You Praise Ambition — Then Denounce Extremism
What is this sickness where there is so much terrorism and extremism all over the world?
“If mankind was only just beginning to be haunted by terrorism, things would be very easy. But mankind has always been haunted by terrorism, hence the matter is very complex. The forms of terrorism have changed — this insanity has been taking on newer and newer colors, newer and newer forms — but in the whole history of mankind, except for a few people who can be counted on the fingers of two hands, all the remaining people have been sick in one way or another. These sicknesses are as old as man himself, and that is why whenever someone has tried to eliminate these sicknesses, these insanities, insane humanity has eliminated the very man himself.
“The people who poisoned Socrates and who put Jesus on the cross are proof of it. What Socrates was saying was providing the right diagnosis in order to make man healthy again, but the crowd does not want to accept that it is insane.
“And any man who wants to become healthy has first to accept this much: that he is not healthy. This is where the difficulty comes in.
“There are thousands of madhouses in the world, but there is not a single madman ready to accept that he is mad. Every madman tries to prove that the whole world may be mad, but he is not. The people in whose lives an inner revolution has taken place, who have become transformed, are that very handful of people who have accepted that they were insane, that they were sick, that they were restless.
“The first step toward a healthy life is to accept one’s state of unhealthiness.
“But if someone says to you that you are beautiful, it feels very good, and if someone says that you are not beautiful, it feels very bad. If someone says to you that you are right, it feels good, it reassures, it consoles. And if someone exposes your wounds to you, that man seems like the enemy.
“The causes of man’s unhealthiness are very clear-cut. First of all, man has made unnaturalness the goal of life instead of the natural. Our eyes are focused on the unnatural instead of on the natural. The more unnatural a man becomes, the more we respect him: he is a sadhu, a saint, a great soul, a siddha. Our respect inspires him to become even more unnatural, and our respect becomes a thirst within us to follow him also, to follow in his footsteps, because we see that the whole world is giving this man respect: ‘I may be wrong, but the whole world cannot be wrong.’
“Everybody thinks like this and in this way that which is wrong goes on being worshipped. Fallacies go on being respected, unnaturalnesses are revered, and we get caught in the net. If somebody practices fasting, he receives our respect — as if dying from hunger has anything to do with spirituality. If that were so, all the starving people of the world would be spiritual. But someone becomes spiritual neither by starving himself nor through excessive eating. A balance, an equilibrium, is needed in life. Life is like walking on a razor’s edge — even the slightest movement this way or that, and you are in trouble!
“The key for becoming healthy is right balance — an awareness that nothing in life gets taken to extremes. Extremism is sickness.
“But go and look at the writings of all the religions, try to understand the history of all the religions, and you will find that extremism is revered everywhere. A person who is ordinary, simple — nobody bothers about him. There is no respect for ordinariness. In this world, there is worship for the extraordinary, respect for the extraordinary. And in order to be extraordinary, it is necessary to go to extremes.
“This humanity that you are seeing as insane, and this terrorism that is overshadowing the whole world, is the result of centuries of extremism. A man stands naked under the hot sun or in the cold, and you give respect to him. In the deserts of Arabia where the sun blazes like fire and the sand burns like fire, there, in that terrifying heat, the Sufis keep themselves covered in woolen blankets. They get respect. You may be surprised to know that the very word Sufi has come out of the root suf, wool. Suf means wool; he who keeps himself covered in woolen blanket is a Sufi.
“And this is very interesting: when you worship madness, you are giving an indication that you yourself would like to live that madness too. It is another matter that today you yourself are helpless, it is another matter that today you do not have so much courage, it is another matter that today the circumstances are not in your favor. So never mind — tomorrow, in your next life! But your reverence indicates the direction of your life and your inner desire.
“A simple man, an ordinary man in whose life there are no extremes will not even be noticed by you. Your eyes will miss him — and he is the healthy one. He will be in bliss, in peace, carefree — but not respected.
