Courage is not the absence of fear, says Osho. It is, rather, the total presence of fear, with the courage to fact it. This book provides a bird's-eye view of the whole terrain-where fears originate, how to understand them, and how to find the courage to face them. In the process, Osho proposes that whenever we are faced with uncertainty and change in our lives, it is actually a cause for celebration. Instead of trying to hang on to the familiar and the known, we can learn to enjoy these situations as opportunities for adventure and for deepening our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
The book begins with an in-depth exploration of the meaning of courage and how it is expressed in the everyday life of the individual. Unlike books that focus on heroic acts of courage in exceptional circumstances, the focus here is on developing the inner courage that enables us to lead authentic and fulfilling lives on a day-to-day basis. This is the courage to change when change is needed, the courage to stand up for our own truth, even against the opinions of others, and the courage to embrace the unknown in spite of our fears-in our relationships, in our careers, or in the ongoing journey of understanding who we are and why we are here.
Courage also features a number of meditation techniques specifically designed by Osho to help people deal with their fears.
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St. Martin's Griffin
November 01, 1999
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Excerpt from Courage by Osho
WHAT IS COURAGE?
In the beginning there is not much difference between the coward and the courageous person. The only difference is, the coward listens to his fears and follows them, and the courageous person puts them aside and goes ahead. The courageous person goes into the unknown in spite of all the fears.
Courage means going into the unknown in spite of all the fears. Courage does not mean fearlessness. Fearlessness happens if you go on being courageous and more courageous. That is the ultimate experience of courage--fearlessness: That is the fragrance when the courage has become absolute. But in the beginning there is not much difference between the coward and the courageous person. The only difference is that the coward listens to his fears and follows them, and the courageous person puts them aside and goes ahead. The courageous person goes into the unknown in spite of all the fears. He knows the fears, the fears are there.
When you go into the uncharted sea, like Columbus did, there is fear, immense fear, because one never knows what is going to happen. You are leaving the shore of safety. You were perfectly okay, in a way; only one thing was missing--adventure. Going into the unknown gives you a thrill. The heart starts pulsating again; again you are alive, fully alive. Every fiber of your being is alive because you have accepted the challenge of the unknown.
To accept the challenge of the unknown, in spite of all fears, is courage. The fears are there, but if you go on accepting the challenge again and again, slowly slowly those fears disappear. The experience of the joy that the unknown brings, the great ecstasy that starts happening with the unknown, makes you strong enough, gives you a certain integrity, makes your intelligence sharp. For the first time you start feeling that life is not just a boredom but an adventure. Then slowly slowly fears disappear; then you are always seeking and searching for some adventure.
But basically courage is risking the known for the unknown, the familiar for the unfamiliar, the comfortable for the uncomfortable, arduous pilgrimage to some unknown destination. One never knows whether one will be able to make it or not. It is gambling, but only the gamblers know what life is.
THE TAO OF COURAGE
Life does not listen to your logic; it goes on its own way, undisturbed. You have to listen to life; life will not listen to your logic, it does not bother about your logic.
When you move into life, what do you see? A great storm comes, and big trees fall. They should survive, according to Charles Darwin, because they are the fittest, strongest, most powerful. Look at an ancient tree, three hundred feet high, three thousand years old. The very presence of the tree creates strength, gives a feeling of strength and power. Millions of roots have spread inside the earth, gone deep, and the tree is standing with power. Of course the tree fights--it doesn't want to yield, to surrender--but after the storm, it has fallen, it is dead, it is no longer alive, and all that strength has gone. The storm was too much--the storm is always too much, because the storm comes from the whole, and a tree is just an individual.
Then there are small plants and ordinary grass--when the storm comes the grass yields, and the storm cannot do any harm to it. At the most it can give it a good cleansing, that's all; all the dirt that has gathered on it is washed away. The storm gives it a good bath, and when the storm has gone, the small plants and the grasses are again dancing high. The grass has almost no roots, it can be pulled out by a small child, but the storm was defeated. What happened?
