“What is Religion?” – OSHO

Religion is not ritual. It is not something that you do. It is something that you become. So there is always a possibility of a false religion existing somewhere in the society. False religion is when the inner transformation has been substituted by outer ritual. Then you go on doing things and those things will become a deep-rooted habit with you, but nothing is achieved. People go to the church and the temple, and they repeat the same prayers again and again. Nothing is happening to them. Somewhere on the way they have missed; somewhere on the way they have lost the real coin — and they have substituted it by a false coin.

Remember this, that the real, authentic religion is concerned with the being, not with the doing. It has nothing to do with your outer way of life. It has something to do with your center. Of course, when the center changes, the periphery follows; your outer life also changes. But the reverse is not true: you can change the periphery — the center will not change. And you win live the life of a hypocrite, a life of hypocrisy. You will have a different periphery from the center, not only different but just the opposite, the very contrary. And you will be split in two.

Religion is not ritual. Remember that. Religion is an inner consciousness, an inner awakening. Many things on the surface will change, but the change must occur within you first.

Think of yourself as a circle with a center. The circle is concerned with others. The circle touches others’ boundaries, other circles. The circle lives, the periphery lives, in the society of other peripheries. A certain morality is needed. To live with the others, a certain regulation, rule, a system, is needed. That’s okay. But that is not religion.

Morality is how to live with others, and religion is how to live with oneself. Morality is how not to go wrong with others, and religion is the method of how not to go wrong with yourself. Religion is that which you do in your total loneliness, in your innermost shrine.

Obviously, the periphery will be changed, because the light from the center will come, by and by, and infiltrate the whole periphery. You will become luminous. Even others will start feeling the luminosity, the light that comes from you. But that light will not be the light of your actions, good actions. The light will be something that is not concerned with good and bad.

The light will be just like when a flower opens, and the fragrance spreads — neither good nor bad. The sun rises, and the light spreads — neither good nor bad. And the clouds come and rain. They don’t bother who is good and who is bad.

When the light comes from the center, it is beyond morality; good and bad, everything is dissolved. Simple light, superb in its own self, in its intrinsic value.

The word `religion’ is very beautiful. It comes from a root which means `religere’. Religere means to rejoin, to reunite. With whom? With yourself, with the source of your being. And why reunite? Because with the source you are already united — it is a reunion. It is not that you are reaching to the source for the first time; otherwise, from where will you come? You have come from the source.

Deep down you are still in the source. Just on the periphery, as if the branches have forgotten about the roots… not that they are broken from the roots, because then they cannot live. They have simply forgotten. In their ego, in their height in the sky, with the moon, in their romance, they have completely forgotten that they have roots underground — which nourish them, which sustain them, without which they cannot exist for a single moment. And all this greenery, and all these flowers, and all these fruits, will simply disappear like dreams once they are cut from the root. That’s how it happens to man. You move in the branches, farther away from the roots. You come to many flowers. You are enchanted. The world is beautiful all around you. You completely forget about the roots. But it is not that you are uprooted. Forgetfulness is just forgetfulness.

That is the meaning of religion: to reunite, to remember again. This word `remember’ is also beautiful. It means to become the member again, re-member — to become part of the source again, to go to the source and become the member again of it.

Religion is reuniting with your own source. Religion is remembering, becoming again a part of the organic unity that you are. It is nothing to do with the others. The ego is always concerned with the others, this way or that. When you become totally concerned with yourself, ego simply drops. There is no point for it to exist.

Alone you have no ego. Try it! When you are sitting, totally alone, not even thinking of others, is there any ego left? There is no possibility. The ego needs two to exist. Just like a bridge cannot exist if there are not two banks to the river; the bridge needs two to be supported. The ego exists as a bridge between you and the other. So, in fact, the ego is not in you — it is just between you and the other.

This is something to be remembered always: the ego is not in you. It cannot be there. It is always between you and the other — the husband and wife, the friend, the enemy — always the other. So when you go deep inside, there is no ego. In your total loneliness, ego simply drops. That’s why ego goes on playing tricks. Even if you start searching and seeking for truth, the ego says, `Help others’; the ego says, `Transform others.’ And religion is again missed. It becomes a mission.

