No law, no morality can be applicable to all

'Desiderata' Discourses

Osho speaks on the line from the Desiderata: ‘If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.’

Painting by Padma

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

It was on a coastbound train; Mieczyslaw was slumped in his seat and every few moments he sighed and cried, “Oh my! Oh my!” Forbes, sitting nearby, heard him cry but did not butt in, thinking the fellow was troubled by some great personal tragedy.

The next day it was the same cry of “Oh my! Oh my!” And again the same the day after.

Finally, Forbes leaned over and whispered, “Anything seriously wrong?”

“Oh my, yes!” said the Polack. “For three days now, I have been on the wrong train!”

This is exactly the situation of humanity: everybody, almost everybody, is on the wrong train! Hence there is so much misery. Misery simply indicates that you are not where you are supposed to be, that you are not moving towards your own destiny, that you are not flowering into your own potential, that you have been diverted by others, distracted by others. Maybe those others were not intending any wrong to you, but they were unconscious people just like you.

Every parent distracts the child from his essential being, leads him astray. Every teacher, every priest goes on doing the same. Nobody respects the individual. They have already decided what is right and what is wrong, and for all!

Each individual is a unique phenomenon. Hence no law, no morality can be applicable to all. Of course, we have to agree on a few minimums, just to exist together, but those minimums have to be the nonessentials.

That is the fundamental message of Desiderata. Desiderata means the fundamentals, the essentials. About the essentials there should be no compromise at all, with nobody, not even with God, because you don’t know anything about God. The priest goes on speaking on behalf of some God which nobody knows. It is the priest, the cunning priest, who pretends that his voice is God’s voice.

One of the most ancient scriptures in the world is the Hindu scripture, Rig Veda. Ninety-nine percent of it is sheer nonsense, not only nonsense but irreligious too – not even religious nonsense! All the prayers in the Rig Veda are prayers for the nonessential. People are asking for money – from God! – asking for power, prestige, more cows, more horses, more land; not only that but also the death of the enemies and the prosperity of the friends. And this scripture is worshiped by the Hindus as religious.

Religion means one is trying to transcend the mundane; otherwise, religion loses all its meaning. But the Rig Veda is full of the mundane. It is really a miracle that once in a while you come across a statement which can be called significant, concerned with the essential and not with the peripheral.

And this is not only the case with the Hindus: this is the case with the Buddhists, with the Jainas, with the Christians, with the Jews, with the Mohammedans, with almost all the organized religions. They have all gone astray. And when I say they have all gone astray I mean they have become entangled with the nonessential.

In Buddhist scriptures there are thirty-three thousand rules; unless you follow those thirty-three thousand rules of conduct you can never become a Buddha. One cannot even remember those rules! Just think of thirty-three thousand rules to be followed and you drop the idea, the very desire to be a buddha. All those rules will drive you crazy if followed, and only an insane person can follow those rules.

There cannot be thirty-three thousand rules about the essential, it is about the very nonessential: while you are walking how far you should see on the road? – only four feet, not more than that, not even four feet six inches! If you go beyond the limit of four feet you fall from grace. Now what nonsense is this, and what does it have to do with religion? You have to have only three pieces of clothing, you cannot have four – only three, and you have to be very strict about it. You have to beg in a certain way, from certain people, not otherwise. You have to eat only at a certain time; if you are feeling hungry again, you cannot eat, you have to remain hungry.

The Buddhist monk has to eat only once a day. The Jaina monk cannot even drink water in the night. The Jaina monk cannot even urinate where the earth is wet; the Jaina monk cannot urinate in water. That’s why no Jaina monk can use modern toilets! Such stupidities! But they have been propagated in the name of religion, and once something takes the color of religion it starts looking important to people.

Character has been very much emphasized; in fact, character is a peripheral phenomenon. The real thing is not character but consciousness. But consciousness happens inside and is not available for others to observe; others can only observe your character. And it is always the others who are deciding for you, hence they decide something that they can observe: they decide about your behavior. And of course man is capable of conducting himself in a certain way, he can force himself into all kinds of contortions, but that does not change his consciousness at all.

I have seen Jaina monks who have followed all kinds of rules prescribed in the scriptures, and their most important value is nonviolence. But they are not nonviolent people; they are aggressive. Of course, their aggression takes a different form – it has to – it cannot be expressed in an ordinary way because they have prevented the ordinary way. They are very argumentative; their whole aggression becomes argumentation. Now argumentation is a way of fighting – not with the body but with the mind. A really nonviolent person will not be so interested in argumentation.

And Jaina scriptures are full of arguments, hairsplitting. In fact, nobody else has done so much hairsplitting as Jainas have. It was bound to happen because their whole violence turned into a mental phenomenon, it was a perversion. They cannot even kill an ant, but they can kill a great argument – and they enjoy killing.

In India, Jainas, all the Jainas, have become business people. Why did it happen! It happened through the idea of nonviolence. One cannot conceive the relationship, but if you look deep into it, the Jaina rules say you should not cut a tree, you should not uproot a tree, because trees have life. True, but then you cannot cultivate, you cannot be a farmer. So that dimension was closed to the Jainas: they cannot be farmers, cultivators, gardeners. Even cutting a leaf is violent.

Of course they cannot be warriors, they cannot go to the battlefield. And their teerthankaras, the twenty-four Masters, were born in the race of the warriors; they were all kshatriyas, samurais. But all their followers have become business people for the simple reason they cannot be soldiers, they cannot be farmers, and to be a brahmin one has to be born a brahmin. You cannot become one, and even if you want to become one, the brahmins won’t allow it to happen, so that door is closed. And of course, who wants to be a sudra – an untouchable? Who wants to fall so low?

