For decades, Osho was a huge critic of Mother Teresa and the ideology behind her work.
He particularly focused on her agenda of religious conversion and child indoctrination through religious education.
According to Osho, this all happened under the cover of “serving the poor”, a uniquely Christian religious and political strategy to perpetuate the status quo and keep the establishment in power.
In this excerpt from one of his talks Osho responds to a letter he received from Mother Teresa in response to what he said to her about receiving the Nobel Prize.
Editors note: We’re sharing this perspective from Osho as it reveals what we believe to be some important ideas on religion, politics and charity that deserve to be discussed. However, our intention is not to denigrate the important work that Mother Teresa undertook in her lifetime. She worked for the poor and marginalized and she certainly deserves our respect for this. We hope you join Ideapod to continue the conversation.
The politicians and the priests have always been in deep conspiracy. They have divided man: the politician rules the outside, and the priest rules the inside; the politician the exterior and the priest the interior. They are joined in a deep conspiracy against humanity. They may not even be aware of what they are doing — I don’t suspect their intentions, they may be absolutely unconscious.
Just the other day I received a letter from Mother Teresa. I have no intention of saying anything against her sincerity — whatsoever she wrote in the letter is sincere, but it is unconscious. She is not aware of what she is writing; it is mechanical, it is robot-like. She says:
“I have just received a cutting of your speech. I feel very sorry for you that you could speak as you did. Reference: the Nobel Prize. For the adjectives you add to my name I forgive you with great love.”
She is feeling very sorry for me — I enjoyed the letter! She has not even understood the adjectives that I have used for her. But she is not aware, otherwise she would have felt sorry for herself. The adjectives that I have used… are deceiver, then charlatan and hypocrite.
The deceiver is not only the person who deceives others. In a far more fundamental sense the deceiver is one who deceives himself. Deception begins there. If you want to deceive others, first you have to deceive yourself. But once you have deceived yourself you will never become aware of it unless you are shocked by somebody from the outside — shaken, hammered. You will not become aware that the deception has gone very deep on both sides, it is a double-edged sword.
She is a deceiver in this double-edged sense. First she has been deceiving herself, because meditation can certainly create a life of service, a life of compassion — but a life of service cannot create a life of meditation. Mother Teresa knows nothing of meditation — this is her fundamental deception. She has been serving poor people, orphans, widows, old people, and she has been serving them with good intentions, but the way to hell is full of good intentions! I am not saying that her intentions are bad, but the results don’t depend on your intentions.
You may sow the seeds of a tree with the intention of growing beautiful flowers, and only thorns may come out because the seeds were not those of flowers at all. You did it with good intentions, you worked hard, but the result will come out of the seeds, not out of your intentions.
She has been serving the poor, but the poor have been served for centuries and poverty has not disappeared from the world. Poverty is not going to disappear from the world by serving the poor — in fact, this whole society exists through serving the poor. The poor have to be served in some way so that they don’t feel absolutely rejected. Otherwise they will take great revenge, they will go wild, they will become murderous. It is good to keep them consoled that this society is doing so much for them, for their children, for their old people, for their widows — it is a “good” society.
Hence the same people who exploit the poor donate to these missions. Mother Teresa’s mission is called Missionaries of Charity. She feeds seven thousand poor people every day. From where does this money come? Who donates this money?
In 1974 the Pope presented her with a Cadillac and she immediately sold the car. The car was purchased at a great price because it was Mother Teresa’s, and the money went to the poor. Everybody appreciated it, but the question is, from where had the Cadillac come in the first place? The Pope had not materialized it, he had not done any miracle! It must have come from somebody who had enough money to give a Cadillac. And the Pope has more money than anybody else in the world. From where does that money come?
And then a little bit — not even one percent — goes to the poor through these Missionaries of Charity. These agencies serve the capitalists; they serve the rich, not the poor. On the surface they serve the poor — but fundamentally, basically, indirectly they serve the rich. They make the poor feel, “This is a good society, this is not a bad society. We are not to revolt against it…”
These missionaries give hope to the poor. If the missionaries were not there, those poor would become so hopeless that out of that hopelessness there would be rebellion, revolution.
Now, I have criticized her and said that the Nobel Prize should not have been given to her, and she feels offended by it. She says in her letter, “Reference: the Nobel Prize.”
This man Nobel was one of the greatest criminals possible in the world. The First World War was fought with his weapons; he was the greatest manufacturer of weapons, he accumulated so much money out of the First World War. Millions of people died — he was the manufacturer of death. He earned so much money that now the Nobel Prize is being distributed only from the interest on Nobel’s money… and each year dozens of Nobel Prizes are being given. How much money did this man leave? And from where did that money come? You cannot find any money more full of blood than the money that one gets from a Nobel Prize.
And now this Nobel Prize money has gone to the Missionaries of Charity. It comes from war, it comes from blood, it comes from murder and death. And now it serves a few hundred orphans, feeds seven thousand people — kills millions and feeds seven thousand people, raises a few orphans and makes millions of orphans! This is a strange world. What kind of arithmetic is this? First make millions of orphans and then choose a few hundred and give them to the Missionaries of Charity!
