From the Book: The White Lotus
Questioner: What is a poet? What is poetry?
Osho: There are three ways of looking at existence: feeling it, seeing it, being it. The first is science, the second is art, the third is religion.
Science looks at the universe in an objective way. It looks at the universe as if it is there, outside. Hence science concludes that there is only matter and nothing else. The very method of science limits it; it is a great limitation. If you look in an objective way you can catch hold only of the objectivity of existence. That is matter. Matter is the objectiveness of existence.
The word object is significant. It means that which obstructs, objects you. Anything that obstructs your vision is an object. Hence science becomes antagonistic towards the world. It starts trying to conquer it, because the object is the enemy and has to be conquered.
It is because of the scientific approach that man has become so alienated from nature. And now he feels so isolated and alone that it seems suicide is the only way to get rid of the whole misery that this isolation has created.
The second approach, the second way, is that of art, aesthetics, poetry. It is a subjective approach towards existence. Art is not concerned what is there but what is here, inside you.
It is not concerned with the rose-flower itself but how it feels to you. When you see the rose-flower, what happens into your inner world? When you see the sunrise, how does it reflect in your being? When the cuckoo starts calling from the distance, how it echoes in your innermost recesses?
Art is concerned with your response: not what is there but what is inside you. Art is closer home than science, although not yet exactly in the home, but on the way. It is a mid-point between science and religion. Art gives you more freedom than science.
The poet has more freedom than the mathematician; the musician has more freedom than the physicist. The scientist is obstructed by his own objects. The scientist cannot go beyond matter and matter defines his world. But the poet can soar, can go beyond, can create one’s own worlds.
Science discovers art creates. Science can only discover that which is already there. Art creates, hence art brings you closer to the creator.
And whenever I talk about poetry I mean the essence of art. Poetry is the essence of art. The sculptor is creating poetry in stone, the musician is creating poetry in sound, the painter is creating poetry on the canvas with colors. They are all poets. Their mediums differ, their expressions differ, but their basic approach is not of arithmetic but of poetry.
Because science has become too much dominant, art has almost disappeared. It is no more thriving, it is no more as alive as it always has been in the past. Science has taken over everything. Hence the great boredom felt in the world, because unless you are creative you are bound to be bored.
Only a creative person knows how to drop boredom. The creative person knows no boredom at all. He is thrilled, enchanted, he is constantly in a state of adventure. And small things create such ecstatic states within him. A butterfly is enough to trigger a process in his being. Just a small flower is enough to bring a spring into his heart. A silent lake reflecting the stars and the poet himself becomes a silent lake and starts reflecting millions of stars.
Science is the root cause of creating boredom in the world. First it creates isolation: man is no more part of nature, he stands outside. He becomes just an observer, a spectator, no more a participant.
And unless you participate in the celebration, unless you participate in the dance, you are bound to be bored. Isolated from existence, antagonistic to existence, trying to conquer it, you are simply killing yourself. And you become fed up, bored. Life loses meaning, there is no significance, there are only things without any significance, and life appears only to be an accident with no intrinsic value. Yes, things have prices, but nothing has value as far as science is concerned.
As far as poetry is concerned, things are valuable, they don’t have any price. How can you price a beautiful rose-flower? It is impossible. Its beauty is immeasurable. It is not possible to fix its price. Yes, value is there and remember, value is not price, value is your appreciation. The rose and the star and the moon and the sun are not marketable. You cannot sell them, you cannot purchase them. You can enjoy them, but you cannot possess them.
Price means you can possess a thing, you can sell and purchase it; it is a commodity. Value means it is not a commodity. It is an experience, it is a love phenomenon.
Science lives through logic, poetry lives through love. Poetry is a loving approach towards existence. Science is a kind of rape. Poetry is a love affair. Yes, in rape also you go through the same act of penetration, and in love too, but there is such a vast distance; unbridgeable is the gap. You can rape a woman, she may even get pregnant, but it is not knowing the mystery of the woman. You will not know the joy of love. And if rape becomes your very style, you will be missing something of tremendous value. Your life will remain empty, hollow.
Poetry is a love affair with existence. Existence has to be persuaded - seduced, not conquered - loved. And love never tries to conquer. On the contrary, love is surrender. The poet is closer home because he starts surrendering, he starts loving, he starts living subjectively. He starts living from the center. The scientist lives from the circumference.
