Osho on What is Truth

Question – Beloved Osho, What is Truth? And whatever it is, why are most people not interested in it?

Osho – The way the question is formed says more than is apparent. The first thing it says is that you are not interested in truth at all. It is strange that sometimes the formulation of the question has much more significance than the question itself.

You are asking: “What is truth? and whatever it is ….” Does this show any inquiry? Does it mean that you are committed to seek and search for truth? If it were so, you could not have said “whatever it is.” It shows such an indifference, just like government office letters — “whomsoever it may concern.”

“Whatever it is …?” It makes no difference to you. And you are asking why people are not interested in it. Why blame people? Why can’t you be sincere and say, “why am I not interested in it?” Who are these people you are talking about? What concern do you have about these people? They don’t have any names; it is just a word, empty: “people.”

With me be honest, be sincere, be direct. Don’t bring anonymous people into the question. The question has to be yours. You are asking for an answer, and the question is not even yours. And how is it possible to answer you when the question belongs to “people”? Who are these people? I don’t know, and I don’t think you know either.

A question has to be individual, then it is alive; and I can answer only an alive question. A dead question deserves only a dead answer. I am incapable of doing that. So first, remember always the question must be your quest. The question must arise from the depths of your heart; it must be rooted in your being. It must be nourished by your life; then it deserves an alive answer.

You ask me, what is truth? This is the greatest question ever asked. And you ask it in such a stupid way, you put the ultimate question in such a silly form. This is simply unawareness, unconsciousness. You don’t know what you are doing, what you are saying; You don’t know what you are asking, and why you are asking.

What business is it of yours to be bothered about unknown people? Are you in a state where no question of your own exists? Have you dropped all your questions? If that had been the case there would have been no need to ask this question either, because you would have known the answer.

When all questions disappear, that consciousness, that questionless consciousness, is the answer, is the truth. The question is yours but you are a coward: you cannot even accept your ignorance. Of course, to accept that “this is my question” certainly means that you are an ignorant person; hence the question is thrown on the shoulders of some unknown people.

I cannot find those people anywhere. Neither can you. Consciousness never exists in collectivities: people, nation, society, culture, civilization. You will not find these things anywhere; they don’t exist. Whenever and wherever you come across “people”, you will come across the individual. That is solid reality.

And “people” can’t have any questions. The “people” don’t have any soul, the “people” is only a collective name. It is just like a forest. From far away you can see the forest but as you come closer and closer the forest starts disappearing. When you are exactly in the forest there is no forest, there are only trees. You will come across trees and trees and trees; unique trees, individual, having their own world; their own foliage, their own fragrance.

You cannot find even two trees exactly the same in the whole so-called forest. What to say about the forest? — even two trees are not exactly the same. The forest is only a word. Yes, it denotes a collectivity, but no collectivity has any consciousness of its own.

The society — have you come across society anywhere? Or do you hope some day to say, “Hi, society! How are you?” These words are just hollow, empty. They are only containers without any content in them. But man is so idiotic that he is more interested in containers than in the content.

I have heard that in a book shop a certain dictionary was not being sold at all. And the bookshop had kept the dictionary for ten years. They had purchased the wholesale rights to the dictionary, but not a single copy had they been able to sell in ten years, and they had been selling other books in thousands.

The dictionary was really very significant, a milestone in the world of dictionaries; that’s why they had purchased the wholesale rights to it. But the book was not selling. It just happened that the shopkeeper mentioned it to a painter who was looking for a book. The painter looked at the dictionary and he laughed.

He said, “The whole problem is, its cover is wrong. Who bothers what is inside the dictionary? The cover is repulsive, that’s why you have not been able to sell it. I will make a cover for it. You change the cover.” But the man said, “Just by changing the cover …? The dictionary will be the same.”

The painter said, “Don’t be worried — you just do what I am saying.” He made a new cover, beautiful, glossy, attractive …. Now, what has a dictionary to do with a nude woman? — but a nude woman was on the cover looking into the dictionary, the same dictionary. Again on that dictionary’s cover was the nude woman looking into the dictionary, the same dictionary. It was a beautiful cover.

But the owner was simply shocked — there was a queue! People were dying to purchase the dictionary. What he had not been able to do in ten years was done within a week. He had to order a reprint. He told the painter, “This is strange.”

The painter said, “It is not strange — it is just human.”

When you fall in love with a woman do you think of the content? When you fall in love with a man do you think of the content? Just the container … a little longer nose and you may fall in love. If the nose were a little shorter you might not have looked twice at the woman. That’s the meaning of the word “respect”.

You may not have thought about it; people don’t think about words. Respect means looking again: re-spect. When you see somebody and you feel like looking again at the person, that’s the meaning of the word “respect”. The person is so attractive, spectacular, that you would like to look again and again. But what you are looking at is the container, still.

