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Osho on Lao Tzu Sutra - The Tao that can be told of is not the Absolute Tao

Osho - Let me first tell you the story of how these sutras came to be written, because that will help you to understand them. For ninety years Lao Tzu lived – in fact he did nothing except live. He lived totally. Many times his disciples asked him to write, but he would always say: The Tao that can be told is not the real Tao, the truth that can be told becomes untrue immediately.

So he would not say anything; he would not write anything. Then what were the disciples doing with him? They were only being with him. That’s what satsang is – being with him. They lived with him, they moved with him, they simply imbibed his being. Being near him they tried to be open to him; being near him they tried not to think about anything; being near him they became more and more silent. In that silence he would reach them, he would come to them and he would knock at their doors.

For ninety years he refused to write anything or to say anything. This was his basic attitude: that truth cannot be taught. The moment you say something about truth, it is no more true: the very saying falsifies it. You cannot teach it. At the most you can indicate it, and that indication should be your very being, your whole life; it cannot be indicated by words. He was against words; he was against language.

It is said that he used to go for a morning walk every day, and a neighbor used to follow him. Knowing well that he didn’t want to talk, that he was a man of absolute silence, the neighbor always kept silent. Even a ”hello” was not allowed, even to talk about the weather was not allowed. To say ”How beautiful a morning!” would be too much chattering. Lao Tzu would go for a long walk, for miles, and the neighbor would follow him.

For years it went on, but once it happened that a guest was staying with the neighbor and he also wanted to come, so the neighbor brought him. He did not know Lao Tzu or his ways. He started feeling suffocated because his host was not talking, and he couldn’t understand why they were so silent – and the silence became heavy on him.

If you don’t know how to be silent, it becomes heavy. It is not that by saying things you communicate – no. It is by saying things that you unburden yourself. In fact, through words communication is not possible; just the opposite is possible – you can avoid communication. You can talk, and you can create a screen of words around you so that your real situation cannot be known by others. You clothe yourself through words.

That man started feeling naked and suffocated and awkward; it was embarrassing. So he simply said, when the sun was rising: ”What a beautiful sun. Look...! What a beautiful sun is born, is rising! What a beautiful morning!”

That’s all he said. But nobody responded because the neighbor, the host, knew that Lao Tzu wouldn’t like it. And of course Lao Tzu wouldn’t say anything, wouldn’t respond. When they came back, Lao Tzu told the neighbor, ”From tomorrow, don’t bring this man. He is a chatterbox.” And he had only said this much: ”What a beautiful sun,” or ”What a beautiful morning.”

That much in a two-or three-hour-long walk. But Lao Tzu said ”Don’t bring this chatterbox again with you. He talks too much, and talks uselessly – because I also have eyes, I can see that the sun is being born and it is beautiful. What is the need to say it?”

Lao Tzu lived in silence. He always avoided talking about the truth that he had attained and he always rejected the idea that he should write it down for the generations to come. At the age of ninety he took leave of his disciples. He said goodbye to them, and he said, ”Now I am moving towards the hills, towards the Himalayas. I am going there to get ready to die. It is good to live with people, it is good to be in the world while you are living, but when one is getting nearer to death it is good to move into total aloneness, so that you move towards the original source in your absolute purity and loneliness, uncontaminated by the world.”

The disciples felt very, very sad, but what could they do? They followed him for a few hundred miles, but by and by Lao Tzu persuaded them to go back. Then alone he was crossing the border, and the guard on the border imprisoned him. The guard was also a disciple. And the guard said: ”Unless you write a book, I am not going to allow you to move beyond the border. This much you must do for humanity. Write a book. That is the debt you have to pay, otherwise I won’t allow you to cross.”

So for three days Lao Tzu was imprisoned by his own disciple. It is beautiful. It is very loving. He was forced – and that’s how this small book, the book of Lao Tzu, TAO TE CHING, was born. He had to write it, because the disciple wouldn’t allow him to cross. And he was the guard and he had the authority, he could create trouble, so Lao Tzu had to write the book. In three days he finished it.

This is the first sentence of the book: The Tao that can be told of is not the Absolute Tao

THIS IS THE FIRST THING he has to say: that whatsoever can be said cannot be true. This is the introduction for the book. It simply makes you alert: now words will be following, don’t become a victim of the words. Remember the wordless. Remember that which cannot be communicated through language, through words. The Tao can be communicated, but it can only be communicated from being to being. It can be communicated when you are with the Master, just with the Master, doing nothing, not even practicing anything. Just being with the Master it can be communicated.

