The Empty Chair

Parmartha writes:

I was lucky enough to be around at the beginning of this lecture series in Poona one, (1979) , when Osho was unable to give lecture -  it was never fully clear why..   Whether intended or not, I found this an excellent preparation for the times when Osho would no longer be around in person.  It was also a terrific reminder to many who were addicted to his physical presence, that this could be an error.  (I myself had friends who basically did very little else (at that time) but be in Poona, and simply go to Osho’s lectures every day, and where possible darshan in the evenings, and do very little else except eat!)

An empty chair was placed on the podium, and we sat in silence for those ten days, in a satsang type atmosphere that included some interludes of music.

I later learned that the “Empty Chair” was a symbol in both Greek and Hindu spiritual practice and thought.

To me at the time it was novel, and it felt just right as a teaching device.


When Osho himself in person returned to the podium he answered a question about this, which is partly below:

Subhuti’s Question: 


Osho’s answer:

Yes, Subhuti, that’s the only way to introduce the Buddha to you. Silence is the only language he can be expressed in. Words are too profane, too inadequate, too limited.

Only an empty space…utterly silent…can represent the being of a Buddha.

There is a temple in Japan, absolutely empty, not even a statue of the Buddha in the temple, and it is known as a temple dedicated to Buddha. When visitors come and they ask, “Where is the Buddha? The temple is dedicated to him…” the priest laughs and he says, “This empty space, this silence – this is Buddha!”

Subhuti, you are right: “An empty chair….” Yes, only an empty chair can represent him.

This chair is empty, and this man talking to you is empty. It is an empty space pouring itself into you. There is nobody within, just a silence.

thOsho’s Empty Chair

I am not a person. The person died long ago. It is a presence – an absence and a presence. I am absent as a person, as an individual; I am present as a vehicle, a passage, a hollow bamboo. It can become a flute – only the hollow bamboo can become a flute.

I have given myself to the whole. Now whatsoever the will of the whole…if he wants to speak through me, I am available; if he does not want to speak through me, I am available. His will is the only will now. I have no will of my own.

This chair, Subhuti, is certainly empty. And the day you are able to see this chair empty, this body empty, this being empty, you will have seen me, you will have contacted me.

Buddhism is not the religion of prayer, it is the religion of meditation. And that’s the difference between prayer and meditation: prayer is a dialogue, meditation is a silence.

Prayer has to be addressed to somebody – real, unreal, but it has to be addressed to somebody. Meditation is not an address at all; one has simply to fall into silence, one has simply to disappear into nothingness. When one is not, meditation is.

And Buddha is meditation – that is his flavor. These ten days we remained silent, we remained in meditation. The real thing has been said. Those who have not heard the real thing, now for them I will be speaking.

These ten days were not only of silent meditation – these ten days were of music, silence, and meditation. Music is my contribution to it. Buddha would not have allowed it. On that point we would have quarreled. He would not have allowed music; he would have said that music is a disturbance. He would have insisted on pure silence, he would have said that is enough. But that is where we agree to disagree.

To me, music and meditation are two aspects of the same phenomenon. And without music, meditation lacks something; without music, meditation is a little dull, unalive.

Without meditation, music is simply noise – harmonious, but noise. Without meditation, music is an entertainment. And without music, meditation becomes more and more negative, tends to be death-oriented.

Hence my insistence that music and meditation should go together. That adds a new dimension – to both. Both are enriched by it.

I started these Buddha lectures with a ten-day silence deliberately. It was a device to start with silence – Buddha would have been very happy. He must have shrugged his shoulders a little bit because of the music, but what can I do? It can’t be helped.

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43 Responses to The Empty Chair

  1. Kavita says:

    When I came to the commune it was an empty chair, now when I think of it, probably I couldn’t deal with videos of Him on the chair!

  2. shantam prem says:

    Looking forward to read descriptions of those who have been sitting with others facing Empty Chair in Buddha Hall.

    There must be two to three regular bloggers who have participant´s experience and also a little brain to analyse why one day after years the chair was dismantled in some recycling workshop.

  3. Lokesh says:

    Osho says, “Without meditation, music is simply noise – harmonious, but noise.”

