mother brags about the child. Parents bring up children with great optimism that they are going to be Alexander the Greats or Jesus Christs or Gautam Buddhas.
But slowly slowly life proves just the contrary. Slowly slowly, the child becomes aware of his ordinariness. He becomes aware that these great dreams, that these great ambitions, cannot be fulfilled. And by the time one is coming closer to forty, forty-two, pessimism starts settling — gloom, darkness….
Now medical science is aware that most heart attacks happen nearabout forty to forty-four, between those four years. Most people go mad between those four years, forty to forty-four. Psychologists, psychoanalysts, are aware that that is the most dangerous time. If you can remain sane beyond forty-four, that means you will remain sane. But many people fall flat.
And don’t think that if you are sane even beyond forty-four… that does not mean that you are very intelligent. It may only be that you are very dull and it takes a long time for you to understand. It may only be that you are very insensitive. It may only be that you are foolhardy, that you don’t listen to life, what life is saying, that you go on hoping.
But sooner or later, a person starts feeling that life has gone down the drain. Optimism turns sour and becomes pessimism. Optimism, that hopefulness, turns upside-down; a hopelessness settles in. Then everything looks dark and dismal. First you used to count the roses, now you start counting the thorns. First you used to say, “How beautiful this roseflower and what a miracle! It grows amongst thousands of thorns.” You were poetic, you had some aesthetic sense; you still believed that life is going to be a fulfillment.
But soon the day comes when the roses start fading away and you start counting the thorns, and you cannot believe in the roses anymore. You start saying, “It is impossible! The rose must be a dream, the rose must be MAYA, illusion, hallucination. How is it possible amongst thousands of thorns, how is a rose possible?” It looks contradictory, it looks illogical, it cannot happen in the nature of things. You start counting nights; before, you used to count days.
The optimist says, “There are two days, and between two days just a small night to rest.” And the pessimist counts the nights; he says, “There are two long nights — nightmares, ugly dreams, tortures — and just a small day sandwiched between the two.” Life is the same: you can count the days or you can count the nights. If you count the days you are an optimist, if you count the nights you are a pessimist, but there is really no difference. The optimist can become a pessimist, the pessimist can become an optimist. They are not contraries; they are two points on the same spectrum.
One has to go beyond both, Shivananda. A sannyasin has to go beyond both — neither hope nor hopelessness. No need to count days, no need to count nights. Be a watcher! No need to count thorns, no need to count roses. Be a watcher….
I don’t teach you optimism. In the West it is very fashionable nowadays; it is called “positive thinking.” That is a new name for optimism; the old name has become a little too out of fashion, out-of-date. The new name is positive thinking. I don’t teach you positive thinking, because positive thinking carries the negative in its wake.
I teach you transcendence — neither positive nor negative. Be a watcher: witness both. When there is day, witness the day, and when there is night, witness the night — and don’t get identified with either. You are neither the day nor the night; you are the transcendental consciousness. Become more and more centered there in that transcendence. True religion is not positive, nor is it negative. It is neither via negativa nor via positiva; it is via transcendence.
One September morning after Labor Day, Levin and Ostrow met for lunch. They had not seen each other for several months.
“I have just lived through a summer I never thought I would see,” said Levin. “June was a disaster — never have I seen a June like that. When July came, I realized that June was terrific, because with July I went right into the cellar. July was so bad….”
“For heaven’s sake!” interrupted Ostrow. “Why are you coming to me with these piddling matters? You wanna hear real trouble? I got it. Yesterday my only son came home, told me he is gonna marry another fella. My boy is a homosexual! What could be worse than that?”
“I will tell you,” said Levin, “August!”
Just wait! There are people who are continuously looking for the negative — and if you look for the negative you will find it, because the negative is there in the same proportion as the positive. If you look for the positive, you will find the positive. But by finding the positive you cannot destroy the negative; the negative is there, side by side. They are always together like negative and positive poles of electricity. You can’t have electricity with one pole, you will need both.
Life needs both: thorns and roses, days and nights, happiness/unhappiness, birth/death. Be a witness to it all and you will know something that is beyond birth, beyond death; something that is beyond darkness and beyond light; something that is beyond happiness, beyond unhappiness. Buddha has called it peace, nirvana.
Source – Osho Book “The Dhammapada, Vol4”