Book of Understanding: Creating Your Own Path to Freedomby Osho
The path to freedom is filled with questions and uncertainty. Is it possible to truly know who we are? Do our lives have a purpose, or are we just accidental? What are we meant to contribute? What are we meant to become, to create, and to share? In The Book of Understanding, Osho, one of the most provocative thinkers of our time, challenges us to understand our world and ourselves in a new and radical way. The first step toward understanding, he says, is to question and doubt all that we have been taught to believe.
All our lives we’ve been handed so-called truths by countless others—beliefs we learned to accept without reason. It is only in questioning our beliefs, assumptions, and prejudices that we can begin to uncover our own unique voice and heal the divisions within us and without.
Once we discover our authentic self, we can embrace all aspects of the human experience—from the earthy, pleasure-loving qualities that characterize Zorba the Greek to the watchful, silent qualities of Gautam the Buddha. We can become whole and live with integrity, able to respond with creativity and compassion to the religious, political, and cultural divides that currently plague our society.
In this groundbreaking work, Osho identifies, loosens, and ultimately helps to untie the knots of fear and misunderstanding that restrict us—leaving us free to discover and create our own individual path to freedom.
Doubt—because doubt is not a sin, it is the sign of your intelligence.
You are not responsible to any nation, to any church, to any God. You are responsible only for one thing, and that is self-knowledge. And the miracle is, if you can fulfill this responsibility, you will be able to fulfill many other responsibilities without any effort. The moment you come to your own being, a revolution happens in your vision. Your whole outlook about life goes through a radical change. You start feeling new responsibilities—not as something to be done, not as duty to be fulfilled, but as a joy to do. —OSHO
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Read an Excerpt
WORLDLY VS. OTHERWORLDLY
Understanding the Great Divide
I propose a new religiousness. It will not be Christianity and it will not be Judaism and it will not be Hinduism; this religiousness will not have any adjective to it. It will be purely a quality of being whole.
Religion has failed. Science has failed. The East has failed, and the West has failed. Something of a higher synthesis is needed in which East and West can have a meeting, in which religion and science can have a meeting.
The human being is like a tree, with its roots in the earth and the potential to flower. Religion has failed because it was talking only of the flowers--and those flowers remain philosophical, abstract; they never materialize. They could not materialize because they were not supported by the earth. And science has failed because it has cared only about the roots. The roots are ugly, and there seems to be no flowering. Religion has failed because it was otherworldly and it neglected this world. And you cannot neglect this world--to neglect this world is to neglect your own roots. Science has failed because it neglected the other world, the inner, and you cannot neglect the flowers. Once you neglect the flowers, the innermost core of being, life loses all meaning.
Just as the tree needs roots, so does the human being need roots--and the roots can only be in the earth. The tree needs an open sky to grow into, to come to great foliage and to have thousands of flowers. Then only is the tree fulfilled; then only does the tree feel significance and meaning, and life becomes relevant.
The West is suffering from too much science, and the East has suffered from too much religion. Now we need a new humanity in which religion and science become two aspects of one humanity. And once we have brought this new humanity into existence, the earth can become for the first time what it is meant to become. It can become a paradise: this very body the Buddha, this very earth the paradise.
Zorba the Buddha: A meeting of earth
My concept of a new human being is one that will be Zorba the Greek and will also be Gautam the Buddha: the new human being will be "Zorba the Buddha"--sensuous and spiritual. Physical, utterly physical--in the body, in the senses, enjoying the body and all that the body makes possible--and still a great consciousness, a great witnessing will be there. Zorba the Buddha--it has never happened before.
That's what I'm talking about when I talk about a meeting of the East and the West, the meeting of materialism and spirituality. That's my idea of Zorba the Buddha: heaven and earth are united.
I want there to be no schizophrenia, no split between matter and spirit, between the mundane and the sacred, between this-worldly and that-worldly. I don't want any split, because every split is a split in you. And any person, any humanity that is divided against itself is going to be crazy and insane. We are living in a crazy and insane world. It can be sane only if this split can be bridged.
Mankind has lived believing either in the reality of the soul and the illusoriness of matter, or in the reality of matter and the illusoriness of the soul. You can divide the humanity of the past into those who are spiritual and those who are materialists. But nobody has bothered to look at the reality of the human being. We are both together. We are neither just spirituality--not just consciousness--nor are we just matter. We are a tremendous harmony between matter and consciousness. Or perhaps matter and consciousness are not two things but only two aspects of one reality: Matter is the outside of consciousness, and consciousness is the interiority of matter. But there has not been a single philosopher, sage, or religious mystic in the past who has declared this unity; they were all in favor of dividing the human being, calling one side real and the other side unreal. This has created an atmosphere of schizophrenia all over the earth.
