There 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 wiseman.” 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.
Story told by Osho