The Magic of Non-Doing

Birthday of Scottish Psychiatrist Ronald David Laing

7th October is the birthday of the renowned Scottish psychiatrist Ronald David Laing (R.D. Laing). He was greatly influenced by Jean Paul Sartre and Existential Philosophy.  He was famously opposed to outdated methods of treating psychological disorders like chemical drugs and electric shocks. He believed that the root of the mental illness lies not in biological or psychic organs but in family and social set-up in which a person lives. He favoured treatment of psychological disorders through therapies and workshops that offer a cathartic experience.  Laing argued that mental illness can be a transformative episode in one’s life and the person could return with great insights becoming wiser and more grounded.

Osho has spoken on Dr. R.D Laing in His discourses. Osho says R.D. Laing is certainly one of the most sensitive psychiatrists of the world.

Osho says that insanity and neurosis are the by-product of the inauthentic life-style the society imposes upon us. And no stupid person ever goes crazy. The people who go mad are those with high IQs, higher than an average person. Osho says A mad Nietzsche has a greater I.Q. than a Nixon. A mad Van Gogh has a higher I.Q. than Lenin, Mao, Stalin. A Picasso has greater intelligence than any Adolf Hitler. If everybody is allowed individuality, there will be no need for mental asylums. Mad people are victims of the society, of a repressive society. First the society forces sensitive people to go crazy and then forces them into hospitals or mental or onto the psychiatrist’s couch for years together — a sheer wastage of potential, and of the purest potential.

Osho explains how meditation can help a person more holistically and permanently than psychotherapy. Osho says if a person’s madness is because he is too sensitive, too alert and too aware of the misery in which people are living — and he himself is living; if he becomes aware of the meaninglessness of this whole life that we have created on this earth, he is bound to go berserk. It will be unbearable. Such a person cannot be helped by psychiatry or psychoanalysis. He can only be helped if something like meditation starts happening in their being.

Osho Says…..



Chidananda, R.D. Laing is certainly one of the most sensitive psychiatrists of the world. In fact, he was responsible for sending Chidananda’s mother, Pratiti, to me. She was Laing’s patient for twelve years, and because he could not cure her, he sent her here to me. And it is because of Pratiti’s coming here that Chidananda also came to the commune. The very fact that Laing accepted that what psychiatry cannot do, meditation can do, shows immense sensibility and understanding. What he is asking is “What to do when we don’t know what to do?” If he wants a really Eastern answer — and he is well-acquainted with the Western answers; they have all failed — the Eastern answer is in Basho’s haiku:



R.D. Laing must have read this small haiku of Basho’s.

There are moments in life when you don’t know what to do. But still you go on doing something as if all the answers need some kind of doing to find them, as if all the questions can be solved by doing. The whole of the East stands on a very different level. It says: the questions that cannot be solved by doing can only be solved by non-doing. Don’t go on searching for something else to do; there are questions which cannot be solved by any doing. In fact, every doing will make them more complicated.

For example, if you are not falling asleep one night and you want to go to sleep, and you ask, “What to do?” and somebody suggests, “Do this mantra, do this chanting; count from one to a hundred and then backwards from a hundred to one,” all these efforts will keep you awake. They are not going to help you to fall asleep because doing them needs awareness, not sleep. I would say to you, forget all about sleep. What is wrong in it? If you are not able to fall asleep, enjoy it. Lying down in your bed, doing nothing, the night comes and sleep follows.

There are things which do not have to be done, which have to be allowed to happen. The West knows only one category of things: everything that has to be done. Unless you do it, how can it happen? But they are forgetting that there is a category which is not available to doing, which is available only to a state of relaxedness, of non-doing.

I have seen an American book on relaxation, and the title of the book is YOU MUST RELAX! The very word “must” makes even relaxation some kind of tremendous effort. And the book has sold millions of copies because America is one of the places where people suffer from sleeplessness most. Poor people cannot afford sleeplessness; it is a rich man’s disease. Poor people snore perfectly, rich people suffer. Even sleep — which is so natural to all the animals, to all the trees — even that has become difficult for man, and the reason is that our whole day is full of doing. And the doing is so much that when we go to bed, the mind needs time to drop the habit — but before it can drop it, you start a new doing: methods of sleep. So you continue in the same rut of doing.  You never touch a deeper layer of your being where all is relaxed, where all is at rest, where nothing moves… just eternal silence.

