Once upon a time there was a fox who met a young rabbit in the woods.
The rabbit said, “What are you?” The fox said, “I am a fox, and I could eat you up if I wanted to.”
“How can you prove that you are a fox?” asked the rabbit. The fox didn’t know what to say, because in the past rabbits had always run from him without such inquiries.
Then the rabbit said, “If you can show me written proof that you are a fox, I’ll believe you.”
So the fox trotted off to the lion, who gave him a certificate that he was a fox.
When he got back to where the rabbit was waiting, the fox started to read out the document. It so pleased him that he dwelt over the paragraphs with lingering delight. Meanwhile, getting the gist of the message from the first few lines, the rabbit ran down a burrow and was never seen again.
The fox went back to the lion’s den, where he saw a deer talking to the lion.
The deer was saying, “I want to see written proof that you are a lion…”
The lion said, “When I am not hungry, I don’t need to bother. When I am hungry, you don’t need anything in writing.”
The fox said to the lion, “Why didn’t you tell me to do that, when I asked for a certificate for the rabbit?”
“My dear friend,” said the lion, “you should have said that it was requested by a rabbit. I thought that it must be for a stupid human being, from whom some of these idiotic animals have learned this pastime.”
Man is continuously preoccupied with inventing a self for himself, but the invented self can never be the real self. There is no possibility that the invented will ever be the real. The real self has to be discovered, not invented.
The invented self becomes our ego. The real self is not in any way the ego. The real self is not a self at all; it is utter emptiness, and the silence of emptiness, and the joy of emptiness.
If you want to invent a self you will have to ask others; that’s the only way to invent it – to gather opinions of what people think about you. That’s what we go on doing our whole lives. That’s why we are so afraid of people’s disrespect. That becomes our bondage. We want to be respectable, because if we are respectable then people’s opinion about us is beautiful. They praise us and we can have a better self. If we are not respectable people condemn; and then you will not ever have a beautiful self, you will have an ugly self. Your self consists only of the opinion s of others; it is a patchwork. A has said something, and B has said something else, and C something else, and so on, so forth. You collect all these things, these paper cuttings. Then you make an image out of them – you fix them together, you glue them together.
From the very beginning the child starts collecting this rubbish. The mother says something, the father, the brother, the neighbors: if it is gratifying he starts feeling proud, if it is not gratifying he starts feeling depressed. To avoid depression he goes on flattering everybody that he meets. The flattery is nothing but an arrangement: “I will flatter you so that you can give me a good certificate. I will flatter you more if you are willing to give me an even better certificate.” But all these certificates are just from the outside, and nobody knows you, who you are – not even you yourself.