OSHO on Prayer

I would like to share with you what Oslo has to say about prayer…
For me when doing TheWork of Byron Katie at the end I am left with gratefulness…This is Prayer.

From: The Perfect Master, Vole 1 22
22 June 1978 am in Buddha Hall
The first question:

PRAYER IS AN EXPERIENCE OF RESURRECTION, A REBIRTH, the birth of a new vision, a new dimension, a new way of looking at things, and a new way of being. Prayer is not something that you do: prayer is something that you become. It is a state of being. It has nothing to do with the words that you utter in the temples, mosques, churches. It is a silent dialogue with existence. It is to be in tune with the total with the whole. To fall in harmony with the whole is prayer .

The experience is so enormous that it is impossible to be exact about it. It is indefinable. All definitions fall short. Each definition says something about it, but only something. Much remains unsaid.

And prayer is such a vast experience that it contains contradictions. So one can say: Prayer is silence – and he is right, absolutely right. And another can say: Prayer is a dialogue – and he is right too, because prayer is a dialogue in silence. Now, dialogue and silence seem to be contradictory. In dialogue you speak, in silence you hear. In dialogue you communicate, in silence you are simply there – there is nothing to say.

What can be said to God? He knows all that you can say in the first place. You can bow down. You can celebrate. But still your bowing down, your celebration, your festivity, your thankfulness, your gratitude, they are still ways of speaking. You are trying to say something without words, because words are very small and the heart really wants to say something.

So it IS a dialogue, although silent. It is a communication in a sense, because you are there and the whole existence becomes your beloved, the whole existence becomes a ’thou’. And yet there is no’I’ and there is no ’thou’ – both disappear. Both meet and merge into one unity, one organic whole. Just as the dewdrop disappears in the ocean, you disappear. There is no separation between you and existence, so how can there be a dialogue?

Both the definitions are true. Those who say prayer is a dialogue – Christians say that, Jews say that, Hindus say that – they are right. But they are talking only about one fragment of the enormous experience called prayer. Buddhists say: There is no dialogue. Jainism says: There is no dialogue– because there is no ’I’ and no ’thou’. There is absolute silence. They are also right, but then it is very difficult to be exact about prayer.

It HAS to remain vague. It has to remain incomprehensible. You can have only glimpses of it, fleeting glimpses, but you cannot have the whole of prayer in your hands. It can’t be reduced to a simple definition. Just as science gives definitions, religion cannot give them. You ask science: science is exact. You ask ”What is water?” and it says ”H20.” So simple! Nothing is left behind H20 – all is said, because water is an object. It can be analyzed.

Prayer is subjectivity. It is not an object that can be analyzed. In fact, you cannot show your prayer to anybody. And if somebody insists that ”I don’t see any prayer in you,” you cannot prove it either. It is like love – less like water, more like love. That’s why Jesus says: God is love. Love is also indefinable.

Always remember one thing: there are things below you and there are things above you. Things that are below you, you can be exact about them. Things that are above you, you cannot be exact about them. They are bigger than you. When prayer exists, it is not that prayer exists in you – on the contrary, YOU EXIST IN PRAYER. Prayer is higher than you. You just vibrate in that enormous dimension, that plenitude.
But we have been taught, particularly in this century, to be exact about everything. That has destroyed many beautiful values in life, that constant desire to be exact. And if you cannot be exact about something, then the mind tries to deny it.

You cannot be exact about God, so the mind says, ”Then God cannot be.” You cannot be exact about love; then the mind says, ”Love is just dreaming and nothing else.” You cannot be exact about beauty; then the mind says, ”Beauty is just fantasy. It is not a truth.” But then what is left? Then the world is no more beautiful, no more loving, no more good – because there is no more God. Then the world is empty of meaning. Not that the world is empty of meaning, but your mad desire to be exact about everything has made it empty of meaning.
Meaning is a delicate phenomenon. It is like the fragrance of a flower. You cannot catch hold of it in your hands – but it is there, still it is there, whether you can catch hold of it or not, whether you can keep it in a safe deposit or not. It is still there!

