Be Selfish

Osho on Selfishness



Deva Vachana,

All the religions have done immense harm to man’s growth, but Christianity is at the top as far as harming humanity is concerned. They have used beautiful words to hide the ugly acts they are doing against you. For example, unselfishness: a man who does not know himself, to tell him to be unselfish is so outrageously idiotic that one cannot believe that for two thousand years Christianity has been doing that. Socrates says, “Know thyself; anything else is secondary.” Knowing thyself, you can be unselfish. In fact you will be unselfish; it won’t be an effort on your part. Knowing thyself, you will know not only yourself, but you will know the self of everyone. It is the same; it is one consciousness, one continent.

People are not islands.

But without teaching people how to know their own being, Christianity has played a very dangerous game, and one which has appealed to people because they have used a beautiful word, unselfishness. It looks religious, it looks spiritual. When I say to you, “First be selfish,” it does not look spiritual. Selfish? Your mind is conditioned that unselfishness is spiritual. I know it is, but unless you are selfish enough to know yourself, unselfishness is impossible. Unselfishness will come as a consequence of knowing yourself, of being yourself. Then unselfishness will not be an act of virtue, not done in order to gain rewards in heaven. Then unselfishness will simply be your nature, and each act of unselfishness will be a reward unto itself.

But Christianity has put the bullocks behind the cart — nothing is moving, everything has got stuck. The bullocks are stuck because the cart is in front of them, and the cart cannot move because no cart can move unless bullocks are ahead of it, moving it. It happens to every Christian who comes here, that meditation gives a feeling of guilt — when the whole world is so troubled, when people are so poor, when people are dying of starvation, when people are suffering from AIDS, you are meditating. You must be utterly selfish. First help the poor, first help the people who are suffering from AIDS, first help everybody else. But your life is very short. In seventy or eighty years, how many unselfish acts can you do? And when are you going to find time for meditation — because whenever you will ask for meditation, those poor are there, new diseases have sprung up, orphans are there, beggars are there.

One Christian mother was telling her small boy, “To be unselfish is a fundamental of our religion. Never be selfish, help others.”

The little boy — and little boys are more perceptive and clear than your so-called old boys — the little boy said, “This seems to be a very strange thing, that I should help others and they should help me. Why not make it simple? — I help myself, they help themselves.” This fundamental of the religion seems to be very complicated — and unnecessarily complicated.

In fact, Christianity has condemned all the Eastern religions for the simple reason that to Christianity they look selfish. Mahavira meditating for twelve years… he should be teaching in a school, or being a male nurse in a hospital. Although, naked, it will look a little bit strange. He should look after orphans, be a Mother Theresa and get a Nobel prize. It is clear that no meditator has ever received a Nobel prize. For what? — because you have not done anything unselfish. You are the most selfish people in the world, just meditating and enjoying your silence and peace and blissfulness, finding the truth, finding God, becoming completely free from all prisons. But this is all selfishness. So the Christian mind finds it a little difficult to accept the idea of meditation. In Christianity there is no meditation, only prayer. They cannot call Gautam Buddha a really religious man, because what has he done for the poor? What has he done for the sick? What has he done for the old? He became enlightened — that is the ultimate in selfishness.

But the East has a totally different outlook — and far more logical, reasonable, understandable. The East has always thought. “Unless you have a peace, a silence in your heart, a song in your being, a light radiating your enlightenment, you cannot do any service to anybody.” You yourself are sick; you yourself are an orphan because you have not found yet the ultimate security of existence, the eternal safety of life. You are so poor yourself that inside there is nothing but darkness. How can you help others? — you are drowning yourself. It will be dangerous to help others. Most probably, you will drown the other person also. First you have to learn swimming yourself. Then only can you be of any help to someone who is drowning.

My approach is absolutely clear. First be selfish, and discover all that is contained in yourself — all the joys and all the blissfulness and all the ecstasies. And then unselfishness will come just like your shadow follows you — because to have a dancing heart, to have God in your being, you have to share it. You cannot go on keeping it, like a miser, because miserliness in your inner growth is a death.

The economics of inner growth is different from the outer economics.

A beggar was standing on the street and he stopped a car. He asked for something because he had not eaten for three days. The man in the car had just won a lottery. And looking at the beggar, he could not believe it — his clothes, although very old, dirty, showed that he came from a good family. His face, his language, all gave indications that he was educated.

He was so full of money at that moment that he took out a one hundred rupee note, and gave it to the beggar. The beggar looked at the note and started laughing.

The man in the car said, “Why are you laughing?”

He said, “I am laughing because soon you will be standing in my place. This is how I became a beggar. Once I used to have my own car; once I used to have thousands of rupees — but I went on distributing. It won’t take a long time for you — I will see you again.”