The grass followed the way of Tao, the way of Lao Tzu, and the big tree followed Charles Darwin. The big tree was very logical: it tried to resist, it tried to show its strength. If you try to show your strength, you will be defeated. All Hitlers, all Napoleons, all Alexanders are big trees, strong trees. They will all be defeated. Lao Tzus are just like small plants: nobody can defeat them because they are always ready to yield. How can you defeat a person who yields, who says, "I am already defeated," who says, "Sir, you enjoy your victory, there is no need to create any trouble. I'm defeated." Even an Alexander will feel futile before a Lao Tzu, he cannot do anything. It happened; it happened exactly like that ... .
A sannyasin, a mystic by the name of Dandamis, existed in the days of Alexander, in the days when Alexander was in India. Friends had told Alexander when he was leaving for India that when he came back he should bring a sannyasin, because that rare flower flowered only in India. They said, "We would like to see the phenomenon of sannyas, what it is, what exactly a sannyasin is."
He was so engaged in war and struggle and fight that he almost forgot about it, but when he was going back, just on the boundary of India, he suddenly remembered. He was leaving the last village, so he asked his soldiers to go into the village and inquire if there was a sannyasin around there somewhere. By accident Dandamis was there in the village, by the riverside, and the people said, "You have come at the right time. There are many sannyasins, but a real sannyasin is always rare, and he is here now. You can have darshan, you can go and visit him."
Alexander laughed. He said, "I'm not here to have darshan, my soldiers will go and fetch him. I will take him back to the capital of my country."
The villagers said, "It won't be so easy ... ."
Alexander could not believe it--what difficulty could there be? He had conquered emperors, great kings, so with a beggar, a sannyasin, what difficulty could there be? His soldiers went to see this Dandamis, who was standing naked on the bank of the river. They said, "Alexander the Great invites you to accompany him to his country. All comforts, whatsoever you need, will be provided. You will be a royal guest."
The naked fakir laughed and said, "You go and tell your master that a man who calls himself great cannot be great. And nobody can take me anywhere--a sannyasin moves like a cloud, in total freedom. I am not enslaved to anybody."
They said, "You must have heard about Alexander, he is a dangerous man. If you say no to him, he won't listen, he will simply cut your head off!"
Alexander had to go, because the soldiers said, "He is a rare man, luminous, there is something of the unknown around him. He is naked, but you don't feel in his presence that he is naked--later on you remember. He is so powerful that in his presence you simply forget the whole world. He is magnetic, and a great silence surrounds him and the whole area feels as if it is delighting in the man. He is worth seeing, but there seems to be trouble ahead for him, the poor man, because he says that nobody can take him anywhere, that he is nobody's slave."
Alexander went to see him with a naked sword in his hand. Dandamis laughed and said, "Put down your sword, it is useless here. Put it back in the sheath; it is useless here because you can cut only my body, and that I left long ago. Your sword cannot cut me, so put it back; don't be childish."
And it is said that this was the first time Alexander followed somebody else's order; just because of the very presence of the man, he couldn't remember who he was. He put his sword back in the sheath and said, "I have never come across such a beautiful man." And when he was back in his camp he said, "It is difficult to kill a man who is ready to die, it is meaningless to kill him. You can kill a person who fights, then there is some meaning in killing; but you can't kill a man who is ready and who is saying, 'This is my head, you can cut it off.'"
And Dandamis actually said, "This is my head, you can cut it off. When the head falls, you will see it falling on the sand and I will also see it falling on the sand, because I am not my body. I am a witness."
Alexander had to report to his friends, "There were sannyasins that I could have brought, but they were not sannyasins. Then I came across a man who was really something rare--and you have heard rightly, this flower is rare, but nobody can force him because he is not afraid of death. When a person is not afraid of death, how can you force him to do anything?"
It is your fear that makes you a slave--it is your fear. When you are fearless you are no longer a slave; in fact, it is your fear that forces you to make others slaves before they can try to make a slave out of you.
