Once it happened that the Mullah Nasruddin was walking somewhere in the company of some students, and one of them asked the Mullah a question. “Can you tell us, Mullah,” the student asked, “why thoughts plague us so much? I have many thoughts that I do not want, and no matter what I do they won’t go away.” And the other students voiced their agreement. “Sometimes,” they said, “it is very noisy inside!”
At this moment, they met a farmer leading a goat on a rope. The goat fought against the rope, but the man dragged it along anyway. The Mullah made a respectful gesture to this man, who stopped in surprise, unaccustomed to be greeted politely by a man in a turban. Then Nasruddin spoke to the students. “Tell me,” he said, “is this man holding the goat? Or is the goat holding the man?”
As if with one voice, the students replied, “Obviously, Mullah, the man is holding the goat.”
“Are you sure?” the Mullah replied. “Watch closely.” And from under his robe he produced a knife with which he swiftly cut the rope.
Instantly, as the rope dropped, the goat ran off, and the man, with a look of consternation at the Mullah, ran after it, trying to catch it.
“The goat has no interest in the man,” said the Mullah, “but the man now is running after the goat. Obviously, the man is being held by the goat.”
The students looked at each other in puzzlement. “What does this have to do with the thoughts?”
“Your thoughts run like goats,” the Mullah replied, “and you run after them. If you just stop running after them, soon it will be very quiet in your head.”