Man, the Greatest Problem, the Only Solution – Osho

Osho, what is the greatest problem in the world?

THE greatest problem or the smallest problem, it is the same: man. And when I say man, I do not mean something abstract. I mean I, you, he, she. There exists no man as such, separate from human beings.

There exists no humanity; it is only a name. The reality is the individual. And the problem arises because the reality has not been accepted. The real has been denied expression; and the unreal, the abstract, has been imposed upon it.

You have been told continuously, “Live for humanity.” Where is humanity? Have you ever come across humanity? Do you think you are ever going to have an encounter with humanity? It is just like all those big, bombastic, bogus words: God, motherland, fatherland, Holy Ghost. They don’t exist, they are only projected. “Live for humanity” means don’t live for yourself.

Nobody has the guts to say to you directly, “Don’t live for yourself.” So they have found a cunning, clever, indirect way of saying the same thing: Live for God, live for humanity, live for man, live for the universe. Live for anything – XYZ – but please don’t live for yourself. And here is the root of the whole problem.

Your life is your life, and it can be lived only one way; there is no other alternative. And the only way that it can be lived has to be found by you. It is not all ready like a super-highway, ready-made, with millions of people moving on it, going towards their goal, and you have just to join the crowd.

No, there is no super-highway to existence.

There are only small footpaths which are walked in total aloneness.

And remember, even those footpaths are not ready-made, available for you so that you can go on number eleven footpath. They don’t exist other than when you walk upon them; it is through walking you create them. It is a very beautiful and mysterious way life has, that it does not make you like a railway train which runs on rails. A railway has no choice; it cannot just go anywhere it likes. Those rails are fixed, somebody else determines them. Those rails are the destiny – the train simply moves according to somebody else’s dictates.

Man has no destiny – although you have been told for thousands of years that you have a destiny.

This is what I call the way of the cunning, deceiving, exploiting people. Now when it is said to you that man has a destiny, you never think of a railway train. Only railway trains have destinations, stations. But beautiful words can go on hiding ugly realities. “Man has a destiny” – I have been hearing it from my childhood, and I have been saying each time it has been mentioned by somebody in some way, “Please don’t insult me.”

When I said this to one of my professors, he was shocked. He said, “I am not insulting you. To have a destiny is not an insult; it is the most honorable thing in life.”

I said, “It may be for you because you don’t understand what you are saying. Destiny means predetermined; my tomorrow is already predetermined by somebody. I have not even been consulted – as if it is none of my concern, I am nobody, just some playing cards in somebody’s hands; whatsoever he wants he makes out of me. Whatever game he plays, that is my destiny. And this is thought to be respectful?”

And the professor was not saying something crazy. That is what is thought all around the world. I said, “I can understand why you are shocked, because you have never thought about the word destiny. How can I have a destiny? I have not determined it. Then who is the guy who determines it? And what right has he got to determine it? He has not even asked me. I don’t know him; we have not even been introduced. Just for courtesy’s sake he could have asked me, ‘this is going to be your destiny – do you like it or not?’ But nobody has even bothered that much.”

Man has no destiny.

And I say unto you that it is only man who has not any destiny. Dogs have; buffalos have; donkeys have. They move on certain rails. Each donkey throughout millions of years has lived the same routine life: the birth, the love affair, and the difficulties of marriage, children, old age, all hopes shattered, all dreams unfulfilled, and the darkness of death. All the donkeys have lived that way, they are still living that way – but not man.

In fact, I want to say to you that all men are not behaving like men. A few are behaving like monkeys, a few are behaving like Yankees, but none even tries to assert, “I am a man.” But that assertion contains so much, it is almost immeasurable.

So first: man has no destiny. Once you understand it, almost all your problems disappear. I say “almost” – perhaps ninety-nine percent disappear; one percent remains. I want it to remain. Ninety-nine percent of your problems are created by deviating you, by driving you into ways which are not for you. But whenever I said that this is an insult, the reaction was the same – a shock.

Slowly I became aware that people don’t use words consciously. What they are saying is almost like a parrot, perhaps worse than a parrot.

I am reminded of a story. A Christian priest went into a pet shop. His own parrot had died, and that was his only companion. He was a celibate: no wife to quarrel with, no children to be engaged with. How long can you live with God alone? Once every week, Sunday morning, is good, but for the remaining six days, when the whole world goes to work… and even God worked those six days.

The poor priest has to remain in the church doing nothing.

Even the good God could not manage to remain for seven days without doing anything. In six days he created this neurotic world, and on the seventh day He said, ”Great! I have done a great job, now I can rest.” But this poor priest… so he had his parrot and slowly, slowly he made him almost a scholar, trained him. The whole week there was no other work. The parrot knew almost all the sermons of the priest. He had become lately a nuisance because he wouldn’t let the priest rest even a little while. Whenever the priest was resting the parrot would start his sermon that the priest had – with great labor and patience – been teaching him, not knowing that it was going to backfire.