A man who is fearless is neither afraid of anybody nor makes anybody afraid of him. Fear totally disappears.
THE WAY OF THE HEART
The word courage is very interesting. It comes from a Latin root cor, which means "heart." So to be courageous means to live with the heart. And weaklings, only weaklings, live with the head; afraid, they create a security of logic around themselves. Fearful, they close every window and door--with theology, concepts, words, theories--and inside those closed doors and windows, they hide.
The way of the heart is the way of courage. It is to live in insecurity; it is to live in love, and trust; it is to move in the unknown. It is leaving the past and allowing the future to be. Courage is to move on dangerous paths. Life is dangerous, and only cowards can avoid the danger--but then, they are already dead. A person who is alive, really alive, vitally alive, will always move into the unknown. There is danger there, but he will take the risk. The heart is always ready to the the risk, the heart is a gambler. The head is a businessman. The head always calculates--it is cunning. The heart is noncalculating.
This English word courage is beautiful, very interesting. To live through the heart is to discover meaning. A poet lives through the heart and, by and by, in the heart he starts listening to the sounds of the unknown. The head cannot listen; it is very far away from the unknown. The head is filled with the known.
What is your mind? It is all that you have known. It is the past, the dead, that which has gone. Mind is nothing but the accumulated past, the memory. Heart is the future; heart is always the hope, heart is always somewhere in the future. Head thinks about the past; heart dreams about the future.
The heart is always
ready to take the
risk, the heart
is a gambler.
The head is a
The head always
The future is yet to come. The future is yet to be. The future has yet a possibility--it will come, it is already coming. Every moment the future is becoming the present, and the present is becoming the past. The past has no possibility, it has been used. You have already moved away from it--it is exhausted, it is a dead thing, it is like a grave. The future is like a seed; it is coming, ever coming, always reaching and meeting with the present. You are always moving. The present is nothing but a movement into the future. It is the step that you have already taken; it is going into the future.
EVERYBODY IN THE WORLD WANTS TO BE TRUE because just to be true brings so much joy and such an abundance of blissfulness--why should one be false? You have to have the courage for a little deeper insight: Why are you afraid? What can the world do to you? People can laugh at you, it will do them good--laughter is always a medicine, healthful. People can think you are mad ... just because they think you are mad, you don't become mad.
Why are you afraid?
What can the world
do to you?
People can laugh at
you; it will do them
always a medicine,
And if you are authentic about your joy, your tears, your dance, sooner or later there will be people who will start understanding you, who may start joining your caravan. I myself had started alone on the path, and then people went on coming and it became a worldwide caravan! And I have not invited anybody; I have simply done whatever I felt was coming from my heart.
My responsibility is toward my heart, not toward anybody else in the world. So is your responsibility only toward your own being. Don't go against it, because going against it is committing suicide, is destroying yourself. And what is the gain? Even if people give you respect, and people think that you are a very sober, respectable, honorable man, these things are not going to nourish your being. They are not going to give you any more insight into life and its tremendous beauty.
How many millions of people have lived before you on this earth? You don't even know their names; whether they ever lived or not does not make any difference. There have been saints and there have been sinners, and there have been very respectable people, and there have been all kinds of eccentrics, crazy, but they have all disappeared--not even a trace has remained on the earth.
Your sole concern should be to take care of and protect those qualities that you can take with you when death destroys your body, your mind, because these qualities will be your sole companions. They are the only real values, and the people who attain them--only they live; others only pretend to live.
The KGB knocks on Yussel Finkelstein's door one dark night. Yussel opens the door. The KGB man barks out, "Does Yussel Finkelstein live here?"
"No," replies Yussel, standing there in his frayed pajamas.
"No? So what is your name then?"
The KGB man knocks him to the ground and says,
"Did you just say that you did not live here?"
Yussel replies, "You call this living?"
Just living is not always living. Look at your life. Can you call it a blessing? Can you call it a gift, a present of existence? Would you like this life to be given to you again and again?
