Question: I suffer immensely from loneliness. What can I do about it?
The darkness of loneliness cannot be fought directly. It is something essential for everyone to understand, that there are a few fundamental things which cannot be changed. This is one of the fundamentals: you cannot fight with darkness directly, with loneliness directly, with the fear of isolation directly. The reason is that all these things do not exist; they are simply absences of something, just as darkness is the absence of light.
Now what do you do when you want the room not to be dark? You don’t do anything directly with darkness – or do you? You cannot push it out. There is no way possible to make some arrangement so that the darkness disappears. You have to do something with light. Now that changes the whole situation; and that’s what I call one of the essentials, fundamentals. You don’t even touch the darkness; you don’t think about it. There is no point; it does not exist, it is simply an absence.
So just bring light and you will not find darkness at all, because it was the absence of light, simply the absence of light. It was not something material with its own being, not something that exists – simply because light was not there, you got a false feeling of the existence of darkness.
You can go on fighting with this darkness your whole life and you will not succeed. And just a small candle is enough to dispel it. You have to work for the light because it is positive, existential; it exists on it own. And once light comes, anything that was its absence automatically disappears.
Loneliness is similar to darkness. You don’t know your aloneness. You have not experienced your aloneness and its beauty, its tremendous power, its strength. In the dictionaries, loneliness and aloneness are synonymous, but existence does not follow your dictionaries – and yet nobody has yet tried to make an existential dictionary which will not be contradictory to existence.
Loneliness is absence. Because you don’t know your aloneness, there is fear and you feel lonely, so you want to cling to something, to somebody, to some relationship, just to keep the illusion that you are not lonely. But you now you are, hence the pain.
On the one hand you are clinging to something which is not for real, which is just a temporary arrangement – a relationship a friendship. And while you are in the relationship you can create a little illusion to forget your loneliness. But this is the problem: that although you can forget your loneliness for a moment, just the next moment you suddenly become aware that the relationship or the friendship is nothing permanent. Yesterday you did not know this man or this woman, you were strangers. Today you are friends. Who knows about tomorrow? Tomorrow you may be strangers again, hence the pain.
The illusion gives a certain solace, but it cannot create the reality so that all fear disappears. It represses the fear. So on the surface you feel good – at least you try to feel good. You pretend to feel good to yourself: how wonderful the relationship is, how wonderful the man or the woman is. But behind the illusion – and the illusion is so thin that you can see behind it – there is pain in the heart, because the heart knows perfectly well that tomorrow things may not be the same. And they are not the same.
Your whole life’s experience supports this – that things go on changing. Nothing remains stable; you cannot cling to anything in a changing world. You wanted to make your friendship something permanent but your wanting is against the law of change, and that law is not going to make exceptions. It simply goes on doing its own thing. It will change everything.
And perhaps in the long run you will understand one day that it was good that it did not listen to you, that existence did not bother about you and just went on doing whatever it wanted to do…not according to your desire.
It may take a little time for you to understand. You want this friend to be your friend forever, but tomorrow he turns into an enemy, or simply, “Get lost!” and he is no longer with you. Somebody else fills the gap who is a far superior being and then, suddenly, you realize it was good that the other one got lost; otherwise you would have been stuck with him.
But still the lesson never goes so deep that you stop asking for permanence. You will start asking for permanence with this man, this woman: “Now this should not change!” You have not really learned the lesson that change is simply the very fabric of life. You have to understand it and go with it. Don’t create illusions; they are not going to help. And everybody is creating illusions of different kinds.
I used to know one man who said, “I trust only money. I trust nobody else.”
I said, “You are making a very significant statement.”
He said, “Everybody changes. You cannot rely on anybody. And as you get older, only your money is yours. Not even your son, not even your wife – nobody cares. If you have money they all care, they all respect you, because you have the money. If you don’t have money you become a beggar.”
His saying that the only thing in the world to trust is money comes out of a long experience of life, of getting cheated again and again by the people he trusted – and he thought they loved him but they were all around him for the money.
