Path of Will or Path of Surrender? – Osho

Osho, last night you spoke about witnessing as a method; other times I have heard you speak about becoming a thing totally, being totally involved in any given situation. Usually I am at a loss as to which of these two to follow: Whether to stand back and witness in a detached way or become something totally – for example, when there is anger or love or sadness. Are these not two opposite paths? Are they both for different kinds of situations or for different types of people? When should one do which?

There are two basic paths – only two. One is of surrendering and another is of willing: the path of surrender and the path of will. They are diametrically opposite as far as going through them is concerned. But they reach to the same goal; they reach to the same realization. So we have to understand a little more in detail.

The path of will starts with your witnessing Self. It is not concerned with your ego directly – only indirectly. To start witnessing, to be aware of your acts, is directly concerned with awakening your inner Self. If the inner Self is awakened, the ego disappears as a consequence. You are not to do anything with the ego directly. They cannot both exist simultaneously. If your Self is awakened, the ego will disappear. The path of will tries to awaken the inner center directly. Many, many methods are used. How to awaken the Self? We will discuss that.

The path of surrender is directly concerned with the ego, not with the Self. When the ego disappears, the inner Self is awakened automatically. The path of surrender is concerned with the ego immediately, directly. You are not to do anything to awaken your inner Self. You are just to surrender your ego. The moment ego is surrendered; you are left with your inner Self awakened.

Of course, these both will work in opposite directions, because one will be concerned with ego and one will be concerned with Self. Their methods, their techniques, will be opposite – and no one can follow both. There is no need to and that is impossible also. Everyone has to choose.

If you choose the path of will, then you are left alone to work upon yourself. It is an arduous thing. One has to struggle – to fight – to fight with old habits which create sleep. Then the only fight is against sleep, and the only ambition is for a deep awakening inside. Those who follow will, they know only one sin, and that sin is spiritual sleepiness.

Many are the techniques. I have discussed some. For example, Gurdjieff used a Sufi exercise. Sufis call it “halt”. For example, you are sitting here, and if you are practising the exercise of “halt” it means total halt. Whenever the teacher says “Stop!” or ”Halt!” then you have to stop totally whatsoever you are doing. If your eyes are open, then stop them there and then. Now you cannot close them.

If your hand is raised, let it be there. Whatsoever your position and gesture, just be frozen in it. No movements! Halt totally! Try this, and suddenly you will have an inner awakening – a feeling. Suddenly you will become aware of your own frozenness.

The whole body is frozen, you have become a solid stone, you are like a statue. But if you go on deceiving yourself, then you have fallen into sleep. You can deceive yourself. You can say, “Who is seeing me? I can close my eyes. They are becoming painful.” You can deceive yourself – then you have fallen into sleep. No – deception is sleep. Don’t deceive yourself, because no one else is concerned. It is up to you. If you can be frozen for a single moment you will begin to see yourself as different, and your center will become aware of your frozen body.

There are other ways. For example, Mahavir and his tradition have used fasting as a method to awaken the Self. If you fast, the body begins to demand, the body begins to overpower you. Mahavir has said, “Just witness – don’t do anything. You feel hungry, so feel hungry. The body asks for food – be a witness to it, don’t do anything. Just be a witness to whatsoever is happening.” And it is a deep thing.

There are only two deep things in the body – sex and food. Nothing is more than these two, because food is needed for individual survival and sex is needed for race survival. Both are survival mechanisms. The individual cannot survive without food and the race cannot survive without sex. So sex is food for the race and food is sex for the individual. These are the deepest things because they are concerned with your survival – the most basic things. You will die without them.

So if you are fasting and just witnessing, then you have touched the deepest sleep. And if you can witness without being identified or bothered – the body is suffering, the body is hungry, the body is demanding and you are just witnessing – suddenly the body will be different. There will be a discontinuity between you and the body; there will be a gap.

Fasting has been used by Mahavir. Mohammedans have used vigilance in the night – no sleep!

