Patanjali: Neither Theist nor Atheist

Osho on Patanjali


Again, yoga is neither. It is a simple science. It is neither theistic nor atheistic.

Patanjali really is superb, a miracle of a man. He never talks about God. And even if he mentions once, then too he says it is just one of the methods to reach the ultimate the belief of God, just a method to reach the ultimate; there is no God. To believe in God is just a technique, because through believing in God prayer becomes possible, through believing in God surrender becomes possible. The significance is of surrender and prayer, not of God. Patanjali is really unbelievable! He said God — the belief of God, the concept of God — is also one of the methods, in many methods, to reach the truth.

Ishwara pranidhan — to believe in God is just a path. But it is not a necessity. You can choose something else. Buddha reaches to that ultimate reality without believing in God. He chooses a different path where God is not needed.

You have come to my house. You have passed through a certain street. That street was not the goal; it was just instrumental. You could have reached to the same house through some other street; others have reached through other streets. On your street there may be green trees, big trees; on other streets there are not. So God is just one path. Remember the distinction. God is not the goal. God is just one of the paths. Patanjali never denies; he never assumes. He is absolutely scientific. It is difficult for Christians to think how Buddha could attain the ultimate truth, because he never believed in God. It is difficult for Hindus to believe how Mahavira could attain liberation; he never believed in God.

Before the western thinkers became alert of eastern religions, they always defined religion as God-centered. When they came upon eastern thinking, and then they became aware that there has been a traditional path, godless path reaching toward truth, they were shocked: it is impossible. H. G. Wells has written about Buddha that Buddha is the most godless man and yet the most godly. He never believed and he will never tell anybody to believe in any God, but he himself is the suprememost phenomenon of the happening of divine being. Mahavira too travels a path where God is not needed.

Patanjali is absolutely scientific. He says we are not related with means; there are a thousand and one means. The goal is the truth. Some have achieved it through God, so it is okay — believe in God and achieve the goal, because when the goal is achieved you will throw your belief. So belief is just instrumental. If you don’t believe, it is okay; don’t believe, and travel the path of belieflessness, and reach the goal. He is neither theist nor atheist. He is not creating a religion, he is simply showing you all the paths that are possible and all the laws that work in your transformation. God is one of those paths; it is not a must. If you are godless, there is no need to be non-religious. Patanjali says you can also reach — be godless; don’t bother about God.

These are the laws and these are the experiments; this is the meditation — pass through it.

He does not insist on any concept. It was very difficult. That’s why YOGA SUTRAS of Patanjali are rare, unique. Such a book has never happened before and there is no possibility again, because whatsoever can be written about yoga he has written; he has left nothing. No one can add anything to it. Never in the future there is any possibility to create another work like Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. He has finished the job completely, and he could do this so totally because he is not partial. If he is partial, then he could not do it so totally. Buddha is partial, Mahavira is partial, Jesus is partial, Mohammed is partial — they have a certain path. And their partiality may be because of you — because of a deep conception for you, a deep compassion for you. They insist on a certain path; they go on insisting their whole life. And they say, “Everything else is wrong; this is the right path,” just to create faith in you. You are so faithless, you are so filled with doubt, that if they say that this path leads, others’ paths also lead, you will not follow any. They insist that only “this” path leads.

This is not true. This is just a device for you — because if you feel any uncertainty in them, if they say, “This also leads, that also leads; this is also true, that is also true,” you will become uncertain. You are already uncertain. You need someone who is absolutely certain. Just to look certain to you they have pretended to be partial. But if you are partial, you cannot cover the whole ground. Patanjali is not partial. He is less concerned with you, more concerned with the past designs of the path. He will not use a lie; he will not use a device, he will not compromise with you. No scientist can compromise. Buddha can compromise; he has compassion. He is not treating you scientifically. A very deep human feeling is for you; he can even lie just to help you. And you cannot understand the truth; he compromises with you.

Patanjali will not compromise with you. Whatsoever is the fact, he will talk about the fact. And he will not descend a single step to meet you; he is absolutely uncompromising. Science has to be. Science cannot compromise; otherwise it will become a religion itself.

He is neither atheist nor theist. He is neither Hindu nor Mohammedan nor Christian nor Jaina nor Buddhist. He is absolutely a scientific seeker just revealing whatsoever is the case — revealing without any myth. He will not use a single parable. Jesus will go on talking in stories because you are children and you can understand only stories. He will talk in parables. Buddha uses so many stories just to help you to attain a little glimpse.

I was reading about a Hassid, a Jewish Master, Baal Shem. He was a rabbi in a small village, and whenever there will be some trouble some disease, some calamity in the village — he will move into the forest. He will go to a certain spot under a certain tree, and there he will do some ritual and then he will pray to God. And it always happened that the calamity will leave the village, the illness will disappear from the village, the trouble would go.

