Chuang Tzu: An Empty Boat
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 says Persons 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:
“I SHALL HAVE HEAVEN AND EARTH FOR MY COFFIN;
THE SUN AND MOON WILL BE JADE SYMBOLS
HANGING BY MY SIDE;
PLANETS AND CONSTELLATIONS
WILL SHINE AS JEWELS ALL AROUND ME,
AND ALL BEINGS WILL BE PRESENT
AS MOURNERS AT THE WAKE.
WHAT MORE IS NEEDED?
EVERYTHING IS AMPLY TAKEN CARE OF.”
SUCH IS THE PERFECT MAN —
HIS BOAT IS EMPTY.
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.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
The Empty Boat
Chapter title: The Toast Is Burned
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:
- Vigyan Bhairav Tantra
- The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha
- Tao: The Three Treasures
- Zarathustra: The Laughing Prophet
- The Mustard Seed: My Most Loved Gospel on Jesus
- The Path of Love
- Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master
- When the Shoe Fits
- Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen, with Basho’s Haikus
- Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega
- Sermons in Stones
- The Book of Wisdom
- The Divine Melody