Chuang Tzu: An Empty Boat

Osho on Enlightened Master Chuang Tzu

Chuang Tzu was a Taoist master also known as Zhuangzi, was a disciple of Lao Tzu. He was an admirable writer and skilful composer, and by his instances and truthful descriptions hit and exposed the Mohists and Literati. The ablest scholars of his day could not escape his satire nor reply to it, while he allowed and enjoyed himself with his sparkling, dashing style; and thus he was the greatest men, even kings and princes, could not use him for their purposes.

King Wei of Chu, heard of the ability of Chuang Tzu, sent messengers with large gifts to bring him to his court, and promising also that he would make him his chief minister. Chuang-Tzu, however, only laughed and refused to be in restrictions of great palace.

Zhuangzi had written a book named after his own name the Zhuangzi. It is one of the two foundational texts of Taoism, along with the Tao Te Ching. The Zhuangzi consists of a large collection of anecdotes, allegories, parables and fables.

Osho has spoken on Chuang Tzu beautifully in his discourse series the empty boat.  He saysPersons like Chuang Tzu are concerned with being, not becoming. They are not concerned with doing, they are not concerned with the future. No planning is needed. Existence takes care of itself.

Chuang tzu said before his death to his disciples:










Sanity means coming to that which is natural, coming to that which is ultimate in you, coming to that which is hidden behind you. Much effort is needed because to cut form, to drop, eliminate form, is very difficult. You have become so attached and identified with it. This Samadhi Sadhana Shibir, this meditation camp, is nothing but to persuade you towards the formless — how not to be in the form. Every form means the ego: even a rooster has its ego, and man has his own. Every form is centered in the ego. The formless means egolessness; then you are not centered in the ego, then your center is everywhere or nowhere. This is possible, this which looks almost impossible is possible, because this has happened to me. And when I speak, I speak through experience. Wherever you are, I was, and wherever I am, you can be. Look at me as deeply as possible and feel me as deeply as possible, because I am your future, I am your possibility…

You have come to me as somebody, and if you allow me, if you give me the opportunity, this somebodiness can disappear and you can become a nobody. This is the whole effort — to make you a nobody. But why? Why this effort to become a nobody? Because unless you become nobody you cannot be blissful; unless you become nobody you cannot be ecstatic; unless you become nobody the benediction is not for you — you go on missing life. Really you are not alive, you simply drag, you simply carry yourself like a burden. Much anguish happens, much despair, much sorrow, but not a single ray of bliss — it cannot. If you are somebody, you are like a solid block of stone, nothing can penetrate you. When you are nobody you start to become porous. When you are nobody, really you are an emptiness, transparent, everything can pass through you. There is no hindrance, there is no barrier, no resistance. You become a passivity, a door. Right now you are like a wall; a wall means somebody. When you become a door you become nobody. A door is just an emptiness, anybody can pass, there is no resistance, no barrier. Somebody…you are mad; nobody…you will become sane for the first time.

But the whole society, education, civilization, culture, all cultivate you and help you to become somebodies. That is why I say: religion is against civilization, religion is against education, religion is against culture — because religion is for nature, for Tao. All civilizations are against nature, because they want to make you somebody in particular. And the more you are crystallized as somebody, the less and less the divine can penetrate into you. You go to the temples, to the churches, to the priests, but there too you are searching for a way to become somebody in the other world, for a way to attain something, for a way to succeed. The achieving mind follows you like a shadow. Wherever you go, you go with the idea of profit, achievement, success, attainment. If somebody has come here with this idea he should leave as soon as possible, run as fast as possible from me, because I cannot help you to become somebody. I am not your enemy. I can only help you to be nobody. I can only push you into the abyss…bottomless. You will never reach anywhere; you will simply dissolve. You will fall and fall and fall and dissolve, and the moment you dissolve the whole existence feels ecstatic. The whole existence celebrates this happening.

Buddha attained this. Because of language I say attained; otherwise the word is ugly, there is no attainment — but you will understand. Buddha attained this emptiness, this nothingness. For two weeks, for fourteen days continuously, he sat in silence, not moving, not saying, not doing anything. It is said that the deities in heaven became disturbed — rarely it happens that someone becomes such total emptiness. The whole of existence felt a celebration, so deities came. They bowed down before Buddha and they said, “You must say something, you must say what you have attained. Buddha is reported to have laughed and said, “I have not attained anything; rather, because of this mind, which always wants to attain something, I was missing everything. I have not achieved anything, this is not an achievement; rather, on the contrary, the achiever has disappeared. I am no more, and, see the beauty of it — when I was, I was miserable, and when I am no more, everything is blissful, the bliss is showering and showering continuously on me, everywhere. Now there is no misery.” Buddha had said before: Life is misery, birth is misery, death is misery — everything is miserable. It was miserable because the ego was there. The boat had not been empty. Now the boat was empty; now there was no misery, no sorrow, no sadness. Existence had become a celebration and it would remain a celebration to eternity, for ever and forever.

