Lao Tzu: The Logic of Paradox

Osho on Enlightened Master Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu was an enlightened Mystic, who was the founder of Taoism, a Mystical religious way of inner search in ancient China. He is largely respected as a religious deity in various traditional Chinese religious schools of thought. He wrote TAO TE CHING, a book on Tao, in the very beginning he has clearly stated that the truth cannot be said and whatever I am saying is not truth.

Osho explains Tao and says Tao simply means the ultimate principle that binds the whole existence together. The existence is not a chaos that much is certain; it is a cosmos. There is immense order in it, intrinsic order in it, and the name of that order is Tao. Tao simply means the harmony of the whole. No temples have been built for Tao; no statues, no prayers, no priests, no rituals — that’s the beauty of it. Hence I don’t call it a doctrine, nor do I call it a religion, it is a pure insight. You can call it Dharma; that is Buddha’s word for Tao. The word in English that comes closer or closest to Tao is “Nature” with a capital N.

Osho has spoken on Lao Tzu very lovingly and immensely in many of his discourses such as ‘Tao: The Three Treasures’, ‘Tao: The Pathless Path’ but particularly in discourse series ‘Tao: The Golden Gate’.

Osho explains his similarities with Lao Tzu and says I speak on Lao Tzu totally differently. I am not related to him because even to be related a distance is needed. I don’t love him, because how can you love yourself? When I speak on Lao Tzu I speak as if I am speaking on my own self. With him my being is totally one. When I speak on Lao Tzu it is as if I am looking in a mirror — my own face is reflected. When I speak on Lao Tzu, I am absolutely with him. Even to say “absolutely with him” is not true — I am him, he is me.

Few lines from TAO TE CHING:

Tao (The Way) can be infused into the nature and put to use without being exhausted. It is so deep and subtle like an abyss that is the origin of all things. It is complete and perfect as a wholeness that can Round off sharp edges; Resolve confusion; Harmonize with the glory; Act in unity with the lowliness. Tao is so profound and yet in invisible, It exists in everywhere and anywhere. I don not know whose Son It is, It existed before heaven and earth.

I speak on Buddha — I love him. Down through the centuries, through many lives, I have loved him. He is tremendously beautiful, extraordinarily beautiful, superb. But he is not on the earth, he does not walk on the earth. He flies in the sky and leaves no footprints. You cannot follow him, you never know his whereabouts. He is like a cloud. Sometimes you meet him but that is accidental. And he is so refined that he cannot take roots on this earth. He is meant for some higher heaven. In that way he is one-sided. Earth and heaven don’t meet in him; he is heavenly but the earthly part is missing; he is like a flame, beautiful, but there is no oil, no container — you can see the flame but it is going higher and higher, nothing holds it on the earth. I love him, I speak on him from my heart, but still, a distance remains. It always remains in the phenomenon of love — you come closer and closer and closer, but even in closeness there is a distance. That is the misery of all lovers.

I speak on Lao Tzu totally differently. I am not related to him because even to be related a distance is needed. I don’t love him, because how can you love yourself? When I speak on Lao Tzu I speak as if I am speaking on my own self. With him my being is totally one. When I speak on Lao Tzu it is as if I am looking in a mirror — my own face is reflected. When I speak on Lao Tzu, I am absolutely with him. Even to say “absolutely with him” is not true — I am him, he is me. Historians are doubtful about his existence. I cannot doubt his existence because how can I doubt my own existence? The moment I became possible, he became true to me. Even if history proves that he never existed it makes no difference to me; he must have existed because I exist — I am the proof. During the following days, when I speak on Lao Tzu, it is not that I speak on somebody else. I speak on myself — as if Lao Tzu is speaking through a different name, a different NAMA-RUPA, a different incarnation.

Lao Tzu is not like Mahavir, not mathematical at all, yet he is very, very logical in his madness. He has a mad logic! When we penetrate into his sayings you will come to feel it; it is not so obvious and apparent. He has a logic of his own: the logic of absurdity, the logic of paradox, the logic of a madman. He hits hard. Mahavir’s logic can be understood even by blind men. To understand Lao Tzu’s logic you will have to create eyes. It is very subtle, it is not the ordinary logic of the logicians — it is the logic of a hidden life, a very subtle life. Whatsoever he says is on the surface absurd; deep down there lives a very great consistency. One has to penetrate it; one has to change his own mind to understand Lao Tzu. Mahavir you can understand without changing your mind at all; as you are, you can understand Mahavir. He is on the same line. Howsoever much ahead of you he may have reached the goal, he is on the same line, the same track. When you try to understand Lao Tzu he zigzags. Sometimes you see him going towards the east and sometimes towards the west, because he says east is west and west is east, they are together, they are one. He believes in the unity of the opposites.

