The diamond-encrusted tortoise

1001 Tales told by the Master Discourses

Osho says, “To be encrusted in gold and to die are one and the same thing… The greater the wealth you want to achieve the more dead you have to be…. All heights are suicidal!”

Gold Tortoise

The King of China was after Lao Tzu, that he should become his prime minister, for a wiser person than he was difficult to find. Had he just accepted the post, that was enough to raise the king’s prestige sky-high.

The king’s men dogged Lao-Tzu’s feet. Lao Tzu would leave the village as soon as he came to know that the king’s men had arrived in search of him. With great difficulty Lao Tzu was caught. He was sitting on the bank of a river, catching fish.

The captain of the king’s party approached him with folded hands and said, ”You do not know why we are following you! The king has ordered that you be given the place of the highest honour in the kingdom. You are to become the prime minister!”

Lao Tzu sat quiet, without a word. The leader of the party thought he had not heard. He shook him and said, ”Don’t you hear what I say?”

Nearby in a hollow filled with slush, there was some movement. Lao Tzu said, “Do you see that hollow? What is there in it? Why is it moving?”

The leader and his party went up to the puddle and saw a tortoise wallowing in the slush.


Lao Tzu says, “I have heard that there is a tortoise in the palace of your king which is covered with gold.” The gold-encrusted tortoise was the emblem of the king of China in those days.

”You have heard right,” said the headman.

”If you were to ask this tortoise to come with you to the palace, be covered with gold and be worshipped once in a year, do you think he will agree?” asked Lao Tzu. ”Or will he prefer to stay in this slush and be free?”

”If he has any sense,” replied the headman, ”he will remain where he is; for to be encrusted in gold is to die. Then what use will all the worship be to him?”

Lao Tzu says, ”I have at least as much understanding as this poor tortoise! Please go. I’m happy in my slush. Do not try to encrust me in gold; for then I shall die.”

In fact, to be encrusted in gold and to die are one and the same thing. No one can be encrusted in gold before he dies. The higher the post you want to attain, the more dead you have to become. The greater the wealth you want to achieve the more dead you have to be. It is difficult to climb up without becoming dead. All heights are suicidal!

Osho, The Way of Tao – Discourses on Lao Tse’s Tao-Te-King, Vol 1, Ch 21 (translated from Hindi, excerpt)

Image of Golden Turtle credit to Yunge Official Store

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

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