Obviously, I have slacked a bit on my weekly love letters- but as my mom told me via text message, I shouldn't let something ("something" referring to this blog) meant to help me with my anxiety give me more anxiety. But in the continued spirit of gratitude, I wanted to write a love letter to my wonderful friends and collaborators Val, Himerria, and Teresa. As most of you probably already know from our collective social media profiles, our little play went remarkably well. It was beautiful and thought-provoking. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. Many of you were able to attend, or watch on Facebook Live and Instagram Live, and I hope others of you will watch our archival video that we will post on YouTube soon. We might even make an actual short film based on the play sometime in the future. But I'm feeling the need to memorialize our wonderful, ephemeral piece of theater in yet another way, by "essay-fying" it on this blog. I am also interested in the general experiment of adapting a piece of my writing into another medium- and what better place to experiment with writing than here? So whether you were able to see the play version or not, I hope you enjoy the essay version of "Thinking of Monkeys," which includes the transcript of Val's song lyrics, and which is illustrated and interspersed with some of the photos I used as inspiration while writing the text.
Thinking of Monkeys
Phase 1: The Root Problem of all Problems
There is a story that the great spiritual leader Osho tells, a story that a monkey once came to Buddha.
There is a story that the great, honorable leader Osho tells, in which the monkey represents man, the monkey means the mind.
Osho tells us this story in his book on meditation and achieving inner peace, called "The Inner Journey." You can read text from the book on the Osho Online Library on osho.com. The story is about a man, but if it had been about a woman, it would have gone like this:
Once there was a woman who was plagued by her own thoughts. The more she tried to resist the constant shrill of fear and doubt and endless over-analysis, the stronger the fears and doubts and analyses became. Thoughts are stubborn. Thoughts are loud. Throw a thought away, and it will return a million and one times. The woman was tired, but the thoughts never got tired. So she sought out a teacher- the great and honorable teacher, Osho- and the teacher replied,
"I will give you a mantra, that you must repeat
"This mantra will help you find the peace you seek. But it is important to remember, while you repeat your mantra:
NOT TO THINK OF MONKEYS
And the woman replied (with much laughter):
"Of course I will remember not to think of monkeys- I've never had occasion to think of monkeys before, and I don't see why I would have occasion now."
So off the woman went.
Off to not think about monkeys.
But of course
The monkeys came.
Phase 2: The Blind Eye
What does it mean to turn a blind eye?
To "see no evil"?
What does it mean to stay silent in the face of evil?
In the face of truth?
What does it mean to plug one's ears to the sounds of screaming?
....What does the great and honorable spiritual leader Osho say on this subject?
....He talks about monkeys.
Phase 3- The Silent Sister
(and the first money whispers) It's time for the entrances.
Enter Electra, mourning for her murdered father.
(And the Chorus says): Electra, child of the wretchedest of mothers, why with ceaseless lament do you waste away sorrowing for one long dead?
(and Electra says): I waste away for what is right. I waste away for the truth.
And enter the sister.
And enter the sister, asking the question:
(the Sister asks a question): How can I bring the dead to life again?
(and the sister says):
My sister found me in the parlor and she said grow a spine, wake up, don't you see, do what's right
My sister found me in the parlor she was covered in blood
Covered in mud
I said I told you this would happen. I told you we would be left with nothing.
You are left with nothing, she said. I am left with righteousness. I am left with justice.
And I am left to pick up the pieces, I said.
(and the sister continues, alone now):
My name is Chrysothemis, a name which means, in parts, "golden" and "order."
My name is Chrysothemis and you probably know me as a daughter, as a sister, if you know me at all. Some writers cut me out of my stories- some writers cut me out of my families. My sisters are all more famous than I am. My sisters all have louder voices.
It's hard to be a sister when all you are is a sister.
My sisters are fierce and bold.
I am neither.
I am the silent sister.
I live in the middle.
I live in a place where there is order. I live in a place against chaos.
Try to, anyway.
And I don't get admired for it.
But I also don't get killed.
What does it mean to be a pacifist in a world where pacifism does not exist?
And what if she's right? What if Electra is right?
What if pacifism is a sin?
What if it is an excuse to stand for nothing, to let evil rampage, to stay safe at the expense of your own soul?
It's always the younger sister who does the fighting.
I am the older sister. The silent sister.
I speak no truth.
But I don't get killed.
(and the second monkey whispers) It's time for the exit.
Exit the sister.
Exit the monkey.
Phase 4- When Ignorance Becomes Luminous
Mahatma Ghandi had a statue with him, always on his table. He loved that statue. Somebody had presented it to him; it was an ancient Chinese and Japanese symbol: four monkeys. One monkey tightly closing his eyes- the way he is holding his hands and covering his eyes shows definitively that he wants to see. That very tightness, that forced effort to keep his eyes closed, shows that he is afraid that at just the littlest opportunity, he will see. The old metaphor is: don't see anything evil. The monkey is repressing his desire to see.
