Osho on smoking

I cannot drop the habit of chain-smoking. I have tried hard but I have always failed. Is it a sin to smoke?

Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill! Religious people are very skillful in doing that. Now, what are you really doing when you are smoking? Just taking some smoke inside your lungs and letting it out. It is a kind of pranayama…filthy, dirty, but still a pranayama! You are doing yoga, in a stupid way. It is not sin. It may be foolish but it is not a sin, certainly.

There is only one sin and that is unawareness, and only one virtue and that is awareness.

Do whatsoever you are doing, but remain a witness to it, and immediately the quality of your doing is transformed.

I will not tell you not to smoke; that you have tried. You must have been told by many so-called saints not to smoke: “Because if you smoke you will fall into hell.” God is not so stupid as your saints are. Throwing somebody into hell just because he was smoking cigarettes will be absolutely unnecessary.

One morning Weintraub went to a restaurant and ordered bacon with his eggs. He was an orthodox Jew and his wife kept a strictly kosher home, but Weintraub felt the need just this once.

As Weintraub was about to leave the restaurant, he stopped in the door frozen with terror. The sky was filled with black clouds, there was lightning, and the ground shook with the rumble of thunder.

“Can you imagine!” he exclaimed. “All that fuss over a little piece of bacon!”

But that’s what your so-called saints have been telling you down through the ages, for centuries.

Smoking is unhealthy, unhygienic, but not a sin. It becomes a sin only if you are doing it unconsciously. It is not smoking that makes it a sin but unconsciousness.

Let me emphasize the fact. You can do your prayer every day unconsciously; then your prayer is a sin. You can become addicted to your prayer. If you miss the prayer one day, the whole day you will feel something is wrong, something is missing…some gap. It is the same with smoking or with drinking; there is no difference in it. Your prayer has become a mechanical habit; it has become a master over you. It bosses you; you are just a servant, a slave to it. If you don’t do it, it forces you to do it.

So it is not a question of smoking. You may be doing your Transcendental Meditation every day regularly, and it may be just the same. If the quality of unconsciousness is there, if mechanicalness is there, if it has become a fixed routine, if it has become a habit and you are a victim of the habit and you cannot put it aside, you are no longer a master of yourself, then it is a sin. But its being a sin comes out of your unconsciousness, not out of the act itself.

No act is virtuous, no act is a sin. What consciousness is behind the act – everything depends on that.

You say: “I cannot drop the habit of chain-smoking.” I am less interested in your chain-smoking; I am more interested in your habit. Any habit that becomes a force, a dominating force over you, is a sin. One should live more in freedom. One should be able to do things not according to habits but according to the situations.

Life is continuously changing – it is a flux – and habits are stagnant. The more you are surrounded by habits, the more you are closed to life. You are not open, you don’t have windows. You don’t have any communication with life; you go on repeating your habits. They don’t fit; they are not the right response to the situation, to the moment. They are always lagging behind, they are always falling short. That’s the failure of your life.

So remember: I am against all kinds of habits. Good or bad is not the point. There is no good habit as such, there is no bad habit as such. Habits are all bad because habit means something unconscious has become a dominating factor in your life, has become decisive. You are no longer the deciding factor. The response is not coming out of awareness but out of a pattern, structure, that you have learned in the past.

I have seen many rich people living very poor lives. Before they became rich their habits became settled – and their habits became settled when they were poor. That’s why you find so much miserliness in rich people; it comes from the habits that became ingrained in them when they were poor.

One of the richest men in the world – not one of the richest but the richest man in the world, it is thought – was the Nizam of Hyderabad. His collection of diamonds was the greatest in the world because he owned the diamond mines of Golconda, which have provided the greatest diamonds to the world. The Kohinoor comes from Golconda. It was once in the Nizam’s possession. He had so many diamonds that it is said that no one has ever been able to calculate exactly the price of his collection. Thousands and thousands of diamonds – they were not counted, they were weighed!