    This is not a statement made by a music lover. Music is many things, including being a universal language. To take such a statement on board and somehow believe it you would have to be completely stupid.

    I remember a story about Osho driving down the road in Oregon in one of his gas guzzlers with the radio on. ZZ Top came on and Osho asked his passenger, “Is this jazz music?” That about sums up Osho’s understanding of the western world’s amazing accomplishments in the music world.

    Yeah, I remember the empty chair episode. After meditation in Buddha Hall I would wander over to the dais and bow down with my forehead on the cool marble. I would feel filled with light and energy, really buzzed out with a shaktipat on the noggin. I believed in that sort of thing and have no idea whether it was my imagination or real. It certainly felt good.

    That’s the thing, as you believe, so the world will appear. Therefore if you believe in something it might as well be positive. A lot of people today go on about what a dark era we are living in with wars, famine, multinationals taking over the planet, while the ice caps are melting. Yes, these are realities, but really, on a general level, we never had it so good. How you see it all depends on how you look at it.

  4. shantam prem says:

    Best time to buy shares and be with a spiritual mentor is when both are not darling of the masses.

    Once crowd gathers, wise investor like Lokesh sells the shares and still keeps in touch with the market through daily news bulletins!

  5. Bong says:

    Invisibility! Lol

    Where are the links to some music?!

  6. sannyasnews says:

    Gurdjieff made this original distinction about objective and subjective music, etc.
    Anyway judge for yourself, this is someone playing some of Gurdjieff’s own compositions, which he deemed objective. They taste a little like the satsang music that used to be around in Poona one to us.

    • frank says:

      If you “judge for yourself” about “objective art”, then, in the strict Gurdjieffian definition, that means it has not worked objectively on you and/or you are in a not evolved enough state to appreciate it!!

      Which is why the post-Gurdjieffian, sannyas-style idea of objective art is a kind of diluted and more accessible version, similar to what Satchit has proposed and means something like “good new-age/ambient music that gets me in the zone”.

      Hardcore Gurdjieffians would scoff at this kind of ‘dumbing down’ and would have less time for it than a three-legged yak that had wandered into their mental energy zone!!

      The idea that the De Hartmann piece is somehow qualitatively superior because Gurdjieff has pronounced it so strikes me a completely outdated `classical versus modern` idea and doesn`t work for me and I doubt very much for most meditators either.

      There is loads of avant-garde/ambient spacey meditative piano stuff out there that`s good for meditation.

      E.g. Have you come across Harold Budd?

  7. Prem says:

    I will believe you have understood “the empty chair” — the moment the comment section to this site is also empty.

  8. Lokesh says:

    It is common that enlightened people are also musicians. On another level, anyone who does not play an instrument will not understand that one of the highs of playing an instrument in a band is that you do not think, especially when playing a solo.

    Watch a Rolling Stones concert, performed in front of an audience of half a million people. In their seventies the boys in the band are here and now, which is one of the reasons they are still touring. They obviously cannot replicate the feeling of playing live in any other situation in life.

    Last time I went to a Stones concert it was best described as a religious experience and it had nothing to do with catharsis, as Satchit suggests.*

    Remember it was a religious experience, not a spiritual one. There is a world of difference. When the concert kicked off the whole stadium rose to its feet and started dancing. Everyone was happy, many were ecstatic.

    Mind you, it was not Altamont. Suggested viewing, ‘Gimme Shelter’. An excellent documentary that encapsulates the end of the hippy era and portrays the nightmare of playing on stage when things go horribly wrong.

    * I do not think Satchit understands what he is talking about, but rather repeating something he has heard because he thinks it sounds good.

    • satchit says:

      “Last time I went to a Stones concert it was best described as a religious experience and it had nothing to do with catharsis, as Satchit suggests.*”

      Last time I had a religious experience in a football stadium…

      Satchit, PLEASE CLARIFY:
      DO YOU MEAN THIS WAS THE LAST TIME YOU had a religious experience, OR THIS WAS THE last time YOU had a religious experience in a football stadium?

      • satchit says:

        I’m just kidding.

        If someone calls it a “religious experience” in a Stones concert, then one can call it also a “religious experience” singing “You’ll never walk alone!” in a football stadium.

