Spirituality: The Highest Need
Osho on Italian Poet and Philosopher Dante
Born in 1265, Dante Alighieri was an Italian poet, philosopher, and literary theorist. He is best known for his work Divine Comedy, published in 1320. This piece of writing takes the reader through “Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven” from the perspective of the narrator. Divine Comedy is considered one of the best works of world literature. Dante is credited with establishing the language of Italian, using the Tuscan dialect in his creations. He published his pieces in the vernacular of Italy instead of Latin, bringing the literature deep into the city.
He was referred to as ‘the supreme poet’ by the people of Italy and he influenced writers such as John Milton and Alfred Tennyson. He composed various works in vernacular dialect and was also a part of heated political controversies. Though he wrote most of his compositions after his exile in 1301, one of his prominent pieces The New Life was published in 1294. His other works include On the Eloquence in the Vernacular, The Banquet, and De Monarchia.
Osho mentions Dante while talking about love, “Love is when two persons disappear. Love is when the lover is not and the beloved is not. Even in great love affairs, there are only a few rare moments when love is.
Let me tell you in this way: I have read many great poems, many great epics, but even in a great epic, even in Shakespeare, in Kalidas. in Tulsidas, in Milton, in Dante, only rarely are there a few lines which are poetic. Sometimes just a fragment of a line is poetic; sometimes only a word, just a nuance is poetic. Even in a great love affair that’s how it is: only a few rare moments are of love. But only when you completely disappear and two are not two and a non-duality exists, and the personalities are no more clashing, personalities have been dropped — then love happens. That love has the quality of timelessness. That love has the quality of prayer. That love is God.”
OSHO: IN ONE OF YOUR LECTURES ON SOCIALISM, ANSWERING SARJANO’S QUESTION, YOU INDICATED THAT THE PROLETARIAT WERE ‘THE LOWEST’.
IS THIS CONTRADICTORY TO CHRIST’S TEACHINGS ON THE POOR AS BEING THE CHILDREN OF GOD AND THE RICH AS BEING ‘THE LOWEST’?
DURING YEARS OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT WORK WITH POOR PEASANTS IN LATIN AMERICA, I FOUND THEM TO BE ‘HIGHER’ SPIRITUALLY THAN THE RICH LANDLORDS.
THE OLD RELIGIONS ALL OVER THE WORLD have been consoling the poor in different ways. The same is being done by Jesus Christ too. Calling the poor the children of God is nothing but poison. Then Karl Marx is right — that religion is the opium of the people. If it is true that the poor are the children of God, then we should not try to destroy poverty — otherwise we will be destroying the children of God. That will be very irreligious, unspiritual! In fact, we should destroy all richness in the world so everybody becomes a child of God. If spirituality is so simple, then why bother about improving the lot of the people, trying to make them richer, trying to make them more comfortable, giving them better technology, industry, food? This is all against religion! This is all against Jesus Christ!
Mahatma Gandhi used to call the poor DARIDRA NARAYAN; he went even one step further than Jesus Christ: the poor are not only the children of God, they are gods. This is a strategy: because your so-called religious people have not been able to find a way to solve the problem of poverty, they try to rationalize it. And the best way to console people is to tell them, “The rich are lower than you — you are higher!” This satisfies the ego. Jesus says: Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God. This is also one of the tricks of all the religions in the world: promise the poor a beautiful future — AFTER death. Nobody ever returns, nobody ever tells what actually is the case after death, so it cannot be refuted at all. You will be received, welcomed in the kingdom of God, and the rich, they will suffer in hell.
It satisfies the poor tremendously, the very idea of the rich suffering in hellfire and the poor being welcomed by St. Peter at the pearly gates of heaven. So this life is not such a big problem, a question of only a few years. One can manage, one can tolerate, one can remain satisfied. One can hope that “Sooner or later, on the Judgement Day, everything will be settled. And because we are poor, ours is going to be the kingdom of God.” This is sheer nonsense. Who has said it makes no difference. Jesus may have said it, Mahatma Gandhi may have said it — I don’t care a bit! My whole concern is with the truth, and this is untrue.