Don’t sleep for a week and then you will know how sleepy the whole being becomes, how difficult it is to maintain this vigilance. But if one persists, suddenly a moment comes when the body and you are torn apart. Then you can see that the body needs sleep – it is not your need.

Many are the methods to work directly to create more awareness in yourself, to bring yourself above your so-called sleepy existence. No surrender is needed. Rather, one has to fight against surrender. No surrender is needed, because this is a path of struggle not of surrender. Because of this path, Mahavir was given the name “Mahavir”. “Mahavir” means “the great warrior”. This was not his name. His name was Vardhaman. He was called Mahavir because he was a great warrior as far as this inner struggle is concerned. He had no Guru, no Master, because it is a lonely path. Even to take somebody’s help is not good – it may become your sleep.

There is a story: Mahavir was fasting and remaining silent for years together. In a certain village some mischievous people were disturbing him, harassing him, and he was on a vow of silence.

He was beaten so many times because he would not speak and he remained naked – completely naked. So the villagers were at a loss to understand who he was. And he would not speak! And moreover he was naked! So from one village to another village he would be thrown out, made to leave the village.

The story says Indra, the King of gods, came to him and said to Mahavir, “I can defend you. It has become so painful. You are being beaten unnecessarily, so just allow me to defend you.”

Mahavir rejected the help. Later on, when he was asked why he rejected the help, he said, “This path of will is a lonely path. You cannot even have a helper with you because then the struggle loosens. Then the struggle becomes partial. Then you can depend on someone else, and wherever there is dependence sleep comes in. One has to be totally independent; only then can one be awake.

This is one path, one basic attitude.

All these methods of witnessing belong to this path. So when I say, “Be a witness.” it is meant for those who are travellers on the path of will.

Quite the opposite is the method of surrender. Surrender is concerned with your ego, not with your Self. In surrender you have to give up yourself. Of course, you cannot give the Self; that is impossible.

Whatsoever you can give is bound to be your ego. Only the ego can be given – because it is just incidental to you. It is not even a part of your being, just something added. It is a possession. Of course, the possessor has also become possessed by it. But it is a possession, it is a property – it is not you.

The path of surrender says, “Surrender your ego to the Teacher, to the Divine, to a Buddha.” When someone comes to Buddha and says, “Buddham Sharanam Gauchhami” – I take shelter at your feet. I surrender myself at Buddha’s feet,” what is he doing? The Self cannot be surrendered, so leave it out. Whatsoever you can surrender is your ego. That is your possession; you can surrender it. If you can surrender your ego to someone, it makes no difference to whom – X, Y or Z. The person to be surrendered to is irrelevant in a way. The real thing is surrendering. So you can surrender to a God in the sky. Whether He is there or not is irrelevant. If a concept of the Divine in the sky can help you to surrender your ego, then it is a good device.

Really, yoga shastras say that God is a device to be surrendered to – just a device! So you need not bother whether God is or not. He is just a device, because it will be difficult for you to surrender in a vacuum. So let there be a God, and you surrender. Even a false device can help. For example, you see a rope on the street and you think that it is a snake. It moves like a snake. You are afraid, you are trembling, you are running. You begin to perspire, and your perspiration is real. And there is no snake – there is just a rope mistaken for a snake.

The yoga sutras say that God is a just a device to be surrendered to. Whether God is or is not is not meaningful; you need not bother about it. If He is, you will come to know through surrender. You need not be bothered about it before surrender. If He is, then you will know; if He is not, then you will know. So no discussion, no argument, no proof is needed. And it is very beautiful: they say He is a device, just a hypothetical thing to which you can surrender yourself, to help you surrender.

So a Teacher can become a god; a Teacher is a god. Unless you feel a Teacher as a god, you cannot surrender. Surrendering becomes possible if you feel that Mahavir is a god, Buddha is a god. Then you can surrender easily. Whether a Buddha is a god or not is irrelevant. Again, it is a device, it helps.

Buddha is known to have said that every truth is a device to help; every truth is just a utility. If it works, it is true. And there is no other basis for calling it true or untrue – if it works, it is true!

