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An Idiot and a Wise Man – A Russian Spiritual Story by Osho

An Idiot and a Wise Man - A Russian Spiritual Story by OshoThere is one Russian story, a small story. In a village a man, a young man, is called an idiot by everybody. From his very childhood he has heard that, that he is an idiot. And when so many people are saying it — his father, his mother, his uncles, the neighbors, and everybody — of course he starts believing that he must be an idiot. How can so many people be wrong? — and they are all important people. But when he becomes older and this continues, he becomes an absolutely sealed idiot; there is no way to get out of it. He tried hard but whatsoever he did was thought to be idiotic.

That is very human. Once a man goes mad he may become normal again but nobody is going to take him as normal. He may do something normal but you will suspect that there must be something insane about it. And your suspicion will make him hesitant and his hesitancy will make you suspicion stronger; then there is a vicious circle. So that man tried in every possible way to look wise, to do wise things, but whatsoever he did people would always say it was idiotic.

A saint was passing by. He went to the saint in the night when there was nobody about and asked him, “Just help me to get out of this locked state. I am sealed in. They don’t let me out; they have not left any window or door open so that I can jump out. And whatsoever I do, even if it is exactly the same as they do, still I am an idiot. What should I do?”

The saint said, “Do just one thing. Whenever somebody says,’Look how beautiful the sunset is,’ you say, “you idiot, prove it! What is beautiful there? I don’t see any beauty. You prove it.’ If somebody says,’Look at that beautiful rose flower,’ catch hold of him and tell him,’Prove it! What grounds have you to call this ordinary flower beautiful? There have been millions of rose flowers. There are millions, there will be millions in the future; what special thing has this rose flower got? And what are your fundamental reasons which prove logically that this rose flower is beautiful?’

“If somebody says,’This book of Leo Tolstoy is very beautiful,’ just catch hold of him and ask him,’Prove where it is beautiful; what is beautiful in it? It is just an ordinary story — just the same story which has been told millions of times, just the same triangle in every story: either two men and one woman or two women and one man, but the same triangle. All love stories are triangles. So what is new in it?”‘

The man said, “That’s right.”

The saint said, “Don’t miss any chance, because nobody can prove these things; they are unprovable. And when they cannot prove it, they will look idiotic and they will stop calling you an idiot. Next time, when I return, just give me the information how things are going.

And next time when the saint was coming back, even before he could meet the old idiot, people of the village informed him, “A miracle has happened. We had an idiot in our town; he has become the wisest man. We would like you to meet him.”

And the saint knew who that “wisest man” was. He said, “I would certainly love to see him. In fact I was hoping to meet him.”

The saint was taken to the idiot and the idiot said, “You are a miracle-worker, a miracle man. The trick worked! I simply started calling everyone an idiot, stupid. Somebody would be talking of love, somebody would be talking of beauty, somebody would be talking of art, painting, sculpture, and my standpoint was the same:’Prove it!’ And because they could not prove it, they looked idiotic.

And it is a strange thing. I was never hoping to gain this much out of it. All that I wanted was to get out of that confirmed idiocy. It is strange that now I am no longer an idiot, I have become the most wise man, and I know I am the same — and you know it too.”

But the saint said, “Never tell this secret to anybody else. Keep the secret to yourself. Do you think I am a saint? Yes, the secret is between us. This is how I became a saint. This is how you have become a wise man.” This is how things go on in the world.

Once you ask, What is the meaning of life? you have asked the wrong question. And obviously somebody will say, “this is the meaning of life” — and it cannot be proved.

Osho – “ From Personality to Individuality”

What Is the Spiritual Moral / Message of Osho's “An Idiot and a Wise Man ” Story?

This story resonates deeply with the concept of societal conditioning and the power of belief. It reveals the profound spiritual truth that our perceptions, shaped by societal beliefs and labels, can become a significant part of our reality. The young man, enveloped in the belief of being an ‘idiot' due to the repeated affirmations from those around him, illustrates how external perceptions can solidify within us, influencing our self-identity and behavior.

Furthermore, the story touches upon the delicate balance of sanity and societal acceptance. Once labeled as ‘mad' or ‘idiotic,' even if an individual regains normalcy, society may forever perceive them through the lens of that past judgment. This highlights the weight of societal perceptions in shaping our lives and how these perceptions can create self-fulfilling prophecies, influencing our behaviors and interactions.

Additionally, the narrative subtly alludes to the transformative power of challenging societal norms and beliefs. By questioning commonly accepted notions of beauty, love, and wisdom, the young man shifts the power dynamic, compelling others to reflect on their beliefs. This underscores the spiritual truth that wisdom often lies in questioning the status quo and encouraging introspection into the validity of our beliefs and perceptions.

Moreover, the story speaks to the complexity of human judgment and the subjectivity of perceptions. The young man's approach of demanding proof for subjective experiences challenges the validity of societal judgments. It invites us to contemplate the arbitrariness of our beliefs and the limitations of labeling experiences as ‘beautiful,' ‘wise,' or ‘ordinary' without deeper inquiry.

Furthermore, the story underlines the transformative potential within each of us. By altering his approach and challenging societal norms, the young man transforms from being perceived as an ‘idiot' to being seen as the ‘wisest' person in the village. This highlights the profound impact of shifting perceptions and beliefs on our reality and self-identity.

Osho's “An Idiot and a Wise Man” story encapsulates the spiritual lesson that our beliefs, perceptions, and societal conditioning significantly influence our reality. It invites us to reconsider the power of our thoughts and perceptions, encouraging us to challenge societal norms and question ingrained beliefs. Ultimately, it subtly reminds us that wisdom often resides in transcending societal conditioning and cultivating an open mind, allowing for transformative shifts in our perception of self and others.

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 impact of societal labels and judgments on the young man in the story. How does the repeated belief that he is an idiot shape his self-perception and actions?
  2. Consider the role of the saint in the narrative. How does the saint's unconventional advice challenge the traditional notions of wisdom and idiocy?
  3. Explore the theme of conformity within the village. How does the young man's struggle to break free from the label of an idiot reflect the pressure to conform to societal expectations?
  4. Contemplate the power dynamics involved in labeling someone as an idiot. How do the opinions of others contribute to the perpetuation of such labels, and how might this impact an individual's sense of identity?
  5. Reflect on the saint's guidance to challenge others by asking them to prove concepts like beauty or the value of a book. How does this approach disrupt conventional thinking, and what does it reveal about the subjective nature of these concepts?
  6. Consider the transformation of the young man from being labeled an idiot to becoming the “wisest man” in the village. How does this transformation highlight the fluidity of societal perceptions and the potential for change?
  7. Explore the theme of skepticism in the story. How does the young man's questioning of commonly accepted ideas challenge the notion of unquestioning acceptance in society?
  8. Reflect on the paradox of the saint's secret advice leading to the young man's wisdom. How does this paradoxical element invite readers to contemplate the nature of wisdom and the arbitrary nature of societal judgments?
  9. Consider the underlying message about the unprovability of certain concepts, such as beauty or the meaning of life. How does this idea challenge the human tendency to seek definitive answers to profound questions?
  10. Contemplate the broader implications of the story in relation to questioning societal norms and beliefs. How might this narrative encourage readers to reconsider their own assumptions and challenge established ideas in their lives?