But he was one of the most miserly men in the world. He used a single cap for thirty years. It was stinking but he wouldn’t change it. He continued to wear the same coat for almost his whole life and he would not give it to be washed because they might destroy it. He was so miserly – you cannot imagine – that he would collect half-smoked cigarettes from the guests’ ashtrays and then smoke them. The richest man in the world smoking cigarette butts smoked by others! The first thing he would do whenever a guest left was to search in the ashtrays and collect the ends of the cigarettes.

When he died, his greatest diamond was found in his dirty shoes. He was hiding it in his shoe! Maybe he had some idea behind it – that maybe he would be able to take it with him to the other world. Maybe he was afraid: “When I am dead, people may steal it.” It was the greatest diamond; he used that diamond as a paper-weight on his table. Before he died he must have put it inside his shoe.

Even when one is dying one is moving in old habits, following old patterns. I have heard:

The old Mulla Nasruddin had become a very rich man. When he felt death approaching he decided to make some arrangements for his funeral, so he ordered a beautiful coffin made of ebony wood with satin pillows inside. He also had a beautiful silk caftan made for his dead body to be dressed in.

The day the tailor delivered the caftan, Mulla Nasruddin tried it on to see how it would look, but suddenly he exclaimed, “What is this! Where are the pockets?”

Smoking or no smoking, that is not important. Maybe if you continue to smoke you will die a little earlier. So what? The world is so overpopulated, you will do some good by dying a little earlier. Maybe you will have tuberculosis. So what? Tuberculosis is now almost like the common cold. In fact, there is no cure for the common cold but there is a cure for tuberculosis I know it because I suffer from a common cold. To have tuberculosis is to be very fortunate.

So it is possible that you may die two years earlier, you may get tuberculosis – but it is not a sin. Don’t be worried about that. If you really want to do something about your life, dropping smoking is not going to help – because I know people who drop smoking; then they start chewing gum. The same old stupidity! Or if they are Indians they start chewing pan; it is the same. You will do something or other. Your unconsciousness will demand some activity, some occupation. It is an occupation. And it is only a symptom; it is not really the problem. It is not the root of the problem.

Have you not observed? Whenever you feel emotionally disturbed you immediately start smoking. It gives you a kind of relief; you become occupied. Your mind is distracted from the emotional problem. Whenever people feel tense they start smoking. The problem is tension, the problem is emotional disturbance – the problem is somewhere else; smoking is just an occupation. So you become engaged in taking the smoke in and out and you forget for the time being…because mind cannot think of two things together, remember it. One of the fundamentals of mind is: it can think only of one thing at one time; it is one-dimensional. So if you are smoking and thinking of smoking, then from all other anxieties you are distracted.

That’s the whole secret of the so-called spiritual mantras: they are nothing but distractions, like smoking. You repeat “Om, Om, Om,” or “Ram, Ram, Ram,” or “Allah, Allah, Allah” – that is just giving mind an occupation. And all these people who teach mantras say, “Repeat it as quickly as possible, so that between two repetitions there is not even a small gap. Let them overlap – so ‘Ram Ram Ram’ – don’t leave a gap between two Rams, otherwise some thought may enter. Repeat it like crazy!”

Yes, it will give you a certain relief – the same relief that comes from smoking, because your mind will be distracted from the anxieties and the world. You will forget about the world; you have created a trick. All mantras are tricks, but they are spiritual. Chain-smoking is also a mantra. It is a worldly mantra; non-religious you can call it, secular.

The real problem is the habit.

You say: “I have tried hard to drop it….”

You have not tried to be conscious of it; without trying to be conscious you have tried to drop it. It is not possible. It will come back, because your mind is the same; its needs are the same, its problems are the same, its anxieties, tensions are the same, its anguish is the same. And when those anxieties arise, what will you do? Immediately, mechanically, you will start searching for the cigarettes.

