Plato meets Diogenes

1001 Tales told by the Master

“Your mind is nothing but a teaspoon and with it you are trying to exhaust the oceanic existence.”


It happened…

One of the great philosophers of Greece, Plato, was a contemporary of Diogenes. They were continuously in controversy because Diogenes was a mystic and he knew things which Plato could not even dream of, although Plato was a great philosopher. And in the books and the histories of philosophy, you will find Plato, you will not find Diogenes. But the real thing was with Diogenes, not with Plato, who was a great thinker, a giant intellectual. Diogenes was a simple, childlike, innocent man, but he knew something which thousands of Platos together could not know.

One day, when Plato was on a morning walk by the side of the sea, he saw a man. It was early in the morning, a little dark – the sun had not risen yet. He could not figure out who the man was. This man was Diogenes and in a spoon he was bringing… He would go to the ocean, take the water in the spoon – he had made a small hole in the sand – pour the water into the sand, and then go back.

Plato, standing there, saw him doing it. He looked like a madman. For a moment he thought, “I should not interfere.” But such is the mind – it becomes curious: “Maybe he is not mad; perhaps he is doing something meaningful and I am not aware of it. And what is wrong if I ask him?” So he said, “Please forgive me for interrupting. I don’t want to interrupt you – you may be involved in some great work – but what is going on?”

Diogenes said, “I am trying to empty the ocean.”

Plato said, “My God, with this teaspoon?”

And then the sun was rising and Diogenes started laughing and said, “Plato, what else are you doing?” Then Plato recognized Diogenes. He used to live naked, but that day he was covered with a cloth, just to hide himself, so Plato would not know him at first. Otherwise he might not have interrupted.

Plato was simply stunned, he could not answer. Diogenes said, “That’s what you are trying to do. Your mind is nothing but a teaspoon and with it you are trying to exhaust the oceanic existence. What I am doing is just to remind you… I know it is not possible. You should also remember that what you are doing is impossible.”

Osho, Sat Chit Anand, Ch 4, Q 1 (excerpt)

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

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