The whole of the River Ganges is an experiment of alchemists

Discourses Hidden Mysteries

“Hindus and Jainas have separate keys; the former work with water, the latter with fire,” states Osho. From ‘Hidden Mysteries’, Ch 2, Part 5 of 9.

Another important fact is that in the life of man everything except his consciousness is made from matter. But we do not know what that inner consciousness is. We know only our body, and the body is related in every way with matter. So let us now look at another kind of alchemy so that you can understand the second meaning of a place of pilgrimage….


The alchemists’ experiments are very deep. Alchemists say that if water is converted into steam, and then that steam back into water, and the water again into steam – if you do this again and again thousands of times – then that water acquires a special quality not found in ordinary water. Earlier, this assertion was taken to be a joke: How could the quality of the water change? If you repeatedly distill water what difference can it make? – the water will remains distilled. But now, science has also accepted the fact that the quality of such water does change, although just how it happens is not known. But there is no doubt that there is a qualitative change in the water, and repeating the experiment hundreds of thousands of times produces a still better quality of water.

You may be aware that seventy percent of our body is made up of water. The chemical composition is just like that of sea water. If you don’t eat enough salt, the salt content within your body diminishes, becomes less than that of sea water. If the percentage of salt in your body is changed, there will be changes in your consciousness. If you drink water which has been distilled one hundred thousand times, it brings about changes in many of your desires and attitudes. The alchemists were making such experiments. Distilling water hundreds of thousands of times may take several years, but the alchemist does this.

It brings about two types of changes. The first will be in the alchemist’s mind. Doing the same thing again and again can become boring after a few days. If out of boredom he stops the process, he will go back to his old state of mind; but that moment of boredom is the turning point. If he continues in spite of the boredom he will give birth to a new consciousness.

If you go to sleep at ten o’clock every night, then exactly at that time you will feel sleepy. But if you decide not to sleep and keep awake, after half an hour you should become more sleepy, but what actually happens is that you will find you feel more fresh than in the morning. There was a turning point at ten o’clock; it was your habit to sleep then, but if you ignore your habit, then you break the body’s automatic arrangement, and when the body realizes that it will have to stay awake it releases fresh energy from a reservoir which it keeps for emergencies and you feel fresher than ever.

Now the person who has distilled water a thousand times becomes bored, but his master will tell him to continue – maybe it will be for ten or fifteen years. A point comes when he will feel that if he distills the water one more time he will not be able to bear it, he will drop down dead. But his master will insist he continue the process, whatever the consequences. So on one hand the quality of the water will change, and on the other, his consciousness will also slowly become transformed.

The Ganges is a deep chemical
and alchemical experiment,
and by taking a bath in the Ganges,
an individual will enter the tirtha.

It is like the water of the River Ganges. Up to now scientists have not been able to understand why there are certain qualities in its waters which can’t be found in the water of any other river of the world. Even the rivers that flow from the same mountain from which the Ganges flows, do not have the same qualities as the Ganges. The mountain is the same, the same clouds shower water over it, the ice of the same peak melts and flows into the waters of all the rivers, but the quality of their water differs. It is difficult to prove the difference, but the whole of the River Ganges is an experiment of alchemists.

It has been attempted to treat the whole river alchemically. That’s why Hindus have so many of their holy places on the banks of the Ganges. This was a great experiment to give something special to the waters of the Ganges. Now chemists and scientists have also agreed that there is something special about its waters. If you save the water of any other river it will spoil and go bad, but the water of the Ganges doesn’t, however long it is stored. You can keep that water for years without it changing, but if you keep some water of any other river you will find that it becomes foul within a few weeks. The water of the Ganges keeps its purity and remains unchanged for years. It is because of this that Hindus have established their tirthas along the banks of its river.


If you throw dead bodies into other rivers, they become dirty and will begin to smell badly, but the Ganges absorbs thousands of dead bodies without stinking. It is surprising that though bones do not normally dissolve in water, they do in the water of the Ganges – nothing remains. In the Ganges everything immediately disintegrates, returning to its original elements. Hence the insistence that dead bodies should be thrown into the Ganges, because in any other river they may take years to disintegrate, but the Ganges does the work quickly.

Gangotri cannot be reached
with the physical body,
only with the astral body.

The Ganges does not flow like any ordinary river from a mountain, it has been made to flow. This phenomenon is not easy to grasp. The Gangotri, the so-called place from where the Ganges has its source, is not the real source of the Ganges. Pilgrims go to the Gangotri, make their salutations and then return home. But this is then the false Gangotri, the real has always been hidden and protected for thousands of years. It’s not possible to reach there by ordinary means, but only by astral travel. It is not possible to reach there with the physical body.

