A monkey came to the Buddha…

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Osho says, “The ego thinks it can do everything. It lives with this fallacy. The part lives with the fallacy that it is the whole.”

The ego is a kind of madness, it is neurosis, it is megalomania. The ego is very, very mad; if you listen to it you can see its madness. It thinks that all is possible. It thinks that it can conquer the whole, that it can conquer nature, that it can conquer God. It thinks in terms of conquering. It thinks in terms of aggression. It thinks that all is possible, that all can be done. And it goes on becoming more and more ambitious, it goes on becoming more and more mad.

In China there is a very ancient Zen story called The Monkey. The monkey is one of the most ancient symbols for the mind, for the self, for the ego. The monkey is the metaphor for the stupidity of the ego. […]

Listen to this story.

A monkey came to the Buddha. He claimed that he could do everything, that he was no ordinary monkey. He was like Alexander the Great. He said, ‘Impossible! The very word does not exist in my dictionary. I can do everything.’ He was a great monkey – at least that was what he believed.

Buddha and Monkey king

Buddha said, ‘I will have a wager with you. If you are really so clever and so great, jump clear of the palm of my right hand. If you succeed I will tell the Jade Emperor to come and live with me in the Western paradise and you shall have his throne without more ado. But if you fail you shall go back to earth and do penance there for a kalpa before you come back to me with your talk.’

‘This Buddha,’ the monkey thought to himself, ‘is a perfect fool. I can jump a hundred and eight thousand leagues while his palm cannot be as much as eight inches across. How could I fail to jump clear of it?’

‘You are sure you are in a position to do this for me?’ he said.

‘Of course I am,’ said Buddha.

He stretched out his right hand, which looked about the size of a lotus leaf. The monkey put his cudgel behind his ear and leaped with all his might.

‘That’s all right,’ he said to himself, ‘I am right off it now.’ He was moving so fast that he was almost invisible and Buddha watching him with the eye of wisdom saw a mere whirling shoot along.

Buddha's hand and the Monkey king

The monkey came at last to five pink pillars sticking up in the air. ‘This is the end of the world,’ said the monkey to himself. ‘All I have got to do is to go back to Buddha and claim my forfeit. The throne is mine.’

‘Wait a minute,’ he said presently, ‘I had better just have a record of some kind in case I have trouble with the Buddha.’ So at the base of the centre pillar he wrote: THE GREAT SAGE, EQUAL TO HEAVEN, REACHED THIS PLACE. Then to mark his disrespect he relieved nature at the bottom of the first pillar and somersaulted back to where he had come from.

Standing on Buddha’s palm he said, ‘Well I have gone and come back. You can go and tell the Jade Emperor to hand over the palaces of Heaven to me.’

‘You stinking ape,’ said Buddha. ‘You have been on the palm of my hand all the time.’

‘You are quite mistaken,’ said the monkey. ‘I got to the end of the world where I saw five flesh-coloured pillars sticking up into the sky. I wrote something on one of them. I will take you there and show you if you like.’

‘No need for that,’ said the Buddha. ‘Just look down.’

The monkey peered down with his fiery, steely eyes and there at the base of the middle finger of Buddha’s hand he saw written the words: THE GREAT SAGE, EQUAL TO HEAVEN, REACHED THIS PLACE. And from the fork between the thumb and first finger came the smell of monkey’s urine.

Now this monkey is the metaphor for the ego. The ego thinks it can do everything. It lives with this fallacy. The part lives with the fallacy that it is the whole. The impotent ego lives with the fallacy that it is omnipotent. The ego, which does not exist at all, thinks it is the very centre of the whole existence.

Osho, Zen, the Path of Paradox, Vol 1, Ch 5 (excerpt)

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

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