“Gautam Buddha was the first man to use the words “to be in the middle”, and of course nobody has been able to improve upon the meanings that he gave to the word middle.
He called his path the middle path. The first meaning is that if you can avoid both the extremes, the rightist and the leftist – if you can be exactly in the middle of both extremes, you will not be in the middle you will have transcended the whole trinity of extremes, and the middle. If you drop both the extremes, the middle disappears on its own accord. Middle of what…?
Gautam Buddha’s insistence on the middle is not the middle itself; it is, in fact, a subtle way to persuade you for transformation. But to tell you directly to be transformed may make you apprehensive, afraid. To be in the middle seems to be very simple.
Gautam Buddha played with the word out of sheer compassion. His own term for the middle is majjhim nikaya, the middle path. Every extreme has to exclude the other extreme; every extreme has to be in opposition to the other polarity. The negative is against the positive, the minus is against the plus, death is against life. If you take them as extremes, they naturally appear as opposites.
But the man who can stop exactly in the middle immediately transcends all the extremes and the middle together. From the higher standpoint of the transformed being, you can see there is no opposition at all. The extremes are not opposites, not contradictories, but only complementaries.
Life and death are not enemies, they are part of one single process. Death does not end life, it simply renews it. It gives it a new form, a new body, a new plane of consciousness. It is not against life; looked at rightly, it is a process of refreshing life, of rejuvenating life. The day is not against the night..
In existence there is no opposition in anything; all opposites contribute to the whole. Existence is an organic unity. It does not exclude anything; it is all-inclusive.
The man who can stop in the middle comes to know this tremendous experience, that there are no opposites, no contradictories. The whole existence is one, and in that oneness all contradictions, all oppositions, all contraries disappear into a single unity. Then life includes death, then day includes night. A man who can experience this organic unity becomes fearless, becomes without any anguish or angst. For the first time he realizes his vastness-he is as vast as the whole of existence. The moment somebody transcends the opposites and comes to know them as complementaries, he is not only part of the whole, he becomes the whole.
Let me tell you the final absurdity. Once in a while-in someone like Gautam Buddha, or Mahavira, or Chuang Tzu, or Lao Tzu-it happens that the part becomes bigger than the whole. Absolutely illogical, absolutely unmathematical-but still absolutely right. A Gautam Buddha not only contains the whole, but because of his transformation he is a little bit more than the whole. The whole is not aware of its complementariness. Gautam Buddha is aware of its complementariness, and that’s where he transcends and becomes bigger than the whole, although he is still a part of it. To be in the middle is one of the great methods of transforming yourself into the ultimate. To prepare yourself for being in the middle you will have to drop all extremist ideas. And all your ideas are extremist either leftist or rightist, either Christian or Mohammedan, either Hindu or Buddhist. You have chosen; you have not allowed a choiceless consciousness, accepting everything that is.
All your prejudices are your choices. I am against all your prejudices, in order to bring you into the middle.
The pope heard that a certain lady in Ireland had produced ten children, so he sent one of his cardinals to grant her his blessings. When he met the lady, the cardinal was disgusted to learn that she was not a Catholic. “Do you mean to say, “he thundered, “that I have come all this way to meet a sex-mad Protestant?”
This is the way of all prejudices. A sannyasin is one who has no prejudices, who has not chosen any ideology to be his own, who is choicelessly aware of all that is. In this choicelessness you will be in the middle. The moment you choose, you choose some extreme. The moment you choose, you choose against something; otherwise there is no question of choice. Being in a choiceless awareness is another meaning of being in the middle.
It happened that a very beautiful young prince-his name was Shrona-listened for the first time to Gautam Buddha. Buddha was visiting the capital of the young man’s kingdom, and listening to Gautam Buddha, the prince immediately asked to be initiated. He was well known as a sitar player and he was also well known for luxurious living, utterly luxurious.
It was said that even when he was going upstairs, rather than having a railing on the staircase, naked, beautiful women used to stand all along the staircase so that he could move from one woman’s shoulder to another woman’s shoulder. That was his way to go upstairs. He used to sleep the whole day because the hangover of the night before was too much; the whole night was a night of celebrations, drinking, eating, music, dance. There was no time for him to sleep in the night.