That’s why I say that it is dangerous that you have come to me.You have taken a risky step. If you are courageous, then be ready for the jump. The whole effort is how to kill you, the whole effort is how to destroy you. Once you are destroyed, the indestructible will come up — it is there, hidden. Once all that which is nonessential is eliminated, the essential will be like a flame — aliveness, total glory.

This parable of Chuang Tzu is beautiful. He says that a wise man is like an empty boat.



There is nobody inside.

If you meet a Chuang Tzu, or a Lao Tzu, or me, the boat is there, but it is empty, nobody is in it. If you simply look at the surface, then somebody is there, because the boat is there. But if you penetrate deeper, if you really become intimate with me, if you forget the body, the boat, then you come to encounter a nothingness. Chuang Tzu is a rare flowering, because to become nobody is the most difficult, almost impossible, most extraordinary thing in the world. The ordinary mind hankers to be extraordinary, that is part of ordinariness; the ordinary mind desires to be somebody in particular, that is part of ordinariness. You may become an Alexander, but you remain ordinary — then who is the extraordinary one? The extraordinariness starts only when you don’t hanker after extraordinariness. Then the journey has started, then a new seed has sprouted.

This is what Chuang Tzu means when he says: A perfect man is like an empty boat. Many things are implied in it. First, an empty boat is not going anywhere because there is nobody to direct it, nobody to manipulate it, nobody to drive it somewhere. An empty boat is just there, it is not going anywhere. Even if it is moving it is not going anywhere. When the mind is not there life will remain a movement, but it will not be directed. You will move, you will change, you will be a riverlike flow, but not going anywhere, with no goal in view. A perfect man lives without any purpose; a perfect man moves but without any motive.

If you ask a perfect man, “What are you doing?” he will say, “I don’t know, but this is what is happening.” If you ask me why I am talking to you, I will say, “Ask the flower why the flower is flowering.” This is happening, this is not manipulated. There is no one to manipulate it, the boat is empty. When there is purpose you will always be in misery. Why? Once a man asked a miser, a great miser, “How did you succeed in accumulating so much wealth?” The miser said, “This is my motto: whatsoever is to be done tomorrow should be done today, and whatsoever is to be enjoyed today should be enjoyed tomorrow. This has been my motto.” He succeeded in accumulating wealth — and this is how people succeed in accumulating nonsense also!

That miser was also miserable. On one hand he had succeeded in accumulating wealth, on the other hand he had succeeded in accumulating misery. And the motto is the same for accumulating money as it is for accumulating misery: whatsoever is to be done tomorrow do it today, right now, don’t postpone it. And whatsoever can be enjoyed right now, never enjoy it right now, postpone it for tomorrow. This is the way to enter hell. It always succeeds, it has never been a failure. Try it and you will succeed — or, you may have already succeeded. You may have been trying it without knowing. Postpone all that which can be enjoyed, just think of the tomorrow…

Mind can live in the future, but cannot live in the present. In the present you can simply hope and desire. And that’s how you create misery. If you start living this very moment, here and now, misery disappears. But how is it related to the ego? Ego is the past accumulated. Whatsoever you have known, experienced, read, whatsoever has happened to you in the past, the whole is accumulated there. That whole past is the ego, it is you. The past can project into the future — the future is nothing but the past extended — but the past cannot face the present. The present is totally different, it has a quality of being here and now. The past is always dead, the present is life, the very source of all aliveness. The past cannot face the present so it moves into the future — but both are dead, both are nonexistential. The present is life; the future cannot encounter the present, nor can the past encounter the present. And your ego, your somebodiness, is your past. Unless you are empty you cannot be here, and unless you are here you cannot be alive. How can you know the bliss of life? Every moment it is showering on you and you are bypassing it. Says Chuang Tzu.



Empty of what? Empty of the I, empty of the ego, empty of somebody there inside.


Listen to complete discourse at mentioned below link.

Discourse name: The Empty Boat Chapter title: The Toast Is Burned Chapter #1

10 July 1974 am in Buddha Hall


Osho has spoken on Krishna, Jesus, Buddha, Shiva, Lao Tzu and many other enlightened Masters’ in many of His discourses. More on them can be referred to in the following books/discourse titles:

  1. Vigyan Bhairav Tantra
  2. The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha
  3. Tao: The Three Treasures
  4. Zarathustra: The Laughing Prophet
  5. The Mustard Seed: My Most Loved Gospel on Jesus
  6. The Path of Love
  7. Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master
  8. When the Shoe Fits
  9. Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen, with Basho’s Haikus
  10. Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega
  11. Sermons in Stones
  12. The Book of Wisdom
  13. The Divine Melody
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