Nagarjuna: The Greatest Alchemist

Osho on Enlightened Buddhist Mystic Nagarjuna

Nagarjuna was a Buddhist Mystic and a philosopher with a great intellect. Very few philosophers could be compared with the level of intellectuality of Nagarjuna, he was really that sharp in his field of thinking. Osho says Nagarjuna is a great philosopher, one of the greatest of the world. Only a few people in the world, very few, have that quality of penetration that Nagarjuna has. So, his way of talking is very philosophical, logical, absolutely logical. Nagarjuna is one of the greatest disciples of Buddha, and one of the most penetrating intellects ever. Only very few people — once in a while, a Socrates, a Shankara — can be compared with Nagarjuna. He was very, very intelligent. The uttermost that the intellect can do is to commit suicide; the greatest thing, the greatest crescendo that can come to the intellect is to go beyond itself — that’s what Nagarjuna has done. He has passed through all the realms of intellect, and beyond.

Osho further says about Nagarjuna He has contradicted everything. He has debated against everything. He has criticized all theories. And people were puzzled. They would ask: Okay, whatsoever you say is okay, but what is YOUR standpoint? He would say: I don’t have any standpoint. I am here just to destroy theories, I don’t have a theory to replace them with. Whatsoever is your theory — Come! And I will criticize it and destroy it. But don’t ask for a substitute because I have none. You become empty, that’s perfect, there is no need to do anything.

Nagarjuna has written a book, Osho praises his writing and says Nagarjuna, a disciple of Buddha, has written a shastra called, MOOL MADHYAMIC KARIKA. This book has no equal in the world. Naturally, for it is next to impossible to find, again, a person like Nagarjuna. He has proved in this book that nothing exists. Neither you nor I, nor the mundane world — nothing is.

Osho Says….



Prem Murti,

hitherto right and wrong have been decided by all the religions as if they were fixed entities; do this, don’t do that, this is sin, that is virtue. That is not a right approach to reality, because what is right today may be wrong tomorrow, what was wrong yesterday may be right today. Life is a flux, it is constant movement, it is change. Except change, everything else changes. So I cannot give you fixed ideas about what is right and what is wrong. I cannot do that harm to you. All the old religions have done that; maybe it was needed because humanity was in a very immature state. But now man has come of age. Small children have to be told don’t do this….

A small boy was asked by the teacher in school — it was his first day — “What is your name?”

He said, “Don’t Johnny.”

The teacher was puzzled, he said, “Don’t Johnny? Never heard such a name before.”

He said, “This is my name, because whatever I do my mother says, ‘Don’t Johnny!’ This MUST be my name.”

He had been told so many times, “Don’t, Johnny! Don’t, Johnny!” that he thinks it is his name.

But it can be forgiven as far as children are concerned because you cannot go into deep explanations; you cannot explain to them the reasons, the motives. You have to give them simple instructions, clear-cut; otherwise they will not be able to follow. Humanity was also in such a state for centuries, but now all those commandments look very stupid. They were relevant one day, they are no longer relevant; they are corpses we are carrying. They don’t work anymore, they don’t help anybody — they hinder everybody. So don’t ask me, Prem Murti,

what is right and what is wrong — it depends. All I can say to you, all I would like you to be aware of is: any act done in awareness is right and any act done in unawareness is wrong. The act does not matter as far as I am concerned, my approach is concerned, my philosophy of life is concerned; the act does not matter, what matters is your consciousness. Are you acting unconsciously or consciously? So the real question is something within you, not what you do but who you are. I change the whole emphasis from the objective to the subjective, from the outer to the inner. If you are doing it consciously you are right — and that has always been the approach of the enlightened ones.

A great master, Nagarjuna, was asked by a great thief…. The thief was well known over the whole kingdom and he was so clever, so intelligent that he had never been caught. Everybody knew — he had even stolen from the king’s treasury, many times — but they were unable to catch him. He was very elusive, a master artist.

He asked Nagarjuna, “Can you help me? Can I get rid of my stealing? Can I also become as silent and blissful as you are?” It happened in a certain context.

Nagarjuna was the greatest alchemist that the East has given birth to. He used to live naked, with just a begging bowl, a wooden begging bowl, but kings worshipped him, queens worshipped him. He came to the capital and the queen touched his feet and said, “I feel very much offended by your wooden bowl. You are a master of masters; hundreds of kings and queens are your followers. I have prepared a golden bowl for you, studded with beautiful diamonds, emeralds. Please don’t reject it — it will wound me very much, it will hurt me very much. For three years great artists have been working on it, now it is ready.”

She was afraid that Nagarjuna might say, “I cannot touch gold, I have renounced the world.” But Nagarjuna did not say anything like that; he said, “Okay! You can keep my begging bowl, give me the golden one.”