Poverty is not something to be praised; it is something to be condemned, totally condemned. It is like cancer: it has to be destroyed; no respect should be given to it, because that is nourishment. It should not be praised in any direct or indirect way, because that is how it has been prolonged in the past.
And you can’t see the contradiction: on the one hand these people go on saying that poverty is something beautiful; on the other hand they are all trying to make people richer, the contradiction is in THEM. Why try to make these poor people more rich? Make them more poor so they will be closer to God. Take even what they have got! Deprive them of everything! Then their welcome will be far greater, they will be received more joyously. And what is the implication of it all? It means God enjoys poverty, it means he wants people to be poor. It simply means that he is against riches, comforts, luxuries. Then why this paradise? — because paradise is nothing but comforts, riches, luxuries. A strange logic! On the earth people should suffer so that in heaven they can be rewarded. First make people ill so that they can be hospitalized and served; first wound them and then help to heal their wounds. This is ridiculous!
MY arithmetic is very clear: poverty is ugly and it has to be destroyed totally. No trace of it should be left on the earth,
and all these consolations should be withdrawn. I can understand why in the past the religious people could not say what I can say today. The simple reason was that scientific technology was not available — there was no way to destroy poverty. And when you cannot do anything, at least you can sympathize; it costs nothing to be sympathetic. At least you can console; it is better than nothing. And all these words of Jesus and Mahatma Gandhi and others are devices to console, to give opium to people. In India it has been a long tradition; different ways have been discovered to rationalize poverty. The first was: the poor person is suffering because in the past he has committed some wrong actions. The past is made responsible — not the society, not the present, not the structure of the society, not the lack of technology, not the stupidity of the people, but the past. Nothing can be done about the past, you cannot undo it; it has to be accepted. And great hope is given with it: “If you accept it, if you are totally satisfied with it, you will be immensely rewarded in the future life.” Do you see the trick? The past and the future are made important. Nothing can be done about the past life and you don’t know anything about the future life. The past is no more, the future is not yet, and people are being diverted from the present to the past which is no more and to the future which is not yet. These are very cunning tricks. And the problem is in the present — it has to be solved herenow.
You ask me, Gerrit Huiser:
IS THIS CONTRADICTORY TO CHRIST’S TEACHINGS ON THE POOR AS BEING THE CHILDREN OF GOD AND THE RICH AS BEING’THE LOWEST’?
Yes, it is contradictory — it is absolutely contradictory. Jesus is wrong! And I don’t consider the rich to be the lowest and I don’t consider the poor to be the highest. If the poor are the highest then the problem is very simple: richness can be destroyed very easily. There is no problem at all.
You say to me: DURING YEARS OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT…
What were you doing in rural development? Making people poor? — because if the poor are higher, then development means make them poorer! Gerrit Huiser, what were you doing there in Latin America? Aren’t the people poor enough, not yet children of God? so you had gone there to make them absolutely poor? — because according to you, that will be development, progress, evolution!
You say: DURING YEARS OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT WORK WITH POOR PEASANTS IN LATIN AMERICA, I FOUND THEM TO BE HIGHER SPIRITUALLY THAN THE RICH LANDLORDS.
Do you know what spirituality is? Have you experienced anything of spirituality YOURself? What criterion have you got to judge who is spiritually higher and who is spiritually lower? What do you mean by spirituality? According to you to be poor is to be spiritual because Jesus says the poor are the children of God, so naturally you found the poor to be higher spiritually — you must be a believer in Jesus Christ — than the rich landlords. But my own understanding is totally different.
Spirituality is the highest need — there is a hierarchy of needs. The first plane of needs is physical. The poor person remains tethered to the physical: he is hungry, he is ill, he does not have any shelter, not enough clothes.
