Mulla Nasruddin’s Clothes
Suppression binds, it does not liberate. Try to suppress something and you find yourself bound hand and foot to it.
One evening, as Mulla Nasruddin was setting out to call on some of his friends, an old friend happened to come along. It was twenty years since they had seen each other. Both were beside themselves with joy. “It is ages since we met.” said Nasruddin. “I am so very happy to see you. You rest awhile and refresh yourself for the journey must have been long and tiring. I shall go quickly to see a few friends I have promised to visit.”
“Oh no!” said the friend “I have not the heart to waste even a minute of your company. I will go along with you and we can talk on the way, if you will lend me a coat, for my clothes are dirty.”
Now Nasruddin had a set of expensive clothes presented to him by the king, which he had kept by for a befitting occasion. They were an expensive coat, a turban, and a pair of shoes. He had never worn them but today was a special day, and what could be more befitting than that his childhood friend should make use of them! He quickly brought them out and gave them to his friend. He was so happy that the clothes had come in handy at the right moment!
But when the friend appeared, dressed in the royal attire, Nasruddin felt a twinge of jealousy. The clothes looked gorgeous and his friend looked so handsome in them. Had he done a wise thing by giving him these clothes. He looked almost like a servant before him! It is too hard on a man to see another looking rich and handsome in his clothes, while he looked like a beggar before him! Had the clothes belonged to the friend, even then it would have been a difficult situation — but this was worse!
Nasruddin tried to get over this feeling by telling himself of the higher virtues of life, as all men of temperance do: “What difference does it make whether the clothes are mine or his? He is a very dear friend, and that is all that matters. What is there in clothes?” Thus he cajoled himself trying to convince himself of the worthlessness of jealousy. But alas whoever they met had his eyes glued on the friend and his clothes.
The world looks at clothes and not the man. Nobody so much as glanced at Nasruddin, so that in spite of all his sanctimonious talk, he was filled with pain and suffering. At last they reached the first house of call. The door opened and Nasruddin’s friend came out, but his eyes were caught by the richness of the friend’s attire! Nasruddin noted this and began to introduce his friend: “This is my childhood friend, an extremely fine person but as for his clothes, they are mine.” In an unguarded moment, the words fell out and Nasruddin feet great remorse. The friend was astonished at his behaviour and so were the people of the house.
When they came out, the friend reproved him: “Forgive me but I cannot accompany you any further. You have insulted me. Had I known, I should have accompanied you in my own clothes, even though they were dirty — they were mine! Where was the need to point out the clothes?” Nasruddin begged forgiveness: “Forsooth, there was no need. Pray forgive me; it was a slip of the tongue!” he said.
The tongue never slips — remember this always. What goes on within the mind comes invariably on the tongue. That which is suppressed within comes out in an unguarded moment, as steam bursts forth from a closed kettle. The kettle is not at fault. The steam collects within and wishes to get out. Even if the kettle bursts, it has to get out.
“If you say so, I believe you,” said the friend. “But be mindful at the next house.” Nasruddin promised to watch his words. And to prove his sincerity, he even made a gift of the clothes to his friend. “They are yours from now on,” he told him.
They came to the next house. Here also, the man of the house and his wife could not help staring at the friend and his attire. Again it came to Nasruddin: “How foolish of me to give him the clothes right away! I cannot hope to see myself in them.”
And when the time came to introduce the friend Nasruddin began: “Meet my childhood friend, an extremely nice person and as for his clothes, they are his, not mine.”
Again Nasruddin slipped! To say that the clothes were not his, creates a doubt. The friend refused to go any further. Nasruddin begged of him to give him just one more chance, otherwise he would suffer remorse all his life. It was a mistake committed because of the first mistake. He pleaded with his friend, attributing his statement to various reasons; but it was a clear case of suppression.
Now Nasruddin entered the third friend’s house with a vow that he would not mention the clothes. But the clothes, by now, had taken possession of every inch of his being, and like all persons of self-restraint, he put up a brave front outside. Little did the friend suspect what was happening within poor Nasruddin. He looked all right on the outside, but within, he was verging on insanity. Wherever he looked, he saw clothes and nothing but clothes. It filled him with anger and pain but do as he would, he could not subdue this feeling. So he began to repeat his resolve to himself, lest he slipped again: “I must not talk about clothes — I must not talk about clothes!”
And now he was called upon to introduce the guest once again! Poor Nasruddin, with clothes littered all over his consciousness, he began the introduction: “This is my friend. We have known each other for many years and now he comes to visit me after a long absence; and as for his clothes, I have sworn not to mention to whom it belongs.”
A suppressed mind works in this manner. It gets involved with the very thing it tries to suppress. The mind gets diseased, obsessions are formed — is this self-restraint? Definitely not. But this is how it has been defined over the years. Even today when someone starts to practise moderation, he begins with self-repression. The result is that the perverted forms of the very thing he tries to suppress, take possession of his mind.
Osho – “The Begining of the Begining”