Question – Beloved Osho, Would you please explain your statement from the other morning of how music can be next to silence?
Osho – Milarepa, I don’t know what I said the other morning — I don’t carry unnecessarily luggage from the past. But I will explain it to you this morning, in spite of the fact that I don’t know whether I made the statement or not. Music is certainly next to silence.
There is a certain thing to be understood: Music does not consist, in the first place, of words, language. It consists of pure sounds, and it consists of pure sounds only to those who don’t know anything beyond sound. Those who know silence — for them, the whole gestalt changes.
You see my five fingers, but somebody can see the five gaps between my fingers. Ordinarily you will not see the gaps, you will see five fingers. But the gaps are more real: fingers may come and go, gaps will remain. Between sounds of music there are gaps of silence. The authentic music consists not of sounds, but of the gaps. Sounds come and go; those gaps remain. And music can make you aware of those gaps more beautifully than anything else; hence I have to say that music comes next to silence. But it is possible even the musician may not be aware of it, unless his music is his meditation too. Then, soon, the shift from sounds to silence.
The ancient Chinese story is that whenever a musician becomes perfect, he throws away his instruments; whenever a swordsman becomes perfect, he throws away his sword. It is a very strange saying and goes back almost five thousand years, because it has been quoted by Lao Tzu as an ancient saying. What does it mean? Chuang Tzu was asked, “This seems to be a very strange kind of proverb. When the musician becomes perfect we should have thought that he would have purchased perfect musical instruments, and the saying says he throws away his instruments.”
Chuang Tzu told a very beautiful story to explain it. There are things which cannot be explained without beautiful stories, because stories give you enough space and freedom, enough gaps for you to fill with your own being. Prose is too tight and too mundane, so either poetry has to be used or a story has to be used. These stories are such that even a small child may be able to understand, or even an old man may not be able to understand; the question is whether he gets the undercurrent of the story.
The story is: A man reached to the emperor of China and said, “I am the greatest master of the art of arrows, targets, archery, and I have come to ask you to declare in the whole empire that if anybody wants to compete with me, he should come forward; otherwise give time, and if nobody comes, then declare me the champion archer of your empire.”
The king knew that man. He never missed a target. As far as human understanding is concerned, he was perfect. What more can you expect? One hundred percent success — success cannot be more than that. The king said, “I know about you. And I know that there is nobody who can compete with you.”
When he was saying this, the servant of the king, who had raised him from his childhood… he was not just a servant but almost a father to him. The emperor’s father had died, and he had given the responsibility to his servant to take care of the child till he is of age, and see that no trouble arises and that he succeeds to the throne. So the emperor respected the servant as much as perhaps he would have respected his own father. The servant had done immense service to him; he had taken care of the whole empire till he was of age.
The servant said, “Before you say anything to this man, I would like to interrupt. First listen to me. I know a man far in the hills who is really the champion. Compared to him, this man is just a child. He is a giant!”
The king said, “How do you know he is a giant?”
And the servant said, “He is so perfect in archery that he has thrown away his arrows, his bow — and you know the ancient proverb…. Send this man to that old man in the hills.”
The archer could not believe it. What kind of perfection is this, when you throw away your arrows and your bow? But the emperor said, “You will have to go. I cannot deny anything to the man you have seen. Although he is my servant, deep down in my heart he is as great as my father. So you will have to go to that man, and if he recommends it, you will be declared the champion.”
The man had to go, although feeling a little weird and awkward: What kind of a stupid thing…? The hills were great and very steep and it was a long journey, but he managed. Slowly, slowly he also became interested — what kind of perfection…? He reached finally to a small cave. He met an old man and asked him, “Are you the famous archer?”
He said, “Archery? I remember, I have heard the word. It must be fifty years ago.”
The archer said, “How old are you?”
The old man said, “I am not capable of saying, because here there is no calendar, one does not know how time passes, but maybe one hundred and twenty, or one hundred and thirty.”
