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:
AN EMPTY CHAIR
A SILENT HALL
AN INTRODUCTION TO BUDDHA -
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.
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.