Every definition is a Death

Osho on Character and Freedom

Thomas Carlyle once said about one of his friends that he was born a man and died a grocer. Everybody is born great and dies very small. Everybody is born like a god and almost always dies like a dog. What happens in between? Why is man crippled by life?

One should hope that man grows to greater dimensions, grows to greater heights, grows to greater life – what Jesus calls ‘life abundant’ – but that rarely happens. As it happens usually, man starts shrinking. The moment man is born he starts shrinking, becoming smaller and smaller and smaller. This has to be understood.

When a child is born, he has no identity. He simply is. That ‘is-ness’ is vast, it has magnitude, it has no limitation. The child has no name yet, the name cripples; the child has no identity, the child does not know who he is. That is his greatness, that is his vastness. He is one with existence, he is not yet separated. He has no boundary, no finitude.

A child has no character. That is his beauty. Character kills. The more character you have, the smaller you have become. Character is an armor around you, it defines you. And every definition is a death. Let me repeat:

Every definition is a death; only the undefined is alive.

The child has a body, but he has no form. In his consciousness no form yet exists. Even if you put a mirror before the child; he will not recognize himself. He will look at the mirror, but he will not recognize that he is reflected there because he does not know yet who he is. That is his innocence.

Then things start gathering around: the name, which becomes an imprisonment; the form, the identity. The religion, the society, the color, the nation – they all become confinements. Now the child is shrinking, the vastness of the sky disappearing. Clouds are gathering and they go on suffocating your being. By the time you die, you were already dead long before.

That is the meaning of these sutras:

If one is to attain to one’s real glory again, one has to become indefinable, one has to lose character. It will be very difficult to understand me. I say that one has to lose character because character is what gives you limitations. Character is a fixity, a frozenness. Unless the character melts and you start flowing again, unless you become unknown to yourself and unpredictable…. Nobody, not even you yourself, knows what is going to happen in the next moment. You start living moment to moment. The calculation is gone. the planning disappears, you float like a white cloud in the sky: moving but without any motivation; moving but not knowing where you are going; moving but remaining in the moment, so totally here-now that past and future make no sense, only present is meaningful.

Then what will be your identity? Who will be you? You cannot say anything about it; it is unutterable. That is what Buddha calls the inner emptiness: ANATTA, no self; that’s what Jesus calls the kingdom of God. Something mysterious that you are. Not that you have to become – you are already that.

It happened in the Second World War in a Japanese concentration camp. The guards of the concentration camp had come to know that the arrival of the American army was imminent. Any moment they could reach and Japan would be defeated. They became afraid for their own lives. They unlocked the doors and fled to the woods. But those who were imprisoned in the camp never came to know that now the doors were not locked. They were still imprisoned. The guards had gone, the locks were unlocked, but the prisoners were still prisoners. They were already free, but they did not know about it. The next day when the liberators came, they had only to announce to them that “You are already free. We have to do nothing.”

This is what I say to you: that you are already free. The guards have never been there except in your imagination and the locks were never locked. You have seen a dream and you are imprisoned in it. This is the only good news that Jesus brings to you or I bring to you: that you are already free. Not that you have to become free. All your imprisonment is just a mental attitude.

You call yourself a Hindu or a Christian or a Mohammedan. Not that you are a Christian. How can you be a Christian and how can you be a Mohammedan? How can just a mere ideology confine you; how can just words make prisons for you? To such a vital energy, to such a vital reality, how can just mere words – Hinduism, Christianity – become imprisonments? Impossible. But you believe in them. Then the impossible becomes possible. You think of yourself that you are this or that. That very thinking makes you this or that. But you are not.

In the innermost core of your being you remain total freedom, absolute freedom.


Listen to complete discourse at mentioned below link.

Discourse series: Come Follow to You, Vol 2 Chapter #5

Chapter title:   …And Who Are My Brethren?

4 November 1975 am in Buddha Hall


Osho has spoken on ‘freedom, emptiness, isness’ in many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. Beyond Enlightenment
  2. Christianity: The Deadliest Poison and Zen: The Antidote to All Poisons
  3. Ecstasy – The Forgotten Language
  4. From Bondage to Freedom
  5. I Celebrate Myself: God Is No Where, Life Is Now Here
  6. The Transmission of the Lamp
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