An Ancient Parable About a Lion and a Sheep



A lioness was jumping from one hillock to another and just in the middle she gave birth to a kid.

The kid fell down into the road where a big crowd of sheep was passing. Naturally he mixed with the sheep, lived with the sheep, behaved like a sheep. He had no idea, not even in his dreams, that he was a lion. How could he have?

All around him were sheep and only sheep. He had never roared like a lion; a sheep does not roar. He had never been alone like a lion; a sheep is never alone. She is always in the crowd – the crowd is cozy, secure and safe. If you see sheep walking, they walk so close together that they are almost stumbling on each other. They are so afraid to be alone.

But the lion started growing up. It was a strange phenomenon. He was identified mentally with being a sheep, but biology does not go according to your identification; nature is not going to follow your mind. He became a beautiful young lion, but because things happened so slowly, the sheep became accustomed to him, just as he became accustomed to the sheep.

The sheep thought he was a little crazy naturally. He was not behaving just right – a little cuckoo- and he went on growing. It was not supposed to be so. Pretending to be a lion! But they knew he was not a lion; they had seen him from his very birth. They had brought him up, they had given their milk to him. He was a non vegetarian by nature – no lion is vegetarian, but this lion was, because sheep are vegetarian. He used to eat grass with great joy. They accepted these small differences that he was a little big and looked like a lion. A very wise sheep said, ‘It is just a freak of nature. Once in a while it happens.’

And the lion himself also accepted that it was true. His color was different, his body was different – he must be a freak, abnormal. But the idea that he was a lion was impossible! All those sheep surrounded him, and sheep psychoanalysts gave him explanations: ‘You are just a freak of nature. Don’t be worried. We are here to take care of you.’

But one day an old lion passed by and saw this young lion standing far above the crowd of sheep. He could not believe his eyes! He had never seen such a thing nor had he ever heard that in the history of the whole past a lion had been in the middle of a crowd of sheep but no sheep was afraid. And this lion was walking exactly like the sheep, grazing on grass!

The old lion could not believe his eyes. He forgot he was going to catch a sheep for his breakfast. He completely forgot breakfast. It was something so strange that he determined to catch hold of the young lion and find out what was happening. But he was old, and the young lion was young – he ran away. Although he believed that he was a sheep, when there was danger this much of the identification was forgotten. He ran like a lion, and the old lion had great difficulty in catching him.

Finally the old lion got hold of him. He was crying and weeping and saying, ‘Just forgive me, I am a poor sheep. Please let me go.’

The old lion said, ‘You idiot! You simply stop this nonsense and come with me to the pond.’ Just nearby there was a pond. He took the young lion there. The young lion was not going willingly, he went reluctantly, but what can you do against a lion if you are only a sheep? He may kill you if you don’t follow him, so he went. The pond was silent, with no ripples, almost like a mirror.

The old lion said to the young, ‘Just look. Look at my face and look at your face. Look at my body and look at your body in the water.’

In a second there came a great roar! All the hills echoed it. The sheep disappeared; he was a totally different being – he recognized himself. The identification with sheep was not a reality, it was just a mental concept. Now he had seen the reality. The old lion said, ‘Now I don’t have to say anything more. You have understood.’

The young lion could feel a strange energy he had never felt before – as if it had been dormant. He could feel a tremendous power, and he had always been a weak, humble sheep. All that humbleness, all that weakness, simply evaporated.

—— ——

The Lion and the Sheep is an ancient parable about the master and the disciple. The function of the master is only to bring the disciple to see who he is, and that what he goes on believing about himself is not always true. Think about what undiscovered talents and abilities could be laying dormant within you…? Could you be a Lion surrounded by a bunch of sheep that are leading you to believe that you’re much less than you really are?

Excerpt from The Book of Understanding by Osho