Being alone vs being lonely: Osho explains the difference

There is a fundamental difference between the feeling of being lonely and that of being alone

Man standing on the rock near the ea-shore

You must make a distinction between two words: lonely and alone. In the dictionary they carry the same meaning, but those who have been meditating, know the distinction. They are not the same, they are as different as possible. Loneliness is an ugly thing; loneliness is a depressive thing—it is a sadness. Loneliness is the absence of the other—you would like the other to be there, but the other is not, and you feel that and you miss them. You are not there in loneliness, the absence of the other is there. Alone? It is totally different. You are there, it is your presence; it is a positive phenomenon. You don’t miss the other, you meet yourself. Then you are alone, alone like a peak, tremendously beautiful!

Sometimes you even feel a terror, but it has a beauty. The presence is the basic thing: you are present to yourself. Alone, you are not lonely, you are with yourself.

Lonely, you are simply lonely, there is no one. You are not with yourself and you are missing the other. Loneliness is negative, an absence; aloneness is positive, a presence.

Alone vs Lonely

If you are alone, you grow, because there is space to grow—nobody else to hamper, nobody else to obstruct, nobody else to create more complex problems. Alone you grow, and as much as you want to grow you can grow because there is no limit, and you are happy being with yourself, and a bliss arises.

There is no comparison: because the other is not there, you are neither beautiful nor ugly, neither rich nor poor, neither this nor that, neither white nor black, neither man nor woman. Alone, how can you be a woman or a man? Lonely, you are a woman or a man, because the other is missing. Alone, you are no one, empty of the other completely.

And remember, when the other is not, the ego cannot exist: it exists with the other. Either present or absent, the other is needed for ego. To feel ‘I’ the other is needed, a boundary of the other. Fenced from the neighbors I feel ‘I’. When there is no neighbor, no fencing, how can you feel ‘I’? You will be there, but without any ego. The ego exists only in relationship.

Solitariness heals

Solitariness has a healing effect, it is a healing force. Whenever you feel that you are getting messed up, don’t try to solve it there. Move away from society for a few days, for at least three weeks, and just remain silent, just watching yourself, feeling yourself, just being with yourself, and you will have a tremendous force available which heals.

Hence, in the East, many people have moved to the mountains, to the forests, somewhere alone, somewhere where there is nobody else to be bothered with. Only oneself… so one can feel oneself directly, and you can see what is happening within. Nobody is responsible for you except yourself, remember. If you are mad you are mad—you have to sort it out: it is your deed! This is your karma. The meaning is very deep. It is not a theory. Whatsoever you are it is your own work, so sort it out! Nobody else is responsible for you, only you are responsible.

Also read » Aloneness: The first lesson of Love

Now move alone

So go into solitary confinement to sort out things, meditate on your own being and your problems. And this is the beauty: even if you can just be quiet, living with yourself for a few days, things settle automatically, because an unsettled state is not natural. An unsettled state is unnatural, you cannot prolong it for long. It needs effort to prolong it. Simply relax and let things be, and watch, and make no effort to change anything. Remember: if you try to make any change you will continue the same because the very effort will continue to disturb things.

It is just like sitting by the side of a river: the river flows, the mud settles, the dead leaves go to the sea; by and by the river becomes absolutely clean and pure. You need not go into it to clean it. If you go, you will muddle it more. Simply watch, and things happen. This is what the theory of karma is: that you have messed yourself up; now move alone.

So you need not throw your problems on others, you need not throw your diseases on others—you simply move alone; suffer them in silence, watch them. Just sit by the bank of the river of your mind. Things settle! When things settle you have a clarity, a perception. Then move back into the world…if you feel like it.

Excerpted from And Flowers Showered by Osho Courtesy: Osho International Foundation

This was first published in the October 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Osho was never born never died. He only visited this planet earth between 11 December 1931 and 19 January 1990. He was a charismatic and gifted speaker who became the leader of a worldwide new spiritual movement.


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