What Does It Mean to Be Authentic?

The authentic man lives the unknown, allows the unknown, moves on the unknown path, risks everything

What is the meaning of an authentic man? What is his nature, and his way of life?

 “The authentic man means one who has come out of his personality. You have two words: personality and individuality. Personality is the false identity given by the society to you. And individuality is what nature has given to you. Individuality is existential. Personality is social.

“Ordinarily everybody is living as a personality; hence his life is not authentic. It is false, it is deceptive, it is a hypocrisy. He is not only cheating others, he is cheating himself. He is deceiving others and he is deceiving himself too.

“The word personality comes from Greek drama. Greek drama has a speciality: in ancient Greek drama all the actors have masks. You cannot find out who the actor is, you see only a mask, but the voice that comes through the mask is of the actor. It was called persona in Greek: sona means sound, sound coming through a mask. You cannot find out who the real face is.

“Slowly, slowly we have forgotten the origin of the meaning of the word personality.

But watch yourself, and you will be surprised: everything that you are is borrowed. All your thoughts are borrowed. Even about feelings you are not certain.

“People write letters to me, and they say, ‘I think I have fallen in love.’ Great! ‘I think that I have fallen in love.’ They cannot trust their feeling, they are thinking.

“The personality is surrounding you from everywhere, and your individuality becomes almost a hidden thing. You never allow it to live – because the society does not want you to live in freedom according to your nature; the society wants you to live in the way that the society finds useful.

“The personality is very useful: it is never rebellious; it is always a slave. It has no guts to say no. It knows only to say ‘Yes sir.’ Even in moments when your innermost being is saying no, your personality goes on saying, ‘Yes sir.’ You are living a split life. Society supports your personality; hence the personality has become very powerful.

“There is nobody to support your individuality; hence individuality – which is your nature, which is your real power, which is your authentic being – remains in darkness, repressed.

“You are asking me: What is an authentic man?

An authentic man is a man of rebellious spirit. He rebels against his own personality, whatever the cost.

“He is not ready to compromise as far as his freedom is concerned; he would rather die than to be enslaved. My whole teaching is to bring the authentic being to the surface, from the hidden corners of darkness where you have pushed it.

“You are enemies of yourselves; you have crippled your own being. Then you go on complaining that life is miserable – it is your doing! You have compromised, for small comforts from the society. And for small comforts from the society, you have sold your soul. Now you have comforts but no soul – good furniture, good house, good salary – but for whom? You are nonexistent. This is the misery, this is the hell that every man is passing through.

“And there are people who are exploiting the situation. The politicians become your leaders because they say they will bring a utopia into the world – ‘Soon there will be no poverty, there will be no suffering, no exploitation, no inequality.’ All their slogans give you a consolation, and a feeling: follow this man. Although for thousands of years these same people, the same kind, have been giving you the same idea of utopia, the utopia never comes.

“Perhaps you may not be aware that the very word utopia, in its roots, means that which never comes.

“The politicians are giving you great utopian ideas; the religions are giving you great ideas of heaven, paradise, moksha.

But if you have an authentic life you don’t need the priest; you are so fulfilled, you are so blissful that no paradise can become in any way an improvement on it.

“You are living this day in the most beautiful way possible – loving, in friendship. No utopia is going to make your life richer. You have to see the strategy: keep people false, so they remain miserable. Miserable people need priests, politicians, psychoanalysts, all kinds of charlatans, because they are in such misery they are ready to fall in anybody’s trap – whoever gives them hope.

“Hope is almost like opium: you forget your misery, you start dreaming beautiful dreams.

“I don’t know what the situation is now, but in my childhood I have seen laborers working on the farms or making the roads, and they were so poor that their women also had to work – with small children, a six-month-old child. Now what can the woman do with the child? How can she manage to work and keep the child? I was surprised to see that whenever there was any road being made, there were children lying in the grass by the side of the road – enjoying, so blissful.

“I inquired, ‘What is the matter?’ – because these children are such nasty people. The whole day they will sleep, and the whole night they will cry; they have strange ideas. But here are the mother and the father working on the road and they are just by the side, under a tree in the shade, so blissful. I asked, and I found out what they did: they gave a little opium to the child so that the whole day, whether they were hungry, whether they were lying in the heat, it didn’t matter – the opium would keep them unconscious of their reality.

Hope is the opium of the people. And they go on giving hope. Hope is the greatest business in the world.

