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Chapter 1: Your Birthright: To Take Flight

He said, “That is even worse! It is better you be come an engineer or you become a doctor, but vagabond? - that is a new profession. You have got some mind to find such things. You want to become a vagabond! Even those who are vagabonds feel humiliated if you say, ‘You are a vagabond,’ but you are telling your own father that all your life you want to be just a vagabond.”

I said, “That is what is going to be.”

Then he started saying, “Then why do you want to go to the university?”

I said, “I want to be an educated vagabond, not a vagabond out of weakness. I don’t want to do anything in my life out of weakness: because I could not be anything, that’s why I am a vagabond - that is not my way. First I want to prove to the world that I can be anything that I want to be, Still I choose to be a vagabond - out of strength. Then there is respectability even if you are a vagabond, because respectability has nothing to do with your vocation, your profession; respectability has something to do with you are acting out of strength, clarity, intelligence.

“So be perfectly aware that I am not going to the university to be able to find some good job; I am not born to do such stupid things. And there are so many to do those things. But a very cultured, sophisticated, educated vagabond is very much needed because you don’t see any around. There are vagabonds but they are just third-grade people, they are failures. I want first to be absolutely successful and then to kick all that success and just be a vagabond.”

He said, “I cannot understand your logic, but if you have decided to be a vagabond I know that there is no way to change you.”

Those seven years.he reminded me again and again, That was our basic fault. That was the time we could have managed to make you something of worth. But your Nana and your Nani, those two old fellows destroyed you completely.”

And after my Nana’s death, my Nani never went back to the village; she was so heartbroken. I have seen thousands of couples very intimately because I have been staying with so many families, wandering around India, but I could never find anybody who could be compared with those two old people: they really loved each other.

When my Nana died, my Nani - my maternal grandmother - wanted to die with him. It was a difficult task to prevent her. She wanted to sit on the funeral pyre with her husband. She said, “My life is gone - now what is the point of being alive?” Everybody tried, and by that time.. This is an ancient tradition in India called suttee.

The word suttee means the woman who dies sits on the funeral pyre, alive, with her dead husband. The word suttee means truthfulness. Sut means “truth,” also “being”; suttee means “who has a true being - whose being is of truthfulness.” She has loved the person so deeply that she has become identified with his life; there is no point in her living. But after the British Raj the suttee tradition was declared illegal.

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