“I will say it another way: we have to change our values around giving respect. We have given too much respect to egoists. And the ways of the ego are very subtle, and there is no bigger disease than the ego. But we feed our own children with this poison from their very childhood — although what we do is out of love, there is nothing wrong in our intentions. I do not suspect your intentions, but we feed them poison unknowingly.
“Every father wants his son to be top of the class, top of the university, become famous all over the country; receive national honors such as Padmabhooshan, Bharat Ratna; become a Nobel Prize winner. But nobody thinks that in the family, in school, in the neighborhood, all around, respect is given to the egoist — someone who is in front. Then this race, this fever to be in front catches hold of a person so badly that the man goes on racing his whole life: ‘I have to be ahead of everyone.’ And the crowd is so tremendous, that no matter where you may be, someone is always ahead of you. It hurts you and it saddens your heart.
“I used to be the guest of a family in Kolkata. The man owned the most beautiful building in Kolkata, with a beautiful garden. When Kolkata was the capital of India, this house was the Governor General’s residence, so this man was very proud of his house. Except for the house, he hardly talked about anything else. I stayed in his house several times. I would say, ‘I have seen your whole house, I am familiar with every inch of your house by now. Have mercy on me! How long can I listen to this eulogy again and again?’
“But when I stayed at his house for the last time, I was very surprised. He was completely quiet — not a word about the house. I said, ‘Say something about the house! It feels a little odd. You, and sitting so quietly!’
“He said, ‘There will be no talk of the house anymore. Can’t you see out at the front? Somebody has built a palace. And until I have built a better, bigger and taller palace than his, there will be no talk of this house. Now, the subject is no longer about the house.’
“I said, ‘It is still the same beautiful house. These are still the same beautiful, historical things!’ And I said, ‘He has built a house, but he has not even touched your house. Your house is exactly the same as it was before. Why do you feel so troubled?’
“Coincidentally, the person who had built that other house was also familiar with me, and knowing that I was there, he came to see me. He invited me for dinner at his place and of course, along with me, he invited my host too. After inviting us the man left and my host said, ‘I cannot step inside that house. I would rather that palace caught fire. Even at the cost of my life I will make sure it is destroyed.’
“I said, ‘That fellow is a good man. He came to see us. He has invited you.’
“My host said, ‘This has nothing to do with being a good man or anything else. He has nasty ways. He wants to find a way to show me the inside of his palace and his belongings. I don’t even look at his house! I have put curtains on my car windows. I have raised the boundary walls of my garden. I just want to forget, somehow, that that house even exists. You will have to go there alone. Please forgive me. I will not be able to come with you.’
“What madness! But every child is being fed the poison of ambition from the time he is still on his mother’s breast: ‘Don’t die without achieving something. Prove yourself! Leave your name in history. Make the world remember that you existed.’
“And you may reach the highest of positions, accumulate all the money in the world, live in great palaces — and then begins the real trouble: ‘Is this what I have been running after my whole life?’
“Those who couldn’t manage are writhing; those who have managed are writhing. Those who couldn’t attain are writhing because life has turned out to be a defeat; the ego shattered even before it could form. And those who have managed are writhing because it was such a waste of effort and life to attain what they have attained. There is not a single peaceful moment. There is not a single drop of love to be found, not a single note of music. All is emptiness within, a meaninglessness.
“The whole of humanity is suffering from one disease and that disease is ambition: ‘Go on fighting.’ Don’t even worry whether the whys and wherefores of your fight are right or wrong.
“Who has the time? Time is short and there is no certainty to life. So the means may be right or wrong, but you have to prove that you are something. And the interesting thing is that it is a defeat on both sides. Defeated, you are defeated. Victorious, you are badly defeated.
“Naturally everybody appears to be sick, appears to be restless. Inside everybody there are only flames — flames of envy, jealousy — and no peace, no bliss. No poetry is ever born within us, no dance ever arises within us, and then death knocks on the door, and we have got nothing to offer to death except our tears and a defeated life. The long journey of ambition has come to its final moments. Now it is no longer just a slow burning fire — lukewarm. Now it is burning with roaring flames and the whole world is feeling utterly restless. And there is only one way out: that we free man from ambition.