On the path of surrender, surrendering is the only technique. There are many techniques on the path of will, because you can make many efforts to awaken yourself. But when one is just to surrender, there are no methods.

One day a man came to Ramakrishna. He wanted to donate one thousand gold coins to Ramakrishna. Ramakrishna said, “I don’t need them, but when you have taken such a big burden from your house to Dakshineshwar, to my hut, it will not be good to carry it back again.  Mm? – It will be unnecessary. So just go to the Ganges and throw it in.”

The man, of course, was in a very deep difficulty, great difficulty. What to do? He hesitated, so Ramakrishna said, “You have donated them to me, now they do not belong to you. I order you! Go to the Ganges and throw them!” So he had to.

He went to the Ganges but did not return. One hour passed. Ramakrishna asked someone, “Where has that man gone? Go and find out!” So some disciples went and he was brought back. Ramakrishna asked, “Such a long time? What were you doing?”

So the persons who had gone to find him said, “He was counting them and throwing one piece at a time – one, two, three – one thousand pieces. He would look at a gold coin, count it and then he would throw it.” So Ramakrishna said, “What nonsense! When one is to throw, there is no need to count. When one accumulates, there is a need to count; you have to know how many coins you have. But when you have gone to throw them, why waste time in counting? You can just throw!”

Surrendering is throwing the ego. There is no counting and there are no methods. You just throw it. It itself is the technique. On the path of surrender, surrender is the path and surrender is the technique. On the path of will, will is the path and there are many techniques to work it out.

But surrender is simple in a way. You throw it! The moment you throw your ego – and only the ego can be thrown – suddenly you become aware, aware of your inner center. You reach the same point, but through a very diverse path.

One thing more to be understood and that has been asked: whether to be aware or to be lost in something. Whenever I talk of surrender, I talk of being lost in something. A Meera dancing: she is not aware that she is dancing – she has become the dance. There is no gap. She has surrendered her ego completely. There is dancing – she is not aware; she is completely lost in it. When you are absorbed totally then you are in surrender – absorbed totally. But only the ego can be absorbed – only the ego! And when the ego is absorbed, the Self is there in its total purity.

But that is not the concern. On the path of surrender that is not the concern! Meera is not concerned with awareness, with consciousness – no. She is concerned with being completely unconscious in the Divine dance or in the Divine song – with being lost totally in it. To lose oneself totally…. That which cannot be lost will be there, of course, but it is not the concern.

On the path of will, ego is not the concern – the Self is. On the path of surrender, the Self is not the concern. Remember this difference of emphasis, this difference of focusing. That’s why there is so much controversy, so much controversy, between a devotee and a yogi, a bhakta and a yogi.

The yogi is on the path of will and the bhakta is on the path of surrender, so they speak totally different languages. There is no bridge. The yogi is trying to be, and the bhakta is trying not to be. The yogi is trying to be aware and the bhakta is trying to be totally lost.

Of course, they are bound to speak diametrically opposite languages, and there is much controversy, much argument. But those arguments and those controversies do not really belong to a real devotee or to a real yogi: they belong to scholars, to academicians. Those who think about devotion and about yoga, they go on discussing problems – and then there is no meeting point because that meeting point is reached only through experience. If you stick to the terms and the jargon used, then you will be confused.

A Chaitanya, a bhakta, cannot speak the language of Mahavir. They don’t belong to the same path. They reach to the same point ultimately, but they never travel the same path. So their experiences of the path are bound to be different. The ultimate ecstasy will be the same, but that cannot be said; that is the problem. The ultimate experience will be the same, but that is inexpressible. And whatsoever is expressible is just experiences on the path, and they are found to be difficult and opposite.

A Mahavir will become more and more centered on the path, more and more one Self and Chaitanya will be less and less oneself on the path. He will go on throwing himself unto the Divine feet. To Mahavir it will look like suicide, and to Chaitanya, Mahavir’s path will look a very egoistic thing.

