Lao-tzu’s Donkey

by Dr. Pran Rangan


There are many things, when told bluntly, can hurt people. So, if they are told in a humorous way, they can be easily accepted. Besides, they make a better impact. Lao-Tzu had a knack for telling harsh truths in a humorous manner. This is a story about him that runs as follows.

Once, Lao-Tzu was going from one city to another on the donkey. On the way, he encountered a messenger of the King, who told him, "Sir, the King has heard so much about you that he wants to include you in his cabinet of ministers. He needs wise people like you."

Lao-Tzu replied respectfully, "Gentleman, please tell the King that I can't accept his request. Also, thank him on my behalf." After the messenger left, he washed his and the donkey's ears. When a person, who was standing nearby, saw it, he couldn't resist asking, "Sir, why are you washing your and the donkey's ears?"

Lao-Tzu answered, "Gentleman, I washed my ears because the messages coming from the political corridors are full of infection."

Again, the man asked, "Sir, but why did you wash the donkey's ears?"

Lao-Tzu replied, "The donkeys tend to be political. My donkey was behaving normally. But when he heard the message, he began having big dreams. He understands the language of the King's court better than I do since there are many donkeys therein. They all speak the same language."

Hearing it, the man had a good laugh. Somehow, it reached the King, who also burst into laughter when he heard it.

Lao-Tzu had a knack for telling wise thoughts in a humorous way, which everybody could easily understand.

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