So the only possible outlet was: be a businessman. So all the Jainas became business people, and their whole violence became concentrated on exploitation. Hence they are the richest people in India. Their violence turned into a subtle channel, it took a very subtle form: suck the blood of the people, exploit, oppress. Money became their goal; through money they became powerful. They cannot be powerful directly because they cannot fight for power, but in a vicarious way, by having more money, they can purchase all. They can purchase brahmins, they can purchase sudras, they can purchase the warriors – they can purchase everybody! Their consciousness is not changed: they are as violent as anybody else. Of course, their violence has taken a very strange turn.

Have you observed the fact that hunters, who are violent people, are very good people, very friendly people? – for the simple reason that their violence is thrown out in hunting.

Psychologists have observed that woodcutters are very nonviolent people, very peaceful, because their whole violence is thrown out of their systems by cutting wood. Their profession is such – chopping wood, cutting wood – that their whole desire to cut and chop disappears. They have done enough chopping, enough cutting; they are no more interested in it at all. They are very loving, good people.

This world is a strange world, and the strangest thing is that we go on trying to change the inner by changing the outer – and it is not possible in the very nature of things. You can change the outer by changing the inner, but not vice versa. But the society cannot see the inner; the society can only see the outer. Hence the society emphasizes the outer and makes everybody a split personality, makes everybody in a certain way schizophrenic. You are one thing on the outside; you are totally another on the inside – not even different but diametrically opposite.

You can observe people on the surface and you can decide about their inner beings. More or less you can conclude and you will be on the right track: whatsoever they are on the surface they must be the opposite of it in their innermost being. The so-called brahmacharis, the so-called celibate people, think continuously of sex and nothing else. That is bound to happen, that is natural, because celibacy has not arisen out of meditation. It is imposed, it is cultivated; it is not even skin-deep. Hence they are always afraid of women. The Jaina monk, the Buddhist monk, the Hindu sannyasin, they are all afraid of the woman. A great trembling arises in them just from seeing a woman. Hence the Buddhist rule: don’t look beyond four feet.

Mahatma Gandhi has written about one of the incidents that happened in his ashram. He was reading the Ramayana, the story of Rama, and in the story of Rama there comes a passage where he became a little puzzled. The passage is that Rama with his wife Sita and brother Laxmana are going into the forest; they have been expelled by their father for fourteen years. Rama is the first, behind him is his wife Sita, and behind Sita is Laxmana.

This way they roamed in the forest for years. Then Sita was stolen by Ravana. When Ravana was taking her away she wanted to leave a few clues for Rama to find out where she had been taken, so on the path, unnoticed by Ravana, she dropped her ornaments one by one. She was a queen and she had many ornaments, so she dropped ornaments all the way, and of course they were the clues.

Rama found those ornaments, but he was in such a state of shock and his eyes were so full of tears that he looked at those ornaments but could not recognize them. He was almost going crazy. He was asking the trees, “Trees, tell me, please, where is my Sita?”

He asked Laxmana, his younger brother, “Can you recognize these ornaments? Do they belong to Sita? If they belong to Sita, then this is the route she has been taken away by and we have to follow this route.”

Laxmana said, “I can recognize only the ornaments that she used to wear on her feet because those are the only ornaments I have ever seen.”

Mahatma Gandhi became very puzzled: “For years they have lived together, wandered in the forest, and Laxmana has not seen another ornament – of the hands or the necklace or something else. He sees only the ornaments of the feet. Why?”

Vinoba Bhave, one of his great disciples, suggested, “Laxmana must have been following an ancient rule not to look at any woman, because looking at a woman may create desire in you. So he was simply focusing on the feet; he was not looking up. And of course, the ornaments of the feet he could recognize because for years he had looked only at the feet. He must have touched her feet, bowed down to her feet, must have seen those ornaments.”

And Mahatma Gandhi was very much impressed by Vinoba Bhave’s interpretation – this is a great revelation! Laxmana was following the rule of celibacy, he was following brahmacharya.

When I read about this whole incident, I said that if Laxmana was so much afraid even to look at Sita’s face, then one thing is certain: that he was not a celibate. The elder brother’s wife is almost like a mother – and he could not look at her face, could not look at her whole figure? What kind of fear is there, what kind of paranoia? Is this something healthy? Does this show a man of understanding, of awareness, or only a man fast asleep? And if he was forcing himself to look only at the feet, could he avoid the desire to look up at the face? You may not look, but can you avoid the desire? In fact, the curiosity will become more and more, bigger and bigger. You may become obsessed with it: “How does she look? The feet are so beautiful, so impressive – how must her whole figure be!”

Then she will start entering into your dreams. Then more fear will arise. The fear can be so much that there are stories in India that there have been saints like Surdas who destroyed his eyes because he saw a beautiful woman and became allured, fascinated. Obviously he concluded, according to the Hindu tradition, that these eyes were leading him astray, so he destroyed his eyes, became blind. But can you see the stupidity of it? Do you think the blind person has no sexual desire? Do you think just by becoming blind you can avoid sexual desire? But Surdas is respected for this act, tremendously respected: “What sacrifice and what a great character! What great morality! What purity!”

I don’t see any purity in it or any greatness in it. I see simply something idiotic, something utterly silly. You can destroy your eyes or you can close your eyes, but your mind will still continue. In fact, the woman is never so beautiful when you look at her as she is when you avoid her. When you forcibly distract yourself from her she becomes more beautiful. And the same is true about the man, because nobody is, in fact, so beautiful as your fancy can make him appear.

Osho, Guida Spirituale, Ch 5 – Part 1 of 3

Featured image: Painting by Deva Padma –

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