Then Baal Shem died. So his successor… The problem came again. The village was in trouble. There was some calamity, and the villagers asked the successor the new rabbi, to go to the forest and pray to God. The new rabbi was very much disturbed because he didn’t know the spot, the exact tree. He was unacquainted, but still he went — under any tree. He burned the fire, did the ritual and prayed, and said to God, “Look, I don’t know the exact spot my Master used to come, but you know. You are omnipotent, you are omnipresent, so you know — so there is no need to seek for the exact spot. My village is in some trouble, so listen and do something.” The calamity was gone! Then when this rabbi died and his successor was there, again the problem came. The village was under a certain crisis, and they came. The rabbi was disturbed: he has even forgotten the prayer. So he went into the forest, chose any place. He didn’t know how to burn the ritual fire, but anyhow he burned the fire and said to God, “Listen, I don’t know how to burn the ritual fire, I don’t know the exact spot, and I have forgotten the prayer, but you are all-knowing, so you know already; there is no need. So do whatsoever is needed.” And he came back and the village passed through the crisis.

Then he also died. His successor… And the village was again in trouble, so they came. He was sitting in his armchair. He said, “I don’t want to go anywhere. Listen, you are everywhere. I don’t know the prayer, I don’t know any ritual. But that doesn’t matter; my knowing is not the point. You know everything. What is the use of praying and what is the use of a ritual and what is the use of a particular sacred spot? I know only the story of my successors. I will tell you the story, that this happened in Baal Shem’s time, then his successor, then his successor: this is the story. Now do the right, and this is enough.” And the calamity disappeared. It is said that God loved the story so much. People love their stories and people’s God also, and through stories you can have certain glimpses.

But Patanjali will not use a single parable. I told you, he is just Einstein plus Buddha — a very rare combination. He has the inner witnessing of Buddha and the mechanism of the mind of an Einstein.

He is neither. Theism is the story; atheism is the antistory. They are just myths, man-created parables. To some the one appeals, to some the other. Patanjali is not interested in stories, not interested in myths. He is interested in the naked truth.

He will not even clothe it, he will not put any dressing; he will not decorate it. That is not his way. Remember this. We will move on a very dry land, a desert-like land. But the desert has its own beauty. It has no trees, it has no rivers, but it has a vastness of its own. No forest can be compared to it. Forests have their own beauties, hills have their own beauties, rivers their own beauties. Desert has its own vast infinity. We will be moving through desert land. Courage is needed. He will not give you a single tree to rest under, he will not give you any story — just the bare facts. He will not use even a single superfluous word. Hence, the word, “sutras”, Sutras means the basic minimum.

A sutra is not a complete sentence even. It is just the essential — just as when you give a telegram you go on cutting superfluous words. Then it becomes a sutra because only ten words or nine words can be put in it. If you were going to write a letter you will fill ten pages, and even in ten pages the message will not be complete. But in a telegram, in ten words, it is not only complete it is more than complete. It hits the heart; the very essence is there. These are telegrams — Patanjali’s sutras. He is a miser; he will not use a single superfluous word. So how can he tell stories? He cannot. And don’t expect. So don’t ask whether he is a theist or atheist; these are stories.

Philosophers have created many stories, and it is a game. If you like the game of atheism, be an atheist. If you like the game of theism, be a theist. But these are games, not the reality. Reality is something else.

Reality is concerned with you, not what you believe. The reality is you, not what you believe. The reality is behind the mind, not in the contents of the mind, because theism is a content of the mind, atheism is a content of the mind — something in the mind. Hinduism is a content of the mind, or Christianity is a content of the mind. Patanjali is concerned with the beyond, not with the content.

He says, “Throw this whole mind. Whatsoever it contains, it is useless.” You may be carrying beautiful philosophies, Patanjali will say, “Throw them. All is rubbish.” It is difficult. If someone says “Your Bible is rubbish, your Gita is rubbish, your scriptures all rubbish, rot, throw them,” you will be shocked. But this is what is going to happen.

Patanjali is not going to make any compromise with you. He is uncompromising. And that’s the beauty. And that is his uniqueness.


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

Discourse Series: Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega, Vol 1

Chapter #2

Chapter title: The desireless path of yoga

26 December 1973 pm in


Osho has spoken on Krishna, Jesus, Buddha, Shiva, Patanjali, Gorakh, Lao Tzu, Saraha, Tilopa, Zarathustra and many other enlightened Mastersin many of His discourses. More on them can be referred to in the following books/discourse titles:

  1. Vigyan Bhairav Tantra
  2. The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha
  3. Tao: The Three Treasures
  4. Zarathustra: The Laughing Prophet
  5. The Mustard Seed: My Most Loved Gospel on Jesus
  6. The Path of Love
  7. Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master
  8. When the Shoe Fits
  9. Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen, with Basho’s Haikus
  10. Sermons in Stones
  11. The Book of Wisdom
  12. The Tantra Vision
  13. Tantra: The Supreme Understanding
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1 Comment

  • Someshwar H
    Someshwar H
    Posted June 22, 2022 6:29 am 0Likes

    You made me speechless!
    Master Osho!
    Thank you!

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