He would shout at the parrot, “Shut up! You keep quiet! On Sunday I have to preach myself, and I have to hear my own words; and then seven days you torture me day and night. Whenever you see me you immediately start my sermons. I am fed up with these sermons!”

And the parrot would giggle. He would say, “What about me? And what about those fools who come to the church? Everybody is fed up. When I get bored I start the sermon – what else to do? And here I don’t see anybody, no congregation; only you are my congregation.”

The priest was thinking many times that if this parrot died – he was old, and if he died it would be good. By a coincidence the parrot died, and then the priest realized that it was impossible to live alone; the parrot had been a companion. Although he bored him, at least there was something – boredom; at least there was something to complain about, at least there was somebody he could shout at. Now there was nobody.

This is how habits work on people. You may be fed up with something – your husband, your wife; I call all these habits. You may be fed up with them, you may have thought many times, “If only this woman dies, or somebody takes her away… if she is hijacked…. In this whole world so many things are happening, but nothing happens to her: no accident, no hijacking, nobody elopes with her…. She seems to be accident-proof!”

And the same is what she goes on thinking, “This old foggy-head – how long am I going to suffer with him? Is he going to die or not.” But once the old foggy-head dies then she suddenly feels a tremendous vacuum intolerable.

The same happened with the priest. So he went to a pet shop to purchase another parrot. He said, “I want the best one, because the one I have lost is almost irreplaceable. He was such a great scholar, and such a hot preacher. He roused his congregation – although it was not much of a congregation, only I was there; but he was really a hot preacher.

“I am a silent and tolerant man – I am a priest and I am supposed to be; but he was able to break the ice. And he was more patient than me because when I used to become angry, he used to giggle; that giggle I can still hear. And I think perhaps he understood better than me. So I need something… really the best. I want to forget my parrot.”

The shopkeeper said, “You have come at the right time. Just now I have received a parrot which is a jewel. You cannot imagine anybody to compete with this guy. You come with me.”

He took him inside the shop. At the very back he had kept a beautiful parrot in a golden cage. The priest said, “What is the speciality of this parrot?”

He said, “You ask what speciality? Can’t you see these two threads hanging down by his legs?”

The priest said, “Yes, I can see them.”

The shopkeeper said, “If you pull the right thread – and nobody will be able to see it, nobody you have brought to introduce to the parrot…. You just slightly pull the right thread and immediately he gives the Sermon on the Mount.”

The preacher said, “That is great, because my parrot used to give sermons but not the Sermon on the Mount. He used to repeat my sermons, and I was repeating others’ sermons. And this parrot gives the Sermon on the Mount just with a slight hint to go? My parrot was not like that.

“He didn’t know any signals; the moment he saw me he started, and unless I shouted and made much fuss, he wouldn’t stop. Starting was no problem; the problem was stopping, because unless he stopped the whole sermon, it was very difficult to interrupt him. It was just a mechanical thing; he had to go all the way. But this is good. And what about the left thread?

The shopkeeper said, “If you pull the left thread he repeats the Christian prayer.”

The priest was really amazed, and he said, ’What if I pull both the threads?”

“You are expecting a sermon? A Christian prayer?” said the parrot. “You son-of-a-bitch, can’t you see I will fall on my bottom?”

Now, even a parrot has some sense, more than the priest asking about pulling on both his legs. Even the parrot could see that this was sheer stupidity. What kind of man is this priest!

So I am saying to you that, just parrot-like, man has been repeating words – but perhaps parrots are more alert. Perhaps they are just playing a game; perhaps they are just befooling you. You want to be befooled; you want to be entertained, and they are doing it. But deep down….

I have thought about it. I used to have a parrot myself in my childhood – I used to collect all kinds of animals. Looking into the eyes of the parrot, I had the feeling many times that when he was repeating the words that had been taught to him, he knew that these were just meaningless words. That was my feeling looking into his eyes. He was a very clever bird, because whenever I looked into his eyes, I would see a subtle smile. He knew why I was looking. I had an absolute certainty about his eyes: deep down we had not been able to deceive him. But I cannot say the same about so-called man.

Looking into the eyes of my professors who were saying, “Man has a destiny,” I have not found that smile of the parrot. They really believed what they were saying, because they knew the meaning of the words; but they don’t know the implications of the words. And the implications are many, and the most profound implications are indirect. They are never direct; you will not find them in the dictionaries.