Still, a few things can be said about prayer – but they will not be exact, so I cannot fulfill your desire. The very nature of prayer prohibits it. And to try to do something against its nature is sacrilege.

So the first thing that I can say about prayer is: a feeling of immense gratitude, thankfulness. You are here, in this beautiful world, with these trees and rivers, mountains and stars. In this tremendous beauty you are pulsating, you are alive. This opportunity you have not earned. It is a gift. Prayer Isa thankfulness for this gift of life. Just to breathe is such a joy, just to open your eyes and see the greenery. Just to listen to the chirping of the birds, or the sound of running water, or the silence of the night and the velvety darkness. Or the dawn and the sun rising… we have not earned it! It has been given to us, and we have not even thanked.

Whether there is a God or not is irrelevant – thankfulness is a must. People think that ”If there is a God, then we will thank him.” I tell you just the opposite: ”If you start thanking, you will find him.” There is no other way. If you start feeling grateful, you will find him because he happens only in that dimension of gratitude.

Just as you cannot see from the ears and you cannot hear from the eyes – eyes can only see, ears can only hear – exactly like that, only gratitude can find God, can feel God. Gratitude is your sensitivity for God. Prayer is that sensitivity.

Second thing: prayer is a way of living. It is not just something that you do early in the morning like ritual. If it is a ritual, it is meaningless. If it is a ritual, it will not make you religious – it will make you a Hindu, it will make you a Mohammedan, but NOT religious. Prayer has to be something absolutely informal, of the heart, not a ritual. Not something that you finish some-how in the morning because you HAVE to do it and you have been taught to do it – it has become a duty. If you don’t do it, you feel a little guilty; otherwise, doing it, you don’t feel any joy out of it. When you don’t do it, only guilt arises. To avoid that guilt, you go on doing it. This is not prayer.

Prayer is a way of living. What do I mean? A man of prayer remains in prayer twenty-four hours away. He sleeps-in prayer; his sleep is a kind of prayer. He relaxes into sleep as if he is relaxing into the lap of God. When he is going to sleep, he sleeps in God. When he wakes up, he wakes up ingot. He opens his eyes and the first thing that comes to his heart and to his being is gratefulness, utter gratefulness. He eats God, he drinks God. He walks in God. He breathes in God, he breathes God. His twenty-four hours are a continuum of prayer. It goes on running like background music. Whatsoever he is doing, that does not make any difference – the prayer continues.

And I am not saying that you should start repeating ”Ram, Ram, Ram,” or ”Allah, Allah, Allah.” It is not a question of repetition. If you start repeating, ”Ram and Ram and Ram,” then it will be an interference in your life. Then you will not be able to drive rightly on the road, because your mind will be divided. Then you will not be able to do ANY work totally. So I am not saying to repeat anything. It is not a question of verbal repetition. It is just a feeling, presence. Just as the mother sleeps in the night and her child is there by the side of her… and it maybe the rainy season, with clouds and thunder in the sky, but she will not be awakened by the clouds and the thunder. But if the child just becomes a little uneasy, starts crying, she will be awakened immediately. Thunder was not enough to wake her, but her child…. Even in her sleep a part of herbing re-members the child. That’s how prayer is. You live in the marketplace, you work, but DEEP down at the very core of your being, you go on bowing to God – prayer continues, gratitude continues. Sometimes it surfaces when you have a silent moment; otherwise, it continues underground.

Prayed is a way of living, not having, but a way of asking. It is not compelling, not wanting to live from power and possession, but imploring to be allowed to be. Asking is the opposite of demanding. Asking is risky. It is entrusting yourself to the silence and the uncertainty of existence.

Prayer never demands. There is no possibility of any demanding in prayer because we cannot claim anything. But we can ask, just like a small child asks his mother. There is no demand in him; he is helpless, he is dependent. He simply asks. When he is hungry, he cries – that’s what prayer is. It is childlike helplessness.