(imagine a gong noise here, ok?)
THE FIRST MONKEY:
Don't look at the truth; otherwise your God will be dead and your heaven and hell will disappear.
(see no evil?)
See no truth.
Phase 5- Hear no Truth
Mahatma Ghandi had a statue with him, always on his table. It was an ancient Chinese and Japanese symbol: four monkeys. One monkey tightly closing his eyes. And another monkey covering his ears, blocking out the sounds of evil. There is a story that Osho tells about a monkey who smashed his hands over his ears to block out the sounds of the truth. That story is not about a woman, but if it had been, it would have gone like this:
Long ago when human was young
Their eyes were wide and quick their tongue
And their hearts were small, but most of all
Their ears were barbed, wide and tall
When heard a sound they did not like
They closed them up, relied on sight
And foes beware, for when they fight
They hear no cries for mercy
And then one day, a babe was born
With ears unbarbed, shriveled and short
And she could hear everything
She could hear everything
She could hear everything
When they laughed
When they pointed and stared
She tried not to but she cared
And a beast there came that none could see
It made a sound but only she
Could hear his faint and gentle plea
“Close up your ears, and welcome me”
And the beast came for slaughter
the beast came for blood
And none but one daughter
Could hear where he trod
She fought it with sword and with spirit and rod
But none else would hear it
For fear kept them from
The woman grew tired
from fighting alone
The woman was weary,
and heavy as stone
And so she begged them one by one
“Learn to listen and the battle is won”
(Open your ears)
And one man chose to fight his fears
Close his eyes, and open his ears
And sure enough the beast came near
And they could hear everything
He could hear everything
So they fought together
.....till the beast did burn
Then they taught together
So all could learn that the
Reward of knowledge is one you earn when you choose to hear
Choose to hear everything
And as time went on
And human evolved
Short barbs were safer
For the problems they solved
And so they got smaller and smaller and smaller
And human developed a voice
Until the ability to listen was no bigger
Than a choice
And now, we can hear everything
But we still don’t listen.... That’s the thing.
And we laugh, and we point and stare.
We ignore and we fear
We yell and we and fight
And we swear that we’re right
But we can’t seem to listen...
But we could hear everything
We could hear everything
We could hear everything
Its choosing to listen... that’s the thing...
(another gong sound goes here, ok?)
THE SECOND MONKEY
Don't listen to the truth. It will disturb all your consoling lies.
Phase 6- Chrysothemis, Richly Dressed
There were four kinds of monkey, this we have learned.
The first never saw, and the next never heard.
There were two kinds of silence, this we all know.
The kind that was forced, and the kind that they chose.
The third monkey's mute at her own deep behest.
Enter her from the palace. She is richly dressed.
THE THIRD MONKEY:
Don't speak the truth, otherwise you will be condemned, crucified, poisoned, tortured by the whole crowd, the unconscious people. You will be condemned, don't speak the truth!
"Oh think, sister, our rulers are stronger than we.
And we must obey in this, or in worse than this.
May the dead forgive me, I can do no other
But as I am commanded; to do more is madness.
I am the silent sister. The well-dressed sister.
I speak no truth.
But I don't get killed.
I don't get killed.
Phase 7- See no Truth
-the one monkey is tightly closing his eyes- but - he wants to see. He isn't afraid of the seeing. He is afraid of his desire to see. He isn't afraid of falling apart. He is afraid of the fact that he wants to fall apart.
Osho says in "The Book of Wisdom" that orgasmic peaks have nothing to do with sex, in fact they have much to do with silence, and that if you can be silent while making love, you have a built-in process to take you to the farthest shore.
Phase 8- Feel no Truth
The fourth monkey is different from the others. This monkey does not cover her eyes or her ears or her mouth. She covers instead the deepest parts of herself. She is the woman on the sidewalk who apologizes when a man bumps into her. She is the girl who always smiles and says "she's fine." But behind her polite smile, this woman, this fourth monkey, harbors shadows so dark and bottomless that she fears they would swallow men whole if she were to unleash them, and a light so bright she worries it will cause the men to go blind. The fourth monkey does not shut herself off from the truth. But she does not let her own truth shine out over the Earth.
These people who have been thought to be messengers of God, who have been teaching compassion, love, have never considered at all that a woman is also human. The reason is very clear. The reason is: they are afraid of women. And it is a psychological truth that you are afraid and at the same time fascinated.
Someone once described Osho as the most dangerous man since Jesus Christ.
