18/10/2015 8:30 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

The 3 Approaches To Change: Reform, Revolution And Rebellion

silhouette of refinery plant on evening background
thongseedary via Getty Images
silhouette of refinery plant on evening background

Man's evolution passes through three stages: reform, revolution and rebellion.

Reform is the most superficial: it only touches the surface, it never goes more than skin-deep. It changes nothing but the window dressing of man; it changes the formalities. It gives man etiquette, manners -- a kind of civilization -- without changing anything essential in his being. It paints people, it polishes them, and yet deep down they remain the same. It is an illusion, it is fiction. It gives respectability, and makes everybody a hypocrite. It gives good manners, but they are against the inner core. The inner core has not even been understood. But for the society, reform creates smoothness.

"Reform does not require much from you. It says, 'Just make your front door beautiful.' You can let the whole house be dirty. You live in dirt, just don't allow your neighbours to see the dirt."

Reform functions like a lubricant. It keeps the status quo going, it helps things remain the same --which will look paradoxical, because the reformist claims that he is changing society, but in fact all that he does is paint the old society in new colours. And the old society can exist more easily in new colours than it could have ever done with the old ones. The old were getting rotten; reform is a kind of renovation. The house is falling; the supports are falling, the foundations are shaking, and you go on giving new props to it, and in this way you can keep the house from falling a little longer. Reform is in the service of the status quo: it serves the past not the future.

The second approach is revolution; it goes a little deeper. Reform only changes ideas, it does not even change policies. Revolution goes deeper and touches the structure -- but only the outer not the inner.

Man lives on two planes: one is the physical, the other is the spiritual. The revolution only goes to the physical structure -- the economic, the political; they belong to the physical plane. It goes deeper than reform, it destroys many old things and creates many new things; but the being, the innermost being of man still remains unchanged. Revolution deals with morality, it deals with character. Reform deals with manners, etiquette, civilisation, with changing the formal behaviour of the person. Revolution changes the outer structures, and really changes them. It brings a new structure, but the inner blueprint remains the same; the inner consciousness is not touched. Revolution creates a split.

The first approach, reform, creates hypocrisy. The second approach, revolution, creates schizophrenia, it creates unbridgeable divisions. Man starts falling into two beings, and the bridge is broken. That's why revolutionaries go on denying the soul -- Marx and Engels, Lenin and Stalin and Mao, all go on denying the soul. They have to deny it, they can't accept it because if they accept it then their whole revolution seems to be superficial; it becomes apparent that their revolution is not total.

The reformist does not deny the soul, remember. He accepts it because it creates no problem for him -- he never goes deeply enough to get to that point. Gandhi accepts the soul -- he is a reformist. Reformists never say no to anything, they are people who go on saying yes; they are polite people. Unless it becomes absolutely necessary they will not reject anything, they will accept all. But revolutionaries deny the soul. They have to deny it, otherwise their revolution looks partial.

"Morality goes only so far, beyond that it stumbles and disappears. Everybody has his price. The moral man has a price."

The third approach is rebellion. Rebellion is from the very essential core: it changes consciousness, it is radical; it transmutes, it is alchemical. It gives you a new being, not only a new body, not only new clothes, but a new being. A new man is born.

In the history of consciousness there have been three types of thinkers: the reformer, the revolutionary and the rebel. Manu, Moses, Gandhi -- these are reformers, the most superficial. John the Baptist, Marx, Freud --these are the revolutionaries. And Jesus, Buddha, Krishnamurti -- these are the rebels.

To understand rebellion is to understand the heart of religiousness. Religiousness is rebellion, it is utter change. Religiousness is a discontinuity with the past, the beginning of the new, the dropping of the old in its totality. Nothing has to be continued, because if something continues it will keep the old alive.

Reform paints the surface. Revolution destroys the old outer structure but the inner structure remains the same. In post-revolutionary communist societies the inner man has remained the same, there has been no difference, not a bit. They have had the same mind -- the same greedy, ambitious, egoistic mind; the same mind that is found in America or in capitalist countries. But the outer structure of the society has been changed. The outer structure of laws, state, economics, politics --that has been changed. And once the police force, the governmental power is taken away, people will fall back to their old patterns again. The centralised, post-revolutionary society can be managed only by force, it cannot become democratic, because to allow people to be independent will be allowing them to bring their inner being again into their lives. And the inner being is still there- - but they have been prevented, they have been obstructed; they cannot live it. They have to live by what the government says, they cannot live according to their being.

So communist societies have been basically dictatorial. And they will remain dictatorial, because the fear is that if man is given freedom, then because his consciousness is there -- the greed is there, the ambition is there, and all that has always been is there - it will start working again. People will become rich and poor, powerful and powerless. People will start exploiting each other, people will start fighting for their ambitions. Of course, those who are powerful in those societies are still doing the same. Khrushchev used to brag about his cars, because he had so many. Nobody else could have them in Russia, but everybody wanted to have a car. It was just an enforcement, not real revolution.

"Religiousness is rebellion, it is utter change. Religiousness is a discontinuity with the past, the beginning of the new, the dropping of the old in its totality."

Real revolution is spontaneous. That revolution is called rebellion.

A few more distinctions between these three words, then you will be able to understand my approach.

Reform does not require much from you. It says, "Just make your front door beautiful." You can let the whole house be dirty. You live in dirt, just don't allow your neighbours to see the dirt. But the front porch should be beautiful, because your neighbours are not interested in your inner being, in your inner house. They pass by the outside and they see only the front door. Do whatever you want, but do it at the back door. So the front door becomes a facade, a window, a showcase for the neighbours to see. You live at the back door really, you don't live at the front door. The front door is just there, artificial; you never enter through it, you never go out through it -- it is there just to be seen by others.