I know of a professor … he was my colleague in the university, one of the most intelligent people I have ever met — but he was ugly. The content was just great, but the container … that too was just great! He was head of the department of psychology. Just because of him, students were not taking the subject of psychology.

He told me, “This is a strange university, where nobody seems to be interested in psychology. We have a full-fledged department, perhaps one of the best departments in the university. All the staff are very qualified people, but somehow students take psychology up to their B.A., and after getting a B.A. nobody turns up for postgraduate study” —
because the head of the department gives classes only for postgraduate students or research scholars.

I said to him, “It may shock you but you are the reason.”
He said, “Me? I have done no harm to anybody.”
I said, “You simply look into the mirror and don’t ask me. Your container is all wrong.”

And the postgraduate philosophy and psychology courses are mostly filled by girls, because psychology or philosophy are not going to be of much help in life. They may create trouble perhaps, but they are not going to help you. So, in India particularly, only girls turn to psychology because they are not interested in business, in service, in a career; they are interested, in India, in catching hold of a rich husband.

And a postgraduate girl obviously has more chances of catching hold of a good-salaried husband. In any other department there is much competition; in psychology and philosophy there is not much competition. Moreover, professors are very generous in passing people, giving them better marks, higher distinctions, more first classes, so that more people will become attracted. Those departments are dying all over the world.

There are hundreds of universities where no student takes postgraduate classes in philosophy for the simple reason that wherever you go, although you may have a first class M.A. in philosophy, that is not a qualification. In fact, it is a kind of disqualification — nobody is going to take you just because of that. It is enough proof that you are not going to be of any use; your degree shows you are useless. Philosophy has no market value.

When I went to study philosophy in the university, my family were absolutely against it, unanimously. Everybody was bothering me continuously: “Don’t go in for philosophy. You know perfectly well,” they told me, “in our town there are postgraduates in philosophy who have been unemployed for years. Nobody takes any interest in them. The moment they hear you are a postgraduate in philosophy, they say, `You are not of any use in the world.'”

But I told them, “Don’t be worried, I am not interested at all in your world. And I will be the last person to ask anybody to employ me. I am going to create my own world.”
My father said, “You are simply crazy. How are you going to create your own world?”
I said, “You will see. I am not going to use your world. I will create my own world.”

Reluctantly, sadly, they sent me to the university. You will be surprised — even my professors, becoming acquainted with me, told me, “An intelligent student like you should be in the department of politics, economics. What the hell are you doing in the department of philosophy?

“This is only for girls, and they are not interested in philosophy at all. But we go on passing them because without them the department will be closed and we will be unemployed. So whether they are interested in philosophy or not, whether they do their work or not, we go on passing them. They need certificates, and their certificates are not for the marketplace, they are for marriage — that is a totally different thing. But what are you doing here?”

Even the professors were worried about me. After my graduation they all suggested, “You move.” I said, “You don’t understand — it is my subject. You people don’t belong to this subject. You have somehow wrongly entered philosophy. Perhaps you could not get entry into any other department; that’s why you entered to study philosophy.

And once you studied philosophy there was no other profession left for you except to be a professor of philosophy; that was the only profession left. But you don’t belong to philosophy at all; otherwise you should be happy that I am joining it. It is my world.

I was also a student of that professor who was really ugly; later on I became his colleague. When I told him, “You just look at your face in the mirror,” he said, “But, then, why have you joined our department?”

I said, “Because I am not interested in containers — my interest is in content. I don’t care in what kind of boxes you are presented; I just look inside. My interest is in your inside. Whether your nose is flat, your eyes are crooked — I have no interest in what kind of case you have been imprisoned. I am interested in YOU.”

But this is a human weakness: just to see the cover of a book, the advertisement of a certain thing, and be impressed by things which have nothing to do with the reality, things not concerned with reality.

If you want to sell a car, you have to advertise the car with a beautiful woman standing just by the side of the bonnet, looking at the car, enchanted. She is enchanted by the car, you become enchanted by her. Strange game! And then you purchase the car — as if that woman is going to come as part and parcel of the car. Later on you understand and feel silly, but then it is too late. That woman has nothing to do with the car.

In fact, such kinds of advertisements will show people of the future, what kind of people have existed on the earth before. After two thousand years people will think, “It seems it was just a madhouse! These advertisements show something about the people who were advertising, who were looking at the advertisements; these advertisements must have worked.” They are working.

You purchase a thing not because you need it but because it is advertised so much, hammered so much in your mind, from all sides. Wherever you go the billboards are there; in the movie it is there: Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola … wherever you go. It is difficult to get rid of Coca-Cola — and then naturally you decide it is better to taste it, because if the whole world is talking about Coca-Cola there must be something in it.

The question you have asked is your question — you are not interested in truth. But you don’t have the courage even to say that. Why be afraid? If you are not interested, it is perfectly okay. Then the truth is not interested in you either. The truth is not going to follow you, it is not going to nag you, “Be interested in me! Why are you not interested in me?” It is not your wife.

