What is the question?

Birthday of Gertrude Stein

Zarathustra believes in only one religion: the religion of evolution. Naturally, if evolution is the religion of life then change has to be its principle — a constant change. All the religions have depended on permanent values; they have fixed their values once and for all. Life goes on changing; their values remain static and lose contact with existence. That creates immense tension in man’s mind. If he follows those values he is no longer contemporary; he is no longer in touch with the living sources of life. If he does not follow them he feels guilty, he feels immoral, he feels irreligious. And then fear grips him. So man goes on wavering between life and the so-called permanent values. Wherever he is, he is halfhearted. Wherever he is, he is miserable — because joy arises only when you are wholehearted.

Joy is nothing but the fragrance of a whole heart, and misery the outcome of a heart which has been dissected into parts, into fragments.

As far as Zarathustra is concerned there is only one thing unchanging and that is change itself. Except change, everything goes on changing. And

the man of consciousness will respond to every change — not according to any fixed values but according to his alertness, consciousness, according to his spontaneity. In the vision of Zarathustra, spontaneity has a very fundamental role to play. If values are not fixed then the only source you can get your values from is going to be your spontaneous response to the reality in which you are.

It will be fresh and new; and there is no need for feeling any guilt. You have to live now. The people who lived five thousand years ago had no idea what life is going to be in the future. They decided their values according to their time.

For example, fourteen hundred years ago Islam was born, and it was born in the great desert of Arabia. In Arabia it was a problem that there were four times more women than men, because men were continually warring with each other, fighting with each other, killing each other. The ultimate result was that there were four times more women and it was creating a great problem for the society. It was their situation, and Mohammed responded very spontaneously. He decided that every Mohammedan could have four wives. But the Mohammedans are still insisting in the world that they should have four wives. Now the situation has changed: men and women are of equal numbers. Now, to insist that, “Because in our religious scriptures four wives are allowed….” To make it a law forever is sheer stupidity.

But that is the situation of all the religions. They have responded to their own time correctly, but time is not a fixed thing.

Life is a moving river. It is entering into new areas, new territories, new potentialities, and it has to be alert about it. Life cannot be lived according to the past. That is one of the basic teachings of Zarathustra: one has to live according to the present, aware of the future. And one has to remember: what is true for me is not true for all, and what is true for me today is not going to be necessarily true for me tomorrow. Our values have to be according to life — not vice versa. The moment you try to make life be according to your values you become life-destructive, life-negative. And to destroy life is to destroy yourself.

Then misery is going to be your lot.


Life changes so fast that by the time you have written your laws they are already out of date. That’s why Zarathustra says, “I am sitting here, waiting, old shattered law-tables around me and also new, half-written lawtables.” Why half-written? — because by the time you write them they may not be relevant anymore. One has to live spontaneously, not according to any written law. One has to take the responsibility totally on one’s own shoulders. He cannot say… because it was written by Manu five thousand years ago, or written by Moses four thousand years ago, or said by Jesus two thousand years ago. It may have been right at the time it was asserted, but now all those law-tables are shattered. And the new ones are half-written. The new ones will never be fully written. By the time they are fully written they will be old, and they will be shattered and thrown onto the same heap as the old tables of law.

WHEN WILL MY HOUR COME? He is saying, “I am waiting.” Waiting for what? — waiting for my hour… THE HOUR OF MY DOWN-GOING, MY DESCENT: FOR I WANT TO GO TO MEN ONCE MORE. Now, living in the mountains, in the solitude, he is more clear about his vision and he is also more clear about man’s ignorance. He feels that now there is a possibility; perhaps he can bring some light into the dark night of humanity. FOR THAT I NOW WAIT: FOR FIRST THE SIGN THAT IT IS MY HOUR MUST COME TO ME. He is a very sensitive man. He would like to wait for exactly the right time when he can be heard, when he can be understood. How will he know that the right hour has come? He has a symbol that will indicate his hour: NAMELY, THE LAUGHING LION WITH THE FLOCK OF DOVES. When the lion can laugh with the innocent doves my time has come. When the lion can play with innocent children my time has come. In other words, according to his categories, the camel becomes the lion when he revolts against slavery, and the lion becomes a child when he grows into his innocence. And unless humanity has become this innocent, it is not possible for Zarathustra to be understood.

MEANWHILE, I TALK TO MYSELF, AS ONE WHO HAS PLENTY OF TIME. NO ONE TELLS ME ANYTHING NEW; SO I TELL MYSELF TO MY MYSELF. He is alone; there is nobody else there in the mountains. He tells things to himself — perhaps just to hear them clearly, because soon he will be saying those things to human beings. He is polishing them, sharpening them, making them more rational, understandable, more human.