Mahavir says there is no God, so don’t surrender. Really, Mahavir denies God only to make surrender impossible. If yoga proposes God as a device, Mahavir proposes no God, again as a device – a device on the path of will. If there is God, then you cannot proceed on the path of will. It is difficult, because if there is a God then something is more potent than you, more powerful than you. Then something is more high than you, so how can you be authentically your Self?

Mahavir says, “If there is a God, then I am bound to be always in bondage, because something is always above me. And if you say God has created the world and God has created me, then what can I do? Then I am just a puppet in his hands. Then where is the will? Then there is no possibility of will. There is only a deep determinism. Then nothing can be done.” So Mahavir dethrones God just as a device on the path of will. “There is no God,” Mahavir says. ”You are the God and no one else is the God, so there is no need to surrender.”

Chaitanya uses going to the Divine feet – sharanam – as the basic religious effort. But Mahavir says asharanam – never to go anybody’s feet. Of course, sharanam and asharanam – to go and surrender to the Divine feet, and never to go to anybody’s feet because no feet except your own are Divine – these are completely, diametrically opposite standpoints. But just in the beginning and while on the path – they reach to the same thing. Either surrender your ego – then you have not to do anything. You have to do only one thing: surrender your ego. Then you have not to do anything. Then everything will begin to happen. If you cannot surrender then you will have to do much, because then you are on your own to fight, struggle.

Both paths are valid, and there is no question of which is better. It depends on the person who is following. It depends on your type. Every path is valid, and there are many sub-paths, branches.

Some branches belong to the path of will, some to the path of surrender. Paths, sub-paths – everything is valid. But for you not everything can be valid; only one thing can be valid – mm? – For you individually. So don’t get into confusion that: “Everything is valid so I can follow everything.” You cannot follow! You have to follow one path. There is no Truth; there are truths. But for you, one truth has to be chosen.

So the first thing for the seeker is to determine to what type he belongs, what he is, what will be good for him, and what his inner inclination is. Can he surrender? Can you surrender? Can you efface your ego? If that is possible, then simple surrender can do. But it is not so simple – very difficult. To efface the ego is not so simple. To put someone higher than you, to put someone as a God and then surrender – very difficult! Nietzsche has said: “I would like to be in hell if I can be the first there. I would not like to be in heaven if I am put second to anyone there. To be in hell is good if one can be the first.”

Bayazid was a great Sufi mystic. He had a big monastery and many seekers from many parts of the world would come to him. One day a person came and he said, “I want to be here in your monastery. I want to be one of your inmates.”

Bayazid said to the man, “We have two types of inmates: one type who are disciples, another type who are teachers. To which would you like to belong?”

The person had come to find Truth. He said, “Give me a little time to think about it.”

So Bayazid said, “There is no need – you have thought about it. Tell me!”

So he said, “It will be better if I can belong to the group of teachers.”

He had come to seek, but he wanted to belong to the group of teachers, not to the disciples. So Bayazid said, “That second group – of teachers – doesn’t exist in my monastery Mm? – That was just a trick. So you can go. Your path is of the disciples, those who can surrender. So you are not for us and we are not for you.”

The man said. “If that is the case, then I can belong to the disciples.”

So Bayazid said, “No, there is no possibility. You will have to go.”

If you can surrender, you can be a disciple. On the path of will, you are the teacher and you are the disciple. On the path of surrender, you are the disciple. And sometimes this is really arduous.

Ebrahim, a king of Balkh, came to a Sufi Teacher and said. “I have renounced my kingdom – now accept me as your disciple!”

The Teacher said, “Before I accept you, you will have to pass through a certain test.”

Ebrahim said, “I am ready – but I cannot wait, so test me.”

The Teacher said, “Go naked and make a round of your capital. And take one of my sandals and go on beating on your head with it.”

Those who were sitting there were just aghast. An old man said to the Teacher, “What are you doing to that poor man? He has renounced his kingdom. What more do you demand? What are you saying? And I have never seen such things before! Not even you have demanded such things before!”

But the Teacher said, “This has to be fulfilled. Come back, and only then will I think about making you my disciple.”