Look at your front doors -- everybody has them. They are called faces, masks, personalities because they are persona: lipstick and powder and cosmetics, they give you a persona. You are not that, it is just make-up.

Revolution goes deeper, but only a little deeper. It changes your drawing room so you can invite people in to sit there. In India it happens very often. In India the drawing room is beautiful, but don't go beyond that! People's kitchens are so dirty and ugly, their bathrooms are almost impossible. But nobody takes care of the bathroom or the kitchen; the only care that is taken is of the drawing room. It is there where you meet your guests.

This is false; it does not touch your real being, but it maintains your prestige. That's what morality is; it is a beautiful drawing-room. And if you can afford it, you can even have a Picasso painting in your drawing room. It depends on how much you can afford.

Morality goes only so far, beyond that it stumbles and disappears. Everybody has his price. The moral man has a price. Watch yourself -- if you are walking on the street and you find a thousand dollars, maybe you will try to find the owner. But if you find ten thousand, then you hesitate... to try and find the person or not? If you find one hundred thousand dollars, then there is no question, you take it for yourself. That shows how deep your morality is -- one thousand, ten thousand, one hundred thousand, everybody has a price. One can only afford that much, beyond that it is too much to sacrifice. The morality is not worth it! Then you would like to be immoral.

"Reform will make you a hypocrite, revolution will make you a schizophrenic. Only rebellion can give you your fullness of being, spontaneity, health, wholeness."

The moral person is not totally moral; only a few layers are moral, beyond that the immorality is waiting. So you can drive any moral person into immorality very easily. The only question is that you have to find out the price.

Reform is partial revolution. Revolution is outer revolution. Rebellion is inner revolution. And only when the inner has happened, is it dependable; otherwise it is not dependable. Reform will make you a hypocrite, revolution will make you a schizophrenic. Only rebellion can give you your fullness of being, spontaneity, health, wholeness.

Reform will make you respectable. If you are after respect, then reform is enough. It will give you a plastic personality. From the outside you will start looking beautiful. From the inside you will be rotten and stinking, but nobody will be able to smell your stinking being; the plastic will protect you. Inside you will go on getting dirtier and dirtier, but on the outside you will keep a good face.

Revolution will create a split in you. It will make you a saint, but the sinner will be repressed. The sinner has not been absorbed into the saint, the sinner has been cut off. Revolution will make you two persons: it will create two worlds in you. The natural will be repressed and the moral will be on top of it. The top dog, the moral person, will try to control the underdog, the natural person. And of course, the natural is very powerful because it is natural! So it will take revenge; it will go on sneaking into your life through any weak points it can find. It will disrupt your morality, it will create guilt, and you will be in constant conflict because nobody can be victorious over the natural.

Your support, your intellectual support, is for the moral - but your whole being's support is for the natural. The moral is in the conscious, and the natural is in the unconscious. The conscious is very small, and the unconscious is nine times stronger, nine times bigger than the conscious. But you only know the conscious, so in the conscious mind the morality will go on singing its song, and in the unconscious, which is nine times more powerful, all kinds of immoralities will go on growing deeper roots in you. It will make you a saint and a sinner - the sinner will be repressed, and the sinner will wait for the right time to erupt, for the right time to take revenge.

That's why people look so sad, people look so dissipated because their whole energy is going down the drain in this conflict. Continuous tension is there. The saint is very tense, he is always in anguish and always afraid -- afraid of his own being that he has denied. And the denied is still there! Sooner or later it will throw off the moralist, the egoist, the conscious pretender. It will overthrow the pretender.

Rebellion depends on awareness, revolution on character, reform on formalities.

Start by being more aware, then you start from the innermost. Let the light spread from there, so your whole being can be full of light. There is no way to go from the outside. The only way is to come from the inside -- just like a seed grows from the inside, sprouts from the inside and becomes a big tree. Let that be your inner work too -- like a seed, grow.

"Manu, Moses, Gandhi -- these are reformers, the most superficial. John the Baptist, Marx, Freud --these are the revolutionaries. And Jesus, Buddha, Krishnamurti -- these are the rebels."

Reform is patchwork, a kind of whitewash -- a little bit here, a little bit there, but the basic structure is not even touched. Reform can be for revolution or can be against revolution; it depends on you. There are two types of reformists: those who are preparing the ground for revolution or those who are trying to prevent the revolution. Reform gives the feeling that things are getting better, so what is the need of creating a revolution? Why go to that much trouble? Reform gives hope, and people stop trying to rebel. So it depends on you.

A person of right understanding can use reform also, but one who is not conscious will not be able to use reform as a means for revolution -- on the contrary, reform will become a hindrance for revolution. And so is the case with revolution. Revolution can be a door to rebellion, but only with awareness; otherwise it becomes a hindrance. One thinks, "Now the revolution has happened, what is the need to go any deeper? It is already too much."

So reform can either be a hindrance or a help. The same is the case with revolution. All depends on your awareness, all depends on your understanding -- how much you understand life.

So let this become one of the most fundamental rules of life and work: that everything ultimately depends on understanding, on how deeply you understand. Even something that was going to become a great help can become a hindrance if understanding is missing. And even sometimes that which was going to be poisonous, with understanding can be changed into something medicinal. All medicines are made of poisons: they don't kill, they help people to remain healthy. In the right hands even poison becomes medicine; and in the wrong hands, even medicine may prove to be a poison.

Excerpted from It's All About Change by Osho

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