The Greatest Trick Of The Mind – A Sufi Spiritual Story by Osho

The greatest trick of the mind is to give you the idea of that which you are not, and to help you feel that you are already that.

Gurdjieff used to tell a parable…. There was a magician who was also a shepherd. He had thousands of sheep to look after and he was a very miserly man so he didn’t want many servants and he didn’t want many watchmen. He did not want to pay anybody and he did not want his sheep to be lost or taken by the wolves. But it was very difficult for him to take care of all the sheep alone. He was very rich and he had many sheep.

So he played a trick on the sheep. He hypnotized them — he was a magician. He hypnotized them and told every sheep, ‘You are not a sheep. Don’t be afraid.’ To some he said, ‘You are a lion.’ To some he said, ‘You are tigers.’ To some he even said, ‘You are men. Nobody is going to kill you. Don’t be afraid and don’t try to escape from here.’

The sheep started believing in his hypnosis. Every day he would butcher a few sheep but the others would think, ‘We are not sheep. He is butchering only sheep. We are lions, we are tigers, we are wolves, we are this and that…’ even that they were men. Some were even told that they were magicians — and they believed it. It was always some sheep which was to be butchered. They remained aloof, distant. They were not worried. And by and by they were all butchered.

As told by Osho in “Sufis the people of the path”

What is the Spiritual Moral / Meaning of Osho's “The Greatest Trick Of The Mind” Story?

The spiritual moral of this story is a profound reflection on the power of illusion and self-deception. Just as the magician in the parable hypnotized the sheep into believing they were something other than what they truly were, our minds often trick us into perceiving ourselves as something we are not. We may believe ourselves to be powerful, invincible, or superior, but in reality, we are vulnerable to the same fate as everyone else. This serves as a reminder to cultivate awareness and discernment in our thoughts, recognizing the illusions that may cloud our perception of reality.

Furthermore, the story highlights the danger of complacency and false security. The sheep, under the spell of the magician's hypnosis, became passive and resigned to their fate. Similarly, when we allow ourselves to be deluded by the illusions of the mind, we become passive observers of our lives, detached from the truth of our existence. This passive acceptance can lead us astray, blinding us to the consequences of our actions and inhibiting our spiritual growth.

Moreover, the parable underscores the importance of facing reality with courage and authenticity. Despite the magician's attempts to convince them otherwise, the sheep remained sheep at their core. Likewise, we must confront the truth of who we are, embracing our vulnerabilities and limitations with humility and honesty. Only by acknowledging our true nature can we embark on a journey of self-discovery and transformation.

Additionally, the story emphasizes the deceptive nature of ego and identity. Just as the sheep were led to believe they were lions, tigers, or even men, our egos often construct false narratives about ourselves based on fear, insecurity, or pride. These illusions of identity serve to bolster our sense of self-importance and shield us from facing our inner truth. Yet, beneath these layers of illusion lies the essence of our being, untouched by the whims of the ego and fully aligned with the divine.

Furthermore, the parable invites us to examine the consequences of collective delusion and conformity. The sheep, influenced by the hypnotic suggestions of the magician, followed the herd mentality, oblivious to the impending danger. In our own lives, we may find ourselves succumbing to societal norms and expectations, losing sight of our individuality and authenticity in the process. This serves as a cautionary tale, urging us to question the narratives imposed upon us and reclaim our sovereignty of mind and spirit.

Moreover, the story speaks to the inevitability of mortality and the transient nature of existence. Despite the sheep's belief in their immortality, they ultimately met their demise at the hands of the magician. This serves as a sobering reminder of the impermanence of life and the importance of living each moment with purpose and awareness. By embracing the reality of our mortality, we can awaken to the preciousness of life and cultivate a deeper appreciation for the present moment.

In conclusion, the parable of the magician and the sheep serves as a profound metaphor for the human condition and the illusions that obscure our perception of reality. Through its poignant narrative, we are reminded of the pitfalls of self-deception, the importance of authenticity, and the impermanence of life. May we heed its timeless wisdom and embark on a journey of self-discovery guided by the light of truth and consciousness.

Personal Reflection Questions

Spiritual stories are an opportunity to reflect on your own life. Here are 10 questions you can use to go deeper with the teachings in this story:

  1. As you reflect on this story, consider how often you might fall victim to the illusions of the mind, believing yourself to be something other than your true essence. How does this realization resonate with your own experiences of self-perception and identity?
  2. Explore the ways in which fear and manipulation can cloud our perception of reality, as demonstrated by the sheep in the parable. How do external influences shape our beliefs and behaviors, leading us away from our authentic selves?
  3. Contemplate the role of awareness and discernment in distinguishing between truth and illusion. How can cultivating mindfulness help you see through the hypnotic suggestions of the mind and awaken to your inner wisdom?
  4. Reflect on the consequences of passivity and resignation in the face of deception, as exemplified by the sheep who remained complacent despite the impending danger. In what areas of your life do you find yourself passively accepting illusions, rather than questioning and challenging them?
  5. Consider the parallels between the magician's hypnosis and the societal norms and expectations that often dictate our sense of identity and belonging. How does conformity to external standards obscure our individuality and authenticity?
  6. Explore the theme of mortality and impermanence in the story, as the sheep ultimately meet their demise despite their belief in their invincibility. How does confronting the reality of death influence your perspective on life and living?
  7. Reflect on the power dynamics at play in the relationship between the magician and the sheep, recognizing the vulnerability that arises when trust is misplaced and authority is abused. How can we cultivate discernment and agency in navigating relationships and power structures?
  8. Contemplate the significance of authenticity and self-awareness in reclaiming agency over our lives and choices. How can embracing our true nature and honoring our inner wisdom empower us to resist manipulation and deception?
  9. Explore the concept of spiritual awakening and liberation from illusion, as symbolized by the sheep's recognition of their true identity before their demise. How does the journey towards self-realization unfold in your own life?
  10. Consider the lessons of the parable in relation to your own spiritual path and quest for truth. How can the story's insights guide you towards greater clarity, authenticity, and freedom from the illusions of the mind?