        • satyadeva says:

          Or “Glory, Glory Hallelujah, and the Spurs go marching on!”, which, sung by a 60,000 crowd supporting a wonderful team, used to totally thrill me when I was about 15, especially amidst the ‘White Light’ of a floodlit stadium on a midweek evening, far away from the confines of home and school.

          I recall the morning after such an occasion, telling my mother it had been “the greatest experience of my life”. She didn’t understand, said I was talking nonsense, which I found a bit depressing (shades of ‘Adrian Mole’!).

          But I knew I’d participated in a powerful collective emotional phenomenon and been uplifted by it all, which I suppose is approaching one definition of a ‘religious experience’, and God knows, I needed something uplifting in those times. But, as Lokesh has said, nothing whatsoever ‘spiritual’ about it.

          In fact, now I see it’s intrinsically flawed, given much of the joy of such occasions is contingent upon ‘my team winning’, preferably in some style, meaning of course the other lot lose, which probably won’t seem like any sort of fun to them and their fans. Except if they ‘see through it all’….

          • simond says:

            Nicely put, Sat. The power of the mob, eh!

            As it happens, I passed the Remembrance Parade in Bristol on Sunday. The moment the whole crowd went silent. A stillness descended on a couple of thousand people. For a moment, everyone was silent.

            It had an unreal feeling, I guess because it is unusual for so large a crowd to be silent consciously.

            And as I too reflected, I sensed that the silence just reflected a mob-like compliance and deep belief to remember, to re-focus on the past, on war, and all it does it keeps the pain alive.

            The silence had no sense of the simplicity of the present, of the timeless. Remembrance Sunday is just another excuse to keep people tied to the past.

      • frank says:

        I expect Satchit is a disciple of the Anfield Advaitist, Bal Shankarly, who famously said:

        “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

    • James Abbott says:

      It is true that many musicians consider themselves enlightened despite being the furthest from enlightenment. The musician has to drop the adoration and self-importance in order to attain and that is too much for most, having come so close…it is like being on stage.

  9. swamishanti says:

    Some rock music certainly can lift one higher.

    Osho said something like, “Music is perfect when the listener enters the same space as the musician who created it.”

    I think that has a hint of truth to it.

    I was listening to a piece, ‘Blows against the Empire’ by Jefferson Starship and a collection of San Francisco musicians the other night, after painting the ceiling.

    “Dear Brumus, the ship’ll be ours and you got to roll with it
    Though your master’s head’s blown off you got to go with it
    Roll with the natural flow
    Like water off a spinning ball
    Out – the one remaining way to go
    Free – the only way to fall
    The light in the night is the sun
    And it can carry you around the planetary ground
    And the planetary whip of the sun
    Will carry you well past Gideon
    And the people you see will leave you be
    more than the ones you’ve known before
    Hey – rollin’ on
    We come and go like a comet
    We are wanderers
    Are you anymore?
    The land is green and you make it grow
    And you gotta let go you know
    You gotta let go you know
    You gotta let go you know
    Or else you stay
    At first
    I was irridescent
    I became transparent
    I was absent.”

  10. shantam prem says:

    The other Saturday I went with one lady friend to Swinger´s club. I can even write a complete experience about this low level of Tantra! This experience gives enough understanding to write about objective and subjective matters.

    Men and women involved in a gang bang or emotionless sex experience objective side of lovemaking. I think more right word will be fucking, mutual fucking. With emotions and feelings it becomes subjective experience.

    Tantra classes and courses too objectify the love. To be in love which crowns us human beings and dethrones us is subjective matter.

    Music is subjective only if the writer and singer have created it out of their life experience, mostly it is a work of throaty voice and professional word building.

    • frank says:

      That has got to be the most bizarre take on `objective art` ever. Really made me laugh.
      Thanks, man.

    • satyadeva says:

      “Men and women involved in a gang bang or emotionless sex experience objective side of lovemaking. I think more right word will be fucking, mutual fucking. With emotions and feelings it becomes subjective experience.”

