IS ZEN AGAINST POLITICS?
Zen is so much against politics that it never talks about it. It is so much against politics that it cannot even be against it. If you are against it, it will affect you. Then somehow you will remain in some way related to it. To be against is to be related. When you are very much against, you are very, very related. It is a way of relationship — you are related to your enemy too, sometimes even more than you are related to your friend. Zen is so much against politics that it does not say anything about it, but it is against it. Any religion, any religion worth calling a religion, is bound to be against politics because the very phenomenon of religion is non-political.
What is politics? Politics is ambition, politics is ego, politics is aggression, politics is violence, politics is an ego-trip. How can a religious person be political? He can pretend that he is religious but he cannot be religious. And how can a political person be religious? He can pretend that he is religious but he cannot be religious. These two thugs cannot go together because to be religious one has to drop ambition. And if you drop ambition politics disappears. To be religious one has to drop the ego, and when you drop the ego, politics is dropped. A religious person has to be without any ego whatsoever. So religion as such is anti-political or non-political. But the religions that you see around you — Hinduism, Mohamedanism, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhist are all political. They are no longer religious.
Whenever a religion becomes too organized, whenever religion becomes all establishment, whenever religion has a vested interest in the society, in this particular society, in the STATUS QUO, then it is no longer religion.
A Buddha is religious, Buddhism is not religious. Jesus is religious — that’s why he was crucified by the politicians — but Christians are not religious, they are very, very political.
A large political meeting was attended by a small boy trying to sell four young puppy dogs. Finally, a man approached the boy and asked jokingly, ‘Are these political pups, sonny?’
‘Well, then,’ said the man, ‘I’ll take these two.’
A week later at the same place there was a religious gathering and the same boy showed up to sell the remaining two dogs. A man walked up to him and asked, ‘My little lad, what kind of puppies are these you have?’
‘These are religious pups, sir.’
The first man who purchased the other two dogs happened to overhear this. ‘Say,’ he said, ‘didn’t you tell me that those pups that I bought from you last week were political pups?’
‘Yes, sir,’ said the young dog-seller, ‘but these puppies ain’t — they’ve got their eyes open.’
Politics is blind. It is a blind trip of the ego. One goes on groping to find some source of power so that one can feel, ‘I am somebody.’ Politics comes out of an inferiority complex. Deep down you feel that you are nobody, deep down you are afraid of your nothingness. You cannot accept it. You have to deny it. Politics is a denial of your inner nothingness, religion is rejoicing in it.
Let me repeat it. Politics is an effort to deny your inner nothingness. Of course, you can never succeed in it because that inner nothingness is your very nature, it cannot be denied. Your interpretation is wrong. That inner nothingness has nothing to do with inferiority complex, it is your interpretation that creates the inferiority complex. And out of the inferiority complex you start to become superior — you become a prime minister, you become a president or something. This inner nothingness drives you somewhere — it may be to money, it may to power, it may be prestige, it may be knowledge, it may even be to renunciation — but this inner nothingness drives you to find some way to forget that you are nothing, to start feeling that you are somebody, that you are something important, valuable, significant, that without you the world with be at a loss.
This inner nothingness is a driving force towards politics, but nobody can succeed in denying it. You can manage to postpone it but again and again it will assert itself, again and again it with be there sitting on the throne, again and again when you think you have arrived you will know, deep down, whenever you look inside, that you have not arrived.
The inner nothingness is untouched by whatsoever you have done, by whatsoever you have accumulated, by whatsoever you have achieved — it remains untouched, that emptiness is still there. That’s the misery of the successful man. Nothing fails like success.
Failure is never such a failure as success is a failure because the person who has failed can still hope. In failure the hope that you may succeed some day is still there, but in success all hope disappears.
I have heard about President Coolidge, one of the great American presidents. When his term was over he declined to stand again for the presidency although there was every possibility that he would be chosen again. He was very much loved — he was such a silent man.
