Osho on Repentance

Question – Beloved Masters, What is true Repentance?

Osho – The religions have made much fuss about repentance. Jesus goes on repeating again and again to his people, “Repent, repent, because the kingdom of God is close! Repent, because the day of judgment is coming close!”

First, religions make you feel guilty; otherwise, repentance would not have any relevance. You looked at a beautiful woman passing by, and there was a longing in you, your heart started beating faster. But you are married and the father of half a dozen children; moreover, you are a Christian. It does not suit you.

You start feeling guilty; you have not done anything, but you start feeling guilty. Now, how to get rid of this guilt? You are feeling guilty towards your wife, so you will have to bring ice cream — that is repentance. And the wife also understands it, that you must have done something wrong; otherwise, why ice cream? You have to bring toys to the children — that is repentance.

But this is not enough. You have to go to the priest to confess that a beautiful woman was passing, and you had a sexual desire arise in you: “It is not right. Ask God’s forgiveness on my behalf.” Now you will be at ease. But you have not done anything, and you are unnecessarily wasting money on ice cream, toys, going to the priest — and becoming a victim of the priest, because now you will be always under his power. The Catholic religion has more power over its people than any other religion, for the simple reason that everybody has to confess their sins. Naturally, the priest knows so much about everyone… you cannot leave the fold — he can expose you.

Confession is being used to keep you in bondage; you cannot leave the fold. The idea given to you is that this is how you repent, but the reality is that in most of the cases you are not committing any sin. To look at a beautiful woman and feel your heart beating faster is absolutely right, it is according to nature. It is respectful to the woman.

In a better, more human society where all these dead religions are finished, you would rather go to the woman and thank her for her beauty, to be grateful that she is. You don’t feel guilty when you see a beautiful roseflower, you don’t feel guilty when you see a beautiful sunset. Then why should you feel guilty when you see a beautiful woman or a man? Beauty is not sin.

It should be respected. And in a more intelligent, understanding, human world, the woman will accept your compliment with gratitude. You are not doing any harm. Most of your sins are not sins at all. A few perhaps are mistakes, but not sins. In my way of life, the word “sin” does not exist. You will be surprised to know that the original root from where the word “sin” comes, means forgetfulness. That’s great, that’s what it should mean. You were not aware, you forgot, you committed a mistake.

The idea of sin is invented by the priests to suppress you, subjugate you, humiliate you, destroy your dignity. But forgetfulness is understandable. You can do something without being aware of what you are doing; later on you become alert that you have done something wrong. Then the best way is not to go to the priest, but to go to the person to whom you have done the wrong.

What business has the priest in it? And what business has God in it? The person whom you have harmed in any way — you should go to him, to ask his forgiveness. That will be beautiful, and that will bring people together. You will be surprised that in Thailand there is a small tribe of very primitive people who, even if in their dreams they harm somebody…. For example, if they beat somebody in their dreams, the first thing in the morning they have to go to that person and ask his forgiveness because, even though it was a dream, there must have been some desire somewhere which created the dream.

They tell him, “I have not hurt you, and I am not going to ever hurt you. I have never been even aware that there is a desire to hurt you, but there must have been because dreams are part of reality. They just don’t come from nowhere.”

And you will be surprised to know that that small tribe is the most peaceful tribe in the whole world: no fight, no rape, no murder, no suicide. And for thousands of years they have been following the same way. Slowly slowly they have stopped dreaming too. They have become so innocent that even in the unconscious there are no longer any desires to be violent, to be a rapist, to torture somebody, to kill somebody.

In thousands of years, continually going to the man and asking for his forgiveness — and he is amazed, because he knows of nothing that you have done to him. But it brings you closer to him — he hugs you, he says, “There is nothing to be worried about, it was only a dream.”

But you insist, “It does not matter that it was only a dream, it was my dream. I am involved in it, and unless you forgive me I will suffer.”