I have deep respect for poetry and the people who have the poetic vision, the poets of all kinds: musicians, sculptors, painters, singers, dancers, actors. Whosoever is creative in whatsoever way is a poet. Poetry is the essence of all art. But there is one step still to be taken.
Religion is transcendental. It is neither objective nor subjective, because both are halves of one whole. Science has chosen one half: the outside, the objective. Poetry has chosen the other half: the subjective, the inner. But both are half, and the half can never be fulfilling.
One needs the whole to become whole. Religion is whole. It is neither objective nor subjective; it is transcendental. It goes beyond both and includes both. It encompasses both and yet is not limited by either. That is the highest flight possible for human consciousness.
Religion dissolves all dualities. And the duality between the subjective and the objective is the fundamental duality between within and without. Religion dissolves both, then there is only one single phenomenon. The within is without and the without is within. There is no distinction, no gap. The within is becoming without every moment and the without is becoming within every moment: just like breathing. Just a second before it was without, now it is within, again it is without. The breath comes in, goes out, comes in, goes out. Just like that, existence is continuously merging. It is one orgasmic unity, it is not two.
The scientist is approaching reality as a male mind. It is the masculine approach: conquer nature. And the poet approaches reality with the feminine mind: surrender, be receptive, open up to reality, be in a let-go, relax. Religion is neither male nor female. It is just a witnessing of both. But the scientist is very far away from religion. The poet is a little closer.
That’s why I sometimes talk about poetry, the poet, because before you can become transcendental you will have to learn how to be poetic. Science is taught by the society, by the school, the college, the university. Poetry is missing. Because it has no market value, nobody cares about it. If you have a poetic approach, your approach is so private it can’t be used by the society. And in fact you may be a little problematic to the society, because you will bring your private vision and your private vision can be a disturbance.
The society lives with the collective; the object is collective. The rose as an object is a collective phenomenon, but when you approach the rose you approach in your own unique way. Somebody else will approach in his own unique way.
Poetry is private. It is individual, it is not collective. And the society is always beware, alert, watchful, that private visions should not be supported because they become disruptive, they create chaos. The collective vision should be imposed on people.
Christianity is a collective vision, Hinduism is a collective vision, communism is a collective vision. Impose a collective thing on everybody so they all look alike and they all live alike, then they are all conformists.
The poet is basically a rebel. The real poet is bound to be a revolutionary.
Vincent van Gogh has painted his trees so high that they reach beyond the stars. Somebody asked him, “We have never seen such trees. What kind of trees are these and how can they go beyond the stars?”
Van Gogh is reported to have said that “It doesn’t matter whether any tree succeeds or not. This is the desire of the tree that I have painted. This is the ambition of the tree, this is the very spirit, the longing of the tree. Every tree longs to go beyond the stars. I have seen it in trees, I have listened to the trees, I have watched them. I understand their language and the message is clear and loud from every tree, from the smallest to the biggest, that they all are trying to go beyond the stars. Whether they succeed or not is another matter. I am not concerned with it, I am concerned with the inner feeling of the tree.”
Now Vincent van Gogh is right in a poetic way, not right in a scientific way. In a scientific way he looks absurd, but in a poetic way he is absolutely right. He says, “Trees are nothing but longings of the earth to meet the stars, desires of the earth to bridge the gap between itself and other stars. It may succeed, it may not succeed, that is beside the point.” That is irrelevant for van Gogh.
The poet has his own vision. It is private, it is not collective. Hence all the people who believe in collectivity are anti-poetic.
Plato, the first collectivist in the world, writes in his utopian book, Republic: Collectivity is his idea of the future society as societies should be. In his republic, poets won’t be allowed. Particularly poets, nobody else is prevented, but poets are prevented. They should not be allowed in the Platonic republic. Why? Why is he so afraid of the poets? For the simple reason because the poet brings the individual, private vision, and that can create disruption.
Plato wants to impose a certain pattern, one type of lifestyle, on everybody. He wants a kind of unity, forcibly imposed, and poets in that way are not reliable.