Religion is not a mission. Missionaries are again on the wrong track. They have again become concerned with the other — now, in the name of religion, in the name of service — but whenever you are concerned with the other, you have left the source. A religious man also helps others, but he is not concerned. It is natural; it is not a mission. It is not something on the mind. He is not seeking and searching to help somebody. It is just by the way. Out of his inner treasures, he simply shares. And he is not to change anybody! He is not after you to mould you in a certain pattern. Because that is the subtlest violence possible in the world — to try to change the other, to mould the other. That means you are cutting and being aggressive. And you don’t accept the other as God has created him. You have better proposals and you have better ideas than the Divine himself. You want to improve on the Whole. You are simply stupid.

Religion is not a mission. You need not force anybody towards it. When the urge arises, it arises. It cannot be artificially created. Nobody can create an artificial religious urge. That is impossible. It is just like artificially creating a sexual urge in a small child. Even if a child asks questions about sex, he is not interested in sex. Even if he asks from where babies are coming, you misunderstand him if you think that he is interested in sex. He is simply curious about babies, from where they are coming. He is not interested in sex at all. And don’t start teaching him about sex, because he will be simply bored. It will be nonsense to him, because when the urge is not there, when he is not sexually mature, anything you say about sex just goes above his head.

And the same happens with the spiritual urge. It is very similar to the sexual urge. One comes to a maturity, a spiritual maturity, something has ripened within you, and then the search starts. Nobody can enforce it. But all the religions have tried to enforce it, and they have killed the very possibility of the urge.

The world is so irreligious because of the missionaries, the priests. The world is so irreligious because you have taught too much religion, without ever thinking whether the urge exists there or not. People are fed up with your teachings. Churches simply bore. And beautiful words like `God’, `prayer’, `love’, `meditation’, have become ugly. The greatest words have become the dirtiest — because of the missionaries. They have been forcing these beautiful words on you. And when something beautiful is forced, it becomes ugly. You can participate in beauty, but you cannot be forced towards it — then it becomes violence.

Religion is not concerned with others. It is concerned with you, absolutely with you. Religion is personal. It is not a social phenomenon. In fact, there cannot be any sociology of religion; there can only be a psychology. Society is a totally different matter; the crowd is a totally different matter — where peripheries meet. Religion is when you are so alone that there is nobody left to be met. In that total, virgin aloneness, the suprememost ecstasy is born. But you have to come to a ripeness.

Remember, ripeness is all. Before it nothing can be done. And you may be thinking that you are ready, or somebody else may be thinking that he is ready; your curiosity may give you a wrong feeling, a notion that you are ready — but readiness only means that you are ready to stake your life; otherwise it is not a readiness.

Religion is higher than life because life is life with others, life is a relationship, and religion is a non-relationship. It is higher than life. It is the capacity to be alone. It is total independence from the other. Unless you are ready to sacrifice life to it, unless you are ready to die completely as you have been up to now, you are not ready. In that readiness, a small message can become so powerful that it can transform you.

Religion is not concerned with others. And, finally, religion is not concerned with scriptures, words. Wise words are there, but for those words you are not the target; they were never addressed to you. Krishna talked to Arjuna; it was a personal dialogue. Jesus talks to his disciples — a small group of disciples, a personal dialogue — he knows everybody; he knows what he is saying; he knows to whom he is saying it. But the Bible becomes dead, the Gita becomes dead.

Religion is not like a broadcast on the radio. You don’t know to whom you are talking. In the air you talk. The face of the listener is not there. The center of the listener is not there. There is nobody. It may be, it is possible, that nobody is listening to the broadcast and you are talking in a vacuum. Religion is like a personal letter. You write it to somebody and only to somebody; it is meant for somebody. That’s why I have never tried to write anything — except letters. Unless you are here, alive centers, receptive, listening, I cannot say anything. It is impossible. To whom to say it? It is not a dead word. When there is a listener, the dialogue becomes alive; then it has a significance which no scripture can ever have.

So everybody has to seek alive masters. You can read the Gita — it is beautiful; you can read the Bible — it is wonderful; but they are pieces of literature — beautiful as literature, poetry, prose, but not as religion. Religion happens only between two persons: one who knows, and one who does not know but is ready to know. Suddenly religion is born. This is the third thing.


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