All these things were well known to the people. Gautam Buddha had never hesitated to give initiation to any man before. Now he hesitated. He said, “Shrona, I know everything about you; I would like you to reconsider; think it over. I am still going to stay in this capital for the four months of the rainy season.”
For four months, in the rainy season, Gautam Buddha never used to move around, nor did his sannyasins. Eight months of the year they were continuously wandering and sharing their experiences of meditation and higher states of consciousness. But because twenty-five centuries ago there were only mud roads and Buddha had not allowed his disciples to have any possessions-not even an umbrella, no shoes, and just three pieces of cloth. One was for any emergency, and two so that you could change every day after the bath; more than three were not allowed. In the rainy season when it was pouring it would have been difficult to keep those three cloths dry, and to walk in the mud in the pouring rain might make many people sick.
For that reason he had made it a point that for four months you remain in one place, and those who want to see you can come. Eight months you should go to every thirsty person; for four months let others come to you.
So he said, “There is no hurry, Shrona.”
But Shrona said, “Once I have made a decision I never reconsider. You have to give me initiation right now.”
Buddha still tried to persuade him: “There is no harm in reconsidering it, because you have lived a life of utter luxury. You have never walked on the road, you have been always in a golden chariot. You have never come out of your luxurious palace and gardens. You have lived continuously with beautiful women, with great musicians, with dancers. All that will not be possible when you become a sannyasin.” He told Shrona, “You will not be able. And I don’t like anybody to return to the world, because that makes him lose his self-respect. That’s why I tell you to consider..
Shrona said, “I have considered again and again and I still want to be initiated right now. The more you tell me to consider the more I become adamant and stubborn.”
Gautam Buddha had to relent and give him initiation, and from the second day there was trouble, but trouble that no sannyasin of Gautam Buddha had expected. A trouble that perhaps Gautam Buddha had expected started happening.
When all the monks had three pieces of cloth, Shrona started living naked-from one extreme to the other extreme. When all the Buddhist bhikkus were walking on the road, Shrona would always walk by the side of the road in the thorns. When the other monks were resting under the shade of the trees, Shrona would always stand in the hot sun in the middle of the day.
Within six months the beautiful young prince became almost old, a skeleton, black; one could not recognize that this was the man who used to be a great prince and was famous for his luxurious life. His feet were bleeding, his whole body had shrunk, and one night after six months Gautam Buddha went to the tree under which he was sleeping. It is one of the rare occasions when Buddha went in the night to any sannyasin for any reason. There is no other incident, at least in the Buddhist scriptures. This is the only incident.
He woke Shrona up and asked him a strange question: “I have heard that when you were a prince you were also the greatest sitarist in the country. Is that right?”
Shrona said, “You could have asked at any time. I don’t see the point in the middle of the night.”
Gautam Buddha said, “Just wait a little, you will see the point.”
Shrona said, “Yes, it is true.”
Buddha said, “Now the second question is, if the strings of the sitar are too tight, will there be any music born out of those strings?”
Shrona said, “Of course not. If they are too tight they will be broken.”
Buddha said, “If they are too loose, will there be any music?”
Shrona said, “You are asking strange questions in the middle of the night. When the strings are too loose they cannot create any music. A certain tension is needed. In fact to play on a sitar is simple. The real mastery is to keep the strings exactly in the middle, neither too tight nor too loose.”
Buddha said, “This is the point I came to make to you. Life is also a musical instrument: too tight and there is no music, too loose and there is no music. The strings of life have to be exactly in the middle, neither too tight nor too loose; only then is there music. And only a master knows how to keep them in the middle. Because you have been a master sitarist I would like you also to become a master of life. Don’t move from one extreme to another, from luxury to austerity, from pleasures to selftorture. Try to be exactly in the middle.”
Gautam Buddha in a sense is one of the most profound psychologists that the world has produced. To be in the middle in every action of your life-always find the middle and you have found the path of meditation and the path of liberation.” – Osho, Buddha; his life and teachings and impact on humanity