The court fool

1001 Tales Discourses

Osho says, “You will be surprised to know that they were not ordinary fools, they were some of the wisest men in the country.” From our series 1001 Tales, compiled by Shanti.

You must have heard that in the old days great kings used to have a fool in the court – the court fool. And you will be surprised to know that they were not ordinary fools, they were some of the wisest men in the country. The king used to have wise men and a fool too – to keep a balance. Otherwise the wise people would make things very sober, dry, dull, sad. All joy would be lost. Sometimes you can become too serious, and the very seriousness can become a barrier in looking into things. The fool was needed. When things would be getting too serious he would do something or say something and bring the atmosphere back to human altitudes.

Man on donkey

A king was seriously thinking of turning the whole country moral. Nobody should be allowed to say anything untrue. Untruths should be banned. The wise men were all agreed; in fact, because these wise people were his servants they were even going further than him, exaggerating. One wise man suggested that of course this was the right thing to be done – untruths should be banned – and one who was found to be saying some untruth should be immediately sentenced to death. He should be hanged in the marketplace so that everybody would know what the cost of saying anything untrue would be.

The fool was listening. He said, ‘Okay. Then tomorrow morning I will see you all at the gate.’

They said, ‘What do you mean?’

He said, ‘At the gate.’

And he said to the king, ‘Keep the gallows ready because I am going to say an untruth.’

The king said, ‘Have you gone mad?’

And he replied, ‘I have always been mad: But I will see you all, the whole court, at the gate – and keep the gallows ready. I will be the first person to be hanged.’

It was a challenge. The gallows were made ready and the next morning, when they opened the gate of the town, the fool entered on his donkey.

The king asked, ‘Where are you going, you fool?’ He was very angry because they had had to get up early in the morning to get there.

And the fool said, ‘I am going to the gallows.’

Now he created a problem. If you killed him he had said a truth, if you didn’t kill him he had told a lie. He said, ‘I am going to the gallows. Prepare them. I am going to die on the gallows.’ All these wise men and the king were puzzled. What to do with this man? He was telling a lie. If you kill him the lie becomes a truth. If you don’t kill him the lie goes unpunished.

And the fool laughed. He said, ‘You are all fools. Who can ban untruth and who can ban immorality? Everything is needed in proportion.’

Each great king used to have a fool because wise people tend to go to the extreme. And to go to the extreme is a sort of foolishness. To keep a balance one should sometimes forget all about dignity, one should sometimes bend in company, laugh like a fool, be like a child – be human.

Osho, Tao: The Pathless Path – Talks on extracts from ‘The Book of Lieh Tzu’, Vol 2, Ch 7 (excerpt)

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

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