Everybody thinks that he already knows what is right, what is wrong, what is good, what is evil. You can see it within yourself, and you can see it without you. You can move around in the world and you will find that everybody is a knower, with no suspicion at all — because those old values have been given to him as a heritage. Each generation goes on giving its diseases to the new generation. They call it wisdom. But what was wisdom yesterday, today is simply nonsense.

If you want your children to be wise, never give them wisdom. If you want your children to have a clarity about life and a spontaneous responsibility towards situations and people, don’t load them with ideas of good and evil,

because they will not be living in your time — and you cannot conceive in what time they will be living, what will be their situations. All that you can do is make them more intelligent, make them more alert, make them more conscious, make them more loving, make them more silent. So wherever they are their response will come out of their silence and out of their love and out of their alertness; it is going to be good. Don’t tell them what is good, but give them the right means to discover what is good in a different situation. But up to now just the opposite has been the case. We are told, “This is good and this is wrong,” as if time is standing still and our values will remain values for our coming generations too. Because of this conditioning from the past everybody lives with his self-conceit — that he knows already.


this is one of the most dangerous situations. When you don’t know and you have the conceit that you know it already, then all doors of exploration and enquiry are closed. You never ask; there is no need. You already know the answer.

Every child is being fed with the milk of the mother’s answers. He has not even asked the question and you are giving him answers. Know perfectly well that he will have to face different questions — not the same questions that you had to face or your forefathers faced. And because he will be loaded with dead and out-of-date answers, you have messed up his life from the very beginning. When a question will be there he will not respond to the question, he will simply repeat his old answer — which is not going to solve the problem.

I am reminded of a great woman, Gertrude Stein. If she had been in the East she would have become enlightened. This can be said with absolute certainty. Her poetry flies so high that the whole is not far away from there. Her insights are so clear that just a step more and she would have become a Gautam Buddha or a Zarathustra.

Gertrude Stein was dying. All her friends had gathered around; suddenly she opened her eyes and looked all around. It was evening and it was becoming dark and already they were all sad. And she asked, “What is the answer? Before I die I want to know the answer.” They were shocked, because they didn’t know what the question was. How can you say what the answer is?

There was a silence for few moments, then one person who was very close to her asked, “Stein, you are asking us, `What is the answer?’ And you have not asked, `What is the question?’ First tell us what the question is.” The dying woman’s last words were — with closed eyes she said, “Okay, I don’t have much time. So tell me: what is the question?” And she died.

No one knows what was her question; no one knows how to find the answer for a question that you don’t know. But the situation is very significant. Perhaps… and this happens most often to people who die consciously, that at the moment of death they remember their very childhood. They are going out of life and they remember the time when they had come into life.

I have been looking into this strange dialogue between Gertrude Stein and her friends. To me it makes some sense. She asked, “What is the answer?” — because to every child the answer is given. That is every child’s first experience. Nobody asks him, “What is the question?” Nobody even bothers that he has not asked it. But people go on dumping answers on the child, and he is so innocent and so trusting that he accepts those answers. Perhaps she was remembering those first moments, when somebody had given her an answer and she had not asked the question.

And since then she has carried the answer. But at the moment of death you have to leave all that you have known in life; you have to become again, a child. But when the friends insisted, “We must know what the question is; only then can we answer,” she said, “Okay. Then tell me what the question is” — because a child has no questions. And we are in such a hurry to condition children that we never bother whether he has any question or not…

This world is full of answers. Everybody’s head is full of answers for which you don’t have an authentic question. That’s why I call your knowledge rubbish. First a question should arise in you. And the question cannot be answered by anybody else; you will have to find the answer yourself. Only then, when the answer is yours, it has a truth. If it is given to you by somebody else it is old, rotten, disgusting. Your own search will bring you to a fresh answer. But the people are sitting upon an old conceit…


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

Discourse name: Zarathustra: The Laughing Prophet
Chapter title: Of old and new law tables part 1
Chapter #17
16 April 1987 am in Chuang Tzu Auditorium


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, Gertrude Stein and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. The Book of Wisdom
  2. The Sword and The Lotus
  3. Returning to the Source
  4. Light on the Path
  5. The Secret
  6. The Hidden Splendour
  7. The New Dawn
  8. Beyond Enlightenment
  9. From Bondage to Freedom
  10. The Golden Future
  11. Take It Easy, Vol 1
  12. The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 4, 5
  13. Theologia Mystica
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