The ordinary economics is that if you go on giving, you will have less and less and less. But the spiritual economics is that if you don’t give, you will have less and less and less; if you give, you will have more and more and more. The laws of the outside world and the inside world are diametrically opposite. First become rich inside, first become an emperor, and then you have so much to share. You will not call it even unselfishness. And you will not desire that any reward should be given to you — here or here-after. You will not even ask for gratitude from the man you have given something to; on the contrary, you will be grateful that he did not reject you, your love, your bliss, your ecstasy. He was receptive, he allowed you to pour your heart and your songs and your music into his being.

The Christian idea of unselfishness is sheer stupidity. The East has never thought in the same way. The whole East and its search for truth is very long. It has found one simple fact, that first you have to take care of yourself, and then only you can take care of others. Vachana, you feel a certain guilt. You say, “I seem to have to push through a layer of unease, guilt and confusion. I know there is a big difference. Would you speak to us about it?” It is a simple phenomenon. Christianity has deceived millions of people on a wrong path. In America, the fundamentalist Christians were the cause that destroyed our commune. Ronald Reagan is a fundamentalist Christian; and a fundamentalist Christian is the most fanatic, the most bigotted person you can find. We were not doing any harm to anybody. But the problem for them was that we were so happy, so blissful — they could not tolerate it.

Even here… the East has forgotten its own peaks of glory — the days of Gautam Buddha and Mahavira. Now it lives… even people who are not Christians are influenced by the Christian ideology. The Indian constitution says that charity consists of helping the poor, spreading education to the poor, making hospitals for the poor. None of these three things will be found in the teachings of Gautam Buddha. Not that he is against helping the poor, but because he knows that if you are a meditator you will help, but you will not brag about it. It will be a simple, natural thing. From this mystery school they have taken away the tax exempt status because they say it is not a charitable institution. To teach meditation is not charity. To open a hospital is charity. To open a school and teach geography and history is charity. And what are you going to teach in geography? — where is Timbuktu, where is Constantinople. Its Hindi name is Kustutunia. In history, what are you going to teach? — about Genghis Khan, Tamurlane, Nadirshah, Alexander the Great, Ivan the Terrible. This is charity. But to teach people to be silent, peaceful, loving, joyous, contented, fulfilled is not charity…

So your guilt is just a wrong conditioning. Drop it, without even giving it a second thought. I will make you unselfish by making you absolutely selfish. First I have to make you inwardly rich — so rich, so overflowingly rich, that you have to share, just as a raincloud has to share its rain with the thirsty earth. But first the cloud must be full of rain. Saying to the empty clouds, “You should be unselfish,” is just irrational. People even come here, well wishers, with good intentions. They say, “This is a strange ashram. You should open a hospital for the poor; you should collect the orphans; you should distribute clothes to the beggars; you should help those who need help.”

My own approach is totally different. I can distribute birth control methods to the poor so that there are no orphans. I can distribute the pill to the poor so there is no explosion of population — because I don’t see the point: first create the orphans and then create orphanages and then serve them and waste your life. When I started speaking thirty-five years ago, India had only a population of four hundred million. And I have been saying since then that birth control is an absolute necessity. But all Christians are against birth control. And just within thirty-five years, India has more than doubled its population. From four hundred million it has gone to nine hundred million. Five hundred million people could have been prevented and there would have been no need of Mother Teresa, no need for the pope to come to India and teach unselfishness.

But people are strange — first let them become sick, then give medicine. And they have found beautiful ways. In every Lions Club and Rotary Club, they keep boxes for their members — if you purchase a bottle of some medicine and you are cured, and half the bottle is still there, you donate it to the Lions Club. This way they collect medicine, and then they are great, unselfish people; they are distributing the medicine. Service is their motto. But it is a very cunning service. Those medicines were going to be thrown away — if you are cured, what are you going to do with the remaining medicine? It is a great idea to collect all those medicines and distribute them to the poor — and have a great feeling of being public servants.

In my vision, the thing that man needs first and foremost is a meditative consciousness. And after you have your meditative consciousness, whatever you do will be helpful to everybody; you cannot do any harm, you can do only compassionate and loving acts.

But even the Indian constitution does not accept a school of meditation as charitable. And this is the greatest charity possible. I repeat again, Vachana,

first be selfish. Know thyself, be thyself and then your very life will be nothing but a sharing, an unselfish sharing,

and without asking for any reward in this world or in the other world.


This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune. 

Discourse Series: The Razor’s Edge

Chapter #4

Chapter title: First be selfish

27 February 1987 am in Chuang Tzu Auditorium


Osho has spoken on ‘selfishness, Christianity, conditioning, freedom, liberty, democracy, East-West, communism’ in many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. Beyond Psychology
  2. Be Still and Know
  3. The Book of Wisdom
  4. Christianity: The Deadliest Poison and Zen: the Antidote to All Poisons
  5. Communism and Zen Fire, Zen Wind
  6. From Bondage to Freedom
  7. From Darkness to Light
  8. From the False to the Truth
  9. Guida Spirituale
  10. The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol. 5,7,8,10
  11. Zen: Zest, Zip, Zap and Zing
  12. Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega, Vol. 6
  13. Zen: The Mystery and The Poetry of the Beyond
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