“For thousands of years priests have been exploiting, giving hope: ‘In the next life….’ And nobody has asked them, ‘Why not in this life? – and this life must have been “the next life” in the previous life! We have been miserable in the past life, and we waited for this life – we are miserable. And you are again saying “next life,” or in paradise.’ Not a single eyewitness, no proof, no evidence exists of any paradise. But the miserable person is ready to believe in anything; the belief has to be a consolation.

“Why are people, the masses, against me? The psychological reason is that I am trying to destroy their hope – and if their hope is destroyed, their reality is misery. And I want them to realize that they are miserable so that I can point out to them why they are miserable. They are miserable because they are not authentic.

Drop the personality. Live naturally, live intensely. Do not allow anybody to dominate you; you have allowed too many people to dominate you.

“I was staying in a home. A small child was playing. I asked him a few questions and we became friends. I asked, ‘What are you going to become in life?’
“He said, ‘As far as I know, I am going to become insane.’
“I said, ‘Why? Why you are going to become insane?’ He said, ‘Because my mother wants me to become a doctor, my father wants me to become an engineer, my uncle wants me to become a professor, my other uncle wants me to become a scientist. My whole family wants me to become this, to become that. I know that if I become all these things, one thing is certain: I will become insane. And nobody is asking me – “What do you want to become?” Nobody seems to be interested in me; they have their own ambitions, and I am simply an excuse to fulfill their ambitions.’

“Everybody is in a place where he should not be. The poets are making shoes, the shoemakers have become prime ministers. Everything seems to be topsy-turvy, and everybody is miserable.

The authentic person has to rebel. He has to say to the whole world, ‘I am going to be myself, whatever the cost.

“‘If I want to be a musician…. Perhaps everybody cannot be Yehudi Menuhin or Ravi Shankar. Most probably I will be a musician on the street, begging, but still I will be happy that I am fulfilling my own desire, that I am not being dominated by somebody else.’

“Those who are dominating may have good intentions. Nobody is doubting their intentions, and perhaps if you had followed their intentions you would have been the richest man in the country, and now you are just a beggar with your guitar on the street.

But I say to you that to follow your own nature and to be a beggar with a guitar in the street is more fulfilling, more blissful than to be the richest man in the country if it is not your desire.

“One great surgeon, the greatest in his country, was retiring, and his friends had gathered to celebrate. His students had gathered – because he was really a master surgeon; there was no comparison at all with anybody else. He was a brain surgeon.

“Even at the age of seventy-five his hands were not shaking a bit – because while you are performing surgery on the brain, if your hand shakes just a little bit it can cut thousands of small nerves in the brain. You can damage the person for his whole life. Your hand has to be almost like steel, and you have to hit the exact point, because there are millions of nerves in the brain, and seven hundred centers in your small skull. The instruments are very fine, and the man has to be really an artist not to cut any other cells, any other nerves, which are so close knit: millions in a small skull. And to remove exactly the nerve that you want to remove…. It is the most delicate job in the world.

“And he was successful. No operation of his had ever failed. He was respected all over the world, rewarded with a Nobel Prize, but on the day that he was retiring he was not happy. Everybody was enjoying, drinking, dancing. He was standing in the corner, sad, lost. A friend came close to him and asked, ‘What is the matter? We are celebrating here for you, and you are standing so sad – as if somebody has died.’

“He said, ‘I am thinking of something which makes me utterly sad.’
“The man said, ‘You, and sad? The world’s greatest brain surgeon; everybody is jealous of you.’
“He said, ‘But you don’t know my inner feeling. I never wanted to become a surgeon in the first place. I wanted to become a musician, but my parents forced me to become a surgeon. My whole life has been nothing but a long slavery. I would have been far happier to be an unsuccessful, unknown, anonymous musician than to be a world-famous surgeon – because this is not me.
“’This was my parents’ desire, it was their ambition.

I have been manipulated, exploited, my whole life has been destroyed just in fulfilling my parents’ desire.

“Now I am too old, and I don’t think that I will be able, but I am going to try – because this was not my life. I lived somebody else’s idea.’

“The authentic man is one who lives his life according to his own innermost core, who lives his individuality. It needs guts, it needs courage, because you are moving into an unknown area.

“While your parents and your well-wishers are experienced people – they know what will be right for you, they know what is going to produce more money, more respectability – you don’t know anything.

But the authentic man lives the unknown, allows the unknown, moves on the unknown path, risks everything. He may not find gold mines, but he finds a tremendous satisfaction. His life is a life of blessings; his death is a death of fulfillment.”


From Osho, The Osho Upanishad, Talk #40 – A Man of Rebellious Spirit

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