Revolution is No, Rebellion is Yes

Birthday of Ivan the Terrible

25th August is the birthday of the Grand Prince of Moscow. He was the first to be proclaimed tsar of Russia.  The title tsar was derived from the Latin title caesar and was translated by Ivan’s contemporaries as “emperor.” His reign saw the completion of the construction of a centrally administered Russian state and the creation of an empire that included non-Slav states.

It was noted that Ivan was a disastrously bad ruler, in part because no one had ever anticipated that he would rule. The terrible’ after his name is used in English as “inspiring fear or terror; dangerous; powerful; formidable”. His whole life is seems so much chaos for a sane person. All of the terror and politics, all about ruling and capturing and wars, all about materialistic powers, all about mind and ego, no place of heart. Even reading such a history will create clusters of chaos in you. The seeds of the dreadful Ivan would become were sewn in his miserable childhood. His father, Vasili the Grand Prince of Moscow, died when Ivan was just three years old and his mother passed away when he was eight. The young prince then became the object of power struggles between various members of the nobility. In adulthood he contracted a painful and incurable bone disease, from which he sought relief in alcohol and in potions provided by a succession of foreign doctors and quacks. Once he had acquired full power, he set about destroying those who had ruled during the interregnum, as well as the machinery of government they had built up. When Ivan the Terrible died in 1584, Russia was left in a state of almost total political and economic ruin.

Osho, when he talks about rulers like Ivan the Terrible, Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler and others mentions how “our history is the history of criminology”. Osho says “It is worth burning completely, so your children never hear the names Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, Nadirshah, Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, Ivan the Terrible, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini. It will be better if your children never hear these names. These names are contaminated. Don’t poison poor children. All these people were not violent before they came into power. They were simply as human as you are, as beautiful as you are, as loving as you are. Then what happens when people come into power? Power certainly makes a great change. Whatever these people have been carrying in their unconscious, now they have the opportunity to materialize it. So from this experience, you have to learn one thing:… Your lovingness, your friendliness, may be just superficial. The only way to know whether it is really there, is to give you power. Power is of immense importance. It is a revolution. Something hidden and dormant becomes active, and something that was active goes to sleep. And each of you has to remember that power is not going to corrupt you… It is not the power that corrupts. Corruption is in you. Power simply gives you an opportunity to show your real face. So power is not your enemy; it is a mirror.”


Prem Mariam,

REVOLUTION IS NO, REBELLION IS YES. Revolution is negative, rebellion is positive. Revolution says no to all that is wrong and should not be. Rebellion says yes to all that is beautiful, good. Revolution is past-oriented, rebellion is present-oriented. They are not synonymous. Revolution is destructive, rebellion is creative. Revolution can never be feminine, receptive, yes-saying. That is impossible. But rebellion is always feminine, always receptive, always yes-saying. I am talking about rebellion, I am not talking about revolution. Revolution is political, rebellion is spiritual. Revolution is of the crowd, rebellion is individual. You can be a rebel and you don’t need anybody else to be with you — you alone can be a rebel. But you alone cannot be a revolutionary; you will need a great organization, you will need a great army behind you.

And the problem is — one of the most significant things to be understood — that when you fight with somebody, slowly slowly, you become like your enemy. It’s bound to be so; it follows a certain natural course. If you have to fight with somebody, you have to be like him; otherwise you will not be able to fight with him. Choose your enemy very carefully. Friends can be chosen without much care — they don’t affect you so much — but enemies are very decisive. All revolutions fail because of the enemy. The enemy decides the whole thing. The czars of Russia decided the structure of the communist party; the czars decided how Joseph Stalin was going to be. And he proved a bigger czar than any other czar, and he proved even more terrible than Ivan the Terrible.