We are so small and existence is so infinite… we are only for a few moments here, and existence has been always here and will be always here. We are just small waves in this infinite ocean. Wean ask, but we cannot demand. We can ask because we are not strangers to existence, we are not outsiders. We belong to it. We are part of it. Existence has peopled us. It is existence’s desire that we are. We can ask. But in asking, there is no demanding.

If it is fulfilled we are thankful. If it is NOT fulfilled, we are thankful. Remember that. That is the beauty of prayer. If it is fulfilled, we are thankful, obviously. If it is not fulfilled, still we are thankful. Why are we thankful even when it is not fulfilled? Because then the man who knows what prayer is, who lives prayer, also knows that sometimes we ask for a thing which is not good for us. Existence knows better. If it is needed it will be fulfilled. If it is not needed it will not be fulfilled.

I have heard:

A young child’s doll was broken. As she cried over the tiny pieces, she said to her brother,

“I’m going to pray to God to put the pieces together.

“Do you expect God to answer your prayer?” he asked

“You will see that God will answer,” she predicted.

Two hours later when the brother returned he demanded of the little girl. ”Well, has God answered?”

Yes,” she replies, pointing to the pieces. ”He said, ’No.”‘

This is prayer. You can ask, but you cannot demand. If he says no, then it is perfectly okay. Finally, the decision is with him. Demanding means the decision has already been taken. Demanding means you want God to follow your will. Asking simply means, ”I am putting my desire before you, but follow your will – thy will be done, thy kingdom come.” These last words of Jesus on the ass –this is prayer!
A great poet, Hub Oosterhuis, says:

No one can pray without words, because no one exists outside language and everything is a dialogue.

Now, you see? Buddha says: Prayer is silence. And both are right. Oosterhuis is also right. From a certain standpoint it is true: no one can pray without words – because no one exists outside language. Language is for us almost like the ocean is for the fish. Language is our ocean.

So Oosterhuis is right. And because he is a poet, he understands the significance of language. Only a poet understands the significance of language – not a linguist, not a grammarian. The grammarian knows only the body of the language, the poet knows its heart, its soul, its spirit, its invisible dimension.

He is right: no one exists outside language and everything is a dialogue.

Yes, prayer is a dialogue. The part is talking to the whole. The part is addressing the whole. And you will have to learn this dialogue. Has not the desire sometimes arisen in you to talk to the trees? knowing perfectly well that they will not answer. Have you not sometimes said hello to a rose flower on the bush? You may not have said it because it looks so absurd, but has not the desire arisen in you? Have you not sometimes felt to talk to the starts? If you have not felt, then you have lost the capacity to feel. Have you not sometimes touched a rock with great love and passion? the texture of it! Have you not felt sometimes to SAY something to all the invisible that surrounds you? That is prayer, that is dialogue.

And one has to gather courage. Yes, one has to be so courageous – only then can prayer happen. It is very easy to go into a church and pray, because people accept that. Nobody will call you mad. In fact, people will think you are greatly religious, a good man, a good Christian, Catholic of Hindu. people will respect you for it. But if you start talking to a tree…. Just see: you can talk to a cross in the church, which is dead wood – you cannot talk to a tree which is alive. And if you cannot talk to a tree, how can you talk to the cross?

Start talking with existence, with nature. Be a little mad. Sometimes get out of your prison of so-called sanity. It is driving you insane, this so-called sanity. Thousands of people go insane everyday. Thousands of people commit suicide around the earth every day. And millions go on living a dull and drab life, for no other reason – just for one single reason: they have not prayed. They have-not been able to talk to existence. They have not been able to pour their hearts out. Do you know why psychoanalysis has become so important in the modern world? Because people have forgotten how to pray.

The priest is being replaced by the psychoanalyst for one single reason: because people used to pour their hearts into nature; now they don’t find any way to pour their hearts out. They go to the psychoanalyst, they pay fox it. The psychoanalyst listens – they pour their hearts out. Thesis absolutely meaningless. You can do the same sitting in your garden. And the trees are better psychoanalysts because they listen so attentively, so intensely. Talk to the rocks! and you can say anything and they will not be offended. You can pour your heart out and your burdens will disappear and your tensions will disappear.