He cannot think of Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner; he cannot think of great poetry — Kalidas, Shakespeare, Dante; he cannot think of great novelists and novels — Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov. There is no possibility — he is hungry. What is he going to do with BROTHERS KARAMAZOV? He needs bread, butter, not BROTHERS KARAMAZOV! He needs a shelter from the rain, from the hot sun, he does not need music. What will he do with music? Can you make a shelter out of music? Can you make clothes out of beautiful paintings? And he is so hungry he cannot be sensitive to any higher thing. He is tethered to the body, to the lowest part of his being.
When physical needs are fulfilled, then psychological needs arise — they are higher needs. Then there is a search for music, poetry, art, sculpture, architecture, gardening. These are higher needs, but with each higher need higher problems arise. Hence I welcome higher problems.
For example, in India nobody asks, “What is the meaning of life?” because that is a higher problem — the meaning of life. In the West you are concerned with the meaning of life, not in the East. It CANNOT arise — there is no background for it. People are so poor, how can they think of any meaning, any significance? The question is how to feed their children, the question is how to survive. SURVIVAL is the question! When you have survived and you are completely at ease in life, THEN you ask, “What is the meaning of life? Is survival enough?” But that question arises only when you have MANAGED to survive. Higher problems arise with higher needs. Then with higher problems you have new kinds of troubles but their plane is higher. Psychoanalysis is not needed in the East at all; Sigmund Freud or Carl Gustav Jung or Adler and others have no relevance. And the Indian religious mahatmas go on bragging about it: “Look, our country is so peaceful!” It is not peaceful, it is simply dead! It is the peace of the cemetery, it is NOT peacefulness. They say, “Look, our people are so contented!” They are NOT contented. The discontent has not arisen, because to be discontented with life first you have to manage to survive. They are struggling for survival, so there is no question of psychoanalysis.
But the so-called mahatmas who go on teaching in the West, saying to people in America and Europe, “India is a great spiritual country. People are so satisfied, so contented,” are simply lying — maybe not knowingly, maybe they also believe that this is so. Certainly more people go mad in the West than in the East, because the West can afford it. Madness is a HIGHER problem; hunger is a LOWER problem. A hungry person cannot go mad — it is impossible. When you are hungry, can you afford to be mad? Keep the madman hungry for three weeks and you will see that he has become sane! He will start talking sense. He will come down from the clouds to the earth. The hungry person remains closer to the earth, rooted in the earth. When you are satisfied with the earthly plane you start having wings, and of course then there are new dangers. When you start flying then you will have to face new problems, new dangers, new crises. Madness belongs to the psychological realm, not to the physical. More people commit suicide in the West than in the East, and I take it as a sign of growth — because when you are perfectly okay on the physiological plane, the question starts haunting you: “Why go on living? For what?” The hungry man has some goals, very immediate goals. He cannot see far away; it is an everyday question how to survive. In the morning he has to think about his lunch, in the evening he has to think about his supper.
Half of the Indians eat only once a day, and the whole country is undernourished. Millions of people go to sleep with a hungry stomach. Now, do you think these people can commit suicide? They have not even been able to be alive, how can they commit suicide? First you have to be alive! Even if you want to commit suicide that much has to be fulfilled first. When all your physical needs are fulfilled, then suddenly a question arises, a new challenge: “Why am I trying to survive?” It is philosophical, psychological: one searches for the meaning of life. Then one can go mad one can commit suicide, one can start being creative. Then all the doors open, good and bad. One can be either lower than the animals or can rise higher than the angels.