And that is how life is. So Lao Tzu is just a spokesman of life. If life is absurd, Lao Tzu is absurd; if life has an absurd logic to it, Lao Tzu has the same logic to it. Lao Tzu simply reflects life. He doesn’t add anything to it, he doesn’t choose out of it; he simply accepts whatsoever it is. It is simple to see the spirituality of a Buddha, very simple; it is impossible to miss it, he is so extraordinary. But it is difficult to see the spirituality of Lao Tzu. He is so ordinary, just like you. You will have to grow in understanding. A Buddha passes by you — you will immediately recognize that a superior human being has passed you. He carries the glamor of a superior human being around him. It is difficult to miss him, almost impossible to miss him. But Lao Tzu… he may be your neighbor. You may have been missing him because he is so ordinary, he is so extraordinarily ordinary. And that is the beauty of it. To become extraordinary is simple: only effort is needed, refinement is needed, cultivation is needed. It is a deep inner discipline. You can become very very refined, something absolutely unearthly, but to be ordinary is really the most extraordinary thing. No effort will help — effortlessness is needed. No practice will help, no methods, no means will be of any help only understanding. Even meditation will not be of any help. To become a Buddha, meditation will be of help. To become a Lao Tzu, even meditation won’t help — just understanding. Just understanding life as it is, and living it with courage; not escaping from it, not hiding from it, facing it with courage, whatsoever it is, good or bad, divine or evil, heaven or hell.

It is very difficult to be a Lao Tzu or to recognize a Lao Tzu. In fact, if you can recognize a Lao Tzu, you are already a Lao Tzu. To recognize a Buddha you need not be a Buddha, but to recognize Lao Tzu you need to be a Lao Tzu — otherwise it is impossible. It is said that Confucius went to see Lao Tzu. Lao Tzu was an old man, Confucius was younger. Lao Tzu was almost unknown, Confucius was almost universally known. Kings and emperors used to call him to their courts; wise men used to come for his advice. He was the wisest man in China in those days. But by and by he must have felt that his wisdom might be of use to others, but he was not blissful, he had not attained to anything. He had become an expert, maybe helpful to others, but not helpful to himself. So he started a secret search to find someone who could help him. Ordinary wise men wouldn’t do, because they used to come for his own advice. Great scholars wouldn’t do; they used to come to ask him about their problems. But there must be someone somewhere — life is vast. He tried a secret search.

He sent his disciples to find someone who could be of help to him, and they came with the information that there lived a man — nobody knew his name — he was known as the old guy. Lao Tzu means “the old guy.” The word is not his name, nobody knows his name. He was such an unknown man that nobody knows when he was born, nobody knows to whom — who his father was or who his mother was. He had lived for ninety years but only very rare human beings had come across him, very rare, who had different eyes and perspectives with which to understand him. He was only for the rarest — so ordinary a man, but only for the rarest of human minds. Hearing the news that a man known as The Old Guy existed, Confucius went to see him. When he met Lao Tzu he could feel that here was a man of great understanding, great intellectual integrity, great logical acumen, a genius. He could feel that something was there, but he couldn’t catch hold of it. Vaguely, mysteriously, there was something; this man was no ordinary man although he looked absolutely ordinary. Something was hidden; he was carrying a treasure.

Confucius asked, “What do you say about morality? What do you say about how to cultivate good character?” — because he was a moralist and he thought that if you cultivate a good character that is the highest attainment.

Lao Tzu laughed loudly, and said, “If you are immoral, only then the question of morality arises. And if you don’t have any character, only then you think about character. A man of character is absolutely oblivious of the fact that anything like character exists. A man of morality does not know what the word `moral’ means. So don’t be foolish! And don’t try to cultivate. Just be natural.”

And the man had such tremendous energy that Confucius started trembling. He couldn’t stand him. He escaped. He became afraid — as one becomes afraid near an abyss. When he came back to his disciples, who were waiting outside under a tree, the disciples could not believe it. This man had been going to emperors, the greatest emperors, and they had never seen any nervousness in him. And he was trembling, and cold perspiration was coming, pouring out from all over his body. They couldn’t believe it — what had happened? What had this man Lao Tzu done to their teacher? They asked him and he said, “Wait a little. Let me collect myself. This man is dangerous.”

And about Lao Tzu he said to his disciples: “I have heard about great animals like elephants, and I know how they walk. And I have heard about hidden animals in the sea, and I know how they swim. And I have heard about great birds who fly thousands of miles away from the earth, and I know how they fly. But this man is a dragon. Nobody knows how he walks. Nobody knows how he lives. Nobody knows how he flies. Never go near him — he is like an abyss. He is like a death.”

