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Osho on Martin Buber


Martin Buber


Questioner : Please tell us something about Martin Buber.

Osho - Martin Buber's whole thinking is concerned with the relationship, with the intimacy between "I" and "thou". Martin Buber is one of the most profound thinkers of our age. But remember, profundity is not all; whatever the depth it is only the other end of the superficial, the shallow. Real depth comes when one is neither shallow nor deep, when both shallowness and depth disappear. Martin Buber has come upon something very profound: he says that life's truth lies in the interrelationship between "I" and "thou".

An atheist, a materialist, believes that only matter is; there is nothing other than matter. His world does not consist of "I" and "thou", it consists of "I" and "it". There is no place for "thou", because for "thou" it is necessary that another person possess a soul. So an atheist's world is confined to the relationship between "I" and "it". That is why it is such a complex world, where on the one hand he calls himself "I" and as such invests himself with a soul, he deprives others of this l-ness and reduces them into things, into "its". A materialist reduces every man and everything into matter. If I believe there is no soul or spirit, then for me you are nothing more than matter. How then can I call you "thou"? Because only an alive man, alive with a soul, can be addressed as "thou".

Therefore Martin Buber says a theist's world is comprised of "I" and "thou" and not "I" and "it". It is a theist's world only when my "I" addresses the world as "thou". This is how Buber thinks.

But I will not say so. I will say that even a theist is, in his depth, nothing more than an atheist, because he divides the world into "I" and "thou". Or you can say that Buber's world is the world of a dualistic theist. But it is not true, because dualistic theism has no meaning. In a sense, an atheist is non-dualist because he says that only matter is. And so is a spiritualist who says that only one is, and it is spirit. And I think it is easier to attain to oneness, non-dualism from the hypothesis that there is only one; it is very difficult to come to monism from the hypothesis that there are two -- "I" and "thou".

In this sense, a dualist like Buber may find himself in a more difficult situation than an atheist. A materialist is a non-dualist, a monist, and if some day he comes to know that there is no matter, that only spirit is, only consciousness is, then he will have no difficulty in being transformed. Even as an atheist he accepts the oneness of existence; he does not accept the dualistic interpretation. But a dualist's problem is more difficult. He believes that existence is dual, it is matter and soul together. And as such it would be extremely difficult for him to attain to non-dualism, to the oneness of all existence.

Buber is a dualist. He says that the world is comprised of "I" and "thou". His dualism is human, because he cancels "it", and gives it the status of "thou" with a soul. But it remains a dualistic approach nonetheless. There can be only a relationship between "I" and "thou", there cannot be a unity, a oneness between them. However deep and intimate the relationship, there is always some distance between "I" and "thou". If I am related with you -- even if the relationship is really intimate -- the very act of relatedness divides me from you; we are not one but two.

And remember, a relationship is a double-edged sword which cuts both ways; it unites and divides at the same time. If you and I are related, it means we are divided as well. The point of meeting is also the point of parting. A bridge joins the two banks of a river and divides them too. In fact, whatever joins two persons or things is bound to divide them; it is inescapable, there is no way to avoid it. Two persons can relate with each other, but they cannot be one; relationship is not unity.

Even in a love relationship, the division between the lovers remains. And as long as there is a division, a separateness, love cannot be fulfilled. That is why all lovers are dissatisfied, discontented. There are two kinds of discontent in love. You are discontented if you don't find your lover, and you are discontented even if you find one.

When you find someone you love and who loves you, you realize that in spite of the meeting, a distance remains and nothing can be done to mitigate the pain of this separateness. In spite of everything you do to do away with this separateness, this distance from your lover, it continues to torment you. So very often a person who does not find his love is not as miserable as one who finds it. One who does not find can still hope to find, but the one who has found is robbed of all hope -- his discontent and despair are much deeper. In fact, no meeting can be real, because two make a meeting, and as long as there are two entities, unity or oneness is impossible.

Martin Buber speaks of a deep relationship between "I" and "thou", and it is very humanistic. And in a world which is becoming increasingly materialistic in every way, this concept of Martin Buber's seems very religious. But I don't take it as such; I say it is not at all religious. I think Buber is just attempting a compromise; if "I" and "thou" cannot unite they can at least maintain some relationship. Religion stands for the non-dual, indivisible and integrated oneness of existence.

