Lieh Tzu: Expressing the Inexpressible

Osho on Enlightened Taoist Master Lieh Tzu

Lieh Tzu was the disciple of Chuang Tzu, who himself became an enlightended master in His own authority. But many people say that he was the allegorical character fabricated by Chuang Tzu to explain his teachings. One statement that is very popular in Taoism regarding Lieh Tzu is “a philosopher who never lived”.

Osho says Lieh Tzu was one of the masters of the school of Lao Tzu, one of the enlightened disciples of Lao Tzu. And Lieh Tzu was not an ordinary master, not concerned with your small problems, your actions, not concerned with small teachings. Lieh Tzu was concerned only with the ultimate.

Usually people come for small problems only, but Enlightened master is not for your daily life self created problems, mostly to attract or gain sympathy, love, fame, power whatever. This man has reached somewhere which is truly ultimate and you can feel that in his gesture with little sensitivity, he wants to convey that, nothing astonishing if he doesn’t listen to small problem.

Osho also talks about, “THE BOOK OF LIEH TZU. Lao Tzu I mentioned, Chuang Tzu I mentioned; Lieh Tzu I forgot, and he is the very culmination of both Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu. Lieh Tzu is the third generation. Lao Tzu was the master, Chuang Tzu was the disciple. Lieh Tzu was the disciple of a disciple, perhaps that is why I forgot him. But his book is immensely beautiful and has to be included in the list.”


I REJOICE in Lieh Tzu — he is one of the most perfect expressions for the inexpressible.

Truth cannot be expressed: that inexpressibility is intrinsic to truth. Thousands and thousands of people have tried to express it — very few have succeeded even in giving a reflection of it. Lieh Tzu is one of those very few; he is rare.

Before we start entering into his world, a few things have to be under stood about him… his approach. His approach is that of an artist: the poet, the story-teller — and he is a master story-teller. Whenever somebody has experienced life, his experience has flowered into parables: that seems to be the easiest way to hint at that which cannot be said. A parable is a device, a great device; it is not just an ordinary story. The purpose of it is not to entertain you, the purpose of it is to say something which there is no other way to say. Life cannot be put into a theory — it is so vast, it is so infinite. A theory by its very nature is closed. A theory has to be closed if it is a theory it cannot be open-ended, otherwise it will be meaningless. A parable is open-ended: it says and yet it leaves much to be said, it only hints. And that which cannot be said can be shown. It is a finger pointing to the moon. Don’t cling to the finger — that is irrelevant — look at the moon. These parables in themselves are beautiful, but that is not their purpose… they go beyond, they are transcendental. If you dissect the parable itself you will not come to much understanding…If you just dissect the parable it becomes an ordinary story. If you don’t dissect it but just drink the meaning of it, the poetry of it, the music of it — forget the story and just carry the significance of it — soon you will see that it indicates towards a future, towards something which can be but is not yet. It is transcendental.

In the West, except for Jesus’ parables, nothing like Lieh Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Buddha… nothing like these people’s parables exist only Jesus. And even Jesus’ parables seem to be such that he must have carried them from the East. There are Aesop’s parables, but they are also reflections of the greatest book of parables of the East, PANCHATANTRA. The parable is an Eastern invention, and of tremendous import. So the first thing to be understood about Lieh Tzu: he is not a theoretician, he will not give you any theory; he will simply give you parables. A theory can be dissected — its meaning is in it, it has no transcendence, the meaning is imminent. A parable cannot be dissected; dissect, and it will die. The meaning is transcendental it is not in it, it is somewhere else — it HAS to be. You have to live a parable, then you will come to its meaning. It has to become your heart, your breathing; it has to become your inner rhythm. So these parables are tremendously artistic but not mere art: great religion is contained in them. Lieh Tzu is not a theologian either; he does not talk about God. He TALKS GOD, but he does not talk about God. Whatsoever he says comes from the source, but he does not TALK ABOUT the source let it be very clear to you. There are two types of people: one who talks about God, he is the theologian; one who talks God, he is the mystic. Lieh Tzu is a mystic. The man who talks about God has not known God otherwise why should he ‘talk about’? The ‘about’ shows his ignorance. When a man talks God he has experienced. Then God is not a theory to be proved, disproved no; then God is his very life: to be lived.