You may have decided again and again, and again and again you have failed – not because smoking is such a great phenomenon that you cannot get out of it, but because you are trying from the wrong end. Rather than becoming aware of the whole situation – why you smoke in the first place – rather than becoming aware of the process of smoking, you are simply trying to drop it. It is like pruning the leaves of a tree without cutting the roots. And my whole concern here is to cut the roots, not to prune the tree.

By pruning the leaves and the branches the tree will become thicker, the foliage will become thicker. You will not destroy the tree; you will be helping it, in fact. If you really want to get out of it you will have to look deeper, not into the symptoms but the roots. Where are the roots?

You must be a deeply anxiety-ridden person, otherwise chain-smoking is not possible; chain-smoking is a by-product. You must be so concerned about a thousand and one disturbances inside, you must be carrying such a big load of worries on your heart, on your chest, that you don’t even know how to forget them. You don’t know how to drop them; smoking at least helps you to forget about them.

You say: “I have tried hard….”

Now one thing has to be understood. The hypnotists have discovered a fundamental law; they call it the Law of Reverse Effect. If you try hard to do something without understanding the fundamentals, just the opposite will be the result.

It is like when you are learning how to ride on a bicycle. You are on a silent road, no traffic, early in the morning, and you see a red milestone just standing there by the side of the road like Hanuman. A sixty-foot-wide road and just a small milestone, and you become afraid: you may get to the milestone, you may hit the milestone. Now you forget about the sixty-foot-wide road. In fact, even if you go blindfolded there is not much chance of your encountering the milestone, crashing into the milestone, but with open eyes now the whole road is forgotten; you have become focused. In the first place, that redness is very focusing. And you are so afraid, you want to avoid it. You have forgotten that you are on a bicycle; you have forgotten everything. Now the only problem for you is how to avoid this stone; otherwise you may harm yourself, you may crash into it.

Now the crash is absolutely inevitable; you are bound to crash with the stone. And then you will be surprised: “1 tried hard.” In fact it is because you tried hard that you reached the stone. And the closer you come, the harder you try to avoid it; but the harder you try to avoid it, the more focused you become on it. It becomes a hypnotic force, it hypnotizes you. It becomes like a magnet.

It is a very fundamental law in life. Many people try avoiding many things and they fall into the same things. Try to avoid anything with great effort and you are bound to fall into the same pit. You cannot avoid it; that is not the way to avoid it.

Be relaxed. Don’t try hard, because it is through relaxation that you can become aware, not by trying hard. Be calm, quiet, silent.

I will suggest: smoke as much as you want to smoke. It is not a sin in the first place. I give you the guarantee – I will be responsible. I take the sin on myself, so if you meet God on Judgment Day you can just tell him that this fellow is responsible. And I will stand there as a witness for you that you are not responsible. So don’t be worried about its being a sin. Relax and don’t try to drop it with effort. No, that is not going to help.

Zen believes in effortless understanding. So this is my suggestion: smoke as much as you want to smoke – just smoke meditatively. If Zen people can drink tea meditatively, why can’t you smoke meditatively? In fact, tea contains the same stimulant as the cigarettes contain; it is the same stimulant, there is not much difference. Smoke meditatively, very religiously. Make it a ceremony. Try it my way.

Make a small corner in your house just for smoking: a small temple devoted, dedicated to the god of smoking. First bow down to your cigarette packet. Have a little chit-chat, talk to the cigarettes. Inquire, “How are you?” And then very slowly take a cigarette out – very slowly, as slowly as you can, because only if you take it very slowly will you be aware. Don’t do it in a mechanical way, as you always do. Then tap the cigarette on the packet very slowly and for as long as you want. There is no hurry either. Then take the lighter, bow down to the lighter. These are great gods, deities! Light is God, so why not the lighter?

