Osho on Conversion of Aboriginal people

Question : Beloved Osho, The other night when you were talking about the decadence and suicidal tendency of western society, peaking now in the USA, i was wondering why the western lifestyle is capable of penetrating other cultures and spoiling them in a short time. It amazes me again and again how easily aboriginal tribes on all the continents, with, but mostly without force, drop their millennia-old civilization and culture and start imitating the western way of life — often in quite ridiculous ways. About fifteen years ago, a famous photographer produced two wonderful photo albums depicting two remote tribes in the sudan, called the nuba. These physically and psychically very beautiful people, created over thousands of years — besides amazing skills and arts — a social structure full of love and respect for each other. Incidents of major violence were unknown. One incident has been reported in one of these books as a typical example of how these people treat each other. Clay pots to them were as precious as the finest chinese porcelain is to us — those pots carried supplies of drinking water in that baking-hot climate. One of the workers dropped a pot by mistake and it broke. Nobody jumped angrily upon the poor guy; rather, they consoled the unlucky one and worked on. To me, this is highly-developed, cultured behavior — missing in our rat-race society. Some years later these people came for the first time in contact with the western lifestyle. Within two years, the whole social structure had collapsed, decayed. They now rate a transistor radio, a torn t-shirt, and an army cap more highly than their old values. Only photographs show what has been lost forever. Osho, what drives people so easily into the arms of western civilization, thus destroying their unique heritage?

Osho : It is not a question of Western society. Basically the poor are always attracted towards the rich. They desire to be rich. They can drop any culture, any civilization if they can find a way to riches.

The first thing is that their ancient culture and civilization looks to us very beautiful because we don’t know the details of their whole culture — just facets, fragments. If you know the whole culture and its implications, it won’t be difficult to see why these people dropped their heritage so easily, without resistance.

For example, in India the same has been happening for hundreds of years. Aboriginal people are becoming Christians. They have a beautiful culture seen from the outside and a highly developed sensitivity. So much so that in one culture which I have been visiting continually in central India, Bastar — the whole mountains are full of aboriginals whose culture must be at least ten thousand years old — there is no police station, there are no police, there is no court, there is no law; yet no theft happens, no murder happens.

And if sometimes a murder happens, then a very rare thing happens — which is inconceivable to the outsider. The murderer goes hundreds of miles to the capital to surrender to the police, confessing that he has murdered a fellow man and he needs to be punished. Unless he is punished, he will not find peace of mind.

These things look beautiful — nice people — but they are hungry, starving. They don’t have clothes. They live naked. They don’t have any of the facilities that science has made available to man — no comforts, no entertainment. Their life is boring from inside — no education….

And the culture that looks to us beautiful, to them is simply taken for granted, they don’t see its beauty. They have been born in it, brought up in it. They have not suddenly come across it, they have grown slowly into it.

Things look good to us — that there is nobody who is a thief; but the truth is there is nothing to steal. People are so poor. The same fact can be looked at from two viewpoints. Somebody can say people are so moral that locks are not needed on the houses, and people don’t use locks; but the reality is that there is nothing in the house that needs to be locked. Secondly, the lock itself is a highly technological thing for them, they cannot make locks. They are so far behind.

Gautam Buddha, his whole life, was teaching people not to steal. Mahavira was teaching not to steal. One of Mahatma Gandhi’s successors, Vinoba Bhave, spoke in a meeting. I was only a student then. He said that at that time people were so educated, so moral, so cultured that no locks were used.

I was just graduating from the university; I wrote a note to him and I told him, “You should tell the whole truth. Was there anything in their houses that had to be locked? Were they capable of making locks? And moreover, you will have to give a second thought to why Gautam Buddha and Mahavira — the great teachers of that time — were telling people every day not to steal.

“How do you manage both the facts together? Either Buddha and Mahavira were mad — nobody was stealing and they were continuously preaching to people not to steal — or your story that people did not lock their houses simply means that the vast mass of people had nothing to lock. Those who had something to lock, they had guards with weapons. They also had no need of locks.”

So when you look from the outside it is one thing; when you look only at one facet, it is one thing. Their nakedness is not their innocence, it is simply their incapacity to produce clothes. Clothes are the second category of the basic necessities. The first thing is food. If there is no food, what you are going to do with clothes — making beautiful dresses for the corpses? They don’t have enough food. One meal a day — if you can manage it, you are very fortunate. No hospitals. No schools. If somebody falls sick, there is no way for them to help him to recover.

When Western civilization reached to these aboriginals, it was not their culture that impressed them. It was not their holy BIBLE that impressed them. It was simply a question of survival: it was their capacity to give food, clothes, education, medicine, hospitals, doctors, teachers. They made the first roads so people had not to walk hundreds of miles for small things. They could use the public transport. They laid down the railway lines.

And if you look into the life of the aboriginal people in even more detail you will be surprised. They don’t murder the way we murder, but that does not mean they are not cruel. They are far more cruel. In an aboriginal tribe, if somebody behaves in a way which is not in tune with the tribe, he is boycotted, completely boycotted. Nobody will speak to him. He cannot draw water from the tribe’s well; he may have to go miles to fetch water for himself. He is left completely alone and isolated. He cannot ask for any help in any trouble. If his hut catches fire, nobody from the tribe will come to help him to put the fire out. Once they have boycotted somebody, he does not exist for them.

This is psychological murder — far more dangerous than sitting in an electric chair and within a second you are transported into another world. That is the simplest way, the most kind way.

But this man will be in constant trouble. No job can he find. No other tribe will accept him. And what was his crime? Small crimes. For example, he has fallen in love with a girl who belongs to another tribe. And this is not allowed; you should marry into your own tribe. And your parents should decide on the marriage, not you.

