To be competitive is to be stupid, says Osho

Osho tells us that trying to be happy at the expense of another man’s happiness is ugly and inhuman

Origami boats / Concept of being competitive

We come with empty hands and we will go with empty hands, so what is the point of claiming so much in the meantime? But this is what we know, what the world tells us: Possess, dominate, have more than others have. It may be money or it may be virtue; it does not matter in what kind of coins you deal– they may be worldly, they may be otherworldly. But be very clever, otherwise you will be exploited. Exploit and don’t be exploited– that is the subtle message given to you with your mother’s milk. And every school, college, university, is rooted in the idea of competition.

A real education will not teach you to compete; it will teach you to cooperate. It will not teach you to fight and come first. It will teach you to be creative, to be loving, to be blissful, without comparing yourself to others. It will not teach you that you can be happy only when you are the first—that is sheer nonsense. You can’t be happy just by being first, and in trying to be first you go through such misery that by the time you become the first you are habituated to misery.

By the time you become the president or the prime minister of a country you have gone through such misery that now misery is your second nature. You don’t know now any other way to exist; you remain miserable. Tension has become ingrained; anxiety has become your way of life. You don’t know any other way; this is your very lifestyle. So even though you have become the first, you remain cautious, anxious, afraid. It does not change your inner quality at all.

A real education will not teach you to be the first. It will tell you to enjoy whatever you are doing, not for the result, but for the act itself. Just like a painter or a dancer or a musician…

There’s no virtue in competition

You can paint in two ways. You can paint to compete with other painters; you want to be the greatest painter in the world, you want to be a Picasso or a Van Gogh. Then your painting will be second-rate, because your mind is not interested in painting itself; it is interested in being the first, the greatest painter in the world. You are not going deep into the art of painting. You are not enjoying it, you are only using it as a stepping-stone.

You are on an ego trip, and the problem is that to really be a painter, you have to drop the ego completely. To really be a painter, the ego has to be put aside. Only then can existence flow through you. Only then can your hands and your fingers and your brush be used as vehicles. Only then can something of superb beauty be born.

Real beauty is never created by you but only through you. Existence flows; you become only a passage. You allow it to happen, that’s all; you don’t hinder it.

But if you are too interested in the result, the ultimate result—that you have to become famous, that you have to be the best painter in the world, that you have to defeat all other painters hitherto—then your interest is not in painting; painting is secondary. And of course, with a secondary interest in painting you can’t paint something original; it will be ordinary.

Ego cannot bring anything extraordinary into the world; the extraordinary comes only through egolessness. And so is the case with the musician and the dancer. So is the case with everybody.

Let go and be in the flow

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says: Don’t think of the result at all. It is a message of tremendous beauty and significance and truth. Don’t think of the result at all. Just do what you are doing with your totality. Get lost in it, lose the doer in the doing. Don’t “be”– let your creative energies flow unhindered. That’s why he said to Arjuna: “Don’t escape from the war… because I can see this escape is just an ego trip. The way you are talking simply shows that you are calculating, you are thinking that by escaping from the war you will become a great saint. Rather than surrendering to the whole, you are taking yourself too seriously– as if there will be no war if you are not there.”

Krishna says to Arjuna, “Just be in a state of let-go. Say to existence, ‘Use me in whatever way you want to use me. I am available, unconditionally available.’ Then whatsoever happens through you will have a great authenticity about it. It will have intensity, it will have depth. It will have the impact of the eternal on it.”

Jesus says: Remember, those who are first in this world will be the last in the kingdom of God, and those who are the last will be the first. He has given you the fundamental law– he has given you the inexhaustible, eternal law: Stop trying to be the first. But remember one thing, which is very much possible, because the mind is so cunning it can distort every truth. You can start trying to be the last– but then you miss the whole point. Then another competition starts: “I have to be the last”– and if somebody else says, “I am the last,” then the struggle, the conflict, begins again.

I have heard a Sufi parable:

A great emperor, Nadirshah, was praying. It was early morning; the sun had not yet risen, it was still dark. Nadirshah was about to start the conquest of a new country, and of course he was praying to God for his blessings, to be victorious. He was saying to God, “I am nobody. I am just a servant– a servant of your servants. Bless me. I am going on your behalf, this is your victory. But I am a nobody, remember. I am just a servant of your servants.”

A priest was also by his side, helping him in prayer, functioning as a mediator between him and God. And then suddenly they heard another voice in the darkness. A beggar of the town was also praying, and he was saying to God, “I am nobody, a servant of your servants.”

The king said, “Look at this beggar! He is a beggar and saying to God that he is nobody! Stop this nonsense! Who are you to say your are nobody? I am nobody, and nobody else can claim this. I am the servant of God’s servants– who are you to say that you are the servant of his servants?”

Now you see? The competition is still there, the same competition, the same stupidity. Nothing has changed. The same calculation: “I have to be the last. Nobody else can be allowed to be the last.” The mind can go on playing such games on you if you are not very understanding, if you are not very intelligent.

To be competitive is ugly, violent

Never try to be happy at the expense of another man’s happiness. That is ugly, inhuman. That is violence in the true sense. If you think you become a saint by condemning others as sinners, your saintliness is nothing but a new ego trip. If you think you are holy because you are trying to prove others unholy… That’s what your holy people are doing. They go on bragging about their holiness, saintliness. Go to your so-called saints and look into their eyes. They have such condemnation for you! They are saying that you are all bound for hell; they go on condemning everybody. Listen to their sermons; all their sermons are condemnatory.

And of course you listen silently to their condemnations because you know that you have made many mistakes in your life, errors in your life. And they have condemned everything– so it is impossible to feel that you can be good. You love food, you are a sinner. You don’t get up early in the morning, you are a sinner; you don’t go to bed early in the evening, you are a sinner. They have arranged everything in such a way that it is very difficult not to be a sinner.

Yes, they are not sinners. They go early to bed and they get up early in the morning… in fact, they have nothing else to do! They never commit any mistakes because they never do anything. They are just sitting there almost dead. But if you do something, of course, how can you be holy? Hence for centuries the holy man has been renouncing the world and escaping from the world, because to be in the world and be holy seems to be impossible.

My whole approach is that unless you are in the world, your holiness is of no value at all. Be in the world and be holy! We have to define holiness in a totally different way. Don’t live at the expense of others’ pleasures– that is holiness. Don’t destroy others’ happiness, help others to be happy– that is holiness. Create the climate in which everybody can have a little joy.

Excerpted from Joy: The Happiness That Comes From Within published by St. Martin’s Press, New York. Courtesy: Osho International Foundation |

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