“But,” I told him, “at the moment of death money is not going to be with you. You can have an illusion that at least money is with you, but as your breathing stops, money is no longer with you. You have earned something but it will be left on this side; you cannot carry it beyond death. You will fall into a deep loneliness which you have been hiding behind the facade of money.”
There are people who are after power, but the reason is the same: when they are in power so many people are with them, millions of people are under their domination. They are not alone. They are great political and religious leaders. But power changes. One day you have it, another day it is gone, and suddenly the whole illusion disappears. You are as lonely as nobody else is, because others are accustomed to being lonely. You are not accustomed…your loneliness hurts you more.
Society has tried to make arrangements so that you can forget loneliness. Arranged marriages are just an effort for you to know that your wife is with you. All religions resist divorce for the simple reason that if divorce is allowed then the basic purpose marriage was invented for is destroyed. The basic purpose was to give you a companion, a lifelong companion.
But even though a wife will be with you, a husband will be with you, for your whole life, that does not mean that love remains the same. In fact, rather than giving you a companion, they give you a burden to carry. You were lonely, already in trouble, and now you have to carry another person who is lonely. And in this life there is no hope, because once love disappears you both are lonely, and both have to tolerate each other. Now it is not a question of being enchanted by each other – at the most you can patiently tolerate each other – but your loneliness has not been changed by the social strategy of marriage.
Religions have tried to make you a member of an organized body of religion so you are always in a crowd. You know that there are six hundred million Catholics. You are not alone: six hundred million Catholics are with you, Jesus Christ is your savior, God is with you. Alone you may have been wrong, doubt may have arisen, but six hundred million people cannot be wrong – a little support. But even that is gone because there are millions who are not Catholics. There are the people who crucified Jesus. There are people who don’t believe in God – and their number is not less than Catholics, it is more than Catholics. And there are different religions with different concepts.
It is difficult for an intelligent person not to doubt. You may have millions of people following a certain belief system, but still you cannot be certain that you are not lonely, that they are with you.
God was a device, but all devices have failed. It was a device: when there is not anything there, at least God is with you. He is always with you everywhere. In the dark night of the soul, he is with you. Don’t be worried.
It was good for a childish humanity to be deceived by this concept, but you cannot be deceived by this concept. This God who is always everywhere – you don’t see him, you can’t talk to him, you cannot touch him. You don’t have any evidence for his existence, except your desire that he should be there. But your desire is not a proof of anything.
God is only a desire of the childish mind. But man has come of age, and God has become meaningless. The hypothesis has lost its grip.
What I am trying to say is that every effort that has been directed toward avoiding loneliness has failed, and will fail, because it is against the fundamentals of life. What is needed is not something in which you can forget your loneliness. What is needed is that you become aware of your aloneness, which is a reality. And it is so beautiful to experience it, to feel it, because it is your freedom from the crowd, from the other. It is your freedom from the fear of being lonely.
Just the word lonely immediately reminds you that it is like a wound: something is needed to fill it. It is a gap and it hurts: something needs to be filled into it. Aloneness, the very word aloneness does not have the same sense of a wound, of a gap that has to be filled. Aloneness simply means completeness. You are whole; there is no need of anybody else to complete you.
So try to find your innermost center, where you are always alone, have always been alone. In life, in death – wherever you are you will be alone. But it is so full, it is not empty, it is so full and so complete and so overflowing with all the juices of life, with all the beauties and benedictions of existence, that once you have tasted your aloneness the pain in the heart will disappear. Instead, a new rhythm of tremendous sweetness, peace, joy, bliss, will be there.
It does not mean that a man who is centered in his aloneness, complete in himself, cannot make friends. In fact only he can make friends, because now it is no longer a need, it is just sharing. He has too much; he can share.
Friendship can be of two types. One is a friendship in which you are a beggar. You need something from the other to help you forget your loneliness, and the other is also a beggar, he wants the same from you. And naturally two beggars cannot help each other. Soon they will see that their begging to a beggar has doubled or multiplied the need. Instead of there being one beggar, now there are two. And if, unfortunately, they have children, then a whole company of beggars is asking and nobody has something to give. So everybody is frustrated and angry, and everybody feels he is being cheated, deceived. And in fact nobody is cheating and nobody is deceiving, because what have you got?
