“The last question – and the most important one. In fact, a question of historic importance:
“Osho, Why do you always carry a towel? And why don’t you drop it now?”
The first thing: the towel has been with me for almost twenty-five years. It is a silver jubilee year!
And I am very surprised by the question because only last night I decided to drop it.
I am reminded of a story.
A man became very old, he became a hundred years old, and the journalists came to interview him. They asked many questions. One journalist, hesitating a little about whether to ask or not – that must also have been the case with the person who asked this question; he or she must have hesitated many times whether to ask such an absurd question or not – asked, ‘Sir, one thing more I want to know. What do you think about women?’
The old man said, ‘Strange, only this morning I decided not to think about women at all!’
A hundred-year-old man and he decided just that morning…! And he said, ‘Please, don’t tempt me again!’
I decided just last night.
But it is good that you have asked. It is a long history how the towel started to be with me, and before I part company with it I had better tell the story to you.
When I started living in Jabalpur, there were so many mosquitoes – don’t laugh, because you have nothing in Poona compared with Jabalpur; that’s nothing – I had to chase them with the towel the whole day. It was impossible to sit still.
Once a Buddhist monk, a very famous scholar, Bhikshu Jagdish Kashyap, stayed with me. He was my guest.
When he saw the mosquitoes he said, ‘I used to think that Sarnath was the tops for mosquitoes but now it seems that Jabalpur has defeated Sarnath.’
And he said, ‘I will tell you a story about Sarnath and Buddha. Buddha came to Sarnath only once. His first sermon was delivered at Sarnath – but he never came again. So down the centuries Buddhists have said he never came again because of the mosquitoes.’
I told Bhikshu Jagdish Kashyap that once I left Jabalpur I would not go back again. And I have not been there since I left. I can understand Buddha’s difficulty. How could he have managed without a towel? Throughout his life he visited the same towns many times – Shravasti at least thirty times, Rajgrih at least forty times – and he never came back to Sarnath. There must be some secret in it.
In fact, mosquitoes are old enemies of meditators. Whenever you meditate, whether the Devil comes to tempt you or not, the mosquitoes will always come.
For eighteen years I was in Jabalpur. My towel became my constant companion. When I left Jabalpur and came to Bombay I was thinking of leaving it, but then people started spinning esoteric theories about it. So just to save the theoreticians I continued using it.
Now it is a superstition. The word ‘superstition’ comes from a root which means: something that was useful sometimes but the circumstances have now changed, it is no longer useful. But it continues. This towel is a superstition and I have continued carrying it just for your sake – because there are theoreticians, esoteric people around who have to have something to base their theories upon.
One woman, one of my beautiful sannyasins from the Philippines, told me that she had found out the truth about my towel. I asked what it was. She said, ‘You are a nobody, you live in nothingness, you have to hold something otherwise you will disappear.’ I said, ‘Right! Absolutely right!’
Just three things I had: my lungi, my robe and my towel. My lungi is gone, you can see. Parijat helped me to renounce it. Parijat is my official seamstress – appointed by His Holiness, Bhagwan Shree Shree Shree Rajneeshji Maharaj! She made the robe so beautifully that the lungi became almost absurd with it. It started looking like a bullock cart by the side of a Cadillac. So out of necessity I had to drop it.
Now here goes my towel. The only thing left is my robe. Please never ask any question about it!
Let me tell an anecdote.
A young Jewish couple were being wed in the usual Jewish tradition surrounded by at least two hundred relatives and friends. The room was in complete hush as the Rabbi reached the part of the service which said, ‘With all my worldly goods I thee endow.’
The best man turned to the maid-of-honour and said, ‘There goes Erwin’s bicycle!’
And here goes Osho’s towel. It is all that I have. So I must remind you again: never ask any question about my robe.
I will throw the towel. Whosoever it lands upon becomes its proud owner, but nobody must raise their hands or try to catch it. Hmmm? You just be in a meditation, absolutely passive. That is the way God also descends! If you try to catch it you cannot be the owner of it.
And if some problem or some dispute arises that two or three persons claim the towel, you can always go to Mulla Nasruddin. It will be difficult to locate him because he is a very subtle and invisible man. But he’s the best. If you cannot locate him then you can go to the next best person, Swami Yoga Chinmaya. He will decide the dispute – who the owner is. And if it cannot be decided then you can always divide it.
Remember that you are not to catch it. If you try to catch it, you miss the opportunity. Let it land on you.
Here goes Osho’s towel…!
Osho, The Art of Dying, Ch 10, Q 6