Work as Worship

Osho on Work as Worship



It has been one of the most dangerous ideas down the centuries that life can be divided into separate parts. Life is indivisible, it is an organic whole. The moment you divide it you kill it. This is one of the most fundamental things in my approach towards life: I take it as a whole.

And remember, the whole is more than the sum total of its parts. In the world of machines, the whole is exactly the sum total of its parts; there is nothing more in it. A clock is nothing more than all its parts put in a particular arrangement; it functions. Take the parts apart, and the functioning disappears. But you can put the parts together again, and the functioning starts again. The functioning of the mechanism is not something separate. Life is totally different from a machine. If you cut a man into different parts, life will disappear. Now you cannot put those parts together. And even if you manage somehow to put those parts together, life is not going to appear again. It categorically proves one thing, that life is not the sum total of its parts — it is something more, it is something plus. And that “plus” is the real essence of your being.

But down the ages all the religions have been committing a crime: the crime of dividing the indivisible. But it was favorable to them.

A divided man is a dead man, and to control the dead is the easiest thing in the world. An undivided man is an individual. That’s exactly the meaning of the word “individual” — indivisible. The individual is dangerous, he is alive. You cannot enslave him, you cannot oppress him, you cannot exploit him. You cannot do anything against his wish. His individuality gives him freedom to think, to express, to be.

Divisions can be made in very subtle ways. For example, “Religion should be separate from the state.” What kind of stupidity is this? If religion is something real, something that vibrates in your being, something that you breathe, live, then wherever you are — in the church, in the office, in the marketplace, it does not matter — religion is your very breathing. It is going to be with you. Then it is going to decide every step that you take, every word that you utter, every gesture that you make. How can you divide religion from art? A religious man painting is not in any way separate from his religious being. While painting he is going to paint religion; whatever he paints is going to be colored by his religion. The way he lives, the way he loves, the way he dances — all is going to be in his painting. The painting of a religious man, whatsoever the subject matter of the painting, will have some fragrance of religion in it; it is inevitable, there is no way to avoid it.

Sometimes you may not be able to see this, because things are very subtle. A man of meditation, silence, serenity, is going to have a different kind of dance from a man who is in anguish, tension, worry, despair. A man who is living his life totally, intensely, moment to moment, and a man who is thinking of committing suicide — both can dance, but their dances will have different qualities. The person who is thinking of committing suicide, his dance will have the shadow of death in it. It will stink of death, of a dead body. His movements will not be movements of life. The other man, who loves and lives totally and has a silent space within himself — that’s what I call meditation — his dance will also have a silence surrounding it. His movements, his gestures will have a grace, a beauty, a fragrance of their own. You cannot divide man into parts. Your question is, “Here in our commune, there is no separate time for meditation….” It is our basic approach. We cannot have a separate time for meditation.

Meditation should be spread all over your life: eating, sleeping, taking a bath, or just having a walk, or just sitting doing nothing. Meditation should be in all these actions, inactions, activities, non activities. The thread of meditation should continue underground, whatever you are working at.

A great master, Nan In, was chopping wood. The king of the country had come to see him. He had heard so much about Nan In that finally he could not resist the temptation to go and see the man. Just as he entered the monastery, near the gate was a man perspiring in the hot sun, chopping wood.

Naturally the king thought, “This man must be able to direct me to where I can find the master” — because it was a vast monastery with five hundred monks living in it. So he asked the man, who was Nan In himself, “Please forgive me for interrupting you; you are so absorbed in chopping wood, you have not even seen that I have been standing here for a few minutes, waiting. But then I thought it is better to interrupt you because you are not going to see me of your own accord.”

The man said, “I am sorry, but this is how my life is. Whatever I am doing I am doing it totally. Nothing of me remains to do anything else. Chopping wood, I am simply chopping wood. There is nobody else other than the chopper of wood. So, no need to be embarrassed. What do you want?”

He said, “I want to see the master, Nan In.”

Nan In said, “You go directly into that hut and wait. The master will be coming soon.”

The king went and waited there. Nan In took a shower, put on his master’s robe, and came in from the back door. But the king was very puzzled, because both men looked so alike. He thought, “It is almost an impossibility. There are not two men alike in the whole world, and just in this monastery, within a few hundred yards I have seen a man exactly like this man.”

Nan In said, “You wanted to see master Nan In — master Nan In is now here.”

The king said, “That I will enquire about later on. First I want to know who was chopping wood at the gate.”

Nan In laughed. He said, “At that time I was a chopper of wood. Now I am going to chop your head; now I am a master. We live each moment, moment to moment, but we are indivisible. The chopper was also master Nan In. If you had eyes you could have seen my involvement with the movement, my totality of action, my intensity of being.

“If you had eyes you could have seen him there; you would not have asked about master Nan In. You had already met him, but you didn’t know. Now I am a chopper of heads. That’s the function of a master: to make you so egoless, to make you so thoughtless that you are almost without a head, just the heart pulsating with love, with compassion. Have you come only to ask some questions? Are you really a seeker? Are you ready to lose something?”

The king was just confused, shocked, even afraid of the man. He had never been afraid of anybody, but this man was simply crazy — he was talking of chopping his head!

The king said, “You have confused me too much and I am almost falling apart. Please forgive me this time. I will come another time, because I have forgotten for what I came.”

Nan In said, “You need not come again. I am going to come to you, and I will follow you wherever you go. Now you cannot escape, because I can see something really authentic in you. Yes, it is unconscious; you are not aware of it, much garbage is hiding it. You think you are a king. Even sitting before me you are still thinking you are a king. This is garbage — you are just a beggar. And the beggar that I am is really a king.”