Even the queen was a little shocked. She was thinking that Nagarjuna would say, “I cannot accept it.” She wanted him to accept it, but still, deep in her unconscious somewhere was the old Indian tradition that the awakened one has to live in poverty, in discomfort, as if discomfort and poverty have something spiritual in them. There is nothing spiritual in them. Nagarjuna said okay. He didn’t even look at the golden bowl. He went away.

The thief saw Nagarjuna moving outside the capital, because he was staying in a ruined temple on the other bank of the river. The thief said, “Such a precious thing I have never seen — so many diamonds, so many emeralds, so much gold. I have seen many beautiful things in my life but never such a thing, and how did this naked man get hold of it, and how is he going to protect it? Anybody will be able to take it away from him, so why not me?”

The thief followed Nagarjuna. Nagarjuna heard his footsteps, he knew somebody was coming behind him. Nagarjuna reached the temple. The temple was an absolute ruin, no roof, no doors; just a few walls were left. He went inside a room without a roof, without a door, without windows. The thief said, “How is he going to protect such a precious thing? It is only a question of hours.” He sat outside the window, hiding behind a wall.

Nagarjuna threw the bowl outside the window. The thief was very much puzzled. The bowl fell just near his feet. He was puzzled: “What has this man done?” He could not believe his eyes, he was also shocked. He stood up — even though he was a thief, he was a master thief and he had some dignity. He thanked Nagarjuna. He said, “Sir, I have to show my gratitude. But you are a rare man — throwing out such a precious thing as if it is nothing. Can I come inside and touch your feet?”

Nagarjuna said, “Come in! In fact I have thrown the bowl out so that you could come in.”

The thief could not understand what he was saying; he came in, he looked at Nagarjuna — his silence, his peace, his bliss — he was overwhelmed. He said, “I feel jealous of you. I have never come across a man like you. Compared to you, all others are subhuman beings. How integrated you are! How gone beyond the world! Is there any possibility for me too one day to attain such integration, such individuality, such compassion and such nonattachment to things?”

Nagarjuna said, “It is possible. It is everybody’s potential.”

But the thief said, “Wait! Let me tell you one thing. I have been many times to many saints and they all know me and they say, ‘First you stop stealing, then anything else is possible. Without stopping stealing you cannot grow spiritually.’ So please don’t make that condition because that I cannot do. It is impossible. I have tried and I have failed many times. It seems that is my nature — I have to go on stealing, so don’t mention that. Let me tell you first so you don’t make it a condition.”

Nagarjuna said, “That simply shows you have never seen a saint before. Those must have all been ex-thieves; otherwise why should they be worried about your stealing? Go on stealing and do everything as skillfully as possible. It is good to be a master of any art.”

The thief was shocked even more: “What kind of man is this?” And he said, “Then what do you suggest? What is right, what is wrong?”

He said, “I don’t say anything is right or anything is wrong. Do one thing: if you want to steal, steal — but steal consciously. Go tonight, enter into the house very alert, open the doors, the locks, but very consciously. And then if you can steal, steal, but remain conscious. And report to me after seven days.”

After seven days the thief came, bowed down, touched Nagarjuna’s feet and said, “Now initiate me into sannyas.”

Nagarjuna said, “Why? What about your stealing?”

He said, “You are a cunning fellow! I tried my best: if I am conscious, I cannot steal; if I steal I am unconscious. I can steal only when I am unconscious. When I am conscious the whole thing seems so stupid, so meaningless. What am I doing? For what? Tomorrow I may die. And why do I go on accumulating wealth? I have more than I need; even for generations it is enough. It looks so meaningless that I stop immediately. For seven days I have entered into houses and come out empty-handed. And to be conscious is so beautiful. I have tasted it for the first time, and it is just a small taste — now I can conceive how much you must be enjoying, how much you must be celebrating. Now I know that you are the real king — naked, but you are the real king. Now I know that you have real gold and we are playing with false gold.” The thief became a disciple of Nagarjuna and attained to buddhahood.

I cannot say to you what is right or wrong. I can say only one thing to you: be conscious — that is right. Don’t be unconscious because that is wrong. And then whatsoever you do in consciousness is right. But people are living in unconsciousness. And let me tell you: in unconsciousness you may think you are doing something right, but it can’t be right. Out of unconsciousness, virtue cannot flower; it may appear virtuous but it can’t be. Deep down it will still be something wrong. If you are unconscious and you give money to a poor man, watch: your ego is strengthened. This is sin. You are unconscious and you go on serving poor people, ill people; you open a hospital or a school — but whatsoever you do gives you a very subtle ego, a pious ego. And a pious ego means pious poison — but poison is poison! And pure pious poison is far more dangerous because it is unadulterated; it is pure poison.

