The last tree standing

1001 Tales Discourses

Osho relates a story by Lao Tzu where he says, “If you want to survive in this world be like this tree – absolutely useless.”


Lao Tzu was passing with his disciples and they came to a forest where hundreds of carpenters were cutting trees, because a great palace was being built. So the whole forest had been almost cut, but only one tree was standing there, a big tree with thousands of branches – so big that ten thousand persons could sit under its shade. Lao Tzu asked his disciples to go and inquire why this tree had not been cut yet when the whole forest had been cut and was deserted.

The disciples went and they asked the carpenters, “Why have you not cut this tree?”

The carpenters said, “This tree is absolutely useless. You cannot make anything out of it because every branch has so many knots in it. Nothing is straight. You cannot make pillars out of it. You cannot make furniture out of it. You cannot use it as fuel because the smoke is so dangerous to the eyes – you almost go blind. This tree is absolutely useless. That’s why.”

They came back. Lao Tzu laughed and he said, “Be like this tree. If you want to survive in this world be like this tree – absolutely useless. Then nobody will harm you. If you are straight you will be cut, you will become furniture in somebody’s house. If you are beautiful you will be sold in the market, you will become a commodity. Be like this tree, absolutely useless. Then nobody can harm you. And you will grow big and vast, and thousands of people can find shade under you.”

Lao Tzu has a logic altogether different from your mind. He says: Be the last. Move in the world as if you are not. Remain unknown. Don’t try to be the first, otherwise you will be thrown. Don’t be competitive, don’t try to prove your worth. There is no need. Remain useless and enjoy.

Of course he is impractical. But if you understand him you will find that he is the most practical on a deeper layer, in the depth – because life is to enjoy and celebrate, life is not to become a utility. Life is more like poetry than like a commodity in the market; it should be like poetry, a song, a dance, a flower by the side of the road, flowering for nobody in particular, sending its fragrance to the winds, without any address, being nobody in particular, just enjoying itself, being itself.

Lao Tzu says: If you try to be very clever, if you try to be very useful, you will be used. If you try to be very practical, somewhere or other you will be harnessed, because the world cannot leave the practical man alone.

Lao Tzu says: Drop all these ideas. If you want to be a poem, an ecstasy, then forget about utility. You remain true to yourself. Be yourself. Hippies have a saying: Do your thing. Lao Tzu is the first hippie in the world.

Osho, Tao, The Three Treasures – Talks on fragments from Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, Vol 1, Ch 2, Q 5 (excerpt)

Series compiled by Shanti
All excerpts of this series can be found in: 1001 Tales

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