The convict and the ant

1001 Tales told by the Master

Osho relates a tale showing what happens when one interprets a situation. From our series 1001 Tales, compiled by Shanti.

A man jailed for twenty years kept his sanity by befriending an ant that used to share his cell. He even made a two-storey home for him in a matchbox.


To while away the hours the convict made a tiny guitar, and in five years he taught the ant to sing and play the guitar. In the long winter evenings the ant was of great consolation, giving recitals and concerts for his benefactor.

In another five years the convict had taught the ant to dance and by his twelfth year he was also an accomplished uilleann pipe player.

As the day of his release approached, the convict began to realise that he had in his possession the greatest television performer ever known. He would be rich, famous….

On the day of his release, the ex-convict rushed to the nearest pub to celebrate his liberty. He ordered a pint and while he drank it he produced the matchbox, shook the ant onto the counter of the deserted bar and asked for a tune.

The ant rose to the occasion with a lovely rendering of ‘The heart bowed down’. He was powerful. His owner, so overcome with joy, called over the barman and nodded towards the ant.

“What do you think of that?” he said.

Where upon the barman raised his hand, brought it down on the counter and killed the ant.

“Sorry about that, sir,” he said, “it is the hot weather.”

Now the barman had his own interpretation. He did not look at this ant.

It must have been an everyday thing – somebody, a customer, would call and would say, “Look at the ant on the table!” And he would kill it and say, “It is the hot weather.”

Now he has killed one of the most precious ants.

That’s what happens when you bring your interpretations in.


Osho, Sufis, the People of the Path – Talks on Sufism, Vol 2, Ch 9

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

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