The king said, “I don’t understand all these puzzles. Please talk to me without puzzling me.”

Nan In said, “There is no puzzle in it, it is simple. I am a king because I don’t need anything in the world. You are a beggar; although you have a big empire, your desires are unending. You are desiring more and more and more.

The mind that goes on desiring more is the mind of a beggar. And the consciousness that is content with itself as it is, utterly content, is the consciousness of an emperor.

“Strange,” he said. “You think you are a king, and you look on me as a beggar. The reality is just the opposite. Go back — and I will be coming to visit you.” And Nan In followed the king continuously till he made him aware of his innermost treasure. It is dangerous to go to a master, because then escape is almost impossible. Wherever you go — even if you go to Santa Fe — I am there. Nothing can save you. Once a master has seen within you a heart that can grow, that can expand, that can become universal, he is not going to leave you…

Here, in the commune, whatever you are doing…. Here we call work, worship, for the simple reason that work is not just work, it is meditation also. That’s why we call it worship. Other than this we don’t have any God to worship. We have only this existence around us. So you can worship it as a gardener, you can worship it as a farmer, you can worship it as a roadmaker, you can worship any way you choose to. But whatever you are doing, you are doing with existence. So the question is, if you are doing it lovingly, if you are doing it meditatively, and if, while you are doing it, you are nowhere else, you are just there with all of your being, nothing is missing — then work becomes worship. Work becomes worship because meditation has entered into it.

But I can understand your question, because all the religions have preached that there should be a separate time for meditation. That is just idiotic. It is as if somebody is saying there should be a separate time for breathing, that one hour in the morning you breathe and then forget about it, and for twenty-three hours you do other things. You need not be disturbed by having to breathe; you can do other things, breathing continues…Why should you keep a separate time for meditation? It is based on the idea of the separation of the sacred and profane. But in life there is no separation of the sacred and the profane. Life is one, so totally one that you can call something sacred if you want, you can call it profane if you want.

Christians call sex sin, and Tantra, a great Eastern philosophy, calls sex sacred, the most significant life energy — because all transformation is going to happen through that energy. Don’t condemn it. There are people who are condemning sex continuously in every possible way. You can take anything…there are Zen people in the East who say that even sipping a cup of tea in the morning can be something sacred. And they have made it sacred. If you have seen, in a Zen monastery they have a small temple for tea ceremonies, and when anybody goes to the tea ceremony he enters into a sacred space. He leaves his shoes outside; there are special wooden sandals provided inside. Everybody is silent, because the samovar is boiling the tea and a beautiful music is coming out of it. It has to be listened to. People sit on their knees, just the way they sit in the temple, around the samovar. They all listen silently to the boiling noise of the tea, and they smell the fresh and rejuvenating fragrance of the tea. And absolute silence falls on them.

Then the server, who is usually a woman, comes; and in a very sacred manner she provides cups and saucers, which are all handmade. In a Zen monastery they don’t use cups and saucers purchased in the market; those are produced inhumanly, mechanically, for nobody particular. They are just for the market. In the Zen monastery they make their own cups, their own saucers, with love, with meditation. Something of their love and meditation certainly enters into their cups and saucers and pots. And the way the woman places them before you — she places them as if she is serving a god. Christians don’t even know how to move Jesus’ statue from one place to another. Then she pours the tea; just the sound of the tea being poured is listened to — no talk at all. And then people start sipping tea, enjoying it, forgetting the whole world. Just sipping tea has become sacred. It depends on you. There is nothing profane in the world, nothing sacred in the world. The world is neutral. Now it depends on you what you want to make of it. Meditation makes it sacred; then every act becomes meditative…

My commune is in meditation twenty-four hours a day; whatever you are doing, or not doing, is immaterial. Just be loving, be alert, do it with joy. Whatever you are doing, do it as if this is the greatest thing in the world at this juncture of time. It may be just cutting the grass, watering the road; it may be anything. Washing the floor, do it as if the whole existence depends on what you are doing, it is indispensable; without it, the whole universe will collapse. When you do anything with such intensity, with such love, with such respect, as if without it the whole universe will collapse, then there is no need to have a separate time for meditation…

And unless something transforms you it is not meditation: something that makes you a new being, a new man, a new consciousness; which knows no fear, which knows no greed, which knows no hate; which knows nothing of those dark emotions, sentiments — ugly, sick, nauseating. … a new consciousness, which knows only that which uplifts you, that which goes on uplifting you — there is no end to it.

Meditation brings you to a state where you are above the stars, bigger than the whole universe. That experience is what I call transformation, illumination, enlightenment.

So don’t be worried that there are not separate times for you to meditate. It is not an oversight, it is done with full consideration. I don’t want to give you the impression that meditation can be done separately from your life and its work.


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

Discourse Series: From the False to the Truth
Chapter #2
Chapter title: Here we call work, worship
2 April 1985 pm in Lao Tzu Grove


Osho has spoken on ‘work as worship, meditation, transformation, consciousness’ in many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. Come Follow To You, Vol 2
  2. The Discipline of Transcendence, Vol 3
  3. From Bondage to Freedom
  4. Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega, Vol 10
  5. The Last Testament, Vol 3
  6. The Book of Wisdom
  7. From Bondage to Freedom
  8. The Great Pilgrimage: From Here to Here
  9. The Invitation
  10. Satyam Shivam Sundram
  11. Vigyan Bhairav Tantra, Vol 1, 2
  12. Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol 1, 2, 3
  13. The Path of the Mystic
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1 Comment

  • D.Venugopal
    Posted August 24, 2023 1:04 pm 0Likes

    Excellent and awesome ideas presented by our beloved Guru je Osho.

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