You cannot live just as a body. That's what Jesus means when he says, "Man cannot live by bread alone"--but this is only half the truth. You need consciousness, you cannot live by bread alone, true--but you cannot live without bread, either. You have both dimensions to your being, and both dimensions have to be fulfilled, to be given equal opportunity for growth. But the past has been either in favor of one and against the other, or in favor of the other and against the first. Man as a totality has not been accepted.
This has created misery, anguish, and a tremendous darkness; a night that has lasted for thousands of years and seems to have no end. If you only listen to the body, you condemn yourself to a meaningless existence. And if you don't listen to the body, you suffer--you are hungry, you are poor, you are thirsty. If you listen only to consciousness, your growth will be lopsided. Your consciousness will grow, but your body will shrink and the balance will be lost. And in the balance is your health, in the balance is your wholeness, in the balance is your joy, your song, your dance.
The materialist has chosen to listen to the body and has become completely deaf as far as the reality of consciousness is concerned. The ultimate result is great science, great technology--an affluent society, a richness of things that are mundane, worldly. And amidst all this abundance there is a poor human being without a soul, completely lost--not knowing who he is, not knowing why he is, feeling almost like an accident or a freak of nature.
Unless consciousness grows along with the richness of the material world, the body becomes too heavy and the soul becomes too weak. You are burdened by your own inventions, your own discoveries. Rather than creating a beautiful life for you, they create a life that is felt by intelligent people to be not worth living.
The East in the past has chosen consciousness and has condemned matter and everything material, the body included, as maya. They have called it illusory, a mirage in a desert that only appears to exist but has no reality in itself. The East has created a Gautam Buddha, a Mahavira, a Patanjali, a Kabir, a Farid, a Raidas--a long line of people with great consciousness, with great awareness. But it has also created millions of poor people, hungry, starving, dying like dogs--with not enough food, no pure water to drink, not enough clothes, not enough shelter.
A strange situation. . . . In the developed countries every six months they have to drown millions and millions of dollars' worth of foodstuffs in the ocean, because it is surplus. They don't want to overload their warehouses, they don't want to lower their prices and destroy their economic structure. On the one hand, in Ethiopia a thousand people are dying every day, and on the other hand the European Common Market is destroying so much food that the cost of destroying it is in the millions of dollars. That is not the cost of the food; it is the cost of taking it and throwing it into the ocean. Who is responsible for this situation?
The richest man in the West is searching for his soul and finding himself hollow--without any love, only lust; without any prayer, only parrotlike words that he has been taught in the Sunday schools. He has no sense of spirituality, no feeling for other human beings, no reverence for life, for birds, for trees, for animals. Destruction is so easy--Hiroshima and Nagasaki would never have happened if people were not thought to be just things. So many nuclear weapons would not have been piled up if the human being had been considered to be a hidden god, a hidden splendor--not to be destroyed but to be discovered, not to be destroyed but to be brought into the light, with the body as a temple for the spirit. But if a human being is just matter--just chemistry, physics, a skeleton covered with skin--then with death everything dies, nothing remains. That's why it becomes possible for an Adolf Hitler to kill six million people--if people are just matter, there is no question of even thinking twice.
The West, in its pursuit of material abundance, lost its soul, its interiority. Surrounded by meaninglessness, boredom, anguish, it cannot find its own humanity. All the success of science proves to be of no use--because the house is full of things, but the master of the house is missing. In the East, the end result of centuries of considering matter to be illusory and only consciousness to be real has been that the master is alive but the house is empty. It is difficult to rejoice with hungry stomachs, with sick bodies, with death surrounding you; it is impossible to meditate. So, unnecessarily, they have been losers.
All the saints and all the philosophers--the spiritual and the materialist both--are responsible for this immense crime against humanity.
Zorba the Buddha is the answer. It is the synthesis of matter and soul. It is a declaration that there is no conflict between matter and consciousness, that we can be rich on both sides. We can have everything that the world can provide, everything that science and technology can produce, and we can still have everything that a Buddha, a Kabir, a Nanak finds in his inner being--the flowers of ecstasy, the fragrance of godliness, the wings of ultimate freedom.
