Lao Tzu’s famous judgment

1001 Tales told by the Master Discourses

Osho comments: “His reasoning was so absolutely correct: If people go on gathering money on one side, then who is creating the thieves?” From our series 1001 Tales, compiled by Shanti.

Lao Tzu on Oxen

It happened:

The emperor of China made Lao Tzu his supreme court chief justice. Lao Tzu tried to persuade him, but in vain: “You will repent if you make me the chief judge of your supreme court, because my ways of understanding and seeing are totally different from yours.”

But the emperor was very insistent, because he had heard so much about the wisdom of this man. He said, “I have decided. And you cannot refuse it.”

The first case on the first day when Lao Tzu was in the seat of the chief justice, was about a man who was found red-handed, stealing from the house of the richest man in the capital. In fact there was no case – he was caught red-handed. There were eyewitnesses, and he himself confessed that “Whatever they are saying is true.”

Lao Tzu gave his famous judgment – so unique and so full of understanding that it has never been given by anyone before or after. The judgment was that the thief had to go to jail for six months – and with him, the rich man also had to go to jail for six months! The whole court, the whole bench of judges could not believe what he was saying. They were thinking his judgment would show his wisdom; it shows that he is mad! What wrong has the rich man done?

The rich man said, “I cannot believe my ears. My money is being stolen and I am being punished? The same punishment as you are giving to the thief?”

Lao Tzu said, “You are the first criminal – the thief comes number two. It is just my compassion that I am giving you only six months; you should be given a longer time in jail than the thief. You have gathered all the money of the capital, you have made thousands of people hungry, starving, dying – and they are the people who produce. You are the greatest exploiter. The money belongs to them; he was not stealing, he was simply taking the money to where it belongs. You have been the thief, the greatest thief in the capital. So feel grateful that I am not sending you for six years.”

His reasoning was so absolutely correct: If people go on gathering money on one side, then who is creating the thieves? And if somebody out of hunger, starvation, disease, old age, finds no other way to survive, and if he becomes a thief, who is responsible for it?

The whole court was silent. The rich man said, “Perhaps you are right, but before you send me to jail I want to see the emperor.” And to the emperor he said, “You have put as a chief judge of your supreme court, a madman. And remember: if I am a thief you are a greater thief; and if today I am going to jail, just wait for your moment. We shall meet in the jail. You have exploited the whole country, and if you want to save your skin, remove this man immediately and cancel his judgment.”

The emperor said, “It is my fault. That man was trying hard to persuade me. He told me, ‘Don’t put me in the seat of the chief justice because my ways of seeing and understanding are totally different from your ways of seeing and understanding. You live in utter darkness and blindness; you don’t see simple facts, that the thief is not the criminal but a victim. He needs all the sympathy possible; but on the contrary, he gets punishment. And the rich man needs nobody’s sympathy, but nobody will ever think that he has to be punished. Your whole gang makes all the laws, which are favorable to you and unfavorable to the poor whose blood you all have been sucking.'”

Lao Tzu was relieved from his duties, and the emperor said, “You were right. Please forgive me. Our ways of thinking are totally different.”

Lao Tzu said, “Have you ever thought about it? You are saying our ways of thinking are totally different… if you had ever thought about it they would not have been different. They are different because I try to see the root cause – why there is so much evil, why there is so much wrong. And you are only interested in collecting more and more power, more and more riches. Greed is unthinking, ambition is blind. And it is good that you have come to some understanding on the first day because in my eyes, you are a criminal and sooner or later I was going to send you to jail. It is better that you have relieved me of the trouble of sending you to jail. But remember that you are the cause of all the crimes and you are never punished for it, and the poor victims are punished.”

Osho, The Messiah, Commentaries on Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet”, Vol 1, Ch 21 (excerpt)

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

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