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Chapter 31: Democracy Means Mediocracy

When I was going to the university, my whole family was in a turmoil. Somebody wanted me to be a doctor, somebody wanted me to be a scientist, somebody wanted me to be an engineer. I listened to everybody, and then I said, “Nobody wants me to be myself. And you think you are all well-wishers! Not a single person in the whole family” - and in India, the family is a joint phenomenon; my family consisted of fifty, sixty people - “none of you has said, ‘We want you to be just yourself.’ Why do you want to impose your ideas on me? What right have you got? If you are so interested in medicine, go and become a doctor! But why should I fulfill your desire? You are making me a puppet, an instrument. And I simply say no to everyone in the family. I will do what I want to do. I am going to study philosophy.”

They all laughed. They said, “Study philosophy? Then you will remain a pauper all your life.”

I said, “At least I will have the satisfaction that this is my own choice, that I am independent in whatever I have done, nobody has manipulated me. Becoming a doctor and rich, a scientist and rich, will not be a contentment to my heart. I will always remember that this is somebody else’s trip - I have been forced to do it! Even your Nobel Prize will not give me the contentment, the joy which comes out of freedom.”

I knew what they would do, so I said, “I know what is in your mind. You will say, ‘Then you go on your way, but we are not going to support you financially.’” I said, “That is clear. I don’t resent it. I don’t follow your advice - I have no right to take your financial support. Even if you give it to me, I will not take it.”

For two years I was earning - working in the night, studying in the day. My father was very sad and very sorry. Many times he came and said, “Forget all that. You are destroying your health; you don’t have time to rest, you don’t have a disciplined life.”

Finally he came and wept and said, “Unless you accept money from me every month, I am going to sit here and fast and I am not going to move.”

I said, “That makes sense. You have finally accepted and respected my desire. These two years have not gone in vain.” It was troublesome, it was not comfortable: running twenty-four hours a day - only once in a while, whenever I could get time, sleeping, eating.

He said, “We are sorry. We had not thought that you would go so far.”

I said, “Remember it. Whenever I do something I do it the whole way.”

When I came back from the university, everybody except my father asked, “Now what are you going to do?”

I said, “You need not be worried. I have already an appointment as a teacher of philosophy in a university.” Because for six years I proved my love for philosophy, my insight into philosophy, my ingenuity in seeing into its complexities, every teacher of my university and the vice-chancellor wanted me, immediately after I passed my master’s degree, to become a teacher in the university.

I said, “It does not matter.. If you want to do something totally, you can change deserts into oases. You can change the life of a beggar into the life of an emperor. The whole question is, inside you there should be no inferiority complex. And you have not been able to create that in me.”

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