The Meaning of Life

Osho on Life

The word “meaning” is irrelevant to life. Life is neither meaningful nor meaningless. But for centuries man’s mind has been conditioned to believe that life has great meaning. All that meaning was arbitrary. Hence only in this century, for the first time in the whole history of man, has the question, “What is the meaning of life?” become one of the most important, because all old lies are exposed. Life was meaningful with a God. Life was meaningful with a life beyond death. Life was meaningful because the churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, were continuously hammering the idea in man’s mind. A certain maturity has come to man, not to all, but to a very small minority.

I would like you to remember five significant names. First is Soren Kierkegaard. He was the first man who raised this question and was condemned universally, because even to raise the question created suspicion in people. Nobody had dared, ever, to ask – What is the meaning of life? Even the atheists who had denied God, who had denied the afterlife, who had denied the existence of the soul — even they had never asked what the meaning of life is. They said, Eat, drink and be merry — that is the meaning of life. It was clear to them that these joys — “eat, drink, be merry” — were what life is all about. But Soren Kierkegaard went very deeply into the question. He created, unknowingly, a movement: existentialism. Then followed the four other names: Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, Gabriel Marcel, and the last but not the least important, in fact the most important, Jean-Paul Sartre. These five people went on hammering on the whole intelligentsia of the world: that life is meaningless.

Now, anybody who has some kind of intelligence is bound to come across this question, and he has to find some way to encounter it. I do not agree with these five great philosophers, but I give them the respect that they deserve. They were courageous, because once you take meaning out of life, religion disappears, because religion up to now has been nothing but an effort to give meaning to your life: to fill it so that you don’t feel empty; to surround you with God and angels so that you don’t feel lonely…. You have not been going to the church, the synagogue, and the temple without any reason.

For thousands of years man has not been bowing down to the priests without any reason. He was gaining something. Offcourse they were exploiting him, but even in their exploitation man was finding a certain consolation. He was not alone; he was being looked after. Life was not futile, it had tremendous meaning, spiritual, esoteric, profound… so high and so deep that your intellect could not comprehend it. Still the majority of people, ninety-nine percent, are not bothered by the question. How can they be bothered? They easily find consolation from the dead past. To them it is not a dead past.

The meaning that religious people have given to human life is arbitrary. These people are exposing the arbitrariness of the religious people’s meaning — but that does not mean that life is meaningless. It simply means that the meaning that was given to life up to now is found invalid: God is not the meaning of life. Life beyond death is not the meaning of life. Jesus Christ is not the meaning of life. But that does not mean that life has no meaning.

But because you have been thinking that this is the meaning of life, when suddenly it falls apart, you pick up the polar opposite idea of meaninglessness.

I want you to remember my standpoint. I am an existentialist. And I say to you that life is neither meaningful nor meaningless. The question is irrelevant. Life is just an opportunity, an opening. It depends what you make of it. It depends on you what meaning, what colour, what song, what poetry, what dance you give to it. Life is a creative challenge.

And it is good that it hasn’t any fixed meaning, otherwise there would be no challenge. Then it would be just a ready-made thing: you are born and the meaning of life is given to you and you carry it your whole life; this is the meaning of your life. No, existence is far more profound than any meaning. Existence is just a challenge to creativity.


Listen to complete discourse at mentioned below link.

Discourse series: From Personality to Individuality

Chapter #2

Chapter title: To define is to confine — existence has no boundaries

31 December 1984 pm in Lao Tzu Grove


Osho has spoken on ‘life, meaning, challenge, creativity’ in many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. A Sudden Clash of Thunder
  2. The Book of Wisdom
  3. The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha
  4. From Death to Deathlessness
  5. The Guest
  6. Unio Mystica
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