I have imagined many times writing a dictionary not with meanings but with implications. But I am a lazy man; I would not even be able to work on half a page and it would be finished. So I have never started but the idea has always been there that each word has two things. One is the meaning – grammatical, linguistic, superficial, available in every dictionary. But nobody bothers about the second: the implication.

Implication is a totally different thing. For example, “Man has a destiny”; the meaning is clear, but what about the implication? What is the implication of the word destiny? There are so many implications. One is, that man is not a man at all, that man is a thing, not a being, because a thing can have a destiny. A chair can have destiny; it is made for a certain function, it Will fulfill its function. Man is not made to order. He is not furniture.

Man is consciousness.

Consciousness cannot have any destiny.

Consciousness has freedom.

Destiny is just the opposite of freedom; that is its implication. Destiny means you are a born slave. Even before you were born your stamp of slavery was completely sealed; you were finished before you were born. That’s the meaning of destiny as far as implication is concerned. In fact you were never born, because before birth death had happened; that is your destiny. You are programmed.

Because of this idea of destiny, astrologers, palmists, and all kinds of future predictors go on exploiting man. They would not have been able to exploit you if you were not carrying the idea that you have a destiny. If you have a destiny, then there may be some ways to find out what it is: perhaps in the lines of your hands, perhaps in the lines of your head, perhaps in the lines of your feet, or perhaps in your birth chart, in the combination and position of stars, planets. Some way must be there to read the program.

And the strangest thing is that you feel happy with astrologers telling you about your future. You are really too curious to know about the future, without ever thinking that to have a future means you are dead. If the future is already settled, then how is freedom possible? If tomorrow something is going to happen, then it is going to happen; I am just a victim in the hands of some unknown force – I am not my own master.

To have a destiny means you are not your own master.

You cannot do anything about your life.

These are the implications of that simple word, destiny. It leaves you dead. It leaves you a slave. It leaves you without any excitement because all is determined. It leaves you without any hope, because what can you hope? Whatever is going to happen is going to happen whether you hope or not. You are no longer significant in any way in your own life. Even to call it your own life is not right: Destiny has taken all juice out of you.

This is what has made man into a problem.

Once this is accepted, that “I am a determined being,” then you are just driftwood, because you don’t know what that destiny is. There is a subtle, unconscious feeling that there may be wise people who know it. Your parents may be knowing it, your teachers, your professors, your priests, your monks, your messiahs. These people must be knowing it because you don’t know.

You don’t know because there is no destiny to know – but all these people have managed a totally different show. They say you don’t know because you are ignorant, but there are wise people who know – incarnations of God, the people who have realized themselves, messengers of God. These are the people who know. Your only wise course will be to listen to them and to follow them and to believe in them because you don’t know and they do. […]

If man has a destiny then there is no possibility of turning off anywhere. And we have been told for millions of years, “You have a built-in program.” Now from where are you going to know what this built-in program is? Somebody has to tell it to you. Those are the manipulators, all around you; like an octopus, they go on sucking your blood from every possible side. And they go on filling you with ideas that you have to become this, you have to become that, you have to become somebody who has nothing to do with your nature. This is what has made man a problem.

In fact, man can be the solution, not only of himself, but of the whole existence, because he is the highest peak of consciousness.

Man lives a problematic life, and dies a problematic death. From the very beginning to the end he is just a long, long problem. That creates anxiety, anguish, tension, suffering, and a constant feeling that something is being missed. And that feeling is true. Not only something, everything is being missed.

But if you just stand a step back and look at the whole situation, and see how the problem is being created, then to solve it is just a child’s game.

I am reminded of a story. Gautam the Buddha one day comes into his morning discourse; ten thousand sannyasins are waiting for him, just like every day. But today there is something surprising.

Everybody is puzzled and looking at each other, because Buddha is coming with a handkerchief It is very costly – perhaps some king has presented it to him.

But he does not accept that kind of thing, so everybody is looking, thinking, what is the matter?

And why should he bring it just in his hand ahead of himself almost saying to everybody, “Look, look well”? And then he comes and sits; and keeping the handkerchief in his hand, says to his sannyasins, ”Look very carefully.”

They all look. There is nothing to look at, just a beautiful silken handkerchief. And then Buddha starts putting knots in the handkerchief; he puts five knots in it. There is immense silence… everybody is simply watching what he is doing. Then Buddha asks them, “Is this the same handkerchief the same that I had brought with me, or is it a different handkerchief?”

Sariputta, one of his chief disciples, stands up and says, “Why are you joking with us? You have never done such a thing. This is the same handkerchief” Buddha says, “Sariputta, think once again – because the handkerchief that I brought had no knots, and this has five knots. How can this be the same?”

Sariputta could see the point. He said, “I am sorry. I do understand. Although it is the same handkerchief now it is in a very knotted condition – such as a man in anguish. He is the same man; a man in suffering is the same man but in knots.”

