What Sleep is not

One day Mulla Nasruddin was passing. He heard the shopkeeper talking to the fox, "Be alert, watch every activity that is going on around.  If you see any suspicious activity or somebody is trying to steal the fruits, make a noise immediately and I will come out."

Mulla Nasruddin was very much tempted. The shopkeeper went in. Nasruddin sat in front of the shop and just started pretending he was falling asleep; with closed eyes he started dozing.

For a moment the poor fox thought, "What to do? Should I make a noise? But sleep is not an activity."

As he watched Nasruddin he too began to feel tired.  He lay down and went to sleep.

Then Nasruddin stole the fruits from the shop.


The fox is representative of intelligent, sometimes even cunningly intelligent.  This story tells us that ego is even more cunning then the intellect.  The ego has the ways to outfox the fox - the intellect, even going to the extent of feigning sleep. 

Nasruddin was lying on his couch with his eyes closed.
His brother-in-law went up to him and asked, “Are you asleep?”
“Why do you ask?” Nasruddin replied.
“I was wondering if you could lend me three hundred dollars,” said the other.
“Well,” answered Nasruddin, “let’s return to your fist question—‘Am I asleep.’ The answer is yes I am—so leave me alone!“

The intellect really need not be cunning.  It is because it is cunning and is thinking too much that it gets fooled by the ego. The fox is used as a symbol of the intellect of an ignorant person.  If there is cunningness in you then you will be outdone by your own cunningness.  A simple intellect would just be sharp, alert, unlike the cunning fox.  The sharpness of the intellect is for protecting your real happiness.  Whereas the sharpness of ego is in protecting and propagating itself. 

Sleep is not real inactivity of ego.  Real inactivity of the ego is in non-doership.  When with doership one remains inactive then also there is activity of the ego.  Contrary to that, when there is activity but the doership is not there then that is inactivity of the ego.  Mere non-action is like sleep here, but still there is ego involved in that.  Sleep also speaks.

A young playwright gave a special invitation to Mulla Nasruddin to watch his new play. The Mulla
came to the play, but slept through the entire performance. The young playwright was
indignant and said, "How could you sleep when you knew how much I wanted your opinion?"
"Young man," said Nasruddin, "Sleep is an opinion."

** Read full explanation of this story from the Most In-depth Book on Mulla Nasruddin Ever!