Ebrahim undressed, took a sandal, began to beat on his head, and passed through the city. He came back, and the Teacher bowed down to Ebrahim and touched his feet. He said, “You are already Enlightened.”

And Ebrahim said, “I myself feel a sudden change. I am a different person. But how, miraculously, have you changed me? The whole city was laughing – I was just mad.”

This is surrender. Then surrendering is enough. It is a sudden method, it can work in a moment, it can explode you in a moment.

On the surface it looks easy – that one has not to do anything, just to surrender. Then you do not know what surrendering means. It can mean anything. If the Teacher says, “Jump into the sea!” then there should be no hesitation. Surrendering means, “Now I am not – now you are. Do whatsoever you like.”

In Egypt there was a mystic, Dhun-Nun. When he was with his Teacher, he came to ask a certain question. The Teacher said, “Unless I say to you, ‘Ask,’ don’t ask, and wait.” For twelve years Dhun-Nun was waiting. He would come daily in the morning – the first man to enter the hut of the Teacher. He would sit there. Many, many others would come to ask and they would be answered. And the Teacher didn’t say to anyone again, “Wait!” It was too much. And that man Dhun-Nun was waiting – for twelve years. He was not allowed to ask. So that was the first thing he uttered, “I want to ask a certain question,” and the Teacher said, “You wait – unless I tell you to ask, you cannot ask. Wait!”

For twelve years he waited. The Teacher wouldn’t even look at him; the Teacher wouldn’t even give any hint that he was going to let him ask. He completely forgot that Dhun-Nun exists. And Dhun-Nun waited day and night for twelve years. Then one day the Teacher moved to him and said, “Dhun-Nun – but now you need not ask. You had come to ask a certain question. Now I allow you, but I think now you need not ask.”

Dhun-Nun bowed, touched the Teacher’s feet and said, “You have given me answer enough.”

What had happened to Dhun-Nun? You cannot wait twelve years unless you have surrendered totally. Then doubts are bound to arise – whether you have become a madman, whether he has forgotten you completely. And to no one else was the Teacher saying “Wait!” For twelve years, thousands and thousands of people would come and ask and he would answer. And this would go on continuously, day after day, and the man waited. It was a total trust. The Teacher said, “Now you need not ask.”

And Dhun-Nun said, “There is no question left. These twelve years, what a miracle you did with me! You did not even look at me. What a miracle! You did not even give a hint!”

Surrender means total trust. Then you are not needed. If you cannot give total trust, if you cannot surrender, then the only way is the path of will. But don’t be confused. I know so many people going around and around confused. They would like something to happen to them just like what happens on the path of surrender, but they are not ready to surrender. They would like to behave like a man of will and would like something to happen as it happens on the path of surrender.

Only yesterday I received a letter, and I receive many letters like that. The letter-writer says, “I want to learn much from you. But I cannot accept you as my Guru. I want to come and live with you, but I cannot become your disciple.” What is he saying? He wants to gain something just like one gains in surrender, but he wants to be intact as far as his will is concerned. This is impossible! One has to choose – and everything is just a device.

Two or three days ago, some friends came and they said to me, “People call you God – why do you accept it?”

I told them, “It may be helpful to them. It is not your concern.” They couldn’t understand because for them everything is a fact. Either it is or it is not. To me, everything is a device.

If someone has come to me to surrender, then a certain device is needed for him. And if someone has come not to surrender, then that device is useless for him, it is meaningless. But be clear about what you are and what you are trying to find out and how you want to find it out. Can you give up your ego? Then no need of awareness. Then you need a deep absorption. Be absorbed – dissolve! Don’t be. Forget! Rather than remembering, forgetting. Mm? – I told you that Gurdjieff said remembering is the method. For Meera, for Chaitanya, forgetting is the method: not SMRITI – not remembering; but VISMRITI – forgetting. Forget yourself completely, efface yourself completely!