It is not an accident that in Soviet Russia, after the revolution, poetry died. Before the revolution Russia had given the greatest poets and novelists the world has ever known, in fact incomparable. No other country can compete. Who can compete with Leo Tolstoy, Maxim Gorky, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekhov, and Turgenev? Who can compete with these giants? No other country has produced such great artists. If one has to decide about ten great novelists of the world, then five will be Russians - but pre-revolution.
After the revolution, suddenly the poetic activity fell down. The country of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and Maxim Gorky and Turgenev simply disappeared from the earth. It stopped producing that kind of man, that quality; it stopped soaring high.
Communism was imposed, a collective vision was imposed. Now every poet had to serve communism, every painter had to serve communism, every singer had to sing songs in praise of communism. Now the government was the deciding factor about what is true literature and what is true art and who is a true poet. Stupid government officials were going to decide: those who have no idea of poetry. If they had any idea of poetry in the first place they would not be government officials at all.
Just think of a collector, a commissioner, a governor: do you think these people can have poetic ideas? They seem to be worlds apart. And the people who were reading Marx and Engels and Lenin, can they have any idea of poetry?
Marx is so unpoetic in his writings. It is so tedious to read him. I have gone through the torture, so I tell you from my experience. Who has read Das Kapital? It is so ugly, it really needs guts to go through it. Otherwise two, three pages are enough and one feels finished. Even communists don’t read it. I know. Many of my friends are communists and they have not read it. Just a tedium, a boredom: nothing of poetry in it, nothing of beauty in it.
Jesus has poetry, he speaks poetry. Buddha has poetry, he lives poetry. Marx has no poetry at all, just dry, dull logic. Even the logic is not very sharp. People who have been living on such rubbish: they are going to decide about Dostoevsky, about Tolstoy, about Turgenev? They will not be able to understand these people, they are bound to misunderstand.
In Russia, poetry died; that has been one of the greatest losses to humanity. In China it is dead, because poets are in the service of the state now. They are rewarded, they are respected, they have been given big posts in the universities, but on the condition that they are not to be poets of freedom. They have to be poets of slavery, they have to serve the state.
And a real poet cannot serve anybody, he serves only poetry. He writes, he sings, not for any other motive. Art for art’s sake. There is no motive and no goal in it. His singing is just like the birds singing in the early morning sun, flowers blooming, bees humming. Yes, exactly like that: utterly free, natural, spontaneous.
I am absolutely in support of the poetic way of life, because it brings you closer to religion. But don’t stop there because the poet has only glimpses of the truth, only glimpses, faraway glimpses, as if a window suddenly opens in a strong wind and closes again. As if on a dark, dark night you are lost in a forest, and clouds are in the sky, dark clouds, and then there is thunder and lightning.
When the lightning is there, for a moment all is light, you can see everything: the trees, the path, the rocks, the mountains. But only for a moment, and then the lightning is gone and the darkness deepens, becomes darker than ever before. You are dazed, more in darkness. You may stumble upon a rock, because before the lightning you were taking every care. You were moving cautiously, but now a glimpse that you know you are on the right path, you may become less careful, less aware. You may stumble upon a rock, you may fall in a ditch, you may go astray. And the lightning naturally makes you see less. It is so sudden, it blinds you.
The poet only has lightning experiences. Once in a while he rises to the heights of consciousness, but then he falls – and falls badly, falls deeper than he was before. The poet only has enlightening experiences. The mystic is enlightened: he has become light itself; now there will never be any darkness again. But the lightning can give you an idea what it will be like to be full of light.
The poet has glimpses, the mystic abides on those heights. They are not faraway glimpses, he has reached to the Everest, he has made his hermitage there, he stays there. Even if he sometimes comes to visit you in your dark valley he brings his heights with him, his peaks with him. His Everest follows him; it has become his very climate. The scientist is the farthest, the poet is in the middle, and the mystic is at the very center of existence. Move from being a scientist towards being a poet. But don’t stop there either, go on moving.
Buddha said: CHARAIVETI, CHARAIVETI. Walk on, walk on, till you arrive at a point where there is nowhere to go, till you come to that point, to that ultimate point where there is no way to go anywhere. Then settle – only then settle. Then you are at home. Then life is a bliss, then life is a blessing, then life is a benediction.