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Marcus Aurelius

marcus aurelius
Born 121 AD
Reigned 161 - 180 AD.

Hadrian determined upon Marcus Aurelius for the succession while he was still a child. Marcus was the nephew of Faustina and her husband Antoninus Pius, who succeeded Hadrian. On the death of Hadrian, Marcus married their daughter.
A few years after his accession in 161 AD Marcus was plunged into warfare on the northern frontiers, where it was essential that the emperor himself led the campaigns. Here he wrote his philosophical meditations. Before he could bring these wars to a satisfactory conclusion, he was forced to go to the east where his general Avidius Cassius had raised rebellion. He was back on the Danube by 178 AD and remained there till his death in 180 AD.
One of the notable features of his reign is his promotion of army officers and civilian administrators on merit, rather than on noble birth. The increasing employment of the middle classes had begun under Hadrian. Marcus refined the process, appointing capable people to posts most suited to their abilities.
The latter reminds one of meritocracy, advocated by Osho on many different occasions, like for example in his book The Last Testament, vol. 4 #24 :


Do you think that a democracy is a desirable political system?

No. Democracy is better than dictatorship, but in my vision there is something higher than democracy. I call it meritocracy.
In my idea of meritocracy there is no need for any political party. Persons should stand on their own merit. Every individual should choose the person, without any political party programming him, forcing him, bribing him.
Individuals should stand, and individuals should choose, and the choice should be on merit. Just as you choose your bureaucracy - but that is not an election, it is an appointment. Your political system should be an election of merit, and the press can play a tremendously valuable role in explaining to the masses the merits of different people who are contesting.
I think only a meritocracy is the answer for our problems. Idiots are trying to solve problems which they don't understand at all.

Marcus Aurelius - The Enlightened Unenlightened Emperor

Your being is a mystery. The more you know, the less you know it. The deeper you go, the more you see the infiniteness. The depth is such that you cannot touch the bottom of it - never. People who think they know themselves are very superficial. People of depth always become aware of something unknown. And it is beautiful because the unknown is always alive, the unknown is always infinite. The unknown is eternal.
Socrates said, "Know thyself!" He means: try to know thyself. Not that you will be able to know. And after Socrates, a Roman, Marcus Aurelius, said. "Be thyself!" He is better than Socrates. To know thyself is impossible, but to be thyself is possible. There is no need to know. Just be. Knowledge is irrelevant; being is enough. Just be yourself.
So don't try to find a definition of your being. It is impossible. Live it, you can. Know it, you cannot. But why be bothered about knowing? Is not being enough?


This is my understanding: unless you can enjoy the meaningless, you will never become religious. God, to me, is the meaningless beauty that surrounds you, the meaningless song that is heard all around: the meaningless murmur of a brook, the meaningless whisper of the winds, the meaningless silence of the stars. Tremendously beautiful, but meaningless. Why do I say meaningless? Because it is unknowable.
A thing remains meaningless unless it is known. Once you know, then it is meaningful. And I tell you, stars are mysterious, but they are nothing compared to your inner being. Rivers are mysterious, but they are nothing compared to your inner stream of consciousness. The Himalayas are mysterious, but nothing as compared to your inner peaks of ecstasy.
Be, rather than know. Marcus Aurelius looks to me to be of more and deeper understanding when he says, "Be thyself!" than Socrates when he says, "Know thyself!" Though I know well that you cannot be yourself unless you try the Socratic dictum: know thyself! Try to know. You will never be able to know, and by and by, you will drop the inquiry of knowing and you will start being. Knowing is philosophy, being is religion.


In your being, you are God. I will not even say with God. In your being, just this very moment, you are God, you are divine. No knowledge is needed.
Don't be worried about it. Nobody has ever known who he is. He is! And all those who have said that they know are just repeating cliches. They must have read it in the scriptures. But those are only words. You can say: "I am Brahma," or "I am Atman," or "I am the supreme self," but these words are cliches. They are ugly. They don't say anything, they don't mean anything.
You say, "I feel like I need grounding." Yes, that's good. You need it. But grounding has nothing to do with knowledge; grounding has something to do with being. That's why I say Marcus Aurelius is better than Socrates when he says, "Be thyself!"

(Osho in Come Follow to You, vol. 2 #6)

In the old monarchical days it was possible that in the western hemisphere a man like Marcus Aurelius could happen. He was a religious man, but this was just accidental. Marcus Aurelius cannot become a president or a prime minister today because he would not go asking for votes; he would not beg - for what?