This is the time, certainly, to find the right answer for R.D. Laing’s question: “What to do when we don’t know what to do?” He is still asking, “What to do?” That is the Western conditioning of the mind. He should have asked, “What not to do when we don’t know what to do?” Doing has failed. Now let us try non-doing — and non-doing is another name for relaxation, another name for meditation. Basho is absolutely right. The world has known great poets but perhaps none of them was a great meditator like Basho; hence his poetry is not just poetry, it is the very essence of his meditations. Each word contains immensities. So when I repeat Basho’s haiku, don’t just listen to the words. Try to feel the content of the words, not the container — the words are only containers.



He has said everything about meditation, all the essential ingredients. It is not something that you have to do; it is something that happens. You have just to wait; it happens in its own time. When the spring comes, the grass grows by itself. And just sitting won’t do, because you can sit and your mind can go on wandering around the world. Hence, he has added: “Doing nothing” — neither with your body, nor with your mind. Just sitting like a stone statue of Gautam Buddha, and waiting for the spring…. There is no impatience: it always comes, and when it comes, the grass grows.

The world has come to a point… and it has been brought to this point by the Western attitude of action, and always action, and condemnation of inaction. Now the East can be of immense help. Action is good, it is needful, but it is not all. Action can give you only the mundane things of life. If you want the higher values of life, then they are beyond the reach of your doing. You will have to learn to be silent and open, available, in a prayerful mood, trusting that existence will give it to you when you are ripe, that whenever your silence is complete, it will be filled with blessings. Flowers are going to shower on you. You just have to be absolutely a non-doer, a nobody, a nothingness. The great values of life — love, truth, compassion, gratitude, prayer, God, everything — happen only in nothingness, in the heart which is absolutely silent and receptive.

But the West is too rooted in action. And there seems to be perhaps not enough time left for it to learn non-doing. You will be surprised to know that India never invaded any country — and India was invaded by almost all the countries of the world. Whoever wanted to invade India, that was the easiest thing. It was not that there were no courageous people that they were not warriors, but simply the idea of invading somebody else’s territory was so ugly. It is a surprising fact that one Mohammedan conqueror, Mohammed Gauri, invaded India eighteen times, and he was thrown back by a great warrior king, Prithviraj. Mohammed Gauri was driven back, but Prithviraj never entered his territory. Prithviraj was told again and again, “This is going too far. That man will gather armies again in a few years, and again he will invade the country. It is better to finish him once and for all. And you have been victorious so many times — you could have gone a little further. He has just a small country by the side of India; you could have taken his country and… finished! Otherwise, he is a constant worry.” But Prithviraj said, “That would be against the dignity of my country. We have never invaded anybody. It is enough that we force him to go back. And he is such a shameless fellow that even after being defeated dozens of times, he again comes.!”

The eighteenth time when Mohammed Gauri was defeated, all his armies were killed, and he was hiding in a cave and thinking, What to do now? And there he saw a spider making its net. Sitting there, he had nothing else to do, so he watched the spider. It fell again and again. It fell exactly eighteen times, but the nineteenth time it succeeded in making a net, and that gave the idea to Mohammed Gauri: “At least one time more I should make the effort. If this spider was not discouraged after eighteen failures, why should I be?” He again gathered his army, and the nineteenth time he conquered Prithviraj. Prithviraj had become old, and having fought his whole life, his armies were tattered, ruined. He was taken prisoner, handcuffed, chained — which was absolutely against the Eastern way of life.

When another king, Poras, was defeated by Alexander the Great, and was brought before him, chained, Alexander asked him, “How should you be treated?” Poras said, “Is that a question to be asked? An emperor should be treated like an emperor.” There was a great silence for a moment in the court of Alexander. It was very appropriate for Poras to say this, because his defeat was not really a defeat; his defeat was through the utter cunningness of Alexander. Alexander had sent his wife to meet Poras — he was waiting on the other side of the river. It was the time when, in India, sisters would tie a small thread around the wrist of their brothers — and it was called rakshabandhan, a bondage, a promise that “You will defend me.”