“Ambition only makes one run on the periphery and leads man nowhere. These paths on the periphery, that seem to be moving so fast, go nowhere. Keep walking, keep walking…and they never come to an end. Your end comes but these paths remain, just lying there. These paths don’t end; you do.
“In the place of ambition, create self-longing: a desire to know yourself, to recognize yourself, to dive within yourself. This alone is the remedy. And the disease is only one — although its names may be many, its forms may be many. The remedy, too, is only one.
“All education is futile, all preaching is futile if you are not taught the art of diving within yourself — because that is where the stream of life’s juices flows. You are wandering around on the periphery like a beggar and within you is hidden the potential to be an emperor. In this world only those rare people who have looked within themselves have become healthy. All the rest are unhealthy, sick and insane.
“I give value to only one thing — call it religion, philosophy, philosophy of life, or whatever name you want to give it — and that is knowing oneself.
“And that knowing of oneself is not through books, is not through someone else. That knowing of oneself is through oneself. If you cannot go within yourself, where else will you go? If you cannot dive within yourself for a while, what other oceans do you seek to fathom, and where?
“If we want mankind to become healthy; if we want the terrorism that is increasing everywhere and becoming more and more explosive and violent to end; if we want the flames of fire to turn into flowers, then there is only one way. That way is called samadhi, enlightenment.
“Become natural, become ordinary; live in equanimity, and do not remain unacquainted with the secret that is hidden within you.
“The moment you become acquainted with it, a great revolution will take place, the revolution which turns dirt into gold, which turns an ordinary man into a buddha, which picks you up from the ground and takes you to the heights of the stars in the sky.
“I have moved around the world saying only this one thing, and have been amazed and astonished that people are not ready to hear it. People close their doors, countries close their doors, because what will happen then to their religions, to their religious scriptures?
“I know only one scripture. That is you.
“Kabir used to say: ‘He who learns the few letters of prem, love, becomes a wise one.’
“I say forget about even a few letters. If you can know just one akshar, one letter, one eternal secret that is hidden within you, all wisdom, all intelligence is at your feet.
“But then the middlemen of the scriptures, of the churches, of the temples — the Hindus, the Mohammedans, the Christians — have become my enemies. There is a network of priests living on your sicknesses, who become angry. Teachers, universities, the pundits of education become angry because their whole educational system is based on nothing but the race of ambition. Politicians become angry because if ambition is sickness, then the politician is the sickest of all people.
“What does the desire to be a politician prove? It proves that someone wants to be a president, someone wants to be a prime minister, someone wants to rise above the crowd and become the master of the crowd.
“Those who are not even their own masters want to be the masters of the whole world. And in the hands of these sick people lies great power — all the power.
“Hence, it has been very easy: poison Socrates, hang Jesus on the cross, stop me from entering your countries, try to stop me from speaking, and if necessary, murder me. But as long as I am alive, I will go on saying this to you: that it is necessary to disrupt those vested interests who are exploiting your sickness and who are making business out of your sickness if you want a world that is healthy, peaceful and blissful.
“If you want this world to be like a flower garden in bloom — fragrant, colorful, beautiful — then you will have to listen to what I am saying to you. And if you understand it, the matter will be very easy because you won’t have to go to anybody, you will only have to go within.
“You won’t have to beg from anybody; you won’t have to climb the ladders of any ambition. Rather, you will have to descend into your silences, into your depths — of which you are the master, which are your birthright — quietly, effortlessly, without making any noise.
“And if we can succeed even a tiny bit in imparting a taste of peace, in showing even a small glimpse of the eternal nectar to thousands of people on this earth; if even a slight acquaintance with one’s own inner hostelry can take place, man can become healthy. It has not been possible up until now, because up until now we have not supported the Socrateses, we have not supported the Mansoors, we have not supported the Sarmads. Until now we have allowed ourselves to remain as toys in the hands of a few wrong people.
“Just a little awakening and paradise is yours.”
To continue reading this complete talk go to:
Osho, The Diamond Sword, Talk #11 — Ambition: The Roots of Terrorism