Zorba the Buddha is the new human being, is the rebel. The rebellion consists of destroying the schizophrenia of humanity, destroying the dividedness--destroying the idea that spirituality is against materialism and materialism is against spirituality. It is a manifesto that body and soul are together. Existence is full of spirituality--even mountains are alive, even trees are sensitive. It is a declaration that the whole of existence is both material and spiritual--or perhaps just one energy expressing itself in two ways, as matter and as consciousness. When energy is purified, it expresses itself as consciousness; when energy is crude, unpurified, dense, it appears as matter. But the whole of existence is nothing but an energy field. This is my experience, it is not my philosophy. And it is supported by modern physics and its research: Existence is energy.
We can allow ourselves to have both the worlds together. We need not renounce this world to get the other world; neither have we to deny the other world to enjoy this world. In fact, to have only one world while you are capable of having both is to be unnecessarily poor.
Zorba the Buddha is the richest possibility. We will live our nature to its utmost and we will sing songs of this earth. We will not betray the earth, and we will not betray the sky either. We will claim all that this earth has--all the flowers, all the pleasures--and we will also claim all the stars of the sky. We will claim the whole existence as our home.
All that existence contains is for us, and we have to use it in every possible way--without any guilt, without any conflict, without any choice. Choicelessly enjoy all that matter is capable of, and rejoice in all that consciousness is capable of.
There is an ancient story. . . .
In a forest near a city there lived two beggars. Naturally they were enemies to each other, as all professionals are--two doctors, two professors, two saints. One beggar was blind and one was lame, and they were very competitive; the whole day they were competing with each other in the city.
But one night their huts caught fire, because the whole forest was on fire. The blind man could run out, but he could not see where to go. He could not see the places where the fire had not yet spread. The lame man could see where there were still possibilities of escaping from the fire, but he could not run. The fire was spreading fast, so the lame man could only see his death coming.
They realized that they needed each other. The lame man had a sudden realization: "The other man can run, the blind man can run and I can see." They forgot all their competition. In such a critical moment, when both were facing death, each necessarily forgot all stupid enmities. They created a great synthesis; they agreed that the blind man would carry the lame man on his shoulders and they would function as one person--the lame man could see, and the blind man could run, and in this way they saved their lives. And because they saved each other's lives they became friends; for the first time they dropped their antagonism.
Zorba is blind--he cannot see, but he can dance, he can sing, he can rejoice. The Buddha can see, but he can only see. He is pure eyes, just clarity and perception--but he cannot dance. He is crippled, he cannot sing, he cannot rejoice.
It is time. The world is on fire and everybody's life is in danger. The meeting of Zorba and Buddha can save the whole of humanity. Their meeting is the only hope. Buddha can contribute consciousness, clarity, the eyes to see beyond, the eyes to see that which is almost invisible. Zorba can give his whole being to Buddha's vision--and his participation will make sure that it does not remain just a dry vision but a dancing, rejoicing, ecstatic way of life.
?Is the meeting of Zorba and the Buddha really possible? If it is, then why have other religious leaders never thought about it?
The first thing to be understood: I am not a religious leader. A religious leader cannot think of things, cannot see things the way I can, for the simple reason that he has an immense investment in religion; I have none.
Religions are necessarily splitting people, creating a duality in the human mind. That is their way of exploiting you. If you are whole, you are beyond their control. If you are cut in fragments, then all your strength is destroyed, all your power, your dignity abolished. Then you can be a Christian, a Hindu, a Mohammedan. If you are left just the way you are born--natural, without any interference from the so-called religious leaders, you will have freedom, independence, integrity. You cannot be enslaved. And all your old religions are doing nothing but enslaving you.
To enslave you, they have to create a conflict within you so you start fighting with yourself.
Meet the Author
Osho, known for his revolutionary contribution to the science of inner transformation, continues to inspire millions of people worldwide in their search to define a new approach to individual spirituality that is self-directed and responsive to the everyday challenges of contemporary life. The Sunday Times of London named him one of the “1,000 Makers of the Twentieth Century,” and novelist Tom Robbins called him “the most dangerous man since Jesus Christ.” For more information about Osho and his work, please visit osho.com.
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This book was my first introduction to the another world of thought, spirituality and BEING. I cannot even express the impact it has made on my life path and becoming more in tuned with myself and understanding my relation to the collective overall.