When Alexander’s wife came she was received just like a queen should be received. Poras himself came to receive her, and asked, “Why have you come? You could have informed me — I could have come to your camp.” That was part of the Eastern tradition: by the time sun was down, people would go into each other’s camp — the enemy’s camp — just to discuss how the day went, who died, what happened. It was almost like a football game — nobody took it that seriously. But the woman said, “I have come because I don’t have a brother. And I heard about this tradition here, so I want to make you my brother.”

And Poras said, “It is a coincidence; I don’t have a sister.”

So she tied the thread and took the promise of Poras that “Whatever happens in the war, remember, Alexander is my husband; he is your brother-in-law, and you should not want me to be a widow. Just remember that.”

There came a moment when Alexander’s horse died as Poras attacked the horse with his spear, and Alexander fell on the ground. Poras jumped down with his spear, and the spear was just going to pierce Alexander’s chest when Poras saw his own wrist with the thread. He stopped.

Alexander said, “Why have you stopped? This is the opportunity — you can kill me.”

Poras said, “I have given a promise. I can give my kingdom, but I cannot break my promise. Your wife is my sister, and she has reminded me that I would not like her to be a widow.” And he turned back. Even this kind of man was treated by Alexander as if he were a murderer. And Alexander asked Poras, “How should you be treated?”

“You should treat me just as an emperor treats another emperor. Have you forgotten that just a second more, and you would not have been alive? It is because of your wife — the whole credit goes to her.”

But it was a conspiracy. The East cannot think of such things. Mohammed Gauri imprisoned Prithviraj — and Prithviraj was the greatest archer of those times. The first thing Mohammed Gauri did: he took both of Prithviraj’s eyes out. Prithviraj’s friend was also captured with him — he was a poet. Prithviraj told him, “You come with me to the court. Nobody understands our language, and I don’t need eyes to hit my target — you just describe how far he is.” Mohammed Gauri was so afraid of Prithviraj that he was not sitting on his usual throne, he was sitting on the balcony; the whole court was on the ground floor. And Chandrabardai, the poet, described exactly how many feet high, how many feet away. “Mohammed Gauri was sitting….” He sang it in a song, and blind Prithviraj killed Mohammed Gauri just through that description. His arrow reached exactly to his heart. But Chandrabardai was very much puzzled, because in Prithviraj’s blind eyes there were tears. Prithviraj said, “It is not right of me, but he has forced to do me something which goes against our whole tradition.”

The East has a totally different approach towards things. If the West learns something about the East, the most important thing will be that all that is great comes out of non-doing, non-aggressiveness — because every act is potentially aggressive. Only when you are in a state of non-doing are you non-aggressive. You are receptive, and in that receptivity, the whole existence pours all its treasures into you.

R.D. Laing’s question is perfectly significant. Chidananda, send my answer to him also. He has been reading my books; he knows me perfectly well. And he has influenced in the Western psychological field; he is perhaps the most influential and most original figure today. If he makes it a point, he can spread –

rather than psychological, psychoanalytical, and psychiatric ideas — what the West needs: a deep understanding of meditation, of non-doing and of allowing existence to take its own course.


This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune. 

Discourse Series: The Hidden Splendor

Chapter #13

Chapter title: Truth is not divisible

18 March 1987 pm


Osho has spoken on notable Psychologists and philosophers like Adler, Jung, Sigmund Freud, Assagioli, Wilhelm Reich, Aristotle, Berkeley, Confucius, Descartes, Feuerbach, Hegel, Heidegger, Heraclitus, Huxley, Jaspers, Kant, Kierkegaard, Laing, Marx, Moore, Nietzsche, Plato, Pythagoras, Russell, Sartre, Socrates, Wittgenstein and many others in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. The Hidden Splendour
  2. The Wild Geese and the Water
  3. This, This, A Thousand Times This: The Very Essence of Zen
  4. Nirvana: The Last Nightmare
  5. Beyond Enlightenment
  6. Beyond Psychology
  7. Dang Dang Doko Dang
  8. The Discipline of Transcendence
  9. The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha
  10. From Bondage to Freedom
  11. From Darkness to Light
  12. From Ignorance to Innocence
  13. The Secret of Secrets, Vol 1
  14. From Personality to Individuality
  15. I Celebrate Myself: God Is No Where, Life Is Now Here
  16. Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega, Vol 4
  17. Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol 1
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