In the past man always lived such an unburdened, tension less life. The only reason was: everybody was capable of going into prayer. It was natural. People would go and talk to the mountains or tithe rivers or to the sun or to the moon… these are all faces of God! manifestations of him. Alive, throbbing, pulsating, right now.

And when I say start talking with nature, I am giving you the first lesson of prayer. Churches are man-made. And whatsoever is man-made, avoid it – because the man-made thing carries all kinds of neuroses that man has in him. Why not go to something that is God-made? If you want to feel God, go to something that is made by him, where you can find his signature.

Churches are man-made, so are temples, so are GURUDWARAS. There you will find only man and his politics. There you will find man and ALL his stupidities. Trees are less stupid, stars are not stupid. You go to them, you open your heart – start a dialogue with nature. And the miracle happens one day, when suddenly you see that the tree has responded – then you will know what prayer is, then you will understand Oosterhuis who says prayer is a dialogue. Yes, the tree ANSWERS one day, you just have to wait long enough. You Just have to convince the tree that you are REALLY talking to her, that’s all. It takes a little time.

And man has been so destructive to the trees that they have become closed. Let the TREE FEEL that you are not a madman, that you are not violent, aggressive, that you have come with love, great love, that you want to feel God. And the creator can be felt only in his creation – that is the beginning of the journey.

So prayer first has to be a dialogue – a dialogue with whom? I say a dialogue with nature. So evening atheist can go into it. I don’t bring God in yet. First move into dialogue with nature – that is the ABC of prayer. And then, slowly slowly, start moving into silence with nature. Sit by the side of a rosebush and move into tremendous silence, no words between you and the rosebush, just silence pulsating… waves of silence.

Through dialogue you will know God as he is manifest in nature, and through silence you will know God as he is unman fest. Through dialogue you will know God as creation, and through silence you will know God as creator.

So Buddha is also right; he is talking about the ultimate in prayer. But the ultimate is possible only if you do the immediate. The ultimate is only through the immediate. The ancient Jews had a word; that word is MARANATHA – it means ”Come, Lord, come!” That is prayer. ”I am ready. My heart is open for you! I am waiting. Come, Lord, come!”

A great awaiting, with all the doors open and all the windows open, for his breeze to blow through you. And his sun to come to your deepest core and fill you with light: ”Come, Lord, come!”

Jews had another word; that is ’Hosanna’ – that means ”Come and deliver us! Come and deliver us from our ignorance! Come and deliver us from our finitude. Come and deliver us from our limitations, from this imprisonment that we have created around ourselves Come, and give us freedom! Command deliver – come and liberate us!”

And the name of Christ, Jesus, means one who liberates. The original is ’Jehoshaphat’ or Jesus. It means one who has come to liberate ’Hosanna’ and ’Jehoshaphat’ – two words from the same Hebrew root, related to each other like question and answer, hope and fulfillment, prayer and the answer to the prayer.

If you really go into intense passion with God, it is answered. Jesus is an answer to many people’ sprayers. Buddha is an answer to many people’s prayers, so is Mahavir, so is Mohammed, so is Nanak. These are the answers! Think of them as the answers to people who had prayed. Just the other day I told you: When the disciple is ready, the Master appears – and in no other way. When the disciple has really prepared his heart, has opened himself up, is vulnerable, has dropped his arm our, the Master immediately appears. The disciple is the question: the Master is the answer.

Prayer is the bridge between the question and the answer between the disciple and the Master, between the seeker and the sought, between the immediate and the ultimate, between the desire and the fulfillment.
Prayer is born out of our experience of love, the way we address each other. Have you not felt sometimes the difference? We use the same words, but the quality changes. When you say ’you’ to somebody to whom you are indifferent, the word is the same, but there is no prayer in it. And when you say ’you’ to the woman you love or the man you love, the word is the same but the quality is different. When you say ’you’ to a woman you love, there is prayer, there is love. The word is pulsating, alive, streaming. When you say ’you’ to somebody in the marketplace, the word is dead.

