“Everybody somehow is trying to feel, to convince himself, that he is the greatest man in the world … And you can always find something that will be supportive to you – but it is not really nourishing to you. It is cutting you off from existence,” states Osho.
The ego is very clever. Once it is there, it is very imperialistic. It wants its empire to be as big as possible. Your house becomes part of your ego, your garden becomes part of your ego, your children become part of your ego, your husband, your wife become part of your ego. You make a very imaginary empire, and this empire is bound to bring you in conflict with nature. But you are at fault, not nature.
I have heard about a professor of philosophy, head of the department of philosophy in the university of Paris. He was a little eccentric, as philosophers are bound to be.
His students had become accustomed to his eccentricities, but one day he surpassed himself. He came into the class and said, “I want to make a declaration; if anyone is against it he can stand up. My statement is, that I am the greatest man in the whole world! Has anybody any objection?”
The students said, “This is too much! We have been tolerating this fellow, anything he says, but now…!”
One student said, “We are all wanting to know… what is your evidence that you are the greatest man in the world?”
The professor laughed, he said, “That is very simple. Just answer a few questions. One: which country is the best in the world?”
The students could not suspect that they were getting caught in the professor’s net. Naturally – they were all French – they said, “Of course, France! There is no question about it.”
The professor said, “Much is settled. So only France is left. I have to prove myself the greatest man in France, and that will prove me to be the greatest man in the world.”
The student said, “That is true.”
Then he said, “In France, which is the biggest city?”
Now the students became suspicious that he was coming closer, but there was no way of going back. “Paris, of course, is the best city in France.” He said, “Much is settled. Now I want to know which institution in the city of Paris is the greatest, the highest?” Obviously, it was the university.
And he said, “Now, things are very simple. Which department in the university is the highest and the greatest?” The students looked at each other. They had to accept that it is the department of philosophy. How can any other department be higher than the department of philosophy?
The old man sat in his chair, and he said, “Now, I am the head of the department of philosophy in the greatest city, Paris, in the greatest country, France. Do you have any objection to my statement that I am the greatest man in the whole world?”
They had objections, but no logic. The professor had brought them to a point where they had to accept, unwillingly, that he is the greatest man in the world.
This is the work of the ego that is going on in everybody. Everybody somehow is trying to feel, to convince himself, that he is the greatest man in the world: somebody because he has more muscular strength; somebody because he has more intellectual, argumentative rationality; somebody because she is more beautiful than anybody else.
And you can always find something that will be supportive to you – but it is not really nourishing to you. It is cutting you off from existence. And then on every step there is going to be trouble; you will find that you are chained.
Osho, From Death to Deathlessness – Answers to the Seekers of the Path, Ch 30, Q 2 (excerpt)