Why can’t the truth be said? What is the difficulty? The truth cannot be said for many reasons. The first and the most basic reason is: truth is always realized in silence. When your inner talk has stopped, then it is realized. And that which is realized in silence, how can you say it through sound? It is an experience. It is not a thought. If it was a thought it could be expressed, there would be no trouble in it. Howsoever complicated or complex a thought may be, a way can be found to express it. The most complex theory of Albert Einstein, the theory of relativity, can also be expressed in a symbol. There is no problem about it. The listener may not be able to understand it; that is not the point. It can be expressed.

It was said when Einstein was alive that only twelve persons, a dozen, in the whole world understood him and what he was saying. But even that is enough. If even a single person can understand, it has been expressed. And even if a single person cannot understand right now, maybe after many centuries there will come a person who can understand it. Then too it has been expressed. The very probability that somebody can understand it, and it has been expressed.

But truth cannot be expressed because the very reaching to it is through silence, soundlessness, thoughtlessness. You reach to it through no-mind, the mind drops. And how can you use something which as a necessary condition has to drop before truth can be reached? Mind cannot understand, mind cannot realize, how can mind express? Remember it as a rule: if mind can attain, mind can express; if mind cannot attain to it, mind cannot express it. All language is futile. Truth cannot be expressed.

Then what have all the scriptures been doing? Then what is Lao Tzu doing? Then what are the Upanishads doing? They all try to say something which cannot be said in the hope that a desire may arise in you to know about it. Truth cannot be said but in the very effort of saying it a desire can arise in the hearer to know that which cannot be expressed. A thirst can be provoked. The thirst is there, it needs a little provocation. You are already thirsty – how can it be otherwise? You are not blissful, you are not ecstatic – you are thirsty.

Your heart is a burning fire. You are seeking something which can quench the thirst, but, not finding the water, not finding the source, by and by you have tried to suppress your thirst itself. That is the only way, otherwise it is too much, it will not allow you to live at all. So you suppress the thirst.

A Master like Lao Tzu knows well that truth cannot be said, but the very effort to say it will provoke something, will bring the suppressed thirst in you to the surface. And once the thirst surfaces, a search, an inquiry starts. And he has moved you.

The Tao that can be told of is not the Absolute Tao

At the most it can be relative. For example, we can say something about light to a blind man knowing well that it is impossible to communicate anything about light because he has no experience of it. But something can be said about light – theories about light can be created. Even a blind man can become an expert about the theories of light; about the whole science of light he can become an expert – there is no problem in it – but he will not understand what light is. He will understand what light consists of. He will understand the physics of light, the chemistry of light, he will understand the poetry of light, but he will not understand the facticity of light, what light is. The experience of light he will not understand. So all that is said to a blind man about light is only relative: it is something about light, not light itself.
Light cannot be communicated.

Something can be said about God, but God cannot be said; something can be said about love, but love cannot be said; that ”something” remains relative. It remains relative to the listener, his understanding, his intellectual grip, his training, his desire to understand. It depends on, it is relative to, the Master: his way of expressing, his devices to communicate. It remains relative – relative to many things – but it can never become the absolute experience. This is the first reason that truth cannot be expressed.

The second reason that truth cannot be expressed is because it is an experience. No experience can be communicated... leave truth aside. If you have never known love, when somebody says something about love, you will hear the word but you will miss the meaning. The word is in the dictionary. Even if you don’t understand you can look in the dictionary and you will know what it means. But the meaning is in you. Meaning comes through experience. If you have loved someone then you know the meaning of the word ”love.” The literal meaning is in the dictionary, in the language, in the grammar.

But the experiential meaning, the existential meaning is in you. If you have known the experience, immediately the word ”love” is no more empty; it contains something. If
I say something, it is empty unless you bring your experience to it. When your experience comes to it, it becomes significant; otherwise it remains empty – words and words and words. How can truth be expressed when you have not experienced it? Even in ordinary life an unexperienced thing cannot be told. Only words will be conveyed. The container will reach you but the content will be lost. An empty word will travel towards you; you will hear it and you will think you understand it because you know the literal meaning of it, but you will miss.

The real, authentic meaning comes through existential experience. You have to know it, there is no other way. There is no shortcut. Truth cannot be transferred. You cannot steal it, you cannot borrow it, you cannot purchase it, you cannot rob it, you cannot beg it – there is no way. Unless you have it, you cannot have it. So what can be done?

The only way – and I emphasize it – the only way is to live with someone who has attained to the experience. Just being in the presence of someone who has attained to the experience, something mysterious will be transferred to you... not by words – it is a jump of energy. Just as a flame can jump from a lit lamp to an unlit lamp – you bring the unlit lamp closer to the lit lamp, and the flame can jump – the same thing happens between a Master and a disciple: a transmission beyond scriptures – a transmission of energy not of message, a transmission of life not of words.

Source- Osho Book "Tao: The Three Treasures, Vol 1"

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Lao Tzu Stresses inaction, Whereas Krishna lays stress on action

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