“Prayer is just your effort to persuade God to do things according to you… I am against prayer. I am for meditation,” says Osho.
Prayer is a byproduct of theism. You start with a belief in God, then naturally some kind of relationship between you and God is needed. That is prayer. You start praising him. Of course there is some motivation, you are asking for something through your prayer. Your prayer is not just a pure love affair, no – it is business. Hence, when you are in trouble you pray; when you are out of trouble you forget it. When you are in some difficulty, incapable of managing, you pray because you need God’s help. The moment you are out of difficulty, you forget God and prayer both.
A famous Sufi story is that a ship is coming back to its home country. Suddenly the ocean goes mad… great winds, and the ship is almost on the verge of sinking. Everybody starts praying. At such a moment who will not pray? – even the atheist will pray, the agnostic will pray, and pray, “Forgive what I have been saying, it was all nonsense. Forgive me, but let me reach the shore.”
But the Sufi was simply sitting there, not praying. The people became angry; they said, “You are a religious man, wearing the robe, the green robe of a Sufi. What kind of a Sufi are you? You should have been the first to pray. And we are not religious people, we are just business people, and to us this prayer is, too, nothing but business. We are offering God, that ‘We will give you this, we will give you that, just save us.’ Why are you sitting silently? Why are you not praying?”
He said, “You have already said it: because I am not a businessman. If he wants to finish us all, good. If he wants to save us, good. I am in total agreement with him. Why should I pray? For what? Prayer means some disagreement, something is happening which you don’t want to happen. You want God to intercede, to interfere, to stop it, to change it.”
The Sufi said, “I have no business of my own. It is his business to bother whether to save or to drown us. If he wants this Sufi to be saved, it is his business, not my business. And if he wants me to die, that is his business. I had not asked for birth; suddenly I was here. I cannot ask about death. If birth is not in my control, how can death be in my control?”
Those people thought, “This man is mad.” They said, “We will take care of you later on. Let us get to the shore somehow and then we will take care of you. You are not a Sufi, you are not religious; you are a very dangerous man. But this is not the time to bother and quarrel with you.”
On board was the most wealthy, most famous man of the country, and he was coming with millions of diamonds and precious stones. He had earned much. He had a beautiful palace in the town – the most beautiful marble palace. Even the king was jealous. Even the king had asked him many times, “You give this palace to me – any price, and I will pay for it.”
But the madman, the rich man, said, “That is not possible. That palace is my pride.” When the ship was almost sinking, the man shouted to God, “Listen, I give that palace to you – just save me!” And as it happened, the winds disappeared, the ocean became calm, the ship was saved. They reached the bank.
Now, the rich man was in a very difficult position because of what he had said. And he had been angry with the Sufi – now he was not angry. He said, “Perhaps you were right just to keep quiet. If I had followed you I would not have lost my palace. But I am a businessman, and I will find a way.” And he found a way.
Next day he put the palace up for auction. He informed all the nearby kingdoms, whoever was interested. Many kings, queens and rich people came; everybody was interested. They were all puzzled to see that, just in front of the palace, there was a cat chained to a marble pillar of the palace. The rich man came out and he said, “This palace and the cat, both are up for auction together. The price of the cat is one million dinars” – their dollars, one million dollars – “the price of the cat one million dollars, and the price of the palace, one dollar: one million and one dollars.”
The people said, “For this cat one million dollars, and for this palace just one dollar?”
The businessman said, “You don’t bother about it. If you are interested, both are going to be sold together. Less, I will not accept. If anybody is interested, this is my minimum price.”
The king of the country said, “Yes, I will give you the price, but please tell me, what is the secret of this cat and the palace?”
And he said, “No secret – I just got into trouble because of a prayer. I have told God that ‘I will give you the palace.’ And I am a businessman; if he is a businessman, I am also a businessman. The cat, one million dollars – that I will keep. And the palace: one dollar – that will go to God’s fund.”
Prayer is just your effort to persuade God to do things according to you. And it is absolutely your imagination. In the first place you don’t know God. You don’t know his likes and dislikes. You don’t know whether he exists or not, and you are praying. This is a poor state of affairs, and this is happening all over the world.
I am against prayer because it is basically business. It is bribing God. It is hoping that you can buttress his ego: “You are great, you are compassionate, you can do anything you want.” And all this is being said because you want something. There is a motivation behind it; otherwise you would not pray, if there is no motivation.
I am against prayer. I am for meditation.
And these are the only two dimensions: prayer, the false dimension; meditation, the right dimension.
In prayer you try first to imagine a God there, and then you project a prayer. In meditation you don’t have to project any God, you don’t have to believe in any God, you don’t have to utter a single word of prayer. On the contrary, you move inwards. In prayer you are moving outwards: a God there… and then a bridge of prayer between you and God.
In meditation you have no God, there. You search within. You search within for what is there. Who am I? What is this life energy? What is this consciousness in me? If only I can know this consciousness, this life in me, I have known the universal life, I am part of it.
Just taste the ocean from anywhere and it is salty. Taste yourself – it is the closest place, within yourself – taste your consciousness in silence and peace.
Prayer will be wordy. Again you will be talking, chanting, using a mantra or something. No, in meditation words have to be dropped and you have to learn to remain wordless, even for small moments. But in those small moments so much blessing descends. From those small gaps the whole universe starts pouring upon you.
I am for meditation and against prayer.
The meditator comes to know – feels reality throbbing within himself – the heartbeat of existence. And then there is a thankfulness that is without any motive, a gratitude to nobody in particular, simply a gratitude for all, for all that is. To me, if you want something like prayer… but then that is a love affair, authentic, without any motive. It is just a thank you, not addressed to anybody in particular, addressed to the whole.
Osho, From Unconsciousness to Consciousness, Ch 14, Q 2 (excerpt)