A few days ago somebody emailed me a document about how life is purposeless, since I'd recently blogged about "The joy of living in a meaningless world." They weren't sure who had written the piece, but thought it was Osho (previously known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh).
They were right. I found this out via a Scribd file, which I've copied in below.
I like what Osho says. I agree with almost everything in the piece, which is an excerpt from a book he wrote, "Vedanta: Seven Steps to Samadhi." Because it is about 3,000 words long, and some people may not want to read it all, I've boldfaced parts I particularly liked.
Yes, during his Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh days, things got pretty weird in Osho's world.
Since I was living here in Oregon back when the Bhagwan and his followers founded Rajneeshpuram in Wasco County, I clearly remember all the Rolls Royces, scandals, and such that ended up giving Osho a bad reputation. Nonetheless, I've read one or two of his books, and they made quite a bit of sense to me.
As does the following, with a few exceptions.
Osho - Life is purposeless. And it is beautiful that it is purposeless
Question: Beloved Osho, If everything is simply happening, then can there be any ultimate purpose to it all, or is life just an accident? Can it be said that life is evolving towards some ultimate goal?
Osho: It is very difficult, particularly for the Western mind, to understand that life is purposeless. And it is beautiful that it is purposeless. If it is purposeful then the whole thing becomes absurd – then who will decide the purpose? Then some God has to be conceived who decides the purpose, and then human beings become just puppets; then no freedom is possible. And if there is some purpose then life becomes businesslike, it cannot be ecstatic.
The West has been thinking in terms of purpose, but the East has been thinking in terms of purposelessness. The East says life is not a business, it is a play. And a play has no purpose really, it is nonpurposeful. Or you can say play is its own purpose, to play is enough. Life is not reaching towards some goal, life itself is the goal. It is not evolving towards some ultimate; this very moment, here and now, life is ultimate.
Life as it is, is accepted in the East. It is not moving towards some end, because if there is some end who will decide the end and why? If God decides it, then you can ask the same question about God: ”What is the purpose of creating a world with purpose?” or, ”Why should he create a purposive world?” or even more deeply, ”What is the purpose of God’s existence?” Maybe life has a purpose and God decides the purpose, but then God’s existence has to be questioned – why he exists – and that way the question is simply pushed one step ahead.
Then God becomes purposeless, or you have to create another God to decide the purpose of this God. Then you will be in a regress ad infinitum, then there is no end to it. Somewhere deep down you will have to come to the conclusion that this phenomenon is purposeless; otherwise there is no end.
So why go from the world to the God? Why not say that life itself is purposeless? The whole game of logicians, theologians, is stupid in a way. They say, ”God created the world, because how could the world come into existence if there was no one who created it?” But the question can be asked, ”Who created the God?” – and then they fall on their own. They say, ”God is uncreated.”
If God can exist without being created, why can’t this life itself exist without being created? If you accept that something is possible without being created, then what is the trouble? Then why think about a God who created the world? The East says God is not the creator, God is the creation. Nobody has created it, it is there. It has been so always, it will be so always – sometimes manifest, sometimes unmanifest; sometimes visible, sometimes invisible. It goes on moving in a periodical rhythm, in a circle. But existence itself is uncreated and it has no goal.
Then think about it in other ways also. Firstly, if there is a goal why hasn’t it been achieved yet? The existence has been existing timelessly, millions and millions of light-years it has existed, and the goal has not been reached yet. When will it be reached? If so many millions and millions of light-years have passed and the goal is nowhere to be seen, when will it be reached? Secondly, if some day the goal is reached, what will happen to existence? Will it disappear? When the purpose is fulfilled, then what? Conceive of a moment somewhere in the future when the purpose is fulfilled: for what will existence exist then? Then it will be purposeless for it to exist.
The reality is this: that it is already always purposeless. There is no goal towards which the existence is moving. It is moving, but not towards any goal. It has a value, but the value is not in the end, the value is intrinsic.
You love someone. Have you asked the question, ”For what purpose does love exist?” The mind, a calculating mind, is bound to ask, ”Why love? What is the purpose?” If you can answer then one thing is certain – that you are not in love. If you can show the purpose then love is not there, it is a business, it is a bargain. But lovers will always say there is no purpose to it.
To be in love is the goal. The goal is not somewhere else; it is intrinsic, it is in the very phenomenon of love. The goal is already achieved. When you are happy have you asked, ”What is the purpose of being happy?” Can there be any purpose to being happy? When you are happy you never ask because the question is absurd.
Happiness is itself the goal, there is no purpose to it. Life is like love, life is like happiness. Life is existence – no goal. And once you can understand this your ways of living will change totally, because if there is no purpose in life itself there is no need to create a purpose for your individual life also – no need. Because of individual purposes you become tense, something has to be achieved.