The man said, “I am the greatest archer in the empire and by a stupid servant’s advice the emperor has sent me to you. Unless you give me a certificate, I cannot be accepted as the champion.”
The old man said, “Champion? — so you have been learning archery to be a champion? Then you don’t love archery — it is motivated, it is goal-oriented. You can never be perfect because you are not directly related to archery. Archery is only a means; the end is championhood. But don’t be worried. You will have to pass just a little test, and I will give you the certificate — although as long as I am alive, remember that you are just a socalled champion. But because I am not a competitor, you can enjoy being the champion. Just come out with me.”
The old man was so old… his back was bent, he had become hunch-backed. He took the young man, who was in the prime of his youth, to a cliff. The rock of the cliff, a small rock, hung high over a valley, thousands of feet below. And the old man went on that small rock — just a little missed step and nobody would be able to find you, not even your pieces could be gathered. He went to the very end of the cliff and stood with his feet on the edge of the cliff, just on his toes. He was standing there unwavering, as if he was standing on solid ground, and he said to the young man, “Come.”
The young man took the first step and started trembling. “My god, what kind of test is this? and what has it to do with archery?” But he has to do it because the championship is in his hands. After the first step he fell down on the cliff, holding the cliff and saying, “Please forgive me, I cannot come that far. And I cannot stand with half my feet over the edge and just my toes on the rock. And I can see — I have never seen such a deep valley. It must be the very hell! Forgive me….”
The old man said, “Then what kind of archer are you? The real archery is not to hit the target; the real archery is that you should be unwavering. Your unwavering is the real qualification of being an archer. Then your target cannot be missed.”
The old man came back, helped the young man to stand up — he was perspiring, trembling, almost half dead — and the old man said, “Why are you carrying this bow and these arrows? A perfect archer throws them away.”
The young man said, “Again the same thing! I don’t understand why a perfect archer should throw them away.”
The old man said, “Look!” And he pointed towards the sky, where seven cranes were flying. The old man simply looked at those seven cranes, and they all fell on the ground. He said, “If you are absolutely stable, absolutely unmovable, you become such a magnet that your eyes are enough; no arrows are needed. How many cranes could you have brought to the earth?”
The young man said, “Of course by one arrow, one. And by that time the others would have gone far away.”
The old man said, “You are just a learner. You have not even found a master who can initiate you. So my suggestion is, go back, and unless and until you have forgotten what archery is… I will send my son to check you and if he can certify you, you can go to the emperor.”
He said, “Strange, I have got into such a mess! With great effort I have learnt archery — but certainly I am not that kind of archer whose eyes become arrows, whose absolute immobility becomes a magnet.” But he touched the feet of the old man. He was certainly unique. He knew he was no comparison to him. He went back. The man had said, “Try to remain unmoving…” That’s a way of meditation: no movement of thoughts… utter stillness.
After twelve years the old man’s son came. He said, “My father is dead, but he has left this message with me. I waited for twelve years before I came, because to be perfect in anything is not easy.” And then he suddenly said, “What is that thing that is hanging on your wall?” It was his bow.
He said, “I somehow remember, it was something known to me. But these twelve years, just meditating, just remaining unmoving… You have to forgive me, I have forgotten what it is.”
The young man said, “That’s enough! This is the certificate the old man has left for you. Now you can go to the emperor and be the champion.” But he said, “Now who wants to be the champion?” He tore up the certificate and threw it away.
Chuang Tzu has told many beautiful stories unparalleled in the whole world, stories not without great spiritual significance. When a musician, Milarepa, starts shifting his attention from sounds to silence, his music becomes almost perfect; when he starts listening only to the silence and forgets all about sounds, his music is perfect. And to show the perfection he throws away his instruments; they are a kind of disturbance… the most beautiful disturbance in silence — but a disturbance is a disturbance.
