When The Shoe Fits

Title: When the shoe fits

Original Title: When the Shoe Fits. Stories of the Taoist Mystic Chuang Tzu

Author: Osho

Original Publishing Date: 1st of January 1976

Number of pages: 244

Cover Type: Paperback

Hello everyone! Today I want to present you a book I read some time ago, but because lack of time I postponed the review (no, I was not lazy :P) . And, as you already got used to, I have to tell you how I got to read this book.

So, I was talking to an ex colleague of mine, and he told me about how he started reading books that helped him a lot and which he recommends to me. I was sceptical at reading this book because, as I already told you in my previous article, I am not a big fan of personal development books. Do I regret reading it? No. Because it is not like one of those modern personal development books that offers solutions for the effect and not the cause, but it gathers old taoist wisdom, which everybody recognises as valuable. Did I enjoy reading it? More or less. I cannot say that I hate it it, but also I cannot say that I loved it. I think it is a book which is written pretty good, simple to understand, but I also found some things that I do not agree with. So let me tell you a word or two about this book.

It is divided into ten chapters, each beginning with a parable which is developed throughout the chapter with explanations according to the meaning of each story.

The title of the book is given by the first chapter, in which Osho says that everything we do should come natural. Everything should be effortless, like breathing.

You are born. What effort did you do for being born? You are growing. What effort are you making in order to grow? You are breathing. What effort do you make in order to breath?

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This means being total. In his opinion, making an effort means fighting with yourself. He describes the effort as aggresivity, violence, competition. He says that culture kills the spirit, like slow poisoning, suicide, and nothing should exist except pure nature. What got my attention was that many of the stories were mentioning a character called Mulla Nasrudin. At the beginning I ignored it, but then I realised that his presence was almost everywhere. So I decided to search for this character.

According to Wikipedia, he was a 17th century suffist and populist philosopher. And after even more searching, I discovered that this is the character that inspired many books written in Romania, where it is known as Nastratin Hogea. Among the authors who wrote about him are Anton Pann and Ion Barbu, as you can see also in the Romanian page of Wikipedia.

Regarding this first chapter, what I can say I do not fully agree with is the fact that everything should be effortless. In my opinion, if we will never get out of our comfort zone, we will never get to evolve. Our society development is based on the efforts of the people towards evolving and making the life better, happier and easier. But again, there are two sides of this story. If we will do everything effortless, we will probably be happy, peaceful and reach that illumination everybody is probably dreaming at, but we would remain in a single point of evolution, never being able to overcome the current situation.

On the other hand, if we sacrifice our comfort, time and dedicate our lives towards inventions and discoveries, then we have the opportunity to become great, to reach where no one has reached before us. But in the end is it worth the effort? I think it depends on the person, cause each one can choose his own way of living. We are free to live however we choose to, so this kind of books should be read not as an imperative, but as an alternative to our way of living.

Now let me tell you some words in short about the other chapters too.

The second chapter, called The tower of the spirit tells us that we are safe as long as we act without conscience, with honesty and without standing out. What does this mean? It does not mean to be reckless or not to think about what we are doing, but to do what we feel naturally. The moment we think consciously about what we are doing is like when we are thinking about whether to breath or not. And the moment we try to publicly display our actions, it is then when the ego starts to come out and ruin that balance and unconscious acting, that natural behavior.

The third chapter, The runaway from the shadow, talks about not being afraid of what we are. Osho tells us a parable about a man who was so afraid of his own shadow that he started running of it. And he run until he died of exhaustion, without realising that accepting it in his life would have solved his problem. It is the same with the other people who deny their desires, their way of being. They will destroy themselves by running from who they are.

The chapter The fighting rooster talks about the dangers of trying to be…dangerous. This chapter teaches us that the calmer and self confident we are, the more we will inspire respect and fear. There’s no need to be cocky and aggressive to gain respect.

The mountain of the monkeys shows us that you should never consider yourself invincible. Regardless of how strong and self confident you are and especially regardless of your social position, you are still vulnerable to threats. You should always display power through the strength of your mind, not of your body. It is then when you will really be feared.

