The Sheep, The Tiger and Inquiry


Avikal’s article focuses on false identity and transformation and uses an old story as a metaphor.

Tiger or sheep?

There’s an old tale of how an orphaned tiger cub is raised by a flock of sheep. It grows up as a sheep, without any awareness that it is a tiger. Such a case of mistaken identity is by no means rare; in fact, it is the norm.

Basic misunderstanding

We all live in this basic misunderstanding about who and what we are. Yes, we have a name and a gender, we are born somewhere, we have certain parents and culture or religion, we have likes and dislikes, we have ‘our life’, our ‘personal history’ and we believe – often even after years of meditation – that that is who we are.

osho zen tarot


So we talk sheep talk, we dress in sheep clothes, we do sheep jobs and when we are in trouble we go for sheep therapy and we listen to people telling us that we do indeed have problems and that we need to breathe more, do some emotional release or a few years of psychoanalysis then we’ll be better sheep and possibly solve our relationship issues with other sheep.

Looking for solutions

When nothing works we then run to a psychic and have a tarot reading or, even better, a channelling: anything that can tell us what to do, where we are and, ultimately, who we are, so we can breathe again for a little bit.

Unfortunately, that deep sense of misplacement, that feeling of not belonging and being lost doesn’t leave us, no matter how many plasters we put on top of it.

But deep down …

All along, however, somewhere in the depths of our heart we have known that there is something ‘not quite right’ with this sheep business, but we never had the time or the clear intention to figure it out, once and for all.

The key question

Yes, we recognise that we have been conditioned, programmed, wounded, used and abused.

Yes, we understand that this is part of being born into a family in this world.

Yes, we spend a lot of time, energy and money looking into this and getting some understanding and, yes, our lives are perhaps fuller and happier by having accepted some of what we are… but “WHO AM I?” remains the unanswered question.

A quantum leap

When we can look at our stories, at all the things (including being a seeker) that make ‘my life’ and very simply recognise that we do not know, that we have no idea of the answer to the question “WHO AM I?”, there and then the journey takes a quantum leap. The realization alone that “I DO NOT KNOW WHO I AM” immediately implies that we do not know who the other is. We do not know what life or love or freedom or truth are and that we are living out a false identity with others who live the same illusion, trying to solve false problems and finding false solutions. In that moment the understanding dawns that all that we believe to be “ME” and “MY LIFE” are concepts thinner than the air that we are now breathing.

Back to the tiger

The story tells that a very old tiger sees the young tiger moving sheep-like with the flock. He separates the young tiger from the flock and chases him to the edge of a lake where he can look at his reflection in the water. There and then he sees the resemblance between himself and the old tiger, and realises that he is not a sheep.

The Master is the tiger

That’s what the Master does. By his words and his silences. He strips us of all ideals and concepts. He pushes us. He seduces us into looking at our image and the false personality that we wear.

His final goal is that we confront the basic question: “WHO AM I?”


When finally the ‘not-knowing’ is accepted and digested, then inquiry becomes the basic fuel of every moment. Inquiry is opening up to our experience in the here/now, free, spontaneous and full of innocence.

Inquiry is not about analysing everything that happens to us and trying to make sense of it.

Inquiry is the juice of our very presence, intrinsic to our being present. It is wonderment and curiosity as well as a desire to be so close to “WHAT IS” that we can let go of prejudices, judgments and positions; we are open and available to experience.

Inquiry does not look for answers, systems or final revelations. Inquiry opens us up to directly experiencing who we are, moment after moment. It teaches us to relax in the moment and enjoy.

Then we’ll utter a deep roar of satisfaction, all of a sudden, when we least expect it.

A joke

A crowded United Airlines flight was cancelled.

A single agent was rebooking a long line of inconvenienced travellers. Suddenly an angry passenger pushed his way to the desk.

He slapped his ticket on the counter and said, “I have to be on this flight and it has to be first class.”

The agent replied, “I’m sorry, sir. I’ll be happy to try to help you, but I’ve got to help these folks first, and I’m sure we’ll be able to work something out.”

The passenger was unimpressed.

He asked loudly, so that the passengers behind him could hear,


Without hesitating, the agent smiled and grabbed her public address microphone: “May I have your attention, please,” she began, her voice heard clearly throughout the terminal. “We have a passenger here at Gate 14 WHO DOES NOT KNOW WHO HE IS. If anyone can help him find his identity, please come to Gate 14.”

With the folks behind him in line laughing hysterically, the man glared at the United agent, gritted his teeth and swore, “Fuck you!”

Without flinching, she smiled and said, “I’m sorry, sir, but you’ll have to get in line for that, too!”

And what about everyday life?

Yes, what about our problems, issues, passions, love, longings, relationships and all that stuff we call ‘life’? All those wonderful things we are attached to?

The strange thing is that they become friends.

Detachment: the key?

When we slowly detach ourselves from the ideas and the concepts of who we think we are and openly engage in questioning and inquiry, a lot of the heaviness (of what in desperate moments we call our ‘shit’) disappears.

All these things that seem to clutter our lives, pulling us here and there, stop appearing to be obstacles and impediments and reappear as opportunities and possibilities, doors to a deeper intimacy with ourselves.

Inquiry, gateway to potential

When we open to feel the emptiness and the void of who and what we are, all these things are just stones that pave our path; they are flowers alongside it, gateways to new possibilities; they are reflections that Being offers us so that we can come to know ourselves.

And each stone, flower, gateway, possibility… is unknown, and each one can be experienced, and each one is part of what and who we are in this moment.

Inquiry is the catalyst for a tremendous integration, an integration that includes the sheep and the tiger and the mouse and whatever else manifests… and all of that is me, you, us.

Article by Avikal


Further reading:
Interview with Avikal: Essence Work
Articles: Don’t Let Your Understanding Become More Baggage!The Medusa
Reviews of two of Avikal’s books: ‘Freedom to be Yourself’ and ‘Without a Mask’

Illustration: Osho Zen Tarot – Major Arcana No. 15 – Conditioning, Art by Padma


AvikalAvikal is founder and director of the Integral Being Institute which is active in Europe, Asia and Australia. In his newest books published by O-Books – Freedom to be Yourself and Without a Mask – with the respective, revealing subtitles Mastering the inner judge and Discovering your authentic self – Avikal provides far-seeing insight into his world of training and personal development. Avikal lives in Sydney, Australia.

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