Then start smoking very slowly, just like Vipassana. Don’t do it like a pranayama – quick and fast and deep – but very slowly. Buddha says: Breathe naturally. So you smoke naturally: very slow, no hurry. If it is a sin you are in a hurry. If it is a sin you want to finish it as soon as possible. If it is a sin you don’t want to look at it. You go on reading the newspaper and you go on smoking. Who wants to look at a sin? But it is not a sin, so watch it – watch each of your acts.

Divide your acts into small fragments so you can move very slowly. And you will be surprised: by watching your smoking, slowly slowly smoking will become less and less. And one day suddenly…it is gone. You have not made any effort to drop it; it has dropped of its own accord, because by becoming aware of a dead pattern, a routine, a mechanical habit, you have created, you have released, a new energy of consciousness in you. Only that energy can help you; nothing else will ever help.

It is not only so with smoking, it is so with everything else in life: don’t try too hard to change yourself. That leaves scars. Even if you change, your change will remain superficial. And you will find a substitute somewhere; you will have to find a substitute, otherwise you will feel empty.

When something withers away of its own accord because you have become so silently aware of the stupidity of it that no effort is needed, when it simply falls, just like a dead leaf falling from a tree, it leaves no scar behind and it leaves no ego behind.

If you drop something by effort, it creates great ego. You start thinking, “Now I am a very virtuous man because I don’t smoke.” If you think that smoking is a sin, naturally, obviously, if you drop it you will think you are a very virtuous man.

That’s how your virtuous men are. Somebody does not smoke, somebody does not drink, somebody eats only once a day, somebody does not eat in the night, somebody has even stopped drinking water in the night…and they are all great saints! These are saintly qualities, great virtues! We have made religion so silly. It has lost all glory. It has become as stupid as people are. But the whole thing depends on your attitude: if you think something is a sin, then your virtue will be just the opposite of it.

I emphasize: not-smoking is not virtue, smoking is not sin; awareness is virtue, unawareness is sin. And then the same law is applicable to your whole life.


“Smoking is a strategy to repress something. If you don’t smoke that something starts becoming restless: through smoking you can repress it again. That’s why people smoke more when they are restless. When they feel more nervous, when they feel that something is arising, they will immediately start drugging themselves.

That drugging helps to stop something, but stopped, it is there and goes on accumulating.

Do one thing: don’t stop smoking right now — because that will not help and you will again smoke.

Do one thing: breathing. Whenever you have an urge to smoke, make it a point that first you have to breathe deeply for five minutes. Start by exhaling: exhale deeply. Inhale deeply, exhale deeply, but the emphasis should be on exhalation more than on inhalation. Mm? the whole air has to be thrown out. Just squeeze the whole system so all the air is out. Do this for five minutes before each cigarette….

You have to pay the price for each cigarette, mm? — that is five minutes of deep breathing. If after that five minutes the desire, the urge disappears, there is no need to smoke; if the urge remains, you can smoke.

And this will help — this will help in many ways…Firstly, out of one hundred times, seventy-five times the desire will disappear. Good breathing will give you such a good feeling that you will not feel like smoking. You will feel so happy and so full of vitality, you will not feel like smoking.

In fact breathing does just the opposite, because through breathing you take in more oxygen. The system functions on a higher plane, on a higher altitude with more oxygen, and you feel more vital. The blood circulates better, the blood is purified better. The whole system functions at the maximum. With smoking you go on dumping carbon dioxide inside the system: the system falls to the minimum. It is just the opposite.

And once you are enjoying five minutes breathing you will not feel the urge. That urge always comes when you are not enjoying life; if you are enjoying something you can forget cigarettes. If you are looking at a movie and you are really into it, you will not smoke. If you are listening to music and you are really into it you will forget. In anything in which you get involved and in which you are happy you will not smoke. You will smoke only when you are not feeling in tune so you want something to do — smoking.”

— OSHO, The No Book (No Buddha, No Teaching, No Discipline), Chapter #27 – Darshan 27 August 1977 pm in Chuang Tzu Auditorium

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