Empty Your Boat – Osho

Here are some excerpts from ‘The Empty Boat’, a series of talks Osho gave from 10th July 1974 to 20th July 1974. The talks were regarding Chuang Tzu and his analogy of the ‘Empty boat’:

(Here Osho uses the word ego to mean the ‘sense of separation’ or the feeling ‘I am the doer’. You will also read Osho saying ‘Don’t be’.. This may sound contradictory to many other spiritual teachings that say ‘Just be’.. But there is really no contradiction. When Osho says don’t be, he says ‘don’t be a separate self!’… When the illusory self is dropped, that is when you can really ‘be’!)

 You are the Barrier

Be aware that through me you are not going to gain anything. Through me you can only lose all – because unless you are lost, the divine cannot happen; unless you disappear totally, the real cannot arise. You are the barrier. And you are so much, so stubbornly much, you are so filled with yourself that nothing can penetrate you. Your doors are closed. When you disappear, when you are not, the doors open. Then you become just like the vast, infinite sky. And that is your nature. That is Tao.

Becoming a Nobody

To think oneself a rooster is crazy; to think oneself a body is also crazy, even crazier. To think oneself a rooster is madness; to think oneself a human being is a greater madness, because you don’t belong to any form. Whether the form is that of a rooster or of a human being is irrelevant – you belong to the formless, you belong to the total, the whole. So whatsoever form you think you are, you are mad. You are formless. You don’t belong to any body, you don’t belong to any caste, religion, creed; you don’t belong to any name. And unless you become formless, nameless, you will never be sane.

Sanity means coming to that which is natural, coming to that which is ultimate in you, coming to that which is hidden behind you. Much effort is needed because to cut form, to drop, eliminate form, is very difficult. You have become so attached and identified with it.

This Samadhi Sadhana Shibir, this meditation camp, is nothing but to persuade you towards the formless – how not to be in the form. Every form means the ego: even a rooster has its ego, and man has his own. Every form is centered in the ego. The formless means egolessness; then you are not centered in the ego, then your center is everywhere or nowhere. This is possible, this which looks almost impossible is possible, because this has happened to me. And when I speak, I speak through experience.

Wherever you are, I was, and wherever I am, you can be. Look at me as deeply as possible and feel me as deeply as possible, because I am your future, I am your possibility.

Whenever I say surrender to me, I mean surrender to this possibility. You can be cured, because your illness is just a thought. The prince went mad because he became identified with the thought that he was a rooster. Everybody is mad unless he comes to understand that he is not identified with any form – only then, sanity.

So a sane person will not be anybody in particular. He cannot be. Only an insane person can be somebody in particular – whether a rooster or a man, a prime minister or a president, or anybody whatsoever. A sane person comes to feel the nobodiness. This is the danger….

You have come to me as somebody, and if you allow me, if you give me the opportunity, this somebodiness can disappear and you can become a nobody. This is the whole effort – to make you a nobody. But why? Why this effort to become a nobody? Because unless you become nobody you cannot be blissful; unless you become nobody you cannot be ecstatic; unless you become nobody the benediction is not for you – you go on missing life.

Really you are not alive, you simply drag, you simply carry yourself like a burden. Much anguish happens, much despair, much sorrow, but not a single ray of bliss – it cannot. If you are somebody, you are like a solid block of stone, nothing can penetrate you. When you are nobody you start to become porous. When you are nobody, really you are an emptiness, transparent, everything can pass through you. There is no hindrance, there is no barrier, no resistance. You become a passivity, a door.

Right now you are like a wall; a wall means somebody. When you become a door you become nobody. A door is just an emptiness, anybody can pass, there is no resistance, no barrier. Somebody…you are mad; nobody…you will become sane for the first time.

But the whole society, education, civilization, culture, all cultivate you and help you to become somebodies. That is why I say: religion is against civilization, religion is against education, religion is against culture – because religion is for nature, for Tao.

All civilizations are against nature, because they want to make you somebody in particular. And the more you are crystallized as somebody, the less and less the divine can penetrate into you.

You go to the temples, to the churches, to the priests, but there too you are searching for a way to become somebody in the other world, for a way to attain something, for a way to succeed. The achieving mind follows you like a shadow. Wherever you go, you go with the idea of profit, achievement, success, attainment. If somebody has come here with this idea he should leave as soon as possible, run as fast as possible from me, because I cannot help you to become somebody.

I am not your enemy. I can only help you to be nobody. I can only push you into the abyss…bottomless. You will never reach anywhere; you will simply dissolve. You will fall and fall and fall and dissolve, and the moment you dissolve the whole existence feels ecstatic. The whole existence celebrates this happening.

Bliss is Showering on you Every Moment

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.