The sixth chapter, Symphony for a sea bird, teaches us that we should treat each one accordingly. We should never treat the other ones just as we treat us, but understand the needs of the others and treat animals like animals, humans as humans, nature as nature.

The autumn floods tells us again a parable about power. What we can learn from this chapter is that, regardless of how powerful we can look and feel now, there will always be someone who is more powerful than ourselves and we should not boost about our abilities, because this is just the ego that will only make us vulnerable.

A chapter that I enjoyed very much was The turtle. In this book we learn about a very interesting parable. One day, when Chuang Tzu went fishing, he received a visit from two vice-chancellors who wanted to invite him to the palace for being called a prime minister. But Chuang Tzu said that he prefers to live like a turtle and crawl his tail into the mud then to be worshipped for thousand of years for what he left behind. This parable tells us that there is no use for us what happens after we die because we will not be there to see it. The only thing that matters is what we do in this life.

The ninth chapter, The duke of Huan and the wheel maker tells us that, regardless of how many books we read, the only wisdom lies in our own mind, and it is a wisdom that cannot be transmitted in words, because it was discovered through years of practicing and studying, and in the end everything comes to feeling what is wrong and what is right, feelings cannot be expressed in words, otherwise they would loose their value without even being fully described.

The tenth and last chapter, The man is born in Tao, is like a closure, and tells us that we were born in Tao, which is the nature itself, the natural way of being of the things. We cannot escape the Tao, and we should live in harmony with it, cause it is what we are. If we try to escape from it we will only make our lives harder.

About this book, beside what I mentioned above, I want to say that there are more points I do not fully agree with. I will mention them below:

  1. Don’t be worried about the future. Live this moment so totally that the next moment comes out of it golden” -> Theoretically yes, it is good to do this. But I think that we should have at least an idea about what we are planning to do in the future. Otherwise we will be purposeless.
  2. Only that which is attained through effortlessness will never be a burden to you, and only that which is not a burden can be eternal. Only that which is not in any way unnatural can remain with you forever and forever.” -> I don’t think that doing things with effort will be a burden to you. On the contrary, when you pay effort to do something, the greater will be the satisfaction in the end
  3. There is nothing – no great things, no small things. There are great men and small men but things are not great and small. And a great man is one who brings his greatness to every small thing that he is doing: he eats in a great way, he walks in a great way, he sleeps in a great way. He brings the quality of greatness to everything. -> I think there is some truth in this sentence, but I would put it in some other form. I would say that there are great things, but there can only be great in report to what you think. Others cannot decide what your greatness is. You put greatness into your action. The greatness is in your own eyes.

But beside the things I do not agree with, there are also things that caught my attention as follows:

  1. “In every relationship, you can always see the ego of the other, but you cannot see your own – and the other one goes on seeing your ego.” -> This is actually soooo true. And not only in romantic relationships but in relation to people in general. Everybody is occupied with judging the other one, regardless of the fact that the other does good or bad, but fails to look that one can be judged just by the fact of judging, not to talk about analysing their deeds.
  2. “Action done totally brings relaxation; relaxation done totally brings more action.” -> When you enjoy something, you are relaxed. When you are relaxed you are doing things right and people tend to trust you and give you some more things you like to do.
  3. “Life is a mystery, not a riddle. It has to be lived, not solved.” -> Many people are trying to find the purpose of their existence on the earth, but I think the purpose can only be accomplished by not knowing it. The harder you try, the harder you will fail. Maybe it has to do with that easiness to do things Osho is talking about in this book?

Before putting an end to this article, I would like to make one more mention. Chuang Tzu lived between 369 BC and 286 BC. Mulla Nasrudin lived in the 17th century and Osho lived in the 20th century. Why is this important? Because Osho often mentions in the book how Mulla Nasrudin came to him to ask for a question or advice. At first I took it literally. But after I found out that Mulla Nasrudin lived before Osho, I thought that maybe the stories are told from the perspective of Chuang Tzu. But this was also not an option, as they all lived in different centuries. Why did the author chose to tell the story in this way? I don’t know, maybe the only one who can tell us is the author. Or can he?

© picnicontheshelf, January 31, 2020

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