Growing old is not the same as growing up. We grow old in time; we grow up in the moment.
“Man is born to achieve life, but it all depends on him. He can miss it. He can go on breathing, he can go on eating, he can go on growing old, he can go on moving towards the grave – but this is not life. This is gradual death from the cradle to the grave, a seventy-year-long gradual death. And because millions of people around you are dying in this gradual, slow death, you also start imitating them. Children learn everything from those who are around them; and we are surrounded by the dead.
“So first we have to understand what I mean by life. It must not be simply growing old; it must be growing up. And these are two different things. Any animal is capable of growing old. Growing up is the prerogative of human beings. Only a few claim the right.
“Growing up means moving deeper into the principle of life every moment; it means going farther away from death – not towards death. The deeper you go into life, the more you understand the immortality within you. You are going away from death; a moment comes when you can see that death is nothing but changing clothes, or changing houses, changing forms – nothing dies, nothing can die; death is the greatest illusion there is.
“For growing up, just watch a tree. As the tree grows up, its roots are growing down, deeper. There is a balance: the higher the tree goes, the deeper the roots will go. You cannot have a tree one-hundred-and-fifty feet high with small roots; they could not support such a huge tree. In life, growing up means growing deep within yourself – that’s where your roots are.
“To me, the first principle of life is meditation.
“Everything else comes second. And childhood is the best time. As you grow older, it means you are coming closer to death, and it becomes more and more difficult to go into meditation. Meditation means going into your immortality, going into your eternity, going into your godliness. The child is the most qualified person because he is still unburdened by knowledge, unburdened by religion, unburdened by education, unburdened by all kinds of rubbish. He is innocent.
“But unfortunately his innocence is being condemned as ignorance. Ignorance and innocence have a similarity, but they are not the same. Ignorance is also a state of not knowing, just as innocence is. But there is a great difference too, which has been overlooked by the whole of humanity up to now. Innocence is not knowledgeable; it is not desirous of being knowledgeable either. It is utterly content, fulfilled. A small child has no ambitions; he has no desires. He is so absorbed in the moment – a bird on the wing catches his eye so totally; just a butterfly with its beautiful colors, and he is enchanted; the rainbow in the sky… and he cannot conceive that there can be anything more significant, richer than this rainbow. And the night full of stars, stars beyond stars…. Innocence is rich, it is full, it is pure.
“Ignorance is poor; it is a beggar – it wants this, it wants that, it wants to be knowledgeable, it wants to be respectable, it wants to be wealthy; it wants to be powerful. Ignorance moves on the path of desire. Innocence is a state of desirelessness.
“But because they both are without knowledge, we have remained confused about their natures. We have taken it for granted that they are the same. The first step, in the art of living, will be to create a demarcation line between ignorance and innocence. Innocence has to be supported, protected – because the child has brought with him the greatest treasure, the treasure that sages find after arduous effort.[…]
“Whenever you understand that you have missed life, the first principle to be brought back is innocence. Drop your knowledge; forget your scriptures, your religions, your theologies, your philosophies. Be born again, become innocent – and it is in your hands. Clean your mind of all that is not known by you, of all that is borrowed, all that has come from tradition, convention, all that has been given to you by others – parents, teachers, universities. Just get rid of it. Once again be simple; once again be a child. And this miracle is possible by meditation.[…]
“Meditation will bring you sensitivity, a great sense of belonging to the world. It is our world – the stars are ours, and we are not foreigners here. We belong intrinsically to existence. We are part of it; we are the heart of it.”
Excerpted from Osho, Beyond Enlightenment, Talk #28