      Are you sure no emotion is involved in what you term the “objective side of lovemaking”, or rather “fucking, mutual fucking”, Shantam? Perhaps, ‘not very nice’, entirely selfish, exploitative emotion, as it were, that you probably wouldn’t like to tell your mother about (or even, perhaps, admit to yourself?) but emotion nonetheless – as opposed to feeling?

      And Tantra courses (btw, I wonder how many genuine teachers there actually are – very few, I suspect) also “objectify the love”? If so, it ain’t the real deal, surely?

      Still, as Frank says, however confused your connections might be, you have provided a good laugh with this one.

      • frank says:

        I heard recently that some tantra group-leaders in UK have decided on an age limit of 60 for participants.

        My old sannyasin mate, Gagan Forrit, who`s just got his bus pass, was fuming:
        “They need to be more objective about this. I`ve been in more gangbangs than they`ve had hot dinners,” he catharted, “I`ve had my cardiogram and my enneagram checked just recently, there`s nothing wrong with me – I`m a hardened tantra veteran – especially now I`ve just got a new stash of Viagra. I was going to show those young chicks a trick or two,” he continued as he stroked his three remaining strands of greasy grey hair back across the rash on his sweaty pate and grinned his distinctive, partly toothless grin through his scraggly beard that still had some of last night`s dal on it.

    • Lokesh says:

      Shantam, ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, by The Stones, has to be your theme song.

  11. shantam prem says:

    Just heard it first time and must say, yes, yes, Lokesh, I can relate with the wording of this song, ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, by The Stones.

  12. shantam prem says:

    I have not a deep knowledge or interest in western music. Still a bit I have the taste, John Denver’s ‘You fill up my senses’ and Abba’s ‘I believe in wonder’ are closest to my inner self.

    John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ I can also add, but if I have worth more than investment bankers! Too much imaginative idealism destroys vulnerable and sensitive hearts whereas preachers of such porn live very pragmatic life.

  13. madhu dagmar frantzen says:

    “To possess a whole country is the effort of the politicians. To possess another being is the effort, on a small scale, of being political, to dominate, to dictate, to control, to manipulate; your ego is enhanced. You start killing.”

    Osho, ‘Tao: The Three Treasures’, Vol 4, Ch 4

    I have felt these nights, looking for some ´hot chilli´ spices (offered by Oshonews every now and then found like this quote from September last year) to add to this UK website´s ´cooking’ of a viral topic-thread soup and its facilitators/editors/ adminstrators/ contributors.

    I´d say, either you´ve had – and got by grace, I´d say – some glimpses of an ´Empty Chair’ in Osho´s Lifetime in the body – or that may not have happened by now.

    By grace, it happened to me – and happened as the most sober existential experience of how that feels (and even the word ´feeling´ is not appropriate though) – how that is if I am NOT and everything IS.

    More REAL and peaceful than anything before – and mostly also after (!) that timeless moment in time and – by grace – unforgettable.

    Mind didn´t and doesn´t let me off the hook so easily though. And I´m not mastering that kind of mind yet, but on my way and learned that any fighting it reinforces what I´m up to getting rid of.


    Maybe the Inner Circle did remove the chair to avoid some esoteric mambo-jumbo, but who knows ? I´m not concerned nor able to figure that one out….

  14. shantam prem says:

    We are living in the times of youtube. One can broadcast great thoughts just through mobile. Once the thought reaches few people one can start attracting real gathering.

    Just imagine someone talks or sings convincingly and uploads videos on youtube with the theme, “Drop your unis. They create slave mind. Drop your 9-5 job, you are not just a machine but divine soul. This ambitious competitive world won´t survive longer, we are going to create better world. Just imagine, we are all one. We have one kitchen, one bank account. We all work for Love. Love is the only value which matters. Love is the rose, Love is the sky. Love is above husband, wife, kids and a dog. Come, my friends, come. Let us imagine together a New world, New Humanity.”

    Dear readers, ask yourself: Will you trust a person who speaks like this? Would you like young people in your family to drop their universities and jobs and follow this great youtube visionary?

    That is why I say one should be rooted solidly in the corrupt world to enjoy the poetry of great orators and singers.

    These people who talk about no ambition are very ambitious about their words. These people who think world will come to an end soon, plan very carefully how their legacy will continue after their death!

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