The So-called Good Men

Whenever you come near a good man, you will always feel tortured – not that he is torturing you, it is just his presence. With so-called good men you will always feel sad, and you would like to avoid them. So-called good men are really very heavy. Whenever you come into contact with them they make you sad, they depress you, and you would like to leave them as soon as possible.

The moralists, the puritans, the virtuous, they are all heavy, and they carry a burden around with them, and dark shadows. Nobody likes them. They cannot be good companions, they cannot be good friends. Friendship is impossible with a good man – almost impossible, because his eyes are always condemning. The moment you come near him, he is good and you are bad. Not that he is doing anything in particular – just his very being creates something, and you will feel angry.


Chuang Tzu is saying that the halo of saintliness around you shows that you are still there. The halo that you are good is sure to create calamity for you, and calamity for others also. Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu – master and disciple – have never been painted in pictures with halos, auras, around them. Unlike Jesus, Zarathustra, Krishna, Buddha, Mahavira, they have never been painted with an aura around their head, ”because,” they say, ”if you are really good no aura appears around your head; rather on the contrary, the head disappears.” Where to draw the aura? The head disappears.

All auras are somehow related to the ego. It is not Krishna who has made a self-portrait, it is the disciples. They cannot think of him without drawing an aura around his head – then he looks extraordinary. And Chuang Tzu says: To be ordinary is to be the sage. Nobody recognizes you, nobody feels that you are somebody extraordinary. Chuang Tzu says: You go in the crowd and you mix, but no one knows that a Buddha has entered the crowd. No one comes to feel that somebody is different, because if someone feels it then there is bound to be anger and calamity. Whenever someone feels that you are somebody, his own anger, his own ego is hurt. He starts reacting, he starts attacking you.

So Chuang Tzu says: Character is not to be cultivated because that too is a sort of wealth. And so-called religious people go on teaching: Cultivate character, cultivate morality, be virtuous.

But why? Why be virtuous? Why be against the sinners? But your mind is a doer, you are still ambitious. And if you reach paradise and there you see sinners sitting around God, you will feel very hurt – your whole life has been wasted. You cultivated virtue, you cultivated character, while these people were enjoying themselves and doing all sorts of things which are condemned, and here they are sitting around God. If you see saints and sinners together in paradise you will be very hurt, you will become very sad and miserable – because your virtue is also part of your ego. You cultivate saintliness to be superior, but the mind stays the same. How to be superior in some way or other, how to make others inferior, is the motive.

If you can gather much wealth, then they are poor and you are rich. If you can become an Alexander, then you have a great kingdom and they are beggars. If you can become a great scholar, then you are knowledgeable and they are ignorant, illiterate. If you can become virtuous, religious, respectable, moral, then they are condemned, they are sinners. But the duality continues. You are fighting against others and you are trying to be superior.

Chuang Tzu says: If you cultivate your character and outshine others, you will not avoid calamity. Don’t try to outshine others, and don’t try to cultivate character for this egoistic purpose. So for Chuang Tzu there is only one character worth mentioning, and that is egolessness. All else follows it. Without it, nothing has worth. You may become godlike in your character, but if the ego is there inside, all your godliness is in the service of the devil; all your virtue is nothing but a face and the sinner is hidden behind. And the sinner cannot be transformed through virtue or through any type of cultivation. It is only when you are not there that it disappears.


Religious people go on teaching: Be content with yourself. But yourself remains there to be content with. Chuang Tzu says: Don’t be there, then there is no question of contentment or discontentment. This is real contentment, when you are not there. But if you feel that you are content, it is false – because you are there, and it is just an ego fulfillment. You feel that you have achieved, you feel that you have reached.

Tao says that one who feels that he has achieved has missed already. One who feels that he has reached has lost, because success is the beginning of failure. Success and failure are two parts of one circle, of one wheel. Whenever success reaches its climax the failure has already started, the wheel is already turning downwards. Whenever the moon has become full there is no further progress. Now there is no further movement. Then next day the downward journey starts and now every day the moon will be less and less and less.

Life moves in circles. The moment you feel that you have achieved, the wheel has moved, you are already losing. It may take time for you to recognize this, because mind is dull. Much intelligence is needed, clarity is needed, to see things when they happen. Things happen to you and you take many days to recognize it, sometimes many months or years. Sometimes you even take many lives to recognize what has happened.

But just think about your past. Whenever you had a feeling that you had succeeded, immediately things changed, you started falling – because the ego is part of the wheel. It succeeds because it can fail: if it cannot fail then there is no possibility of success. Success and failure are two aspects of the same coin.

 Empty Your Boat

This is going to be your path. Empty your boat. Go on throwing out whatever you find in the boat until everything is thrown out and nothing is left, even YOU are thrown out, nothing is left, your being has become just empty.

