Mulla Nasrudin once staggered from a train, his complexion very white. I had gone to the station to receive him.

“Riding backwards for ten hours,” he explained, “I never could stand that.”

“Why,” I inquired, “didn’t you ask the person sitting opposite to change seats with you?”

“I could not do that,” said the Mulla, “There wasn’t anybody there.”

There is nobody in the sky to listen to your prayers. Whatsoever you want to do, do. There is nobody who is going to give you permission to do it. Whatsoever you want to be, be. There is nobody you have to look to for permission.

Existence is free and available. This is the understanding of yoga: that existence is available to everybody. Whatsoever you want to be, you can be. Everything is ready. Don’t wait for anybody’s permission because there is nobody. The opposite seat is vacant – if you want to sit, you can sit on it.

Mulla looks absurd, ridiculous, but that’s what the whole of humanity has been doing for centuries looking at the sky, asking permission, praying – to somebody who is not there. Prayer is not the right thing; the right thing is to meditate. And what is the difference? When you pray you have to believe in someone who is listening to your prayer. When you meditate you meditate alone. In prayer the other is required; in meditation you alone are enough.

Yoga is meditative. It has no place for prayer, because it has no place for God. It has no place for any childish notions about God.

Let this become a constant remembrance in you if you really want to be religious, you will have to pass through the state of atheism. If you really want to be authentically religious, then don’t start by being a theist. Start by being an atheist. Start by being an Adam. Adam is the beginning of Christ. Adam starts the circle and Christ ends the circle. Start by saying no so that your yes can mean something. Don’t be afraid and don’t believe out of fear. If you have to believe someday, only believe out of knowing and love – never out of fear.

That’s why Christianity could not develop yoga, Judaism could not develop yoga, Mohammedanism could not develop yoga. Yoga was developed by people who were courageous enough to say no to all beliefs, to all blind faiths, who were able to deny the convenience of belief to themselves and who were ready to inquire and go into the wildness of their own being.

It is a tremendous responsibility. To be an atheist is to be very deeply responsible because when there is no God you are left alone in a cold world. When there is no God you are left alone with nothing to hang on to, with nothing to cling to.

Great courage is needed, and you have to create the warmth out of your own being. This is the whole meaning of yoga to create warmth out of your own being. The existence is cold. No hypothetical God can give you warmth. You are simply dreaming. It may be a wish fulfillment, but it is not true. And it is better to be cold but to remain with truth than to live surrounded by lies and feel warm.

Yoga says realize the truth that you are alone. You are given an existence; now you have to create meaning out of it. Meaning is not already given.

Existentialists in the West say something with which Patanjali will agree totally.

Existentialists say existence precedes essence. Let me explain it to you.

A rock is there. A rock’s essence is given; it is already given. Its existence is its essence also. The rock is not going to grow: it is already that which it can be. But man is different, man is born – he brings his existence, but the essence is not given yet. He comes as an emptiness. Now he has to fill that emptiness by his own effort. He has to create meaning: he has to grope in the dark; he has to work it out, what life means. He has to discover; he has to be creative. Existence is given, essence has to be created – and every moment the way you live, you create your essence. If you don’t create it you will not have it.

People come to me and they ask, “Please tell us, what is the meaning of life.” As if meaning is given somewhere. Meaning is not given, you have to create it.

And this is beautiful. If meaning was already given, man would have been a rock. Then there was no possibility to grow, no possibility to discover, no possibility to adventure – no possibility. In fact, everything is closed – a rock is closed from every dimension. It is already that which it can be, but man is not already… only a possibility, a trembling possibility, with infinite future, with a thousand and one alternatives. It will depend on you, who and what you become.

You are responsible. When there is no God the responsibility falls totally on you.

That’s why weaklings go on believing in God. Only very strong men can stand alone. But this is a basic necessity – for yoga this is a basic requirement that you stand alone and that you come to realize that the meaning is not given; you have to search for it. You have to create it. You will come to a meaning – life can come to a meaning – but that meaning will have to be discovered by your own effort.

Whatsoever you do will go on revealing you. Every act will make your life, your existence, more and more meaningful.

Only if this is the truth is yoga then possible. Otherwise, go on praying: otherwise go on kneeling down on the earth, go on praying to your own ideas and go on interpreting your own prayer, and live in a hallucination, live in an illusion.

Sigmund Freud has written a book. The name of the book is very significant: THE FUTURE OF AN ILLUSION. The book is about religion. It is a misfortune that he never became aware of Patanjali; otherwise he would not have written that book – because religion can exist without illusion. To Sigmund Freud religion means Christianity and Judaism. He was not aware of the depths of Eastern religions.

Western religions are more or less political. Much of them are not religious at all; they are superficial. Eastern religions have gone to the very depth, and this is the depth where you deny God also and you say now there is no need to depend.

Whenever you think you need somebody to depend on, you will create an illusion.

To realize that one is alone in a cold universe – and there is nobody to pray to, and there is nobody to complain to, and there is nobody who is going to help you – only you – it is a tremendous responsibility. One staggers, one feels afraid, one starts trembling. Anguish arises, a great anxiety is created by the very fact that you are left alone.

“God is dead” Nietzsche said it only a hundred years before; Patanjali knew it five thousand years before. All those who have come closer to the truth have known that God is man’s imagination. It is man’s interpretation, a lie, to give yourself warmth.

People go on interpreting in their own ways. The whole concern of yoga is that you drop all interpretations, let your eyes be not clouded by any hypothesis and belief, look direct, look unclouded, look without smoke. Let your flame be without smoke and see whatsoever there is.

Overheard in a park; two men were describing their wives to each other:

“Mine is like Venus de Milo.”

“You mean she has a shapely figure and stands about naked?” asked the other.

“No, she is an old relic and she is not all there.”

“Mine makes me think of Mona Lisa.”

“Do you mean she is French and has an enigmatic smile?”

“No, she is as flat as a canvas and she ought to be in a museum.”

People go on interpreting.

Always listen to their meaning, not to their words. Always listen to their innermost being, not the sounds that they make on the outside. What they say is not significant… what they are.

Your God, your prayer, is not significant. Your churches, your temples, are not significant. Only you. When you pray, I don’t listen to your prayer. I listen to you. When you kneel down on the earth, I don’t see your gesture, I see you. It is out of fear – and a religion out of fear is impossible. Religion is possible only out of understanding. That’s the effort of Patanjali.

But with Patanjali, also, people go on interpreting. They bring their minds and then Patanjali is no more. They listen to their own heartbeats in him.

In a small school the teacher asked a tardy student, “Why are you late?”

“Well, a sign down the street said – .”

The teacher is interrupting, “Now what can a sign possibly have to do with it?”

“The sign said,” said the student, “School ahead. Go slow.”

It depends on you what you will understand when you read Patanjali. Unless you can leave yourself behind, you will misunderstand. Understanding is possible only when you are absolutely absent – you don’t interfere, you don’t interrupt, you don’t give colors, shapes, and forms. You simply see, with no idea, no prejudice.

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