A Spiritual Thing Happened on the Way to the Market

downtown shops, market
One time there was a very serious spiritual student who wanted spiritual freedom more than anything else. He found a spiritual master and got up to ask him a question as soon as he could.

"Dear master, please...."

But the master cut him off before he finished his sentence. "My good man. We are all out of milk. Could you get some?"

Taken aback, the student objected, "But I have a very important question. I want to get to spiritual freedom. What must I...."

Again the master interrupted him, "Yes. Very important, I'm sure. But we really need some milk. So if you could do that, that would be wonderful."

The student saw that there would be no arguing with the master. He turned to perform this silly errand and grumbled to himself as he went.

"Why must I do this?"

"This isn't why I'm here. I'm not somebody's errand boy."

"There are so many more important spiritual things I could be doing."

He carried on this way for some time as he headed to the local market to get milk. He kicked rocks. He swore at birds, and he scowled intensely at the people he passed.

Then, as he entered the market and found his way to getting a gallon of milk, something inside him stopped. The mind stopped. Emotions went silent. A whole new world opened before him with new colors, sights, sounds, and sensations that he'd never known existed. In that instant on the way to getting the milk, he awakened to the truth.

Interpretation of the Allegory

From time to time, I like to write spiritual allegories, and I also like to offer a little interpretation of them to make sure that people understand what is being pointed at.

Firstly, the big point of this allegory is about the ordinary parts of life being as much a part of the spiritual path as the overt "spiritual" moments. In general, a lot of stuff can arise and shift for us in the ordinariness, and furthermore, spiritual freedom is a deep and ever-present embrace of everything, including ordinariness. Too often, people look for big, dramatic spiritual moments to define their paths, but it's usually the small ones that help us to arrive. And sometimes the small moments are bigger than we realize.

Waiting for a Big "Ah-ha!" Spiritual Moment

Secondly, the frustration of the student is actually intended by the master. Frustrating the student can be a powerful tool if used appropriately. Sometimes, this way of agitating a student performs the function of drawing up the ego. In drawing the ego up in the right way--and it has to be done in the right way--the person is forced into a position where the person will either have to hold on tighter or let go. Being the master that he is, he knows what this student is more likely to do, so he offers the perfect instruction for the student. He intuitively knows that this student has an ego that devalues little things, and so it is the mundane little things that need to teach him. He also intuitively understands that this type of student would have endless questions, and feeding his spiritual ego with intellectual answers would not serve the student at all.

Of course, the student doesn't understand any of this, but fortunately, he is just humble enough to follow his teacher's instructions. This is always an important point. Following your teacher's instructions is really important if you want to benefit from what s/he has to offer. Too often, many students think they can pick and choose what they do or don't do. And because they're too absorbed in their egos, they generally choose incorrectly.

The awakening this student has is--like most awakenings--a beginning of a deeper dissolution into spiritual freedom. It's extremely rare that one moment causes total annihilation of the ego and transmutation of animal instincts. It certainly can happen, but I want to be clear that that is not the correct interpretation in this allegory. Once this student returns to the master, the student will now be teachable because of the awakening having opened him to the truth. So the student will have the ability to receive and progress towards his desired spiritual freedom. And this all began through an exceptionally ordinary moment.

You can read more of my spiritual allegories below:

Spiritual Allegories

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