My own approach has been totally different. I began as an intellectual – not only in this life but in many lives. My whole work in many lives has been concerned with the intellect – refining the intellect, sharpening the intellect. In this life I began as an atheist with an absolute denial of God. You cannot be an atheist if you are not supraintellectual, and I was an absolute atheist. People used to avoid me because I was doubting each and every thing and my doubt was contagious. Even my teachers would avoid me.
One of my teachers was dying; I went to see him. He said, “Please … I am happy that you have come, but don’t say a single word because this is not the time. I am dying and I want to die believing that God is.”
I said, “You cannot. Seeing me, the doubt has already arisen.”
He said, “What do you mean?”
And the thing started! Before he died, just after twelve hours, he died an atheist. And I was so happy! I had to work for twelve hours continuously. Out of desperation he said, “Okay, let me die peacefully. I say that there is no God. Are you happy? Now leave me alone!”
My university professors were always in difficulties. I was expelled from one college, then another, and then thrown out of one university. Finally one university admitted me with the condition – I had to sign it, a written condition – that I would not ask any questions and I would not argue with the professors.
I said okay. I signed it and the Vice-Chancellor was very happy. And I said, “Now, a few things. What do you mean by ‘argument’?”
He said, “Here you go!”
I said, ‘I have not written that I would not ask for any clarification. I can ask for a clarification. What do you mean by an ‘argument’? And if I cannot ask a question, what is the point of your whole department of philosophy? – because all your philosophers ask questions. The whole of philosophy depends on doubt; doubt is the base of all philosophy. If I cannot doubt your stupid philosophers, your stupid professors, then how am I going to learn philosophy?”
He said, “Look at what you are saying! You are calling my professors, in front of me, stupid!”
I said, “They are stupid, otherwise why these conditions? Can you think of somebody being intelligent and asking his students not to question him? Is this a sign of intelligence? A professor will invite questions. An intelligent professor will be happy with a student who can argue well.”
That remained a problem. My whole approach from the very beginning was not that of a Ramakrishna. I am not a devotional type, not at all. I have arrived at God through atheism, not through theism. I have arrived at God not by believing in him but by absolutely doubting him. I have come to a certainty because I have doubted and I went on doubting till there was no possibility to doubt anymore, till I came across something indubitable. That has been my process.
That was not the process of Gurdjieff. He was learning from Masters, moving from one Master to another Master, learning techniques and methods and devices. He learned many devices, but he learned in a very surrendered spirit, that of a disciple.
I have never been anybody’s disciple; nobody has been my Master. In fact, nobody was ready to accept me as a disciple, because who would like to create trouble?
One of my professors, who is now dead, Dr. S.K. Saxena, loved me very much. The only man out of all my professors … because I cam across many professors; I had to leave many colleges and many universities. Rarely does one come across as many professors as I came across. He is the only man that I had some respect for because he never prevented me from doubting, from questioning, even though a thousand and one times he had to accept defeat. I respected him because he was capable of accepting defeat even from a student. He would simply say, “I accept defeat. You win. I cannot argue anymore. I have put forward all the arguments that I can muster and you have destroyed them all. Now I am ready to listen to you if you have something to say.”
He was very afraid… When I was doing my final M.A. examination in philosophy he was very afraid because he loved me so much. He wanted me to get through the examination, but he was afraid – afraid that I might write things which were not according to the textbooks or were against the textbooks. I might say things which were not acceptable to the ordinary professors. Just to save me he gave all the papers to such people all over the country as were his friends and he informed them: “Please take care of this young man, don’t be offended by him; that is his way. But he has great potential.”
Only one thing he could not manage, that was something to be decided by the Vice-Chancellor himself; the verbal examination, and that was the last thing. And the professor had invited a Mohammedan professor from
I said, “I will see.”
And the first question the Mohammedan professor asked was: “What is the difference between Indian philosophy and Western philosophy?”
I said, “This is something stupid. The very idea! This is nonsense. Philosophy is philosophy. How can philosophy be Indian? And how can philosophy be Eastern or Western? If science is not Eastern and science is not Western, then why philosophy? Philosophy is a quest for truth. How can the quest be Eastern or Western? The quest is the same!”
My professor started pulling my leg underneath the table. I said, “Sir, you stop! Don’t pull my leg! Forget all about the examination – now this thing has to be decided!”
The Mohammedan professor was at a loss. What was going on? He said, “What is the matter?”
I said, “He is pulling my leg. He is telling me that you are a Mohammedan – and a fanatic Mohammedan. And he says that if you cannot argue well with me you will take revenge! So do whatsoever you want, but I have to say what I feel. I don’t believe in all these distinctions. In fact, to me the very idea of somebody being a philosopher and yet a Mohammedan is simply illogical, it is ridiculous. How can you be a real inquirer if you have already accepted a certain dogma, a certain creed? If you start from a priori assumptions, if you start from a belief, you can never reach the truth. Real philosophy starts in a state of not-knowing. And that is the beauty of doubt: it destroys all beliefs.”
For a moment he was shocked, felt almost dumb, but he had to give me ninety-nine marks out of a hundred. I asked him, “What happened to the last one?”
He said, “This is something! In my whole life I have never given anybody ninety-nine marks out of a hundred, and you are asking me, ‘What happened to the last one?’”
I said, “Yes! Since you are giving me ninety-nine I have every right to ask why you are so miserly. Just one! Make it a hundred – at least be generous for once!”
He had to make it a hundred.
~ Osho, Walking in Zen, Sitting in Zen