The fourth monkey opens her mouth wide and out pours a scream, and in the scream she says, do not feel your truth. Keep your pleasures, your joys, hidden. Don't let anybody know that you are happy, because they will want to destroy that happiness. They will want to destroy you.
Phase 9- Thinking of Monkeys
So off the woman went, off to not think about monkeys.
Off the woman went, off to not think about monkeys.
Off the woman went...
BUT OF COURSE
THE MONKEYS CAME
But of course,
the monkeys came.
If you think of monkeys, it may be that they do not come to you. But if you try not to think of monkeys, if you want the monkeys not to come to you, they will find you. Monkeys are stubborn. Throw a monkey away, and it will return a million and one times. You will get tired. But the monkeys will never tire.
(The truth will never tire. The truth will always find you, no matter how hard you try to hide.)
And when the woman went back to her teacher the next day....
....I was reading this all from the Osho Online Library on osho.com...but now it won't let me read anything.
It's telling me I have to register with the website in order to continue having access.
...I'm looking at the meditation link on the website now, and it won't give me any of the mantras anymore.
What does it mean to turn a blind eye?
It's just directing me to the osho.com store.
To shut your ears to the sounds of screaming?
And now it's asking me for my credit card information, so...
To bar your lips from speaking for those that cannot?
Do we actually know who this Osho guy is?
What happens when we harden our hearts to the truth?
Phase 10- Dreaming of Monkeys
The morning after.
I wake up. I put on my fine dress. I put up my hair and I wash my face in cold water. I walk down the hallway, one step at a time, lifting up my skirts so they won't drag in the blood. I walk outside and I look at the sun. I take a breath.
I have been here before. I have waited silently in my room while the people I love most have been killed outside my door: first my older sister, killed at the hands of my father. Then my father, killed at the hands of my mother. Finally my mother, killed at the hands of my younger sister and my brother. I have waited until their dying screams have dwindled to nothing before falling asleep on my floor. I have had to wake up, as I have woken up today, and I have had to remember how to breathe.
What could I do? My sister, my brother, my father, my mother, they were all stronger than I was. They had justice and righteousness on their side. All I have is my fear. My silence. All I ever wanted was order. All I ever wanted was for everyone to like me. But now there's no one left to like me. Now everyone is dead.
What does it mean to stay silent?
It means you don't get killed.
But it means you live for nothing.
Epiloque- So Who Is This "Osho" Guy Anyway?
You could try to find out on osho.com, but you really will be locked out of content and asked to register, or be directed to their online store.
"Osho" was born Chandra Moran Jain on December 11, 1931 in British India, but he began calling himself the "Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh" when he began assembling his first disciples in 1970. Rajneesh's teachings were eradic and contradictory, making them hard to summarize, but they were all characterized by a lack of reverence for traditional spiritualism and enlightenment. Some of his more controversial teachings included promoting euthanasia for disabled children and genetic selection, claiming that he predicted humanity's extinction by AIDS, and lauding materialism and the accumulation of wealth as a spiritual value; it is rumored that he drove a different Rolls-Royce every day. In 1974, Rajneesh moved to Koregaon Park, Pune, which became the center of his ashram, and indeed is still the headquarters of the present-day Osho International Meditation Resort. The ashram began to offer controversial therapies for its followers, including alleged encouraged violence as part of "therapy groups." By the late 1970s, the Poona ashram was too small to contain Rajneesh's fast-growing following, which mostly contained American and European followers. Rajneesh's lectures infamously changed during this period, becoming less focused and intellectual and featuring more shocking sexual and ethnic jokes. On April 10 1981, Rajneesh entered a three-and-a-half year period of self-imposed public silence. In 1981, Rajneesh hired a secretary, Ma Anand Sheela, to whose he gave power of attorney over his affairs, and with her established a new commune in Oregon in the United States. The new commune ran into conflict with county residents and the State government almost immediately, and as a result, Ma Anand Sheela led the commune in a 1985 bioterror attack against the residents of The Dalles, Oregon. Members of the commune intentionally contaminated salad bars at ten local restaurants with salmonella, as well as offered contaminated water to authorities who visited the compound. The salmonella led to the food poisoning of 751 Oregon residents and the attack is the single largest bioterrorist attack in the United States. The followers of Rajneesh hoped to incapacitate the voting population of the city so that members of their own community would win the 1984 Waco County elections, thus gaining the commune more power and influence, with the ultimate goal of securing political power over the entire state of Oregon. Upon the indictment of Ma Anand Sheela and his followers, the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh fled back to India, where he changed his name to the Japanese honorific "Osho." He died in 1990 on his Pune compound. To this day, his teachings maintain a strong presence, especially because of his online presence- many social media users post inspirational quotes attributed to him, completely unaware of "who this Osho guy really is." And many young theatre maker write entire plays based on his teachings- until they do a little more research after they get shut out of the website.