To understand a man like Lieh Tzu you will have to live an authentic life. Only then, through your own experience, will you be able to feel what he means by his parables.

It is not that you can learn the theories and become informed; the information will not help. Unless you know, nothing is going to help.

So if these parables create a thirst in you to know, a great desire to know, a great hunger to know; if these parables lead you on an unknown journey, on a pilgrimage — then only, only by treading the path, will you become acquainted with the path. Lieh Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Lao Tzu, the three Taoist Masters, only talk about the Way ‘Tao’ means the Way — they don’t talk about the goal at all.

They say: The goal will take care of itself; you need not worry about the goal. If you know the Way you know the goal,

because the goal is not at the very end of the Way, the goal is all over the Way — each moment and each step it is there. It is not that when the Way ends you arrive at the goal; each moment, wherever you are, you are at the goal if you are on the Way. To be on the Way is to be at the goal. Hence they don’t talk about the goal, they don’t talk about God, they don’t talk about MOKSHA, NIRVANA, enlightenment — no, not at all. Very simple is their message: You have to find the Way.

Things become a little more complicated because they say: The Way has no map, the Way is not charted, the Way is not such that you can follow somebody and find it. The Way is not like a super-highway; the Way is more like a bird flying in the sky — it leaves no marks behind. The bird has flown but no marks are left; nobody can follow. So the Way is a pathless path. It IS a path, but it is a pathless path. It is not ready-made, available; you cannot just decide to walk on it, you will have to find it. And you will have to find it in your own way; nobody else’s way is going to function. Buddha has walked, Lao Tzu has walked, Jesus has walked, but those ways are not going to help you because you are not Jesus, and you are not Lao Tzu, and you are not Lieh Tzu.

You are you, a unique individual. Only by walking, only by living your life, will you find the Way.

This is something of great value. That’s why Taoism is not an organised religion cannot be. It is an organic religion but not an organised religion. You can be a Taoist if you simply live your life authentically, spontaneously; if you have the courage to go into the unknown on your own, individual, not leaning on anybody, not following anybody, simply going into the dark night not knowing whether you will arrive anywhere or you will be lost. If you have the courage, that risk is there — it is risky, it is adventurous.

Christianity, Hinduism, Mohammedanism are super-highways: you need not risk anything, you simply follow the crowd, you go with the mob.

With Tao you have to go alone, you have to be alone. Tao respects the individual and not the society. Tao respects the unique and not the crowd. Tao respects freedom and not conformity. Tao has no tradition. Tao is a rebellion, and the greatest rebellion possible. That’s why I call Tao ‘the pathless path’.

It IS a path, but not like other paths. It has a very different quality to it the quality of freedom, the quality of anarchy, the quality of chaos. Tao says that if you impose a discipline on yourself, you will be a slave. The discipline has to arise out of your awareness, then you will be a Master. If you impose an order on your life this will be just a pretension: the disorder will remain deep in the very core of your being; the order will be on the surface, at the centre there will be disorder. This is not going to help. The real order arises not from the outside, but from the innermost core of your being. Allow disorder don’t repress it. Face it, take the challenge of disorder — and by taking the challenge of disorder and living it, living dangerously, an order arises in your being. That order is out of chaos, not out of any pattern. This is a totally different gestalt: it is born into you and it is fresh; it is not traditional, it is virgin; it is not second-hand. Tao does not believe in the second-hand religion and in the second-hand God. If you take the God of Jesus you become a Christian, if you take the God of Krishna you become a Hindu, if you take the God of Mohammed you become a Mohammedan. Tao says: But until you find YOUR God you are not on the Way…

Tao is very much against knowledge. Tao says that even if you are ignorant and the ignorance is yours, it is good at least it is yours and it has an innocence to it. But if you are burdened with accumulated knowledge, scripture, tradition, then you are living a false, pseudo life. Then you are not really living, you are just pretending that you are living. You are making impotent gestures, empty gestures. Your life has not the intensity, the passion —  cannot have the passion. That passion arises only when you move on your own, alone, into the vast sky of existence. Why can’t you move alone? Because you don’t trust life. You move with Mohammedans, you move with Hindus, you move with Jews, because you don’t trust life you trust crowds. To move alone one needs great trust in life… the trees, the rivers, the sky, the eternity of it all — one trusts this. You trust man-made conceptions, you trust man-made systems, you trust man-made ideologies. How can man-made ideologies be true? Man has created these ideologies just to hide the fact that he does not know, to hide the fact that he is ignorant. Man is cunning, clever, and he can create rationalisations; but these rationalisations are bogus — you cannot move with them into truth. You will have to drop them.

