Thus have I heard:
It happened once, in some medieval time, in some country in Europe, that a prince suddenly went mad. The king was desperate — the prince was the only son, the only heir to the kingdom. All the magicians were called, miracle makers, sophisticated medical men were summoned, every effort was made, but in vain. Nobody could help the young prince, he remained mad. The day he went crazy he threw off his clothes, became naked, and started to live under a big table. He thought that he had become a rooster. Ultimately the king had to accept the fact that the prince could not be reclaimed. He had gone insane permanently; all the experts had failed.
But one day again hope dawned. A sage—a mystic who passing by to beg for alms—knocked on the palace door, and said, “Give me one opportunity to cure the prince.” But the king felt suspicious, because this man looked crazy himself, more crazy than the prince. But the mystic said, “Only I can cure him. To cure a madman a greater madman is needed. And your somebodies, your miracle makers, your medical experts, all have failed because they don’t know the abc of madness. They have never traveled the path.”
It seemed logical, and the king thought, “There is no harm in it, why not try?” So the opportunity was given to him. The moment the king said, “Okay, you try,” this mystic threw off his clothes, jumped under the table and crowed like a rooster. The prince became suspicious, and he said, “Who are you? And what do you think you are doing?” The old man said, “I am a rooster, more experienced than you. You are nothing, you are just a newcomer, at the most an apprentice.” The prince said, “Then it is okay if you are also a rooster, but you look like a human being.” The old man said, “Don’t go on appearances, look at my spirit, at my soul. I am a rooster like you.”
They became friends. They promised each other that they would always live together and that this whole world was against them. A few days passed. One day the old man suddenly started dressing. He put on his shirt. The prince said, “What are you doing, have you gone crazy, a rooster trying to put on human dress?” The old man said, “I am just trying to deceive these fools, these human beings. And remember that even if I am dressed, nothing is changed. My roosterness remains, nobody can change it. Just by dressing like a human being do you think I am changed?” The prince had to concede.
A few days afterwards the old man persuaded the prince to dress because winter was approaching and it was becoming so cold. Then one day suddenly he ordered food from the palace. The prince became very alert and said, “Wretch, what are you doing? Are you going to eat like those human beings, like them? We are roosters and we have to eat like roosters.” The old man said, “Nothing makes any difference as far as this rooster is concerned. You can eat anything and you can enjoy everything. You can live like a human being and remain true to your roosterness.”
By and by the old man persuaded the prince to come back to the world of humanity. He became absolutely normal. The mad prince represents the ordinary man before he even begins to think about awakening from his spiritual sleep—the mystic, in real life uses expedient and skillful means to break the attachments and conditionings that prevent the seeker or the student from attaining the ultimate divinity in them. The king and his contingent here serves to give an exposition of how people all the wrong methods to bring out the best in themselves and in their beloved ones but fail miserably because they still haven’t worked on breaking the primary barriers that prevent clear sight in the first place. Enlightenment isn’t a end in itself but a process characterized by countless transcendences that result from this successful elimination of barriers. It is analogized using the state of madness to mean that it defies all conventional thought and practice.