Music comes next to silence, but the difference is very big. And it is not that all music necessarily comes close to it. In the name of music, contemporary idiots are doing something which goes even farther away from silence — from Beatles to jazz to Talking Heads. It is not music; it is simply making noise! It is simply disturbing the silence. In the East, music has been always accepted as a spiritual phenomenon. If your music cannot create silence in the people who are listening, it is not music. If your music does not become an unmoving no-mind in the people of your audience, it is not music. It is just making noise.
It happened in Lucknow, in the time of one of the very colorful kings of Lucknow, Nawab Vazid Ali Shah. He was really a very incomparable man. When the British armies were entering to capture Lucknow, he was listening to music. Somebody told him that the enemies had entered Lucknow, and he said, “Welcome them. They are guests, we are the host. Make places for them. We have so many places… make arrangements for them.” The servant said, “But they have come to conquer.”
He said, “There is no problem. They can conquer, but first let them rest. What is the hurry? Conquering is not going to be a difficult problem because we are not going to fight. We are human beings, and it does not matter… if they enjoy ruling, they can rule.” And he told the musicians, “Go on!”
This was the kind of man who was interested in a musician in Varanasi. He was thought to be the greatest musician of those days, but his conditions were so strange that nobody would even invite him to play his music. Vajid Ali Shah invited him. People tried to prevent him. Friends, courtiers, wives, everybody said, “What are you doing? That man is mad. He is a great musician, but he is certainly mad.”
He said, “It does not matter. If music cannot cure madness, then he is not a musician; and if music cannot create a divine madness, then too he is not a musician. Let him come.” The musician came and said, “My condition is that while I am playing nobody should move. If anybody moves his head, or anything, his head has to be cut immediately. All around the listeners swordsmen with naked swords should be standing watching, and if anybody moves — finish!”
Lucknow was one of the most juicy places in India in those days. It has still some remnants of that juice…. Knowing the conditions — because the conditions were also declared to the whole town — ten thousand people came to listen. Even the musician could not believe that ten thousand people are ready to risk their life to listen to the music. When the music ended in the middle of the night the officers had noted down almost two dozen people who had moved their head in appreciation, despite knowing the condition. Vajid Ali Shah said, “What do you say, should we behead them?”
He said, “No! Everybody now should be allowed to go, and I will sing for those twentyfour — they are the real lovers. They moved their heads, they could not help it. They started swaying with the music, they became one with it. All the others were cowards, sitting like statues.”
Those twenty-four people were retained, and everybody was allowed to go. People were afraid — perhaps they would be murdered. But in the morning they found them coming back home. They said, “What happened?”
Those people said, “That musician knows how to find the right audience. The real music began when you had all left. He is certainly the greatest musician. We are feeling so pure and so fresh and so clean as we have never felt in our life. He has managed to initiate us into meditation.”
Milarepa, music is certainly next to meditation. But not the modern music, which is ugly, which is sexual, which draws you lower rather than taking you upwards. It does not give you more consciousness, higher skies to fly in; it brings you down, back to deeper gutters.
The real musicians will not accept this nonsense that goes on in the name of music. But young people who know nothing about music, who know nothing about meditation, who know nothing about silence, become fans, and they are mad about these idiots who think they are playing music. In any other wiser generation they would have been kept in psychiatric hospitals to be cured. They have gone berserk!
A violinist was convinced he could use his art in music to tame wild animals. So, violin in hand, he traveled to the heart of the African jungle to prove it. He had no sooner begun to play than the jungle clearing was filled with animals of all kinds. Birds, lions, hippos, elephants all stood round, entranced by his beautiful music.
Just then a crocodile crawled out of the nearby river and into the clearing and — snap! — gobbled up the violinist. The other animals were extremely angry. “You idiot! What on earth did you do that for?” they demanded. “We were enjoying that.” The crocodile put his hand on his ear and said, “What?”
Music can be understood only by those who have a musical ear. And those who have a musical ear should think themselves fortunate because beyond music, just one step more, they enter the world of meditation, silence. Silence is the ultimate music.
Source – Osho Book “The Great Pilgrimage From Here to Here”