And if that is not possible for you, then make every effort to be awake. Then don’t lose yourself in anything – not even in music. Mohammed was totally against music only because of this: on the path of will, music is a hindrance because you can forget yourself in it. So don’t forget yourself in anything, don’t lose yourself. But then use techniques to be more and more awake, more and more alert, more and more attentive, more and more conscious.

And remember one thing: you cannot do both. If you are doing both, then you will be very much confused – and your effort will be wasted, and your energy will be unnecessarily dissipated. Choose, and then stick to it. Only then can something happen. It is a long process and arduous. And there are no shortcuts. All the shortcuts are deceptions. But because everyone is lethargic and everyone wants something without doing anything, many shortcuts are invented. There is no shortcut!

It is reported that Euclid, who invented geometry, was also a teacher of Alexander. Euclid was teaching Alexander mathematics, particularly geometry. Alexander said to Euclid, “Don’t go on with this long process. I am not an ordinary student. Find some shortcut!” Euclid didn’t return again. One day passed, two days, three, one week. Alexander inquired.

Euclid wrote a note saying: ‘There are no shortcuts. Whether you are an emperor or a beggar, there are no shortcuts. And if you desire some shortcut, then I am not your teacher. Then you need someone who can deceive you. I am not your teacher. So find someone else. Someone will come up who will say, ‘No, I know the shortcut.’ But in knowledge there are no shortcuts. One has to go the long way.”

So don’t be deceived, and don’t think that if you combine both paths then it will be good for you – no. Every system is perfect in itself, and the moment you combine it with something else, you destroy the organic unity in it.

There are many, many persons who go on talking about a synthesis of religions – which is nonsense! Every religion is a perfect, organic whole. It need not be combined with anything else. If you combine, you destroy everything. There may be similarities in the Bible and the Koran and the Vedas, but these are superficial similarities. Deep down they each have a different organic unity of their own.

So then if one is a Christian, one should be one hundred percent a Christian. And if one is a Hindu, one should be one hundred percent a Hindu. A fifty percent Hindu and a fifty percent Christian is just insane. It is just like fifty percent ayurvedic medicine and fifty percent allopathic medicine. The person will go insane. There is no synthesis between “pathies”, and every religion is like a “pathy”. It is a medicine. It is a science – every technique!

Because I have mentioned medicine, it will be good to finish, to conclude, that the path of will is just like naturopathy – you have to depend upon yourself. No help! The path of surrender is more like allopathy – you can use medicines.

Think of it in this way: when someone is ill, he has two things – an inner, positive possibility of health and an accidental or incidental phenomenon of disease, illness. Naturopathy is not concerned with illness directly. Naturopathy is directly concerned with a positive growth of health. So grow in health! Naturopathy means growing in health positively. When you grow in health, the disease will disappear by itself. You need not be concerned with disease directly.

Allopathy is not concerned with positive health at all. It is concerned with the illness: destroy the illness and you will be healthy automatically.

The path of will is concerned with growing in positive awareness. If you grow, the ego will disappear – that is the disease. The path of surrender is concerned with the disease itself, not with positive growth in health. Destroy the disease – surrender the ego – and you will grow in health.

The path of surrender is allopathic and the path of will is naturopathic. But don’t mix both; otherwise you will be more ill. Then your effort to be healthy will create more problems for you. And everyone is just confused. One goes on thinking that if you use many, many “pathies”, of course, mathematically, you should gain health sooner. Mathematically, logically, it may seem so, but it is not so really. You may even become an impossible case.


From The Ultimate Alchemy, Volume 1, Chapter 16

Ultimate Alchemy, V. 1

Copyright© OSHO International Foundation

An MP3 audio file of this discourse can be downloaded from, or you can read the entire book online at the Osho Library.

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3 thoughts on “Path of Will or Path of Surrender? – Osho”

  1. Has there been a simpler, more lucid illustration of paths to totality? When will this country, (the whole world actually) learn to be totally aware of, or surrender to, this luminous being and the insights that emanated from him?
    Just reading this in the morning has put a smile on my face. If there were any niggling worries about how the day would turn out, they don’t exist anymore:) (as they never did in truth anyway:))


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