DON'T LISTEN TO THE SCRIPTURES--listen to your own heart. That is the only scripture I prescribe: listen very attentively, very consciously, and you will never be wrong. And listening to your own heart, you will never be divided. Listening to your own heart, you will start moving in the right direction, without ever thinking of what is right and what is wrong.
The whole art for the new humanity will consist in the secret of listening to the heart consciously, alertly, attentively. And follow it, go wherever it takes you. Yes, sometimes it will take you into dangers--but remember, those dangers are needed to make you ripe. Sometimes it will take you astray--but remember again, those goings astray are part of growth. Many times you will fall--rise up again, because this is how one gathers strength, by falling and rising again. This is how one becomes integrated.
But don't follow rules imposed from the outside. No imposed rule can ever be right--because rules are invented by people who want to rule you! Yes, sometimes there have been great enlightened people in the world, too--a Buddha, a Jesus, a Krishna, a Mohammed. They have not given rules to the world--they have given their love. But sooner or later the disciples gather together and start making codes of conduct. Once the Master is gone, once the light is gone and they are in deep darkness, they start groping for certain rules to follow, because now the light in which they could have seen is no longer there. Now they will have to depend on rules.
What Jesus did was his own heart's whispering, and what Christians go on doing is not their own hearts' whispering. They are imitators--and the moment you imitate you insult your humanity, you insult your God.
Never be an imitator, be always original. Don't become a carbon copy. But that's what is happening all over the world--carbon copies and carbon copies.
Life is really a dance if you are an original--and you are meant to be an original. Just look how different Krishna is from Buddha. If Krishna had followed Buddha, we would have missed one of the most beautiful men of this earth. Or if Buddha had followed Krishna, he would have been just a poor specimen. Just think of Buddha playing on the flute!--he would have disturbed many people's sleep, he was not a flute player. Just think of Buddha dancing; it looks so ridiculous, just absurd.
And the same is the case with Krishna. Sitting underneath a tree with no flute, with no crown of peacock feathers, with no beautiful clothes--just sitting like a beggar under a tree with closed eyes, nobody dancing around him, nothing of the dance, nothing of the song--and Krishna would look so poor, so impoverished. A Buddha is a Buddha, a Krishna is a Krishna, and you are you. And you are not in any way less than anybody else. Respect yourself, respect your own inner voice and follow it.
A Buddha is a
Buddha, a Krishna
is a Krishna, and
you are you.
And you are not in any way less than
Respect yourself, respect your own
inner voice and
And remember, I am not guaranteeing you that it will always lead you to the right. Many times it will take you to the wrong, because to come to the right door one has to knock first on many wrong doors. That's how it is. If you suddenly stumble upon the right door, you will not be able to recognize that it is right. So remember, in the ultimate reckoning no effort is ever wasted; all efforts contribute to the ultimate climax of your growth.
So don't be hesitant, don't be worried too much about going wrong. That is one of the problems: people have been taught never to do anything wrong, and then they become so hesitant, so fearful, so frightened of doing wrong, that they become stuck. They cannot move, something wrong may happen. So they become like rocks, they lose all movement.
Commit as many
mistakes as possible,
remembering only one
thing: don't commit
the same mistake
And you will be
Commit as many mistakes as possible, remembering only one thing: don't commit the same mistake again. And you will be growing. It is part of your freedom to go astray, it is part of your dignity to go even against God. And it is sometimes beautiful to go even against God. This is how you will start having a spine; otherwise there are millions of people, spineless.
Forget all about what you have been told, "This is right and this is wrong." Life is not so fixed. The thing that is right today may be wrong tomorrow, the thing that is wrong this moment may be right the next moment. Life cannot be pigeonholed; you cannot label it so easily, "This is right and this is wrong." Life is not a chemist's shop where every bottle is labeled and you know what is what. Life is a mystery: one moment something fits and then it is right; another moment, so much water has gone down the Ganges that it no longer fits and it is wrong.