The last thing and the first thing is to be empty: once you are empty you will be filled. The all will descend on you when you are empty – only emptiness can receive the all, nothing less will do, because to receive all you have to be empty, boundlessly empty. Only then can the all be received. Your minds are so small they cannot receive the divine. Your rooms are so small you cannot invite the divine. Destroy this house completely because only the sky, space, total space, can receive.

Emptiness is going to be the path, the goal, everything. From tomorrow morning try to empty yourself of all that you find within: your misery, your anger, your ego, jealousies, sufferings, your pain, your pleasures – whatever you find, just throw it out. Without any distinction, without any choice, empty yourself. And the moment you are totally empty, suddenly you will see that you are the whole, the all. Through voidness, the whole is achieved.

Meditation is nothing but emptying, becoming nobody.

A Man of Tao is the Aristocrat of the Inner World.

A man of Tao is not a man of much activity. His actions are the most essential – those which cannot be avoided. That which can be avoided, he avoids. He is so happy with himself there is no need to move in actions. His activity is like inactivity; he does without there being anybody doing.

He is an empty boat, moving on the sea, not going anywhere.


Allow this point to penetrate deep into your heart. YET HE DOES NOT KNOW HIMSELF TO BE KIND AND GENTLE – because if you know, you have missed the point; if you know that you are a simple man, you are not. This knowledge makes it complex. If you know that you are a man of religion, you are not, because this cunning mind which knows is still there.

When you are gentle, and you don’t know, when you are simple, and you are not aware of it, it has become your nature. When something is really natural you are not aware of it, but when something is imposed, you are aware of it. When somebody becomes rich, newly rich, he is aware of his house, of his swimming pool, of his riches, and you can see that he is not an aristocrat, because he is so concerned with show.

A newly rich man ordered three swimming pools for his garden. They were made and he was showing them to a friend. The friend was a little puzzled. He said, ”Three swimming pools? For what? One will do.”

The newly rich man said, ”No, how can one do? One for hot baths, one for cold baths.” His friend asked, ”And the third?” He answered, ”For those who cannot swim. So the third swimming pool is going to stay empty.”

You can see if a man has newly acquired wealth – he will be showing it. A real aristocrat is one who has forgotten that he is rich. A man of Tao is the aristocrat of the inner world.

If a person shows his religion he is not yet really religious. The religion is still like a thorn, it is not natural, it hurts, he is eager to show it. If you want to show your simplicity what type of simplicity is this? If you exhibit your gentleness, then it is simply cunning, nothing gentle exists in it.

A man of Tao is an aristocrat of the inner world. He is so attuned to it, there is no exhibition – not only to you, he himself is not aware of it. He does not know that he is wise, he does not know that he is innocent – how can you know if you are innocent? Your knowledge will disturb the innocence.


The so-called religious person is religious only to look at you with a condemning eye so he can say that you are sinners. Go to your saints, so-called saints, and look into their eyes. You will not find the innocence that should be there. You will find a calculating mind looking at you and thinking about hell: You will be thrown in hell and I will be in heaven, because I have been praying so much, five times a day, and I have been fasting so much. As if you can purchase heaven…! These are the coins – fasting, prayer – these are the coins one is trying to bargain with.

If you see condemnation in the eyes of a saint, know well that he is a newly rich man; he is not yet an aristocrat of the inner world, he has not yet become one with it. He may know it – but you know something only when it is separate from you.

One thing has to be remembered here: because of this, self-knowledge is impossible. You cannot know the self, because whenever you know it, it is not the self, it is something else, something separate from you. The self is always the knower, never the known, so how can you know it? You cannot reduce it to an object.

I can see you. How can I see myself? Then who will be the seer and who will be the seen? No, the self cannot be known in the same way that other things are known.

Self-knowledge is not possible in the ordinary sense, because the knower always transcends, always goes beyond. Whatsoever it knows, it is not that. The Upanishads say: NETI NETI – not this, not that. Whatsoever you know, you are not this; whatsoever you don’t know, you are not that either. You are the one who knows, and this knower cannot be reduced to a known object.

Self-knowledge is not possible. If your innocence comes out of your inner source you cannot know it. If you have imposed it from the outside you can know it; if it is just like a dress you have put on you know it, but it is not the very breath of your life. That innocence is cultivated, and a cultivated innocence is an ugly thing.

A man of Tao does not know himself to be kind and gentle. He IS gentle, but he doesn’t know; he is kind, but he doesn’t know; he is love, but he doesn’t know – because the lover and the knower are not two, the gentleness, the kindness, the compassion and the knower, are not two. No, they cannot be divided into the known and the knower. This is the inner aristocracy: when you have become so rich you are not aware of it. When you are that rich, there is no need to exhibit it.

– From ‘The Empty Boat’, Osho


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