Mother Teresa could not refuse the Nobel Prize… a desire to be admired, a desire to be respectable in the world. And the Nobel Prize brings you the greatest respect. She accepted the prize.
Jean-Paul Sartre seems to be far more religious than Mother Teresa… because he refused that prize, he refused that money, he refused that respectability, for the simple reason that it comes from a wrong source – one thing. Secondly, he said [by implication], “I cannot accept any respectability from this insane society. To accept any respectability from this insane society means respecting the insanity of humanity.” This man seems to be far more religious, far more spiritual, far more authentic than Mother Teresa.
That’s why I have called the people like Mother Teresa “deceivers.” They are not deceivers knowingly, certainly, not intentionally, but that does not matter; the outcome, the end result is very clear. Their purpose is to function in this society like a lubricant so that the wheels of the society, the wheels of exploitation and oppression can go on moving smoothly. These people are lubricants! They are deceiving others and they are deceiving themselves.
And I call them “charlatans” because a really religious person, a man like Jesus — can you conceive of Jesus getting the Nobel Prize? Impossible! Can you conceive of Socrates getting the Nobel Prize, or Mansur al-Hallaj getting the Nobel Prize? If Jesus cannot get the Nobel Prize and Socrates cannot get the Nobel Prize — and these are the true religious people, the awakened ones — then who is Mother Teresa?
The really religious person is rebellious, the society condemns him. Jesus is condemned like a criminal and Mother Teresa is respected like a saint. There is something to be pondered over: if Mother Teresa is right, then Jesus is a criminal, and if Jesus is right then Mother Teresa is just a charlatan and nothing else. Charlatans are always praised by the society because they are helpful — helpful to this society, to this status quo.
Whatever adjectives I have used I have used very knowingly. I never use a single word without consideration. And I have used the word “hypocrite.” These people are hypocrites because their basic lifestyle is split — on the surface one thing, inside something else.
She writes, “The Protestant family was refused the child not because they are Protestant but because at that time we did not have a child that we could give them.”
Now, the Nobel Prize is given to her for helping thousands of orphans, and there are thousands of orphans in the homes she runs. Suddenly she ran out of orphans? And in India can you ever run out of orphans? Indians go on creating as many orphans as you want, in fact more than you want!
The Protestant family which has been refused was not refused immediately. If there was no orphan available, if all the orphans had been disposed of, then what is Mother Teresa doing with seven hundred nuns? What is their work? Seven hundred nuns… then whom are they mothering? Not a single orphan – strange, and that too in Calcutta! You can find orphans anywhere on the road, you find children in the dustbins; they could have just looked outside the place and they would have found many children… They will come themselves, you need not find them.
Suddenly they ran out of orphans… And if the family had been refused immediately, it would have been a totally different matter. But the family was not refused immediately. They were told, “Yes, you can get an orphan. Fill in the form.” So the form was filled in. Till they came to the point where they had to state their religion; up to that moment, there were orphans, and when they filled in the form and wrote, “We belong to the Protestant Church,” immediately Mother Teresa ran out of orphans.
And this reason was not given to the Protestant family itself. Now, this is hypocrisy. It is deception. It is ugly. The reason given to the family itself was that because these children… The children were there, so how could she say, “We don’t have any orphans”? They are always on exhibition.
She has also invited me:
“You can come any time and you are welcome to visit our place and see our orphans and our work.”
They are constantly on exhibition.
In fact the Protestants had already chosen the orphan, the child that they wanted to adopt, so she could not say to those people, “It is because there are no more orphans. We are sorry.”
She said to them, “These orphans are being raised according to the Roman Catholic Church and it would be bad for their psychological growth, because it would be such a disruption. Now, giving them to you would make them a little disturbed and it would not be good for them. That’s why we cannot give the child to you, because you are Protestant.”
That was the reason given to them. And they are not stupid people; the husband is a professor in a European university — he was shocked, the wife was shocked. They had come from so far away just to adopt a child, and they were refused because they are Protestants. Had they written “Catholic” they would have immediately been given the child.
And one thing is to be understood — these children are basically Hindu. If Mother Teresa is so concerned about their psychological welfare, then they should be brought up according to the Hindu religion. But they are brought up according to the Catholic Church…. Hindu children are being brought up according to the Catholic religion and their psychology is not disturbed? Now their psychology will be disturbed? And if this is true, then Mother Teresa should never try to convert any person to the Catholic religion.
And that’s their whole work: conversion. Just a few days ago there was a bill in the Indian Parliament, “Freedom of Religion.” The purpose of the bill was that nobody should be allowed to convert anybody to another religion. Unless somebody chooses it out of his own free will, no conversion should be allowed. And Mother Teresa was the first one to oppose it. In her whole life she has never opposed anything; this was the first time, and maybe the last. She opposed it. She wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, and there was a heated controversy between her and the Prime Minister. They created so much uproar all over the country — and the politicians are always concerned about votes, they cannot lose the Christian votes — so the bill was dropped, simply dropped…
She is very enthusiastic about converting people. If people were not converted, then who would the Christians in the world have been?