When all psychological needs are fulfilled — when you have learnt the most beautiful music, enjoyed poetry, art, painting, when your psychological needs are fulfilled, you are psychologically healthy — then spiritual needs arise, never before it. Spiritual needs are the most luxurious needs; they come only in the end. They are like flowers. If a tree is undernourished it CANNOT have flowers remember it. It will be difficult for it even to have leaves. Flowers are possible only when there is an overflowing energy, too much to contain. Then the tree bursts forth into thousands of flowers, color and fragrance — but it is luxury! A tree in bloom is a picture of luxury, because flowers don’t serve any purpose; they are just a luxury, sheer joy. The tree is enjoying its being, celebrating itself. Walt Whitman says, “I celebrate myself.” That is the ultimate in luxury, when one starts celebrating oneself. A sheer joy of being! Then, after psychological needs are fulfilled, the question of meditation, prayer, spirituality, the search for the ultimate source and goal of life, the inquiry into consciousness and its ultimate peaks….
I don’t think, Gerrit Huiser, that you found in poor peasants in Latin America higher spirituality in my sense of the word — it is impossible. But I can understand what you really mean. You must have found them more simple than the rich landlords — that’s what you are calling spirituality. You must have found them more innocent, childlike, than the rich landlords — that’s what you are calling spirituality, higher spirituality. Obviously, when there is so much poverty, only the cunning and the clever can be rich; the simple and the innocent cannot be rich. When there is so much competition, so much struggle, a certain cunningness is needed, otherwise you cannot be rich — then others will be rich who are more cunning than you. You must have found… you can find it anywhere: poor people are always more simple, more innocent. But try to understand. It is not because of their poverty that they are simple and innocent: they are poor BECAUSE they are simple and innocent; it is not the quality of poverty. They are simple and innocent — simple in the sense of simpletons, innocent because they are not intelligent. Their innocence, their simplicity is not a great achievement; it is just like every small child.
Every child is innocent, but that is not much to brag about; it is a natural phenomenon. And every child will have to lose it — unless he loses it he will remain a simpleton. If he loses it and goes into the ways of the world, goes astray, becomes cunning, becomes clever, cheats, does everything that is needed in this competitive life, and one day finds it all futile and drops it and again becomes simple — that is spirituality. That is a totally different phenomenon. The sage is innocent because he has found that cunningness is futile, and the child is innocent because he has not yet found that cunningness is the way of the world.
The child is simply IGNORANT — don’t call his ignorance ‘innocence’ — and the sage is innocent, he is no more ignorant. He knows all the worldly ways, but he has found that they are not worth bothering about…
The farmer showed the city laborer how to milk the cows, and sent him into the fields. “How many did you milk?” he asked when the laborer came back.
“Twenty, but there’s one thing….”
“What is that?”
“I think you should have given me a bucket!”
Angus decided to keep a few hives on his farm, and the first year Owen was curious to know how he got on. “Had you any luck with the bees, Angus?” he asked.
“The best, the best!” Angus chuckled.
“You got a lot of honey?”
‘Not a drop, but they stung the mother-in-law seven times!”…
Yes, the poor people ARE simple, but that does not mean they are spiritual! Don’t misunderstand their simplicity. And you are right that the rich landlords are NOT simple — they cannot be, otherwise they would have been poor themselves, they would have been children of God themselves. If they are not clever they cannot remain rich. Their parents must have been clever and their parents’ parents must have been clever, and they must have been clever to choose clever parents. From the very beginning you have to be very alert to avoid the children of God! If you choose children of God you are lost!
For example, Gerrit Huiser: he is a professor of third world studies, Catholic University, Holland. I don’t think you have chosen for your parents children of God, otherwise you would have been milking cows — without a bucket!…
A rich but very miserly Jew from New York was driving on the road in his rusty old Volkswagen. He was dreaming about better lifestyles when suddenly a beautiful new car passed him. The car was going very fast, and just after passing him it lost control and crashed into a tree.
The Jew in the old car slammed on his brakes, pushing his feet through the floor in his exuberance. The beautiful car was completely destroyed; the driver was scratched and bruised but alive.
The Jew helped him out of the wreck and asked, “Are you in pain?”
“A little,” replied the victim.
“Do you think you can wait for help?”
“Yes, I think so,” groaned the man.
