In the introduction to the reprint of Osho’s book The Goose Is Out, I wrote about my evolving understanding of this famous Zen metaphor.
When I was a young man and had never been kissed, I was in love with America’s favorite pastime -- baseball. The score was tied 8-8 when the game was called because of darkness, and I suddenly realized I was in deep trouble on the home front.
By the time I made it home, dinner was well over. My older sister Margie met me at the front screen door and said, “Dad wants to see you in his room right away.” As I struggled to get past her she whispered in my ear: “Your goose is cooked.”
And even though my virgin ears had never heard this expression before, I knew exactly what she meant. Older sisters are wicked Zen Masters.
Years later, long after my dream of playing baseball for the Boston Red Sox had gone up in smoke, I fell in love with another Zen Master, Osho, who gave me the same message with a slightly different twist: “Your goose is out!”
You see, there is a beautiful Zen story about a goose that’s put in a bottle when it is very young. It grows up in the bottle and eventually gets too big to take out. The koan which has been driving Zen monks crazy for the past several hundred years is: How do you get the goose out of the bottle without either killing the goose or breaking the bottle?
Now, since you are probably not a Zen monk, you may very well answer, “Who wants to get the stupid goose out of its bottle anyway?” Or, “Hey, to hell with the bottle, let’s put the goose in the freezer and eat it for Thanksgiving.”
Okay, I can see where you’re coming from, but permit me to suggest that you may not be grasping all the implications of this deeply significant koan.
You see, the goose symbolizes your consciousness, your free spirit, your ultimate reality, while the bottle represents your mind. In other words, this koan is saying that your consciousness is trapped inside the mental structures of your mind, and if you ever want to experience the ultimate freedom of pure consciousness, pure meditation, pure liberation, then you need to find a better answer to the question than serving up roast goose for dinner.
For example, let’s take a look at the story of how Nansen, a very famous Zen Master, dealt with this question. The tale goes like this:
The official Riko, once asked Nansen to explain to him the old problem of the goose in the bottle.
“If a man puts a gosling in the bottle,” said Riko, “and feeds it until it is full-grown, how can the man get the goose out without killing it or breaking the bottle?”
Nansen gave a great clap with his hands and shouted, “Riko!”
“Yes, Master,” said the official with a start.
“See,” said Nansen, “The goose is out!”
When I first heard Osho tell this story, I got it -- instant Zen.
My sister was wrong. My goose isn’t cooked, my goose is out!
For the longest time after this major spiritual realization I thought I was enlightened. It took me a while to realize that Osho is the one who is out, while Krishna Prem -- that’s me, Margie’s brother -- is back in the bottle every time I get my buttons pushed or strike “out” with the ladies.
Osho is out. Most of the time, I am in. But I don’t feel bad about it. I am in a love affair with my Master. And when I look into Osho and I see his freedom. I feel my own potential to be free -- and sometimes get a taste of it, too.
On my most recent trip to America, my sister Margie and I drove back to the home we grew up in. We were both “big kids” by that time -- our father had long ago left his body.
As we pushed open the old screen door, I turned to Margie and asked with a smile, “If Dad were alive today, how do you think he’d feel about me meditating in India, so far away from home?”
Margie laughed and said, “Your goose would be cooked.”
This time I had the right answer. I clapped my hands and shouted, “The goose is out.”
She gave me a kiss on my balding head and said, “Go back to India. You’re crazy!”
Soon afterwards, Margie also left her body, struck down by cancer. Her last words to me were true to her never-to-be-surrendered role of big sister: “Grow up.”
Funnily enough, Osho’s last words to me were: “It’s not my responsibility that you get enlightened. It’s your responsibility.”
Which just goes to prove that elder sisters and Zen Masters never give up -- fortunately.
I hope you love this little book enough to use it as a signpost, to look inside yourself, to check out your own goose.
Is it out?
Are you free at last?
Q: OSHO, YOU SAY THE GOOSE IS OUT ALREADY. WHY DOES IT FEEL SO IMPOSSIBLE TO GRASP?
Because it is already out! Just see the point, don't think about it. A moment's thought, and you have gone far away. Don't brood about it, just see it. It is not a question of thinking about and about, going in circles, it is not a question of great intellectuality, of philosophical acumen, of logical efficiency. It is not a question of a trained mind; it is a question of an innocent heart.
Just see it! Wipe your eyes of all the tears, wipe your eyes of all the dust that has accumulated on them, and just look at existence. A leaf falling from the tree may become your enlightenment.
As I grew up, I realized I gave up playing sports mainly because I simply forgot how to “play”… my brother Brian reminded me one day of our childhood motto, "the brother who has the most fun wins"… in that way there is a very good chance that everyone wins… At that moment, well into my forties I took up the game of tennis, or as we call it at the Osho Meditation Resort, Zennis, the inner game of tennis.
However shit happens and one day, I complained to my friend, "My tennis elbow really hurts. I guess I should see a doctor." My friend said, "Don't do that. There's a computer at the drug store that can diagnose anything quicker and cheaper than a doctor. Simply put in a sample of urine, and the computer will diagnose your problem and tell you what you can do about it. And it only costs $10.00."
I figured I had nothing to lose, so I filled a jar with a urine sample and went to the drug store. Finding the computer, I poured in the sample and deposited the $10.00. The computer started making some noise and various lights started flashing. After a brief pause, out popped a small slip of paper which said the following: "You have tennis elbow. Soak your arm in warm water, avoid heavy labor. It will be better in two weeks."
That evening while thinking how amazing this new technology was and how it would change medical science forever, I began to wonder if this computer could be fooled. I decided to give it a try. I mixed together some tap water, a stool sample from my dog, and urine samples from my wife and daughter. To top it off, I masturbated into the concoction.
I went back to the drug store, located the computer, poured in and deposited the $10.00. The machine again made the usual noises, flashed its lights, and printed out the following analysis:
"Your tap water is too hard. Get a water softener.
Your dog has ringworm. Bathe him with anti-fungal shampoo.
Your daughter is using drugs. Put her in a rehabilitation clinic.
Your wife is pregnant with twin girls. They aren't yours. Get a lawyer.
And if you don't stop jerking off, your elbow will never get better."
The ego can exist only if you take yourself and everything seriously. Nothing kills the ego like playfulness, like laughter. When you start taking life as fun, the ego has to die, it cannot exist anymore. Ego is illness; it needs an atmosphere of sadness to exist. Seriousness creates the sadness in you. Sadness is a necessary soil for the ego.