This is the difference between love and devotion, upasana. Love is relationship, it is dualistic, devotion is non-dual, non-relationship. Non-relation ship does not mean that two persons have separated; it simply means that they have ceased to be two, they have become one. To be one is upasana, devotion. Devotion is a higher state of love -- really the highest state. Unless two lovers become divine, godly, they cannot achieve a real unity. Really, two humans cannot unite, because their being human is the obstruction. A man and woman can at best be related with each other; they cannot be united and one. Only divine elements can meet and merge into each other, because now nothing can divide them. The truth is since they have dissolved themselves as separate entities, the question of unity or separation does not now arise. There is really nothing to unite or divide them; nothing is separate from them.

Martin Buber's concept can lead you to love; Krishna can take you to devotion. And devotion is something utterly different, it is rare. In devotion both "I" and "thou" disappear, and what remains after this disappearance is inexpressible; it cannot be put into words. When "I" and "thou" disappear there is infinity, which is nameless. Whatever names you use for it -- spirit, matter, "I" and "thou" -- they are all going to be wrong. That is why all the great devotees chose to remain silent, they refused to name it, they simply said, "It is nameless." They said, "It is without beginning and without end, it has neither form nor name." They said, "It cannot be expressed in words." And so they remained silent.

Great devotees became silent; they did not make a statement about the highest truth, because all statements land you in the mire of duality. Man has no such word that is not likely to lead to dualism. All words are loaded with dualistic meanings; the moment you use a word you divide existence into two opposites. As soon as you say a word you divide existence into two.

It is as if you pass a ray of the sun through a prism and it divides into seven colors. The prism of language divides every truth into two parts, and a truth divided turns into a lie. It is for this reason that great devotees kept silent. They danced, they sang, they played the flute, they made gestures, but they did not say a word. They said through their gestures, dance, laughter, what that truth is. They have raised their hands toward the heavens to say what it is like. They have said it with their silence; they have said it with their whole being. But they did not use words.
I am reminded of a story:

During the days of the mutiny, a British soldier stuck a bayonet in the chest of a sannyasin. The sannyasin happened to pass through a military cantonment, and he was in silence. He had been in silence for long; for thirty years he had not uttered a word. The day he went into silence someone had asked him why. The sannyasin said, "That which can be said is not worth saying, and that which is worth saying cannot be said. So there is no way except to become silent." And he had been silent for thirty years.
It was the time of the mutiny when Indian soldiers of the British army had revolted against their alien masters. The British officers were alarmed, so when they saw a naked sannyasin passing through their military camp, they captured him on the suspicion he was a spy. When they interrogated him he kept silent, and this strengthened their suspicion. The suspicion would perhaps have been cleared if the sannyasin had responded to their queries, but he simply smiled when they asked him who he was.

So their suspicion of his being a spy was confirmed, and they stuck a bayonet in his chest. This man, who had been silent for thirty years, broke into a loud laughter and uttered a great maxim of the Upanishad: "TATVAMASI SHVETKETU!" With this quote from the Upanishad he said to the British soldier who struck him with a bayonet: "You want to know who I am? What I am, you are."

Truth cannot be said in words; at the most it can be indicated with indications and signs, with gestures and hints. Or like Kabir one can say it with paradoxes, self-contradictory statements. Kabir's language has been described as sandhyabhasha, which literally means the twilight language. Twilight is a space where it is neither day nor night, where one can neither say a clear yes nor a clear no, where one can neither accept nor deny, where one is neither a theist nor an atheist, where everything is fluid, vague and mystical. It is for this reason that up to now no one has been able to discover a clear-cut meaning in Kabir's sayings. Krishna's sayings belong to this same category. Whosoever has attempted to express the truth in words, his language has invariably turned into the twilight language. They cannot be assertive, they have to say yes and no together. Or they will accept or deny the opposites together. And that is what makes their statements illogical and inconsistent. It is for this reason that people who came to know the space where "I" and "thou" disappear, where all opposites cease to be and duality disappears, have decided to remain silent.

Source - Osho Book "Krishna: The Man and His Philosophy"

Related Osho Links:
Osho on Baal Shem Stories
Osho on Baal Shem Prayer to God
Martin Buber Books loved by Osho

Osho on Martin Buber idea that prayer is an I-Thou dialogue
Osho on Hassidism - Hassidism means the art of disciplehood
Osho - Hasidism is not a path of meditation, it is a path of prayer
Osho - Why do Hasids exclude women from their religious practices

Osho on famous people: Annie Besant, Alan Watts, Albert Einstein, Adolf Hitler, Confucius, Friedrich Nietzsche, George Santayana, Karl Marx, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Machiavelli, Madame Blavatsky, Mahatma Gandhi, Marilyn Monroe, Mother Teresa, Nijinsky, Shakuntala Devi, Somerset Maugham, Soren Kierkegaard, Subhash Chandra Bose, Vincent van Gogh, Vinoba Bhave

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