Hence ordinary people suffer from a very gross ego, it is adulterated.

I have heard:

Mulla Nasruddin wanted to commit suicide. He went to the druggist, purchased a big quantity of poison, drank it, and waited in his bed the whole night: “Now I am going to die, now I am going to die.” He opened his eyes again and looked at the clock: “Twelve… two… four… six…. And the children are getting ready, and the wife is preparing the breakfast — and I have not died yet? Or have I died and become just a ghost? What is the matter?” He pinched himself and he felt the pain; he said, “No, I am still in my body.”

He ran to the druggist; he said, “What kind of poison have you given me? Such a quantity should have killed at least ten people, and I drank it all and I’m still alive.”

The druggist said, “What can I do — in India you cannot find anything pure. Everything is adulterated, from milk to poison. What can I do?”

The ordinary ego is adulterated with many other things. But the religious ego, the ego of a saint, of a mahatma, of a sage, is unadulterated — it is pure poison. Just a drop of it is enough. So if you do good things unconsciously, they are going to create more ego in you. And only on the surface will they appear good; they will be harmful to the people to whom you are being good. Never be a do-gooder, avoid it. More mischief has been done by your public servants, missionaries, social reformers, than by anybody else. The most fundamental thing is to be conscious and then act, and then whatsoever you do is going to be right. But people are unconscious.

“No, I will not go to the movies with you!” said Jackie. “I know your kind! As soon as we are seated, you will start fiddling with my blouse buttons with one hand and tugging at my skirt with the other, getting ready to take liberties!”

“No, I would not,” protested Patrick. “The people sitting behind us could see what I was up to.”

“Yes, that’s true,” said Jackie, “so maybe we had better get there early and find seats in the last row.”

What you want to do, and what you say, and what you really do, are totally different things. You may be doing something which you never wanted to do, you may not be doing something which you always wanted to do. You live a schizophrenic life, divided into the unconscious and the conscious. And out of this schizophrenia whatsoever happens is wrong…

Just watch what you are doing, why you are doing it, what you are saying, why you are saying it. Just go on watching your acts, your thoughts, and slowly slowly, a great consciousness arises in you. And then you can see all the games that you have been playing with others, and not only with others but with yourself too.

The patient, whose history card a doctor was filling out, said she was a spinster. So, when he came to the space for listing number of children, he automatically put down “none.”

“But, Doctor,” she said, “I have a thirteen-year-old daughter!”

“I thought you told me you were an old maid?”

“I am,” she replied. “But I am not a stubborn old maid.”

Whatsoever the conscious goes on pretending, the unconscious is the real source of your acts, and unless the unconscious disappears totally from your being, you can’t do right. Only one tenth of your being is conscious, nine tenths are unconscious. The unconscious is almost a continent underneath a shallow layer of water you call consciousness. The unconscious motivates you. The conscious only finds rationalizations for doing what the unconscious wants to do. The conscious is at the service of the unconscious; this is a wrong situation.

Let the unconscious be at the service of the conscious — and you become a Sannyasin. That is what Sannyas is all about: making consciousness more and more the center of your being, and transforming more and more chunks of unconsciousness into consciousness, bringing more and more light into the inner darkness. A day comes when you are full of light; your whole being is conscious. Not even a corner of your being has any darkness about it — all is known and experienced through and through. You are well acquainted with yourself, totally acquainted with yourself; then whatsoever you do, Prem Murti, is right. Right is the flowering of consciousness, and wrong the flowering of unconsciousness.


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

Discourse Series: The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 5 – Chapter #6

Chapter title: Christ: the last Christian

16 October 1979


Osho has spoken on Mystics like Dadu, Farid, Gurdjieff, J. Krishnamurti, Kabir, Nanak, Meher Baba, Patanjali, Swami Ram Teerth, Rumi, Sahajo, Sai Baba, Saraha, Socrates, Tilopa, Zarathustra, Nagarjuna and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. Sermons in Stones
  2. Come Come Yet Again Come
  3. The Hidden Splendour
  4. Beyond Enlightenment
  5. The New Dawn
  6. The Sword and The Lotus
  7. The Fish in the Sea is Not Thirsty
  8. Socrates Poisoned Again After 25 Centuries
  9. Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega, Vol 1
  10. The Path of Love
  11. The Book of Wisdom
  12. The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 5
  13. The Fish in the Sea is Not Thirsty
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1 Comment

  • paidi venu kumar
    paidi venu kumar
    Posted November 21, 2022 2:56 pm 0Likes

    Just Wow

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