“Do you have accident insurance?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Is it with a good company?”
“Of course!” snapped the wounded man.
“Do they pay the full amount in the correct time?” asked the Jew excitedly.
“Well,” concluded the Jew, “can I just lie by your side?”
A young Jew, dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase, walked up to the front door of a little house in a quiet neighborhood. He knocked loudly on the door and called out, “Burglar!”
After some time an old lady appeared at the door. “Who is it?” she croaked.
“Burglar, madam,” came the reply.
“You’re not selling anything, young man?”
“I’m here to steal everything you’ve got,” replied the young man politely. “May I come in?”
“Hm, well, are ya sure you’re no encyclopaedia salesman?”
“Madam, please accept my card. I am indeed a burglar!”
The Jew entered the house with the old lady and proceeded to collect anything of value he could find. He cleared out the living room of all its artwork and trinkets, found cash in the bedroom drawers, took crystal glasses, candlesticks, jewelry…. Finally, when there was nothing else of value left to take, he turned to the old lady and said, “Er… by the way, madam, while I’m here, can I interest you in our new range of children’s encyclopaedias?”
The cunning and the clever are bound to become rich but that is the only way to reach real simplicity. Unless you have been cunning, unless you have been clever, you cannot reach the status of a sage. It is not an accident that in India all the twenty-four TEERTHANKARAS of the Jainas, the twenty-four great Masters, were princes, and all the AVATARAS of the Hindus were kings, and Buddha’s twenty-three previous incarnations were all in royal families. That’s why there is a tremendous difference between Jesus’ teaching and Buddha’s teaching. Buddha’s teaching soars really high like an Everest. The Upanishadic seers were rich people; that’s why the Upanishadic statements have a beauty and a deep aesthetic sense about them. Jesus was the son of a poor man, a carpenter. His words don’t have THAT flavor which the words of Mahavira, Yagnavalka, Patanjali, Buddha and Lao Tzu have. These people have a totally different height and a multi-dimensionality. Jesus’ words are simple, as simple as a poor man’s can be. Of course they have a certain straightforwardness, but they are not like Everest; compared to Buddha’s words they are just molehills.
And you can see that — that only poor people of the world are becoming interested in Jesus’ words. In India the people who are converted to Christianity are the poorest people. Christian missionaries have not been able to convert a single rich Indian to Christianity — all the poor people are converted. And the other extreme is also happening: the West is turning Buddhist. The intelligentsia of the West, of the rich countries, is becoming more interested in Zen, in Tao, in Yoga, and the poor people of the East are becoming more interested in Jesus. It is not just an accident; there is some hidden reason behind it. The poor people in the East are now finding a consolation in Jesus’ words, and the rich people of the West are finding insights in the words of Buddha and Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Bokuju, Rinzai. The height is appealing. Jesus seems to be plain — beautiful words but with no sophistication.
Why is the East turning closer to Jesus and the West turning closer to Buddha? And one should also take note of the fact that socialism is a by-product of Christianity; it has not happened in Hinduism, it has not happened in Buddhism, it has not happened in Jainism, it has not happened in Taoism. Christianity has given birth to the idea of socialism, because basically Christianity has been a consolation for the poor. Socialism is now the ultimate consolation for the poor. Socialism does not make them rich, it simply destroys the rich people, but then the poor feel happy because there is no comparison left. The poor of America are in a far better situation than the people of the so-called communist countries, but the poor of America are not happy. Even the poor people of America have cars and television sets, and in Russia even the big communist bosses do not have such beautiful cars and television sets and radios. But Russians seem to be more contented than the Americans — for the simple reason that the comparison is no more there — the rich have disappeared. Poverty has been distributed. That’s what socialism is all about: distribution of poverty, EQUAL distribution of poverty. When all are equally poor you don’t feel discontented: Discontent arises only when you see a few people becoming richer. You may also be becoming richer — with those few people, but that is not the point: the distance between you and the rich hurts. Socialism is the ultimate consolation for the poor. If religions have provided opium for the poor, then socialism provides LSD for the poor!
