Intimate Relationships


In this essay, Marc explores the meanings of intimate relationships people find themselves in and adds Osho’s insight to all relationships but in particular, the ultimate intimacy between master and disciple.

Mexican clay figurines
Mexico (250 – 900 CE)

Humans have a general desire to belong and to love, which is usually satisfied within an intimate relationship. These relationships involve feelings of liking or loving one or more people, romance, physical or sexual attraction, sexual relationships, or emotional and personal support. Intimate relationships allow a social network for people to form strong emotional attachments.

Intimacy generally refers to the feeling of being in a close personal association and belonging together. It is a familiar and very close affective connection with another as a result of a bond that is formed through knowledge and experience of the other. Genuine intimacy in human relationships requires dialogue, transparency, vulnerability, and reciprocity.

In human relationships, the meaning and level of intimacy varies within and between relationships. In anthropological research, intimacy is considered the product of a successful seduction, a process of rapport building that enables parties to confidently disclose previously hidden thoughts and feelings. Intimate conversations become the basis for “confidences” (secret knowledge) that bind people together.

To sustain intimacy for any length of time requires well-developed emotional and interpersonal awareness. Intimacy requires an ability to be both separate and together participants in an intimate relationship. Lacking the ability to differentiate oneself from the other is a form of symbiosis, a state that is different from intimacy, even if feelings of closeness are similar.       

Physical intimacy is sensual proximity or touching, examples include being inside someone’s personal space, holding hands, hugging, kissing, petting and other sexual activity.

Emotional intimacy, particularly in sexual relationships, typically develops after a certain level of trust has been reached and personal bonds have been established.

Cognitive or intellectual intimacy takes place when two people exchange thoughts, share ideas and enjoy similarities and differences between their opinions. If they can do this in an open and comfortable way, they can become quite intimate.

Experiential intimacy is when people get together to actively involve themselves with each other, probably saying very little to each other, not sharing any thoughts or many feelings, but being involved in mutual activities with one another, like musicians playing together.

Love is an important factor in physical and emotional intimate relationships. Love is different from liking, and the difference is not merely in the presence or absence of sexual attraction. Sacrificial love reflects the subsumation of the individual self-will within a union. Passionate love is marked by infatuation, intense preoccupation with the partner, throes of ecstasy, and feelings of exhilaration that come from being (re)united with the partner. Companionate love involves diminished potent feelings of attachment, an authentic and enduring bond, a sense of mutual commitment, the profound feeling of mutual caring, feeling proud of a mate’s accomplishment, and the satisfaction that comes from sharing goals and perspective.

The ultimate, the Master-disciple intimacy cannot be expressed in a nutshell, hence Osho says,

No illusion can live for long.

Every illusion has a very small lifespan.

I don’t want you to get into any kind of illusory relationship with me. I have been talking about the master and the disciple relationship from different angles, emphasizing many things; this also should be remembered, that all that has been said to you about it is poetic and symbolic.

You cannot merge or melt actually, but you can merge and melt by dropping your ego. That’s exactly the intention, that you drop the ego; that between the master and the disciple there will be only two persons – the master and the disciple – not four persons, the ego of the master and the ego of the disciple and then the master and the disciple behind their egos.

That is happening in almost all your relationships. On every bed where you find a couple, just look closely, you will find four persons: two real persons and two unreal persons. Those two unreal persons are created by both projecting something onto the other. Naturally there is going to be disillusionment. Every relationship comes into a state of disillusionment; then it really hurts. Never create any relationship with projection.

Avoid your ego, avoid your mind.

Just see clearly without any thoughts disturbing your vision and you will never create a relationship. You will have relatedness, you will have deep intimacy but there will be no relationship, no binding; otherwise every relationship becomes a kind of marriage. And the moment something becomes a marriage it has turned into an imprisonment. Certainly, the master disciple relationship cannot be allowed to turn into a marriage; that will destroy its whole purpose.

The whole purpose is to give you freedom, to help you to be free from all kinds of chains which you have mistaken for ornaments; to take you out of your imprisonment which you have taken as your home; to make you aware that your religion, your nation, your race, your caste, your ideology, all are different kinds of imprisonments, and they all turn you into prisoners.

They decorate their chains with flowers, they make their chains with gold, but it does not matter whether the chains are made of gold or of steel – chains are chains, and they destroy your dignity. They destroy your humanity, they reduce you into a slave. The whole of humanity is living in many kinds of slaveries.

The slavery has become multidimensional: you belong to a race, you belong to a nation, you belong to a religion, you belong to a political party… And all these are causes of your slavery; all these are destructive to your spirituality.

An authentic human being does not belong to any religion, does not belong to any nation, does not belong to any race. He is simply part of existence. Why belong to small trivial crowds when you can belong to the whole universe? And with belonging to the whole universe there is an immense difference.

When you belong to the whole, it gives you freedom because the whole is unlimited and there are no limitations, no boundaries.

The whole can never become a prison to you.

The awakened man lives in the whole, belongs to the whole universe. He does not belong to small cages howsoever beautiful they may be.

I want my people to belong to the whole. That’s the only way I can help you, and I can show my love to you and my respect to you. It has not been the case in the past: no master has been respectful towards his disciples. He has asked that the disciples should be respectful towards him; that they should be grateful towards him; that they should be surrendered to him. These are very subtle games of the ego.

If you love, if your love is real, you will not ask for surrender. If your love is real you will have tremendous respect, it does not matter whether you are master or disciple. Respect, reverence for life, does not need any special qualification. You will be respectful to the trees and to the birds and to the stars too.

A master who is not respectful to his disciples has no right to have any respect from the disciples either; it is a mutual understanding and awareness. The master is not in any way holier-than-thou or higher-than-thou. He may be more experienced in certain ways, he may be richer in his inner world, but that does not create any hierarchy. All hierarchies are created by the ego, and to be a master, to be an awakened person, the first thing is to drop the ego then you cannot create any hierarchy.

Osho, The Invitation, Ch 23, Q 2 (excerpt)

MarcMarc is a regular contributor

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