Asking what truth is would have been enough. If you had stopped there …. The same question was asked by Pontius Pilate — his last question to Jesus Christ. He had asked many other things and Jesus had answered them. His last question was, “What is truth?” — and this is the only question that Jesus did not answer.

Now, Jesus not answering the question can have many interpretations. Perhaps he knew nothing about truth. Perhaps he knew, but he also knew that the questioner was not going to understand it; it was futile, because the questioner was asking from a space which was absolutely wrong. Pontius Pilate was the governor-general; he was going to decide the fate of this young outrageous person who was just a hobo, a nobody. Perhaps he was the first hippie in the world.

To ask about truth you have to be in a certain space. You cannot be in power and ask the person who is standing before you as a criminal, whose life is in your hands — you are going to decide whether he is going to be crucified tomorrow or not. This is not the way to ask such a vital, ultimately meaningful question. You have to come down.

You have to sit as a disciple by the side of the man you want to question about truth. Only a disciple has the qualification to ask such a question. Perhaps Jesus did not answer because there was no disciple; there was a governor-general. Or, it is possible Jesus wanted to answer but language was a barrier. Truth cannot be expressed through language; the moment you put it into words something goes wrong.

It is just as when you take a completely straight staff and put it in the water halfway: you will be surprised that the straight staff is no longer straight. Where it meets the water — half of it is out, half is in the water — something has gone wrong, it is no longer straight. It has taken an angle, it is crooked.

You take the staff back out of the water … and it is a miracle! — it is again absolutely straight. Nothing happens to the staff in water, but the nature of water and the nature of air cause them to function differently. The straight line becomes no longer the same; it is under different laws. The same happens to truth the moment it enters the world of language. Language is all human creation:

Truth is not. We are a creation of truth.

Language is our creation; hence it cannot express our origin, it is superficial. Language is just a toy in our hands. I was talking to a great scholar, Doctor Hiralal Jain; he was a world-famous scholar on Jainism, and a man of words. He knows seven languages and was so efficient in every one that it was difficult to decide which was his mother tongue.

His whole life he had devoted to words, their roots …. Words have traveled for thousands of years in so many lands, in so many climates; they have changed with every move of the society. It is really a very, very interesting enquiry — how words have come to be what they are, from where they have come.

We were traveling in the train, in the same compartment. We knew each other — he was an old man but he belonged to the same city where I was brought up. We were neighbors, his whole family lived next door to my family. He used to come once in a while when I was a child, only in the summer vacations, because he was engaged all over the world in different universities.

But finally I also became a professor in the same university where he had become head of the department of the Sanskrit, Pali, and Prakrit languages. These three languages are the ancientmost in the East, and he was perhaps the best scholar of all the three.

So traveling in the train … we were both going to the same conference. I said, “You have wasted your whole life with words. You have never bothered about meanings.”
He said, “Meanings? But words have meanings!”

I said, “Words don’t have any meaning.” I said to him, “For example I can say, `What is this whole hullabaloo?’ Now what does this word “hullaballoo” mean? I can change it. I can say, `What is all this Honolulu?’ If you are a little bit intelligent you will understand that it is the same — Honolulu or hullabaloo. Words mean what we want them to mean, they don’t have any intrinsic meaning.

Meaning is something different, totally different — and truth is pure meaning, pure content without any container. The moment you put a container around it you are doing something …. It is as if you see a bird on the wing in the sky. It is so beautiful — the flight, the freedom, the space, the sunrays, and the joy of the bird on the wing … life throbbing, pulsating.

You can catch the bird, you can put it into a golden cage — do you think it is the same bird?, the same bird that was on the wing when the sun was rising, the same bird fluttering in the strong wind in the vast sky with no barriers? Yes, your cage is beautiful, golden; but the bird has no longer the same freedom, it has no longer the same beauty, it has no longer the same truth. You have killed everything.

In a very superficial way it is the same bird because the body is the same, but what about the soul? What about the innermost core of the bird? Can it be the same in the cage and in the open sky on the wing? This is a little bit delicate, but not beyond intelligence: it is no longer the same bird. The same happens to truth.

The moment you put it into language, the whole freedom, the whole beauty, the whole authenticity is gone. Truth said is truth dead. You are asking what is truth. I can show you the way so that you can see what is the truth. You cannot see through my eyes; you cannot get a glimpse of it through my words.

If you are really interested in knowing, then I can show you the path which leads to truth. I have been calling that path meditation. You be silent — because truth is your innermost property, your own treasure: not the kingdom of God somewhere else in the heavens, but the kingdom of God within you just now, throbbing, pulsating — your heartbeat.

It is here, but you are not here. You have to be brought back home. You have gone too far away from yourself. Perhaps you have got lost and you don’t know how to come back home. Perhaps you are standing in front of your home, but you cannot remember that this is your home.

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