Tao says that ignorance is not the barrier against truth — knowledge is the barrier.

Let me tell you a few anecdotes. In Samuel Beckett’s great work, WAITING FOR GODOT, happens this small incident. Ponder over it. Two tramps, Vladimir and Estragon, are on stage. They are there to wait — just as everybody else in the world is waiting — nobody knows exactly for what. Everybody is waiting, hoping that something is going to happen: today it has not happened, tomorrow it is going to happen. This is the human mind: today is being wasted, but it hopes that tomorrow something is going to happen. And those two tramps are sitting under a tree and waiting… waiting for Godot. Nobody knows exactly who this Godot is. The word sounds like God, but it only sounds, and in fact the gods you are waiting for are all Godots. You have created them because one has to wait for something, otherwise how will you tolerate existence? For what? How will you postpone living? How will you hope? Life will become intolerable, impossible, if there is nothing to wait for. Somebody is waiting for money, and somebody is waiting for power, and somebody is waiting for enlightenment, and somebody for something else; but everybody is waiting. And people who wait are the people who miss. These two tramps are there just to wait. What they are waiting for is the coming of a man, Godot, who is expected to provide them with shelter and sustenance. Meanwhile, they try to make time pass with small talk, jokes, games, and minor quarrels….

That’s what your life is: one is engaged meanwhile with small things. The great thing is going to happen tomorrow. Godot will come tomorrow. Today one is quarrelling — the wife with the husband, the husband with the wife. Small things, ‘small talk, jokes, games… tedium and emptiness’. Today, that’s what everybody is feeling: tedium, emptiness….’Nothing to be done’ is the refrain that rings again and again…. They say again and again ‘Nothing to be done’, but then they console themselves, ‘but tomorrow he is coming.’ And in fact he has never promised them, they have never met him — it is an invention. One has to invent; out of misery one has to invent the tomorrow and something to cling to. Your gods, your heavens, your paradises, your MOKSHAS, are all inventions. Tao does not talk about them. This play of Samuel Beckett, WAITING FOR GODOT, IS very essentially Taoist…In the midst of the first act, two strangers — Pozzo and Lucky storm onto the stage. Pozzo seems to be a man of affluence; Lucky, the servant, is being driven to a nearby market to be sold. Pozzo tells the tramps about Lucky’s virtues the most remarkable of which is that he can THINK. To show them, Pozzo snaps his whip and commands ‘Think!’ and there follows a long, hysterically incoherent monologue in which fragments of theology, science, sports, and assorted learning jostle in confusion until the three others hurl themselves on him and silence him.

What is your thinking? What are you saying when you say ‘I am thinking’? It is a ‘hysterically incoherent monologue in which fragments of theology, science, sports, and assorted learning jostle in confusion’… until death comes and silences you. What is your whole thinking? What can you think? What is there to think? And through thinking how can one arrive at truth? Thinking cannot deliver truth. Truth is an experience, and the experience happens only when thinking is no longer there…

Lieh Tzu is not thinker. Let that sink deep in you that will help you to understand his parables. Lieh Tzu is a poet, not a thinker; and when I say ‘poet’, I mean one who believes in experiencing, not in speculations. The poet is in search. His search is for the beautiful, but beauty is nothing but truth glimpsed. Truth, when you just glimpse it for a moment, appears as beauty. When truth is realised totally, then you come to know that beauty was only a function of truth. Wherever truth exists, there exists beauty — it is a shadow of truth.

When truth is seen through screens, it is beauty; when beauty is naked, it is truth. So the difference between the poet and the mystic is not much. The poet is coming closer, the mystic has arrived. For the poet, there are only glimpses of truth; for the mystic, truth has become his very life. The poet is only sometimes transported to the world of truth and then falls back again. For the mystic, truth has become his abode: he lives there; he lives AS truth.