Then an achieving mind is created which is always trying to achieve something or other. And whenever something is achieved again the mind asks, ”Now what? What is to be achieved now?” It cannot remain with itself, it has to go on achieving.
This achieving mind will never be blissful, it will always be tense. And whenever something is achieved the achieving mind will feel frustrated, because now new goals have to be invented. This is happening in America. Many of the goals of the past century have been achieved, so America is in a deep frustration.
All the goals of the founding fathers who created America and the American constitution are almost achieved. In America the society has become affluent for the first time in the whole history of mankind. Almost everybody is rich. The poor man in America is a rich man here in India. The goals have almost been achieved – now what to do? Society has become affluent: food is there, shelter is there, everybody has got a car, radio, refrigerator, tv – now what to do? A deep frustration is felt, some other goals are needed. And there seem to be no goals.
Instead of one car you can have two cars – a two-car garage has become the goal – or you can have two houses, but that will be achieved within ten years. Whatsoever the goal it can be achieved. Then the achieving mind feels frustrated. What to do now? It again needs a goal, and you have to invent a goal. So the whole of American business now depends on inventing goals. Give people goals – that’s what advertisements and the whole business of advertising is doing.
Create goals, seduce people: ”Now this is the goal! You must have this, otherwise life is purposeless!” They start running, because they have an achieving mind. But where does it lead? It leads into more and more neurosis.
Only a nonachieving mind can be at peace. But a nonachieving mind is possible only with the background of a cosmic purposelessness. If the whole existence is purposeless then there is no need for you to be purposeful. Then you can play, you can sing and dance, you can enjoy, you can love and live, and there is no need to create any goal. Here and now, this very moment, the ultimate is present.
If you are available the ultimate can enter you. But you are not available here; your mind is somewhere in the future, in some goal. Life has got no purpose and this is the beauty of it. If there was some purpose life would have been mean – just futile. It is not a business, it is a play. In India we have been calling it leela. Leela means a cosmic play... as if God is playing. Energy overflowing, not for some purpose, just enjoying itself; just a small child playing – for what purpose? Running after butterflies, collecting colored stones on the beach, dancing under the sun, running under the trees, collecting flowers – for what purpose?
Ask a child. He will look at you as if you are a fool. There is no need for purpose. Your mind has been corrupted.
Universities, colleges, education, society, have corrupted you. They have made it a conditioning deep down within you that unless something has a purpose it is useless – so everything must have a purpose. A child playing has no purpose. At the most, if the child could explain he would say, ”Because I feel good. Running, I feel more alive. Collecting flowers, I enjoy, it is ecstatic.” But there is no purpose. The very act in itself is beautiful, ecstatic. To be alive is enough, there is no need for any purpose.
Why ask for anything else? Can’t you be satisfied just by being alive? It is such a phenomenon. Just think of yourself being a stone. You could have been, because many are still stones. You must have been somewhere in the past, sometime, a stone. Think of yourself being a tree. You must have been somewhere a tree, a bird, an animal, an insect. And then think of yourself being a man – conscious, alert, the peak, the climax of all possibilities. And you are not content with it. You need a purpose, otherwise life is useless.
Your mind has been corrupted by economists, mathematicians, theologians. They have corrupted your mind, because they all talk about purpose. They say, ”Do something if something is achieved through it. Don’t do anything which leads nowhere.” But I tell you that the more you can enjoy things which are useless, the happier you will be. The more you can enjoy things which are purposeless, the more innocent and blissful you will be. When you don’t need any purpose you simply celebrate your being.
You feel gratitude just that you are, just that you breathe. It is such a blessing that you can breathe, that you are alert, conscious, alive, aflame. Is it not enough? Do you need something to achieve so that you can feel good, so that you can feel valued, so that you can feel life is justified? What more can you achieve than what you are? What more can be added to your life? What more can you add to it? Nothing can be added, and the effort will destroy you – the effort to add something.
But for many centuries all over the world they have been teaching every child to be purposive. ”Don’t waste your time! Don’t waste your life!” And what do they mean? They mean, ”Transform your life into a bank balance. When you die you must die rich. That is the purpose.”
Here in the East – particularly the mystics we are talking about, the Upanishads – they say, ”Live richly.” In the West they say, ”Die a rich man.” And these are totally different things. If you want to live richly you have to live here and now, not a single moment is to be lost. If you want to achieve something, you will die a rich man – but you will live a poor man, your life will be poor.
Look at rich people: their life is absolutely poor, because they are wasting it transforming it into bank balances, changing their life into money, into big houses, big cars. Their whole effort is that life has to be changed for some things. When they die you can count their things. Buddha became a beggar. He was born a king, he became a beggar. Why? Just to live richly... because he came to understand that there are two ways to live: one is to die richly, the other is to live richly.