Fighting with the czar, fighting with the imperialist structure of the czar, they learnt the whole strategy, all the tactics. By the time they came in power, they were perfectly groomed by the czar, by the enemy. By the time they came in power, they started behaving in the same way against their enemies as the czar had been behaving with them. This you can see all over the world again and again. Right now this is happening in Iran. The Emperor is gone, and a far worse regime has taken his place. Khomeini is proving at least ten times more violent than the Emperor himself. Khomeini has learnt the whole strategy from the Emperor; his whole life he has suffered, struggled. That has been his school. Now, with a vengeance, he is proving himself to be a bigger emperor than the Emperor himself. Now, every day, hundreds of people are being executed, killed.

This has happened always: revolutions fail because they are reactions. Never be a revolutionary: be a rebel. A rebel is not AGAINST the past; the past is not even worth that. To be against it means to be focussed on it; to be against it means you are paying too much attention to it. To be against it means you are hypnotized by it. A few are for it — they are hypnotized. And a few are against it — they are hypnotized. The rebel is one who simply sees the whole futility of it, and without fighting drops it. If you fight, it will cling to you; if you fight, you have to cling to it. It will become your definition. Don’t let the past define you; simply slip out of it, just like a snake slips out of the old skin — and never even looks back. That is the way of the rebel.

I teach the way of the rebel. That is the way of religion — religion is rebellion, not revolution. And it gives immense respect to the individual. Each one can be a rebel in his own way:

just simply slip out of the past. There is no need to struggle with it — it is no MORE there. And if you go on fighting… you don’t have that long a life. The past has been very long — millions of years — how are you going to fight with it in a life that consists at the most of seventy or eighty years? In this small life span, how are you going to fight with the past which is so huge, immense? The only wise way is to slip out of it; there is no need to fight with it. And this has to be understood on many levels.

Politically, people fight with the past — the Hindu past, the Christian past, the Mohammedan past — and they become like the past they are fighting with. Psychologically, since Sigmund Freud, people are fighting with their own individual pasts — the childhood traumas. That too is big, and if you have to sort it out and fight with everything and put everything right, your whole present and future will be wasted in it. The past is already wasted, the present will be wasted in psychoanalysis, and the whole future you will be fighting, and fighting with the past. And to fight with the past is to fight with a shadow — you can never win. How can you win against a shadow? It does not exist in the first place. You have only to see that it is a shadow! and that is that.

That is the basic difference between the psychological approach towards life and the religious approach. Religion simply says: “Be more meditative, be more aware. Be right now here!” In that very awareness, in that crystal-clear consciousness, you see that the past is an unnecessary burden — you need not carry it. Nobody can force you to carry it; you are carrying it on your own, it is your decision. Your parents are not there to enforce it… it is already gone! Just shadows are lingering. See that they are shadows, and you are free. In that very seeing is freedom. In that very understanding is liberation. And then all your energies are available to be herenow. Then you can bloom! Then you can blossom. Then your life can have some fulfillment, some joy, some celebration.

Revolution is against the past and for the future — both are non-existential. The past is no more and the future is not yet. And revolution consists only of past and future: against the past and for some future utopia. The word ‘utopia’ is very beautiful; literally it means ‘that which never comes’. Rebellion consists of the present and only the present. It has no concern with the past, it has no concern with the future. It loves, lives, dances, sings, but its space is here, and its time is now. And then you can be feminine, and then you can be receptive, and then you can be yea-saying.


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

Discourse Series: The Fish in the Sea is Not Thirsty
Chapter #6
Chapter title: Untimely Sannyasination
16 April 1979 am in Buddha Hall


Osho has spoken on many politicians and rulers like Abraham Lincoln, Lenin, Mao Tse Tung, Jawaharlal Nehru, Kennedy, Stalin, Churchill, Roosevelt, Alexander, Napoleon, and more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. From Bondage to Freedom
  2. From Ignorance to Innocence
  3. The Path of the Mystic
  4. From False to Truth
  5. From Misery to Enlightenment
  6. Zen: Zest, Zip, Zap, Zing
  7. Beyond Psychology
  8. Live Zen
  9. The Invitation
  10. Communism and Zen Fire, Zen Wind
  11. The Book of Wisdom
  12. The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 3
  13. Sufis: The People of the Path, Vol 2

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