Now his crime was that he loved, and what is being done to him will be done to the girl too by the other tribe. And in those mountains and forests, you cannot live alone. Life is so interwoven that everybody is dependent on everybody else for everything.

In aboriginal tribes there is nothing like freedom, no concept of freedom of speech. The elders decide everything. No younger person can even raise a question — that is disrespectful, and he will be punished for it. And you know their punishments.

Just the other day Anando brought me the news. The chief minister of Punjab, under the pressure from the central government, took over the Sikh holy temple — the Golden Temple of Amritsar — just a few weeks ago. This was the second time that the army has taken it over. Immediately the high priest of the temple expelled the chief minister — because he is also a Sikh.

Then he was in a dilemma. If he does not follow the central government’s orders he will be thrown out of power. If he follows their orders, he is going against his own religion and they will punish him. So he had to choose between the two. He thought perhaps the religious people would be more humane. But what happened was that the whole Punjab was in uproar against the chief minister, that he should resign immediately, or he should go to the Golden Temple, touch the feet of the high priest, confess his crime and accept whatsoever punishment is given.

Resignation was difficult because if he resigns from the chief ministership, he will be killed immediately — the Sikhs will kill him; his own people will kill him because he has trespassed their holy place. And he was one of them.

So he went to touch the feet of the priest and the priest said, “I forgive you, but you will have to do a penance. For seven days in Delhi” — they have a big Sikh temple in Delhi — “you sit outside the gate where people leave their shoes.” And he has been doing that for seven days, cleaning the people’s shoes outside the temple in New Delhi. And everybody is looking and a crowd is watching and people are laughing and people are joking and making a fool of him.

This kind of punishment reminds one of very old traditions. Otherwise it was enough that he was asking to be forgiven. He should have been forgiven. But no, he has to be humiliated. And what kind of humiliation? The ancient methods of humiliating people, the inner workings of the tribal mind, were really ugly. And on top of it all, they were poor.

So it was very easy for Western civilization — particularly Christianity — to open hospitals, schools, to give these people clothes, food. And naturally, when these people were helped in such a way they started imitating those who were helping them. So in the wake of that came transistor radios, army caps — they started dressing like army people. They looked foolish. Naked they were more beautiful, their bodies were more proportionate.

Their life was difficult; Western civilization made their life very easy, and provided all these things — second-hand clothes which have been rejected by the army, and small toys like transistor radios. And for them it was something miraculous, that somebody is speaking in New Delhi — thousands of miles away — and they can listen to what he is saying. This was a miracle — because they had no idea of the technology, no understanding of what was happening.

Christianity was certainly bringing miracles. Now television has reached. People cannot believe their own eyes, that they are seeing people who are thousands of miles away. Through television and radio, cars, small mechanical things, they proved to these poor people that Jesus walked on water, turned water into wine, raised the dead to life.

And seeing all these miracles — for them these are miracles — they could not deny that if these people, who are just followers of Jesus, can do such great miracles, Jesus must have done them.

It is very simple to understand the process — that within two years any older civilization will collapse if Western civilization approaches it. The basic things are that the older civilizations should be starving, should not have clothes, shelter, jobs, education, and then certainly the missionary becomes their prototype. They have to become like the missionary.

Even if they get second-hand things — used and thrown away — they are perfectly happy with those shoes and caps and dresses. They don’t fit them because they are not made for them — some are longer, some are shorter — but still they enjoy it, it is better than to be naked and cold.

They have tasted for the first time something of the man-made world, and they are grateful; and to show that gratefulness they become Christians. In India all the aboriginals are turning Christian by and by. And power functions like a magnet.

When there was the British Empire all around the earth, the British missionary was part of the power machine. So anybody who has been humiliated for centuries became an imitator. He could not become Western, but he could at least imitate.

It is ugly to look at from outside. They have now got bicycles, they can move far and wide, now they are smoking cigarettes, going to see the movies. Their whole structure has collapsed. Now the elders cannot dominate them, they have lost all their power. They are feeling more free. They can fall in love with a girl of another tribe and both can escape to the city. They are educated. They can find a job. Naked they could not come to the city, and even had they come, they had nothing to do except begging. They were not capable of doing any job or any skill; they were never taught.

So the mechanics of the change are very simple; but if we look at the whole thing with a humanitarian vision, it is ugly of Western civilization to exploit these people. You could have given them hospitals, you could have given them schools, you could have given them skills, craftsmanship trainings. There was no need to convert them — as a payment for all your services — to Christianity; that’s where the West has been ugly.

Otherwise, whatever has been done is perfectly good. But they were not doing all these things to help these people, they were doing all these things to convert these people — to make their numbers greater. Now in India Christianity is the third biggest religion.

They are asking in Nagaland, “We want to have an independent country.” And Christianity, from the outside, is supporting them. Their leaders have been given refuge in London. They are being supplied arms. Their leaders are protected in London because it is now a question of Christians — they are no longer aboriginals — the whole of Christianity will stand behind them.

To help the poor is not bad, but to exploit the poor is certainly evil — and in the name of helping them, converting them to your religion. They don’t understand anything about religion, but because you have helped them so much they feel so obliged that whatever you say must be right. This is a very cunning device.

In India I have been trying to find a single high-caste brahmin who has been converted to Christianity. I have not been able to find one — and I have toured India many times for years.

Not a single high-caste Hindu has been converted to Christianity, because what do you have to give to him? He does not need clothes, he does not need education — he has enough, he can educate you. If anybody is going to learn anything, the Hindu has a long tradition of learning; he can teach you. What do you have to give to him? Naturally no high-caste people have been converted — just the very lowest of the low. It is not a credit to Christianity. It is a discredit.

Source : Osho Book “The Transmission of the Lamp”

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