Poets come closest to religion. Thinkers, philosophers, logicians, theologians, scientists, are very far away. Their whole approach is verbal. The poetic approach is more existential, and the mystic’s approach is existential par excellence; it is absolutely existential. Tao means to exist on the Way, and to exist in such a way that the Way and you are not two. This existence is one — we are not separate from it. The separation, the idea of separation, is very illusory. We are joined together, we are one whole. We are not islands, we are one continent. You are in me, I am in you. The trees are in you, you are in the trees. It is an interconnected whole. Basho has said: It is as if it were a vast spider’s web. Have you tried? Touch the spider’s web anywhere and the whole web starts shaking, trembling; the whole vibrates. Touch a leaf on the tree and you have made all the stars vibrate with it. You may not be able to see it right now, but things are so deeply related that it is impossible not to touch the stars by touching a leaf, the mall leaf of a tree. The whole is one — separation is not possible. The very idea of separation is the barrier. The idea of separation is what we call the ego. If you are with the ego, you are not on the path, you are not in Tao.

When the ego is dropped, you are in Tao. Tao means an egoless existence, living as part of this infinite whole, not living as a separate entity.

Now, ordinarily we have been taught to live as separate entities, we have been taught to have our own will. People come to me and they ask me ‘How should we develop our will-power?’ Tao is against will, Tao is against will-power, because Tao is for the whole and not for the part. When the part exists in the whole, everything is harmonious. When the part starts existing on its own, everything becomes disharmonious — there is discord, conflict, confusion. When you are not fused with the whole, there is confusion. If the fusion is not happening with the whole, there is bound to be confusion.

Whenever you are not with the whole you are unhappy. Let this be the definition of happiness: To be with the whole is to be happy. To be with the whole is to be healthy. To be with the whole is to be holy. To be separate is to be unhealthy. To be separate is to be neurotic. To be separate is to fall from grace. The fall of man is not because he has disobeyed God. The fall is because he thinks HE IS. The fall is because man thinks that he is a separate entity…

Everything is connected. This connectedness is what is meant by the word ‘Tao’: the connectedness, the interconnectedness, the interdependence of all. Nobody is separate, hence ego is absurd.

Only the whole can say ‘I’; the parts should not say ‘I’. If they have to say, they should say it only as a linguistic formality, but they should not claim the ‘I’. When you exist separately from existence you exist in misery, because you become disconnected; and nobody else is responsible for it — it is you. When you are happy, watch what happens. Whenever you are happy, you don’t have the ego. In those moments of happiness, joy, bliss, suddenly the ego disappears — you are more melting into the whole; boundaries are less clear, boundaries are more blurred. When the boundaries are totally blurred as if the river has disappeared into the ocean when all boundaries are blurred and you are one, throbbing with the whole, there is happiness…

Tao says: When you are nothing you will become all. Dissolve and you will become whole. Claim that you are and you will be miserable. This Tao, this merging with the whole, this disappearing into the cosmos, cannot be taught. You can learn it, but it cannot be taught. So Lieh Tzu and other Taoist Masters don’t preach anything; they don’t have anything to preach. They talk in parables. You can listen to the story, and if you really listen, something… something will burst open in you. So the whole thing depends on how you listen. Lieh Tzu himself was with his Master for many years, just sitting silently, not doing anything, just learning to be silent, learning to be passive, learning to he receptive, learning to be feminine — that is how one becomes a disciple. Let me tell you: there are no Masters, there are only disciples — because it cannot be taught, so how to say that there are Masters? Buddha cannot teach you, Lieh Tzu cannot teach you, so why call them Masters? But if there is a disciple, he learns. So a Master is not one who teaches you, a Master is one in whose presence you can learn. Let the difference be known: a Master is not one who teaches you — because there is nothing to teach. A Master is one in whose presence it is possible to learn.


Listen to complete discourse at mentioned below link.

Discourse Series: Tao: The Pathless Path, Vol 1 Chapter #1

Chapter title: Voluntary death

11 February 1977 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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