What is my definition of right? That which is harmonious with existence is right, and that which is disharmonious with existence is wrong. You will have to be very alert each moment, because it has to be decided each moment afresh. You cannot depend on ready-made answers for what is right and what is wrong. Only stupid people depend on ready-made answers because then they need not be intelligent, there is no need. You already know what is right and what is wrong, you can memorize the list; the list is not very big.
The Ten Commandments--so simple!--you know what is right and what is wrong. But life goes on changing continuously. If Moses comes back, I don't think he will give you the same ten commandments--he cannot. After three thousand years, how can he give you the same commandments? He will have to invent something new.
But my own understanding is this: whenever commandments are given, they create difficulties for people because by the time they are given they are already out of date. Life moves so fast; it is a dynamism, it is not static. It is not a stagnant pool, it is a Ganges, it goes on flowing. It is never the same for two consecutive moments. So one thing may be right this moment and may not be right the next.
Then what to do? The only possible thing is to make people so aware that they themselves can decide how to respond to a changing life.
A Zen story:
There were two temples, rivals. Both the masters--they must have been only so-called masters, must have really been priests--were so much against each other that they told their followers never to look at the other temple.
Each of the priests had a boy to serve him, to go and fetch things for him, to go on errands. The priest of the first temple told his boy servant, "Never talk to the other boy. Those people are dangerous."
But boys are boys. One day they met on the road, and the boy from the first temple asked the other, "Where are you going?"
given, they create
difficulties for people,
because by the time
they are given
they are already
out of date.
Life moves so fast; it
is a dynamism, it is
The other said, "Wherever the wind takes me." He must have been listening to great Zen things in the temple; he said, "Wherever the wind takes me." A great statement, pure Tao.
But the first boy was very much embarrassed, offended, and he could not find how to answer him. Frustrated, angry, and also feeling guilty ... "My master said not to talk with these people. These people really are dangerous. Now, what kind of answer is this? He has humiliated me."
He went to his master and told him what had happened: "I am sorry that I talked to him. You were right, those people are strange. What kind of answer is this? I asked him, 'Where are you going?'--a simple, formal question--and I knew he was going to the market, just as I was going to the market. But he said, 'Wherever the wind takes me.'"
The master said, "I warned you, but you didn't listen. Now look, tomorrow you stand at the same place again. When he comes, ask him, 'Where are you going?' and he will say, 'Wherever the wind takes me.' Then you also be a little more philosophical. Say, 'If you don't have any legs, then?'--because the soul is bodiless and the wind cannot take the soul anywhere--'What about that?'"
The boy wanted to be absolutely ready; the whole night he repeated it again and again and again. And next morning very early he went there, stood on the right spot, and at the exact time the other boy came. He was very happy, now he was going to show him what real philosophy is. So he asked, "Where are you going?" And he was waiting ... .
But the boy said, "I am going to fetch vegetables from the market."
Now, what to do with the philosophy he had learned?
Life is like that. You cannot prepare for it, you cannot be ready for it. That's its beauty, that's its wonder, that it always takes you unawares, it always comes as a surprise. If you have eyes you will see that each moment is a surprise and no ready-made answer is ever applicable.
THE WAY OF INTELLIGENCE
Intelligence is aliveness, it is spontaneity. It is openness, it is vulnerability. It is impartiality, it is the courage to function without conclusions. And why do I say it is a courage? It is a courage because when you function out of a conclusion the conclusion protects you; the conclusion gives you security, safety. You know it well, you know how to come to it, you are very efficient with it. To function without a conclusion is to function in innocence. There is no security; you may go wrong, you may go astray.
One who is ready to go on the exploration called truth has to be ready also to commit many errors, mistakes--has to be able to risk. One may go astray, but that is how one arrives. Going many many times astray, one learns how not to go astray. Committing many mistakes, one learns what is a mistake and how not to commit it. Knowing what is error, one comes closer and closer to what is truth. It is an individual exploration; you cannot depend on others' conclusions.
mistakes, one learns
what is a mistake and
how not to commit it.
