To think that you know is to be immature. To function from knowledge, from conclusion, is to be immature. To function from no-knowledge, from no conclusion, from no past, is maturity.
Maturity is deep trust in your own consciousness; immaturity is a distrust in your own consciousness. When you distrust your consciousness you trust your knowledge, but that is a substitute and a very poor substitute at that. Try to understand this—it is important.
You have been living, you have experienced many things; you have read, you have listened, you have thought. Now all those conclusions are there. When a certain situation arises, you can function in two ways. You can function through all the accumulated past—through conclusions, through experiences which are stale and dead, then whatsoever you do your response is, not going to be a response, it will be a reaction. And to be reactionary is to be immature.
Or, if you can function right now, here in this moment, through your consciousness, through your being aware, putting aside all that you have known—this is what I call functioning through no-knowledge or through innocence. And this is maturity.
The mind is immature when it is not ready to learn. The ego feels very fulfilled if it need not learn anything from anybody; the ego feels very enhanced if it feels that it already knows. But the problem is that life goes on changing, it is never the same; it goes on flowing, it is a flux. Then your knowledge will always remain the same. Your knowledge is not evolving with life, it is stuck somewhere in the past, and whenever you react through it, you will miss the point because it will not be exactly the right thing to do. Life has changed but your knowledge remains the same, and you act out of this knowledge. That means you face today with your yesterday’s knowledge. You will never be able to be alive. The more you function through knowledge, the more immature you become.
Maturity has nothing to do with age
Now let me tell you a paradox: every child who is innocent is mature. Maturity has nothing to do with age because it has nothing to do with experience; maturity has something to do with responsiveness, freshness, virginity, innocence. So when I use the word “mature” I don’t mean that when you become more experienced you will be more mature. That’s what people usually mean when they use the word but I don’t mean that. The more you gather knowledge, the more your mind will become immature; and by the time you are 70 or 80 years old, you will be completely immature because you will have a stale past to function through.
Watch a small child… knowing nothing, having no experience, he functions here and now. That’s why children can learn more than aged people. Psychologists say that if a child is not forced to learn, not forced to discipline himself, he can learn any foreign language in three months. Just left to himself with people who know the language he will catch it in three months. But if you force him to learn, it will take almost three years, because the more you force, the more he starts functioning through whatsoever he learns, through yesterday’s knowledge. If he is left to himself he moves freely, spontaneously; learning comes easy, by itself, on its own accord. By the time the child reaches eight years of age, he has learned almost 70 per cent of whatsoever he is going to learn in his whole life. He may live 80 years, but by the time he is eight he has learned 70 per cent—he will learn only 30 per cent more, and every day his capacity to learn will be less and less and less. The more he knows, the less he learns.
When people use the word “maturity” they mean more knowledge; when I use the word “maturity” I mean the capacity to learn. Not to know but to learn—and they are totally different and diametrically opposite things.
Knowledge is a dead thing; the capacity to learn is an alive process. It enables you to learn to remain available, open and ready to receive. Learning is receptivity. Knowledge makes you less receptive because you go on thinking that if you already know, what is there to learn? When you already know, you miss much; when you don’t know anything you cannot miss anything.
Socrates said in his old age, “Now I know nothing!” That was maturity. At the very end he said, “I know nothing.” Life is so vast. How can this tiny mind know? At the most, glimpses are enough. Even they are too much. Existence is so tremendously vast and infinite, beginningless, endless… how can this tiny drop of consciousness know it? It is enough even if a few glimpses appear, a few doors open, a few moments happen when you come in contact with existence. But those moments cannot be turned into knowledge. And when your mind tends to do it, then it becomes more and more immature.
Keep the mirror clean
So the first thing is that you should be capable of learning and your learning capacity should never be burdened by knowledge, never be covered by dust. The mirror of learning should remain clean and fresh so it can go on reflecting. The mind can function in two ways. It can function like a camera: once exposed, finished—the film immediately becomes knowledgeable and it loses its learning capacity. Exposed once and it already knows—now it is useless; now it is not capable of learning more. If you expose it again and again it will become more confused. That’s why people who know too much are always afraid of learning… because they will become confused. They are already exposed films.
Then there is another type of learning—learning like a mirror. Expose the mirror for a thousand and one times, it makes no difference—if you come in front of the mirror, you are reflected; if you go, the reflection goes. The mirror never accumulates. The film in the camera immediately accumulates—it catches hold, clings, but the mirror simply mirrors: you come in front, you are in it; you go, you are gone.
This is the way to remain mature. Every child is born mature and almost all people die immature. This will look very paradoxical but this is so. Remain innocent and you will remain mature.
Excerpted from Ancient Music in the Pines; Talks on Zen Stories by Osho, Courtesy: Osho International Foundation www.osho.com
This was first published in the December 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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