And any man who has any understanding will choose to live richly, because dying a rich man doesn’t mean anything; you simply wasted yourself for nothing. But this is possible only if you can conceive that the whole existence is purposeless; it is a cosmic play, a continuous beautiful game, a beautiful hide-and-seek – not leading anywhere. Nowhere is the goal. If this is the background, then you need not be worried about individual purposes, evolution, progress. This word progress is the basic disease of the modern age. What is the need?
All that can be enjoyed is available, all that you need to be happy is here and now. But you create conditions and you say that unless these conditions are fulfilled you cannot be happy. You say, ”These conditions must be fulfilled first: this type of house, this type of clothes, this type of car, this type of wife, this type of husband. All these conditions have to be fulfilled first, then I can be happy.” As if by being happy you are going to oblige the whole universe. And who is going to fulfill your conditions? Who is worried?
But you will try for those conditions, and the effort is going to be so long that they can never be fulfilled really, because whenever something is fulfilled, by the time it is fulfilled the goal has shifted. One of my friends was contesting an election, a political election, so he came to me for blessing. I said, ”I will not give the blessing because I am not your enemy, I am a friend. I can only bless that you may not get elected, because that will be the first step towards madness.” But he wouldn’t listen to me. He was elected, he became a member. Next year he came again for my blessing and he said, ”Now I am trying to be a deputy minister.”
I asked him, ”You were saying that if you could become a member of parliament you would be very happy, but I don’t see that you are happy. You are more depressed and more sad than you ever were before.” He said, ”Now this is the only problem: I am worried. There is much competition. Only if I can become a deputy minister will everything be okay.” He became a deputy minister. When I was passing through the capital he came to see me again and he said, ”I think you were right, because now the problem is how to become the minister. And I think this is the goal. I am not going to change it. Once I become the minister it is finished.”
He has become the minister now, and he came to me a few days ago and he said, ”Just one blessing more. I must become chief minister.” And he is getting more and more worried, more and more puzzled, because more problems have to be faced, more competition, more ugly politics. And he is a good man, not a bad man. I told him, ”Unless you become the suprememost God you are not going to be satisfied.” But he cannot look back and cannot understand the logic of the mind, the logic of the achieving mind.
It can never be satisfied, the way it behaves creates more and more discontent. The more you have the more discontent you will feel, because more arenas become open for you in which to compete, to achieve. A poor man is more satisfied because he cannot think that he can achieve much. Once he starts achieving something he thinks more is possible. The more you achieve the more becomes possible, and it goes on and on forever. A meditator needs a nonachieving mind, but a nonachieving mind is possible only if you can be content with purposelessness. Just try to understand the whole cosmic play and be a part in it.
Don’t be serious, because a play can never be serious. And even if the play needs you to be serious, be playfully serious, don’t be really serious. Then this very moment becomes rich. Then this very moment you can move into the ultimate. The ultimate is not in the future, it is the present, hidden here and now. So don’t ask about purpose – there is none, and I say it is beautiful that there is none. If there was purpose then your God would be just a managing director or a big business man, an industrialist, or something like that.
Jesus says.... Somebody asked him, ”Who will be able to enter into the kingdom of your God?” Jesus said, ”Those who are like small children.” This is the secret. What is the meaning of being a small child? The meaning is that the child is never businesslike, he is always playful. If you can become playful you have become a child again, and only children can enter into the kingdom of God, nobody else, because children can play without asking where it is leading. They can make houses of sand without asking whether they are going to be permanent.
Can somebody live in them? Will they be able to resist the wind that is blowing? They know that within minutes they will disappear. But they are very serious when they are playing. They can even fight for their sandhouses or houses of cards. They are very serious when they are creating. They are enjoying. And they are not fools, they know that these houses are just cardhouses and everything is makebelieve. Why waste time in thinking in terms of business? Why not live more and more playfully, nonseriously, ecstatically?
Ecstasy is not something which you can achieve by some efforts, ecstasy is a way of living. Moment to moment you have to be ecstatic, simple things have to be enjoyed. And life gives millions of opportunities to enjoy. You will miss them if you are purposive.
If you are not purposive, every moment you will have so many opportunities to be ecstatic. A flower, a lonely flower in the garden... you can dance if you are nonpurposive. The first star in the evening... you can sing if you are nonpurposive. A beautiful face... you can see the divine in it if you are nonpurposive. All around the divine is happening, the ultimate is showering. But you will be able to see it only if you are nonpurposive and playful.
Source: from book "Vedanta: Seven Steps to Samadhi" by Osho