Knowing what is
error, one comes
closer and closer to
what is truth.
It is an individual.
cannot depend on
YOU WERE BORN AS A NO-MIND. Let this sink into your heart as deeply as possible because through that, a door opens. If you were born as a no-mind, then the mind is just a social product. It is nothing natural, it is cultivated. It has been put together on top of you. Deep down you are still free, you can get out of it. One can never get out of nature, but one can get out of the artificial any moment one decides to.
Existence precedes thinking. So existence is not a state of mind, t is a state beyond. To be, not to think, is the way to know the fundamental. Science means thinking, philosophy means thinking, theology means thinking. Religiousness does not mean thinking. The religious approach is a nonthinking approach. It is more intimate, it brings you closer to reality. It drops all that hinders, it unblocks you; you start flowing into life. You don't think that you are separate, looking. You don't think that you are a watcher, aloof, distant. You meet, mingle, and merge into reality.
And there is a different kind of knowing. It cannot be called "knowledge." It is more like love, less like knowledge. It is so intimate that the word knowledge is not sufficient to express it. The word love is more adequate, more expressive.
In the history of human consciousness, the first thing that evolved was magic. Magic was a combination of science and religion. Magic had something of the mind and something of the no-mind. Then out of magic grew philosophy. Then out of philosophy grew science. Magic was both no-mind and mind. Philosophy was only mind. And then mind plus experimentation became science. Religiousness is a state of no-mind.
Religiousness and science are the two approaches to reality. Science approaches through the secondary; religiousness goes direct. Science is an indirect approach; religiousness is an immediate approach. Science goes round and round; religiousness simply penetrates to the heart of reality.
A few more things ... . Thinking can think only about the known--it can chew the already chewed. Thinking can never be original. How can you think about the unknown? Whatsoever you can manage to think will belong to the known. You can think only because you know. At the most, thinking can create new combinations.You can think about a horse who flies in the sky, who is made of gold, but nothing is new. You know birds who fly in the sky, you know gold, you know horses; you combine the three together. At the most, thinking can imagine new combinations, but it cannot know the unknown. The unknown remains beyond it. So thinking goes in a circle, goes on knowing the known again and again and again. It goes on chewing the chewed. Thinking is never original.
To come upon reality originally, radically, to come upon reality without any mediator--to come upon reality as if you are the first person to exist--that is liberating. That very newness of it liberates.
TRUTH IS AN EXPERIENCE, NOT A BELIEF. Truth never comes by studying about it; truth has to be encountered, truth has to be faced. The person who studies about love is like the person who studies about the Himalayas by looking at the map of the mountains. The map is not the mountain! And if you start believing in the map, you will go on missing the mountain. If you become too much obsessed with the map, the mountain may be there just in front of you, but still you will not be able to see it.
And that's how it is. The mountain is in front of you, but your eyes are full of maps--maps of the mountain, maps about the same mountain, made by different explorers. Somebody has climbed the mountain from the north side, somebody from the east. They have made different maps: Koran, Bible, Gita--different maps of the same truth. But you are too full of the maps, too burdened by their weight; you cannot move even an inch. You cannot see the mountain just standing in front of you, its virgin snow peaks shining like gold in the morning sun. You don't have the eyes to see it.
The prejudiced eye is blind, the heart full of conclusions is dead. Too many a priori assumptions and your intelligence starts losing its sharpness, its beauty, its intensity. It becomes dull.
Dull intelligence is what is called intellect. Your so-called intelligentsia are not really intelligent, they are just intellectual. Intellect is a corpse. You can decorate it--you can decorate it with great pearls, diamonds, emeralds, but still a corpse is a corpse.
The prejudiced eye is
blind, the heart full
of conclusions is dead.
Too many a priori
assumptions and your
losing its sharpness, its
beauty, its intensity.
It becomes dull.
Dull intelligence is
what is called
To be alive is a totally different matter.