Thursday, July 19, 2012

Once Upon a Moment

How does the following passage strike you? It’s from the book Tantra, by Osho.
“...Don’t fight with yourself, be loose. Don’t try to make a structure around yourself of character, or morality. Don’t discipline yourself too much; otherwise your very discipline will become the bondage... Remain loose, floating, move with the situation, respond to the situation. Don’t move with a character jacket around you, don’t move with a fixed attitude.
“But...society teaches you to impose something...: be good, be moral, be this and that. And Tantra is absolutely beyond society, culture and civilization. It says if you are too much cultured you will lose all that is natural, and then you will be a mechanical thing, not floating, not flowing. So don’t force a structure around you – live moment to moment, live with alertness....
“Why do people try to create a structure around them? So that they don’t need alertness – because if you have no character around you, you will need to be very very aware...
“To avoid awareness people have created a trick, and the trick is character. Force yourself into a certain discipline so that whether you are aware or not, the discipline will take care of you. Make a habit of always saying the truth; make it a habit, then you need not be worried about it. Somebody asks, you will say the truth, out of habit – but out of habit a truth is dead.
“...And life is not so simple. Life is a very very complex phenomenon. Sometimes a lie is needed, and sometimes a truth can be dangerous – and one has to be aware. For example, if through your lie somebody’s life is saved...what will you do? If you have a fixed mind that you have to be true, then you will kill a life.”

When I first read it, it kind of floored me. I mean, on one level, it was absolutely ridiculous. It went without saying that Character and Morality are dear things, very important tools of guidance. To do without them would kind of be like to abandon language and the alphabet, and to have to figure it out from scratch every time you wanted to communicate with anyone. And, principles are important precisely because they take you out of the moment, toward something approaching the universal. Principles of character and morality are important because they are distilled from a broad view of causes, situations and circumstance and because they have been tested by time, in a wide range of human conditions. They are trustworthy. One can rely on the principles – “Do Not Kill”, “Do not Lie”, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, without having to pick apart the circumstances of a particular  instance.
Yes, it was very obvious to me that this Osho character had gotten things very wrong. Except that, well...his message is so damned compelling. It got a rise out of me, lots of rises. There was something very naturalistic and right-feeling about what he had to say. And all my objections to is were abstract and cautionary, such as, “If you abandon morality, then chaos and disorder will surely follow”, or “People will use this philosophy as an excuse to do whatever they want. It gives people a way around responsibility.”
To this day, I consider, struggle over, flip this viewpoint backward and forward, up and down, trying to come to terms with it. Of course, there is one fairly easy way out. Which is that, if no moral structure is to be adhered to, and every situation taken on its own merits, well this holds for this philosophy as for any other. I’m no more bound to the position of ‘abandonning morality’ than I am to any other.
But does that get me out of it? Out of what...? If I’m thinking on those terms, I’m right back in the loop again. At bottom line, what this statement says to me is that there’s no way out, except to be out. No way out of being in the moment and...deciding, acting, living, in whatever way this particular moment may call for. And no reaction to this moment can be fully justified – or rejected – based on reference to some other moment. Because any other moment is an abstraction, it’s an evasion of what is, right now. It’s copping out of life.
Isn’t that so?
Which leads me directly to another teaching that is having its impact upon me:
The Tao te Ching is a book I’ve known of and have read for going on three decades now, but I’ve been so slow to understand it. And what little understanding I have has come to me in small doses. A particular verse – the 15th – which for so long was totally incomprehensible to me, has begun to speak to me over the last few months. The piece of it that suddenly slammed me between the eyes is the following, from a translation by Stephen Mitchell, “Do you have the patience to wait, till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving, till the right action arises by itself?”
That passage speaks to me of all the times I’ve tried to manage my life, to make it fit into a kind of formula about “how things work”. It speaks to me of times I’ve acted, not out of any confidence I was doing what was appropriate, but from the need to be in action, to respond to a circumstance. Sometimes, it’s been merely in order to be perceived a particular way: as capable, caring, on the ball. Sometimes, action has been a way to reassure myself, because stillness would have been too much to bear. But in practice, some of my best moves seem to have had a large ingredient of happy, unexpected grace. Grace that sometimes feels like that ‘right action arising by itself’.
How much of life is indeed about being in the right place, at the right time, as my friend Lucie suggested in her comment on my last post? Being there, and not in a hurry to do what you don’t know is to be done? Maybe just giving a decision, a circumstance, a feeling, the chance to form, to ripen. And, instead of picking it, waiting, trusting, and allowing it to fall into your lap?


  1. Eh. Tantra refers to sex. So there is context. Once you frame it, it has it's place.
    Like the other one better. Still waters run deep comes to mind.

  2. Yes. Osho has lots to say about sex, and its connection to enlightenment.
    Osho had a previous incarnation as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. A very interesting history about him and his followers taking over an Oregon city for a number of years in the 1980s. This was a fascinating story to follow from Seattle, when I was in my 20s and 30s, but I was never adventurous enough to go visit.