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Henpecked Husband – A Hindu Spiritual Story by Osho

Henpecked Husband - A Hindu Spiritual Story by OshoIn the life of one of the great emperors of India, Akbar, there is a small story. He was very much interested in all kinds of talented people, and from all over India he had collected nine people, the most talented geniuses, who were known as the “nine jewels of Akbar’s court.”

One day, just gossiping with his vice-councillors, he said, “Last night I was discussing with my wife. She is very insistent that every husband is henpecked. I tried hard, but she says, `I know many families, but I have never found any husband who is not henpecked.’ What do you think?” he asked the councillors. One of the councillors, Birbal said, “Perhaps she is right, because you could not prove it.

You yourself are a henpecked husband; otherwise, you could have given her a good beating, then and there proving that, `Look, here is a husband!'”

He said, “That I cannot do, because I have to live with her. It is easy to advise somebody else to beat his wife. Can you beat your wife?”

Birbal said, “No, I cannot. I simply accept that I am a henpecked husband, and your wife is right.” But Akbar said, “It has to be found…. In the capital there must be at least one husband who is not henpecked. There is no rule in the world which has no exception, and this is not a rule at all.” So he said to Birbal,

“You take my two beautiful Arabian horses” — one was black, one was white — “and go around the capital. And if you can find a man who is not henpecked, you can give him the choice: whichever horse he wants is a present from me.” They were valuable. In those days horses were very valuable, and those were the most beautiful horses.

Birbal said, “It is useless, but if you say, I will go.” He went, and everybody was found to be henpecked. It was very ordinary: He would just call the person and call his wife, and ask, “Are you henpecked or not?”

The man would look at the wife and say, “You should have asked when I was alone. This is not right. You will create unnecessary trouble. Just for a horse I am not going to destroy my life. You take your horses, I don’t want any.”

But one man was sitting in front of his house and two persons were massaging him. He was a wrestler, a champion wrestler, a very strong man. Birbal thought, “Perhaps this man… he can kill anybody without any weapons. If he can hold your neck, you are finished!”

Birbal said, “Can I ask you a question?”

He said, “Question? What question?” Birbal said, ”

Are you henpecked?”

That man said, “First, let us greet each other, a handshake.” And he crushed Birbal’s hand and said, “Unless you start crying and tears start coming from your eyes, I will not leave your hand.

Your hand is finished. You dared to ask me such a question?” And Birbal was dying — he was almost a man of steel — and tears started coming, and he said,

“Just leave me. You are not henpecked. I have just come to a wrong place. But where is your wife?” He said, “Look, she is there, cooking my breakfast.” A very small woman was cooking his breakfast. The woman was so small and the man was so big that Birbal said, “There is a possibility that perhaps this man is not henpecked. He will kill this woman.”

So he said, “Now there is no need to go further into investigation. You can choose either horse from these two, black and white, a reward from the king for the one who is not henpecked. And at that time that small woman said,

“Don’t choose the black! Otherwise I will make your life a hell!”

The man said, “No, no, I will choose the white. You just keep quiet.”

Birbal said, “You don’t get either, neither white nor black. It is all finished, you lost the game. You are a henpecked husband.”

Osho – “Beyond Enlightenment”

Osho's Explanation of This Story

You will be surprised to know that the English word `love’ comes from a very ugly root in Sanskrit. It comes from lobh. Lobh means greed. And as far as ordinary love is concerned, it is a kind of greed.

That’s why there are people who love money, there are people who love houses, there are people who love this, who love that. Even if they love a woman or a man, it is simply their greed; they want to possess everything beautiful.

It is a power trip. Hence, you will find lovers continuously fighting, fighting about such trivia that they both feel ashamed, “About what things we go on fighting!” In their silent moments when they are alone, they feel, “Do I become possessed by some evil spirit? — such trivia, so meaningless.

But it is not a question of trivia; it is a question of who has power, who is more dominant, whose voice is heard. Love cannot exist in such circumstances.

What Is the Spiritual Moral / Message of Osho's “Henpecked Husband ” Story?