(Osho in From Ignorance to Innocence #15)

In the East we have all the three words that English has, but we also have a fourth word that English - or any Western language - has missed. And the reason is not just linguistic; the reason is that this kind of experience has not been available to them.
The first word is 'concentration'. In the East we call it ekagrata, one-pointedness.
The second word is 'contemplation'. In the East we call it vimarsh, thinking, but only about a particular subject. Not diverting, going astray, but consistently remaining with the same experience and going deeper and more comprehensively into it. It is a development of concentration.
The third word is 'meditation'. In the West, since Marcus Aurelius, meditation has been in a mess. His was the first book written in the West about meditation. But not knowing what meditation can be, he defines it as a deeper concentration and a deeper contemplation. Both definitions are unjustified.
In the East we have another word, dhyan. It does not mean concentration, it does not mean contemplation, it does not mean meditation even. It means a state of no-mind. All those three are mind activities - whether you are concentrating, contemplating, or meditating, you are always objective. There is something you are concentrating upon, there is something you are meditating upon, there is something you are contemplating upon. Your processes may be different but the boundary line is clear cut: it is within the mind. Mind can do all these three things without any difficulty.

Dhyan is beyond mind.

(Osho in Om Mani Padme Hum #4)

One of the greatest emperors India has known was the Mogul emperor, Akbar. He can be compared only to one man in the West, and that is Marcus Aurelius. Emperors are very rarely wise people, but these two names are certainly exceptions.

(Osho in Satyam, Shivam Sundram #16)

You ask me, 'Why do you live like a king?'
There are four possibilities after you become enlightened. The first possibility Nanak and Marcus Aurelius followed. They were born as kings; after they became enlightened they remained kings.
The second possibility Jesus and Kabir followed. They were born as beggars, after they became enlightened they remained beggars.
The third possibility was followed by Mahavir and the Buddha: they were born as kings; when they became enlightened they remained beggars.
Then, I thought, for a change... I was born as a beggar; I decided to live as a king. That is the fourth possibility and there is no other, so I am finishing the last. Somebody had to do it, otherwise history would remain incomplete.

(Osho in The Secret of Secrets, vol.1 #8)

Perhaps if Jesus had taught a little longer - he was only thirty-three when he was crucified - I think, being a real Jew, he would have become pacified by the time he was seventy. There would have been no need to crucify him at all. The Jews were in a hurry.
I think it was not only the Jews who were in a hurry - because Jews know better - perhaps the crucifixion of Jesus came from the Romans, who have always been childish and stupid. I don't know of anyone like a Jesus, or a Buddha, or a Lao Tzu, who has ever happened to their race and to their history.
Only one man comes to me, he was the emperor Aurelius. He wrote the famous book, Meditations. Of course it is not what I call meditation, but meditations. My meditation is always singular; there can be no plural to it. His meditations are really contemplations; there can be no singular to it. Marcus Aurelius is the only name I can remember in the whole Roman history worth mentioning - but that not too much. Any poor Basho could defeat Marcus Aurelius. Any Kabir could hit the emperor and bring him beyond his senses.
I don't know whether this is permitted in your language or not, to "bring someone beyond their senses." Bringing him to his senses is certainly permitted, but that is not my work, anybody could do that. Even a good hit could do it, a stone in the road could do it. A Buddha is not needed for that, a Buddha is needed to bring you beyond your senses. Basho, Kabir, or even a woman like Lalla or Rabiya could really have brought this poor emperor to that beyond.
But this is all that has come from the Romans - nothing much, but still something. One should not reject anybody totally. Just by way of courtesy I accept Marcus Aurelius, not as an enlightened one but as a good man. He could have been enlightened if, by chance, he had come across a man like Bodhidharma. Just a look from Bodhidharma into the eyes of Marcus Aurelius would have been enough. Then he would have known, for the first time, what meditation is.
He would have gone home and burned what he had written so far. Perhaps then he would have left a collection of sketches - a bird on the wing, a rose withering away, or just a cloud floating in the sky - a few sentences here and there; not saying much, but enough to provoke, enough to trigger a process in the person who comes across it. That would have been a real notebook on meditation, but not on meditations.... There is no plural possible.

(Osho in Glimpses of a Golden Childhood #16)