I told you earlier about Alkufa, the city of the Sufis. There you can reach physically, even unintentionally. If you go in search of it you can be misled by a wrong map, but if you have not set out to search for it, you can just reach there without meaning to, by mistake. So you can stumble across Alkufa – but the Gangotri cannot be reached with the physical body, only with the astral body. The Gangotri cannot be seen with the physical eyes. In meditation the physical body has to be left behind and then the astral body can travel to the Gangotri; then and then only will one understand what the secret of the special qualities of the water of the Ganges is. At the source from where the Ganges flows its water have been treated alchemically. On both banks of the source of the river Hindus have made places of pilgrimage.

Without sufficient
the Hindu key
will not function.

You may wonder why all the Hindus’ places of pilgrimage are on the banks of rivers, while all the Jainas’ are on mountain tops. Jainas make their places of pilgrimage only on mountains that are absolutely dry and without any greenery. Mountains with vegetation and trees will be rejected; even large mountains like the Himalayas have been ignored. If just any mountain would do there could be none better than those of the Himalayas. But the Jainas wanted a dry mountain, open to the scorching sun, with the least possible vegetation and with no water. The reason is that the alchemical changes which they are experimenting on are connected to the fire element of the body. Hindu alchemy, on the other hand, is related to the water element.

Both have their separate keys. Hindus would never think of having a tirtha not within the vicinity of water, of a river flowing by, with the beauty of green vegetation. They experiment with the element of water, whereas Jainas are working on the fire element and so depend more on the generation of tap, heat, in the body.

All of [the Jaina’s]
austerities are to
arouse the fire.

Hindu scriptures and sannyasins emphasize the water element, so a Hindu sannyasin consumes sufficient milk, curd and ghee to maintain enough humidity or moisture within his body. Without sufficient moisture, the Hindu key will not function. The whole effort of the Jainas, on the other hand, is to produce a dryness within, so Jaina sadhus don’t even take a bath, because they want to preserve a state of dryness. These Jaina sadhus become dirty and they stink! But they are not able to explain why they don’t take baths. Why do they only very sparingly wash themselves? Water is not their key, but fire, and the fire element in austerity and self-mortification. They want to arouse fire internally in every possible way. If they pour water on their bodies the fire within will be weakened. So you will find the Jaina sadhu on barren, dry mountains, without greenery and water, where everything is hot and he is surrounded only by stones.

All religions use fasting, but except for Jainism, no religion prohibits water during fasting. Jainas who are householders are advised that even if they can’t do without water at other times, at least they should avoid drinking water at night. But they only understand by this that they shouldn’t drink at night because they might unknowingly kill unseen germs and insects. In fact, all these rules are meant to intensify the fire element. Another interesting fact is that if a man drinks a minimum of water, as Mahavira used to, it helps to preserve his celibacy, because the semen will begin to dry up. Even a little moisture can make the semen flow.

So all Jaina places of pilgrimage will be on mountains. The authentic Hindu tirtha will be on the banks of a river, in a beautiful, lush-green place – but the mountains chosen by Jainas are ugly, because the beauty of a mountain is lost when there is no greenery.

Jaina sadhus will not take a bath or clean their teeth: why use even the amount of water needed for brushing your teeth? The whole principle of dryness has to be understood properly to understand the Jaina scriptures. All of their austerities are to arouse the fire, and if the connection with water is completely broken this is a negative way to keep the fire burning.

Inside us there is a balance of all the elements: if you want to go on a spiritual journey through one of the elements, the balance will have to be broken by dropping the use of the opposite element that balances it. So if you concentrate on the fire element, water will become inimical to your work, because the less water in the body, the better the fire will burn within.


The Ganges is a deep chemical and alchemical experiment, and by taking a bath in the Ganges, an individual will enter the tirtha. As soon as he takes a bath, the water element within his body is transformed. This transformation will only last a short time, but if the experiment is done properly, the spiritual journey begins. Remember that if someone who has begun living on the water of the Ganges takes any other water, it will not suit him and will create difficulties.

Attempts have been made to create the qualities of the Ganges in many other places, but they have failed because the real keys for doing so are lost. Bathing in the Ganges and then immediately going into a temple or to a holy place is only a way of using the outer for the inner spiritual journey.

Osho, Hidden Mysteries, Ch 2  (translated from Hindi), Part 5 of 9

Previous parts
1. There are hidden meanings not visible from the outside
2. The whole purpose of the places of pilgrimage
3. All religions have developed their own code languages
4. Every religion has its own keys

List of all excerpts published: Hidden Mysteries

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