Whatsoever you see is just a symbol


Osho answers a question about symbols and speaks in particular about the relevance of bowing down before the cast of his feet.

The third question:

You talk about a living religion yet in some centres people kneel over the cast of your feet. I am reminded of the Catholic religion where I lost the meaning of the teachings and instead venerated the symbol. Please tell me why we need your symbols. They are not you, nor your teaching.

Osho hand and foot

It is a very subtle question. You will have to be very alert to understand it.

Yes, religion has nothing to do with symbols. Religion in its essence is absolutely pure, just an experiencing, a knowing. It has nothing to do with outside symbols. But that is not the question. That pure religion is not possible for you as you are; the way you are you will need symbols.

[…] If your lover gives you a small handkerchief, has it any more meaning than any other handkerchief of the same make, of the same value? If it is lost, tears may come to your eyes. Your mind is still symbolic, still lives in symbols. That handkerchief, a small, valueless handkerchief given by your lover or beloved, carries a certain meaning which nobody else can see. It is an ordinary handkerchief but to you it is very symbolic. It has a message, a love message. That handkerchief is worth a kingdom. It is personal and somebody has given it to you as a deep gesture of his love. It is no more a commodity in the marketplace, it is no more a part of the world of things – that handkerchief has a personality, almost a soul. Have you not watched this inside you?

If this is so, then symbols are still meaningful for you and you cannot just drop them unless the whole mind is dropped. It depends on you. If those symbols have a certain response in your heart they are alive.

[…] The whole human consciousness has grown out of symbolism. All our languages – the language of science, the language of religion, the language of poetry – are all symbols. Our whole life of love, relationship, is nothing but symbolism.

Unless you have come to a point where the whole mind disappears, symbols are meaningful.

The questioner asks: You talk about a living religion yet in some centres people kneel over the cast of your feet.

Those feet are irrelevant, their kneeling is relevant. Those feet are just symbolic, but their kneeling is real. That is not symbolic. They are affected by it.

So when I say ‘a living religion’ I mean a religion which is still moving the hearts. If somebody is moved by a cross he is still encountering Christ – the religion is living to him. And if you simply bow down because it is a formality to be fulfilled, then the religion is dead. Because the symbol is dead and there is nothing inside you, the religion is dead. The symbol is always dead but if it affects you and starts a movement in your energy, then it is alive.

A religion is alive in the heart, it has nothing to do with temples and churches. If you are moved, if a rhythm arises in you, if you start dancing seeing Krishna or his statue, suddenly the flute on his lips is no longer just a symbol to you, it has become a real dance. You can listen to his tune, you can hear his tune.

I am reminded of the Catholic religion where I lost the meaning of the teachings and instead venerated the symbols.

It is your fault. It has nothing to do with the church. If you missed the meaning and started venerating the symbols, it is your fault. Now that you have become so afraid of symbols it simply means you have reacted to your upbringing; you have not yet become a revolutionary, you have just reacted.

Because a few symbols were given to you in your childhood and they never became alive, now you are afraid of all symbols. You will be very poor for that. Don’t be afraid. If one set of symbols has not worked, another set of symbols can work. And now you are not a child. Those symbols did not work because they were forced on you by your parents, but if you choose your own religion…. Now remember this, this is my continuous emphasis: if you want to be religious, you have to choose your religion – then it is alive. Only through choice, voluntary choice, is it alive. If it has been enforced on you then it is dead, then it is somebody else’s religion, it is somebody else’s trip – your parents’ trip. And you are simply carrying it like a load.

You have chosen to walk with me, it is your choice, it is your voluntary choice. It is your will to be with me. Then between me and you whatsoever transpires is going to be alive. That may not be so with your children when I am gone. You would like your children also to be in orange – then something may not happen because then it will be your trip and you will be enforcing your trip on your children. Never enforce your trip on anybody else.

[…] Please tell me why we need your symbols. They are not you nor your teachings here.

They are neither me nor my teachings but you cannot see me yet. Whatsoever you see is just a symbol – my body is just a symbol, it is not me; my photograph is a symbol, it is not me; whatsoever I am saying is symbolic, it is not me. And what I am saying is not my teaching because my teachings cannot be said. Nobody’s – Buddha’s nor Christ’s – nobody’s can be said. Whatsoever is being said is not the real thing. The real is elusive. Truth cannot be uttered.

But I have to talk to you to persuade you to become silent. This is a very absurd effort, but this is how it is! I have to seduce you towards silence through words. Words are just symbols; silence is…. Remember, when I say silence, the word ‘silence’ is not silence.

[…] If you have the eyes to see then you can see even in a stone. If you don’t have the eyes to see you may come across Jesus and you may not recognise him. Many of you were there when Jesus was there, many of you were there when Buddha was there and you never recognised him. Many of you are here just in front of me and you may never recognise me. So the deepest question is of your recognition. If you can recognise something in a stone, if you can recognise something in a cast of my feet, yes, Buddha is there.

The whole thing is yours – your Buddha, your Christ, your me. Everything is yours, you are the only one. This is the beauty, the drama of life: you are the actor, you are the director, you are the audience, you are the story-writer, you are the play-back singer, you are all, alone.

[…] When somebody is bowing down before the cast of my feet, for him they become alive – he pours his life into them. You may be standing there looking at the foolishness. What is he doing?

Yes, it is foolish for you because those feet are not alive for you, that symbol is not throbbing for you, you have not poured your life into it.

So don’t be bothered about others – let them do their thing. They must be finding something in it. If you are not finding something there, then find it somewhere else. You may find something in my words – words are as symbolic as the cast feet and, of course, less substantial. Words are less substantial: uttered, they disappear. They are very dreamlike. Or you may be pouring your energy into the symbol of this body here now – that too will disappear, that too is not the ultimate thing.

The ultimate is that which always remains. You can see that ultimate anywhere – just make your eyes a little more perceptive.

And don’t still be dominated by your Catholic upbringing because that will be a great loss to you. If you go on dropping all symbols you will become very, very poor. Nobody will be at a loss, only you.

Symbols make life rich, poetic.

Osho, Dang, Dang, Doko, Dang, Ch 6, Q 3 (excerpts)


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