Osho – Buddha says There are needy people all around. There are ill people, there are poor people, there are paralyzed people and blind and deaf and lame. If you start serving all these people you will forget the real work. That’s what has happened to the Christian missionary. He runs the school, the hospital, he serves the poor people, and of course he is very much respected for that, but he is neglecting the real work.
Buddha is not saying don’t serve anybody; he is saying don’t serve at the cost of your work. If you can serve people without disturbing your real work on yourself, it’s okay; by the side you can do it. But in fact it is not possible — you don’t have that much energy. First you have to pour your whole energy, total energy, into self-growth.
Once you have become a grown-up, mature, alert, aware, then you can serve people and only then — because then you will have something to share: love, compassion. Then you will have something to really help them: understanding, wisdom. Right now what can you do? Right now you yourself are in such a mess that if you serve somebody you are bound to create more mess for him.
And that’s what the missionaries have been doing to the world — they create more mischief, more mess. They think they are doing great work, holy work — it is not possible! Unless you are holy your work cannot be holy. Actions are not decided by actions themselves but by the source from where they arise.
Buddha says: NEVER NEGLECT YOUR WORK…. Buddha is saying exactly what I say to you. I say to you: First be selfish, utterly selfish. That is one of the criticisms of my work: people criticize me because I am making people selfish. I am telling them to meditate, to grow, and forget all about the world. And the world is in trouble: there are poor people and there are miserable people, and great public servants are needed. And I am teaching people just to sit silently and meditate, or dance and rejoice.
But that’s what Buddha was saying. That’s what the awakened people have always been saying to the world. First become enlightened, be full of light, then do whatsoever happens through that light. If service comes easy to you, good. If you want to teach people, good. If you want to help the ill, the old, good. But right now you yourself are blind, you yourself are in a dark night of the soul. What can you do with your service? What are you going to give to people? You don’t have anything — you are empty, hollow.
NEVER NEGLECT YOUR WORK FOR ANOTHER’S, HOWEVER GREAT HIS NEED. Listen to Buddha’s words: However great his need, never neglect your own work. There is something very fundamental involved in it: you can help others only if you have helped yourself first.
Once I was sitting on the bank of a river and a man started drowning. He shouted for help. I ran, but by the time I reached close to the river to jump, another man who was closer, just near the bank, had already jumped. So I stopped myself; there was no need. But then the other man started drowning — I had to save both!
I asked the second man, “Why did you jump if you don’t know how to swim?”
He said, “I completely forgot! The moment I heard him shout, ‘Save me!’ — I completely forgot that I don’t know how to swim. I simply jumped, it was a mechanical response.”
This is not the way to help! I said, “If I had not been here, you both would have drowned! There was every possibility of the other person reaching the shore alone, without you…. Because you don’t know how to swim and you would have caught hold of the other person and you both would have depended on each other, there is more possibility that you both would have drowned. And you created unnecessary trouble for me — first I had to save you, because you were closer to the bank, and that man had to wait a little longer.”
But this is happening in life every day: you start helping others without ever becoming aware that you yourself are in need. Be altruistic only when your own self is fulfilled. Selfishness and unselfishness are not opposite to each other. A really selfish person is bound to become unselfish one day, because the really selfish person is one who comes to discover his inner self. A really selfish person cannot be interested in money, cannot be interested in power, cannot be interested in prestige. If he is really selfish, his first interest will be: “Who am I?” The people who are interested in money and power and prestige don’t know real selfishness.
I also teach you real, authentic selfishness, because my own observation is: out of it arises altruistic love. They are not opposite. When one is fulfilled, one starts overflowing with compassion.
Source: from Osho Book “Dhammapada Vol 5”