If a man like Sigmund Freud had gone to Thailand to these people, he would have been amazed that his psychoanalysis is of no use. They don’t have any dreams, you cannot psychoanalyze them. Once in a while somebody may have a dream, but they have found a way to get rid of even a slight unconscious desire.

There is no question of sin in your life. You can, at the most, commit a mistake; you can do something which you never wanted to do, and then there is heaviness on your heart. Then do something to undo what you have committed. Going to the priest is simply idiotic. Whatever you have done, undo it — that is the only real repentance — and not for any motive.

“Repent, because the day of judgment is very close by.” If it was not very close by, then…? Then there is no hurry; go on committing sin. When it comes close by, you can repent. And it is not close by, because two thousand years have passed, and Jesus was simply telling a lie when he said, “The day of judgment is very close by, so repent.” He was creating fear in people, that “if you don’t repent, then on the day of judgment you will be punished. It is better that, before that, you repent. Go to the priest, confess, get rid of it.”

But if you can get rid of your so-called sins so easily, by every Sunday going to the priest, do you understand the implications of it? It means for the next week you are again free to commit sins and do anything you want, because all that you have to do is to go again to the priest.

Hindus have an even simpler method. Every year go to the Ganges, have a good bath, and all your sins are washed away. Why make such small installments — one week? Why not one year? And if you cannot manage once a year, then every twelve years there is a special fair in Allahabad — perhaps the biggest gathering of people in the whole world, millions of people. Whatever you have done in twelve years, by taking a bath in the Ganges on that day you are clean, free to do the same things again; at least for another twelve years there is no problem.

I am reminded of an incident in Ramakrishna’s life. He was very simple, uneducated, but a man of tremendous insight. A man came to him and said, “I am going to the Ganges — it is the twelfth year — and I want your blessings. And is it true that all sins that you have done are washed away?”

Ramakrishna was not my type. He said, “Yes, it is true. All sins are washed out while you take a dip in the Ganges.” The man gave a great sigh of relief. He said, “Then it is good. If you say so, then it is perfect.”

Ramakrishna said, “But I have not finished, I have to say something more. Have you seen those big trees on the bank of the Ganges?”

He said, “Yes.”

Ramakrishna said, “That is the trouble: when you take the dip in the Ganges your sins jump out and sit on the trees, and they wait for you. How long can you remain in the water? The Ganges is really great and it does purify, but how long…? Finally, you will have to come out, and the moment you come out — those sins are sitting on the trees, they jump on you. And sometimes it happens that somebody else’s sins also jump on you — just for a change they enjoy it. Those trees are full of sins. So you can go, but beware of the trees.”

The man said, “This is very difficult. How long can I remain in the water? Finally I have to come out, and I have to pass under those trees.”

Ramakrishna said, “I can’t help you with that. That’s why I don’t go — what is the point?”

All religions have found strategies, first to make you feel guilty, then to give you a simple method so that you can be free of guilt. I am not teaching you a religion. I simply want to tell you the truth. If you have done something wrong, go to the person. Be humble, ask his forgiveness. Only he can forgive you, nobody else — neither the Ganges nor God.

And remember, that is the meaning of the word “sin”: forgetfulness. So now, don’t forget again and do the same; otherwise, your asking forgiveness becomes meaningless. Now be careful, be alert, be conscious; and don’t do the same thing again. That is true repentance. Once you made the mistake — it was just a mistake. To err is human, there is nothing to be worried about.

And to forgive is divine, so if somebody comes to you and says that he has committed a mistake against you, don’t miss the opportunity of tasting something of the divine. Or, when you have committed some mistake and you go to somebody else to be forgiven, you are giving him a great chance to have some taste of the divine. It is good for both of you.

By forgiving, he tastes something which is impossible to explain; it can only be called divine, godliness. And you also will feel something tremendously beautiful: humbleness, egolessness. But remember not to commit the mistake again. It should become a decision in you; then you are really repentant. It has nothing to do with God, it has nothing to do with any priest; it has something to do with your own psychology.

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