Buddha said, “Exactly right. That’s what I want to show to you: that the man who is in suffering is not different from Gautam the Buddha. I am just a handkerchief without knots. You are a handkerchief with five knots.” Of course Buddha has his philosophy of five basic problems that trouble man: violence, greed, untruthfulness, unawareness, and the ego. You can find many more knots; these are just the main ones according to him.

Secondly he said, “I would like to ask you one thing more. I am trying to open these knots. Look at me – will this help to open the knots?” He pulled both the ends of the handkerchief; the knots became smaller and tighter. Somebody shouted, “What are you doing? This way those knots will never open. Such fine silk and you are pulling so hard! The knots are becoming so small that it will become almost impossible to open them again.”

Buddha said, “You can understand about this handkerchief so clearly – can’t you understand yourself? Can’t you see yourself in the same, understanding way? Have you been pulling your knots or not? Otherwise why do they go on becoming smaller and smaller, and tighter and tighter?

“A child is loose, relaxed. Look at the old man, just knots and knots. Certainly, whatever you are doing is wrong. You are pulling the handkerchief. You are trying hard; your intention is good, you want to open the knots. You are taking much trouble – but your doing is your very undoing. You are making things more and more complicated, worse and worse. And the more complicated they become, the harder you pull, because you think, What else to do?”

Buddha asked, “Then I would like to ask you, what do you suppose I should do?”

One monk stood up and he said, “I would like to come close, and first I would like to see how the knots have been put together.”

Buddha said, “That’s a scientific way. Before you can undo something, you have to know how it has been done, because if you know how it has been done, you have already known all that is needed to undo it; you have just to reverse the process.”

The monk looked at the handkerchief and he said “The knots have been done in such a way that if we relax the handkerchief and allow the knots to become looser rather than tighter, and help them to become loose, it is not going to be very difficult. They are simple knots.”

Buddha gave the handkerchief to him and the man opened the knots one by one. Buddha said,

“Today’s sermon is finished. I am not going to speak anymore today. Just go and meditate about your knots, and how you have managed to make them so tight. And just do the reverse.”

Any small problem, just look at it, at how you have been trying to solve it, and it goes on becoming worse and worse. Certainly in your doing there is something which is becoming nourishment to it rather than a killer. You are not poisoning it, you are nourishing it, feeding it. And don’t try to work on so many knots together. Just choose one small knot, the smallest you can find in yourself; by smallest, I mean the most insignificant.

People have the tendency to choose the most significant; even when they are choosing to solve their problems, they choose the greatest problem first. Now, that is simply foolish. Just become a little aware, alert. Start from the small things, very small things.

In one sermon Buddha was speaking, and a man sitting in front of him was moving his toe continuously. Buddha was not like me; otherwise he would have stopped him immediately. He tolerated it, tolerated it, tolerated it – but it was too much, because the man was just in front of him and he went on, went on, went on.

At the end Buddha said, “What is wrong with your toe?” The moment he said, “What is wrong with your toe?” the man stopped. Buddha said, “This is what is wrong with your toe: you are not aware of it. You were not doing it, it was happening almost unconsciously. It is just a habit; you must be doing it everywhere you are sitting. Now it goes on doing it by itself knowing that the master needs it. The master is not even aware that it is happening, because the moment I asked you about it, it stopped immediately. That means the moment your awareness went to the toe there was a complete break.”

Now, start with such small things which have not much investment in them. People start with their ego – they want to become egoless. Now, you are taking on such a big problem. You are so small, and the problem is so big, that you are going to fail.

In fact that’s why you have chosen the big problem, because you want to fail, you don’t want to succeed. Perhaps this too is the way of the ego, to choose the biggest problem. You are no ordinary man trying to change small things here and there; when you want to change, you want to change the real problem. Perhaps this is the ego coming in from the back and deceiving you.

Now choose something very insignificant, which makes not much difference. But the beauty is, the smallest problem has the same properties as the biggest problem, the same ingredients as the biggest problem and the same solution as the biggest problem.

All problems are one problem.

If you can solve a small problem – dissolve it, get rid of it, be finished with it – you know the master key.

Now you can go on opening all the locks in your house. And there is not going to be any trouble.

The basic key is awareness.

And while solving a small problem, you are starting to learn the ABC of awareness.

Choose something meaningless with no investment; it will be easier to work with. And once you have worked with it, you will be surprised: you have the secret, the whole secret of your puzzled, knotted life.

Solve it, then man is born in you.

Before that, you are only a problem.


Excerpt from From Misery to Enlightenment, Chapter 19

Copyright© OSHO International Foundation

An audio file of this discourse can be downloaded from, or you can read the entire book online at the Osho Library.

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