This story reveals the complexity of relationships and the dynamics of power within them. Through Akbar's search for a husband not under the influence of his wife, it subtly touches upon the intricacies of partnerships. It hints at the idea that power doesn't always rest in physical strength or dominance but resides in the delicate balances of communication, respect, and understanding. It invites reflection on the interplay of power and humility within relationships, suggesting that true strength lies in the ability to navigate these dynamics with wisdom and grace.

Moreover, it echoes the theme of societal norms and individual choices. The quest to find a husband who isn't henpecked mirrors the societal expectations and stereotypes imposed on relationships. Yet, as the story unfolds, it unveils the power of personal agency and individual choices. It speaks to the idea that one's commitment to personal integrity and values can override societal norms, illustrating the importance of authentic living despite external pressures. It encourages individuals to follow their convictions, even if it means diverging from societal expectations, fostering a deeper sense of self-empowerment and authenticity in relationships.

Additionally, the tale touches upon the essence of ego and its role in human interactions. The interactions between Birbal and the wrestler depict the ego's vulnerability in the face of perceived challenges. It reveals how ego, whether in defending oneself or establishing dominance, can obscure rational judgment and lead to conflict. It prompts reflection on the destructive potential of unchecked ego, advocating for humility and understanding as essential elements in fostering harmonious relationships. It underscores the significance of humility in interpersonal dynamics, reminding us of the potential harm of unchecked pride in human interactions.

Furthermore, the story subtly highlights the aspects of gender roles and societal expectations within relationships. The portrayal of henpecked husbands and the notion of a wife controlling her partner reflect traditional gender stereotypes prevalent in historical narratives. It indirectly challenges these stereotypes by showcasing the diversity and complexity of relationships. It nudges us to transcend traditional gender roles and expectations, emphasizing the need for equality, mutual respect, and understanding in relationships. It calls for a reevaluation of stereotypical notions that confine individuals to specific roles based on societal norms.

Moreover, it subtly addresses the theme of power struggles within relationships. The wrestler's physical strength juxtaposed with the seemingly meek stature of his wife illustrates the multifaceted nature of power dynamics. It highlights that power isn't solely determined by physical dominance but encompasses emotional, psychological, and social dimensions. The story prompts reflection on the complexities of power dynamics within relationships, inviting individuals to recognize and navigate these complexities with compassion and understanding.

This story illuminates the intricate layers within relationships, including power dynamics, societal expectations, ego, and gender roles. It encourages contemplation on the complexities of human interactions, inviting individuals to navigate relationships with humility, understanding, and authenticity. Ultimately, it hints at the importance of mutual respect, equality, and individual agency in fostering harmonious and fulfilling relationships.

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. Reflect on the emperor Akbar's quest to find a husband who is not henpecked. How does this humorous story prompt you to consider societal expectations and stereotypes about relationships and power dynamics?
  2. Explore the character of Birbal, who undertakes the task of finding a man not henpecked. How does his role in the story invite you to reflect on the complexities of challenging cultural norms and expectations?
  3. Consider the valuable Arabian horses offered as a reward. How does the desire for material gain influence the characters' responses and decisions, and how might this resonate with situations in your own life where external rewards play a role?
  4. Reflect on the reactions of the men questioned by Birbal. How does their reluctance to admit being henpecked reflect societal pressures and the fear of potential consequences for challenging traditional gender roles?
  5. Explore the portrayal of the champion wrestler, initially appearing invulnerable. How does his unexpected vulnerability in the face of questioning challenge stereotypes and assumptions about strength and power in relationships?
  6. Ponder the wrestler's insistence on a handshake and the subsequent crushing of Birbal's hand. How does this physical display of dominance highlight the complexity of power dynamics and the ways in which individuals assert control in various situations?
  7. Reflect on the size disparity between the wrestler and his wife. How does this element introduce a twist to the story, challenging preconceived notions about who holds power in a relationship?
  8. Consider the small woman's threat about making life hell if the black horse is chosen. How does this moment add humor to the narrative and invite contemplation on the role of humor in challenging societal norms?
  9. Explore the wrestler's final choice of the white horse and the interaction with his wife. How does this resolution reflect the humorous yet thought-provoking nature of the story, and what insights does it offer about compromise and negotiation in relationships?
  10. Ponder the overall message of the story and its relevance to your own perceptions of relationships and power dynamics. How might this lighthearted tale encourage you to question assumptions and embrace the humor inherent in navigating societal expectations?