And that is the definition of a Master: a Master is like death. If you come near him, too close, you will feel afraid, a trembling will take over. You will be possessed by an unknown fear, as if you are going to die. It is said that Confucius never came again to see this old man. Lao Tzu was ordinary in a way. And in another way he was the most extraordinary man. He was not extraordinary like Buddha; he was extraordinary in a totally different way. His extraordinariness was not so obvious — it was a hidden treasure. He was not miraculous like Krishna, he did not do any miracles, but his whole being was a miracle — the way he walked, the way he looked, the way he was. His whole being was a miracle…His sadness has a laughter to it and his laughter has a sadness to it. He is a meeting of the opposites. He is a harmony, a symphony. Remember this… I am not commenting on him. There exists no distance between me and him. He is talking to you through me — a different body, a different name, a different incarnation, but the same spirit.

Now we will take the sutra:


LET ME FIRST tell you the story of how these sutras came to be written, because that will help you to understand them. For ninety years Lao Tzu lived — in fact he did nothing except live. He lived totally. Many times his disciples asked him to write, but he would always say: The Tao that can be told is not the real Tao, the truth that can be told becomes untrue immediately. So he would not say anything; he would not write anything. Then what were the disciples doing with him? They were only being with him. That’s what satsang is — being with him. They lived with him, they moved with him, they simply imbibed his being. Being near him they tried to be open to him; being near him they tried not to think about anything; being near him they became more and more silent. In that silence he would reach them, he would come to them and he would knock at their doors. For ninety years he refused to write anything or to say anything. This was his basic attitude: that truth cannot be taught. The moment you say something about truth, it is no more true: the very saying falsifies it. You cannot teach it. At the most you can indicate it, and that indication should be your very being, your whole life; it cannot be indicated by words. He was against words; he was against language…

Lao Tzu lived in silence. He always avoided talking about the truth that he had attained and he always rejected the idea that he should write it down for the generations to come.

At the age of ninety he took leave of his disciples. He said goodbye to them, and he said, “Now I am moving towards the hills, towards the Himalayas. I am going there to get ready to die. It is good to live with people, it is good to be in the world while you are living, but when one is getting nearer to death it is good to move into total aloneness, so that you move towards the original source in your absolute purity and loneliness, uncontaminated by the world.”

The disciples felt very, very sad, but what could they do? They followed him for a few hundred miles, but by and by Lao Tzu persuaded them to go back. Then alone he was crossing the border, and the guard on the border imprisoned him. The guard was also a disciple. And the guard said: “Unless you write a book, I am not going to allow you to move beyond the border. This much you must do for humanity. Write a book. That is the debt you have to pay, otherwise I won’t allow you to cross.” So for three days Lao Tzu was imprisoned by his own disciple.

It is beautiful. It is very loving. He was forced — and that’s how this small book, the book of Lao Tzu, TAO TE CHING, was born. He had to write it, because the disciple wouldn’t allow him to cross. And he was the guard and he had the authority, he could create trouble, so Lao Tzu had to write the book. In three days he finished it.

This is the first sentence of the book:


THIS IS THE FIRST THING he has to say: that whatsoever can be said cannot be true. This is the introduction for the book. It simply makes you alert: now words will be following, don’t become a victim of the words. Remember the wordless. Remember that which cannot be communicated through language, through words. The Tao can be communicated, but it can only be communicated from being to being. It can be communicated when you are with the Master, just with the Master, doing nothing, not even practicing anything. Just being with the Master it can be communicated.


Listen to complete discourse at mentioned below link.

Discourse Series: Tao: The Three Treasures, Vol 1 Chapter #1

Chapter title: On The Absolute Tao

11 June 1975 am in Buddha Hall


Osho has spoken on Krishna, Jesus, Buddha, Mahavira, Shiva, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Lieh Tzu, Bodhidharma, Nansen, Joshu, Ma Tzu, Hyakujo, Patanjali, Kabir, Nanak, Saraha, Tilopa 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. The Mustard Seed: My Most Loved Gospel on Jesus
  4. The Path of Love
  5. Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master
  6. When the Shoe Fits
  7. Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen, with Basho’s Haikus
  8. Krishna: The Man and His Philosophy
  9. The White Lotus
  10. Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega, Vol 1
  11. The Tantra Vision, Vol 1
  12. Ma Tzu: The Empty Mirror
  13. Nansen: The Point of Departure
  14. Vigyan Bhairav Tantra, Vol 1
  15. Joshu: The Lion’s Roar
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