The inheritance of seventeen camels

1001 Tales Discourses

“Wisdom is practical, knowledge impractical. Knowledge is abstract, wisdom is earthly; knowledge is just words, wisdom is experience,” comments Osho.

Camel herd

Just the other night I was reading a small story, an Arabian story.

A man died. He had seventeen camels and three sons and he left a will in which, when it was opened and read, it was said that one half of the camels should go to the first son, one third to the second and one ninth to the third.

The sons were nonplussed – what to do? Seventeen camels: one half is to go to the first son – is one to cut one camel in two? And that too won’t solve much because then one third has to go to the second. That too won’t solve much: one ninth has to go to the third. Almost all the camels would be killed.

Of course, they went to the man of the town who was most knowledgeable: the Mulla – the pundit, the scholar, the mathematician. He thought hard, he tried hard, but he couldn’t find any solution because mathematics is mathematics. He said, “I have never divided camels in my life, this whole thing seems to be foolish. But you will have to cut them. If the will is to be followed exactly then the camels have to be cut, they have to be divided.”

The sons were not ready to cut the camels. So what to do? Then somebody suggested, “It is better that you go to someone who knows something about camels, not about mathematics.” So they went to the sheikh of the town who was an old man, uneducated but wise through experience. They told him their problem.

The old man laughed. He said, “Don’t be worried. It is simple.” He loaned one of his own camels to them – now there were eighteen camels – and then he divided. Nine camels were given to the first and he was satisfied, perfectly satisfied. Six camels were given to the second, one third; he was also perfectly satisfied. And two camels were given to the third, one ninth; he was also satisfied. One camel was left. That was loaned. He took his camel back and said, “You can go.”

Wisdom is practical, knowledge impractical. Knowledge is abstract, wisdom is earthly; knowledge is just words, wisdom is experience.

Osho, Come Follow To You, Vol 1, Ch 4, Q 1 (excerpt)

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

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