Naropa dreams of a horrible-looking woman

1001 Tales Discourses

“… one who only understands the word becomes ugly,” says Osho. From our series 1001 Tales, compiled by Shanti.


I will tell you one anecdote I have always loved…

Naropa was a great scholar, a great pundit. There are stories that he was a great vice-chancellor of a great university – ten thousand disciples of his own.

One day he was sitting surrounded by his disciples. All around him were scattered thousands of scriptures, ancient, very ancient, rare. Suddenly he fell asleep, must have been tired, and he had a vision.

I call it a vision, not a dream, because it is no ordinary dream. It is so significant, to call it a dream won’t be just; it was a vision.

He saw a very, very old, ugly, horrible woman – a hag. Her ugliness was so much that he started trembling in his sleep. It was so nauseating he wanted to escape, but where to escape, where to go? He was caught, as if hypnotized by the old hag. Her body was nauseating, but her eyes were like magnets.

She asked, “Naropa, what are you doing?”

And he said, “I am studying.”

“What are you studying?” asked the old woman.

He said, “Philosophy, religion, epistemology, language, grammar, logic.”

The old woman asked again, “Do you understand them?”

Naropa said, “Of… Yes, I understand them.”

The woman asked again, “Do you understand the word, or the sense?”

This was asked for the first time. Thousands of questions had been asked to Naropa in his life. He was a great teacher – thousands of students always asking, inquiring – but nobody had asked this: whether you understand the word or the sense.

And the woman’s eyes were so penetrating that it was impossible to lie – she will find out. Before her eyes Naropa felt completely naked, nude, transparent. Those eyes were going to the very depth of his being and it was impossible to lie.

To anybody else he would have said. “Of course, I understand the sense,” but to this woman, this horrible-looking woman, he couldn’t speak the lie; he had to say the truth.

He said, “Yes, I understand the words.”

The woman was very happy. She started dancing and laughing.

Thinking that the woman has become so happy…. And because of her happiness her ugliness was transformed; she was no longer so ugly; a subtle beauty started coming out of her being.

Thinking “I have made her so happy. Why not make her a little more happy?” he said, “And yes, I understand the sense also.”

The woman stopped laughing. She stopped dancing. She started crying and weeping and all her ugliness was back – a thousandfold more.

Naropa said, “Why? Why are you weeping and crying? And why were you laughing and dancing before?”

The woman said, “I was dancing and laughing and was happy because a great scholar like you didn’t lie. But now I am crying and weeping because you have lied to me. I know – and you know – that you don’t understand the sense.”

The vision disappeared and Naropa was transformed.

He escaped from the university. He never again touched a scripture in his life. He became completely ignorant: he understood that just by understanding the word, whom are you befooling; and just by understanding the word you have become an ugly old hag…

One who understands the sense becomes beautiful; one who only understands the word becomes ugly. And the woman was nobody outside: it was just a projection of the inner part. It was Naropa’s own being, through knowledge became ugly.

Just this much understanding that “I don’t understand the sense,” and the ugliness was going to be transformed immediately into a beautiful phenomenon.

Quote from Osho, Yoga, The Alpha And The Omega – Discourses on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Vol 5, Ch 3

naropaNāropā (? – 1040 CE) was an Indian Buddhist Mahasiddha. Born in a high status Brahmin family of Bengal, he was the disciple of Tilopa and a contemporary of Atisha.

Our series 1001 Tales is compiled by Shanti
Photo credit JR Coffron III

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