my own approach is this: let people become rich. And the way to make them rich is not socialism; the way to make them rich is to introduce more technology, more industry, more science. And capitalism is the only form of society which knows how to create wealth…We have to use capitalism more; we have to introduce the same wealth-creating procedures everywhere. Make the people rich! One day, when there is so much wealth in the world — just as there is free air — when there is too much wealth in the world, nobody will want to possess it. People want to possess things only when they are in scarcity; when the scarcity disappears, possessiveness disappears. The world has to become as rich as possible, only then will the explosion happen — the explosion I call spirituality.
I don’t mean the peasant-like simplicity; that’s why I called the proletariat the lowest. They are the lowest because they are living undernourished lives, they are living very deeply rooted in the body; even their bodies are not satisfied. And to talk about spirituality to those people who are hungry is absurd. Even if these hungry people go to the temples and the mosques and the synagogues and the churches they are not going for spiritual reasons, they are going to ask for something from God.
I have been receiving hundreds of letters from South Africa, and they all think they are inquiring about something very spiritual. And all those letters are basically the same. They are asking me: can I help them to be healthier, to be richer, to be more successful? Can I give them a mantra, a talisman, or something magical? They think they are asking for some spiritual guidance — they are asking for worldly things. And it is not only so in South Africa — the same is the situation in India. When I receive letters from Indian so-called seekers it IS NEVER about meditation, it is NEVER about the inner inquiry; it is always about poverty, unemployment. Their daughters and sons are unemployed, unmarried; they need my blessings. And they think this is something spiritual! They ask because their wives are ill and they can’t afford any other treatment — “So please bless us.” They write to me about retarded children, paralyzed children; they have to be blessed.
It is very rare that any Indian asks about real, authentic spirituality, but I can understand — they cannot ask. What they are asking is inevitable; that’s what they go on asking in their prayers. They go to the temples, they go to the priests, in order that they can survive somehow. They are not capable of surviving on their own; they want help, some magical help from the priests, because they think the priests are directly connected to God and everything is possible through God.These are the people who have invented all kinds of miracles; those miracles have never happened. For example, the miracle told about Jesus: that out of a single loaf of bread he fed thousands of people, that he turned the whole sea into wine, that he turned stones into bread, that he helped the ill people and cured them, that the blind came to him and he gave them eyes, and the crippled came to him and he healed them. These miracles show much about the people who have written these stories; they don’t show anything about Jesus. These are their desires.
People ask me again and again, “Why are so many Westerners here and not so many Indians?” If you want to see Indians you can go to Satya Sai Baba — there you will see thousands of Indians. Here you will not see them for the simple reason that to me spirituality is the ultimate in luxury. Only those who have done everything, who have lived life in all its possibilities, can inquire about the ultimate life. Those who are still worried about their bodies and employment and money and business, they cannot come to me — I am not for them. Only the spiritual seekers will be here.
And to me, the capitalist system is the only system that can transform humanity towards spirituality.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: Philosophia Ultima
Chapter title: Spirituality is the Ultimate in Luxury
17 December 1980 am in Buddha Hall
Osho has spoken on distinguished poets like Byron, Coleridge, D.H. Lawrence, Ghalib, Heinrich Heine, John Ruskin, Kahlil Gibran, Kalidas, Keats, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Milton, Oscar Wilde, Rabindranath Tagore, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Rumi, Rudyard Kipling, Shakespeare, Shelley, William Blake, Wordsworth and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- The Book of Wisdom
- The Sword and The Lotus
- Returning to the Source
- Light on the Path
- The Secret
- The Hidden Splendour
- The New Dawn
- Beyond Enlightenment
- From Bondage to Freedom
- The Golden Future
- Take It Easy, Vol 1
- The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 4, 5
- Theologia Mystica