Life and Labor are Synonymous


This is the third of three excerpts from a discourse by Osho about right diet, right labor and right sleep:

The second point is: right labor. That too is no longer an essential part of our lives. Physical labor has become a shameful act.

Osho Mumbai

A Western thinker, Albert Camus, has written jokingly, in one of his letters, that a time will come when people will start asking their servants to make love for them. If someone falls in love with somebody, he will appoint a servant to go and make love on his behalf. This can happen some day. We have already started getting everything done by others; love is the only thing which we still do ourselves. We appoint others to pray for us. We employ a priest and tell him to pray on our behalf, to do the rituals on our behalf. We appoint a priest in the temple and tell him to worship on our behalf. Even the things like prayer and worship we are getting done by our servants. So if we are getting our servants to worship for us, it is not unthinkable that some day wise people will tell their servants to make love to their beloved on their behalf. What is the difficulty? And those who will not be able to afford servants to do their job, will feel ashamed that they are so poor that they have to make love themselves.

It is possible some day because there is so much in life which is significant but which we are now getting done by our servants! And we are not at all aware of what we have lost by losing the significant things.

All the strength, all the vitality of life is lost because man’s body and man’s being have been created for a certain amount of labor – and now he has been spared from all that work. Right labor is also an essential part in the awakening of man’s consciousness and energy.


One morning Abraham Lincoln was polishing his shoes in his house. One of his friends who was visiting him, said, “Lincoln! What are you doing? You polish your own shoes?”

Lincoln said, “You surprise me! Do you polish other people’s shoes? I am polishing my own shoes – do you polish others’ shoes?”

The friend said, “No, no, I get my shoes polished by others!”

Lincoln said, “It is even worse to get your shoes polished by others than to polish others’ shoes.”


What does it mean? It means that we are losing our direct contact with life. Our direct contacts with life are those that come through labor.


In the time of Confucius – about three thousand years ago – Confucius once went to visit a village. In a garden he saw an old gardener and his son pulling water out of a well. For the old man the work of drawing water out of a well was very difficult even with the help of his son. And the old man was very old.

Confucius wondered if this old man did not know that bulls and horses were now being used to draw water out of the well. He was drawing it himself. He was using such old methods!

So Confucius went to the old man and said, “My friend! Don’t you know that there has been a new invention? People are drawing water out of wells with the help of horses and bulls. Why are you doing it yourself?”

The old man said, “Speak softly, speak softly! For me, it does not matter what you say but I am afraid my young son may hear you.”

Confucius asked, “What do you mean?”

The old man replied, “I know about these inventions, but all inventions like this take man away from labor. I do not want my son to become disconnected because the day he becomes disconnected from labor, he will be disconnected from life itself.”


Life and labor are synonymous. Life and labor have the same meaning. But slowly, slowly we have started calling those people who do not have to do physical exertion, fortunate, and those who have to do physical exertion, unfortunate. And in a way it has become so, because in a way many people have dropped doing labor so some people have to do too much labor. Too much labor kills one. Too little labor also kills one. Hence I said, “Right labor. Proper distribution of physical labor.” Each person should do some physical labor. The more intensely, the more blissfully, the more gratefully a man enters the labor part of his life, the more he will find that his life energy has started moving down from the brain closer to the navel. For labor neither the brain nor the heart is needed. The energy for labor is derived directly from the navel. This is its source.

Along with the right diet a little physical labor is very essential. And it is not that it should be in the interest of others – that if you serve the poor, it benefits the poor; if you go to a village and do farming, it benefits the farmers; if you are doing some labor, you are doing a great social service. These are all false things. It is for your own sake, not for anyone else’s sake. It is not concerned with benefiting anybody else. Someone else may benefit by it, but primarily it is for your own good.


When Churchill retired, one of my friends went to see him at his house. In his old age, Churchill was digging and planting some plants in his garden. My friend asked him some questions about politics. Churchill said, “Drop it! Now it is over. Now if you want to ask me something, you can ask me about two things. You can ask me about the Bible, because I read it at home, and you can ask me about gardening because I do it here in the garden. Now I have no concern about politics. That race is over. Now I am doing labor and prayer.”

When my friend returned he said to me, “I do not understand what kind of man Churchill is. I thought he would give me some answers. But he said he was doing labor and prayer.”

I told him, “Saying labor and prayer is a repetition. Labor and prayer mean the same, they are synonymous. And the day that labor becomes prayer and prayer becomes labor is the day that right labor is attained.”


A little labor is very essential but we have not paid any attention to it. Not even the traditional sannyasins of India paid any attention to labor – they refrained from doing it. There was no question of their doing it. They simply moved in another direction. Rich people stopped laboring because they had money and they could pay for it and sannyasins stopped because they had nothing to do with the world. They neither had to create anything, nor did they have to earn money, so what did they need labor for? The result was that two respected classes of society moved away from labor. So those in whose hands labor remained, slowly, slowly became disrespected.

For a seeker labor has great significance and usefulness – not because you will produce something from it but because the more you are involved in some kind of labor, the more your consciousness will start becoming centered. It will start coming downwards from the brain. It is not necessary that the labor has to be productive. It can be non-productive also; it can be a simple exercise. But some labor is very essential for the agility of the body, complete alertness of the mind, and total awakening of the being. This is the second part.

There can be a mistake in this part also. Just as one can make a mistake with one’s diet – either one eats too little or one eats too much – so a mistake can happen here also. Either one does not do labor at all or one does too much. Wrestlers do too much labor. They are in a sick state. A wrestler is not a healthy person. A wrestler is putting too much of a burden on the body – he is raping the body. If the body is raped, then some parts of the body, some muscles, can be developed more. But no wrestler lives long! No wrestler dies in a healthy state. Do you know this? All wrestlers – whether he is a Gama, or a Sandow, or anybody else with a great body, even the greatest in the world – die unhealthy. They die earlier and they die of violent diseases. Raping the body can swell the muscles and make the body worth looking at, worth exhibiting, but there is a great difference between exhibition and life. There is a great difference between living, being healthy and being an exhibitionist.

Each person should find out according to himself, according to his body, how much labor he should do to live more healthily and more freshly. The more fresh air there is inside the body, the more blissful each and every breath is, the more vitality a person has to explore the inner. Simonbel, a French philosopher, has written a very wonderful thing in her autobiography. She said, “I was always sick until the age of thirty. I was unhealthy and I had many headaches. But it was only at the age of forty that I realized that until the age of thirty I was an atheist. I became healthy when I became a theist. Only later did I see that my being sick and unhealthy was related to my atheism.”

A person who is sick and unhealthy cannot be full of gratitude towards existence. There can be no thankfulness in him towards existence. There is only anger. It is impossible for such a person to accept something towards which he is full of anger. He simply rejects it. If one’s life does not attain a certain balance of health through right labor and right exercise, then it is natural that one will have some negativity, a resistance, an anger towards life.

Right labor is an essential rung on the ladder to ultimate theism.

Osho, The Inner Journey, Ch 3 (Excerpt, translated from Hindi)

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