The other kind of friendship, the other kind of love, has a totally different quality. It is not of need, it is out of having too much so that you want to share. A new kind of joy has come into your being – that of sharing, which you were not even aware of before. You have always been begging. And when you share, there is no question of clinging. You flow with existence, you flow with life’s change, because it doesn’t matter with whom you share. It can be the same person tomorrow for your whole life – the same person – or it can be different persons. It is not a contract, it is not a marriage. It is simply out of your fullness that you want to give, so whosoever happens to be nearer to you, you give it.
And giving is such a joy, and begging is such a misery. Even if you get through begging, you will remain miserable. It hurts. It hurts your pride, it hurts your integrity. But sharing makes you more centered, more integrated, more proud, not more egoistic; more proud that existence has been compassionate to you. It is not ego; it is a totally different phenomenon…a recognition that existence has allowed you something for which millions of people are trying, but at the wrong door. You happen to be at the right door.
You are proud of your blissfulness and all that existence has given to you. Fear disappears, darkness disappears, the pain disappears, the desire for the other disappears. You can love a person, and if the person loves somebody else there will not be any jealousy, because you loved out of too much joy. It was not a clinging. You were not holding the other person in prison. You were not worried that the other person may slip out of your hands, that somebody else may start having a love affair…
When you are sharing your joy, you don’t create a prison for anybody. You simply give. You don’t even expect gratitude or thankfulness because you are giving – not to get anything, not even gratitude. You are giving because you are so full you have to give.
So if anybody is thankful, you are thankful to the person who has accepted your love, who has accepted your gift. He has unburdened you, he allowed you to shower on him. And the more you share, the more you give, the more you have it. So it does not make you a miser, it does not create a new fear that “I may lose it.” In fact the more you lose it, the more fresh waters are flowing in from springs you have not been aware of before.
So I will not say to do anything about your loneliness. Forget loneliness, forget darkness, forget pain. Look for your aloneness. They are just an absence of aloneness. The experience of aloneness will dispel them instantly. And the method is the same: just watch your mind, be aware. Become more and more conscious, so finally you are only conscious of yourself. That is the point when you become aware of aloneness.
You will be surprised that different religions have given different names to the ultimate state of realization. The three religions born outside India don’t have any name for it because they never went far in search of oneself. They remained childish, immature – clinging to a God, clinging to prayer, clinging to a savior. You can see what I mean: they are always dependent, somebody else is to save them. They are not mature. Judaism, Christianity, Islam – they are not mature at all and perhaps that is the reason they have influenced the greatest majority in the world, because most of the people in the world are immature. They have a certain affinity.
But in India the three religions have three names for this ultimate state. And I remembered this because of aloneness. That is one of the words chosen by Jainism as the ultimate state of being – kaivalya, aloneness. Just as Buddhism chooses nirvana, no-selfness, and Hinduism chooses moksha, freedom, Jainism chooses absolute aloneness. All the three words are beautiful. They are three different aspects of the same reality. You can call it liberation, freedom; you can call it aloneness; you can call it selflessness, nothingness – just different indicators toward that ultimate experience for which no name is sufficient.
But always look whether anything that you are facing as a problem is a negative thing or a positive thing. If it is a negative thing then don’t fight with it; don’t bother about it at all. Just look for the positive of it, and you will be at the right door.
Most of the people in the world miss because they start fighting directly with the negative door. There is no door; there is only darkness, there is only absence. And the more they fight, the more they find failure, and the more they become dejected, pessimistic…and ultimately they start finding that life has no meaning, that it is simply torture. But their mistake is they entered from the wrong door.
So before you face a problem, just look at the problem: whether is an absence of something. And all your problems are the absence of something. And once you have found what they are the absence of, then go after the positive, and the moment you find the positive, the light – the darkness is finished.
-Osho, The Path of the Mystic, Talk #19
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