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Is austerity needed in meditation?*

What I am describing to you – purification of the body, purification of the thoughts, purification of the emotions; emptiness of the body, emptiness of the mind, emptiness of the emotions – this is austerity.


And what do people think austerity is? If somebody is standing in the sun, they think that he is practicing austerity. If somebody is lying on a bed of thorns, they think that he is practicing austerity. If somebody is sitting hungry, that means that he is practicing austerity. Our ideas about austerity are very materialistic, very bodily. Austerity, to most people, means torturing the body. If somebody is hurting his body, then he is practicing austerity. In actual fact, austerity has nothing to do with hurting the body. Austerity is something absolutely unique; it is something quite different.

If somebody is fasting you think he is practicing austerity – but he is only dying of hunger. And I will even go so far as to say that he is not fasting, he is only going without food. Going without food, not eating anything, is one thing; fasting is something totally different.

An upvaas, a fast, means to be living in the presence of the divine. It means to be near one’s soul. It means to be close to the soul. And what does it mean to go without food? To go without food means to be close to the body. These are two diametrically opposite things.

A hungry man is closer to the body than to the soul. In comparison, a person with a full stomach is less close to the body. A hungry man always thinks about hunger, his stomach and his body. His line of thought concerns the body. His preoccupation is with the body and with food. <...>

Once a religious man was with me, and he said to me, “I am on a fast today.”

I said, “You must mean you are going without food, but not fasting!”

He said, “What is the difference between going without food and fasting?”

I said, When you go without food, you stop eating food and you start meditating on food. Fasting means that you are no longer concerned with food; you are in communion with the soul and food is forgotten.”

Fasting is genuine austerity. And going without food is hurting the body, suppressing the body. People who have an ego go without food; egoless people fast. Going without food fulfills the ego, that “I haven’t eaten for so many days!” You hear praise and joy all around you. The news that you are very religious spreads everywhere. Even a little pain to the body greatly fulfills the ego, so people with big egos agree to do this.<...>

I am telling you clearly that these are the concerns of the ego. These are not religious interests and concerns. Religious people definitely fast, but they don’t go without food. Fasting means that one is totally involved in the effort to come close to the soul. And when one starts coming closer to the soul, it happens that food is completely forgotten. And I tell you this emphatically that it is true in everything, not only in this but in every aspect of life. <...>

Austerity is the science through which a person forgets that “I am the body” and comes to know that “I am the soul.” Austerity is a matter of technique. Austerity is a technique. A bridge, a way through which a person forgets that he is the body, and the realization dawns in him that he is the soul.

But false austerities are going on all over the world and they have created many dangers. They satisfy the egos of a few egoists but do great harm to the understanding of the masses, because the masses then believe that this is real austerity, that this is real meditation, that this is real yoga. But they are neither meditations nor yoga.

And I will tell you something more: people who are interested in the suppression of the body in this way are simply neurotic. Also, the people who enjoy hurting their bodies are the same people who enjoy inflicting pain on someone else’s body. The only difference is that the joy they would experience by inflicting pain on other people’s bodies is experienced instead by hurting their own bodies. These are violent people. This is masochism, it is violence towards oneself.<...>

Austerity done with the desire to get something in return is false, because that is not austerity at all, it is a form of greed. This is the reason why all the existing forms of austerity promise you something in return. They tell you that all the people who practiced this or that austerity in the past attained to something or other. These are all forms of greed.

The only austerity is to try to know oneself. It is not that you will get a place in heaven through this or that – but you will experience great joy. Not to know one’s own self is not to know life itself, and not to know your own self…. It is impossible that the longing to know oneself does not arise in someone who has even a little intelligence. He will insist on knowing who he is and on becoming acquainted with the life-energy within him.

Austerity is the way to know the truth of life. Austerity is not a repression of the body.

Only a person who is neither repressing the body nor indulging in it, whose pleasure or suffering is not dependent on the body, whose joy is not dependent on the body but rather on the soul – only such a person is moving towards religion.


* - Excerpt from OSHO. The Path of Meditation


Updated on 03-09-2018

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