Every definition is a death

4th December is the birthday of the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle. He is famous for his “Great Man Theory” which states that the history of the world is but the biography of great men. In his book, On Heroes, Hero-worship and the Heroic in History, Carlyle reasons that heroes shape history through both their personal attributes and divine inspiration. By studying lives of great men, one can uncover something about one’s own true nature.

A philosopher extraordinaire, Carlyle called Time, the Conflux of Eternities. He said that at any given moment, we are at a centre in which all forces to and from eternity unite. Always in the present moment, never in the past or future, are we closer to eternity than we ever can be. Carlyle also coined the phrase Centre of Immensities to signify that wherever any one is, s/he is in touch with the whole universe of being. His emphasis was that the present moment, if man were to know it, places man as close to the heart of the whole universe as anywhere else he can be.

Carlyle has said, “The misfortune of man has its source in his greatness. For there is something infinite in him and he cannot succeed in burying himself completely in the finite.”

OSHO says Carlyle is right. There is something in man which is higher than man and there is no way to bury it somewhere in the finite.

You can seek money and power, but each time you succeed, you will find that you have failed. Nothing makes man more aware of inner poverty than riches; because you see the contrast! Because inside you are a beggar; still desiring still hankering. This is man’s misery. But this is his greatness too! The greatness lies in man’s capacity to surpass himself, to make a ladder of his life, to jump out of himself. Unless that jump has happened, you live in a wasteland; nothing will ever bloom there.

You can make all efforts but the desert will remain a desert, you will not come across any flowers. Flowers will bloom when you start to reach closer to Truth. That is the Quest. The Quest is that man longs to become God, to become Truth. Nothing less than that will ever satisfy him.

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.


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

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 notable philosophers Aristotle, Bakunin, Berkeley, Bukharin, Camus, Carlyle, Confucius, Descartes, Feuerbach, Fichte, Friedrich Schelling, Hegel, Heidegger, Heraclitus, Huxley, Jaspers, Kant, Kierkegaard, Kropotkin, Marcel, Marx, Moore, Nietzsche, Plato, Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, Russell, Sartre, Schiller, Socrates, Voltaire, Wittgenstein and many others in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. Sufis: People on the Path Vol.1-2
  2. The Sun Rises in the Evening
  3. The Empty Boat
  4. Beyond Psychology
  5. From Personality to Individuality
  6. From Death to Deathlessness

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