Christianity has existed for only two thousand years but they have the greatest number in the world. From where have these people come? All from conversion. But their methods of conversion are different.
In the past Christians and Mohammedans have fought and they have converted people to their religions with violence. Mohammedans have lagged behind because they have not yet been able to learn new technologies. Now Christians are far more up to date, because they belong to the Western world, which is far more up to date about everything. They have dropped the old idea of forcing you with the sword, it has become out of date. Now they serve you — they give you bread and butter and services and education and hospitals and schools and universities. They bribe you. Now from military power they have shifted to economic power, but conversion continues.
And there is ample proof. Christians have not been able to convert a single rich Hindu. How can you convert a rich Hindu? You cannot bribe him. You can only convert poor beggars because they can be bribed very easily, they can be purchased very easily.
If Mother Teresa is really honest and believes that converting a person disturbs his psychic structure, then she should be against conversion unless a person chooses it by himself…
To me, Mother Teresa and people like her are hypocrites: saying one thing, doing something else behind a beautiful facade. It is the whole game of politics — the politics of numbers.
On anger and forgiveness…
And she says, “For the adjectives you add to my name I forgive you with great love.” Firstly, love need not forgive, because in the first place it is not angered. To forgive somebody first you have to be angry, it is a prerequisite. I don’t forgive Mother Teresa at all, because I am not angry at all. Why should I forgive her? She must have been angry. This is why I want you to start meditating on these things.
I don’t forgive Mother Teresa, because I am not angry at all. Why should I forgive her? She must have been angry.
It is said that Buddha never forgave anybody for the simple reason that he was never angry. How can you forgive without anger? It is impossible. She must have been angry. This is what I call unconsciousness: she is not aware of what she is writing — she is not aware of what I am going to do with her letter!
She says, “I forgive you with great love” — as if there is small love and great love, and things like that. Love is simply love. It cannot be great, it cannot be small. Do you think love is a quantitative thing? One kilo of love, two kilos of love? How many kilos of love are “great”? Or are tonnes needed?
Love is not a quantity at all, it is a quality. And what crime have I committed that she is forgiving me for? Just old Catholic stupidity — they go on forgiving! I have not confessed any sin, so why should she forgive me?
I stick to all the adjectives, and I will add a few more: that she is stupid, mediocre, idiotic! And if anybody needs to be forgiven it is she, not I, because she is committing a great sin. She is saying in this letter, “I am fighting through adoption the sin of abortion.” Abortion is not a sin — in this overpopulated world, abortion is a virtue. And if abortion is a sin then the Polack Pope and Mother Teresa and company are responsible for it, because they are against contraceptives, they are against birth control methods, they are against the pill. These are the people who are the cause of all the abortions, they are responsible. To me they are great criminals.
In this overpopulated world where people are hungry and starving, to be against the pill is just unforgivable. The pill is one of the most significant contributions of modern science to humanity — it can make the earth a paradise. But certainly in that paradise there will be no orphans, and then what will happen to Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity? And in that paradise who will listen to the Pope? People will be so happy, who will bother about these people? And who will think about a paradise after death? If paradise is here now, then there is no need to invent, project, dream, fantasize a paradise beyond…
I would like to destroy poverty. I don’t want to serve poor people — enough is enough! For ten thousand years fools have been serving poor people, it has not changed anything. But now we have enough technology to destroy poverty completely.
So if anybody has to be forgiven it is these people. It is the Pope, Mother Teresa, etcetera, who have to be forgiven. They are criminals — but their crime is such that you will need great intelligence to understand it.
And see the egoistic “holier than thou” attitude. “I forgive you,” she says. “I feel sorry for you,” she says. And she asks, “May God’s blessings be with you and fill your heart with his love.” Just bullshit!
I don’t believe in any God as a person, so there is no God as a person who can bless me or anybody else. God is only a realization, God is not somebody to be encountered. It is your own purified consciousness… I am not an atheist, remember, but I am not a theist either. God is not a person to me but a presence, and the presence is felt when you reach to the climax of your meditativeness. You suddenly feel godliness overflowing the whole existence. There is no God, but there is godliness…
“…And fill your heart with his love.” My heart is full with my love! There is no space for anybody else’s love in it. And why should my heart be filled with anybody else’s love? A borrowed love is not love at all. The heart has its own fragrance.
But this type of nonsense is thought to be very religious. She is writing with the desire that I will see how religious she is — and all that I can see is simply that she is an ordinary, foolish person, just the same as you can find anywhere among the mediocre people.
I have been calling her Mother Teresa, but I think I should stop calling her Mother Teresa — because I am not very gentlemanly, but I have to respond adequately. She calls me Dear Mr. Osho, so from now onwards I will call her Dear Miss Teresa — just to be gentlemanly, mannerly!
An abridged talk from Osho, Zen: Zest, Zip, Zap and Zing, Talk #13, Question 1; a longer version of this article was originally published in The OSHO Times.