Hierarchy of needs: body, mind, soul, God

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Osho’s answer to: “Would it not make matters much simpler to somehow impress upon our young ones to begin with God?”

Osho with children

Osho, it appears that almost always a pattern of human behavior follows this: we search for food, shelter, clothing; then money, power and prestige, and having attained these, we then search for God. Would it not make matters much simpler to somehow impress upon our young ones to begin with God?

Zareen, there is a hierarchy of needs, and you cannot bypass any step. If you bypass any step you will have to come back to it again. Life has an intrinsic logic in it. Each step has its own place, and you cannot miss a single step. Otherwise the chain will be broken and your life will become discontinuous, your life will become a chaos.

There is a hierarchy of needs: body, mind, soul, God.

First the bodily needs have to be fulfilled. If they are not fulfilled you will not have higher needs arising – impossible. The hungry person cannot think of music. If you start playing on the guitar before a hungry person, there is every possibility that he may retaliate in anger. He may throw your guitar, he may break your guitar, because it is insulting, it is humiliating.

Once Vivekananda was asked in America, “Why have you to teach here? Why don’t you teach in India?”

He said, “Here I can talk about Vedanta, the ultimate truth. But in India, seeing people hungry, I feel ashamed of talking about God, ultimate realization. It is insulting to those poor people. They need bread.”

Jesus is right when he says man cannot live by bread alone, but this is only a half-statement. The other half has not to be forgotten: man cannot live without bread either. And in fact, the bread is very fundamental, your body is very fundamental. If your body is ill, hungry, in pain, you cannot compose poetry, you cannot paint, or even if you paint your painting will remain that of suffering. If you compose music your music will be nothing but your cry, your scream. If you write poetry your poetry will be political. Your poetry will not be poetry at all but slogans. The bodily needs have to be fulfilled first. Yes, don’t get stuck there.

That has to be remembered, Zareen: the children have to be helped to go beyond the body, but you cannot bypass it. They have to be helped to know the joys of the mind, the beauties of the mind – art, poetry, painting, music; great joys of the mind. When they are fulfilled then the third need arises, the needs of the soul. Then meditation becomes important.

Only a person who has lived deeply in music is capable of meditation, because music prepares the background, creates the space, the context, in which meditation becomes simple. And the person whose soul-needs are fulfilled, whose meditation-needs are fulfilled, will be able to pray.

Prayer is the fragrance of the flower of meditation. That is the ultimate.

Zareen, you say, “Would it not make matters much simpler to somehow impress upon our young ones to begin with God?”

That’s what people have been doing, that’s what you have been doing, that’s what has been done down the ages. Children are being impressed upon to begin with God, and they cannot begin, because all the three steps of the temple are missing and they cannot enter into the temple. Those steps are very much needed. That’s why our temples have become false. Our temples are arbitrary, artificial. Our temples are mind creations – with good intentions, of course.

Now Zareen is asking with a good intention – to help the children. But this is not the way to help, this is the way to hinder. That’s how people have become irreligious: Christians they are, Mohammedans they are, Parsees they are, Hindus they are, but not religious.

We have created artificial gods. We had to create artificial gods because our own needs are not grown up.

To contact the real God these things cannot be done in a hurried way. These things are not like seasonal flowers; these are great trees, cedars of Lebanon – they take hundreds of years to grow. Lives are nothing; time is not the question at all. And one should go very scientifically.

First, fulfill the needs of the body. And what do we do? We condemn the body. Rather than fulfilling the needs, rather than helping a child to enjoy the joys of the body, we condemn the body. The body has many joys of its own: the joy of running, the joy of surfing, the joy of swimming, the joy of jogging, the joy of climbing a mountain. Those are all physical joys, of tremendous value. When one is climbing a mountain alone, the body has a thrill of its own, its ecstasy.

Teach the child first the bodily ecstasy. Let him dance as totally as possible, so he can have a feel of his own body. There are millions of people who don’t have any feel of their own body. They use the body just like a mechanical device around them, but they don’t have a feel for it. They live in the body, but they are not bridged with the body. They don’t know the joys of the body.

The children first have to be taught the physical joys. Help them to climb the trees, help them to run, help them to swim, help them to dance, help them to do physical yoga, hatha yoga, so they can have a feel of their bodies, so their bodies can be felt as alive phenomena – not something dead around them, not something disconnected, not like a machine to be used – so that they can have a respect for the body, love for the body, so their bodies can become sacred temples.

And then don’t be in a hurry. The next step has to be taken very slowly. The movement from the body to the mind has to be very, very delicate, because you are moving from the gross to the subtle. And the movement cannot be very direct; it has to be very indirect. Slowly, slowly let the child know about music, poetry. Let the child know about great paintings, architecture. Let the child enjoy the exercise of his mind.

And then when the child is ready, when he has fulfilled his mind needs, help him to meditate. And nothing has to be done in haste. Let everything ripen, help everything to become mature. Just remember one thing: that the child should not get stuck anywhere. There are many who have become stuck at the body, the physical pleasure; then sex remains their center of life. There are many who have got stuck in the mind; then thinking, philosophizing, logic, and the joys of thinking and philosophizing and logic, remain for their whole lives. These people are half-grown people.

Before the child gets stuck somewhere, push him to the further level, to the further plane. Help him to meditate.

And only after meditation is prayer possible, because only one who has learned to experience his soul can experience the universal soul. If you cannot know your own soul, how can you know the soul of the whole universe? If you cannot look deep into the drop of water, how can you see into the ocean? Impossible! Prayer is the ultimate fragrance.

But what happens, Zareen, is that we start teaching children prayer; that’s where we go wrong. We start teaching them about God. The question has not arisen yet in their hearts and we start stuffing them with answers. They have not asked yet about God – they are not worried about God, that is not their concern – and we go on implanting ideas in their minds.

In their immature minds we go on giving them conditions, indoctrination, philosophies, which will remain just a baggage, a burden. They will be Christians and Hindus and Mohammedans, but they will not be religious, never. In fact, because of your indoctrination they will hate you, and they will hate your gods, and they will hate your temples, and they will hate your priests. Although they will formally go to the church on Sunday and formally they will go to the priest to be married, this will be simply a formal thing because it is the accepted form in the society. But deep down they hate, deep down they have no love for all this.

Parents have been trying to help their children to become religious without becoming aware that they themselves are not religious yet. Zareen, do you really know that God is? You have become concerned about the children: this may be just a way of escaping from your own problem. Do you know God is? Have you felt God yourself?

If you have felt, if you have known God, this question would not arise, because then you would have seen that there is a logical sequence of growth – the body, the mind, the soul, and ultimately God. You cannot bypass any step. And if you bypass, something will remain missing, and there is every possibility that you will have to come back to the missing part again.

Let every part of your being be saturated, contented, so there is no need to look backwards and one can go ahead and ahead and ahead.

Osho, The Guest, Ch 12, Q 2

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