Prayer has arisen, slowly, out of the experience of love. When a person falls in love with one person, such great joy arises that, slowly, it became apparent to people who were intelligent enough, aware enough, that ”If so much joy comes by falling in love with one person, how much joy will come if I fall in love with the whole!” Love paved the way to prayer.

People pray to each other when they are in love. See the eyes of lovers when they look at each other. That look is sacred. It may be momentary, it may be lost, but for a moment the flame is therefore a moment, the guest has arrived from the beyond. People pray to each other when they are in love. The way one man says ’you’ to another, respectfully, intimately, desperately. The way someone says ’you’ to you – hopefully, expectantly, intensely, his voice seeking or caressing.

It may be that prayer to God grew out of this way that people have of speaking with each other when they are in love. Yes, that’s how it has slowly slowly dawned into the consciousness of man – that if we can say ’thou’ to existence with great love, expectant, desperate, seeking, imploring, asking, with tears in the eyes, with hope, with helplessness; if we can say ’thou’ to existence, that is prayer, the beginning of prayer. A point comes when ’I’ and ’thou’ also disappear – that is the end of prayer, the crescendo.

In the old days prayer was so much a matter of fact that not in a single scripture has the question been raised: What is prayer? The Vedas don’t ask the question: What is prayer? The Koran does not ask the question: What is prayer? Prayer was taken so much as a matter of fact, it was so obvious to the people… when a thing is obvious, nobody asks a question. Now people are asking: What is prayer? What is love? These things have disappeared from life; they have become questions.

If you go far back into the beginnings of human consciousness, nobody asks: What is God? Whose God? Does God exist or not? It was almost as if God was walking with people on the earth, he was living with people on the earth. He was so visible, nobody asked the question. Just think – has anybody asked the question: What is the sun? What is light? Nobody has asked.

But if one day suddenly the whole of humanity goes blind, and once in a while a man with eyes arrives, then people will ask him: What is sun? What is light? The question simply shows ill TO what impoverishment we have fallen.

In the Bible, there is no word for prayer. It was such a diffused experience that even a word wasn’t needed for it – so much so that in the Hebrew language it is difficult to translate the word ’pray’,’ prayer’. Praying was calling, rejoicing, laughing, crying, reviling, imploring, according to how one felt. But there was no single word for it.

Man has lost many capacities, and one of the MOST important has been the capacity to pray –because it is only through prayer that we make a bridge between our tiny self and the infinite and the absolute.


I cannot define it exactly – I can only indicate. I can hint. A few directions I can give to you. You will have to know it by your own experience.

They say that man can be divided into three groups: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. Please be of the first category. Move into prayer – that is the only way to know what it is. Love if you want to know what love is; have taste of it. How can you explain to somebody who has never tasted wine what it is and what happens through it? He has never been drunk. There is no way to explain. All that you can do is to invite him, let him drink. Let him feel lost. Let him forget the world. Let him disappear in the world of intoxication… and he will know. That is the only way to know.

Prayer is an intoxication. Prayer makes one drunk with God. But only drunkards know it, what exactly it is. And even those who know it cannot put it into words. Let it become an experience Let us not only discuss it – let us go into it. This very moment. If you feel grateful, a great silence will surround you, a great benediction will start surrounding you. This very moment! right now! you cane thankful for all that the whole has done for you.

If you are a religious person, you can think of the whole in terms of God; if you are not, there is no need to use the word ’God’. Forget all about it. Words don’t matter. Call it ’the whole’ Just feel what it has done to you, how much it has given to you and how much it goes on pouring into you. And you have never thanked it; you are so ungrateful. And still it goes on pouring! Its sharing, its giving, is unconditional.

And the moment thankfulness arises in you – this can arise THIS very moment – there is prayer. Nothing stirs in you, all is still. But suddenly one feels like bowing down to some unknown force, to some mysterious force. That bowing down is prayer