So people started approaching him and asking, ‘Why? Why are you not standing again? It is almost certain you will be chosen.’ But he would say no. And he would say no with very deep, sad eyes. Finally somebody forced him to answer exactly why he went on saying no. He said, ‘Because I have come to know that there is nothing in it and to repeat it a second time will be stupid. I have come to know that nothing is gained by gaining such things. I remain the same person.’ How can a chair change you? You can sit on a golden chair or you can sit on a very, very ordinary stool, it doesn’t make any difference — you remain the same. How can the chair change you? How can the change of the chair change you? But this is the way the politician goes on be fooling himself.
No. A religious person cannot be politician. A religious person, by his very religiousness, is non-political. He approaches life in a totally different way. What is the difference? What is the radical difference?
The radical difference is that the religious man does not interpret his nothingness as inferiority. That is the revolution. The day it happens that your inner nothingness is not inferiority, that your nothing is your very being…. It is the way God is in you. God’s way of being present is being absent — that’s how God is present in the world. He is so non-violent that he remains absent. Deep inside you the hole that you feel, the dark hole, is not dark. It is luminous with light. Enter into it. And it is not nothing, it is the very secret of the whole life, the whole existence.
It is all. That nothingness is just the way God appears to those people who don’t look deeply. It is a misunderstanding. The religious man befriends his nothingness. That’s what meditation is all about: befriending your nothingness. He enjoys it. He celebrates it. He dances it. He sings it. He goes again and again into it. Whenever he has a chance, whenever he has the opportunity, he closes his eyes, he drops into his nothingness, he disappears there. That is the very door of God. From there you connect yourself to the divine. Once you have started enjoying your nothingness, who bothers about politics?…
Remember, the politician is always there. Till the ego is completely thrown away it is always there. The ego is the politician. If you are egoistic, you are political. You may not stand in an election, you may not strive for any political power, but if you have the ego you will remain political in subtle ways. You may dominate your wife or your husband, you may dominate your children, you may dominate your servants. You will remain cunning and you will never miss any opportunity to dominate. So when I use the word ‘political’ I don’t just mean state affairs, no, I mean all affairs where domination is involved. If you want to have more money you are political because if you want to have more money you will have to exploit people. If you want to have more power you will have to fight. If you want more prestige you will have to be competitive. Your so-called saints are all political. They have their ambitions. Each saint wants to become the greatest saint — then he is political, then he will have to fight with other saints who are competitors.
A religious person is non-competitive and that’s why I insist again and again — I am never tired of this insistence — on you being meditative, because meditation is the only joy which is non-competitive, the only joy that you attain but nobody loses because you attain. Nobody is a loser.
If you have more money somebody will have less money; if you have more power somebody will have less power; if Morarji becomes the prime minister, Indira is no longer a prime minister. Somebody loses. Somebody’s gain is going to be somebody else’s loss. But a religious person will not like to do anything in which somebody becomes a loser. This is violent, this is ugly, this is inhuman. Then what is left for the religious person? He can celebrate his being. He can meditate. In meditation you gain and nobody loses.
Only God is infinite, everything else is finite. Money is finite, power is finite… if you have it somebody will not have it. Only God is infinite. You can have as much as you like. You can have the whole of it and yet nobody is a loser. That’s the beauty of religion — it is non-violent joy, it is non-competitive joy.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol 1
Chapter title: Philosophical Bastards
20 June 1977 am in Buddha Hall
Osho has spoken on ‘politics, power, ego, money, ambition’ in many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- The Book of Wisdom
- Come Follow To You, Vol 1, 2, 3, 4
- The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 6, 8
- From Misery to Enlightenment
- From Darkness to Light
- From Ignorance to Innocence
- The Rebel
- Socrates Poisoned Again After 25 Centuries
- Tao: The Pathless Path, Vol 2
- Ecstasy – The Forgotten Language
- YAA-HOO! The Mystic Rose
- The Discipline of Transcendence, Vol 1, 2
- My Way: The Way of the White Clouds