Picasso is asked what he is painting – Story

“The best in art, the best in music, the best in literature, the best in philosophy, the best in religion – all are mysteries,”


It is said that once Picasso was painting on the seashore. For two hours a man was watching him paint – two hours is a long time to watch somebody paint. Finally he ran out of patience; he asked Picasso, “I did not mean to disturb you – for two hours I have been waiting for the moment when you will put the brush down for a moment, and I can ask just one question: ‘What is it that you are painting?’ In two hours I have not been able to figure it out.”

Picasso said, “This is strange! Nobody asks nature, ‘Why did you make these mountains, why did you make this ocean? What does it mean? Why do you go on making so many birds, so many flowers, so many people? What it is all about?’ And I am a poor painter – just on a small canvas I am doing my own thing, and the whole world is on my head asking, ‘What does it mean?’ Why should it mean anything?”

The man said, “I did not want to offend you.”

Picasso said, “I don’t feel offended, I simply feel that people think everything has a meaning, everything has to be known. I don’t know what it is, but I loved painting it. I still don’t know what it is, but I am immensely happy that I have painted it. It was within me for days; all these colors that I have spread on the canvas have been in me. I don’t know why, but I don’t want to know either.”

And that is a significant point to understand: why should we be concerned about knowing each other?

When I was in the university they used to have ‘Getting-to-know-you’ meetings once or twice a year. I never went there. The vice-chancellor said to me, “You never come to the ‘Getting-to-know-you’ meetings.” I said, “Because one thing is certain for me, that nothing can be known. So all that nonsense that you call ‘Getting-to-know-you’ is just a waste of time. I go into the hills, I go to the river – which is far better. What is this need to know each other? What are you going to know?”

In this sense I respect the poets, the painters, the musicians, the dancers. You cannot ask a dancer, “What does it mean?” You can enjoy it, you can love it, you may start dancing with him, but you cannot ask, “What does it mean?”

It remains a mystery, and the best in art, the best in music, the best in literature, the best in philosophy, the best in religion – all are mysteries.

And I want to bring to my sannyasins all of life’s mysteries.

Osho, Light on the Path – Talks given to the Rajneesh Mystery School in the Himalayan foothills of Kulu-Manali, India, and Kathmandu, Nepal, Ch 4, Q 3 (excerpt)

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